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Hostile Takeover

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He is exiling her.

Mohan, beloved husband, father of her son, is exiling her.

He says he is finally letting Ishwari have her way, but it’s obvious enough why he’s doing this. He wants her to stop whining, to stop questioning his authority, to stop demanding to be let in on the action. She is Tarun Matara, a living icon, not a co-leader.

She is pawn, not queen, and now she is being placed away from her husband, away from her son, away from her people.

She did not even ask if she could bring Ajay along. It would have been useless. Without Ajay, Mohan has no means to keep control over her ever-more-rebellious ways.

There is no baby boy on her back as she hikes towards the fortress. There is only lightness where there should be squirming, cooing weight. Her breasts are aching with the absence.

First Ajay was gone from her belly, and now he is gone from her back, and she does not know what to do. She is adrift without her anchor. Her body is so light, it might float away. He is back with Mohan, suckling at the breasts of a hired woman, surrounded by strange faces.

She sees the soldiers guarding the fortress entrance before they see her, and she steels herself. They will not hurt an unarmed woman, still so young and fresh and nearly-childish. Still, the ripple of fear runs through her core. What if they know? What if they see right through her?

Ishwari pauses and looks back down the hill, across the valley. She could go back – but to what? Mohan’s derision? He already saw her as weak; going back would only confirm it. Going back would be a life sentence, an eternal imprisonment.

Her heart aches for Ajay. She presses on, dropping her walking stick and raising her hands as the guards see her. One jogs out to meet her, AK-47 bumping against his shoulder. He is so young, almost as young as her.

“Papers?”

“I lost them. Please, I’m seeking refuge with Pagan Min. I’m the Tarun Matara.”

The boy’s eyes widen in surprise and he fumbles with his words, nodding his head in a quick bow. The old habits die hard here in Kyrat. He grabs the radio at his side.

“Captain.”

“Yes? What?” The response is stiff and impatient and muddled with static.

“The Tarun Matara is here. She seeks refuge with Pagan Min.”

There is a long silence, and the boy shoots Ishwari a nervous smile, an attempt at reassurance.

Finally: “Bring her in.”