58th of the Aster’s Gloom, 2030 D.C.E
Socialist Dominances of Solstice — Solstice City, SIVIRA
Daksha Kansal’s office practically had a revolving door these days. For every person leaving there was always someone coming in. Diplomats, spies, civil servants, military commanders, engineers; everyone wanted her input and direction. Of some it was demanded that they seek her approval. Others came of their own volition, because of indecision or a need for a wisdom or at least a final word. At all hours, from all corners.
There were a few times during the time that Daksha demanded a halt to the tide.
She had a lunch break, of course. She also set aside two hours of the day to read and answer letters. Letters came from all over the nation for the government to answer. Before it had been the duty of the Council majority leader to answer that mail. Now Premier, that duty was Daksha’s; when anything was written to “Comrade Socialism,” that was her.
Letter after letter, she would pick up the envelope, slide her knife under the flap, pull out the letter, read it thoroughly, and compose an answer. An aide would arrive after a big stack of mail was done to take the letters and to make sure they were returned correctly.
It was perhaps the most relaxing thing Daksha got to do on an average day. Sitting down with some fruit juice and fried veggies and going through the stack with loving care.
She looked forward to her wedding; it would give her at least a few days of peace and quiet.
Until then, knife in hand, a pile of stamps nearby, and a pen; this was her peace.
Daksha almost fell into a trance as she opened and carefully read the letters.
Normally she would go perfectly undisturbed. But this day would be different.
In the middle of her letter-writing time, the office door unceremoniously swung open.
Daksha looked up from her papers with a cocked eyebrow, waiting for an explanation.
At the door, she saw Madiha Nakar, walking in from the hallway.
“I apologize for disturbing you, Premier. Colonel Madiha Nakar is here to report.”
Daksha dropped her pen and ink on the desk, and bolted upright.
Tears formed in her eyes, and her lips reflexively formed a smile.
Though others saw Madiha Nakar as a woman in her late-20s to early 30s, a woman with a fit, sporty stature, a pristine uniform, and a distant look in her eyes; Daksha always saw that little girl so eager to learn and mete out justice. Her face, soft and kind, hearkened still back to that precious child, even with decades of distance. Her hair, still a messy bob creeping toward the shoulders, was almost unchanged. And those bright, burning eyes–
“You’re a miracle in flesh, Madiha.” Daksha said. “You saved us all.”
She had said those exact words so many years ago, when little Madiha Nakar made fire rain from the sky and annihilated the Emperor and scattered his guards and ended his reign.
At the doorway, Madiha’s gaze dropped, her head bowed a little. Her lips quivered.
Daksha approached and seized Madiha in a strong, protective embrace.
Madiha shouted that tender, familiar nickname and started to cry.
Daksha squeezed her against her breast, feeling the stream of tears building on her shoulder. Madiha wept into her, and screamed into her, and her knees buckled, and like a child who had faced all of the injustice of the world she thrashed in place. Daksha held her as if the embrace was all keeping her pieces together. She brushed the girl’s hair.
“You made it back. You made it home.” Daksha said.
Madiha shook her head intently. “I destroyed home, Daksha.”
She sounded so shattered, her voice quavering and weak.
For who knew how long, she had stood upright in the face of monstrous adversity.
It was not just the past month; this was years of regrets and pain.
Daksha’s own tears would not stop, knowing how much of this was her own fault.
How much she had failed Madiha.
“For what you’ve done for all of us, Madiha, this entire nation will always be your home.”
She had failed to protect her ever since her childhood.
When she smiled and laughed as she was taught the struggle of adults and fought alongside them. Daksha had used her. She could not excuse herself from that. She had uncovered Madiha’s power and she had used her because she had her war to win.
She knew the legend. She had to by now. Madiha was the warrior of myth who would fight the war of her generation. But Daksha had led her, happy and smiling and obsessed with her usefulness, to a war not her own. Now, this — this Solstice War — was her own war.
“Madiha, I’m so sorry, I–”
“I remember everything now, Daksha.”
Those eyes, soft as they were, had all of the girl’s fire behind them still.
Daksha’s hands trembled. Madiha had fallen into a deep, traumatic coma in the revolutionary fighting decades ago. She awakened a different girl, in her late teens, withdrawn, odd, with curious interests. Dakshsa wished she could have stayed in peace: but she kept using Madiha in whatever form she came. Again and again.
She shuddered to think what Madiha remembered.
Holding her like this almost hurt. It was unfair. It was unfair what she was doing again.
Daksha took a deep breath and steeled herself.
“Madiha, for your services to this country, I am promoting you to Brigadier General.”
Madiha stepped back, her young face shocked such that her tears halted.
“Ma’am, I haven’t–”
Daksha stampeded over her in speech. “Per the conditions of the Generalship you are required to take a leave of ten days and an absence from front-line combat for a month for training work and transition to Divisional command. Henceforth you will command the 1st Guards Mechanized Division. I know you will make me proud as our first Guards General.”
Madiha was speechless. “Ma’am this is too soon–”
“No objections. We will have ample time to discuss everything. For now, you need to rest and recover. And I know merely telling you will not compel you to do so. I know if I sit down and allow it, you will embark on a million things right this second. I must force you.”
There was a hint of frustration in Madiha’s expression that reminded Daksha of the petulant little faces she made as a child, when things did not go her way. She would suck in her lips a little, and hold her hands tight against her sides, and her cheeks would twitch.
She really did remember. Madiha old and new had somehow become a whole again.
“Are we clear?” Daksha said, wiping away the last of her tears.
“Yes ma’am.” Madiha replied, doing the same.
This was what she could do for Madiha at the moment. She needed her own time to think; to either come to terms with the fact that Madiha was in Solstice now and she would once again put her, that girl with that face and those expressions so dear to her, in danger again; or to find a way to avoid it. She knew the latter was folly. But something maternal in her needed to try. Or else she would never come to terms with the former at all.