((Continuation of the story started here and continued here))

It has been more than two decades since I first came to Dahomey. Back then it was a planet still in the grip of the Dark Ages. Tegaea and I led Omega Pyre to topple the slavers and warlords that plagued it. We set the slaves free and, more importantly, did not forget about them the moment the holocameras were switched off and we had stopped patting each other in the back. It was the Pyre’s first campaign. Dahomey got infrastructure, security and development. It joined the Protectorate as a proud member. I spent my honeymoon here.

Now the Omega Protectorate has been put to the pyre. I do not mourn it. Most of its Protectors have faded away into the annals of history. I am still here. I have outlived and outgrown it. Firemane stands tall. Yet sometimes...it feels like I am drowning in time. As the yacht makes its descent and Harmony fusses over my hair and does my makeup, I scrutinise my features in the mirror. The dye conceals the grey streaks in my firemane. But scars are etched in my face. They are harsh, white lines born of struggle, of victory and defeat. Sometimes my back pains me. The limp is still there.

I am not who used to be. That young woman was spirited, brave and foolish. Always ready to throw herself into every skirmish for a good cause and take the fight to any Sith or Imperial warlord. Oh, to be so young again...and so naive. She thought she could make the galaxy a better place if she just chopped up enough arch-villains. Perhaps if she had grown up sooner, she could have been more than someone else’s battering ram. Sometimes I cannot help but wonder what she would think of me. When I look into Elpsis' white, lifeless eyes, I see her.

It does not matter. There is no point in dwelling upon what ifs. It breeds indecisiveness. “There, Lady Mistress,” Harmony says in that sweet voice of hers.
I arise from the chair, and pose a bit. “How do I look?”
“Magisterial, Lady Mistress, as always.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Only magisterial?” my tone is teasing. “I was aiming for queenly. Are you saying you cannot make your Queen look like one?”
She chuckles. “Like a Dahomian queen ready to receive tribute.”
"Then let us see what offerings my loyal subjects shall lay at my feet." I wear no crown and bear no royal title, but I am queen in all but name. My people are my responsibility.

As I begin to walk, my gait is slower than I would like. Standing for long will hurt. It does not matter. Harmony takes notice because of course she does. She clears her throat. "Would you, uh, like your cane, Lady Mistress?" she asks gently.
I shake my head promptly. "No. Let that thing stay here."
"It is a very nice cane, Lady Mistress."
"And unseemly." To be visibly dependent on it shows vulnerability. A leader cannot appear to have ailments. Kerrigan is more than a person; she is a symbol to her people. The private person must take a backseat behind it. "I have the Force. It will make me walk without difficulty. I don't need that."
"As you wish, Lady Mistress. With your permission, I could hide it away and keep it in reach for you...if you need it."
The denial is on my lips, then I nod. "Yes, I do that." With a casual wave of my hand, my unignited lightsabre flies into my hand and I strap it to my belt. Harmony falls in line next to me and tucks a stray lock of my hair away.
"Thank you." But there is something else about her. I see it in her eyes. "Is there something on your mind, Harmony?"
"It is about the...rebels from Umlaza, Lady Mistress," she says gently.
"The court has read its verdict," I respond. "The ringleaders will be shot. Lesser offenders incarcerated. Their case may be reviewed, depending on their comportment."
"Yes, Lady Mistress, I know. But there has been a plea for clemency from their tribe's chieftain. He requested I..."
"Bring it to my attention because your tribes are kin."
"I know they're no angels, Lady Mistress."
"That is putting it lightly, considering they destroyed Firemane property and murdered Firemane employees, even fellow Dahomians. People who did them no wrong. They killed; they looted."

"I know and I will not excuse that...but it is on District Officer Gallaghan that they were pushed that far. He was extorting them. All that money that was supposed to go into development went into his pockets, while he squeezed them dry. You've seen the interviews."
By the time we learned the true course of events, the flame had already been lit. I had to bring down the hammer. My tone projects a certainty I do not feel. I cannot appear weak to anyone. "I am aware," I respond sharply, "and there is a system in place to deal with corruption in the ranks. They should have gone through the proper channels. Then justice would have been served. Instead they turned it into a vendetta."

Would I have trusted a system that cheated me in the first place? No. I am a hypocrite, but I must look beyond my personal feelings. There is a system. Even I cannot ignore my own rules. Otherwise the whole foundation will crumble. There is no one else to wear the crown. To Tegaea leadership is a diversion. Something she seeks out when she grows bored with a life of leisure, but not a calling. She is unsuitable. Kaylah is a bureaucrat who lives for statistics and graphs.

"I have sympathy for them. Truly, I do, but they broke the law. But however understandable their motivations, they turned to banditry and terrorism. I have a responsibility to my employees, who lost friends and loved ones. There's a big picture here."
She opens her mouth, then closes, nods. Her disappointment is plain. Younger me was ruled by sentiment. I cannot be. No matter how much I dislike upsetting her.

"Yes, Lady Mistress."
I pat her hand. "DO Gallaghan will not go unpunished."
"But there will be no trial."
"Not a public one. It would undermine us. But I will make an example of him." It will not be pretty. Perhaps I should give him to Freya. My voice softens. "I assure you."
She looks unhappy, but reluctantly accepting. "You're a woman of your word, Lady Mistress." That is what Firetruth says. Sometimes I believe it.
"Convey it to the chieftain through your...channels. Make sure they get the message - both of them. And I will make a donation out of my own purse to help the tribe." In other words, I will buy them off. My chrono beeps. It is time. "Let's go."

Hunter is already waiting outside. He is a child of Dahomey, like Harmony. He is shot a shiny uniform. It makes him look...good. He gives me a crisp salute. "Ready to move, ma'am. Looks like it's a big circus outside. Journos, politicos. Security reports no disturbances."
"Good. I see you're all dressed up. You know I like a handsome man in uniform...."
"I know you like the boots, ma'am."
"I would usually rather be the one wearing them, but they look good on you too."
"I aim to please."
I ran a hand over his shoulder. "Oh I know you do...."
Harmony clears her throat. "Uhh, Lady Mistress, we might want to move on so we're not late?"
"Being fashionably late is my prerogative." Nonetheless, I head to the landing ramp. Time to smile for the cameras.

Unsurprisingly, Hunter's description is very accurate. It is indeed a circus outside. There are journalists, politicians, security and hangers-on as far as the eye can see. I smile, wave, shake hands and say platitudes or plain ignore this or that person bleating for my attention. Then I take my seat. There are speeches - about sustainable development, partnership, about remembering those who gave their lives for freedom. Some have more merit than others. It goes and on, and it fades into the background.

At long last, it is time to cut the ribbon and I am called to do the honours. I arise...and there is something nagging at the back of my mind. I cannot quite place it. "My friends, it is a great pleasure to be on Dahomey again. Ever since we fought together to rid this world of the slaver scum, my family has had a strong bond with Dahomey, and this bond has endured throughout the decades, no matter what fate has thrown at us," I begin.

"But we are not here for me, but to honour a great patriot. Saviour was no Master of the Force, no queen or warrior. But she was a hero. Enslaved from birth, she fled her captors. But once she had attained her freedom, she did not look away. Instead she returned again and again to the mines and plantations to help slaves escape. In the end, she gave her life for them. But she never lost a single fugitive." The sensation does not leave me. There is something out there.

"Saviour knew the risks, but she did not compromise. She knew there is no compromise with tyrants. Saviour did not get to see the new Dahomey built by free women and men. But her indomitable spirit lives on with us. The Saviour Gate Spaceport will be a gateway for peaceful trade and tourism. It will provide job opportunities for countless Dahomians." My Force senses prickle. I pause. I feel darkness, malice and hatred. The presence looms large. Something is wrong. It is like a sharp shard has struck me.

"But we are not only thinking of commerce. Part of the revenue will go towards maintaining the Wildhome Planetary Preserve. Dahomey is a beautiful world. Firemane is committed to maintaining its wild life." I ping Hunter.
His voice crackles through my earpiece. "What is it, ma'am?" he asks, concerned.
"Code Eclipse. Get them out of here and send for backup. Do it now." Then it begins.