Kylan Sheffield. Co-head of the Corellian Enclave Waterfront Safety Patrol. Poster boy for the Jedi if there ever was one. Well, he was far from the only one, but he was the only one that happened to be Corellian. Consequently, most of the galaxy really didn?t know of him. He was, however, distinctive among his own. Tall, almost unrealistically handsome, athletic, and an incredible lightsaber combatant. He was also bordering on unbearably arrogant. The only thing that saved him from stepping over that line into the completely insufferable was his best friend- Leiraya Moran.
Leiraya Moran was everything that Kylan was not. She was fit enough to be the other co-head of the Waterfront Safety Patrol, but she was small and looked, at least, as though she could be broken in half without much effort. Her lightsaber combat was artful, but the aesthetic component was far better than the practical. She was a placard-waving protester and had long since ceased to wear shoes, and had a penchant for the ridiculous. She might go overboard on some of her issues, were it not for Kylan?s moderating presence.
The two of them, by all rights, ought to have hated each other. Their views were 100% opposite on almost every issue. But what started as a spirited rivalry developed into a rather unique friendship. They rarely spoke except to debate, but each held the other in such high regard that it didn?t matter that they almost never agreed on anything. The fact that the other could keep bringing up new and interesting points kept the discussion alive, and created a bond of mutual respect that few other students shared.
It also meant they could rib each other mercilessly, which they did constantly while they were on duty.
Kylan scanned the waterfront. ?I think I liked your hair better when it was its actual colour.?
?You know, there?s a reason I didn?t ask for your input before I did it.? Leiraya ran her hands through her hair, recently dyed a deep aqua. ?Besides, I happen to like my hair this colour, and Karalina, let go of that buoy! You know you?re not supposed to hang on it!? As was common with their on-duty conversations, she had to break off mid-thought to shout some instruction or another to whoever was breaking a rule at the time, accompanying it with a flurry of hand signals that only the Waterfront Safety Patrol could actually understand. It was probably a good thing, too, else Karalina might have been confused as to why she was too tall to dive off the pier wearing water shoes.
?Still practicing your hand signals, I see.?
?Your input is entirely unnecessary. See why I don?t ask for it??
?I might be talked into keeping my so-called ?unnecessary? comments to myself, you know.?
Leiraya laughed briefly. ?That?s a good one. And what would be your price??
?I?ll stop making unnecessary comments about subjects such as your hair and your hand signal technique when you stop making unnecessary comments about the war.?
?I thought we?d agreed to close that subject.?
?So had I, but you keep making veiled comments.?
?I don?t make veiled comments.?
?Of course you do, Norman, if you dive off that pier, you?re going to be sitting on the beach for a week!?
Norman looked up innocently. ?I wasn?t gonna!?
?Do we look like we were dragged into the Enclave yesterday?? Kylan maintained a completely unimpressed air. ?Feet first entry only!?
?I dunno how you two still catch everything,? Norman mumbled. ?You?re always fighting.?
?Train hard enough, and you can multitask, too,? Leiraya replied easily. ?Now just follow the rules so we can go back to our argument.?
Grumbling something about grown-ups being no fun, Norman turned to jump off the pier in the correct manner. Leiraya was grinning, but Kylan still looked quite serious. ?People are dying, Leiraya.?
The smile dropped from her face. ?I know. But how many more will die trying to fight them? And will the Mandalorians be tempted to push even harder? Has anyone even tried talking to them??
?You don?t just talk to Mandalorians.?
?And there you go, perpetuating a bias that is probably only half true, if that.? She crossed her arms. ?Did you ever stop to think that maybe you?re wrong??
?Did you ever stop to think that maybe you?re wrong??
An uncomfortable silence hung between them for a few minutes. Leiraya, of course, liked to think she had considered the idea that she was wrong. And perhaps on an intellectual level, she had. But there was a part of her, deep in her gut, that refused to believe anything else.
Kylan finally broke the silence. ?Let?s talk about something else.?
?Sounds good to me.? She sighed, trying to come up with a completely non-controversial topic of conversation. ?Well, my operetta holovids came in the other day??
The next morning, Leiraya walked into work and was surprised to see a box sitting on the table in the Safety Patrol office. Opening it up, she saw a holocube nested in a Safety Patrol uniform.
She hastily snatched the cube out of the box, and opened the message. Kylan?s fist-sized image popped up and spoke. ?Hello, Leiraya. I knew you?d kill me if I left without saying anything, so I thought I?d leave a message with you. I?ve resigned the Safety Patrol, as Master Gormain knows, and I?m leaving to help the Jedi in the war. I know you don?t agree with me? but it?s the right thing to do. I know it. I? I guess I don?t expect you to understand, but I do want you to know that I?ll always think of you as one of my best friends. And I know I?m leaving the waterfront in capable hands.? He paused for a moment, looking as though he were searching for the right words. ?I don?t know if I?ll ever see you again, so this might be the final goodbye. Take care of yourself, Leiraya,? he finished softly. The image then flickered and died.
The vermin-shoikler? leaving with only a message?
Maybe he hasn?t left yet. The spaceport isn?t far.
But I can?t leave the waterfront, Master Gormain would kill me.
Maybe I could post a sign. Yeah, one saying to not go in the water.
And like the kids would listen to that one. Try again?
Okay, okay? I could lock the gate and post a sign!
That?s brilliant. At least, it might be if it weren?t for the intern.
Oh, sithspit. Forgot about the intern. Intern shows up, no Safety Patrol head, locked gate? we?re doomed.
I can?t let him leave like that, though. It?d only take maybe ten minutes?
Need I reiterate that Master Gormain would strap you to the training dummy and toss you into the ocean?
That?s it, I?m out of options.
Out of options, out of luck, and out of energy. She clenched her fists and squeezed her eyes shut, hoping some sort of answer would just pop into her head. And, in that moment, she came to a significant realisation:
She really didn?t care.
Forget what anyone else would think, forget the intern, forget Master Gormain, even. For ten or fifteen minutes, they could spare her. Some things in life were more important than sticking straight to duty.
Without further deliberation, she tossed the cube back on the table, ran out the door, locking the gate to the waterfront as she ran out, climbed atop her mount, and rode to the spaceport as quickly as she could.
The lone landing platform at the spaceport was empty, save a wandering Drall named Partlet who maintained the area. He looked up in surprise when he saw Leiraya enter in what appeared to be a slightly controlled frenzy. She hopped off her mount and ran over to him.
?Ms. Moran, so lovely to see you-"
?Where is Kylan?? she interjected impatiently.
?I.. er.. he left, just a few minutes ago.? He adjusted the goggles on his head. ?Yes, first flight out of the morning. Surprised you weren?t here to see him off? is he going on holiday??
?Holiday?? she trailed off, not quite seeing straight. He was gone. Just like that. No real goodbye, only a holocube. And for what? Had she had no impact on him at all? Apparently not. ?Maybe a very long holiday.?
?Hm, well, I hope he doesn?t pick up any funny diseases while he?s gone, you know. I heard of the strangest virus my cousin brought back a few years back, you can get the oddest things when you travel to unfamiliar places??
Leiraya was only half listening. Part of her was numb from the shock that Kylan was gone, and she might never see him again. Before long, however, the thinking part of her mind took over and reminded her that she had somewhere to be.
?Sorry, Partlet, but I?ve gotta run. I have to go take care of the waterfront.?
?Well, it was good talking to you, it?s so nice to have people come visit, you know, do come back soon??
?Later, Partlet.? Without any further ado, she had mounted once more and took off as fast as he would go.
The gate was unattended, and still locked when she got back. Slow morning, I guess. She reopened the gate, and headed back into the office. The uniform was still in the box, and the holocube still rested on the table where she had carelessly tossed it aside. Glancing out the window, she could not muster the will to go outside. Not ?til anyone else shows up. I don?t have to be out there ?til anyone else comes.
Numbly she sat for several minutes, until Master Gormain walked in.
?Are you okay??
Leiraya looked up with an empty smile. ?As well as anyone whose best friend left them with nothing more than an old uniform and a recorded goodbye.? Try as she might, she could not keep the traces of bitterness from her voice. ?How long have you known??
?A couple of weeks,? she answered. When Leiraya looked up sharply at her, she continued. ?He made me promise not to tell you. He wanted to do it himself.?
?Well, such a fine job he did of it.? She huffed. ?If he weren?t going to his death, I?d probably kill him myself.?
Master Gormain sighed. ?I know this has to be hard for you. And I?m sorry he didn?t handle it better? but I need you out there today. We?ve got the intern from Deralia that needs training, and you?re the only Head of Safety we have now. I could work on finding a replacement-?
?No? Leiraya, you have to go out there.?
?That?s not what I meant. I mean that I don?t want a replacement. Not yet. I can handle the waterfront by myself for a while.?
Master Gormain?s eyes softened. ?Are you sure??
?Yeah. I can deal with it.? I can?t deal with a replacement. Not now. Maybe not ever.
?All right. But you have to make sure to contact me if you need another person out there- I?ll come out myself if necessary.?
?Okay, I?ll remember that.?
?I?m going to go back to the Enclave for a while, you have your communicator activated??
?Always. Standard procedure.?
?Good.? She smiled. ?You?ll come out of this in one piece, you?ll see.? And with that, she turned and strode out of the office.
Leiraya wasn?t so sure. Another glance out the window confirmed that there were still no people at the waterfront, which was perhaps explained by the gathering of dark clouds she could see on the horizon. Not having anything better to do, she removed the uniform from the box. It was freshly washed, and still smelled of soap. She was about to put it down when something in the box caught her eye. It was another, smaller box. Curiously, she reached in and took it out. Opening it, her eyes widened in surprise.
It contained only two items- one, a silvery mobius ring, and the other a handwritten note. She unfolded it and read it aloud:
I know you?re not happy with me. I know that you?ll probably never forgive me for leaving like this. But believe me when I tell you that if I could have stayed, I would have. But I could no longer sit and watch people die. For that, at least, I hope you will forgive me.
I want you to know that you?ve been an integral part of making me who I am today. Even as I go to fight in the wars, it is with the purpose of defending- in the hopes that the Mandalorians will never be allowed to make it as far as Corellia, so that neither you nor anyone else we know will have to know what it is like to be brutally attacked. So that your farm can stay in one piece, and that the waterfront will remain a place of peace and relaxation (except for us, though I always thought we enjoyed our role well enough).
I wanted to leave you with something. I know it?s not much, but it?s all I could think of. I thought you?d like the mobius, it?s kinda symbolic when it comes right down to it. After all, a one-sided figure has no opposing sides because each side is the other. It?s what I?m fighting for, and what you?ve always hoped to see.
Maybe I?ll come back someday, and we?ll laugh about the whole thing, and then yell at a few kids for fun. I?ll even make up some new crazy hand signals that have nothing to do with anything, just to add to your repertoire. But if I don?t, just know that I?m always thinking of you.
Leiraya could only lay her head down and cry.
Original cover by Commander DWH. HTML formatting copyright 2006 TheForce.Net LLC.