I suppose I am sounding like a broken record, but I hate needing a cane to walk. The annoying tap, tap every time it touches the floor. The feeling of being dependent, of not being whole. I plain hate it. It cannot be helped. I will overcome. There is no try.
Two months have passed since Tephrike, and yet it still feels like days. But I can walk and touch the Force again. I'm back in Firemane uniform. Olive green, with the OOF symbol on my chest. The uniform coat feels stiff. It is new, so it needs to be worn in to get more comfortable. Feels like thick velvet and has too many fiddly buttons. I still need help getting into it. One of my hands is missing too many fingers. Whatever, I'll overcome. It's pressed to perfection, and my boots shine. I finally reach the Colonel's office. Or rather the Brigadier's.
Leonina is decent. Tough, but fair. Does not judge me on the basis of who my mothers are. I can't help feel nervous though.I push that thought aside as violently as I can. Nervousness is unbecoming of a Kerrigan. A quick knock, and I'm let in. Leonina seems to be up and about, watering her plants. The scent of the flowers helps set me at ease.
“Officer Cadet Alcori reporting for duty, ma'am,“ I salute formally, as a soldier does. It is not quite bone-cracking efficiency, but whatever. Contrary to some, I can actually take protocol seriously. I just don't bother with the bullchit. “I guess congratulations are in order. I'd click my heels and all that, but my leg won't allow it.“
“Spare that for the parades. Sit down, Ms Alcori. Welcome back to active service,“ she responds.
“Thanks, ma'am. I'm happy to be back. Been going stir-crazy in hospital.“
“Don't take what you went through lightly. You'll be kept out of combat for a while, pending full physical recovery and evaluation. If there's anything the Order can do to assist you, we're here to help.“
I don't want help. I don't need help. I am not weak, no matter what Mother says. I take a breath. “I appreciate that, ma'am, but all I wanna do is get back to work instead of lazing around or bleating my heart out to someone. I'm fine.“
She is not having any of it. “If I got a credit any time a soldier who went through hell told me they're fine and I should just give them a gun and point them at the nearest enemy, I could quit my job and retire to a tropical island.“
I cannot quite resist snarking. “Arkas has some nice ones, ma'am. But seriously I am fine."
“You've probably drilled that so thoroughly into your thick skull that you actually believe it. One of the pitfalls of the tough bitch persona the corps cultivates is that everyone feels like they're failing in some way if they don't live up to it day in, day out. I suppose it's even harder when you're the boss' daughter.“
I am getting very annoyed. This has nothing to do with Mother. Nothing. I open my mouth. The words are on my lips, but she waves her hand. I fall silent, and she continues. “Which is why you'll get counselling and go through a full psych evaluation.“
More people who want to poke and prod me. More people who will go yap to Mother. “No offence, ma'am, but I'm not eager to have a shrink poke through my mind."
"Not a shrink, just someone you can talk about your experience with without fear of being judged. I won't know what you tell her.“
“And my mother?“
“Even the Lady Kerrigan's power ends at the doctor's order. I can't have you return to the front lines unless you're fully recovered and able to lead. Do you understand?“
I suppress a sigh. I want to get back to work. I have to. And if I have to go through this nonsense...“Yes, ma'am.
“Good. You saved a lot of good people on Tephrike. Their families will be grateful. You also went behind your superiors' back.“
“I did what I thought was right. If I hadn't gone planetside, our delegation might have been slaughtered. I suffered...but I don't regret it. If I'm supposed to be punished for that, I'll accept it, but I won't apologise.
“If I wanted to, you'd out of uniform and not in this building. Why did you go down there?
This is new. “I felt there was danger. I just, uh, I knew I had to be there, or bad things would happen."
"If you had communicated things better, perhaps all the unpleasantness afterwards could have been avoided. Poor communication kills.
“Yes, but we may not have had the time."
“Perhaps. I will not be punishing you for it. That would be idiotic after what you went through. There always comes a time when doing the right thing is not clear-cut and we're left with a host of bad options and have to pick one. But I expect discipline. Like it or not, you've made a name for yourself in the Order. Not because of who your mothers are, but for yourself. Trainees look up to you. Now, you can stay on the level of a simple grunt who happens to have the powers of a Master, and let you take orders from any junior officer or NCO. But think that would be a waste of your talents.“
This is very new. Mother says similar, but it's always accompanied by her making me feel like a disappointment for not living up to her precious legacy. Mum is nicer...but she'll pick Mother's side in the end. I don't want to run anymore. I'm a Mistress. Time to act the part. The Lifeweb and the Red Lady have brought me this far for a reason. There must be a meaning for the hell I went through.
“I won't lie. Responsibility is something that doesn't come easy to me. I've been scared of it. But it's something I want now. I want to contribute. I want to do more for the order, and there's so much I can do at the bottom. I'm aware there's...a lot of stuff I've got to learn about leading, but it's what I want.“
“Good, then we understand each other. We recently got a batch of new acolytes. Plus several of our new Tephriki friends are Force-users, but their level of training varies a lot. You'll help educate them.“ With that Leonina gets up. She reaches for something. Even without physical eyesight, I know what it is. She walks over to me. “Lieutenant Alcori.“ Then she places the insignia on my shoulder.
I feel...proud. Happy. “I won't disappoint you, ma'am.“ My words are so fervent to surprise even me.
“I'm not concerned that you will. Only that you will burn yourself out in your fixation not to disappoint. None of us are perfect, Lieutenant. From the strongest Mistress to the lowliest Acolyte. Doing your duty as a soldier is about making the poor bastard on the other side day, not going out in a blaze of glory. Now, to business...“