"Tell me again: what’s a hind?" confused zoologist

THE GOLDEN HIND
by Ahmed A. Khan ©2015

"Don't you dare touch me," Gita said firmly, hoping that her kidnapper would not notice the slight tremor in her voice. "Try to molest me and I will find fifteen different ways to kill myself even if I am tied up, and then my husband will find you and kill you."

"My! You are a feisty woman, for sure. But you forget, Gita" Pavan smiled. "Sam does not know where you are. Most probably he is searching for you on Mars. Soon, he will give you up as dead, thinking you may have fallen in a crater. He has no reason to connect you with me." He stopped himself before he could say too much.

"He will connect you with my kidnapping," she said with full faith and confidence.

"Impossible. But even if he does, how do you think Sam will find you among these thousands of asteroids?"

"He will find me," she said, sounding stubborn.

Pavan laughed. "Dream on. I will give you until tomorrow to realize that resistance is futile. You will give yourself to me." He left, closing and locking the door of her prison and thinking: One more day and that is all.

After he left, Gita touched the pendant of her Mangalsutra - thanked God that Pavan had not paid it any attention - and hoped that the embedded micro-tracker was working and that Sam would know exactly where to find Pavan's hideout among the asteroids.

And then, suddenly, almost incongruously, the parallels between her situation and the situations in Ramayana, the famous Indian epic, hit her.

***

One day, while Ram, Sita and Laxman were living in exile away from Ayodhya, Ravan saw Sita and, enamored by her grace, kidnapped her by trickery.

***

Even our names rhyme, thought Gita.

***

Kaushalya Putr Ram was extremely worried for Sita. He sought out his friend Hanuman. "Find Janaki, please. I hope she is safe."

Hanuman bowed and took to the skies in search of Sita.

***

My predicament is my own fault, thought Gita. I should not have left the dome and gone wandering all alone on the sands of Mars.

***

My predicament is my own fault, thought Sita. I should not have stepped out of the Laxman rekha.

***

The day that Sam, accompanied by his beautiful botanist wife Gita, had landed on Mars and joined the Indian colony there as the chief-of-staff, Pavan started dreaming of laying his hands of Gita and - being a practical man - started planning on how to achieve his dream.

Pavan's being the pilot of the asteroid explorer rocket helped. He managed to wangle solo assignments to the asteroids. First he studied the data on asteroids and chose one for his purpose. Then he made trips to the asteroid. On the first trip, he chose a site and erected a small dome with enough air to last for a month for two persons. On the second trip, he stored it with enough necessities to last for a month for the same two persons.

For the third trip, he waited until Sam was off to the Chinese colony to sign a treaty of cooperation on future scientific projects.

Gita had been working in the lab on methods of growing plants in Martian soil when the receiver in her ear crackled.

"Hey, Gita," It was Pavan. "I think I have found a new plant specimen."

"Where?" Gita was excited.

"Right in the rocket field. Could you come out?"

Gita hesitated. Sam, knowing her penchant for exploring, had told her not to go wandering all alone outside the dome while he was gone. But then the rocket field was not very far from the dome. Also, she would not be alone, would she? Pavan would be there.

She donned her space-suit, activated the airlock and stepped out. As she approached the rocket field, she saw Pavan standing in the door of the only rocket the Indian colony had for exploring the asteroids. She walked to the rocket. Pavan beckoned her inside.

"Where is the plant?" she spoke in her microphone.

"Come inside, first. I have to show you something."

Totally unsuspecting, Gita entered the rocket. Immediately, she found herself grabbed, pushed and strapped to a seat. The door closed. The rocket engine started, warmed up, and the rocket took off.

***

That golden hind! Why did I have to be attracted to that golden hind!

***

Gita knew what to expect. Unless Sam found her soon, she would die. Pavan would never let her live because, in addition to being the victim, she was also the only witness to his crime. Even if she capitulated and gave in to Pavan's desires, Pavan would eventually kill her and hide her body on the asteroid. And if she did not capitulate, he would force himself on her and then kill her anyway.

An hour or so after Pavan's rocket had left Mars after kidnapping Gita, he had sent a distress signal to the Mars base and immediately disconnected all communications. Gita could deduce Pavan's plan. After killing Gita and hiding her body, he would just send another distress message from the asteroid and there would be a rescue party and he would have a ready-made story about the rocket and the communication system malfunctioning and his managing to land on the asteroid and managing finally to repair the communication system enough to send a distress signal.

That was Pavan's plan but he had counted without the micro-tracker. Hope it is working and hope Sam comes for me soon. She wished she had her receiver with her and could track Sam through his micro-tracker to see if he was on his way.

***

Hanuman found Sita in Lanka. She was in Ravan's prison. After greeting Sita and re-assuring her that Ram was coming to save her, he returned back to Ram and reported what he had seen. Ram had to reach Sita but there was an ocean between India and Lanka. Ram, with the help of his friends the Vanur, built a bridge to Lanka over the Indian Ocean.

***

During a break, Sam stepped out of the meeting room and called the Botany lab to talk to Gita. He got Hussain instead.

"Gita's not here."

"Not there? Where's she then?"

"No idea. Sorry, can't help you more, man."

Sam pulled out the tracker receiver from his bag and looked - and jumped up. What was Gita doing off Mars? Something had happened. Something bad.

He immediately called his office.

"Check the rocket pad to see if the rocket is there." He barked at his assistant, Barkha.

There was silence for some time and then Barkha's voice came on.

"No rocket. What's going on Sam? No asteroid mission was scheduled today."

"Find out if Pavan is in the dome." Sam was no fool and he had noticed the way Pavan looked at his wife.

Barkha came back on after a few minutes. "Couldn't find Pavan."

Sam rushed back to the meeting room and approached the CEO of China colony.

"A word with you, Chiang."

Chiang took one look at Sam's face and got up. In the inside room, Sam grasped Chiang's hand.

"Chiang, my friend, I have to request a great favor from you."

"What's wrong, Sam?"

"Gita has been kidnapped and she is being held in the asteroids and I need a rocket to get to her." Sam's words came out as rapid bullets of sound.

Chiang immediately got busy.

***

Ram crossed the bridge and approached Lanka and faced Ravan. A great fight ensued.

***

The flight took one day. Thanks to the tracker, Sam knew exactly where Gita was on the asteroid. He directed the pilot to approach the asteroid in a path that would not be observable from Pavan's dome. The rocket landed at a point that was below the horizon of the dome. Stepping out of the rocket Sam walked. He carried with him a laser gun and a spare space-suit. He had a plan.

It took Sam slightly over an hour. At last, he could see the dome as a soft shimmer against the black backdrop of the sky. At that point he was spotted.

The earphones in his space suit came alive and he heard Pavan's madness tinged voice, "How did you find me? Damn you, how?"

He kept walking towards the dome silently.

"Doesn't matter," Pavan's voice came again. "I am going to kill Gita and kill you too."

There was no time to lose. Sam pulled out the laser gun, set it on maximum and gave the dome a blast. A hole opened up and air rushed out. The sound of an explosion may have been heard if not for the vacuum of the asteroid. However, there was a sound that Sam did hear. It was the sound of Pavan's scream.

Inside, Pavan could not breathe. He was too far from his space suit and knew he could not reach it on time. He knew he was going to die, damn Sam. But what he could not understand was why Sam had destroyed the dome. Now Gita would die, too. But then that was good. He would not depart from this world alone.

But then he saw a figure enter the dome, rush to Gita and put a space suit on her and hug her unconscious form. Pavan died then, knowing failure.

***

Ram took Sita triumphantly, back to Ayodhya and lavished his love upon her.

***

Nine months have passed since Gita's kidnapping and subsequent rescue. Gita is expecting. Mars station lacks an obstetrician so Sam and Gita are back on Earth, back in India, back with Sam's family. Gita has been admitted to the hospital. And Gita delivers. Twin sons. And Sam hugs Gita and hugs his sons. Two days later, Gita and the twins are discharged from the hospital. They come home.

There are celebrations - and there is gossip.

And the parallels between her story and that of Sita's seem to continue.

One day, Sam approaches Gita.

"Do you know what they are saying, Geet?"

"Who and what?"

"My cousins and their wives and husbands."

"And what are they saying?"

"They want me to have DNA tests done on the twins."

Gita freezes -body and soul.

"Do they think Pavan is the father of my children?" She asks after a long time.

Sam hangs his head, silent.

"Do you think Pavan is the father of my children?"

Sam shakes his head. "I know he is not. If anything like that had happened, you would have told me. If Pavan had forced you, it would not have been your fault. Why then would you hide something from me that was not your fault and you were in no way to be blamed for it?"

Gita looks at her husband with pride, then asks: "Do you want to have the test done?"

"What do you say?"

Here is where I break the parallels and change the story, Gita thinks.

"I say that let us have the test done," says Gita, "provided all your cousins agree to have DNA tests done on all their children."

And Sam roars with laughter. "That's my Gita," he says. "That is exactly what I told them before I came to you."

Gita smiles, "And what did they say?"

***

Ram approached Sita while she sat in the garden playing with Luv and Kush.

Sita's face lit up seeing Ram but then she noticed that Ram looked worried.

"What is worrying you, my husband?"

"My people, Janak Putri, my people."

Sita waited patiently for Ram to explain.

"They are doubting your purity."

"What!"

"They think that Ravan molested you while he had you in Lanka."

Sita's face turned white. "And do you believe so too, my Lord?"

"No," Ram said. "But I don't know how to satisfy my people."

"What do they want?"

"Agni pareeksha."

"And did you agree?"

"How could I, Sia? I am supposed to be a pillar of justice. How could I agree to this atrocity - this test of fire - when I know you are pure?"

Sita's heart filled with joy at her husband's confidence.

"I will take the test of fire, my Lord, if," she smiled, "all the wives of your people agree to walk on the fire with me."

Ram smiled and extended his hand. "Come, my dearest one. Let us put the proposal to the people together."

Hand in hand, Ram and Sita walked to the court and made the offer to the people gathered there and waited for their answer.

x x x

I was planning a new Gavin McQue tale to end this year because I hadn't received enough worthwhile stories again. Then I got this gem from my good buddy Ahmed Khan and I realized that I could finish out 2015 with style. Look for that Gavin McQue tale in an upcoming ezine. I'll let you know which one so you can avoid reading it. Meanwhile, enjoy this great story from one of Anotherealm's best writers. Again, Happy Holidays to you all! "May your days be Merry and Bright." - GM

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