These are Untold Tales.
News of Lt. Commander Liam Nealy’s dramatic escape from Vanduul space has taken over the spectrum for the past few weeks. While we celebrate Lt. Commander Nealy’s safe return, it’s important to remember that rarely do these stories have a happy ending. In nearly three centuries of conflict with the Vanduul, history is filled with tragedy and loss. There is one tale though that continues to defy explanation over thirty years later: the mystifying story of Lieutenant Junior Grade Laurence Kiefly.
Throughout Laurence Kiefly’s life, flying wasn’t something he ever dreamed of, it was simply something he did. Growing up in the woodlands of Tiesl on Saisei, Laurence’s ultimate dream was to be an actor. Friends and family recounted that during the summer months when he wasn’t in school, the young boy would stage increasingly complicated performances outside the family’s farm. In the warm evenings, he often enlisted other kids from the nearby farms as actors. But although he was an enthusiastic performer, his family saw his potential in the cockpit.
“It was effortless,” Jordan Kiefly, Laurence’s older brother, recounted. “Mom had him flying shipments to the market when he was twelve. It didn’t matter if it was one of our small haulers or a Hull, the kid was surgical.”
The Kiefly farm grew organic produce until 2905, when several years of harsh weather and a failing market nearly forced the family into bankruptcy. Laurence, still undeterred in his desire to pursue the arts, signed up for the Navy after achieving Equivalency, in an effort to subsidize further education.
Unsurprisingly, the divisional officers at his forge quickly discovered their new recruit’s aptitude for piloting and dutifully set out to test its limits. In every test they threw at him, Kiefly managed to exceed expectations.This continued all through the flight academy until he graduated at the top of his class. On 2909-05-18 SET, Laurence received his first assignment: report to the newly reformed 106th squadron along the Vanduul front, a post considered by many to be the most coveted theater of operations in the Navy, and an assignment second only to the Marines or joining Squadron 42.
Kiefly settled quickly into his new role as a combat pilot, aiding and supporting his flight in a number of missions along the Vanduul front. And according to the starmen and officers who served with him, Laurence could always be depended on as a source of good humor.
“I know that sounds like it could be pretty obnoxious,” Commander Ava Toll (Ret.). “He knew how to read people. Knew how to connect in the way that didn’t feel patronizing. So yeah, I saw him pull people out of some pretty serious funks.”
The 106th would suffer their second devastating loss in four years on 2911-02-01. Kiefly and his flight were tasked with a dangerous reconnaissance mission into Caliban to chart any Vanduul presence. Exact details on the operation are still classified, but High Command did confirm that during the operation a Vanduul element cut off the 106th from the jump point back to the fleet.
Only two of the pilots were able to make it back. Kiefly and the rest were lost, presumed dead. Despite several attempts to retrieve verification, most of the bodies weren’t found. Posthumous medals were conferred and military funerals held in the wake of the attack. Though tragic, many had come to accept this type of outcome as a likely possibility for combat pilots serving on the Vanduul front.
Back on Saisei, the Kiefly family mourned the loss of their son and brother as they tried to move on.
“Yeah, it messed us all up,” Jordan recalled in a 2914 interview. “I’d go by to check on them and Mom would barely speak, while Dad just worked. I think it was the fact that he was just gone. If they’d had the chance to see him one more time, I think that would’ve… not made it better… but given them that closure.”
It turns out that they would get their wish.
On the morning of December 17, 2914 SET, Laurence’s father, Javier, woke shortly after dawn to begin work in the fields. Harper, Laurence’s mother, had gone out to the harvester shed when she noticed something.
A crate, constructed out of scraps of metal and composites, sat on the dirt path leading up to their house. While a morning frost covered the landscape as far as the eye could see, this crate was almost warm to the touch.
She called Javier over. Upon closer inspection, they discovered something etched into the top of the crate. The jagged lines formed the words:
I remember home.
The two apprehensively opened the crate. Inside, they found the body of their son, Laurence, dressed in a ragged and burned flight suit.
The Kieflys quickly called local authorities who, in turn, notified the Navy. Within a day, representatives from a dozen government divisions descended on the Kiefly’s farm.
Medical examiners studied the body and although he’d been declared dead for over three years, he hardly looked it. They determined that he had died no more than two months earlier, from exposure. In addition, Laurence’s remains bore scars from extensive wounds that had been treated with some kind of rudimentary but effective medicine.
The Navy’s official conclusion was that Kiefly had somehow survived the battle back in 2911, theorizing that his ship had gone down in-system, but that he had lacked an effective means of communication — but that’s the extent of their theory. To this day, the military does not have an official stance as to what happened to Laurence Kiefly after his ship was lost in Caliban system. There are no known Human inhabitants of the system; the civilian population either fled or was wiped out in the Fall of Caliban nearly thirty years earlier.
So how did Laurence survive out there for three years? And the bigger questions, who delivered the body and who scrawled the message on the coffin?
For the record, the Empire has never figured out the answers to any of these questions. If they did, they remain a closely guarded secret. However, despite all the mystery surrounding Laurence’s death, one thing is for sure — the Kieflys were able to see their son one more time to say their final goodbyes.