Star Blazers, Space Battleship Yamato, and all related names and elements are copyright © 1998 by Voyager Entertainment, Inc. and Leiji Matsumoto. Star Blazers is a registered trademark of Jupiter Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Bene: This work
of prose is inspired by the original North American Star Blazers series, and is also inspired by Uchu Senkan Yamato to a lesser degree. However, some events and character depictions
may deviate from the accepted standard.
This is a work of fan fiction by “Wicked Good Grrrl” (a.k.a. Andrea
Part 2 of: Star Blazers: Mission to Iscandar
By: Andrea Lyon
While the Biwa-ko limped home to Earth, the sole survivor of the Plutonian Armada, those on the home front carried on as normally as one could in a nuclear war zone. To that end, Nurse Nova Blackwell sat in a green-and-white decorated chain coffee shop and read the paper while she waited to meet someone.
Nova had shoulder-length dark blonde hair that tended to reddishness, darkest-brown, extravagantly lashed eyes, a small, pert nose and a petite figure both trim and lush at the same time. Though she looked European or American, her Japanese ancestry shone through. If she had not been half-reclined with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper spread over her long, very nice legs, she might have been a Heian court lady indolently enjoying the then-new Pillow Book.
Nova turned a leaf of the paper and sipped at a double espresso as she waited. She was going to need all available courage to face Dr. William Bravo, her would-be fiancé. Extra caffeine would help her cause…not that she was any wee, shrinking mouse.
Just then Will walked into the coffee shop. He was lantern-jawed, tall, and his eyes were like pale blue-gray lightning. His haircut looked like it belonged on a high school boy, but otherwise he was very attractive.
She remembered Easter just past, mere days after her eighteenth birthday…
Dr. William Bravo entered Our Lady of
Nova had a little crush on Dr. William Bravo. Before she’d ever seen him in the hospital cafeteria, she knew he was a leading oncologist, and the go-to man for so-called “radioactive” cancers. That he was twenty-eight and very handsome was a nice bonus.
She tried to look at him discreetly, but the wide brim of her hat telegraphed her head’s every move. Her mother, Barbara Blackwell, noticed. “Would you like an introduction?” she whispered.
“Maybe,” Nova demurred, blushing.
When ushers came to the pews to direct the traffic of communicants to the altar, Mychal “Mike” Blackwell got out first, Nova close behind, Momma following. When Nova knelt at the altar rail, however, she was shocked to find Dr. Bravo kneeling at her right, instead of Momma. The whispering Nova thought she’d heard moments before had been a quick negotiation, Momma coaxing Dr. Bravo to stand in line right behind Nova.
“Hi,” he said quietly. His eyes twinkled. Nova merely nodded at him and was relieved when the priest came over with the Wafer. Shouldn’t it be tacky to flirt during the Eucharist? she thought.
Then another thought struck her. She was wearing a long, white, very grown-up dress with illusion sleeves and lettuce edging curling prettily at her wrists and bosom. The mad leghorn hat she wore was bedecked with sprays of lace flowers, all white. She wore elegant white shoes, and even the woolen paisley shawl she’d draped around herself was all woven in shades of white. Nova had taken her mother’s suggestions of what to wear—Momma had such good taste in clothes!—and had made herself the very image of a teenaged bride. At eighteen, she was old enough to marry.
This moment was eerily symmetrical with how she’d dreamt of herself, in a splendid white gown, before the altar with a man whom she loved enough to spend a lifetime.
She caught a whiff of whatever product he used in his hair. Nova stifled a sneeze without much success. “Gesundheit,” Dr. Bravo replied and patted her hand.
When she took a sip of the Wine and crossed herself, Nova sped with all grace back to the pew with her parents.
Afterwards at coffee hour, Momma found out Dr. Bravo had no plans for the afternoon. “We’ve got a crown roast of lamb at home that the three of us couldn’t finish in a week,” she announced. “You must come over. I won’t take no for an answer!”
Dr. Bravo gallantly proffered his arm (which Momma immediately took) and said, “Well, labor and management should always take the opportunity to get to know each other better. Yes!”
“What are they talking about, “labor and management”?” Nova whispered at her father. “He’s not labor and Momma isn’t exactly management, even if she is on the Board of Governors at the hospital!”
“You’re right, kitten, but they have some negotiation to do,” Poppa replied as he took his only child’s hand. He looked a little sad.
When he saw Nova, Will shut one eye and aimed a finger “pistol” on her. He grinned all the while as he did this. Nova sighed and went back to her paper and coffee. She tossed back the last of it, and put her cup down with a clink as Will walked up to her. She remained seated. Undaunted, he bent to kiss her. Nova turned her head away so his lips met her cheek. He made a little noise and wrung his mouth in a moue of disappointment, but didn’t comment.
Nova lifted her eyes from the paper. “Hello, Will. How was the teleconference?”
having some small measure of success with minor reproductive sarcomas in the
“Jargon, jargon, jargon.”
know. Wait for the write-ups in The Lancet and The
“Were you able to maintain contact with the rest of the teleconferees?”
started to brown-out a few minutes in and entirely lost Africa and part of
Nova put up her hand in a ‘don’t speak the worst’ gesture. “If I’m ever allowed to attend one of these conferences, I’ll be there. I’d love to see what engineers have wrought so we can put bandwidth through bedrock.”
Will smiled at her a trifle patronizingly. “I’m getting a coffee. Did you want more for yourself? My treat.”
“Just a regular decaf drip, please,” Nova replied, and went back to her paper.
Yet she looked up to watch Will from the back. He’d pulled off his rounds coat, exposing his lean, muscular arms. His hands, as he opened his wallet and put down several ‘Cash, moved with the economic, purposeful grace of a surgeon. Too bad those baggy scrubs do nothing for his scrawny butt, she thought. Ah, well. At least he stopped wearing that sneeze-making hair goo.
Will placed the order with a barista whose green, mermaid-logo’d apron accentuated his too-pink, UV-burned face. Nova had seen a lot of that kind of burn lately. Too many defective sunlamps on the market.
Will came back, a mug in each hand, and settled into the plush velvet club chair at Nova’s side. His face fell. “I forgot you take sugar.”
“I’ll live,” Nova replied. She took a first sip, and then looked over the rim of her mug. “Funny how that sounded.”
“Not much humor in it.”
“Not ‘funny-ha-ha’. Just…ironic.”
“So,” Will began, “any good news today?”
“Not a single thing.”
“But something has your interest.” He snapped his fingers aggressively on the newspaper, and the crisp paper retorted.
“The Earth Defense Forces just released reports on a massive space battle that took place not too long ago.”
Nova sighed. “We got our hats handed back to us, apparently.”
“Like every other time we’ve tried to go up against these bastards,” Will grouched. “Either we redouble our efforts to make underground living viable or make a serious effort to send out colony ships.”
“We’ve tried that before. The Gamilons shot those ships down for fun,” Nova reminded him. “Listen to this. ‘Captain Abraham Avatar, in command of the Biwa-ko, was injured in the course of the battle and remains in that ship’s infirmary as it returns to Earth. His condition has been graded stable, though there has been no information on the nature or extent of his injuries. Although he has begun to file reports to his superiors, he has refused to speak to the civilian press, in effect continuing the news blackout.’ That can’t be good!”
Will snorted lightly. “That could mean anything. So. Why did you call me here today?”
“Will…I only agreed to date you, not to be engaged to you. I really feel I’m being pushed into marrying you, and I’m not ready to even think about marriage yet.”
“Another excellent meal, Barbara,” Dr. Bravo said, wiping his lips with a napkin.
“Thank you, Will,” Momma purred, “but Nova did help.”
“I just put the salad together,” Nova shrugged. She didn’t want to get credited with too much. Dr. Bravo had visited the Blackwell’s penthouse frequently in the months after Easter. Nova had come to expect these strangely awkward dinners at least once a week. Momma doted on him to the point of infatuation, and Poppa just asked polite questions and looked amused. Nova ascertained her role at these dinners was to be quiet, demure and cute. And she was.
“Our Nova’s quite the young woman,” Poppa chimed in.
“She sure is,” Dr. Bravo enthused, giving Nova a saucy wink. Nova felt like sticking her tongue out and pulling down a lower eyelid at him. She liked him well enough, but why did he have to embarrass her?
“Her friendship with me is very important,” he said with a sudden gravity. Poppa cleared his throat and sat up straighter. Dr. Bravo began to swirl wine around the bowl of his long-stemmed glass, and gazed at the glass and wine as if they required his full attention. “We Bravos are usually in holy wedlock by the time we’re twenty-five. But the demands on my career…the demands the war puts on my career…I just haven’t had time for much else.”
Momma reached over and clasped Dr. Bravo’s free hand. “Thank you,” he said quietly, and he tossed back the last of his wine with a huge flourish. Nova began to believe she was watching something scripted.
Then Dr. Bravo turned directly to Nova. “I care for you as I’ve never cared for anyone else in my life. I just hope you feel the same way, Nova-chan.”
Uh-oh, Nova thought. “Please don’t put me on the spot, Dr. Bravo!” she protested.
‘Will’. Please call me ‘Will’. With what I wish to propose….”
Momma’s eyes got very wide and she grabbed hard at the edge of the dining-room table. Nova had the impression her mother had saved herself from falling out of her chair.
“…Nova, you should start calling me ‘Will’. Mr. and Mrs. Blackwell, I would like to court your daughter with the objective of seeing if we are compatible enough to marry. Do I have your permission, Mr. & Mrs. Blackwell?”
“Mrs. Blackwell says ‘yes’!” Momma said in a rush, a wide smile on her face. “Mr. Blackwell?”
Poppa’s face was smooth of any visible emotion. “All right. But it seems to me that Miss Blackwell has the final say.”
Nova managed to twist her mouth into a grin. “Why not?” she replied.
“This calls for a toast!” Will said as he grabbed the bottle of wine on the table and refilled everyone’s glass. He raised his own. “Here’s to love, and to never having to say we’re sorry!”
Momma looked as if she’d cry from joy. Poppa looked resigned. Nova only pretended to take a sip of wine. It was all going too fast. None of it was like her secret, cherished fantasies of how her best and truest romance would proceed. That toast, she thought, where have I heard it before?
“May I be excused?” she asked.
“Nova!” Momma practically scolded.
Poppa came to Nova’s rescue. “Nova has cram school tomorrow, and she will see you, Dr. Bravo, at the hospital.”
Nova shot Poppa a grateful look as she bolted from the room. She got out her laptop computer: a prototype with the latest EMP shielding technologies. Nothing save the Gamilons cracking Earth in half would keep Nova from checking that film reference site…!
There. Just as I suspected, she thought. Dr. William Bravo had cribbed a line from a movie she hated more than any other in the universe: Love Story.
“`Love means never having to say you’re sorry’,” she said in her snarkiest `neener-neener’ voice. “Gaaahhhh! Vom-o-rama!”
“You’re not unhappy, are you? I know you’re worried about your ronin exams in February. I could help you with the biology and chemistry portions….”
“I’m already in one of the best cram schools in NeoSubTokyo!”
then, that’s that! You’ll pass your
exams, get into
“Even pre-med? I’m really good in chemistry but I’m dreading organic….”
“So you do what every smart pre-med does: audit the class until you feel ready to take it, and then take it. I’ll tell you with whom to take it, where to get tutoring if you need it, and I’ll help you study.” He grinned. “It’ll be easier to help you study if we’re engaged or married!”
Nova giggled weakly. “I dunno. I don’t think anything’s easier when marriage is involved.”
“Come on. Let’s think about a late spring, early summer wedding.”
“Why? The point is moot; there are no seasons any more.”
“Blast! Then we’ll grab a justice-of-the-peace when we’re ready and start in on making a batch of babies!”
didn’t press the point she wanted a nuptial
“You haven’t complained. Until now.”
“Will, I’ve complained. You just don’t hear me when I do.”
The day after Will proposed courtship, Nova went most of her hospital shift without seeing him. She was getting a cup of coffee in the break room when someone came in without saying anything. She didn’t think much of it until a pair of masculine arms encircled her. Nova let out a short shriek of panic, then got a whiff of irritatingly sweet hair tonic.
“Is that how you behave when someone gives you a hug?” Will kidded.
Nova sneezed in reply, and set her cup on the counter with a bump.
“Bless you!” Will said.
Nova was still shaking from her fright. “Don’t sneak up on me like that, Will! Where are your manners?” She tried to pry herself free.
“I said ‘Bless you’, Snookums. Mmm, you’re so yummy, I could just eat you.” He mouthed the nape of her neck.
Ecch! Earn my trust first, baka! Nova thought. She succeeded in pushing him away, and turned to face him while she braced herself on the counter. “`Love means never having to say you’re sorry’?”
Will blinked and shook his head.
“That corny toast you made last night!”
“Oh! That. I thought it was cute.”
“You cribbed it from the sappiest, most dunder-headed movie in the history of film.”
“I honestly believed a girl your age would find it romantic.”
“Don’t lump me in with other girls my age!”
Will looked at her, his eyebrows raised. “Nova, you were pleasant and tractable at table for months. I proposed courtship because you’re a neat kid and we’d make a nice couple. Today you go all harpy on me. Are you naturally a bitch or are you just pre-menstrual?”
Nova’s jaw dropped.
“Oh, that was just wrong!”
“Look, calm down. I’m kidding. You’re just fine the way you are, even if you just graduated from high school.”
“Well, what’s a man like you trolling after a “nobody” like me, anyway?”
“Only for what a handsome, successful and smart man like me most wants, and what all eighteen-year-old girls are usually too eager to give away.”
Nova fumed. “It’s all about the cherry out of reach, isn’t it?”
“On the contrary, it’s very much within reach.”
Will leaned forward and kissed Nova full on the mouth before she could get away. She was astonished at the flare of pleasure that lit up her chest. She’d had a few boyfriends that might have been better kissers, but Will was good, and she had been too lonely for too long. Fearing the kiss would go too far, she pulled back her head with a jerk.
Will smiled at her in a way that didn’t look nice. He began to saunter to the door of the break room. “Hmm. You didn’t back off too quickly. Do you want I should lock this door some day?”
He was leaving when Nova spoke in a confused rush. “I want you should act like a gentleman even when my parents aren’t around! And stop wearing that hair product! It makes me sneeze and it can’t be good for your patients!”
Later, to his credit, he did on both counts.
“Why didn’t you say ‘no’ the night I proposed courtship?”
“And humiliate you in front of my parents?”
“I’m not that brittle.”
“Well, I’m not that rude.” Nova raked her fingers through her short blonde bangs. “Besides, I only agreed to date you. I didn’t think you’d confuse “courtship” with “being engaged”.”
“What have you got against being engaged?”
“Same thing I have against being pushed into marriage: I need more time.”
“Even if there may be no more time.”
Will blew out his cheeks. “We could have a great deal of happiness.”
“As all relationships should!” Nova exclaimed reassuringly. “But we have to be prepared to care for a sick or dying partner, too.”
Will’s eyes narrowed to slits. “That’s dirty pool,” he said in a low, dangerous voice. “I told you and your parents in confidence. I never thought you’d use it against me.”
“Will, I wasn’t thinking of you, alone.”
Nova knocked on the break room door. It was locked, and her mind flashed briefly to the crack Will had made about locking that very door. The unwanted image of Will fooling around with one of the hospital staff swelled in her mind. She flushed it with a shake of her head and knocked again, louder.
She heard someone cross the room, and when the door opened a crack, Will was on the other side. He stood blinking in the light from the corridor, for the break room was in darkness. Nova was relieved to see he was alone, probably taking a nap. Then she saw his red-rimmed, glassy eyes.
“Will, are you…?”
He pulled her into the room as he shut the door behind them both. He clutched her tightly and sobbed. Sudden tenderness rose in her, and she hugged him and rubbed his back.
“I just got some test results back,” he said at last. “It’s bad.”
A cold mixture of fear and empathy clutched at her. She sensed the word before Will spoke it.
“Cancer!” he shuddered. “I’ve got early-onset prostate cancer! Me, of all people!” He laughed bitterly. “`Physician, heal thyself!’”
Nova walked Will to the wobbly break room couch. She sat, and Will lay down with his head in her lap. She stroked his hair. He still had a goofy, too-young haircut, but was no longer saturating his hair with gel anymore. “So ironic. And so unfair,” she murmured.
“This will completely destroy my credibility.”
“No, it won’t.”
“I had a self-help-and-diet book deal!”
Nova barely suppressed a laugh. “It’s not the end of the world.”
“How can you say that?” he snapped. Nova tensed, frightened at his anger. Will sighed, relaxed, and put his hand over his eyes in a gesture of extreme weariness. “I’m sorry.” He paused. “You know that the treatments might cause…fertility problems.” Will reached up to stroke her cheek. “I wish I knew I could still give you children.”
She felt ill, and took his hand from her cheek. “Will, it’s been your life’s work to help people survive this. You’ve worked on the pathogen theory and isolated two as probable cause. You’ve had half-a-dozen terminal patients survive just because they were in your care.”
“I’m on the other side of the bedrail, now,” he whinged.
Great doctors make lousy patients, Nova thought. I hope I don’t have to stroke his ego too hard. “C’mon,” she coaxed aloud. “You know all there is to know about fighting this. If there’s anyone who should survive it, it’s you.”
A few minutes later, Will stopped crying and stood up. He went to the sink and began dashing cold water on his face.
Later, Will told Nova’s parents. Momma behaved predictably, going into hysterics. Will held her as she bawled. Poppa went so pale in an instant that Nova shot out her hand to steady him. He asked a few questions of Will’s diagnosis that on the surface didn’t seem like much. Will answered every question posed, then Poppa quietly left the room. He snagged Nova with his eyes so briefly, that it was several minutes before she recognized his implicit request: come to my office.
When Nova did, she found him ‘lexandrianing medical information on the ‘Net. He surfed a few more pages and was very careful and quiet when he spoke. “Pity I don’t have an MD along with my JD. The information I want is either buried in technical jargon or missing from the popular sites.” He turned to Nova. “Will talks as if he’s got what I was screened for. But my doctor didn’t make my prognosis seem as dire as Will’s.”
Some days later, Poppa’s words drove Nova to sneak a look at Will’s medical records, and to compare some of the language of the records with some journal articles that seemed relevant. The general conclusion she drew was that Will’s illness was quite treatable and that it wouldn’t trouble him as much as he implied.
Never trust a man who cries, she thought.
But because she wasn’t sure (and she did feel guilty for snooping), Nova never confronted Will.
“Just imagine if we didn’t face cancer or rad sickness or any of the other problems associated with surviving this siege,” Nova said. “We might…what?...be with each other for fifty years or more. I’m only eighteen. I’m not supposed to know whether I’m genuinely in love or suffering teenaged hormones. Do you know you love me enough until death do us part?”
Will’s mouth fell open. “This isn’t some antiquated Roman Catholic thing that nuns still teach in high school marriage prep classes?”
“Nice save, Will. Don’t answer the question on my account.”
Then Will’s face brightened with sudden inspiration. “You haven’t found someone else, have you? Some pimply, adolescent boy, all hands, feet and pecker?”
Nova blushed and gasped at Will’s impudence. “Look at you getting turned on by the idea!”
“Pot calling the kettle black, I think. And now you’re avoiding the question.”
“I don’t think you’d grin like that if you believed there really was another man. And no, there isn’t!”
“Oh, but imagine the possibilities of being with someone your age. I can,” Will said caressingly, leaning on his forearm. His eyes went strangely soft. “You could store up some wonderful memories for when you came back to your real life. You’d be on the surface a proper upper-middle class woman, a doctor, wife and mother. And when things got a trifle dull in bed with your husband…as things inevitably do…you could fantasize about rutting with your young lover, all beautiful face and body. You’d never have to endure his boorishness and stupidity, never knowing how old, fat, and bald he’d grow…”
“That’s the most ugly-minded thing I’ve ever heard you say!” Nova scolded. “I think I hate you!”
Will practically cooed. “Oh, darling. You can’t be expected to know how to love. How could you know how to hate?”
“`I know enough of hate’….”
“The birds and the bees, my girl. The birds and the bees. No sensible person would fault you for experimenting. I’m giving you permission.”
“I don’t need your permission for anything!”
“And you’re waiting for what, now…?”
“What am I waiting for?” Nova repeated, uncertain. She flashed her dark eyes at him. “I’m waiting for the world to change. Soon.”
“But it’s a naughty world that may not change.”
“So we’ll just patch everybody up as best we can, and we’ll all live happily until we die shitting and puking and feverish from radiation sickness!”
“Watch your language!” Will scolded. When he saw that Nova was genuinely upset, he took her hand. “If I didn’t believe we could survive this war….”
“We. Cannot. Survive. This. War.”
“We can and we must! If you hadn’t cut yourself off from your natural, girlish desires, you would know this! Marry me!”
Nova and Will sat a long time in silence. Nova’s mind was churning with what she wished to express—how best to say it?—and she couldn’t bear to look Will in the eye. Will kept holding her hand and thumb-stroking the back of it.
She took a quick gulp of coffee. “Look, if you’re going to push marriage on me when we’ve known each other less than a year, I have to step away. You’re choking me.”
“Oh, that is way too harsh.”
“I’m starting to see girls my age who are being choked, literally and figuratively. Quickie marriages and partnerships. Some of them have terminal cancer, some of them have been rendered sterile, and all of them want to grab some joy. Then they run afoul of the hard work of keeping a relationship alive. Sometimes their partners turn openly cruel. Then they’ve lost whatever freedom and happiness they could have had. You’ve seen the women come in. Poor, neither they nor their spouses able to pay their medical bills. Sometimes these women have been beaten!”
Will rolled his eyes. “Are you still worried about that trull and that no-speakee-Japanee domestic that rolled through here? I told you to get over them.”
Nova stormed into the break room. Will was lying on the couch, resting after a cancer treatment and reading a medical journal. “Ugh!” Nova shuddered. “Men just stink!”
“Ah, ah. Attitude.”
Nova shot an apologetic grin over her shoulder. Since his diagnosis, Will was nicer to her, and strangely happier and better-behaved than ever. He’d taken her out for sushi and amused her with dreadful jokes about it. (“I have a hard time eating octopus. Sticks to the roof of my mouth. But I’m a sucker for it anyway.”) Nova believed he might be The One after all. “Present company not included. I’m just steamed that there were two—two!—domestic abuse cases that came in today.”
“Really? Do tell.”
“Will! I can’t gossip about patients!”
“Spill. You’ll feel better.”
“All I know is one is a teenaged first-time mother—thank God she’s got her baby with her!—and a Filipina war refugee.”
“Pff. I wonder how many `Cash they’re pulling in from Welfare?”
Some internal tocsin bell tolled in Nova’s soul. “What did you say?” she asked dryly.
“I said, `I wonder how many ‘Cash they’re pulling in from Welfare’.”
“You’d better be really sure what you’re talking about, Will.”
“Oh, Christ, Nova! Don’t go all bleeding-heart liberal on me! You know as well as I do those refugees and unwed teenaged mothers and a bunch of other thumb suckers are more than amply compensated for the privilege of sitting on their honkers.”
“I don’t know, Will, especially in the case of those Pacific Islander refugees. Beats sitting above, eating radioactive rice and pork and worrying about dying before China stopped arguing Japan was better able to take in massive amounts of refugees, and vice versa.”
“Oh, boo-hoo. I just lost everything in three planet-bomb induced tsunamis. Give me money. I had a baby because I’m an airhead who can’t figure out how to buy birth control or get an abortion or keep my legs shut. Waah-ah.”
Nova paced at the edge of the room, keeping her distance from Will. “You are really, really disgusting sometimes.”
“Hey,” Will leveled a finger at her like a gun. “Your mother and father took care of you. I will take care of you, but I’ll also make you grow up a little. Do not cry over people who don’t give a damn about you.”
“Don’t tell me to behave!”
“I can and I will. Especially after we’re married. Think I won’t? I’d take you over my knee if I thought you needed it, little girl.”
“Oh my God, quelle irony!”
“Hey. Show a little respect and obedience for your future husband, who will provide for you in the manner you’re accustomed to, Princess Nova. And how dare you posit I’m a bigot, an achi-bunku? I’ve got a Filipina who comes in twice a week to clean my apartment. Couldn’t live without her!”
Nova stood in the middle of the break room. She was so furious she was afraid she’d start throwing things at Will. Coffee mugs. A bottle of dish detergent. The smelly old dishwashing sponge no one ever threw out. The floor lamp. The “kitchen” table and chairs, all at one go. She knew it was better to leave in silence, but she couldn’t resist throwing one more barb at Will. “And if we do become a wealthy infertile couple, we’ll do a black market adoption from some unwed teenaged Mom?”
“Are you still here?!” Will exploded. “You were supposed to be in the medical/surgical division two minutes ago! Do not waste anyone’s time! Get moving! Chop-chop!”
As Nova left, pulling the door behind her, Will added, “Save the world on your own time.”
Nova leaned heavily against the door as it shut. She rolled her eyes heavenward. “I need my space,” she sighed.
Will reconsidered his words. He reached to stroke Nova’s cheek. “I’m sorry that my words in the break room sounded harsh. But you hit some sore spots with me that afternoon.”
Nova, longing for any comfort, leaned into Will’s hand. “We all have sore spots.”
Will canted his head to one side and gave Nova a half-smile. “See? We’re going into this marriage with our eyes open.”
“Marriage is not an inevitable consequence!” Nova snapped. “It breaks my heart to see you try and try and try to convince me. But the harder you try, the more I feel like running!”
“So you’re not running yet? That’s good. It means I still have a chance.”
Nova shook her head. “But marriage to you is not what I want. It wouldn’t change the fact that while you panic about your cancer—which is very curable, mind you!—children as young as three are developing testicular and ovarian cancers. The cure and survival rates for that, at that age, is zero. And marriage between us wouldn’t change the fact that more people are getting skin lesions from artificial sunlight than ever from natural sunlight, and no one’s asking “why”. You and the dermatologists should get together and weigh whether we’d all be better off with rickets or melanomas.”
The man behind the counter looked up at the words ‘artificial sunlight’. Will just looked very uncomfortable and insulted for some reason.
“I’m leaving,” Will said. “Don’t call me unless you can behave and converse like a lady.” He got up, grabbed his rounds coat and shoved his arms into the sleeves as he walked away.
“Will?” Nova called when he had his hand on the door pull. He turned. “Good things are going to come about, I’m sure, whether we’re married or not.”
Will snorted derisively. “Wake up and smell the coffee, Nova Blackwell. You’re a fool to refuse an honest offer. But I love you, I forgive you, and I’ll wait.”
The door to the shop shut behind Will. Before he was completely out of her field of vision, she saw he’d jammed his hands in his pockets. Nova hugged her knees to her chest and shuddered. She’d done it, but for how long? She’d been lonely, and Will had eased that loneliness, even a tiny bit. She might have gotten a superb letter of recommendation from him for anything she wished. Will was good looking, had money and a good career, a future, connections, a social status equal to her family’s if not better. Could she really ask for anything more? Could she come to love him as spouses sometimes did, out of duty or habit?
In previous situations, when she’d been macked-on hard by a boy, she always gave him the benefit of a doubt (and a date). She knew her boundaries, had a lot of fun, and was never without masculine company. She rarely had to tell a boy she “wasn’t interested”, and she was kind enough to never dismiss a boy completely. If she wasn’t attracted to a boy who was very attracted to her, she’d simply make herself unavailable to him. I’ll just walk away from Will, Nova thought. I just hope he won’t follow.
At last, Nova walked up to the counter. The UV-burned barista was studiously wiping the granite veneer of the counter and keeping his head down.
“I’m sorry if we talked about you as if you weren’t there,” Nova apologized.
The man smiled painfully. He touched his throat and said hoarsely, “Thyroid, too.”
scrawled a name and number on the back of a business card. “Please contact this department at the
“Thank you, miss,” the man said, and Nova realized she was giving his hand an encouraging squeeze.
“Thanks for letting us have our argument in peace,” Nova joked.
“You’re very welcome.”
She stuck a ten AsiaCash piece—over-tipping him—in the gratuity jar and walked out before he could see her eyes fill up.
Nova fingered away the dew in her eyes (threatening to spill) and looked up to the “ceiling” of NeoSubTokyo. Jacob’s-ladder shafts of light streamed through “bomb-proof” Techtite skylights, the only opening to sunlight in the underground cities. There never was enough sun. Street lights were always on, except during blackout conditions. Nova figured from the angle of light it was now twelve noon.
There was a courtyard at the center of the twenty-two story hospital block with a lawn of struggling grass and a mix of living and artificial trees. The underground cities were not hermetically sealed, but were closed most of the time to radioactive fallout…and to above-ground, oxygen-rich atmosphere. The results were that, as huge as the underground cities were, they were usually stuffy with carbon dioxide. In response, people were encouraged to garden, as in many wars before, not only for food but for oxygen as well. Yet the results often weren’t very good, as plants pined for the sun, and died quickly. Even now some municipal workers were putting up a temporary artificial tree to take the place of a dead real one.
I remember I have an allergy to some flowering tree, Nova thought. But it’s been so long…I can’t remember which! The last time she’d had the “sneezonal seizes” had been when she was seven or eight, just before the Gamilon siege had forced everyone underground.
Fake cherry trees gave a strange effect during cherry-blossom time. Nova could barely remember how a real cherry tree shed its petals. She hadn’t been old enough to understand how a real, molting cherry tree would remind one of the evanescence of life, and the comforting thought of death being a part of that cycle. Having lived now through ten years of fake cherry trees, with blossoms that would never shed, she could appreciate the bitter irony that the trees could outlast humankind.
She hoped the fake trees would find sympathetic company with the cockroaches.
Nova held herself together until she got back to Dr. Sado’s office. Then she put her head down on the desk set aside for her and cried.
She’d put on a brave front with Will. What if, as Will seemed to indicate, there wasn’t time left for a girl to be picky? He was, superficially at least, a terrific catch.
exact moment, Captain Abraham Avatar, who’d suffered a broken collarbone,
cracked ribs and, at the last minute, a bad nosebleed, was being admitted for
Earth Commander General Charles Singleton had slept very little since the Plutonian Armada had been defeated. There was intel’ on a possible enemy Pluto base…mounting a search & rescue for survivors of the Armada…and delegating who would deliver condolence messages to whom. He had volunteered himself to deliver official word to Avatar on the loss of his son. Better than some baby-faced lieutenant--too reminiscent of Abe Jr. and all those lost--to be the bearer of bad news. Singleton was one of Avatar’s few friends. Singleton also had to suss out whether Avatar could serve again, especially on a crucial mission like the one being discussed. If not, could he coax Abe Avatar to hang up his cover, go to the Old Spacer’s Home and leave command of Earth’s most important mission to a younger, less experienced man?
Plus there was that incident with the interstellar ship wrecking on Mars, and the message it carried….
Apropos of that, two cadets had just returned to Earth on the Biwa-ko. They carried to EDF Decryption Services the message capsule they’d salvaged on Mars. One of them, Derek Wildstar, had been in a rising stir of anger and fear about his brother. Alex Wildstar’s ship had not reconnoitered with Biwa-ko, and Derek, his younger brother, feared the worst. The second cadet, Marco “Marc” Venture, was hard pressed to keep his friend calm.