((Big thanks to mah superbuddy Loske Treicolt for the awesome art!))

Every company had its own media arm to communicate its goals to consumers and the public at large and put itself in a good light. In the case of Firemane, it was not just a corporation unaccountable to any planetary or interstellar government, but in many ways a quasi-governmental entity in its own right. Thus in many ways, its media arm performed the functions of an information ministry.

Or a propaganda department, if one was feeling cynical. Or honest, depending on one's point of view. Given Firemane's strong military trappings, it was only natural that its media arm did its best to put the armed forces in the limelight...and present a positive image. The public needed 'heroes'. If their image had to be massaged and their deeds somewhat embellished, so be it. If the heroes in question were unhappy about the circus, they had to suck it up. And this was what brought a rather annoyed Elpsis to the Firetruth studio.

"Where are your medals? You have more than two. And you were supposed to wear your parade dress uniform," Vivian declared crossly. The statuesque, dark skinned woman was beautifully dressed in an elegant pantsuit. She was the head of Firetruth and a member of Firemane's ruling oligarchy. "I told you what she was supposed to wear," she informed her colleague Royal, the Chiss majordomo of Firemane's first family.
"Elpsis, dear, we talked about this," the Chiss spoke. Her chiding tone was less cross and more...a bit disappointed. Like a parent who was mildly unhappy when their child failed to get a good grade on a test. She was beautifully dressed as usual. Indeed, she could've passed for an aristocra, though she had grown up dirt poor.

All this heightened Elpsis' annoyance. "We didn't talk. You told me parade dress and medals everywhere, I decided no." The Lieutenant wore a standard, olive green Firemane dress uniform with her rank insignia and the Order of Fire symbol. She had foregone all valorous decorations except the Wounded Badge and the Phoenix Cross pinned to her chest. The latter, more prestigious award came with a ribbon and the cross itself, which showed a stylised phoenix.

Her face, framed by her red hair, was viciously scarred. Her cybernetic arm was not covered by a glove or synthflesh. "This is me; this is what I wear. It's already uncomfortable as hell." The uniform jacket felt like velvet to her.
Vivianne's temper flared. "Do you realise how much time and effort went into planning this campaign? Or the movie?"
"Never asked for either."
"I'm afraid this is about something more important than your personal wants. It's about promoting Firemane, and its people. You have privileges many girls can only dream of." The Dahomian checked her chronometre. "Great, we're set to go live soon. But we should have enough time to fetch you something appropriate...."
"I'm wearing this."
Vivianne was close to saying something scathing, when Royal stepped in, raising her hand placatingly. "I'm sure this will suffice. We want our little Phoenix to be comfortable, don't we? The past few months have been hard on her. You can put a positive spin on it."

One could almost see the gears moving in Vivianne's ever-active mind. "Hmm. Yes, authenticity. The Fire Princess does not need finery and frillery. Her actions speak for her, not medals. Her simplicity shows her close bond with the troops."
"Is everything spin to you?" Elpsis exclaimed rhetorically, earning a glare. "Let's get this over with."
"I trust you've reviewed the list of questions and my...'recommendations' for your answers. Smile for the cameras, don't say anything controversial, don't comment on Board policy. Do weave in some personal anecdotes about your adventures and family life. The plebs eat that sort of thing up," Vivianne declared authoritatively. "When you're asked about Siobhan's conditions, assure the public that she is being given the best of care and will soon be able to take the reins again."
"In the interim, House Kerrigan-Alcori's affairs are in good hands under your leadership. You are humbled by this great honour, but you learned from your mother and have trusted advisors to assist you," Royal chimed in. She happened to be one of those 'trusted advisors'.
"I'm the dancing monkey being used to put on a show for the crowd."

Vivianne was a talented woman, but not used to being questioned. And she had a...temper. "Why do you think Firemane always lets you charge into battle whenever you feel like death charging? Instead of just letting you patrol space in the middle of nowhere or spend all your time teaching naive Padawans how to lift pebbles? Because the Order doesn't have Masters who are stronger and more experienced than you? More adept at avoiding getting their limbs blown off? Of course it has them. But Kerrigan did not go to war to save them from captivity. Firetruth didn't make a movie all about their dramatic rescue, and they're not called Kerrigan. It's your brand, and the public wants to believe you're a dashing hero, regardless of whether the label fits or not. The public doesn't want to hear the messy, sordid truth. They wants to see someone they'd like to be, and hear a truth that'll make them happy."

"I guess that's why all the posters show me without scars? And why that chick in Heroes is so whitewashed she's got almost nothing in common with me?"
"Yes. So for heaven's sake, stop sulking."
Elpsis stepped forward, then again. Until she was very close to the Dahomian's face. "You know, sometimes I wonder what made my mother this...pompous. Was it because she changed on her own after she got more money than she'd ever need or because she was surrounded by court lackeys, day in, day out?" She could feel the fire rising inside her. The idea of punching the other woman in the face was tempting.

"Easy for a girl who had the luck to be adopted into a rich family to scorn their wealth while benefiting from it all the same. That arm didn't come cheap, did it? Now get a hold of yourself. The show awaits."
Stepping forward, Royal put an arm around the young woman. "You must excuse, Auntie Viv. This is a very big project for her. And a brilliant opportunity for you to raise your image. Visibility means influence. You will benefit from it as well, my dear."

"I'm sure you will," Elpsis muttered. With a sigh, she allowed herself to be led away.
"We're all in this together, dear. Just a few interviews here, some apparances at social functions there. It's a way for the public to get to know you, and what you've done and sacrificed for Firemane."

"Yeah, right." Something very scatological was on Elpsis' tongue. But she was inevitably led to the Firetruth studio. The 'Fire Princess' walked with a slight, but noticeable limp.

An attractive, well-dressed Twi'lek woman. She wore a close fitting dress and high heels. The journalist greeted Elpsis with a smile and shook her hand. "Welcome, Elpsis. Just on time. Let's get started, shall we?"
Elpsis forced a smile. "Yes, let's."
If she noticed her discomfort, the journalist did not let it show. Sitting down, she adjusted her speaking notes.
A burly Wookiee camerman held up his hand. "And we're live in four, three...two...one..."And then the show was on.
The Twi'lek looked into the camera, flashing a bright, winning smile that showed perfect teeth. "Good evening, Firemane. "I'm Hirani Passik, with Firetruth News Services, and this is FireNight." In the background, one could see an image of the Arx Aeternae cityscape. There was also the Firetruth logo and various propaganda, including a rather fetching, dramatic looking poster.

"With us tonight is none other than the daughter of Lady Siobhan Kerrigan, Baroness Elpsis Kerrigan-Alcori, acting head of House Kerrigan-Alcori, Mistress of the Order of Fire, and Lieutenant in Firemane's Army. Welcome, milady."
"Lieutenant Kerrigan's fine," Elpsis cut in.
"Oh, of course...Lieutenant."
There was the briefest of pauses. "I'm glad to be here. Thanks for the, uh, opportunity." Elpsis added, having apparently realised this was a thing she was supposed to say. She smiled, but her smile was thin and lacking in mirth.

"No, thank you, Lieutenant. Your exploits have made waves across Firemane. Many residents have been waiting for the chance to hear from the Fire Princess. I'm sure there are many questions people would like to ask, and perhaps things you would like to convey to the public. So let's get started." She smiled for the cameras.

"Lieutenant Kerrigan, I understand you are recovering from another in a long string of battlefield injuries. Are you trying to win the award for the most Wounded Badges?"
Elpsis' expression was humourless. "I ain't in this for medals. Killing bad guys' is my job. Injuries happen when people shoot at you. Or throw rubble, whatever. Could do without the badges, but the regs say I gotta get them."
Hirani leaned towards her, a seemingly empathic expression written across her features. "It must take great courage to face the horrors you do. Going into battle after battle, knowing every one could be your last. Especially at so young an age."
Elpsis paused for a moment. "I...guess," she said awkwardly. "Tons of people do more. And they do it without the Force or a rich family that can put them back together after their body's broken. That's real courage."
"Modesty is a welcome trait, but you shouldn't sell yourself short. I'm happy to see you have a new arm. Made by Firemane, I assume. How's the adjustment going?"


"Getting there. Best not to open any jars with it, if you get my drift," Elpsis chuckled slightly. "Got a lot of power. A friend made, with the help of some alchemists in the company."
"You lost it at Ziost, didn't you? Fighting that terrible monster that had overrun an Alliance warship."
"Well, she'd had help, but yeah. It got crushed by rubble, then we ended up spaced. Got frostbite."
"Terrible. For the benefit of our viewers, how did you manage to survive?"
"My crew. They saved me. Would've died otherwise. I'm blessed to have a squad like that. Good people. The best."
"It is a blessing for Firemane to have such soldiers. So on to other matters, I understand that you are going to be depicted in another blockbuster movie! How does that make you feel?"

Elpsis suppressed a groan. She had not liked the first movie. "Well...," she paused, "I'm not really involved much, but I've described my experiences to the folks making it and the people who'll be starring. And I gave some pointers on the Forcy stuff. I hope my squad gets the attention they deserve in the final cut. All of them. But...I got to meet Kira again. Kira Zanaan. That's great!"
"Your actress from Heroes? I read she's reprising the role."

"Yeah, that's her!" The smile that graced Elpsis' lips was a genuine one. "She's amazing. Really gets into the material. Does her own stunts. When Firetruth made Heroes, she lost broke two teeth while doing a fight scene but she just carried on. Even shaved her head for Heroes. She's never fussy about not looking pretty."
"You two sound close."
"Yeah. After Tephrike I, well, didn't really wanna talk about what had...happened. It was...painful. But she visited me cuz she wanted to know the full story. Even stuff that...was unpleasant." The things that had not made it into the script because they put her in a less than heroic light. The Elpsis of the movie had never broken under torture, succumbed to brainwashing and murdered a comrade. She'd accepted her duty to carry on Siobhan's legacy. In short, she'd been what her mother wanted her to be, regardless of what she wanted. For a moment Elpsis looked melancholic, but then she brightened.

"Gotta say, she's way better with a sword than me. So if you see movie Elpsis do wicked things with a blade...that's because Kira's a natural. I'm like baseline. We sparred once without either of us using the Force, and she won."
"I hope no Sith is watching this," Hirani joked. "Otherwise they may have figured out the perfect tactic to use against you next time."
"Means I have to throw more fire. And get a bigger gun."

"'Peace through superior' is the motto of the Order, after all. I'm sure our viewers will be watching the development of the movie with great interest. I believe a trailer is scheduled to come out in two weeks," the Twi'lek spoke into the camera. "In fact, we have a new poster right here." At that the camera shifted to give a full view of a very awesome, dramatic looking poster.

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"What do you think it, Lieutenant Kerrigan?"
"Well, we've got great artists, so I'm sure I'd love it...if I could see it," Elpsis responded...very bluntly.
The journalist looked a bit flustered, but recovered. "It's very inspirational. Moving on, FireNews has released a survey showing you are in the top five most eligible bachelorettes in the whole company. Do you have any plans to settle down with a family?"

"Who are the others?" Elpsis asked rhetorically. "To answer your question, no I don't. Settling down, that's not for me. I don't want kids and a white picket fence. My place's on the frontier. The frontlines. And I don't see that changing any time soon. Too much to do."
"No special woman in your life? I know there's been gossip in the papers linking you to various ladies."
"I've...I've been blessed with girls who are special to me and I care for. But I don't want to play house. And I respect their privacy, so I'd rather not blurt out their names." Her tone brokered no contradiction.
"Certainly, Lieutenant. Being publicly linked to a woman so much in the limelight can be...trying. We know from our sources that you've been taking care of your little sisters, Adril and Livia."

"Yeah, I try. I'm their big sis, and I love them. They don't like it when duty calls me away, which I can't blame 'em for. But I'd do anything for them. We got a whole staff to help out, but it's my job to protect them."
"It must be difficult to have to step up and fill your Mother's shoes, especially under these circumstances. Speaking of which, the great Siobhan Kerrigan, is still in a coma. Do you have any insight into when she will be awake and back into action?"
"No, I've only been told what the doctors have said. We've got good doctors, well, expensive ones, so I'm sure she's being looked after well. She'll wake when she, uh wakes."

"We all hope that this day will be soon. One final question: it is my understanding that you a close bond with the Vashyada. In fact, you have a Vashyada on your team and received tuition from Lady
Tylania, their spiritual leader."

"Yeah, Shikoba. Brave, loyal. Knows all sorts of things about the Force I have no clue of," Elpsis spoke firmly.
Shikoba was strange and creepy, but a good person. And she had saved her life. "Lady Tylania helped me recover after Tephrike. Also helped my mother when she was...sick." That was the diplomatic way Firemane referred to Siobhan's stroke. "The Vash are great people."

"Which is why the interim administration has been strengthening ties with them. Recently, Firemane has started working on a joint project to build a refinery on their coast. The South Sea Gas Refinery. It will provide power and jobs for thousands. What's your take on this?"

"I..." She had been told to stick to the script, but the urge was too strong. "I think the reporting about it has been one-sided."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Look, it's great to make sure our friends on Tygara have the tools to make sure they don't get pushed around, but I think this project's more about the profits of a small minority than the people down there. For one, there's concerns about it being safe for the enviroment. There's such an amazing biodiversity in Yarkul's waters. Plus, it'll compromise land and sea a Vash tribe considers holy. They have a shrine on that coast."

"But surely everyone will benefit. They'll have jobs, modern technology and..."
"Maybe you should ask the people on the ground what they need instead of making assumptions because you wanna make money. There's this weird idea that we know best because they don't have our toys. They're honest, brave people and they don't slaughter each other. They don't need some human's burden crap, just a fair deal. Little humility would do some good. The developers claim they talked with the chiefs, but I've got doubts about how..."
And then suddenly she was cut off. "Unfortunately, Lieutenant, we're experiencing some technical difficulties. But we'll be right back."

Then a door opened and Vivian stepped in. She looked...very unhappy. "What the hell was that about? You had one job. Stick to the script. Promote Firemane. How could you be so stupid to do this live? Foolish girl." She glared at the technicians. "Why didn't you cut off earlier?" she raged. "There will be consequences."
Elpsis simply stood up. "If you want me interviewed I'm going to reply as I decide, I am not your puppet. I told my Mother I wouldn't be her puppet, and you're not her. None of you are."
Royal just gave her a sad, almost pitying look but said nothing. Without a further word, Elpsis walked away.