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It had been a day for shockwaves. News had just arrived that Rhommamool and Osarian were…gone. Destroyed. Not just the people, but the star system, the sun, everything. It was if a Death Star had gone crazy and wiped out everything. It was a tragedy, and she had already been scrambling.

And then the next report. If those two planets vanishing were bad, this was even worse.

Exarch Tegaea Alcori pressed a buzzer on her desk. A moment later her aide and friend Anya Venari entered. The Crown Princess already looked troubled, but on seeing Tegaea she winced.
“What has happened?”
Tegaea looked at the ceiling for a moment, then back at the Eldorai. “I have just received a disturbing report. The Lady Protector is…gone.”
“Gone? Gone where?”
Tegaea frowned. “Lady Protector Cira was a woman of many secrets, Anya. However, I am not blind, and I have my sources. I never revealed anything because that’s not my job, and she is free to have her secrets if she wishes them. But one secret was that she was a Force user. Less of a secret than she suspected perhaps, considering Naboo.”
“I knew about that. I saw her in action.”
“As did I. The other, less known secret, is that she used her powers as a part Shi’do to change her form for the purposes of private investigations and such. It seems as though one of these…investigations has gone wrong. She’s been gone for several days and a distress beacon has been activated. Her team has searched, with no effect.”
“Should we send a team to help?”
“Already done. Lieutenant Lavina Taldir has been dispatched with a whole company of Pyre 4th Battalion. However, the situation seems like they will not find her. Therefore, we need to act quickly to form a caretaker government until…if…Cira comes back.”
“Shall I contact Linna?”
“Please. We need to discuss this matter thoroughly.”
“I’m sorry, Tegs,” Anya said softly.
“Me too. I never wanted to be Protector. But…I must do what I must do.”

When Anya was gone Tegaea stared out over Fondor. The Protectorate had been rather stable compared with other states. In the almost seven years she had been with the Pyre and later the Protectorate they had not had a change of leadership. Until now.
Doubt, always an unpleasant sensation, assailed her. Should she have waited longer, conducted a larger search? Should she take the title? Would she be able to handle the role as Cira had?
Closing her eyes she tried to force her mind to stay on topic. She could not afford distractions like this.

The console beeped behind her signalling that @[member="Linna Beorht"] was on the line.

She turned and tried to compose herself. “Minister, good morning….”

Linna Beorht

"Good morning, Lady Protector Alcori."

Yes, she might still be sleeping off last night's dextrophetamine, but even half-awake, she could manage coherence.

"I assume you wouldn't call me if you hadn't had time to process all of this, so I...suppose all I can do is get to the point. You need to know how to present this. I've been copied on the Skaldi memo -- that woman writes good memos, even if I spend half my billable hours burying her clart -- and I've got a few suggestions.

"First off, I don't believe this is a coincidence. Cira may well have been in that system, and that'll be the first thing anyone thinks. The HoloNet is exploding with speculation like that. I don't feel comfortable using her as a martyr, and she is probably alive -- there's nobody better at staying that way, from what I've surmised. I suggest that we announce that she has gone underground and is spearheading the effort to find the perpetrators.

"Another unpalatable possibility comes to mind, and we can't afford to ignore this one. Exarch Cater's legal troubles are over if we unite in mourning with the Republic, mend bridges, quietly disassemble fences. It's a solution that doesn't require his job.

"That said, who gets your job? That's something I need to know."
Lady Protector Alcori

The title stung slightly. Still, in the wake of the tragedy, the Council had voice unanimous ascent for her to take the title. The first transition of power had occurred, even if it was to a most unwilling subject.

“Yes, Skaldi is certainly a great asset to us. I’d prefer if there was less purging in her memos. Still.”

It was not time for jokes. This was the most serious day of her life.

“While I hope that Cira is found, we should make it clear she was in the system at the time. If, as I hope, she returns later, it will be an easy task to say that her ship was disabled in the system and so on. The less speculation there is the better, Linna. Cira is gone, and as much as I don’t like that fact, we must provide firm answers. The Protector would not go underground to find the culprits; that is what a PMC might do, not an Empire.”

“I understand the Vice Chancellor is coming to us soon to discuss matters. I am going to suggest politely to Ayden that he takes some leave for a while. This is an opportunity to mend fences and get the Republic to rethink their stance.”

“As for my former position as Exarch, the Council is voting now. I have an idea of who is their choice, and it is most…interesting. I suspect you will hear soon enough, but it is not my place to explain the Council’s deliberations until they are announced.”

@[member="Linna Beorht"]

Linna Beorht

"Understood, ma'am. I've heard good things about the new Vice Chancellor. His opposition to the Protectorate is apparently level-headed, a welcome change. Both of our nations have, perhaps, spent too long letting emotion run our diplomatic relationship. I'd be happier if you're meeting with him personally, by the way." She grimaced. "Saelari is a wonderful administrator and a good boss, but we both know she's no diplomat. Ever since her term ended, she's been firmly in the emotion camp. I don't say that with any sort of agenda, you understand. I don't want her job." She held up one arm, showing an IV in her wrist. The Kaeshana battle had left its scars. A dextrophetamine overdose had given her deliberately-untrained Force connection enough power to crush blaster rifles, but the OD had come with a cost.

Linna Beorht was manifestly no longer fit to serve.

"Interesting is a word I've most often heard applied to Colonel Kerrigan -- but of course you couldn't possibly comment.

"What else do you need, ma'am?"
@[member="Linna Beorht"]

Tegaea’s mouth twitched slightly in the corners at Linna’s diplomatic assessment of Aurelia Saelari. Truly, if she was put in charge of negotiating with the Republic they’d be war in an hour.

“Your dedication to the cause does you credit,” Tegaea commented. “I will meet him when he arrives and work out a plan which gets things back on track. I’m not going to be pushed into a war.”

“I think that Colonel Kerrigan is most interesting.” A brief smile. “I’d not have married her otherwise, would I?”

“Since you seem to know the result, did you expect the landslide? Seventy percent I’ve heard, and I did no campaigning on her behalf either. Either way, Minister, if you have the chance, prepare me anything you know about the Vice Chancellor, and that will be all. I hope your recovery goes well.”

She sat back, closing her eyes. The day was going to get very…interesting.

Linna Beorht

"I didn't expect the landslide, no. I definitely wagered on her, though. The other candidates have all served well, but none of them can match her for proven long-term dedication. Your wife may not be an administrator, Lady Protector, but she's shed more of her own blood for the Protectorate than anyone I could name, and that resonates with people."

She offered a nod. "I'll get you what I can, as soon as possible. Thank you, ma'am."

The transmission cut out.
Tegaea nodded as the image faded. Her wife was quite the patriotic hero of the Protectorate. She saw that it was about time she was rewarded for this and moved up a few rungs.
Perhaps she didn’t quite understand Siobhan, and how she did not have the ambition to reach the top that Tegaea did, or perhaps she was doing this for herself. Whatever the reason, she perhaps didn’t expect the resistance she might face, or even really understand it. To her, it was not the power that made her tick, it was the determination to prove that the poor girl from Coruscant could make good.

Turning to her desk she pressed her buzzer. “Anya…can you please ask Siobhan to come up here?” she asked. She was in a good mood. As she waited a message reached her which confirmed the vote’s outcome. Their greatest moment was at hand…she and her wife would be finally given the positions they deserved and had earned.
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]

It did not take long for Siobhan to arrive in the office. If Tegaea was feeling happy then Siobhan was still at the stage of concern and shock. Her face had turned rather pale. Beyond that there was also a strong sense of guilt. She had fought Velok back on Metalorn...if she had been victorious then...well, for one two planets might still be alive and Cira still among them. They had not been as close as in the past, but her loss left a hole.

But it was not the moment to be a wet hen, much as it nagged at her. Tegaea would be...Lady Protector. And Siobhan would help her any way she could.

"Hey, Anya filled me in. So...Cira's gone," Siobhan said softly as she approached her wife, soon to be the Red Empress in all but title, since it was not the Omega Empire yet, "Can't quite believe it. Guess I thought she'd be always around. Winged Majesty and all, you know. Or I'd go out sooner. So you're Lady Protector now. Love, I know you'll go a great job and see us through," she gave Tegaea's shoulder a soft, reassuring squeeze, apparently having not seen the triumphalism in Tegaea's eyes, before saying the words that would come back to haunt her. The words she would soon come to hate. "I'll be there for you in any way I can."
Tegaea sighed. “I had always thought…always hoped…she would be here. It’s daunting to be thrust into this job right at the moment when the real danger is beginning. I just hope I can do her creation justice.”

Despite her optimistic mood she was still very concerned, anxious. But…the dice had been rolled, and she had to deal with the result.
“Thank you, Siobhan. You’re one of the few people I know I can trust. Being the Protector is going to be such a big responsibility, and I’m going to need your help.”

She rose, putting her hand on Siobhan’s shoulders. “The Council is meeting now, and amongst the things being decided is the new Exarch to replace me. I’d have thought I’d have gotten that choice, but it seems not. Either way, there’s good news I think. The overwhelming majority is going to appoint you Exarch of Eriadu.”
Tegaea smiled like she expected Siobhan to be pleased, even thankful.

@[member="Siobhan Kerrigan"]
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]

Tegaea might think it good news but clearly it was a shock to Siobhan. In retrospect, considering how Siobhan had reacted to the idea of being appointed head of Omega Pyre, perhaps Tegaea should have anticipated this. But perhaps over time she had begun to lose touch with her.

"Right...the woman-shaped battering ram's gonna chair fancy council meetings and balance the budget. Haha. Love, I know you like to troll, but it's not Corellian Fool's Day," she said sarcastically, chuckling nervously, then she seemed to visibly pale.

"Wait...wait you're serious. I don't want it....I never wanted anything like that - you know that! Stuck in an office and having meetings day after day, shakes hands with pompous aristos at soirees. And why the hell does this 'council' get to 'elect' me without I even being asked unless I bloody want that? I'm not some piece on a chess board. And why the hell would they even want me? Only thing I do is dismember people. Unless they just want to please the new Protector," her flesh and blood hand was trembling, she clenched it hard to get the tremble under control.
Tegaea had expected resistance. She did remember the whole ‘General Kerrigan’ affair, but she had probably hoped that things would be different now. After all, a fair amount of time had passed and she’d always considered that Siobhan had some ambition. The thought that someone would prefer to remain a lowly Colonel when promotion awaited was something deeply confusing to her.

Still, she did understand Siobhan’s concerns. She had felt them at every step of the way up from gutter trash to Exarch. But she had always overcome the problems, quicker sometimes than others naturally.

“I hadn’t expected this, love. I had expected that they would choose General Guyenne or Admiral Walsh. As far as I know, they chose you because you’re a hero, an icon, a leader.” Tegaea shrugged. “Your talents are in war, love, I understand that. If you don’t or can’t deal with the political side I can have things changed around. Do you feel up to commanding our forces as deputy chief of the armed forces and Omega Pyre?”
While Tegaea was trying to find a solution there was a tinge, just a little, of disappointment.
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]

Siobhan slumped her shoulders. People called her a 'hero' or 'Sword of the Protectorate', but this was a side few would see. When all was said and done she was a deeply insecure person. As unruly, volatile and hot tempered as she was, she was all bark and little bite when it came to people she liked.

She had little faith in herself outside of the battlefield and part of her feared Tegaea would get bored with her. Aside from the perks of high life Siobhan craved the stability her wife had given her. Disappointing her...hurt. Especially when Tegaea was being understanding. Siobhan sort of hated that right now.
"I'm no hero or icon, you know that. There's no holocameras watching, we don't have to pull off some stupid charade. I'm just someone who thrashes scum a lot and can throw real heavy objects real hard. I'm terribly good at that, I lead a good I yell at weapons researchers...but I'm not half the leader you are. Butcher of Roche, remember?" she said in a quieter, less vehement tone.

Then came Tegaea's offer. So understanding. Why did she have to be like that? "I'm...not asking for special privileges. I know I've had...lots of lucky breaks thanks to you and you've always been patient," she admitted. "I just...don't want to mess up what you and Cira created. Or for us to be separated. I might not want to death charge forever...I said I'd take time out and I meant it, but I never wanted the limelight. Why are you so determined on me moving up? It's sweet that you believe in me, but I don't totally understand it."
“Currently you’re a Colonel on sick leave. This gives you a chance to expand your horizons more than if you remained a common soldier. You must have faith in yourself, in what you can do. Too often you see the worst in yourself and others. That’s good for a leader sometimes, but it can be a trap also. If you don’t believe in yourself then it is guaranteed that you will fail. If you try…you might still fail, but you might surprise yourself.”

“You don’t want to death charge forever, and this is your chance to have a life of meaning and significance far beyond what you would get as a Jedi, a mercenary, a Colonel…any of it. I didn’t ask for you to be appointed, but this is your chance, Siobhan. If you turn this down there will be no other opportunity like this again.”

She placed her arm around @[member="Siobhan Kerrigan"]’s shoulders. “If you don’t think you can do this, you can refuse, but I don’t think you would either like who the alternatives were, or would be able to retain the status quo of your position.”

“Gods know, I can’t make you do anything, but I urge you to try, to break free of your self-imposed limits, and be the woman I know you can be.”
A fervent look crossed Tegaea’s face, a strength of belief she rarely showed.
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]


Siobhan had faith in her ability to fight any opponent she faced and survive, sometimes that faith had been too strong for comfort and often driven her to recklessnes. She had lacked faith in her skill to do things beyond that.

Her belief in Tegaea was strong, powerful, surpassing even hers in the Protectorate. One might say she regarded the two as linked, for Tegaea had been her superior and off and on lover throughout her time in Omega Pyre. Whether this was the healthiest mentality was another question. It was not so that she experienced a sudden conversion, her doubts remained, but hearing Tegaea show such fervour made the protests die on her lips, she felt her resistance melt away. It was like she was being pulled inexorably. Tegaea had a force of personality Siobhan simply did not have and it drew her in as it had done in the past.

"Tegs...I...," for a moment Siobhan could not find words. "When you speak like that you make me believe and you've never led me astray.," she said, capturing Tegaea's lips in a heated kiss and threading her bionic hand through her glorious red hair before finally breaking the kiss.

"Alright...I'll try it out. I'm, well, afraid, frankly I'm bloody terrified of karking it up, but I'll do it and I'll do my best to help you any way I can like I promised," she smiled thinly. "Force help us all."
Tegaea appreciated a kiss even more than her wife’s acceptance. “Thank you, Siobhan,” she said when they were finally came up for air.
“I’ll send Anya to help you while you settle in. She’ll get you on your feet while you form your own staff. She’s not there to make decisions for you, she’s just there to get you used to how things work. Make sure you show her who’s boss!” Tegaea said happily.

@[member="Siobhan Kerrigan"]
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]

"Well, she is a Crown Princess now and seems a lot more willful. But...I have learnt from the best," Siobhan responded. Her doubts remained, they nagged at her, she could not get over the wrongness of it all, but right now Tegaea's happiness seemed contagious...and it brought a smile to her face, even though she did not quite understand it. "So...what does an Exarch do? Ok. Silly question. I know you govern and stuff."
"In your case, love, you are going to have more military responsibilities. You help me coordinate resources and military forces in your area, you deal with the big picture of the sectors under your leadership. You make the big combination with myself and Aurelia of course. Basically anything which is at a larger level than a planet, you can help arbitrate. You also act as one of my senior representatives in diplomatic or military matters if I am not present."
Tegaea smiled. "That's the basics. Anya can give you a better explanation."

@[member="Siobhan Kerrigan"]
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]

Big decisions...that did not sound good. Hopefully Siobhan would never have to represent Tegaea in the diplomatic arena. That could only end badly. "Big know I've...ok, I figure I've been wethennish enough today," Siobhan decided, thus sparing everyone another round of herself getting emo. "It's...a lot, but I promise I'll try and do my best. We're gonna need the best out our forces to raze the Bando Gora homeworld and wipe out the scum. Do I actually have to pay attention now when Aurelia gives her 'dramatic' speeches?"
"No, just ignore them like I do," Tegaea confided to Siobhan. "That's what Anya's for anyway! Princess can't have everything too easy!" she added.
"You'll be fine. You will lead the final attack on the Bando Gora homeworld. Admirals and generals will be in attendance, but I know what this means to you. You can lead the attack in person if you wish. I suspect we'll need you on the ground...or under it, as the case may be!"

@[member="Siobhan Kerrigan"]
Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken
@[member="Tegaea Alcori"]

"Ok. I always thought her light metaphors were lame anyway," Siobhan responded happily. She had to admit that Aurelia had had some good lines on Hapes though. Perhaps she should plagiarise a few. She looked grateful when Tegaea said she would lead the assault.
"Thanks...can't totally explain it, but I feel this is something I need to do. End what I started when I hacked the Primarch's head off," she said, pulling Tegaea into a hug. "I'll come back."