This is a work of fan fiction. No monetary profit has been gained from its production and no copyright infringement is intended. The Star Wars characters and events used in this fan fiction are the property of George Lucas. Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston invented or shaped most of the characters with whom I'm playing, so my special thanks go to them for writing such great novels and comics. If you would like to republish the fanfic, please ask me. Any comments are very welcome at cailyn@xwpilots.de.



The city was looking beautiful that night. It was a warm summer evening with only a light breeze coming from the ocean, and from his place high on the cliffs that rose in the south of Nitanlo Hobbie marveled at the beauty of his hometown. *Strange, really, that I start caring about my home when I'm about to leave it forever.* Fighting back the lump that grew in his throat, he watched the lit city lying peacefully in the pale moonlight, trying to engrave the picture in his mind.

Nitanlo was situated in the east of one of the smaller of Ralltiir's continents, the only large city in this very rural area of the planet, and its center of commerce. It wasn't a big city by Imperial standards -- just imagine Imperial Center -- and the residents of Grallia and Kazan, Ralltiir's two largest cities, considered Nitanlo and everyone who lived there provincial. But Hobbie didn't care, never had, really.

He had grown up in Nitanlo, and for him it was big enough. Like every child in the Empire, he had glanced up at the stars from time to time, longing to see the thousands of worlds waiting there, but that had just been passing moments. If his father hadn't had other plans for him, Hobbie would have been content with staying on Ralltiir, in Nitanlo even. But he hadn't been allowed to make the decision himself. *No need to be at odds with that anymore,* Hobbie thought grimly. *What is done is done, and while the decision to leave Ralltiir was made for me, I now have the chance to make the best of it.*

He returned his attention to the vista before him again. This week a large art-festival was taking place in town, the largest one on the planet, as Nitanlo had always attracted many artists who fled the large cities dominated by the ever-expanding financial districts, the centers of Ralltiir's economy. Tonight the end of the festival was celebrated by a large street fair. All streets were lighted by thousands of lampoons, and light sculptures decorated all plazas and major road crossings. It offered a beautiful sight from high up, the most beautiful in Hobbie's opinion. He preferred the tranquility of the cliffs over the bustle down in the crowded streets.

"Already tired of the celebration?"

Hobbie jumped at Yegori's words. He hadn't noticed that his friend had approached him from behind. Without taking his eyes from his hometown, he answered, "It is more beautiful from up here. So peaceful."

He could well imagine the frown that crossed Yegori's face because of the longing certainly detactable in his last words despite Hobbie's efforts to keep his voice neutral. His friend still wasn't happy with Hobbie's decision to obey his father's orders and attend the Imperial military academy.

"You don't need to go. I have friends in Kazan and Grallia who would hide you, would even smuggle you off-planet if necessary." Yegori's offer sounded more like a plea, but in his voice knowledge of defeat was already audible. They had had this discussion dozens of times over the last months.

Hobbie suppressed a sigh. He wasn't angry with his friend; he knew that Yegori was genuinely worried about him. And as determined as he was about his decision, the closer the day came on which he would leave his home -- most likely forever -- the more tempting Yegori's offer became, the more Hobbie wished he could stay. And maybe he could. His father couldn't force him to join the Imperial military. Maybe--

Angry with himself, Hobbie pushed away the thought. That was no option, and he knew it. He was doing the right thing. He stood up and turned to his friend. "The decision stands," he answered calmly. "You know that, Yegori."

"Yes. Couldn't hurt to try one more time, though." Yegori smiled slightly, but there was still worry visible in his dark eyes as he watched Hobbie closely. "You already said good-bye to the others." It wasn't a question. Obviously Yegori had talked to the rest of their friends before he'd followed Hobbie to the cliffs.

"Yes. I just wanted to have a final view of Nitanlo before I went home." He sighed. "I never really appreciated the beauty of my home before today."

"You'll see a lot of beautiful and exciting places in the galaxy, I'm sure."

Yegori's remark brought a genuine smile to Hobbie's face. Not that he really cared about the rest of the galaxy at this moment; it was Yegori's awkward try to make him feel better that actually improved his mood. Hobbie knew very well that Yegori didn't believe his own words. It wasn't beauty that was awaiting him, but a military academy and afterwards civil war. Besides, Yegori loved his home and his world. Even if he had the chance, he wouldn't leave Ralltiir for anything in the galaxy.

Gently Hobbie put his arm around his friend's shoulders. "Thanks." His face became serious again. "I have to go home before father starts sending out his security people to search for me. Will you come along?"

"Sure." Yegori smiled, and together they began a slow descent toward the town.

They barely talked on their way back. There wasn't much to talk about anymore. Everything had already been said during the previous weeks. All that was left now was saying good-bye, and despite their leisurely speed that moment was coming closer with each step, and an icy clumb began to form in Hobbie's stomach.

Saying farewell to his other friends hadn't been so hard. Most of them were leaving Nitanlo for the universities in Grallia and Kazan or even off-planet, and to them Hobbie's going to the military academy on Prefsbelt was no different from him attending a university on Chandrila or Corulag. They would pursue their education and then likely return to their hometown after a few years, and they expected him to do likewise. That there was war, that a Rebellion against the Empire was growing, was of little interest to them, and Hobbie suspected that it hadn't even crossed their minds that becoming a soldier wasn't just any other job, but could get Hobbie killed. But he did nothing to spoil their impression. It was better this way. Easier.

Yegori was different. Raised by parents who strongly believed in democracy and equal rights for all beings, he had opposed the Empire all his life. And he had learned the hard way that life in the Empire wasn't the endless joy Imperial propaganda liked to present it as. Not for people who dared to disagree with the New Order. When, after long, sleepless nights, Hobbie had made the decision to take the chance of military training in the hated Imperial Navy that had been offered to him, only to turn his back on the Empire afterwards and join the Rebel Alliance, Yegori had been the first one he'd told about it. He still was the only one.

Suddenly Yegori stopped. Awakened from his thoughts, Hobbie realized that they'd already reached the street where he lived. He came to a stop, too.

"We'd better say good-by here," Yegori said quietly. "If I go closer, your father might see me and punish you."

"That would be an appropriate farewell present from him, wouldn't it?" Hobbie remarked sarcastically.

"Hobbie, don't. Talking like that makes it only worse." He enfolded Hobbie in a close embrace. "Be careful. You can't save the galaxy all by yourself. Be careful and patient. And never forget that I'll be always here to support you, whatever happens."

"Thank you." Hobbie was glad that Yegori couldn't see the tears in his eyes. "And good luck for you here on Ralltiir. I would love to return one day to a free and democratic homeworld."

Yegori stepped back a little, but still kept his hands on Hobbie's shoulders. "You will. The governor has to give in to the people's demands sooner or later. He can't ignore us forever. And the more democratic planets join Alderaan in the Imperial Senate, the less likely the Emperor will be able to ignore the voice of reason. We will win, Hobbie, I'm sure of it." He smiled. "And we'll meet again. One day you'll be able to return home, Hobbie, to a free Ralltiir."

Hobbie had to gulp down the lump in his throat before he was able to answer. "Yes, we will." *I have to believe that, I have to.* "Take care, Yegori. Farewell."

"Until we meet again."

Abruptly Hobbie turned around and strode toward his parents' house. He only dared to look back again as he'd already reached the front door. Yegori was still standing at the same spot where they'd said good-bye, waving. Hobbie raised his hand briefly, then quickly stepped into the house.

continue to part 1

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