Of all places, Sio's office is not one I want to be in. But I have to. She's the one who pulls the strings. Tegs can promise me this or that, but Sio can always take it away. "Elpsis, I'm pleased to see you recovered from your ordeal."
"Yeah, thanks."
"Sit down, daughter."
I'd prefer not to just because, but my leg won't let me get away with being stubborn and I guess childish. So I do. "Brought you the head of the Grand Inquisitor. Wanna see?" Without waiting for a response, I fish it out of my backpack and put it on her desk. "Nyssa alchemised it for me. I'm gonna hold on to it." To remember when I was weak.
She seems to examine his skull. "I hope he suffered."
"He did. I burnt him to ash."
"Good. Then the debt is paid. That vile man deserved all he got and worse." Then she is all business again. "You saved the lives of Firemane personnel and overcame a horrible ordeal...and you disobeyed a direct order from your mother and commanding officer. She told you to remain on the Scarlet."
"What do you want? An apology? What would you have done? I did what I had to do...and I'd do it again. If I'd stayed, her delegation would've been slaughtered and you know it. "
"Perhaps they would have been, perhaps not."
"What would you have done if they had?"
"I would have retaliated accordingly," she says darkly. Maybe the Red Lady was right. "Your intent was noble, but that is no excuse. Soldiers who disobey orders are court-martialled - and rightly so. If everyone does what they think is right because they believe they know better than their superiors, the whole organisation falls apart and people die."
I'm getting tired of this. "Mother, if you want to punish me for doing the right thing, go ahead. I didn't do anything you wouldn't have done before you got a crown."
I'm certain there's a glare. "Mind your tone, girl. Perhaps you should reflect on your actions a bit and be more appreciative of the sacrifices Firemane made for you. We went to war for you. Many soldiers lost their lives so that you can sit here."
The image I see is that of the soldier I murdered. My right hand clenches. I take a breath, trying to reply as calmly as possible. "I appreciate it. I'll meet with their families, write letters, donate. Won't be enough to repay it, but yeah. You did more for me than any of my past mothers. But I'm not an object to be pushed around. So what happens now? The Dominion still stands tall. So do the Vaderites."

"Indeed. So do many barbaric regimes across the Galaxy. The only difference is that this one had the temerity to betray us and do harm to my daughter. People suffer and die every day. The debt has been paid. We're not here to fight the Tephriki's war for them or teach them how to govern themselves."
"So we're leaving them."
"It's not our job to play galactic cop. Frankly, it's beyond our means. I'm not throwing millions of credits down the drain and sending Firemane soldiers to die on some damn fool's crusade. The Tephriki who came with us have been given a chance. We can send them back with resources to continue their fight for freedom or resettle them on a safe world, where they can heal from their ordeal and live their lives as free people. Since Firemane needs to get something out of this whole affair, we'll be selling weapons to the Republican Guard in return for resources. I would even be willing to dispatch advisors. I'm considering setting up a base on one of the planet's moons."
"Seems like you got it all figured out."
"Spare me the sarcasm, girl. It's unbecoming of you. This brings me to your situation. You're the legacy of the family and I will not have it go to waste on frivolous adventuring. You will go to Arkas. There you will take up a position under our local resident and learn the tools of the trade. It's time you familiarised yourself with the family business. Then I will assign you to a suitable department."
I knew this would happen. I hate her tone. So assured that I will do what she wants. "I'll go to Arkas," I say after a moment.
"Good. Then..."
"On my own terms."
Her aura shows her irritation. She is vexed. Her tone is sharp. "You are my daughter and a soldier of Firemane. You do not get to dictate terms. Certainly not after all your family has done for you. When you receive an order, you do your duty like any good soldier," she snaps.

The words just burst from my mouth. "Remember when you had that stroke? I saved your life. When you had your big fight with Matsu and both of you lay near death in the ruins, I recovered your broken body. Time and again, I've risked my life for this damn company. I've bled for it. Yet both you and Tegs assume I should just nod and do whatever you say. Now I don't expect love from you. Or affection. You adopted me because Tegs wanted it, fine. But I'm done doing anything more until you listen." She wants to get a word in, but I don't let her.
"I will go to Arkas - to help the refugees settle in. I know them - the ones from Serene Springs at least. And they trust me more than folks they don't know. I will help them get organised and show them how to defend themselves. And I won't abandon those who want to go back to kick the Jedi and the Sith in the teeth." All this talking is exhausting. My voice has risen, and my throat burns. I take slow, long breaths. "I don't want to inherit Firemane. Never did. Probably wouldn't be any good at it anyway. I could run the Order though - one day."