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Keep Shining

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Keep Shining

Please don't take my sunshine away.

Every night, even years after the war, Sandy kept his promise. As the twilight hours faded over the Atlantic coast and darkness settled in, a trail of glittering sand rose to meet the night sky. The evening was lonely, as it always was.

But the Sandman was no stranger to the dark.

You are my sunshine...

My only sunshine...

Before he was the Sandman, he was Sanderson Mansnoozie, the lone and humble pilot of a brilliant shooting star. Like all Star Pilots, his job was simple: to collect wishes, and from them, craft dreams that would lead to a better and brighter tomorrow. The job was hard - but vital. He did not hesitate to plunge into the darkness to bring his light to others.

And the cosmos, back then, was very dark indeed.

You make me happy

when skies are gray

Fearlings, Space Pirates, Knight Terrors. A darkness that could rip whole planets asunder - a void that only grew with time. That was a true darkness, vast and endless, that shook him to the core. Sandy had paled and flickered before it, and his light had nearly gone out.

But there were other lights in the universe, ones even brighter than he. The fearlings were formidable, yes, but not an enemy they had to face alone. To renew his strength, to feed his fire, Sandy drew on the steadiest and brightest source of light he could find.

A longtime friend, Kozmotis Pitchner.

You'll never know, dear

How much I love you

For all his skill at inspiring others, Sandy was never so good at following those dreams himself. Kozmotis was a married man, anyway, with a child besides. He couldn't come between that, not when they made him so happy.

In the Golden Age, no one but the stars and the star-ling children could glow - but sometimes, Koz almost managed it. When he spoke of his family, beaming with pride, to when he fought for them, blazing across the battlefield. That light? It never faltered. And Sandy could accept that. Even if that beautiful light would never be for him.

Keep Shining, Sandy said, every time they bid farewell.

Please don't take...

When his wife and child died, Kozmotis seemed to... darken. Or 'sharpen', maybe, was the better word. He was still a beacon on the front lines, but he was... crueler. Harsher. Relentless. Didn't shine so much as pierce—He didn't push back shadows. He cut straight through them.

After the War ended, Kozmotis didn't celebrate. He tracked down Sandy and dragged him to a bar, so they could commiserate, and commemorate, and drink their weight in liquor. After tallying their losses, both of them fell silent, lost in their own memories. And then Kozmotis said,

"There's nothing left for me here." His eyes were distant. "They took all there was to take."

My Sunshine...

Sandy almost told him then.

"The Tsar is disbanding the Army. But I don't think I can go home. Not to an empty house - Not when everyone who loves me is gone."

—Sandy should have told him then.

"I don't have to go home, though," Koz said. "Turns out, they're building a prison - and they need someone to guard it."

...But at that moment, he had never felt so small, and his world had never seemed so dark.

"I already told them Yes."

...Away.

Sandy was silent, unable to speak. He only stared wordlessly at Kozmotis, willing for all this to somehow be a lie.

Kozmotis clapped Sandy on the shoulder. "You're a good friend, Sanderson," he said at last. "When you're out traveling the cosmos, flying by planets, will you visit mine? So that this isn't our last goodbye?"

Sandy, still in shock, could only nod.

The General stood, a little drunk but not unsteady, and made his way to the door.

At the threshold, he stopped and looked back, lingering for the barest moment with his hand above the knob. As if he were waiting for something.

...Please,

Sandy opened his mouth, willing the words to rush out - His feelings, his love, his dreams for the future - a million things he wanted to say, the first of which was a simple Don't Go.

...Don't take...

But nothing came.

...My Sunshine...

Kozmotis hesitated, watching his friend - then, smiled, a sad yet fond expression. And in the end, it was Kozmotis that said their goodbye.

...Away.

"Keep shining."