The Thin Blue Line
by: Stephanie L. Watson (SLWatson)
Editor: Karen R. Walker (Serris)

Disclaimer: Just trust me, it's Disney.

Notes: Sometimes, you gotta wonder what it's like to be in charge of ordering people into danger. Needless to say, I don't envy the Commander any.

- --------- - --

They called it the Wall. That was its generic name anyway -- technically, it was called the Peace Officers Memorial, but mostly everyone just called it the Wall. It wasn't the first of its kind, or probably even the thousandth; there were memorials like that for so many different things, and with so many different names.

But this was the one that he knew.

These were the names that he knew.

It stood to nearly eight feet, a deep and polished blue, the color in itself a memorial to an era gone by. And it was long -- for nearly a half a mile, it extended outwards from a district of Capital City that had likewise been left behind. Few people came to the Wall... why would they? No one was left behind who knew the people behind the names inscribed on it. No one was left who could leave flowers for their loved ones.

He knew the names, though. He didn't have them memorized, nor could he recite them, but as he walked past them, they were familiar. Like old friends.

Once, countless centuries ago, there had been only one section to it, and one column of names. But as time went on, the list grew.

The Wall grew.

Different things had claimed them all, but all of them could claim one thing: They died in the line of duty. They died doing their job. There was always a common misconception that those who were peace officers were somehow obligated to sacrifice themselves, but he knew better than most that none of them had wanted to die. None of them had left home that final day or night without wanting to come back.

It wasn't the Wall that bothered him. It was the misconception.

They were all husbands or wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters. They all had someone to go home to; instead, though, they ended up being a thirty-second brief in the evening news, or a sidebar in the paper. Then, for a day or so, people sent condolences and mourned.

And then? They were etched on the Wall and forgotten.

People forget. Why shouldn't they? They have their own lives -- it's not their job to grieve every peace officer killed in the line of duty, endlessly. And yet, there's something sort of bitter about all of the sympathy, when it ends the next day with a traffic cite, and people go back to cursing the person who wrote it.

Things had changed. The last name to be inscribed on this wall was over seven hundred years old, when the last large blue department had closed down. They took off their gunbelts, left behind their old silver cuffs, set down their badges and walked away with what dignity they had left. They had held out for a long time, those old cops, against the changing times and the jeering of a new universe order, the people who screamed for reform.

Now, all that was left of them were archived pictures and etched names.

He had never known them; didn't even have the desire to know them. They were a mention in a history book in school, or a museum display. They didn't seem to have much to do with modern law enforcement at all.

And then, he lost his first officer under his command. A routine stop, a disintegrator beam, and nothing left in the coffin for the family to say goodbye to. He nearly quit there; he was only a lieutenant, and might have even salvaged his life in some other line of work.

But he didn't quit, just tried to find some understanding in all of it.

Then... then he found the Wall.

They all had one thing in common: They died in the line of duty. They hadn't wanted to; they all wanted to go home that night and see their loved ones. But they had known the risks when they picked up that badge...

...and they had gone anyway.

He had lost a few people since that first time. It had taken years to understand that sometimes, no matter how much you want them all to come back safe from every call, it isn't a guarantee. It's never a guarantee. No matter how safe it is now -- lasers instead of guns, armor instead of cotton -- they all know the risk when they pick up their badge...

...and they go anyway.

He had lost a few.

The Wall had thousands.