I cannot read her expression. But I'm quite certain it's a glare. Her aura certainly reminds me of a glacier. Still, I press on. No time to get wobbly, as Mother is fond of saying for some reason. "Look, Mother. You don't like me, I get it. Truth be told, I don't like you much be either. But let's be honest, you don't want me to run Firemane. Can you imagine me sitting in a board room going over profit margins or chit-chatting with prissy nobles at fancy balls? That's not me. You know what's me? Being out in the field. I want to protect people, not make decisions in an ivory tower. can fight. I can teach. And I want to lead the Order in the field one day. Pick someone who'll actually be good at running things on high. And I'll protect them." Damn, that was a lot of talking. My throat is very unhappy with me.
"This is what you want?" she says after her a while. Her tone is chilly. Not hostile. I hope. But I hold her gaze. I will not flinch.
"Yes." This is like pulling teeth sometimes.
Wait, what? "Really?"
"Last I heard, you were blind, not hard of hearing."
Mother, that's ableist. I do my best to swallow the snark. "So...you're letting me. For real. Mother..."
"Please spare me the sentimentality. It's too embarrassing," she cuts me off. I can vaguely see her wave her hand. "You will renounce all claims to leadership of House Kerrigan-Alcori and Firemane Industries."
What is this, a feudal dynasty? "Yes, Mother."
"Swear it. By the gods, the Force, Great Green...or whatever it is you pray to." You'd know if you ever bothered to ask me about my beliefs, Mother.
"The Lifeweb, Mother," I sigh in exasperation.
"Yes, whatever," she responds dismissively. "Swear it. You will not contest the succession. You will defend the family and follow the family head."
"I've never been anything but loyal to the family, Mother." There is an edge to my voice. Sharp enough to cut.
"You have," she concedes after a moment. "But nonetheless."
"I swear it. By the Lifeweb and the Red Lady, on my honour as a warrior." It is done. I am free. As free as I can be. There will be strings. There always are. But I do not care. I've found my place.

"Good." She gets to her feet and walks to the drinking cabinet. She pours herself a glass, then one for me. I accept it with my good hand. "Livia and Adril are good girls. But they are very young and innocent. I hope to keep them that way a while longer, but the Galaxy is not kind to the innocent. They will have to grow up and learn to be strong sooner than any of us would want," she says after sitting down. Her tone is almost...melancholic. "They look up to you. When I'm gone, it will fall to you to protect them."
I...do not know what to say. "Mother...don't talk like this. You're not old. You still have many decades ahead of you."
"You never fawned, Elpsis. Don't start now."
"I wasn't fawning. You..."
"Had a stroke not so long ago. I survived, but no one is immortal. Death comes to us all sooner or later. Your body goes to the worms and all that's left are memories and your legacy. I'm in this world a while longer to defend House Kerrigan-Alcori. To defend my family." She leans back in her chair and takes a sip from her glass.
"I will do anything I can to defend the family, Mother. I would die for it if needed. I won't let anything happens to my sisters or Mum."
"Be mindful of this when the days are darkest. The time will come when your duty to your family requires you to do abhorrent things. You will curse yourself for making the decision, you will hate it. But you will have to overcome your inhibitions and do your duty."
"Yes, Mother." My voice is quiet. "Triumph over adversity." Those are our words. I swallow the wine. It is a bit too sweet for me.
"Triumph over adversity," she repeats. "Brigadier Varkathras will continue to supervise your training. You will show her every respect and obey her orders. Firetruth will be making a holodocumentary of the Tephrike campaign. You will appear on it briefly to answer your questions. The journalist is handpicked."

It is a good thing my glass is back on the desk. "And I suppose you want me to answer questions the right away." There is a bit of an edge to my voice. For a moment, my mind is elsewhere. I see a Firemane pilot, pleading for her life. Danita Barek. A comrade. And I murder her.
No, Roxane did.
But it was my hand on the trigger.
I am Roxane.
I killed her.

"You want to be an officer. A leader. Someone who can lead and inspire. You will be the face of the Order's youth. And for your new role, there are some matters best left unmentioned. Tegaea assigned you to the escort. You nobly defended the delegation and sacrificed yourself for them. You were captured by the Dominion, brutally tortured and subjected to brainwashing, but you managed to break your chains and destroy your tormentors, leading a successful prisoners' revolt. That is what you will say, and it will become the truth."
I sigh. "And the woman I murdered..."
"Lieutenant Barek's family will be looked after."
"Alright. I'll do it."
"One matter remains. Your Jedi prisoner."
"She's no threat."
"She aided and abetted your torture."
"And helped me."
"You're too close in more ways than one to analyse this rationally. Don't think I haven't taken note of your constant visits to her."
"Oh, I'm quite certain you've recorded everything and got a bunch of transcripts in your desk." I cannot help the snark.
"You two gravitate to each other in unhealthy ways."
"Because we understand each other," I snap. "Sort of. She hurt me. And I have not forgiven her. Doubt I ever will. She also helped me. I won't allow her to suffer or rot in some mine. I want her to make amends. So does she. If she shows any sign of playing us false, I'll kill her myself. Look, just put her to work. Slap a nullifier on her, let everyone know what she did, but don't ill-treat her. I can keep her in check."
"I considered assigning a Truthseeker, but I have decided that Leonina will assess the case and deliver a verdict. She's trustworthy. Dependable."
"I want to be able to present my point of view to her. Yes, I am close...but I also know Diona."
"You may," she says after a moment. "And you will abide by her decision."
"Yes." Leonina is fair. She is better than a Truthseeker would be.
"Good. Then we understand each other. You're dismissed." I get to my feet, suppressing a wince when my bad leg flares in pain. It's just pain. "By the way, Elpsis," Mother says when I'm about to cross the threshold, "I do expect granddaughters at some point."
"The family line must continue. I'd suggest adopting in due time."