A Star Blazers story

By Peg D.


This is the story of Mark Venture’s month in Central Hospital after the Comet Empire war, telling of his recoveries, both physical and emotional, and his journey toward loving again.


STAR BLAZERS, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO, and all related names and elements are copyright by Voyager Entertainment and Leiji Matsumoto. Star Blazers is a registered trademark of Jupiter Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 1


Carina watched the final week of the war unfold from her vantage point at Central Hospital.  When word of the impending battle between Earth Defense and the Comet Empire reached New Tokyo, the people panicked.  War-weary citizens moved to return to the underground cities.  Later, when the president’s Information Officer announced the White Comet’s defeat of the Earth Defense Forces at Saturn, many rushed to the spaceports to leave Earth entirely.  Thousands called for the resignation of the president and the prime minster.  The result of the panic was an increased number of heart attacks, panic attacks, and injuries caused by the crowds.  Dozens of people were trampled to death as the mobs pushed to leave the city, and hundreds more were admitted to the hospital.  Since much of the hospital staff was as eager as other civilians to escape to safety, any and all Earth Defense workers who had medical training were pulled in for lengthy and exhausting shifts to cover for those who fled.


It had been a difficult week for the medical crew who had remained in the city.  Carina’s usual 8-16 hours of nursing shift time had ballooned to more than 80 hours already this week, and the occasional breaks she had from treating the sick and injured usually found her in the hospital’s chapel, praying for a resolution to the conflict and for the strength to carry on.  More than once she had awakened in a pew, her forehead resting on the back of the next bench, her dark red bangs flattened to her forehead.  She could only imagine what sort of impression that made on the visitors who frequented the chapel, but she was beyond worrying about her appearance.  The staff rotated so that everyone was allowed a few hours’ sleep and a shower every day, but messy ponytails and wrinkled uniforms had replaced the hospital’s usual high grooming standards as the norm.  Carina didn’t mind, except that, when wrinkled, the already too-short nurses’ uniforms rode up even higher and barely covered the nurses’ underwear.  She cursed the man – they all knew it was a man – who had decided that seeing the nurses’ legs was vital to the patients’ recovery process.  Most of the girls found it humiliating, especially when dealing with hotshot young soldiers.


She pulled her skirt over her hips with a sigh as she paused for a moment and reflected on the hopelessness of the Earth’s situation.  The terror had increased when the White Comet fired on the moon, leaving it a fiery ball of burning rubble.  Today, when the Comet had landed in the Eastern Sea in anticipation of the defense council’s surrender, plans had formed to transport patients to the safety of the hospital in the underground city, which was kept accessible and fully stocked.


But the surrender party’s ship had suddenly turned around when the Argo and its Black Tiger squadron had appeared, and there had been an elated reprieve from the horror.  The Comet had withdrawn from the water and returned to space, and the staff could see the explosions from the battle through the hospital’s windows.  There had been a final, enormous explosion, and they had dared to hope that the Star Force had defeated the Comet Empire.


That hope had been short-lived, however.  A tremendous surge of energy had shot from the sky, striking an uninhabited area in the mountains on Great Island.  A second had quickly followed, destroying a small island in the Eastern Sea, and more and more, each striking closer to the heavily populated area of New Tokyo.  The city had finally been hit, causing even greater turmoil.  The downtown area went up in flames so hot that the air itself seemed to have turned scarlet.  Carina could see through the haze that Earth Defense Headquarters had suffered structural damage.  The hospital hadn’t, not yet, but the staff, dazed and feeling as though they were walking through a bad dream, rushed to transfer patients underground as quickly as possible.


The first of the Argo’s medical transport ships arrived shortly after the deluge began.  Forced to push aside her fear and exhaustion, Carina joined the team that ventured to the scorched landing pad to meet it.  Its occupants were wounded, some too badly to function, some mildly enough to look after the less fortunate crew members.  They brought with them news of the loss of the Argo, but also of their determination to fight on, even if it meant finding a new planet to live on.  Carina’s heart sank as she directed the gurneys through the waves of heat.  The Argo had been Earth’s last hope, and while its loss meant that the Earth Defense Forces were defeated entirely, she doubted that the leader of the Comet Empire would treat the earthlings with leniency, since they had reneged on their promise to surrender.  Even if they could find a new place to live, it would be nearly impossible to evacuate the planet.


She shook her head and moved on to meet the next ship, noticing that the energy pulses seemed to have abated for the moment.  As she looked up at the ship approaching the landing pad, she saw a bright flash in the sky.  It grew in size and intensity for the better part of a minute, then began to shrink again.  The hospital crew looked at each other, their faces haggard, not knowing what had just happened but fearing the worst.  If the Argo had exploded, Earth was doomed.  The hatch of the medical transport ship opened, and Carina gasped when she saw a familiar face.  “Stephen!” she cried, rushing forward to greet her friend and mentor.  “Are you all right?  What’s happened to you?”


Stephen Sandor smiled weakly at his friend.  “Carina.  It’s good to see you.  I’m fine – my bionic limbs will have to be replaced, that’s all.  Take care of these other men first.”


She suspected his injuries were more severe than he let on, but moved to help the soldiers who could climb out of the ship of their own volition get to the transporters that would take them into the hospital, and asked over her shoulder, “Do you know what that flash in the sky was?”


“No, I don’t, but I understand that Derek Wildstar stayed behind on the Argo to try and defeat the Comet.  I hope –“


“Carina.”  It was Doctor Sane.  “Help me with these men.  Was Nova on the other ship?”  When she answered him in the negative, the tiny man shook his head sadly.  The news he brought was grim: 18 wounded; 18 survivors.  The doctor himself, along with Nova and Captain Wildstar if they had survived, brought the total to 21 who remained from the entire crew, including the space marines who had joined the Star Force partway through its mission.


The wounded were rushed through triage and the senior medical staff began to treat those most in need while the junior staff gave basic first aid to those whose wounds were less severe.  There were no more explosions, but the uncertainty of the situation had everyone on edge, so that the doctors, nurses and aides began snapping at each other.  Carina, exhausted and emotional, was glad when Dr. Sane ordered her to give Ensign Homer Glitchman a full body scan and then prep him for surgery.  It was a relief to get away from the chaos before someone said the wrong thing and made her cry in front of her superiors, something she had promised herself she would never do.


Glitchman was semi-conscious, but his scan revealed a fairly severe head injury and some internal bleeding.  Carina sent his images to the operating room and wheeled the gurney through the disinfecting chamber, where his gold and black Living Group uniform was removed and his skin sanitized, and into the O.R. where Dr. Sane was waiting.  The doctor focused intently on his work, moving quickly and efficiently, not making any sort of conversation while he stopped the patient’s bleeding and closed his wounds.  Carina guessed that he was trying not to think about what might have happened after the medical transport ships left the Argo, and didn’t ask him any questions, despite the fact that she was burning with curiosity.


The rumors began trickling in slowly: the Argo had been spotted; the Argo was returning to Earth; Derek Wildstar and Nova Forrester had returned, and had brought Commander Venture with them, alive.  This last piece of information sent Doctor Sane, normally unshakeable when working on a patient, into a bit of a frenzy.  Carina had never seen him fumble in the operating room, and was startled to see him jump and drop his laser scalpel.  “What???” he shrieked, his voice jumping several octaves, assaulting her tired ear drums.  “Mark Venture is alive?  Send Nova in here right now!”


“Y-yes, sir,” stammered the enlisted man who had brought the news, taken aback by the doctor’s reaction.  “Right away, sir.”


“Doctor?”  Carina was uncertain whether she should press him for details.  She knew, of course, that Cdr. Venture was the navigator/pilot for the Star Force.  Much had been written about the Argo’s young crew, and her officers in particular, when the ship had traveled to Iscandar.  She could probably identify most of the Star Force on sight for that reason, not to mention that many of them had gone through the academy with her, and Carina thought she might have had a math class or two with Cdr. Venture early in her school career.  But no news had been received from space since the battle at Saturn.  Had the commander been wounded and somehow left behind?  The thought made her shiver.


The doctor was silent as he finished removing debris from the cut on Ens. Glitchman’s head, but glanced at her as he prepared to close the wound.  “Mark Venture was hit by an explosion and lost in space several days ago. He was presumed dead.  It was the worst loss the bridge of the Argo has suffered since Captain Avatar died.”  Nova appeared in the doorway, her black eyes exhausted yet exhilarated.  Dr. Sane stepped back.  “Carina, could you bandage this wound for me?”


“Of course, Doctor.”  Carina and Nova had been in the same graduating class at the academy and had shared a number of classes.  Nova had majored in nursing while Carina had focused more on analysis and development, but the two had been friends and had worked together occasionally both before the Star Force’s initial mission and during the year before Trelaina of Telezart’s message had been received.  Carina shot Nova a Look, the kind of non-verbal communication that had driven the boys at the academy crazy: What’s going on?  Nova responded in kind: We’ll talk later.


Carina turned her attention to bandaging Ens. Glitchman’s wound, but managed to catch some of what Nova and Doctor Sane were talking about:  Trelaina…  Brought Mark back to life somehow…  Defeated the Comet Empire and saved the Argo…  Might never know the full story.  Intrigued, she resolved to talk to Nova as soon as possible.


Doctor Sane returned to finish up with Ens. Glitchman and asked Carina to assist Nova with Cdr. Venture in the lab.  “I want a full body scan, blood work, vital signs, everything,” he said.  “And listen: keep the results between the two of you until I’ve had the chance to review everything, OK?”  The two women exchanged a quick, puzzled glance, but responded, “Yes, Doctor,” and headed back to the emergency room holding area to retrieve Cdr. Venture, lying motionless on a transporter.  He looked thin and gaunt, almost shrunken in his green and white navigation uniform, but seeing him in person, Carina was sure she knew him from the academy.  She’d thought he was cute when she was 17, she remembered as they wheeled him down the hall, with his dark curly hair and big brown eyes, but they had never spoken.


“What happened to him, Nova?” she asked.  “Dr. Sane told me he was caught in an explosion.”


Nova looked down.  “Leader Desslok of Gamilon had come to attack us.  We rammed his ship, and Derek boarded it hoping to fight him.  I followed him – I couldn’t bear to see him walk into that situation alone and I wanted to help.  Mark was on the deck of the Argo.  I’m not even sure why he was there – he never took part in hand-to-hand combat, but I guess there was nothing for him to do on the bridge at that time since we were pretty well attached to Desslok’s ship.”  Nova’s voice became thick with emotion.  “He saw a trail of shots coming toward me and tried to warn me out of the way.  He didn’t notice that the shots were also heading straight for the gun mount next to him.  There was a massive explosion, and… we saw his body float off into space.  There was nothing we could do to retrieve it – we were fighting.  But it’s my fault that he’s here.”  A tear ran silently down her cheek.


“Oh, Nova, it is not your fault.”  Carina spoke seriously.  “We all know the facts of war.  Good men die, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.  We fight to make the universe a better place for the people who remain.  The only one to blame for Cdr. Venture’s condition is the soldier who fired the shot.”


Nova sighed.  “I know.  You’re right.  I’m just so very tired.  And I’m so tired of fighting.  I pray that we’ve brokered a lasting peace this time.”  She looked at the comatose commander.  “You talk about good men…  Mark is one of the best.  I mean, really the best.  Kind and warm and gentle…  I don’t know a better man, other than Derek.”  She smoothed the dark hair on his forehead and sighed again.


Carina reached out and touched her friend’s arm.  “Don’t beat yourself up.  He’s here and he’s alive.  Be thankful for that.  I heard you and the doctor saying something about Trelaina?”


They had reached the lab, and the two women drew a vial of blood, then removed the commander’s uniform and moved his body to the scanner.  He didn’t have any visible wounds, Carina noted.  He must have been knocked unconscious by the explosion, and remained comatose until his miraculous recovery from the vacuum of space.  Nova nodded slowly as they started the scanning process.  “Mark and Trelaina fell in love while we were out there.  I don’t know how it happened, but somehow she must have found him floating in space.  She told us she had brought him back to life…  And then she sacrificed herself to destroy Zordar’s ship.  She transformed herself into some kind of energy, I think.  Could you see it from Earth?”  Carina nodded.  That explained the flash in the sky just after the deluge stopped.  Nova went on.  “Trelaina had some sort of psychic power.  She destroyed her planet Telezart about six weeks ago to slow the White Comet’s approach toward Earth.  We thought she was gone then, and Mark was just starting to get over her loss when he was hit.  He’s going to be devastated when he realizes that she was alive and he’s lost her again.”


The poor guy.  Carina thought privately that someone with Trelaina’s sort of power sounded like a dangerous person to fall in love with, but didn’t comment out loud.  Instead, she focused on preparing a blood smear and adding drops of blood to the analyzers.  The results came back quickly: his hematocrit and oxygen levels were low and his CO2 level a bit high, but Carina had expected that.  The surprise came when she looked at the slide she had prepared.  What she saw made her gasp and take a step back.  “Nova, come and look at this,” she said, excited.


“What is it?” Nova asked.  She had been recording the commander’s vital signs, but she crossed the room and looked into the microscope.  She straightened almost immediately and looked at Carina, confused.  “What is that?” she repeated, dumbfounded.


Carina shook her head.  The two women stared at each other.  In addition to the normal red and white blood cells (their balance was off, but the cells themselves looked healthy,) Cdr. Venture’s blood smear contained something foreign.  It didn’t look like any parasite Carina had ever seen, but it wasn’t composed of normal human cells, either.  These strange cells resembled red blood cells, but they looked…  Shiny.  Almost luminescent, she thought.  “I guess this is how she brought him back to life?”


“I guess,” Nova replied thoughtfully.  “I wonder – “


Just then, Doctor Sane walked into the lab.  “How is he?”


“His heart rate and breathing are slow,” Nova replied, “and his temp is up, but his scan looks pretty good.  No internal injuries, no head wounds.  There is some swelling around his neck and spine.”  She looked at Carina, who took a deep breath.


“His red blood cell count and oxygen levels are low, and his white count is a bit high,” she told the doctor, “but Doc, take a look at this slide.”


The doctor pulled a chair to the microscope and climbed on it to look at the smear.  When he leaned back after a few moments, he looked thoughtful, his brow furrowed, but not particularly surprised.  “I wondered if something like this might come up,” he said quietly, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes.  “We don’t know what happened when Venture was with Trelaina.  This will be the key to it.” he looked at the nurses, his beady eyes serious.  “I don’t want Mark Venture to be treated like a freak, or studied by Earth Defense as a secret weapon.  Can you both promise me that you won’t tell anyone about this?  I don’t want it to leave this room.  Nova, not even Wildstar can know.”  When both women agreed, he continued.  “I’d like to try to isolate those cells myself.  I’m going to have blood drawn from Venture on a regular basis, but I’m going to order that only one of you be allowed to handle his blood in the lab.  And you’ll have to destroy whatever is left of each sample after it’s been analyzed.”


Carina hesitated for a moment.  What the doctor was asking them to do would be in direct violation of protocol.  But at the same time, she knew very well what Earth Defense was capable of, and this hero didn’t deserve to be put under the microscope.  She assured the doctor that she would help him in any way possible, and after reviewing the results of the scan and blood analysis, he wrote orders for Cdr. Venture: a blood drip and intravenous antibiotics and fluids.  He would check him again in the morning.  Nova and Carina brought the commander to the intensive care unit on the top floor, where he was housed across the hall from Stephen Sandor’s room and next door to Homer Glitchman’s, Carina noted with satisfaction.  It would be good for them to be close to each other.  They washed Cdr. Venture, dressed him in a johnny and put him to bed.



It was a long night at the hospital.  By the time the last serious wounds were closed and the soldiers who had been less badly damaged were sent to bed, held for observation, it was well past midnight.  Derek Wildstar had met with the defense council and the commander late into the night, and stopped at the hospital to speak to Nova while she and Carina were setting up Cdr. Venture’s room.  Wildstar stared at his friend for a minute, taking in his pale complexion, in such sharp contrast with his black hair; the dark circles under his eyes; and the blood and fluids dripping into his arm.  Carina suspected that he was a bit put off, that Cdr. Venture looked worse in the harsh light of the hospital than he had on the deck of the Argo.  Captain Wildstar seemed a little nervous, as if he wasn’t sure whether it was all right to touch the commander.


”How is he?”  Wildstar asked, standing with his hand awkwardly on the bed rail.


Nova moved to stand beside the captain and put her hand on his back.  “He’s holding his own.  He does have a high fever, and he’s pretty severely dehydrated, but he’ll live.  We can’t really say more until he wakes up, but he’ll be all right, Derek.  I’m sure of it.”


Wildstar nodded, his eyes glued to the figure in the bed.  “I know he will.  Venture is strong. Whatever Trelaina did, I’m sure it was enough to make him well.”  He turned to Nova and took her hand.  Feeling suddenly like a third wheel, Carina turned away and busied herself, uselessly filling a pitcher with water.  The captain said, “I came to tell you I’m going home to bed.  There’s a press conference at 0900, and I need to be able to think.”


“Of course.  I’ll be there to support you,” Nova replied, rubbing his back.


“That will be nice.”  The captain ran a hand over his face exhaustedly.  “Good night, Nova.  Good night, Lt. Clark.”


“Good night, Captain.”  Carina saluted him as he left, and he returned her salute wearily.  She turned to Nova with a hint of a grin.  “You two seem… happy.”


Nova blushed and cast her eyes down, but she couldn’t help smiling.  “We are.  I…”  She hesitated for a moment, then spoke in a hushed, excited voice, beaming.  “Please don’t tell anyone, because I haven’t spoken to my family yet, but I have to tell someone!  Derek proposed to me earlier, on the Argo.  We’re going to be married!”


It took a moment for the words to sink in, but when they did, Carina squealed and gave her friend a quick hug.  “That’s wonderful!  Congratulations!  When?”


“Thanks.  We haven’t discussed any details yet – we were a little busy.  But you’re the only person who knows, so please…  I just couldn’t hold it in any longer!”


“I won’t say a word.  Don’t worry.”


A sound came from the bed.  Cdr. Venture had suddenly inhaled sharply, and the nurses rushed to his side.  They watched him tensely for a minute, but when he didn’t move, they relaxed again.  “He might tell on you, though,” Carina said teasingly.  “Sounds like he’s happy about your news.”


Nova nodded wryly.  “Mmm.  Or perhaps his body needs oxygen.”  She frowned and fiddled restlessly with the blankets that covered the commander.  “Part of me wishes I could stay here with him straight through his recovery, to make sure he gets the care he needs.”


Carina put her hand on Nova’s shoulder.  “You know Dr. Sane won’t allow anything less than the best care for him.  And between the two of us, we can guarantee top-of-the-line nursing.  He’ll be fine.”  She moved to take her friend’s arm and began to lead her out of the room.  “Come on – you should get some rest before the press conference, and I plan to spend a few hours in my own bed for the first time in a week, too.”


On their way out of the hospital, Nova and Carina passed a middle-aged couple walking toward the waiting room.  They nodded at Carina, but when they saw Nova they stopped, and the woman grabbed Nova’s arm.  Nova blinked at them, and then recognition dawned in her eyes.  “Mr. and Mrs. Venture.  I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, hugging the woman.


The man, tall and thin, spoke first.  “Lt. Forrester, is Mark all right?  We received a call, but they didn’t give us any details.”


“Mark is unconscious now, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t make a full recovery.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you more, but the doctor will talk to you.”


The woman, Mrs. Venture, looked as though she hadn’t slept in a week.  Her hair had been hastily pulled back in a twist, and her clothes were rumpled.  “Can we see him?”


“I don’t think you’ll be able to see him tonight,” Nova replied.  “But I’ll make sure Dr. Sane knows you’re here, and he’ll come down to talk to you as soon as possible.”


Carina had been watching them, and saw an opportunity to help.  “I’ll go page him, Nova,” she said.  “You take the Ventures to the waiting room.  And then I’m going to go home, if you don’t mind.”


“That’s fine, Carina, thanks.  Have a good night,” her friend replied.  Turning to the Ventures, she said, “I’ll wait with you until the doctor comes to talk to you.”


Mrs. Venture nodded at Carina as she walked away.  “Thank you so much, nurse.”


Carina gave her what she hoped was a soothing smile.  “Your son will be fine.  There’s no doubt in my mind.”  She continued to the nearest nurses’ station, paged Dr. Sane, then went home and collapsed into bed.



She had hoped to be up early enough to attend the press conference the next morning, but the lure of her own bed and kitchen proved stronger than Carina had anticipated.  She slept a solid five hours and woke up at 0830, at which point she showered, made herself cup of tea and curled up on her sofa to watch the conference on television.  It would have been too crowded at Earth Defense HQ anyway, she decided when she saw the throngs of people on the screen.


The camera panned the crowd, and she spotted Nova in the front row, along with several of the Star Force members who had been released from the hospital this morning.  Next to Nova were ensigns Chris Eager and Dashell Jordan.  Eager had been knocked out but not wounded, and Jordan had escaped with a sprained wrist and a few scrapes on his face.


The cameras now focused on Captain Wildstar, who had emerged from Earth Defense Headquarters flanked by Commander Singleton and General Stone.  The Commander spoke first.


“As you know, for several months and until yesterday, Earth was under attack by the Comet Empire, a tremendous war machine bent on conquering the galaxy.  Its ultimate goal seems to have been to enslave the people of Earth and make use of our natural resources.  The Star Force, after initially defying orders not to take off several months ago,” (General Stone scowled at this remark) “identified this threat to our peace with the help of Trelaina of planet Telezart, who had sent a distress call regarding the Comet.


“One week ago, the Earth Defense Fleet met the advanced fleets of the Comet Empire in battle at Saturn, and was completely decimated by the enemy.  The Star Force alone survived, but was unable to communicate with Earth and Earth Defense did not know whether the Argo still existed.  In light of this, Earth’s government determined that the only safe course of action was unconditional surrender.  Before the surrender party reached the Comet, however, the Star Force made a miraculous appearance and fought the enemy, bringing us to victory at last.  Deputy Captain Derek Wildstar is here to speak to you about what transpired after the battle at Saturn.”


The commander stepped back, and Wildstar approached the microphone.  “Thank you, sir.”  He saluted, then faced the crowd.  “As you have just heard, the Argo lost its communication capabilities during the battle at Saturn.  When the ability to receive radio transmissions was restored, the Star Force learned that Earth planned to surrender to the Comet Empire.  We felt that it was our duty, as Earth’s last remaining battleship, to do what we could to stop the Comet Empire and its evil ruler, Prince Zordar.  We decided to return to Earth and wage a surprise attack on the Comet.


“Thanks to the advice of brave Captain Gideon of the Andromeda, we were able to infiltrate the Comet Empire city.  It was a long and difficult battle, and we lost many good men, all of whom fought bravely and will forever be remembered as heroes.”  The captain paused for a moment, eyes closed, remembering his fallen comrades.  “In the end,” he continued, “their sacrifice served us well.  We managed to destroy the Comet Empire, and we believed the battle was over.  Prince Zordar had one more trick up his sleeve, however.  He emerged from the wreckage of the Comet Empire in an enormous ship, which proceeded to fire on Earth.


“I loaded an escape capsule into an airlock on the Argo, and after evacuating the wounded, I remained aboard ship.  My plan was to set the automatic pilot to ram Zordar’s ship with the Argo, and then escape.  I soon discovered that Lieutenant Nova Forrester had remained behind to help me, and we decided to execute the plan together.


“You can imagine how shocked we were when Trelaina of Telezart suddenly appeared on our video panel, and then on our bridge, holding the unconscious body of our dear friend and chief navigator, Commander Mark Venture.  Commander Venture had been wounded and presumed killed during our battle with the Comet Empire.  Trelaina and Venture had developed a deep love for each other during our mission, and she somehow found his body in the vastness of space and brought him back to life.


“Despite our pleas with her to return with us and Commander Venture to Earth, Trelaina could not be persuaded.  She left us as suddenly as she had appeared, and before we realized what was happening, she used her tremendous mind energy power to destroy Zordar’s ship, sacrificing her own life in the process.  We may never understand Trelaina’s power, or how she defeated Zordar, but her love for Commander Venture and for Earth saved us all.  We will always owe her a debt of gratitude.


“I thank you all for listening to me this morning.  General Stone will now conclude this conference with a few words about the state of Earth Defense.”


Wildstar stepped back, and General Stone approached the microphone.  Carina knew that there was bad blood between Stone and Wildstar, but the two saluted each other cordially.  General Stone cleared his throat.  “As Commander Singleton reported,” he said, “the Earth Defense fleet was wiped out during the battle at Saturn.  The defense council plans to immediately rebuild three Andromeda-class cruisers, and production is underway to replace our lost fighter planes.  The Space Academy will graduate a new class of cadets in just over one month, and in the meantime we are calling our reserves to active duty.  In addition, 22 Star Force members survived the war, 19 of whom were wounded in battle…”


Carina tuned out the rest of Stone’s speech.  He would tell the people what they wanted to hear about rebuilding the fleet and Earth’s safety, and the people would accept it without question.  She herself wasn’t sure she bought it.  But Captain Wildstar had spoken well.  Nova must be very proud.  She made herself an egg sandwich on rather stale toast (she’d have to remember to go shopping soon,) and by the time it was ready, Stone had finished speaking.


The general walked off, followed by Wildstar and the Commander.  Reporters shouted questions after them, but the MPs closed ranks behind the officers to protect them from the crowds.  The broadcast shifted to the news studio, and Carina tried to pay attention to the analysts’ commentary as she ate her sandwich.  She was short on sleep, though, and found that it was harder to fight off her exhaustion now that she was home than it had been at the hospital.  Her mind kept wandering, and she finally decided to give up and go back to bed for the rest of the day.  She fell into bed with a book and spent the better part of the next 24 hours there, catching up on reading and sleep.



As she dressed for her hospital shift the next morning, Carina found herself wondering about Trelaina.  She had loved Commander Venture enough to sacrifice her own life…  It would be hard on him, losing someone so devoted.  And Nova said Trelaina had sacrificed her planet six weeks ago, as well.  How had she done it?  What exactly was Trelaina’s mysterious power?


She walked to work slowly, still tired but feeling better for having slept and showered in her own home.  The destruction wrought by Zordar’s dreadnought was tremendous; buildings were demolished, streets torn up and train tubes fractured.  But work crews were already busy clearing away the rubble in anticipation of rebuilding.  It was heartening to know that Earth’s spirit was still so strong after the attack.  Her step picked up and she smiled as she continued to the hospital.


Carina had been assigned to the intensive care unit of the Earth Defense wing, which meant she’d be working with the most severely wounded Argo crew members: Stephen Sandor, Mark Venture, Homer Glitchman and engineer Sho Yamazaki.  After reviewing their cases with the nurse she was relieving, she made the rounds of their rooms.  Stephen, Homer and Yamazaki were resting, and she took their vital signs and moved on.  The last room she approached was Cdr. Venture’s.


When she entered Venture’s room, she saw that he had visitors.  She recognized his parents, the couple she had seen the night the Argo returned to Earth; today there was a small boy with them as well.  “Oh, hello,” she said pleasantly, tugging at her skirt.  “Mr. and Mrs. Venture, I’m Lt. Carina Clark.  We met briefly the other night.  Sorry to disturb you, but I need to draw some blood and check the commander’s temperature.”


Mr. Venture spoke.  “Of course, nurse Clark.  This is our younger son, Jordy.”


She nodded at them and moved to draw a vial of blood.  She noticed that the boy, Jordy, watched her closely, and when she had finished he asked her, “Is my brother going to be OK?”


She looked at him for a moment before she answered.  His big brown eyes reflected both his fear and his hope.  He was about the same age as her sister Katherine, she guessed.  Thinking of how Katie would feel if it were her lying in that bed, she smiled at him comfortingly.  “Your brother will come back to you, Jordy.  I’m going to tell you the truth – we don’t know how long it will take for him to be healthy again.  But he’ll be with you for a long, long time.”


The boy’s expression became less tense, and he nodded and looked at the figure in the bed again.  “He’ll be OK soon.  I know he will.”


Mr. Venture spoke.  “We appreciate everything the hospital is doing for our son, Lieutenant.  Everyone here has been wonderful.”


“Nurse, will he really be all right?”  Mrs. Venture was speaking now.  “What are the chances that he’ll be paralyzed or have some sort of permanent… damage?”  She was speaking softly and looked at Jordy as she spoke.  It was obvious that she didn’t want to worry the young boy.


“Your son is strong, Mrs. Venture.  His vitals have improved quite a bit in the last 36 hours, and our tests are showing no spinal damage or brain issues.  There’s no reason to believe he won’t make a full recovery.  It’s just a question of time.”


Mrs. Venture nodded sadly.  “It’s so hard to see him like this.  I know I should be thankful; so many other mothers’ sons didn’t come home at all, and we came so close to losing him.”  Her voice caught in her throat, and she spoke through rising tears.  “But he’s my son, and I can’t bear to think that…”  Suddenly, she gasped.  They all followed her gaze and focused on Cdr. Venture’s hand.  They weren’t sure at first, but then it happened again: his fingers twitched.  It looked like more than a muscle spasm, Carina thought – it looked like he was trying to move.


His mother grabbed his hand.  “Mark!  Mark, can you hear me?  Wake up!”  They watched as his eyes twitched and slowly opened and blinked.  His gaze scanned the room blankly, seeming to focus finally on his mother.  Carina shook her head to regain her composure.  “I’ll get Doctor Sane,” she said, and flew out of the room and down the hall.