Wednesday, January 6, 2202

Derek and Nova Wildstar's Residence

Sands Point: Middle Neck Road

2010 Hours

The sounds of a party in progress wafted outside into the cold evening as Captain Derek Wildstar walked out onto the rear balcony of his house with his Captain's jacket open and an utter look of disbelief on his face. Turning his head to the right, he spotted Nova sitting outside in the lilac-colored dress and pumps she had changed into for entertaining. She looked a little more formal than usual at home tonight; Derek had learned she usually wore casual clothes and either went in sock feet or barefoot in the house. She was taking a sip from a glass of seltzer on a table and seemed to be unperturbed by the chill.

"I don't believe it," muttered Derek

"You don't believe what., Derek?"

"Well," began Derek, who halted. I don't want to insult poor Nova, but I don't know of any other way to say this, he thought. "Well...I just met your Aunt Yvona. She's...well...she's different...but..."

"Let me guess," said Nova. "You think she's as ugly as sin, and  as crazy as a bedbug, right?"

"Right. Yeah...that's it. But...?"

"That's why I stepped out here for a minute, Derek. I'm sorry, but I didn't need to hear, "Moreover, he said unto me, Son of Man, behold, I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem; and they shall eat bread by weight, and with care; and they shall drink water by measure, and with astonishment," pronounced over my buffet table in King James English!"

"Even if you step outside, thereby insulting one of our guests?," smiled Derek.

"But she insulted all my work, Derek!" snapped Nova. "And it's for her sake."

"I think you laid out a great table, Nova," said Wildstar softly. Inside, the doorbell rang.

"Derek, let's go back in. We've got more guests," said Nova.

Derek kissed his wife, and, together, they went back into the house, wondering who had come by next. All in all, they hoped that Yvona's mildly odd behavior would be the only bad spot on what was otherwise a rather nice evening before their upcoming mission.

As they passed through the house, Derek glanced at the tri-v in the living room. He noticed that Samuel Josiah was sitting there in the conversation pit, which was a sunken area in the corner with a sectional sofa. He was watching the end of The Empire Strikes Back at the section where Darth Vader informed Luke Skywalker "I am your father!"

"Yeah," muttered Samuel. "And you're my mother."

"Sam," whispered Nova. "Isn't it a little impolite to be...uh..."

"You know what she's like, Nova!" grinned Samuel.

He could be right, thought Derek as he spared the tri-v set one more glance at Luke Skywalker hanging on the Cloud City catwalk before going to the door.

There, Derek and Nova stood greeting the only two Star Force members they had invited to this rather small gathering, that was mostly for family, namely, their old friends Mark Venture and Stephen Sandor.

"Mark, glad to see that you could make it," said Wildstar as he shook hands with his old friend and comrade. He noted that Venture was smiling.

"We're glad to be here," said Sandor as he looked around the foyer. "It seems like you and Nova have a real nice house."

"Thanks," said Nova breathlessly as she exchanged handshakes with both of her old comrades. "New jackets?" she asked, looking at the new peacoats both men were wearing.

Sandor nodded. "Newest issue; it seems they're issuing them to Star Force officers first."

"Looks like you have a little bit to catch up on after your trip to Dominica," chuckled Venture.

"I think we do," smiled Nova. "May I show you gentlemen in?"

Venture and Sandor followed Captain and Mrs. Wildstar in to the kitchen, where several people were seated around a large table. Mark recognized Teri and Karl Forrester, Samuel Josiah and Nova's cousin Jane from the wedding, and, after a moment, he was also able to place Captain Hiram Josiah, who was gesturing with an unlit cigar towards an amazingly chubby figure in an old black dress with a white lace collar. A moment later, Samuel came in and asked, "Dad, wanna catch the end of the movie?"

"No, not interested," said Hiram. "Your cousin's gonna be serving dinner soon, I'm told."

"Yes," whispered the old woman who sat next to Hiram. "I pray it's soon." When the old crone turned her head towards Venture, Mark was chilled with a look of amazing, naked hatred from a set of dark brown eyes that bore a chilling resemblance to the eyes of both Teri Forrester and her only daughter. Mark's arms were covered with goosebumps as those eyes bore into him, framed by a face that he guessed had once been pretty but now looked ravaged.

"Another man in uniform, eh?," she hissed. "And who are you?"

Venture said, "Lieutenant Commander Mark Venture; the Deputy Captain and Navigation Group Leader of the Argo." Gesturing towards Sandor, he said, "This is Lieutenant Commander Stephen Sandor, the Argo's Mechanical Group Leader."

"Pleased to meet you...Mrs.," began Sandor.

"Mrs. Josiah," croaked Yvona. "Mrs. Yvona Josiah, the wife of Captain Josiah, and the mother of this young rebel, Samuel," she added, with a peculiar stress on the word 'rebel.' "I'm the leader of a local religious community; a community of true believers, and I must daresay that I do not approve of my son's career choice...and I approve even less of the chosen career of my niece," she said, looking towards Nova. "It's my prayer that they both come to their senses."

"Yvona...please," said Hiram. "We're here to enjoy ourselves."

"My apologies to our hostess," she said, bowing towards Nova.

"Pray tell, could you prepare for me a boilermaker? I have need of some stronger refreshment than this punch."

"I'm a little new at this," giggled Nova meekly. "May I ask what kind of drink a boilermaker is?"

"It's simple," chuckled Yvona. "It's a shot of whiskey and a beer! Not mixed together, mind you, but in separate glasses! Could you bring me that?"

"Why, of course," said Nova. "I'll have it up for you in a moment."

As Nova walked past her mother towards the refrigerator, she noticed her mother giving her a warning glance that she knew meant "be careful." Nova nodded, swearing to herself that Yvona wouldn't be allowed to get totally drunk if she could help it. Before long, being a good hostess, Nova Wildstar soon provided Yvona with a frosty bottle of Colorado Summit beer and a shot of Four Brothers' Scotch. When Yvona was given her poison, she nodded gratefully and explained, "They called these boilermakers because, in ancient times, they were consumed by boilermakers and coal miners. They believed that this potion cleansed the coal dust from their lungs. Since Scripture advises you to take medicine for your stomach as needed, I feel that this is a proper and fitting medicine for an old woman such as myself."

"Where does it say in the Bible that you should drink?" asked Jane in a curious tone of voice.

"The Book of Timothy, child!" snapped Yvona. "The Apostle Paul told Timothy to drink wine for his stomach problem, lass! Likewise, God has told me that I should drink this medicine for whatever ails me. Dare you argue with me?"

"Aunt Yvona, I wasn't arguing, I was..."

"Enough. You understand little, as always...," cackled Yvona. "You and he are two of a kind, both ill-mannered louts!"

At least I'm not some kind of holy drunkard who uses the Bible to excuse my drinking, thought Jane angrily as she tapped her sandalled foot hard on the floor under the table with some annoyance.

"Yvona, may I speak with you a to the side?," asked Hiram.

"Yes, I'll come and obey," hissed Yvona.

Off in a side hallway, Yvona asked, "What do you want, Hiram? I was enjoying myself!"

"I'm warning'd better not cause any trouble this time, Yvona," whispered Hiram. "When we were at the house for your sister Teri's birthday, I swore that would be the last time you upset your family or mine. There won't be a next time for us if you dare to make trouble again. Do you understand me, woman?"

"I do. But...perhaps my Lord and my God has OTHER plans, Hiram! Hmmm? Do you know the mind of the LORD?"

"Yvona, take that Bible of yours, read it, and be quiet. Doesn't it say in there somewhere that "...everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted?" Start getting humble, Yvona. Then, maybe the Good Lord will start really paying attention to you."

"Liar! You're like the Devil! You quote Scripture for the Evil One's purposes! It saith: "And a man's enemies will be the members of his own household!""

"Yvona, if you don't want to be preaching to a congregation of ants in a padded cell, stow it! They won't stand for this around here if they hear you!"

"I will hear and obey," hissed Yvona as they went back towards the dining area.

Yvona was ignored after a while because the conversation turned to talk about the Star Force's upcoming mission, which, as Derek and Nova learned, had been publicized, to the point of announcing their impending launch date.

"Now, why would they announce the launch date?" asked Derek as he sipped at some wine.

"For the same reason that they've been announcing the launch dates of the rebuilt carriers and the upcoming new space battleships," said Samuel Josiah. "They want to publicize the fact that the Fleet is being rebuilt, and the fact that Earth's defenses are being rebuilt."

"Yes...they think they can best publicize it by announcing everything," said Hiram.

"Aren't you being assigned a new cruiser, sir?" asked Venture.

"I am," said Josiah. "The patrol cruiser Danube is being refitted. In a few weeks, I was told, I should be ready to cast off again."

"What about the fleet cruisers, Dad?" asked Samuel.

"Form what I've heard, they're only going to rebuild the seven surviving cruisers, and then stop for a time because the very design concept is supposed to be getting some kind of rethink, or so I've heard," said Hiram.

"I see," said Samuel.

"What a beautiful house," said Jane as she looked around.

"Like it?" said Nova. "It was newly built, just for us."

"How many bedrooms are there?" asked Teri.

"Three," said Nova. "Right now, we're using one as a sort of workroom and the other as a spare room. In a few years...we sort of expect we'll be using one of them for another purpose," said Nova as she looked towards Derek with a soft smile.

"What about your place, Steve?" asked Derek, glancing at Sandor.

"It's similar in size to Venture's," said Sandor, "but just a little smaller. I've been making a few modifications here and there ever since I moved in."

"Why would you be doing that?" asked Yvona. "Can't you take what they gave you and be thankful?"

"Well, I like working with my hands," said Sandor. "As an engineer, I look for ways to improve many things. If you're ingenious and careful, you can improve almost any design without making extensive changes that destroy the original intent of the designer. That's the sort of tinkering I like; tinkering that improves something that's already there, and not just changing something for the sake of making changes."

"I see," said Yvona as she sipped at her beer.

"Would anyone like to step out to the balcony for a moment?" asked Nova. "The view of the city is beautiful this time of night if you look towards the south."

"I'll come," said Jane.

"Me too," added Samuel.

"Mind if I tag along for a minute?" asked Derek.

"Okay," said Nova. "Mom....if you'll excuse us for a moment, please."

A few hundred meters down the road, at the top of the hill, there stood another house that was owned by a government official who served in one of the Ministries. In that house, a party was also in progress, but it was a larger affair than the Wildstars' small housewarming party. The house was also somewhat larger than the Wildstars' house, and there was a small dance combo playing in the house as the party progressed.

Glenn Hartnell-Iiyama, the brother of the house's owner, was there along with his wife, Michiko, and their children. Jonathan, who was eight, was in an argument with his older sister, Michelle, who was twelve-going-on thirteen down in the rec room.

"I want to play Cosmo Tiger again!" he cried as he watched his sister and one of her older cousins (a boy that she was trying to impress) playing yet another round on the arcade game that the owner of the house had been both rich and influential enough to have installed in the basement rec room of the sprawling house.

"Jonathan, do you know you're a nuisance?" said Michelle pleasantly. "Kazuo and I know how to play this game a lot better than you do. You're nothing but a little kid. All you were doing was playing with the controls and making the Tiger crash!" she cried over the pulsing musical beat and authentic sound effects that came out of the game as she dive-bombed a Gamilon squadron.

"You're wrong! I DO know how to play this! You're just not giving me a chance!" cried Jonathan stridently.

"Is he always this annoying?" asked Kazuo. "Maybe you should put a bag over his head."

"Sometimes. You know how little kids are," said Michelle pleasantly.

"I am NOT just a 'little kid!'" cried Jonathan angrily.

"OHHH!!!!" cried Michelle as Jonathan's retort distracted her. A synthesized voice that sounded a little like that of Jefferson Hardy said, "Bandits on mah tail! Evade! EVADE!"

Michelle banged up the joystick, but her plane was hit and blew up with a devastatingly realistic sound effect.

"Ohhhhhh!" snapped Michelle. "You're nothing but a nuisance, Jonathan! Why don't you get out of here?"

"When I learn to fly one of those someday, I'll do a better job!" said Jonathan.

" Mom and Dad are gonna let you enter the Space Fighters' Training School," said Michelle. "You know Mother wants you to be a doctor, although I'd never let someone as stupid as you get near me with a knife...or even a tongue depressor."

"I am not stupid!" insisted Jonathan.

At that, Glenn Hartnell-Iiyama came downstairs and heard the argument. "Michelle, I think your brother's getting overstimulated. C'mon, Jonathan, let's go upstairs for a bit."

"But they're not letting me play!" he protested. "They're hogging the game!"

"I think that game's a little big for you, anyway. C'mon...I'd like to show you something."

At that, Jonathan gritted his teeth, and let his father take him outside.

A few minutes later, they were standing on a balcony that faced north as music wafted out from inside the house.

"Dad, why are we out here?" asked Jonathan.

"To tell you about a vacation we're taking in a few days," said Glenn. "You see that red dot up there in the sky?"

"Yes, Dad. That's Mars, isn't it?"

"How do you know that?"

"I look at lots of things with my telescope, Dad!"

"I see. Still dreaming about the Space Fighters' Training School, huh?"

"I'm gonna get there someday, Dad. You know that! I don't care WHAT Michelle says!"

"Sure you will," said Glenn reassuringly. "The reason I'm pointing Mars out to you is because we're going to have a close look at it again, soon. You know the space sightseeing trips that they stopped at about the time the White Comet arrived?"


"In a few days, one of the lines is going to start up limited service again with a maiden cruise, and we have tickets. Like to go up in space with us for a birthday trip?"

"WOW! I sure would!" cried Jonathan with a very enthusiastic smile. "When do we leave?"

"Tomorrow evening...and we'll still be in space when it's your birthday."

"WOW! But...that's kinda a long time to wait."

"That's when I have my vacation. So, what do you think of your Uncle Max's house...this place?"

"Nice, big, kinda boring, and way bigger than our apartment." said Jonathan. He looked downhill at the nearest house, which glittered like a toy in the night. "What's that big house down there?"

"Oh? That's a new house. Your Uncle Max told me that they just finished it not too long ago."

"Really? It's right by the beach, I think, isn't it?"

"It is, son," said Glenn with a smile.

"I wonder who lives there?" said Jonathan.

"Max doesn't know for sure, but he thinks it's someone very important. He does know that the government security force seems to keep a pretty close tab on that house."

"Ohhhh," said Jonathan with wide eyes. "Can we live there someday?"

"We can possibly own a house like it, but not that house. Someone already owns it."

"I'd like living by the beach, and living in a neat house with a balcony, and not having an annoying big sister," said Jonathan.

"Don't talk about Michelle like that," said Glenn. "You know she loves you!"

"You always say that," pouted Jonathan.

"I think you're getting tired," said Glenn. "I'll get your coat, gather up Mom and Michelle, and we'll go home soon. Okay?"

"Can I wait out here for you? Please? I like the view, and it's neater than hearing all those grown-ups talk away in there. Boy...I can't think that we'll be in space tomorrow!"

"Okay. Don't lean too far over the balcony, now. We'll come get you in a minute."

At that, Glenn left.

Jonathan leaned on the railing and sighed. "I wonder who lives there," he said out loud. "Maybe if Michelle gets too annoying and Mom and Dad won't let me enter the Space Fighters' Training School, they'll adopt me?"

Jonathan then noted a figure looking south on the balcony of the distant house. He waved. The little figure waved back.

"Maybe they saw me," sighed Jonathan. "Maybe someday I'll have a better family. A family who'll let me do what I want and join the Star Force."

At that, Jonathan looked up at a star and began to wish really hard.

On her balcony, Nova was waving absently at the house to the south as Derek came up behind her.

"Nova, who are you waving to?"

"One of our neighbors, I think," she replied. "From the way he's waving, I think it's a little boy. Do you think our neighbors have children?"

"I'm not sure, Nova. I don't really know them, and we're not gonna have a lot of time to go visiting in the next few days. Why are you asking?"

"Just curious, I guess. I always think a neighborhood is nicer when there's children around, that's all."

"My mother wouldn't agree with that," said Samuel as he came up with Jane. "You know what she thinks of children."

"Yes, I know all too well what she thinks," said Nova. "Derek, let's go back in soon."

"Okay...we will..."

Inside, at the table, Yvona sat cursing and muttering, drawing evil stares from all those nearby as she drank quite too heavily and generally acted as if she was eating barbed wire at a bum's funeral rather than celebrating at her niece's housewarming. Or, to be more pointed, Yvona was acting as if her momentarily absent niece was an employee of a dive like the infamous Keri's Place rather than an honored officer and heroine of the EDF. At one point, Hiram had to shush her when Venture kiddingly mentioned some of the bridal showers held there on Ladies' Night and she retorted, "Oh? I'll bet my niece went to one of those and nearly accepted a job offer to work on her back!"

"Why are you saying that?" demanded Mark, who was mortified. "You know Nova wouldn't go near that place!"

"No, but I do know that our bride she would've spent time living in sin with her Nipponese Skipper if Fate hadn't intervened!"

"Are you serious?" snapped an angry Venture. "Steve, this is ridiculous!" he said as he turned towards Sandor. "Yvona, why don't you just shut up?" snapped Mark. "We don't need to hear this about our host and hostess!"

"Yvona, are you going to shut up like he said, or do I have to drag you out of here?" hissed an embarrassed Hiram in her ear. Yvona glared at him and shut up.

Fortunately, because Derek and Nova were outside, they weren't aware of this. An awkward silence reigned at the table as Teri Forrester said, "Yvona, remember, we're guests here tonight. We don't need to have this getting back to our hostess, like Mark said." she said with a tight smile.

"Of course," said Yvona as she glared at Mark.

"If you'll excuse me," said Mark with a weak smile, "I'm going to go outside for a moment to talk to Captain Wildstar."

Sandor nodded once, smiling a little. Good. They'll put a stop to this soon enough, he thought.

Mark Venture ran into Jane Forrester in the hall a moment later. He noticed that Jane was rolling up her eyes as she whispered, "I heard Captain Josiah raising his voice again. Was the old battle-ax causing another scene?"

Mark nodded, with a sick smile on his face, suddenly glad that his new friend Holly had TDY duty tonight and couldn't make it. Luckily, she's missing all of this, he thought with a grimace. "What's more, she's starting to make rude comments about the hostess...and about Derek."

"She would. Yvona's never liked her, or the Captain," whispered Jane.

"I don't think I like her, either," said Mark.

Jane nodded, looked hard at Venture and whispered, "Please, please, someone get me out of here! I have an aversion to that woman."

"You and everyone else in here with half a brain," grinned Venture. "How did someone like that ever get invited?"

At that, Derek and Nova came into the hallway and overheard the conversation. "Well...Mark...she's not...quite right in the head," said Nova in a near-whisper.

"Then why the hell is she here, Nova?" retorted Mark.

"Well...Mom and Dad and everyone else just tolerate her because she helped found the family business long ago when she came into a legacy from Captain Josiah's parents. Fortunately, Venture, the rest of my family is much nicer than her. And she doesn't like the fact that my dad is part -Japanese...or that I am, either. She's disgustingly prejudiced."

"You're right about that, Nova." Derek smiled and gave Nova a reassuring little hug. "I like the rest of your family...especially your parents."

"Thank you, Derek."

"Again...I just wish my parents could've been here today to see you and see our place. They'd like you." Derek shook his head and breathed in a deep sigh.

"...Derek..." whispered Nova a second later. As she gently stroked his hand with her left hand, her new gold wedding band glittered like a tiny flame under the bright lights. "I don't quite know what to say to help, except to tell you that I'll always be here for you. Because we're together, you'll never have to be alone again."

"Thanks, Nova."

"For what in particular?" said Nova with a gentle smile.

"Thanks for marrying me."

"I'm happy I did." Nova softly kissed Derek on the cheek and then slipped an arm around his waist. "Now, let's go see what everyone over there has to say to us and accept their congratulations."

"Even with your crazy aunt there?"

"We faced Desslok and Zordar together, didn't we? With you at my side, I think I could even face my Auntie Yvona a few more times tonight."

Derek couldn't help smiling at that.

Inside, Derek and Nova heard Yvona arguing with Teri. It seemed that Yvona wanted another boilermaker, but Teri thought it wasn't a good idea.

"You shouldn't tell me!" snapped Yvona as she leered at Captain and Mrs. Wildstar. She thought; Filth! All you two must want to do now is go off and enjoy the filth that you must enjoy doing...the filth you've enjoyed between each other in unlawful fornication for years!

Yvona continued to leer at them and finally hissed, "Well, what are you two doing?"

"Nothing," laughed Nova nervously. Derek found it a little upsetting that the same brave young woman who had recently faced down Desslok to protect him was frightened of one aged fossil of a woman who acted like a refugee from a madhouse. Wildstar felt a severe dislike for Yvona because of her effect upon Nova.

"I'll bet!" snapped Yvona, who made it sound like a curse. Of course, Yvona was so far gone that she hadn't noticed that was laughing out of sheer embarrassment.

"I want another drink, Nova. Make it a double boilermaker, this time! Ehhh? I'm being driven to drink!"

Jane came in again and sat down beside Mark, not liking the tone of the conversation.

" it." muttered Captain Josiah.

"No. You have no part in this!" barked Yvona. "Nova. You're the hostess. My boilermaker, please! Double! Or are you in need of a hearing aid?" said Yvona impatiently as she extended her glass forward, shaking it so hard that everyone could hear the ice clinking.

"Auntie," said Nova in a low but firm voice. "You're a very old woman. I think you should wait a while before you have another one of those. I'll get you a ginger ale if you like."

"So, you'd deny an old woman her drink?" purred Yvona through half-closed eyes.

"No. I just don't want you getting sick," said Nova in a gentle but firm voice. "I'd say the same thing to anyone here...even to either of the Captains if it were warranted," said Nova firmly while thinking, It would never be, of course. Neither Uncle Hiram nor Derek ever drink too much in public like that.

"So, you'd be rude to a guest?" asked Yvona as her eyes closed like slits.

"No, except if I think someone's had a little too much. If our roles were reversed, Auntie, wouldn't it make sense for you to tell me to have a bit less if I had to?"

Yvona suddenly sat bolt upright. She snapped her eyes open and began to glare at Derek and Nova again. She stood up, slamming her beefy hands against the table with a resounding thud.

"I'll bet it makes perfect sense, dearie! " roared Yvona like a maniac. "You and all of your sin and evil and corruption!"

"What are you talking about?" squeaked Nova as her eyes went wide.

"I'm talking about your appalling actions, child!"

"Woman, you're not going to insult MY niece here at her housewarming!," roared Captain Josiah. "I told you that before! This has gone far enough! You're going straight HOME! NOW!"

Hiram tried to grab Yvona's arm to drag her away. But, as he sunk his fingers into his wife's fat upper arm, she refused to move.

Yvona shut her eyes and muttered some strange words.

At that, Captain Josiah suddenly felt a cold wave of pain coursing through his arm and passing into his chest. He felt horrible. It felt as if he was having a heart attack.

What was worse, he heard a deep, threatening, male voice that seemed to come from nowhere. It said, "Leave my servant alone, or else thou shall suffer greatly. My plan must go forth..."

Josiah looked around, shocked at the voice. "...what?..," he croaked as he pulled his arm away and sagged into his chair in shock with his mouth hanging open. Samuel saw the expression on his father's face and went cold. Everyone at the table turned to look at Yvona.

"Did you hear that?" muttered Josiah.

"What?" whispered Samuel.

"That...that deep damn voice! Damn, I'm going as crazy as she is! I want her OUT of here! NOW!" he roared as he stood up and staggered aside, evading Yvona's grasp. His son jumped up and stood at his side, ready to shove his mother aside if she tried to do anything else to his father.

"What did you do to your husband?" snapped Captain Wildstar. "What's going on here?"

Yvona continued to glare at them. Then, she stood up, knocking over her glass, and screeched, "This whole party of yours is a mere farce! It's a mockery! It's SIN! The Lord shall smite both of you down like the sinners you are, and you shall both suffer gravely."


"Because you're acting like virgin newlyweds when you've enjoyed the fruits of marriage for years! Haven't you, little slut?"

"Excuse me," said Nova in a soft, dangerous voice as Derek noticed that she was clenching the tablecloth. "What was that, Auntie?"

"Were you not a fornicator during all the times you were with him on that ship? You are an enemy."

"No, I was not. The Earth Defense Forces have regulations against that sort of thing," said Nova softly, but with an effort. "Besides...isn't the greatest principle of the Christianity you claim supposed to be love and forgiveness? If you consider me your enemy, aren't you supposed to forgive me?"

"They ordered that fornicators should be stoned," insisted Yvona. "And I'd throw the first stone myself!"

"But I just said I was no fornicator. I've always been decent in that department," said Nova softly. "And there's Christ's words, too. Didn't He say that 'he who is without sin should cast the first stone?' Are you without sin, Yvona?"

"I am," insisted Yvona. "Besides, back to the point. Didn't you sleep with him a million times before you were married, little blonde whore? Can't I make myself any clearer than that?"

Nova spun around on her toes and stared Yvona down. "Yvona Denise Josiah!!!" she barked in a voice that became as jagged as broken glass for a second because she was ticked off. "I don't need to hear any more garbage that from hypocrite... and I wish Mother hadn't even asked you to come here tonight! Get OUT of my house, Yvona! I never want to speak to you again in my life, thank you! Derek, would you show her the door, please?"

Before Nova and Derek could get out of the kitchen, Yvona walked over to them with a speed that belied her huge bulk. She pointed a twisted finger at them and screeched, "BEHOLD! The Scripture SAITH that when a DECENT woman marries a man, she does it in the Lord! Only then can she legally become one with him she becometh his only unlimited possession. She is the chattel and the glory of her husband, and the twain shall become as one flesh! Nova, I'm surprised you had enough gall to marry in the Church because he looks like a boy with no decent family! Behold, are they here now? Do you see them at this so-called housewarming? I wouldn't marry a boy without a decent family! Would you?"

"LISTEN!" cried Nova. "We chose to get married because we wanted to! Besides, don't you say a single evil word about my Derek's parents! They're dead! That's something he can't help! Especially because they were killed in the war with Gamilon! All he has left and his brother, who isn't here today!"

"For all things," hissed Yvona, "God hath a reason. Your parents all died for a reason, yellow boy, and that reason is that God knew you would be accursed by marrying this little Whore of Babylon! He knows all! He was punishing you in advance!," yelled Yvona as she got up, and, before a shocked Derek and Nova, she made her insult to Derek's ethnic heritage clear by ripping a small but beautiful scroll of Japanese calligraphy off the wall and dashing it to the floor.

"Listen, you!" snapped Wildstar. "Do you have any sense of honor and decency at all? How can you stand here and say those things to us, and try wrecking our house? Can't you see your niece is on the verge of tears? If you hate us so much, get out of here! And get a good look at this house, because you'll never see the inside of it again while either Nova or I happen to be alive, because you've dishonored her, me, and my family!"

Yvona looked at Nova and Derek and smiled a twisted grin. "Honor and decency! HAH! I know that you two have already enjoyed your bed of marriage before now, haven't you? Was it fun? Did you like him in you so much, Nova that you damned yourself by doing this? You should laugh not! God is not mocked, my dear girl child! You hear me? God is not mocked, you whore! Let's see you mock God now, you little overdressed, perfumed  trollop!"

And, at that, Yvona took a nice, deep, snorting breath and abruptly coughed a large wad of spit and phlegm straight into Nova's face. As soon as the spit hit Nova's face, Derek scooped his stunned wife up into his arms like a child, and snapped, "Mark, Steve...This has gone far enough! Guys, help me get this fat tub of lard out of here NOW!"

A melee began as Mark Venture, Stephen Sandor, and Samuel Josiah all got up, grabbed Yvona like a sack of potatoes and hauled the warped crone out of the house with the aid of a coughing Captain Josiah and a stunned Karl Forrester as she kicked, screamed, and roared curses at them like a wild woman. To add insult to injury, on the way out, Yvona picked up a an expensive crystal vase and threw it at Nova as Derek shielded her from the impact... Never in his worst nightmares did Derek Wildstar think anything like that would ever happen at a housewarming in the 23rd Century, and especially not at his own.

Nova lay in Derek's arms in silence for a moment, utterly dazed as the wad of spit ran down her cheek. As soon as Derek noticed it, he tenderly wiped it off her face with the back of his own hand. Then, he lovingly kissed Nova's cheek in the same place, praying that his tender kiss would somehow swab away the defilement.

"It's okay, Nova," whispered Derek. "See? They took her out, and you're safe with me."

"Please take me upstairs," whispered Nova. "Please."

"It'll be all right now, Nova..." said her mother in a shaky voice as she came up to the stunned young couple

They all paused to hear Yvona's screams and roars as she kicked at the door on the way out. Then, a moment later, everything went silent as Venture, Sandor and the others came back in.

"Uhhh....she's outside, now," said Venture.

"Where is she?" asked Wildstar.

"Well...she broke away from us, and ran down the road like a maniac. I think she's going to go back to town, if you want to follow her, Captain Josiah."

"No, I don't," said Hiram firmly. "Really. I don't! I'm sorry about all the trouble, Mrs. Wildstar."

"Nova," said Teri. "It's okay now. But, well...I told you years ago you should've been careful. You know she doesn't..."

"It's too late now, Mother!," cried Nova in a clear but shaky voice. "I don't need to hear this from you! I never want to see that woman's face again as long as I live! EVER! Also, Mother...Uncle should both have your heads examined for bringing her here to ruin things today!"

"I'm so sorry, but it's all right now, I hope...." said Teri.

"No! It's not all right, mother!," cried Nova. "This party's over! can leave, along with everyone else!"

At that, Nova took Derek's hand and stormed off, with tears of hurt and rage streaming down her cheeks.

"Nova...Nova..." cried Teri. "Listen!"

"WHY?" barked Nova as she stopped. "Do you think I deserved it, too? Do you think I'm some cheap woman or something?"

"No, not at all! Nova, I'm sorry I invited her now...I really am. Do you forgive me?"

Nova looked at her mother, took a deep breath and sighed, "Yes, mother, I guess I forgive you. It's going to be difficult to...but...I meant well.'ll never mention the past to me again, all right? Derek and I are quite legitimate now, and we expect to be treated that way by the entire family. Anyone in my side of the family who ever does otherwise will be dead to me, just like that old woman who used to be my aunt. I know it's not right to be like that...but...but...I can't help it! I just can't!" sobbed Nova.

"Nova, look at it this way," said Sandor. "At least she's gone now. Captain Josiah, are you all right? You gave us a good scare for a minute."

"I'm fine," sighed the old man. "Thank God she's gone, in more ways than one. Josiah took off his wedding band and handed it to his son. "Samuel, see to it that this is destroyed. As of now, I no longer consider your mother my wife. I intend to contact an attorney next week to begin making it official. I don't give a damn about her anymore. And if she does something crazy and gets arrested, I'll let her rot in jail, even though her...local cult will probably bail her the hell out. I'm gonna get a peace bond against her, though, since I'd rather not even have her come in the house again if it can be avoided. Over twenty years of living with her has been more than enough for me. Is that understood?"

"Yes, father," said Samuel, struck at the irony that his parents' marriage had ended within a few weeks of the beginning of his cousin Nova's marriage to Derek.

"And now..." said Jane. "Uhh...if no one objects...I think I'll be leaving in a while. I'm sorry, Nova...I really don't feel up to eating much more, tonight."

"Me, neither," sighed Nova in a state of shock.

"What are you doing with all the food?" asked Karl.

"I don't know, Dad," shrugged Nova as she angrily wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Maybe turn it all into leftovers...uhh...unless anyone else wants some..."

"If no one minds...I think maybe I'd like to take something home, and appreciate your great cooking in quieter surroundings before we take off in a few days," said Sandor.

"Oh...sure," said Captain Wildstar.

"'s fine," said Nova. "I'll...uhhh...wrap it up, Steve."

"You're okay?" asked Derek helpfully.

"I'm fine," said Nova. "It'll...uhh...give me something to do."

"okay..." said Derek meekly.

"Wildstar?" said Venture.

"Yeah, Mark."

"For both of you...I'm sorry. I really am."

"That's fine, Mark. It's not your fault...."

" seems all the scuttlebutt about her is all too true," muttered Mark.

"Scuttlebutt?" asked Derek. "About Yvona?"

"Yeah," said Venture. "I heard it second-hand from my mother. It seems that stories have been going around about Yvona Josiah among officers, their wives, and their friends for years now."

"What kind of stories?"

"Well," said Mark, trying to cheer Wildstar up. "I won't repeat the lies Yvona said about Nova, but such things have been said to other women, or so it goes. It's been said that she once had it out with Admiral Falworth's wife at another party, and they say she even said similar things to Admiral Draco Gideon's wife."

"Damn," muttered Derek.

"Now you see why Josiah's still only a Captain after all these years," said Venture in a deadpan voice.

"I think I can see why, Mark."

"I know it may not help, but can think of you and Nova as being in very good company...."

"Thanks," chuckled Derek. "Although I don't know if that'll help Nova's bruised feelings...or mine."

"I know. You two don't deserve any of this..."

"Yeah. At least the party was nice while it lasted, Mark."

"I hope tomorrow night's is better," said Derek.

"It's got to be," said Nova as she came up. "Where we're going, tomorrow, Yvona would never dare to come..."

" can say that again," said Venture as he gave her and Derek an affectionate pat on the shoulder.

"Mark?" said Nova.


"Thank you...for helping us...with..."

"That's no problem at all, Nova."

Later that night, after everyone had left, Derek lay in bed in his pajama bottoms and nothing else reading a book. He was rather drowsy and depressed, and the last thing that he had remembered was that Nova, in a dressing gown, had gone off into the kitchen to have a sandwich and watch a talk show on the video unit in the kitchen.

He awoke to the sound of Nova's voice in the bathroom over what wounded like softly bubbling water. He got up, peeked in the bathroom, and smiled.

Nova was lying in the Jacuzzi, whimsically dressed in a Colorado Rockies baseball cap and nothing else. She had a ice bucket filled with ice nearby, along with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

"I decided I wanted a cocktail before going to sleep, Derek," she said with a smile while grasping the edge of the sunken tub with her toes. "I left you room. Want to join me?"

"Well...I could sure use something to forget about Yvona. Of course. My book was boring anyway."

With a smile, he undid his pajamas and slid into the warm., bubbly water with Nova while she poured him some wine. "What shall we drink to?" she asked as she handed him his glass.

"Eternal freedom from your crazy aunt," smiled Derek.

"How's about the success of the mission, too?"

"Sure, Nova," said Derek. "Cheers."

They clinked glasses and drank. As they stared lovingly into each other's eyes and squeezed close together in the warm tub, they didn't have any idea yet of how closely those two goals would be intertwined....

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