Save the Last Dance for Me
A Novellette in Four Acts
By Frederick P. Kopetz
with note to the following: STAR BLAZERS, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, and all related names and elements are copyright (C) 1998 by Voyager Entertainment, Inc. Star Blazers is a registered trademark of Jupiter Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
NOTE: This story and its successors represent an Alternate Reality that may or may not coincide with the events portrayed in the STAR BLAZERS and SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO series and movies.
Special Thanks to Derek C. Wakefield and the rest of THE ISCANDAR PROJECT for ideas and concepts of theirs I have been permitted to use herein. These ideas are (c) 1998 by Derek C. Wakefield and THE ISCANDAR PROJECT. Thanks to Gail R. Kopetz for her aid and assistance.
ACT ONE--MORNING IN THE ROCKIES
December 26, 2201
Denver Megalopolis-Boulder District
The Boulderado Hotel
It's been quite a long time since I've seen a mountain like that , thought Captain Derek Wildstar as he stood on the balcony outside his room at the Boulderado Hotel on the far northern edge of the Denver Megalopolis, looking west toward Flagstaff Mountain on the third day of his leave. It's been such a long time since I've really celebrated the holidays, for that matter, too... he added to himself, smiling as he bent to pick up a small object from a metal table on the modernistic balcony.
Glancing at a thermometer on the outside wall, he was a little surprised that it was already twelve degrees Centigrade this morning, and in December at that. Off in the distance, he could hear the sound of water running. Well, there goes yesterday morning's Christmas snow, he thought again. Nova warned me the climate here can be pretty capricious at times. If it goes up to twenty, I guess the only snow I'll be seeing today will be in this...
Wildstar looked at the object. It was a small, crystalline globe that contained a tiny model of the Denver Megalopolis, with the Rockies accurately represented towards the west. Turning the globe upside down and then rightside up in his hand, he smiled a little as a miniature blizzard blew down onto the tiny city. He set down the globe; which was just one of several Christmas presents that Nova had given him yesterday at the Forrester family house several kilometers to the west on Baseline Drive.
However, this particular Saturday would be somewhat more important to both Derek and Nova than the holiday they had celebrated the day before; because today was to be their wedding day.
I can't believe it, he thought in wonder as he looked south towards the rest of Boulder, and, in the distance, the towers of Denver proper. By some stroke of luck, Nova and I decided to hold our wedding in the one major city in North America untouched by Zordar's siege cannon. Sure, we came here to escape the publicity of New York or San Francisco, but, oh, God, what a VIEW! Reminds me a little of the mountainous parts of Great Island...
Derek looked down at himself, pleased that his uniform was in order. He had been authorized to wear his Star Force Combat Group whites, over which he wore the new jet black peacoat which had been given to him upon his recent formal promotion to the Captaincy of the Argo; the distinctive high red-lined collar, trimmed with gold braid, was currently up against the morning chill. He reached down, adjusting his ascot again. He wasn’t quite used to his Captain’s scarf yet, and he felt a bit like a fool with the silken scarf on. A surge of nervous energy ran through him as he again realized WHY he was in his Captain's coat this morning. Wildstar tried to calm his mind, but he was interrupted as someone opened the door to the hotel room behind him.
"Derek, why are you blathering away under your breath?," asked a somewhat tired-looking Lieutenant Commander Mark Venture as he came through the door onto the balcony. He was dressed in his Star Force Navigation Group whites with a blue officer's peacoat because all of the Star Force veterans who were in the wedding party had been authorized to wear their Star Force uniforms. Venture had also been authorized to wear a ceremonial sword in a scabbard over his blue officer's coat. Wildstar himself wore no such sword because in military weddings in those times, the tradition was that the bride and groom, who were supposed to be celebrating, went unarmed, "guarded" by their honor guard.
"None of your business, Venture, " snapped Derek with a slightly annoyed grin as he paced the balcony like a caged tiger. "Oh, you know, there's so many mysteries in this universe under God that I don't quite understand or know how we can know all of the truth, even though I certainly believe..."
"I think you have a point. Since we've been travelling in space, we've learned so much...and yet..."
"Well, Mark... I believe we found another small aspect of the truth on Iscandar...and saw a little more of the truth when...well...when Trelaina made you well again and brought you back to us..."
"...although, sometimes, I wonder WHY she brought me back," said Venture quietly. "Can you tell me what she said again?" he said with a hitch in his throat.
"It's all part of a greater mystery we don't fully understand. Mark..". she said, as we told you in the hospital, "...I must give him back to you....", and she said you had a destiny to fulfill."
"Destiny," said Venture numbly as he looked west towards Flagstaff Mountain and the rest of the nearby Flatirons. "What sort of destiny? She also said it was important for you and Nova to be married..."
"When?" asked Wildstar with a start, aware that neither he nor Nova had ever told Venture what she had said about their marriage.
"In the dreams I was having," sighed Venture.
"Mark," said Wildstar as he laid a hand on Venture's shoulder. "If this is too painful for you..."
"Derek...we don't need to discuss this any more...okay?" said Venture. "You know I promised to be your best man as soon as you asked. This is going to be the happiest day of your life...I want you to get out there and enjoy it...okay?," added Venture. "Oh, by the way, your ascot's hanging out."
"It IS? Oh, great!"
"I think you forgot to put it in before, Captain," Mark jibed...wiping his eyes quickly with the heel of his hand so that Wildstar wouldn't notice the tears at the edges of his eyes.
"Oh...yeah," said Wildstar. "Can't have Nova seeing me like that at the altar, can I?," he said as he shakily adjusted it.
"Y'know, Derek, you look nervous?" said Venture in a deadpan voice as Wildstar tucked in the scarf and struggled to adjust his collar to the proper position.
"What ELSE is new?" snapped Wildstar. "Don't you know a man is supposed to be nervous on his wedding day?!? Haven't you ever read the great old masters of the 21st Century, like Tannenberg, or Han Sang...or the great writers of the 20th Century, like Harold Robbins or Stephen King?"
"Derek, if you're spouting out THOSE guys as the "Great Masters", you're in worse shape than I thought!" said Venture. "Stop jittering around like that!"
"I know what I'm doing," said Wildstar as he straightened up, and walked forward...right into the table with a yelp.
"At the rate you're going...I hope you remember you're supposed to hug Nova up there at the altar...and not me. Take a deep breath, and calm down."
"Oh," muttered Wildstar. "Thanks, Mark." Wildstar looked even more embarrassed at that. "Everything looks okay?"
"You look okay...don't worry about the room...you and Nova will be back up here later on for a bit, after the reception...and you know...if we don't get out of here and get on our way, you'll end up leaving poor Nova stranded at the altar of that church waiting for you at 1200. I'm sure you don't want that to happen."
"You got that right!" exclaimed Wildstar. "So, let's get the heck outta here!"
At that, they stepped towards the door to leave.
December 26, 2201
Denver Megalopolis--Boulder District
The Forrester Family Residence
Teri Forrester was sitting on the bed in a white-paneled room right beneath a red-shaded hurricane lamp. The light somehow seemed to compliment the pink mother-of-the-bride dress she was wearing. It was trimmed in scarlet at the neckline and waist, and, in spite of her worries, her husband Karl thought she looked adorable in it. Teri was just as nervous as Mark Venture at the moment, and she sat on the bed idly playing with her pearl necklace with one hand while tapping her satin evening-pump clad foot on the carpeted floor.
This bedroom of the Forresters' home, rebuilt in the early part of the year according to the original design of the house, looked both empty and lived-in at the same time. The lived-in look came from the scattered bits and pieces of a life that had been hauled back here from storage underground, while the empty look came from the fact that the owner of these possessions was, out of necessity, so seldom here to make use of them.
But, Teri wiped away a few tears as she absently tossed a gold-and-blue cheerleaders' pom-pom into a box. "She won't be back to practice in the house with these again," she said out loud to no one in particular as Karl came into the room.
"Teri, what are you doing in here?" asked Karl with a lump in his throat. He was resplendent in a black tuxedo coat, pinstriped ascot tie, and striped evening slacks.
"Waiting," sobbed Teri.
"Why the tears?"
"Nova's never going to enjoy these things that we were able to keep again here in her rebuilt old room...a room she's barely seen again…that's why," said Teri as she picked a framed watercolor of a butterfly out of the box. "Can you believe our baby painted this when she was eleven...the summer before we were hit in 2190? It's a good thing she got this picture of this butterfly before the opportunity to paint them from life passed...maybe forever? And she's going to be LEAVING us soon...going off to Great Island and beyond forever with all these boxes!"
"Teri...you wanted her to get married..." said Karl with a lump in his throat.
"Oh...I know...but it's all happening so fast!" sobbed Teri. "At least...well...at least he's a good young man. I don't care WHAT my sister says about him..."
"Teri...do you want Nova to hear you? She's right there in the den with Natalie and the rest of the bridesmaids, putting the final touches on her hair and nails..."
"I hope she won't be cold outside today," sobbed Teri. "That dress...she's hardly got anything on her head, and she's not even wearing a decent pair of hose with those strappy shoes of hers..."
"You know what the rationing's like...you said she was lucky to get a white dress or shoes of any kind. She'll be fine," said Karl reassuringly. "It doesn't seem that cold out today, and she won't be outside for long...and, besides, I don't see you complaining about your neckline or those peep toes on your shoes..."
"I'll be wearing a wrap! What about my daughter?" said Teri. "She'll freeze without a coat on...like she does in those skin- tight uniforms she wears in the space service!"
"Standard issue...and hasn't your brother-in-law Hiram told you that those uniforms keep her quite warm when they have to?"
"Oh...he has," sniffed Teri.
"Besides, Captain Wildstar's not about to let her freeze," chuckled Karl.
"He's so young, though..."
"And he has the thanks of all of Earth, AND a brand-new house to give her," said Karl. "They'll be fine...Mother, you'll see..."
"I hope so...I just hope that Derek eventually talks some sense into her...and that she goes off and brings forth the children Earth needs..."
"Which she'll do; she's told me that, Teri."
"When it's the right time to have them," said Karl. "She told me..."
"She told you...?"
Both Karl and Teri were hushed by the sound of the doorknob rattling in the den down the hall. They ran to the door, expecting Nova, but were suprised to find Nova's old friend, and maid of honor, Lieutenant Natalie Fisher, emerging from the room, instead over the low sound of several other young ladies' voices in the den. She wore an elaborate satin gown in deep pink, with matching pink gloves and high-heeled sandals. There were, appropriately, a few pink rosebuds in her dark brown shoulder-length hair.
"Where's Nova?," said Teri anxiously as the silent young woman tiptoed up.
"She's not…having second thoughts...is she?," asked Karl.
"Not at all," whispered Natalie as she came up to Karl and grabbed him gently by the arm.
"Well, what's she waiting for?" asked Teri.
""She just wants to knock your socks off, that's all," said Natalie. "Everyone else is ready and waiting downstairs?"
"They certainly are," said Karl with a lump in his throat.
"Okay...it's ten-thirty…we have an hour...we're fine," smiled Lieutenant Fisher. "On your mark...," whispered Natalie. "Get set..."
Then, she paused. After a moment, Natalie sang, "Nova, you can come OUT now!"
Karl took a deep breath as, ever so slowly, the door began to open.
"Mama...Papa..." said a tentative voice from the other side of the door. "How do I look?"
After a long pause, Teri said in a tiny voice, "Wonderful, my baby...WONDERFUL...."
December 26, 2201
Denver Megalopolis--Boulder District
Our Lady of the Rockies
"Where's Wildstah?," asked Senior Lieutenant Jefferson Hardy as he stood near his old shipmate Stephen Sandor in the back of the round sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rockies, part of the North American Catholic Church that had instituted some reforms but retained ties to Rome. Both of them, like Venture, were members of the wedding party honor guard, all of whom were here to prepare for the ceremony. As such, and as Star Force veterans, Sandor and Hardy were both in their respective Star Force uniforms and blue peacoat, which were decorated with white boutonnieres. All of them wore scabbards with ceremonial swords at the ready.
"Venture and he had adjoining rooms at the hotel," said Sandor as he glanced down the aisle, making sure that the white runner was in place on the aisle floor.
"What about Nova?" asked Hardy.
"She'll be here with her parents right before the ceremony starts, according to the old tradition."
"She's gonna make Wildstah sweat, huh, Sandor?" chuckled Hardy.
"Excuse me a minute," said Sandor as he left the group momentarily to greet the Commander with a salute and escort him and his wife to their places in the front pew.
"Think Wildstar'll get here on time?" asked Hardy after Sandor returned back to the lobby a few minutes later. "He seems kinda late."
"I hope so," said a young blond-haired man as he strode up and doffed his sunglasses after helping to seat an elderly guest.
"Wait a minute," said Senior Lieutenant Dash Jordan, who was present as a guest but not part of the honor guard. "Uhh...you're the only one here I don't know," he said, looking over at the rest of the honor guard, all of whom were standing around in a little group waiting for more guests to escort to their seats. "May I ask who you are?"
"I know OF you, Jordan, but as you evidently don't know me, let me introduce myself," said the blonde-haired fellow. "Name's Lieutenant Samuel Josiah; one of the bride's three surviving cousins. You'll meet the other two: Jane and Kristin, a little later today. Although, granted, I wouldn't advise you to try to move on Jane, because I'll be escorting her today during the reception, or on Kristin: she's just five." He grinned a little and said, "It's hard to believe that my cousin and I received went to Sunday School and all that in this church; and that now, she's to be married here. Boy, how time flies."
"Heyy!" yelled a cheerful little fireplug of a man who just happened to be Dr. Sakezo Sane, the Argo's chief medical officer. "Anyone need a sip of Captain Avatar's spring water?" he asked, extending a bottle towards the group.
"We can wait until later, Doctor," said Sandor quietly after he saw a high-ranking officer to his pew.
"Oh, why not LIVE a little?" asked Dr. Sane as his gold and black tiger-striped cat, Mimi, came up to him and meowed. She was wearing a white bow around her neck with a little rosebud; and Dr. Sane, looking as eccentric as ever, was dressed in his Medical whites, to which he had added a black bow tie.
"It's because we know what that spring water REALLY is, and, besides...aren't you forbidden from bringing it here on holy ground?" grinned Veronica Davis, who was standing near Sandor as she began to shake her head. The young Afro-American RSO looked very nice today in her yellow bridesmaid's gown, which left her shoulders and arms bare. A dainty foot, which looked very different in a satin sandal as opposed to an EDF uniform boot, poked out from below the floor-length hem of the gown for a minute as Ronnie adjusted her stance, gallantly aided in her chore by Josiah, who would have the task of escorting her today. As Veronica was rather pretty, Sam didn't exactly mind this part of his job description, in spite of his usual cool reserve.
"Humph! You don't know a thing," said Dr. Sane. "In about an hour, Wildstar and Nova will be sipping wine together at the altar as part of the ceremony. I think I'm entitled to this," he said, patting his omnipresent bottle of "spring water" as Chris Eager came up towards the group from the other side of sanctuary.
"How's it going?," he asked in his interminable Texas twang.
"Still waiting for Wildstar and Venture and a million guests," said Ensign Paul Rosstowski with a shake of his head. "I'm here, Sandor's here; Sam Josiah's here, Hardy's here, and"
"...I'm here, too!" said a young, rather slight man with a chuckle as he came up from behind a support pillar at the back of the church, making an effort to keep his ceremonial sword straight.
"Royster!," said Eager. "What're you doin' here?"
"Easy...I was wounded in action, like the rest of you, and Sandor proposed to Wildstar that I should be a member of the Honor Guard! I accepted. First time I've ever done this, heh, heh, and who knows...I might get very close to a really nice girl today!"
"Really?" said IQ-9 as he came up behind Royster.
"Yes, REALLY," huffed Neville Royster. "I'm supposed to be escorting a young lady named Laurel Hartmann today during the reception."
"Does she like you?"
"We've...well...we've only met once, heh, heh...at the rehearsal. At least she didn't laugh at me. IQ?"
"What do you think is the probability that Miss Hartmann will give me her phone number today?"
The squat red analysis robot said, "Deep down, I'm somewhat depressed today, but permit me to make an analysis." His sensors and lights began to bleep as he cogitated. "Based on my analysis of your appearance, Royster, I calculate the chance of your doing anything more than getting Miss Hartmann to laugh at you today is about .05234 percent."
"I think your analysis is FAULTY!" yelled Royster. "You know women don't always go for the strong and brawny types!"
"Yes, but do most officers use greasy kid stuff on their hair? HA HA!" said IQ-9, who had enough intelligence to can it when General Stone came up and harrumphed quietly, leading his wife, Danielle, by one arm.
"Sir, permit me to escort you and your wife to your pew," said Royster.
"Thank you, Mister," said Stone formally. The General smiled at his blonde wife (something most of them had never seen him do before), and she and Royster talked a little as they went to their place. When he came back, Royster noticed IQ snickering. "Why don't you knock it off? I just completed a very fearful job, you know," snapped Royster after rejoining the rest of the Honor Guard in the lobby of the church for a moment.
"Oh, I will...just let me fix your hair a bit," said the robot, who reached out and began to muss up Royster's hair before the young man could react. Then, over the yells of a protesting Royster, and the laughter of some of the others, IQ said, "Now you look a little less like you used a pork chop to comb it! Ha! Ha!"
At that, Royster took off with a huff.
"IQ, I'm a little surprised you got invited if you're going to act like that today," said Sandor.
"I'm just blowing off some steam!," he said. "Hello there, Veronica," he said as he rolled up to Miss Davis. "Nova rejected my last-ditch proposal of marriage a few days ago. Would you like to marry me? I'm getting really desperate for some real female companionship in my later years. Finally, my sensors indicate that your legs are gorgeous."
Ronnie began to laugh, more with embarrassment than anything else.
"IQ!" snapped Sandor in exasperation, "Did you have your last 10,000 hour checkup?"
"Yes, I passed with flying colors," said the little robot.
"How??" snapped Sam. "You don't act like a gentleman, you rolling trash can!"
"I did. Because your cousin Nova didn't like what I did a few days ago, when I proposed again, I went to her place and tried to apologize. I was desperate; I brought flowers and candy to her apartment, and I had a bow tie on. I tried to be the perfect gentleman."
"Which we can see you obviously AREN'T," hissed Sam with his teeth bared.
The argument ended for a moment when more guests showed up and Samuel, Sandor, and Hardy had to, respectively, show them to their seats. The sanctuary was filling up now.
"What did Nova think, IQ?" asked an amused Dash when they returned.
"That's beside the POINT!" snapped Ronnie. "Don't you guys care what I think?"
"I think you have cute legs, Miss Davis," said IQ morosely. "But not as cute as Nova's."
"Well, thanks a LOT!" said Ronnie, now even more insulted.
"IQ-9, I think you owe her an apology," said Josiah.
"All right. I'm sorry, Miss Davis."
"Accepted if you don't propose to me again," snorted Ronnie.
"IQ, what about you and Nova?" insisted Dash. "I hope she...and her...cousin'll forgive me for pressing you about this story, but it sounds kind of funny. What happened when you went to her billet?"
Oh, BROTHER, thought Josiah as he rolled up his eyes behind his shades. And Nova always told me these guys were so HONORABLE! Why doesn't that jerk Dash QUIT it?
"Well, I believe I caught her at a bad time," said IQ. "After she came to the door in the cold in nothing but a pink bathrobe with her fists clenched and a wet head of hair, she finally calmed down and said my sentiment was sweet, but it was far too late for us."
What? thought Josiah. A robot with a crush on my cousin? How come you never told me about THIS, little lady? This is weird!!!
"She told me our relationship was settled many, many years ago," continued IQ-9 in his high, electronic voice, "and she also said that if I didn't remember that and remember how much she loves Captain Wildstar, I would be acting like a tinwit instead of a genius. She said we could still be friends, though, and she said she'd see me after her honeymoon with Wildstar. And, then, she asked me to be the ringbearer at the ceremony. That was the worst shot of all."
"Why?," said Eager. "Least she asked ya to be part of the weddin' party...".
The conversation ceased again when Royster, Rosstowski, Hardy, and Sandor had to leave the group to escort some more guests, and resumed on their return when IQ-9 could be overheard saying, "I'm a genius about these matters, too, Eager! I researched everything I could find about human weddings. My research indicated that children usually are asked to be the ringbearers at these events. She has me...doing a child's job. Can't she see how I feel about her? Can't she see I have a broken heart?"
TOUCHE', cousin! Good thinking. thought Sam Josiah. "IQ-9...it would never work out," he said with a wicked grin. "My cousin's a human being...and you're just a robot. Can't you see that?"
"Yes...all I am is...a... ROBOT," he said. "I'm just a hunk of scrap metal, like Nova said on Beemira. Excuse me, everyone. Hunks of scrap metal aren't supposed to be suffering from broken hearts..."
The robot left in a very subdued manner. Sandor looked at the group and took a deep sigh.
"Hardy," he said. "I'm leaving you in command for the time being. Come and get me when Wildstar and Venture show up. I've got to go off and talk with IQ-9. If this depression is causing his odd behavior, I'll have to put a stop to it. Miss Davis, my apologies," said Sandor with a bow.
"It's all right, sir. You couldn't have anticipated it." said Ronnie stiffly. "Where's Jane? You're supposed to escort her later on, you know."
"My other cousin's helping Nova get ready, I think, sir," said Josiah. "She'll show up soon."
Sandor nodded. "Hardy?"
"Right, suh," said Hardy with a salute as Sandor left.
"Hardy, does my hair look okay?" asked Royster as he came back from escorting another couple "I was trying to fix it up in the head before I had to escort General Remsenberg and Mrs. Remsenberg."
"Looks fine to me," said Hardy.
"Do you think I'll get Miss Hartmann to notice me today?," he asked plaintively. "She didn't pay much attention to me at the rehearsal. All she did was watch me a bit."
"Why not?" said Hardy, more in an attempt to cheer up the young officer than anything else. "Take a gander at it," he said with a conspiratorial wink as he nodded towards the side of the lobby where many of the women were gathering. "I don't see Miss Hartmann...but...ain't they a bunch of lookers?"
"Who's Nova's maid of honor?" asked Eager.
"She just came back out; she's the one over there with the orange gown and the reddish-brown straight hair," said Sam Josiah. "Her name's Natalie Fisher. Commander Venture'll be escorting her today at the reception. She and Nova grew up together here in Boulder, and her dad's a co-partner in her father's law firm. The young lady next to her with the really light red hair and the green dress is our mutual cousin Jane, and the really little blonde girl there, in the short little blue dress, is our other cousin, Kristin," said Sam with a smile. "Isn't she cute?"
"Yeah," said Eager, who immediately swiveled his head like a strike fighter's aft turret when he got a look at a striking young dark-haired woman with Eurasian features in a purple gown. "WHOA! Who's that?"
"A young lady known as Mio Hoshiyama," said Hardy with a grin. "I'm heh escort, and ah talked to her a moah than a little at the rehearsal...and, by the way, if your Lisa knew how you was lookin' at her, I think she'd KILL you, son."
"Does she have a boyfriend?," asked Dash.
"None of yoah business," said Hardy with an evil grin as Angelique Hartcliffe bopped up in a bright pink minidress with lace-up sandals remarkably similar to the sort she wore with her bridal mini a few days before at her "shotgun" wedding, walking along with her wild-haired newlywed husband Bryan on her arm. "Hello, ma'am," said Hardy. "Shall I escort you and your husband to your pew?"
"Sir, if, like, you DON'T mind," said Hartcliffe. "she's MINE to escort. Know what I mean?"
Rosstowski noticed, with distaste, that Hartcliffe's little wire-rimmed pair of round glasses made him look somewhat like several historical musicians of the late twentieth century, specifically the mid-to-late 1960's. His droopy brown handlebar mustache and slightly twisted grin made the historical resemblance complete.
The British pilot, in his blues and a peacoat, stood leering at the group, and grabbed his blonde wife a bit closer to him, as if to say, "See what I've got?" Angie giggled at his attention, with her giggles growing louder as Hartcliffe tickled her tummy for a moment.
"Hey!" yelled Josiah. "Don't you know you're not supposed to do that in front of other fighter jocks?"
"Yeh?" said Hartcliffe. "Tell me, sir, are you gonna protest when Wildstar bloody kisses 'is bird up at the altar?"
"HIS "bird", my friend, happens to be my cousin!," snapped Josiah in a hissy whisper.
"Hey, sir. Chill out. Didn't yer Mum ever tell ya you're not supposed to swing at a guy who's wearin' glasses?" mouthed off Hartcliffe. "Specially when he's with 'is wife, who's also wearin' glasses?" he said, pointing at Angie's Ben Franklin-style glasses as she smiled.
"Listen," said Josiah in a low voice. "You don't want to know most of what my mother has said about people like you! It's a really good thing she's not here today."
"Why? Should I be scared o' your Mum?" chuckled Hartcliffe.
"If you're sane, YES," said Josiah firmly. "My mother, Mister, is, for whatever reason, about as crazy as a bedbug. She's at a religious retreat today, and you'd be wise to stop talking nonsense about that woman."
"Why? She gonna put a…"
"Bryan, STOP it...NOW!" said Angie firmly. "We're sorry, sir," she said, taking a deep breath. "Sometimes, he just lets his mouth run away with him."
"Apology accepted," said Samuel stiffly. "Don't let it happen again, Mister?"
"Right, sir," said Hartcliffe with a flat, unreadable expression on his face. He and Angie left. "I like your dress," he said in a low voice as they walked up the aisle together admiring the ornamental white and red ribbons of the pews and the Christmas floral arrangements near the altar, which had a huge golden crucifix hanging over it, "even if it's all we could manage with the bills."
"Thanks. I feel terrible," said Angie sadly.
"Well, you know, Nova asked me to be a bridesmaid...but you know we couldn't afford to lay out five hundred credits for one of those long gowns. I felt terrible saying no to her, after she was the only lady in the squadron who stood up for me at our wedding."
"How'd she take it?"
"She offered to pay for my dress..." said Angie sadly.
"You didn't tell me that, luv," said Hartcliffe in a soft voice as they sat down. "Why didn't cha take 'er up on the offer?"
"I COULDN'T, Bryan!" said Angie quietly. "She doesn't make much more than I do, and I couldn't see her digging into her savings on MY account!"
"I see," said Hartcliffe. "Can we drop it?"
"Yes...I guess...but...aren't they pretty?" said Angie in a forlorn voice.
"How come the bridesmaids have got…y'know…different colors, luv?," asked Hartcliffe.
"Did you forget? It's Nova's idea. She talked to both of us about it," said Angelique softly. "They're all supposed to be a rainbow. You know...Natalie, who'll be next to the bride, is supposed to be red...Becky over there's supposed to be orange...Ronnie is yellow...Jane over there is green...Mio Hoshiyama is purple...and that cute little Kristin there with the bare little legs is supposed to be blue, of course."
"Didn't know that. Sorry. Where's that dark shade o' purple between violet and blue?"
"That's going to be indigo. And that's..."
"The white-haired bird we saw at the rehearsal?," said Hartcliffe.
"WRONG. She's platinum blonde," said Angie.
"Wot was 'er name again?," chuckled Hartcliffe. "She was in the other squadron...Wildstar's, I think..."
The mystery was being answered at the same moment out in the lobby, where everyone went silent as Sandor came in outside with a tall and gorgeous young redhead on his arm in a green gown; she was Jane Forrester, Nova's other cousin. He was followed closely by Laurel Hartmann.
The most striking thing about Laurel was the long, luxurious mane of platinum blonde hair that reached down to her waist. It was so pale that it was practically pure white! Her eyes were large, hypnotic, and quite lovely; they were a shade of blue that was even more pale than the blue of the clear Colorado sky that morning. She was very strikingly dressed in a deep indigo gown that was almost as dark as night sky at sunset, and she wore two sprigs of tiny violets in her hair. Much of her body was covered by her attire, but the bit of her skin that was exposed looked remarkably pale; it made her look almost like an expensive porcelain doll. In spite of her voluminous skirt, it was evident to all that she had a slender, lean build that was in top condition.
Finally, Sandor stood with Jane and Laurel before the others. The tall Mechanical Group leader formally extended his left hand towards Jane and said, "Gentlemen, this is Nova's cousin Jane. Not long after the Gamilon war ended, she inherited her father's ranchland a distance south of here and received a small allotment of cattle to reconstruct the ranch."
"Are you raising the cattle for meat?" asked Eager.
"No...I'm just trying to rebuild the stock against the day when I can sell the cattle again," said Jane. "If it all works out, someday we'll have real Colorado beef again."
Then, Sandor looked towards Laurel, extending his right hand towards her in a gesture of introduction and said, "Gentlemen, this is Miss Laurel Hartmann. She is a Lieutenant, and she is also an excellent fighter pilot. A few days ago, she racked up an excellent kill record against Cometine forces during training maneuvers with Wildstar's Super Starfighter training squadron."
"How'd ya do?" asked Hartcliffe, who looked a little skeptical, in spite of the fact that he had a rather good pilot standing there on his arm.
"Second-highest amount of kills in my squadron in that engagement," said Laurel quietly. "Only Wildstar did better, and, as such, I'm here today at his request. Is Wildstar here yet?"
"No, he should be here soon," said Sandor.
"Hope he ain't overdue!" said Eager with a stupid grin.
Throughout all of this, Rosstowski had remained silent, alternating between leaning against one of the carpeted support pillars, looking at his light brown boots, and looking out vacantly over the crowds in the hall below the round white church building. He was just kind of looking at his boots again when he suddenly spied a lady's sandal-clad foot next to his.
He looked up, taking in the sweep of orange satin that confronted his gaze, and found that he was standing next to a rather cute young woman with dark brown hair that sort of spread out in wings at the back of her neck.
"Hello, stranger," she said.
"Who are you? I mean...I saw you at the rehearsal, and I know I'm supposed to be escorting you during the reception and all, but..."
"Lieutenant Rebecca Falworth," said the newcomer in a light Anglian accent, who thought that it would be a good idea not to mention that her father had just been appointed the commanding Admiral of the Combined Fleet. "Like my gown?" she said, pirouetting a bit. "I thought I'd be freezing outside today, but it was kind of nice outside today, even though it's a good thing we're meeting downstairs. Isn't this Colorado weather funny? Especially since it was SNOWING yesterday morning?"
"Yeah," said Rosstowski unenthusiastically as he came back from escorting another guest.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing. Just...kind of thinking of my own wedding," said Rosstowski.
"Is your wife here?" asked Rebecca.
Paul shook his head. "No. And she never will be again."
"I'm so sorry," said Rebecca. "You once told me she was a nice person."
"On our mission to Iscandar...remember?" said the young lady. "I was an Ensign in Analysis then."
"I was in Combat...but I don't think we ever met."
"Weren't you a Black Tiger?" asked Rebecca.
"No, I wasn't."
"We DID meet. You don't remember, I guess," said Rebecca. "So, if I'm not intruding...what happened to Clarissa? Was it...well...because of the bombings?"
"No," said Paul. "And it's not like you think, either. She didn't die. She divorced me early this year. Now do you see why I'm not that happy today? I'm just here for Wildstar, that's all."
"I'm sorry," said Rebecca with a sigh. "If you'd rather be left alone..."
"For now...it might be a good idea," said Rosstowski with a sigh as he walked off, leaving Rebecca flabbergasted.
Rosstowski walked along by himself for a bit, heading upstairs into the church lobby, which was irregularly shaped, following the curvature of the building. He ignored a happy couple as they walked through the high brass outer doors and headed into the church's main sanctuary.
He sighed, and, unmindful of how he looked, he leaned against the wall. Damnit, why bother about appearances? No one can help me. Clarissa dumped me...never wants me back...wouldn't even come or bring our daughter...or let me bring her...nada. Nothing. What should I do today? Smile and act like a jerk?
Rosstowski sighed, leaning against the wall all by himself for a moment. A moment later, he heard the doors opening, and they heard Sandor's voice calling out, "All honor guard members and bridesmaids...to your places! Wildstar's just arrived!"
A tinge of jealousy went through Rosstowski as he realized the implications of what would soon take place. Like many others on the Argo, he had stolen quite a few glances at their cute Living Group Leader during that first mission, even though his wedding ring and child had been among the most formidable of many barriers between the two of them. Still, he didn't begrudge Wildstar his happiness as he went outside and saw him approaching with Venture and Natalie.
Still, he and Venture locked eyes for a moment, and saw that, indeed, for different reasons, they seemed to be brothers today.
Brothers of a sad kind, for theirs was a brotherhood of shared grief, albeit for different reasons.
Click here to return to the Introduction to Visions