Neil Burns

is owned by Leiji and others. This post-FINAL YAMATO story has Nova's SBY counterpart Yuki winding up in the STARBLAZER universe. Read and enjoy. Some language scattered throughout.

(AUTHOR'S NOTE--It's post FY in the SBY universe. In the SB universe, it's after Season 3 and the Denzarians and Drigulians don't exist.)

The Argo cruised along through the silent inkiness of space, four months into its patrol of the sector. The crew was beyond bored and the occassional smoker, party and other diversions failed to relieve the monotony for very long. Captain Nova Wildstar sat at her console staring out the window with ill-concealed disinterest. She was in her usual position of leaning back in her chair with her peacoat draped over her shoulders and legs draped over the console, bare feet crossed and boots at the foot of her chair. The ship' s cat Mimi was nestled in Nova's lap curled in a ball. The cat stretched, her claws gently digging into Nova's Living Group uniform, yawning.

"My sentiments exactly, Mimi," Nova smiled. "I'm bored as well.
"Nova," Eager put in. "Exactly what the hell are we doing here?"
"We are patrolling this sector in case enemy forces show up."
"Well, shit. Watching paint dry is more exciting."
"Yeah," Dash groused. "We ain't seen squat."
"General Stone was most adamant," Nova's smile curled slightly at the name.
"How did that jerk become a general anyway?"
"The Lord works in mysterious ways."
"Maybe he slept with some higher ups?" Sasha offered innocently.

That got a chorus of cheers and laughter as the mood was immediately lightened and similar thoughts ran through others' minds. Nova smiled as she gently played with the scruff under Mimi's neck. It's official. Sasha has now been completely corrupted. Alex and Starsha would love this. She found herself thinking about her brother-in-law living on Iscandar with the Earth's benefactrix Starsha. After the war with the Bolar Confederation, Nova and Wildstar had since married and had twins. Alexander Daniel, named after the Combat Commander's brother and father and Astra Teresa, named for Starsha's sister and Nova's mother. Nova allowed Mimi to jump off of her lap and saunter over to the Earth-Iscandarian hybrid who picked her up and cuddled her in her arms.

"Some people say that of Auntie Nova," Venture grinned evilly.
"It certainly got nothing to do with talent," Dash played along.
"Not her command talent anyway."
"Her gymnastics talent, though--," Homer began.
"That is enough, boys," Nova interrupted with mock sternness. "The only person I am sleeping with sits in front of me off to my left."
"Why that loser? Why not a real man?"
"Like you?" Nova's eyebrows arched dryly.
"Yeah. Me. Yamazaki. Even Greaseball over there. " Homer gestured toward Venture. Venture replied with a "gesture" of his own.
"C'mon," Wildstar put in. "The lady's got good taste."
"Then why the hell did she marry you?" Dash smirked. "Desperation?"

The laughter echoed throughout the bridge as Nova wondered if it was better to endure four months of the crew pounding the crap out of each other in smokers or endure four months of R-and-X-rated jokes about herself and her competency. She noticed Homer was listening intently to whatever was coming through his headphones. She got up and padded over to stand next to his station, placing her hand on his chair.

"You have something, Homer?" she asked.
"Yeah," the communications op replied. "I'm getting a voice about three thousand space meters off to our starboard."
"What kind of voice?"
"It sounds like a woman's. And she seems to be speaking...Japanese, I guess?"
"Let's hear it."
"Yes, ma'm. Putting it over the intercom."

Immediately, the voice could be heard over the system. It was a pleasant, almost youngish-sounding soprano and it indeed was speaking Japanese. The only word everyone on the bridge could understand was "Yamato". Otherwise, Wildstar, Nova, Sandor and Yamazaki were the only ones who could understand what she was saying. Yamato? The ship was originally the famous World War II Japanese battleship that was sunk in the Pacific 90 miles off Cape Boga in 1945, but it was rechristened the Argo after the legendary Jason and the Argonauts. The tone seemed to be a mixture of joyous disbelief and shock.

"Any idea what she is saying?" Eager inquired.
"She is wondering how the Yamato can be flying," Yamakazi replied. "She should be lying at the bottom of the sea on Aquarius."
"Aquarius? What is Aquarius?"
"It is apparently a planet, according to her. Captain Okita lies at the bottom with her."
"Captain Okita?"
"The ship's commander. He apparently gave his life to stop a great disaster."
"How noble," Nova intoned softly. "How far is she away again?"
"About three thousand space meters," Homer confirmed.

Nova glanced at Wildstar who nodded and activated the communications switch at his console.

"Conroy," he called.
"Yeah, Wildstar?" the Black Tiger leader replied.
"There is a ship about three thousand space meters off to our starboard running low on fuel. Could you pick her up?"
"No problem. Conroy out."
"I wonder what she is like?" Dash mused.
"Maybe one of those, what do you call those girls?" Eager replied. "Ge-something?"
"Geisha," Sandor smiled. "I don't think their talents include flying."

Conroy flew toward the coordinations as he was visualizing his upcoming wedding. His fiance was another pilot from the Gideon, named for the commander who gave his life fighting the Comet Empire. God! Am I really ready to be married? Am I making a mistake? The Black Tiger pilot immediately focused on his purpose for being out here. He saw the ship up ahead and flew in for a closer look. It was one of the science ships! How could that have been possible? He had spent the last three hours cleaning and personally taking inventory of every ship in the hangar. How could one of them be out here? He flew closer to get a good look at the pilot. It was--

"Kato-san! Is that you?"
"No freaking WAY!"

The crew was playing "I Spy" as Homer continued to monitor the communications. He turned to Nova, who gestured everyone to be silent and gestured him to put it over the intercom system. Homer immediately complied.

"Peter?" she intoned.
"Yes, Nova?" Conroy's voice could be heard.
"Do you see the ship?"
"Yes, it's right in front of me. It's one of the science ships." That got some buzzing.
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. It doesn't make sense. I counted every single ship myself and they are all accounted for."
"Maybe an enemy using a captured ship?" Venture offered.
"What about the woman?" Nova queried.
"I think I'll just bring her aboard. You are not going to believe this. I still can't."
"What do you mean? Explain please."
"I'd rather just show you. Conroy out."
"Okay," Wildstar mused. "What was that about?"
"I guess we'll have to find out.

A little later, the game was still going on when the door to the bridge slid open and Conroy walked it with a disbelieving look on his face. The crew turned and saw--

"Oh, my GOD!"
"No way!"
"You got to be kidding me!"
"Talk about Twilight Zone!"

The crew saw---NOVA! Or another Nova. The same slender, athletic build. The same gentle, dark, doe-like eyes. The same close-cropped, shoulder-length, dirty-blonde hair. The same elegant, supermodel features. This "Nova" wore a white-and-black striped uniform and a shocked yet joyous expression. She ran to each member and embraced them warmly, greeting them. Eager was called "Ohta-san", Homer "Aihara-san", Sandor was "Sanada-sensei". The crew looked at her and each other with confused looks. Why was she calling them by those names? Who were these people? The woman looked at Sasha in confusion as she walked up to her, still speaking Japanese. The hybrid turned to Sandor for help.

"She is asking 'aren't you supposed to be dead'?" he translated. "You were killed while helping the Yamato destroy Denzarium."
"No," Sasha smiled at "Nova". "I just joined about a year ago. We have not seen any fighting."
"What about your father?"
"Dad is alive and well and living on Isacandar."
"Your mother is still alive?"
"The last time I checked."

The woman looked even more confused when suddenly--

"SUKO-CHAN!" she exclaimed joyously.

Wildstar found himself almost plowed over as "Nova" bolted over to embrace him tightly. Cheers and wolf whistles echoed throughout the bridge as the woman greeted him with a warm, full kiss on the lips. Wildstar's eyes fell helplessly on Nova, who watched this with her arms folded and rather chilly eyebrows arched ceilingward. Sasha stroked Mimi's fur while observing, an amused expression on her child-like face. Wildstar's face was a deep crimson as the woman held him tightly, sighing in content. The embarrassed Combat Commander tried explaining in Japanese that he did not know her and that she had him mistaken for somebody else.

"Derek?" Nova smiled tightly. "Is there something you aren't telling me?"
"No," he replied. "I never seen her before in my life. This is the first time."
"Well, she obviously knows you."
"Don't look at me. I don't even know who this Susumu is."
"Ohayo," Nova greeted with her hand out and her smile's charm turned up. "I am Captain Nova Wildstar of the Earth Defense Force Battleship Argo."
"I am honored to meet you," the woman replied, shaking hands. "I am Lieutenant Commander Mori Yuki."
"The man you are being affectionate with is my husband Commander Derek Wildstar."
"I'm sorry, kancho. You are mistaken. He is my husband Captain Kodai Susumu."

Wildstar gently extracted himself from Yuki's arms and placed his hands on her shoulders, his face sympathetic.

"Gomen nasai," he stated. "My family name is Kodai on my father's side, but we haven't used it for years. I am Derek Wildstar and Nova here is my wife of three years."
"Is this not the Yamato?"
"It was during World War II and when it sunk off Cape Boga in 1945. One of my ancestors was aboard that ship. But, it was christened the Argo before we flew to Iscandar to retrieve the Cosmo DNA."
"I don't think she believes you, Wildstar," Venture mused.
"SHIMA-SAN!" Yuki exclaimed in disbelief. "You're DEAD!"
"Excuse me?"
"General Lugral killed you on his asteroid fortress Uruku. You stated you loved me before dying in Suko-chan's arms."

The bridge had suddenly become an episode straight out of "The Twilight Zone" with an exact twin of Nova Wildstar appearing out of nowhere and calling everyone by Japanese names and showing surprise at seeing crewman that she claimed were supposed to be dead. She also claimed that Wildstar was her husband and that she was standing aboard a ship that was supposedly at the bottom of the sea on a water planet. Nova saw the woman looked lost, seeing familiar faces yet wondering why they were not showing her any recognition. A slight growling sound was heard.

"Gomen. I haven't eaten since this morning."
"Well," Nova replied, coiling a slender arm around her counterpart. "There isn't anything going on. Why don't you and I go to the mess hall and have some lunch. You can tell me all about yourself, your shipmates and other stuff."
"I accept your invitation."
"Thanks. Stephen. You have the bridge."
"Yes, Nova," Sandor saluted. "Your boots?"
"Leave them. I'll get them later."

The two women headed the bridge to the crew standing and saluting them. Sandor took the captain's console as Yuki stopped at the seat seeing the engraved portrait above the console. She knelt and gave short Bhuddist and Christian prayers. Nova lowered her head in silent prayer as well.

"May your soul be at peace, Okita Kancho-sama," Yuki whispered.
"Actually," Nova put in gently. "That's Captain Abraham Avatar. Our captain who died of radiation poisoning."
"He looks like Okita Kancho-sama."
"The one who sacrificed his life."
"You can explain it in the mess."

A little later, Yuki and Nova were in the almost deserted mess hall, enjoying a delicious yet interesing lunch of porterhouse steak and sushi. As she ate, Yuki told about the Yamato's voyage to Iscandar to acquire the Radiation Cleaning Device and their run-in with Desslar and the Gamilons. She then followed it up with The White Comet Empire. Nova told her own tale of the trip to Iscandar and The Comet Empire, fascinated that the two events mirrored each other exactly, save for the Yamato crew suffering heavier casualties that the Argo. She then told Yuki about Gamilon's war with the Bolar Confederation and how Earth inadvertantly got stuck in the middle when an errant missile flew into the sun. Yuki shuddered as she heard about how the Argo went through various tribulations to find another world suitable for the people and smiled when the Gamilons helped repair the sun.

"Do you ever run into the Bolars?" Yuki queried.
"Actually, no," Nova replied. "We might get the very rare confrontation, but they basically keep their distance."
"I see."

As Yuki continued her story about the Black Nebula Empire, Nova listened in fascination. Basically fascination at actually seeing another version of herself and talking to her. Yuki's English was quite fluent with perhaps a light trace of an accent, she was able to identify as Tokyoese. The "twin Nova" described the Yamato helping the Gamilons fight the Nebulans to prevent them from digging Iscandarium on Iscandar for their countless wars, and how Stasha sent Mamoru Kodai and her infant daughter Sasha to the ship before she destroyed the planet, the fleet and herself. At that point, the door to the mess hall opened and Sasha entered carrying Mimi in her arms. As she walked over, Yuki watched in amazement, seeing a girl she thought dead alive in this universe. It was almost eeire. Mimi leapt onto the table in front of Nova and lay down, curling into a ball.

"Hi, Auntie Nova," Sasha smiled. "Mind if I join you two?"
"Not at all," Nova replied. "What brings you here?"
"Dad said there is nothing going on, so I could leave."
"Dad?" Yuki queried.
"Stephen," Nova explained. "When Sasha left Iscandar, Stephen promised Alex that he would look after her. So he became a surrogate father."
"Hence, the term 'Dad'," the Earth-Iscandarian put in.
"One of your crew correctly used the expression 'TWILIGHT ZONE'," Yuki intoned. "It is rather disconcerting when a person that is supposed to be dead is alive somewhere else."
"I'm curious. How exactly did I die helping the Yamato?"

Yuki told of the Nebulans invading Earth and threatening to kill everyone with their hyperon bomb and how the Yamato flew to the homeworld Denzarium to deactivate it although she was captured. The "twin Nova" described her "capture" and how Alphon was quite decent to her and even gave her information on how to deactivate the bomb. Patting Sasha's hand, she explained how her "twin's" mother Stasha appeared and told her that she was a child of both Earth and Iscandar and it was her destiny to die in both planets' service far from either one. As a result, she ran back into the base and opened the main shaft so the ship could fly in and destroy the city ad the whole base with the Wave Undulation Gun. Unfortunately, the leader Skuldart killed her in the process. A greiving Kodai pulled the trigger and ended the threat once and for all. Yuki studied the child-like, seemingly 19-20-year-old girl dressed in a yellow Living Group uniform like "Auntie Nova".

"It is sad," she said. "I never got to meet my universe's Sasha."
"Why?" Sasha replied.
"It was her destiny to sacrifice herself for both our worlds. Also, she told Suko-chan that he had no room in his heart for her."
"How sad."
"Well," Nova interjected. "At least, you have a chance to know this Sasha. I can tell you that she is a wonderful artist and her singing is beyond compare."
"Really?" Yuki responded interested.
"I have an idea."

The women turned and saw Venture standing over them, a devilish smiled on his face. Yuki's expression was one of seeing a ghost. Especially if that ghost was a crewmate and friend who had loved one from afar and only revealed it on Death's door. Nova fixed Venture a mock-stern look.

"This is a private conversation, mister," she huffed. "What do you want?"
"Why not do a 'Prince and the Pauper'?"
"Visit her universe. See what it's like."
"What about me?" Yuki queried.
"You can check out this universe and bond with Sasha." He gave a devilish wink. "I could even show you a good time."
"First, the name is Venture. Mark Italo Venture. Secondly, I'm sure Suko-chan won't find out, because he'll think Nova is you. Plus, you did say that this Shima-san loved you."
"Still, Mark-kun. It would not be appropriate."
"All right. Party pooper. How about I join you?"

The Argo flew through the Xilia System as Yuki's ship was refuelled and food was packed into the hull. Nova and Yuki switched outfits while each gave pointers about the other's universe. Nova told her counterpart the ins-and-outs of commanding the Yamato, family life and in how to carry herself in general. Yuki informed Nova about Kodai's quirks, her parents, remembering that comrades were dead, especially Shima and other intems. Embracing her twin, Nova climbed into the shuttle, decked out in her new black-on-white uniform and flew off. The space was peaceful, warm and almost inviting as Nova cruised toward the asteroid belt. As she passed through, a bright light caught her attention. Suddenly, the belt disappeared and all was clear.
That was weird. Am I in the same universe or not?

"Yuki," a voice interrupted her. "Is that you?"
"Yes," Nova replied. "Who's this?"
"Taiyama. How was your survey?"
"Fine. Nothing exciting."
"Your voice sounds different. It's lower." Crud.
I have a cold. See you soon."
"OK." Taiyama's voice faded.

Taiyama? It must have been one of several new crewmates she was suposed to know. She flew until she saw a ship just a short distance away. It had the basic outline as the Argo, except it was sleeker and seemed faster. Nova then remembered Yuki saying that the Yamato was no more and that this was the Okita, the new flagship of the Earth Defense Forces named after Juzo Okita. I wonder what Susumu will be like. Taking a deep breath, she programmed the shuttle for final arrival and flew into the opening underneath. As she landed, she saw Contrail and Jetter secure her ship and salute her. No, not Contrail and Jetter. Ageha and Domon. I have to remember everyone here has Japanese names. God, this is going to be FUN. I hope Yuki is all right. Nova returned the salute and headed toward the bridge. Walking in, she saluted everyone, noticing that Yamakazi, Sandor and Wildstar were the only familiar faces. Everyone else was completely foreign to her. No Dash. No Homer. No Eager. No Sasha. No Venture. "Wildstar" came over and embraced her warmly.

"I missed you, Yuko-chan," he smiled. "How was it?"
"Nothing exciting," she replied.
"What's with your voice?"
"Just a cold. It'll pass."
"Well, welcome back. Mr. Yamamini. Let's head for home."

As the Okita flew back to Earth, Nova was fighting the compulsion to head to the captain's console. I am not Captain here. Derek, or rather, Susumu is. I have to remember that. Nova turned to Kodai and studied him. He was almost the same as Wildstar. The same unruly mop of hair. The same almost little boy look. Yet, he was more cynical. More hardened. Sadder. She could feel the burden of loss on him. Loss of friends. Loss of family. She could also sense his devotion to Yuki. It was nice that true love existed in both universes. After landing, Nova went to Kodai and her cabin and switched into a simple yet elegant pink dress. Just like the one I wore at my first EDF function. Well, Mrs. Kodai. You certainly have excellent taste. As she walked down the ramp, IQ9 came whizzing by and yanked up her skirt, revealing her black underwear, to the amusement of the crew. Sighing in disgust, she simply continued on while concocting various tortures for the "genius robot's" creator.

"Nice Tinwit's a pervert here as well," she smiled acidly to herself.

The group rode to Hero's Hill to say a prayer for and visit their fallen comrades. Today was a special day because it also happened to be Daisuke Shima's birthday. As the crew approached, the first thing Nova noticed was the towering marble pedastal with Captain Avatar standing at the top with one hand holding a cane and the other behind his back. How appropriate. Derek and the others at times did almost seem to put the Captain on a pedastal. As she got closer, her mouth dropped in shock at all the tombstones of the fallen crewmen. Getting close enough to read the inscriptions, Nova could not believe how many she recognized. Homer. Dash. Eager. Orion. Both Conroys. Hardy. Sakamoto. Knox. Tears welled up as she saw her mates. Dead in this universe. Killed in battle. Dr. Sane is dead as well?! Sasha. A sad smile crossed her face as she saw the engraved child-like face smiling back at her. Then at the end of the row, there he was. Venture. Or, as the stone read, SHIMA DAISUKE. It was the same mischievious, smart aleck face. Nova lowered her head and silently offered a Christian prayer and a Buddahist prayer that Yamazaki taught her for the dead crewmen's souls. As she turned, she saw Kodai looking at her with a slightly odd look on his face. Does he know?

Are you all right?" he asked.
"Yes," Nova replied. "It's hard seeing a dead crewman's monument. No matter how many times you do so."
"That's true. That perfume is lovely."
"It's Jasmine Vanilla. I got it in Sakhalin."

As the crew chatted about their comrades, with some especially funny yet racey stories about Shima, Nova walked over to the rectangular stone near the shore that caught her eye. It was smooth marble and there was an engraved portrait of Avatar with the Argo behind him. Above him was the following inscription.


Later, Nova was in the living room enjoying tea wearing a lovely, gold yukata with pink butterflies. This Captain Okita was a brave man. I would have like to have known him. She was thinking about meeting Shima's younger brother Shiro at the restaurant and felt a little uncomfortable. The door opened and Kodai entered. Nova rose and smiled in greeting which was coolly returned. He gestured for her to sit which she did, taking another sip. Nova wondered about the thoughtful expression.

"That is really lovely perfume you are wearing," Kodai stated.
"You mentioned it this afternoon," Nova replied.
"Too bad Yuki doesn't wear Jasmine Vanilla. Nor has she ever been to Sakhalin."
"I see." CRAP! Busted.
"That is expensive perfume. The fact you bought it indicates that you are a woman of obvious means."
"I am, though I don't like showing it off."
"I see." Kodai's eyes and voice hardened slightly though the smile remained. "Who are you and where is Yuki?"

Nova looked at Kodai for a second and briefly pondered her response while sipping her tea. Well, I was not trying to deceive him. No sense lying. She took another sip and looked her "husband" straight in the eye.

"To answer your second question, Yuki is in my universe and she is doing fine. As to who I am, I am Nova Wildstar. Captain of the Earth Defense Force Battleship Argo. Formerly the IJN Yamato."

Yuki and Sasha were on the beach outside the city. The scene was a full-blown pig-roast and clambake right out of "Beach Blanket Bingo" and Sasha and Yuki were chilling in lounge chairs enjoying Pina Coladas. Other crewmen were playing football or volleyball and there was playful trash talk and swearing all around. Yuki smiled at the warmth and camaraderie, especially between Wildstar and Venture insulting each other kiddingly on opposite sides of the volleyball net. It was like watching Kodai and Shima. Both were cracking jokes in reference to the US-Japan production of the classic film "TORA TORA TORA". Yuki's smile broadened thoughfully.

"Something?" Sasha asked. "You've seen the film?"
"Of course," Yuki replied. "Not only that, but by coincidence Suko, Shima-san and my ancestors all served aboard the Nagato during the attack on Pearl Harbor."
"Yes. Suko's ancestor helped Ghandi plan the attack and Shima-san and my ancestors flew with Fuchida Chanko."
"Kurojima Kameto," Wildstar put in, walking over. "He was called Ghandi because he would wrap himself in a sheet and meditate."
"How do you know?" Yuki queried.
"If I am like Suko-chan, then my ancestor helped him plan as well."
"Of course," Venture mused, "my ancestor was on the PENNSYLVANIA."
"I don't know if you know this, but Fuchida-san became a missionary after the war."
"Will wonders never cease. I wonder how Nova is doing."

"You are saying the Yamato still flies?" Kodai stated incredulously.
"Yes," Nova replied. "Not only that, but your friend Daisuke is alive."
"You lie!"
"So is Sasha."
"That's impossible."
"More importantly, your brother's alive."
"Actually, his name is Alexander Wildstar. Just like Daisuke's name is actually Mark Venture."
"I don't believe you."
"It sounds crazy, but there it is. I didn't know there was another Derek. Let alone another me."
"So why are you here?"
"Yuki and I wanted to see how each other's universe was. So we decided to switch. There was no deception planned."
"I see."
"Besides my perfume, how else did you know I wasn't Yuki?"
"Your mannerisms. You are more forward."
"I suppose I am at times."
"Not to mention," Kodai smiled. "Your Japanese is excellent, but your accent gives you away as American."
"Well, I did study it at school. My junior year I lived all over Japan."
"Your accent is Midwestern?"
"Boulder, Colorado to be exact. Yours I'm guessing is Okinawa or Sendai."

Kodai's smile broadened as a thought crossed his mind. It was an amusing one as he began chuckling. Nova's smiled also broadened as she wondered what was going on. Something pleases him.

Penny for your thoughts?" Nova offered.
"I was wondering, and don't be offended. Are you a good cook?"
"Oh." Not what I expected. "Well, I'm not Martha Stewart, but I do all right. At least, Derek has no complaints."
"Well, I love Yuki with all my heart--"
"But she can't cook?"
"Put it this way, Shima's brother Shiro likes to joke that it was Yuki's cooking that killed him."
"Nice. I'd slap the little brat. Well, if it's any consolation, I've often been told my coffee isn't that great."
"Well, we're invited to the Shima's for dinner and Okaa-san would like you to help her cook dinner."

A little later, dinner had finished at the Shima residence and Shiro was amazed and pleasantly surprised that "Yuki-oneechan" had actually made a decent meal that he could stomach. Nova playfully chided him, smiling sadly to herself. Poor kid. No wonder he adopted Susumu as his Oniichan. It must be hard to lose a brother. After the dishes were washed, she found Shiro and Susumu in the family shrine praying to an urn sitting on a small pedastal. Slightly above it was a portrait of Shima in dress uniform, complete with blue junior officer peacoat, lined with the traditional funeral black ribbon. It was eerie for Nova to have the portrait of a friend looking back at her with that irreverent smile. The mischievious gleam in his dark eyes. She crossed herself and silently prayed alongside with the other two. Kodai regarded this woman who was Yuki's "twin" thoughtfully. In many ways, she was like Yuki, but other ways she was almost the complete opposite.


Homer accosted Wildstar at the grill along with some of the other crewmembers. It was the bi-monthly Argo cookout and this particular day, it was being held at Sandor's residence. Wildstar and Eager were charged with grill duty while Yuki and Sasha took care of other refreshments. Wildstar looked at the rather pained expressions on his crew's faces as he flipped the batch of burgers on the grill.

"What's up, Homer?" Wildstar inquired.
"Not much," Homer replied. "Yuki's great, but--"
"But what?"
"She can't cook for beans," Dash cut in. "That had to be the absolute WORST potato salad I ever tasted in my life!"
"Hell, yeah!" Conroy chimed. "I had some of her macaroni and cheese and I almost freaking vomited!"
"I gotta agree, Wildstar," Eager stated. "I wouldn't feed her cooking to my dog. I wouldn't even give it to that jerk Stone."
"I wonder if Venture's counterpart died from her cooking."

Sandor gestured everyone to be quiet as Yuki and Sasha, both sporting EDF T-shirts and bell-bottom jeans strolled over carrying a pie each. The crew did not mind Sasha' cooking as she was fairly decent, but they dreaded Yuki's. Beaming happily, Nova's "clone" cut pieces from her blueberry pie and distributed them as the crew plastered on fake smiles. However, Sasha could sense that something was rotten in Denmark.

"There you are," Yuki purred sweetly. "I hope my cooking wasn't too bad?"
"Oh, no," Dash lied bold-faced. "Absolutely primo."
"Yeah," Eager joined in. "You should start your own restaurant."
"Perhaps I will," Yuki mused.

As she walked away, the crew immediately made a beeline to the trashcan and dumped their pies. Wildstar smiled as he shook his head. IQ9 was playing volleyball with some of the other crewmen and actually holding his own before someone suckered him into chasing the ball into the pool, to the amusement of the others. Venture was holding court with a couple of the ship's nurses, a beer in one hand and a Marlboro in the other. Wildstar studied his friend's face and tried to picture him suddenly no longer being around. He was suddenly aware of Sasha staring at him, her sweet smiling face regarding him with a hint of chastisement.

"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"No," the Earth-Iscandarian replied. "I thought you might want to know, Mother and Father are arriving for Friday's conference on Mars tommorrow."
"Good. I haven't seen Alex in a while."
"Why don't you tell Yuki the truth?"
"What do you mean?"
"Tell her nicely that you don't like her cooking."
"It's all right."

Sasha and Wildstar turned and Yuki smiling at them, totally unoffended, holding a cakebox with the inscription DELMAN'S BAKERY on the cover. Wildstar felt his face warm up as he silently wondered what sauce would go good with the size 9 shoe inserted in his mouth. Yuki chuckled as she patted "her Suko-chan's" cheek.

"I'm used to it."
"You are?" Wildstar replied, trying to recover.
"Of course. Shima-san's brother Shiro likes to tease that he didn't die fighting on Uruku, but because of my cooking."
"Not very nice."
"Not inaccurate either. My mother tried to teach me, but I, unfortunately, was not a very attentive listener."
"I see Venture and I try to imagine him not being around and I can't do it."
"I see Venture-san and others and I have a hard time believing that they are alive. Just like I have a hard time believing the Yamato still flies."

A scream distracted them and they turned to see IQ9 zooming by chirping happily as a couple of irate nurses chased him cursing loudly. Wildstar chuckled in amusement as Yuki's face darkened, have gone through similiar humiliation countless times herself. Wildstar's eyebrows arched dryly.

"You have IQ9 as well?"
"His name is Analyzer and I would like to strangle his creator. I can't tell you how many times he has embarassed me with his actions."
"Nova definitely has some stories to tell you about IQ9. And she always threatens to give his creator a piece of her mind as well."
"Though I have to say that without Analyzer, we would be totally lost on countless missions."
"What pet nickname do you have for Analyzer? Nova calls IQ Tinwit."
"I like that."


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