A DIFFERENT END GAME
Kamaish watched his best friend glaring at him and the old man. Panji lowered his voice into a growl. “You think I care about the throne?”
“Do you at least care about your subject, your majesty?” Kamaish tried to appeal with his unfamiliar face. Without divulging to his ‘old man’ he had let the scanner mold his facial reflection. He was different, regal with a much darker skin tone, delicate piercing eyes, and slight widening of his nose. His lips was not like his own, it was more curved and a little fuller. He knew that his best friend wouldn’t recognize him, but somehow a part of him betrayed his belief.
“Adopted, your majesty. Let’s not change the subject.” The old man shifted his weight as he stole glances at him. Kamaish wanted to helped butthe old man wanted to impress him, a fake supernatural being.
“So you don’t care about the fate of your kingdom, your majesty?” Kamaish leaned in and furrowed, desperate to avoid the obvious.
Panji narrowed his eyes again at him. “The kingdom is prosper with or without me. Has been and will be.” Panji turned around and walked away with clenched fist.
“Peace keeping will not go through, your majesty.” The old man raced to follow Panji.
Kamaish shook his head and gritted his teeth. Turning around, he hung his head and make his mark on the nearest tree with his fist.
“Why, brother?! Why?!” Kamaish pounded the floor with each step he took, pacing the ground that began to look like a train rail.
Kamaish turned and lowered his voice. “Fa—ther. How many times do I have to tell you?”
The old man coughed. “Kama, son.”
Kamaish wetted his lips and rammed his teeth against each other. “I assume we have no other choice?”
The old man blinked up to him several times. “She must disappear, yes.”
“Make it appear that way.”
He thought he saw the old man’s eyes twinkled.
“Extend your political power, counselor.”
The old man tilted his head. “Father, please.”
Kamaish blew his breath and grind his teeth.
“No, father, please.”
Kamaish saw a movement by the corner of his eyes. “Yes, Father. What do you have in mind?”
“Why do we bother ourselves with commoners, Kama highness?” The old man’s real son walked into the view.
Kamaish whistled his relief, shook his head once, and straightened his back in front of the son. “Why do I bother with you, mortal?”
The son raised his chin and tunneled into Kamaish’s eyes. “Why do you, Kama highness?”
Kamaish blinked once and forced an eerie smile. “Try me.”
The son’s posture recoiled although almost unnoticeable. “Doom?”
Kamaish smiled wider. “Do you know what a ‘domino effect’, young one?” Kamaish could hear a chuckle inside his comm.
“No, Kama highness.”
Kamaish feigned his annoyance along with Çri’s remark, “they don’t have that, the one they called Chinese hasn’t visit yet.”
Kamaish curled his lips and grunted.
“Apologize, Kama highness.” The son bowed his head but kept his eyes narrowed at Kamaish.
“Throw rock to the pond,” Çri suggested.
Kamaish stared unmoved at the rock. Then he heard Çri’s exasperated blow. “Ripple effect, Kamaish.”
“For everything that’s sitting on the edge of their sit. Hurry, oh Kama highness,” Çri said.
Kamaish dug his heel into the ground. “Throw that rock there.”
“Young man, throw that rock into the pond.” Kamaish battled his will to roll his eyes.
The son obeyed him. Before it splashed, Kamaish added, “tell me what happened.”
“It ripples,” replied the son.
“Now, that rock is the crown prince’s decision and that boulder over there is the edge of immortality. Tell me, young man, does the ripples touch the boulder?”
The son stared and nodded.
“So tell me will the mortal’s matter affect anything else?” Kamaish rested his palm on the son’s shoulder.
“Yes, Kama highness.”
“Faint, but still an effect. See, immortality sounds great but it also comes with—” Kamaish turned his other palm upward. “Consequences. Repeated ripples erodes the boulder.”
The son turned to Kamaish.
Kamaish laughed in disbelief. “What concern you is how we influence a throw. What happened if it’s too hard?”
“I could…get wet too.” The son’s glare weakening.
“So, why do we bother ourselves?” Kamaish shrugged and walked away.
“Understand, Kama highness. I will arrange the maiden’s kidnapping,” the son drifted with his mind full of thoughts.
The son turned to him.
“You won’t disappoint.”
The son leaned his head back and beamed. “Yes, Kama highness.”
“Make it believable,” Kamaish added.
“You don’t have to say twice.”
Kamaish heard two different steps rustled away from him just before a mocking laugh echoed in his ear. “I am impressed. My words become so majestic. And that improvisation. Wow.”
Çri snickered. “What are you planning now?”
Kamaish shrugged. “Trust only handmade effort.”
“Ping me when you’re done.”
“Absolutely, my one and only.”
Çri snorted before his comm went silent.
“So do you understand, your highness?” Kamaish pointed his hands to one direction while staring at the girl.
“Stop that.” The girl pursed her lips and widened her eyes.
Kamaish stood still and gave her a half intended crooked smile.
The girl tilted her head. “Anggraini. Understand? Angi.”
“Lady Anggraini,” he grunted.
She sighed and replied, “wait.”
She raised her hand and pled, “just a moment.” She whirled around and rummaged her sack. For a moment her thick brows furrowed together while Kamaish tapped his toe and watching around them.
“Got it,” she murmured. In her hand, a small wooden toy rested. The spin top toy was not unusual. It was faded and worn down, full of battle scars and yesteryear’s memories. A drop of tear landed on it as she lie it down on a headdress. Kamaish narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. He recognized the headdress. Of course, he was the one that gave it to Panji the day he supposedly left his best friend for home. Instead, he infiltrated the palace with another face. A face with fake immortality. A face in which he abandoned the moment he took on this mission. A face that didn’t resemble his or the one he currently worn. For a moment the chill of guilt seeped into his bone. He shivered and tugged Anggraini away.
They both moved as if fire was flooding the forest and a crimson tornado was on their tail.
It was already four months ago when he laid an acceptable version of the truth to Anggraini. The only time he ever saw a face changing colors so often was when he told his sister about his decision as a time laborer. He saw his sister’s face overlapping with Anggraini. His memory recalled the green, the red, the white, and the dreaded blue. What he didn’t expect was her suggestion to him. “Break his heart then the rest is easy.”
Within the span of four days she managed to push Panji so far that he was force to take off to cool down. She proceed to pack her belongings and told Kamaish to leave immediately. “Now or never.” Her face was hardened but he felt the sorrowful tremble within her voice.
They ran. They hid. They dug their way through the forest before running again. More than once, Anggraini stole a glance down to her side as if she heard Panji was coming. More than once, she lie down with her eyes staring at one invisible mark the midnight sky, unmoving but the raising of her chest. But never once, she raised a doubt even when he knew she was drowning in it.
Kamaish let her lead their way and even when he knew they weren’t taking the simplest route, he stayed back with no words. Anggraini stirred admiration, he admitted that. The guilt that nudged him had continue to grow and sharpen its blade. The only sentences they had share was the location of their destination. The pro of time traveling was he always know the outcome. The con of it were unforeseeable journey and the fate of anyone else in between. His was included. This might as well be his last mission, nobody could tell. At least that’s what he thought.
“This is not our last destination.” Anggraini chomped the last bite of their dinner.
Kamaish turned to see the color of fire dancing on her face as she wiped her lips with sarong. “Sorry?”
“I decide our last destination.” She tossed the leaf that was her plate and unpinned her bun. Her long hair unfolded and covered her face.
Anggraini’s face stopped a mere millimeter in front of his. Their arm battled each other as he blocked her attack. She whispered low, “who are you?”
Kamaish pushed but failed to disarm her. Anggraini hopped back and kicked the burning sand around their campfire his way. Kamaish waved yet only managed to blow some of the sand from attacking his eyes. He gulped. “Lady Angi.”
“Who are you?” Her voice turned bass.
Alarmed, he took a stance and followed her voice. “Lady…” A faint sound made he turned in stealth. “Calm down. You’re just stressing out.”
She scoffed. “I have been running away for days. Obviously I am stressing out. Especially when a clueless soldier following me around.”
He followed the voice and after several dodging and capturing efforts, his vision came into focus. Recognizing a slight change in Anggraini’s movements, his eyes widened. He reached into his sack and threw the scanner into the air. They both stopped before the scanner landed back on his hand.
He asked, “who are you?”
She sneered at him. “Took you long enough.”
“Who are you? There’s only one person I know who could do the movement you’ve just done,” he hissed.
She narrowed her eyes. “One person? I know our existence is some sort of a secret but I didn’t know how a fellow time mercenary—”
“— didn’t know us.”
They stared at each other while they lowered their stance. Still in cautious mode, he said, “what did you do?”
“You should know if you carrying that device.” She looked at his scanner.
“Mercenary? Sounds a bit…aggressive.”
“Raised that device once again?” she asked.
“Just show me the back, I won’t do anything but look.” She raised her hands, empty. “Promise.”
He flipped the scanner and showed it to her, still holding it close to his body.
“What did you say?” In a flash he pocketed his scanner and leaned forward.
She grunted a what he could only suggest as a curse and continued mumbling as she paced around. He narrowed his eyes and saw her hand tapped her earlobe twice. Almost unnoticeable but he knew better.
“Stop talking to your agent!” He walked back to reach his sack. Time laborer had union, so there’s no way she would do something dangerous but ‘mercenary’? That sounded life threatening.
“What?” She turned to him and looked alarmed. “Put that thing down.”
He tossed another device on his hand, the one he snatched from her sack. He smirked and played with it. At least one thing he knew, they still used the same weapon. “Scared?”
Her eyes danced between the device and him. “No, I got several on me at all times. But I can’t risk you hurting this body.”
His jaw dropped. “This body?”
“Yeah, old timer. In my time, we can hijacked the past.”
He furrowed his brow.
“You are about…let see…a couple decade before my time. See that thing on your hand, ancient but still powerful. One of the best, still. But mine?” She tapped her thigh. “Faster, though pack less than that.”
He raised himself and gulped. “Let’s talk then.”
“Let’s.” She nodded and propped down.
He blinked twice and shook his head. “Start.”
“Hey! I never had a boss and you are not about to be one.”
He sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Really?”
“Fine.” She raised her hands again then rested her chin on one. “Long story short, we kind of, sort of, accidentally, well…killed her.”
He was flabbergasted. “Kind of? Sort of? Your time sure take time relativity lightly.”
“She’s not actually dead, it’s just…” She went quiet for a second while her eyes stared pass him.
“Is your agent feeding you information right now,” he grumbled.
“A…?” she watched him pointed at his ears. “Oh agent. No, I don’t have agent. I’m just browsing information right now to put this…situation into words.” She pointed at her head.
“You told me ‘we’ killed her.” He raised his brow.
“Oh yeah, we. The agency. As long as I’m under their contract, it’s a ‘we’. Liability and such.” She sighed and looked back to his eyes. “Alright, my mission is to extract her essence, Anggraini’s and transfer it to another girl. I only get her code name, goldie —that’s what the agency called her— I have her full description, it’ll take me only couple hours to find her.” She shrugged. “But the extracting process is delicate. I have to access her memory and personality, condensed. One is already delicate enough, doing two at the same time, not impossible but then you come. Again long story short, her psyche got disconnected and I have no way to reconnect it. Soooo…”
He folded his arms and said, “so you occupy her body and pretend nothing happened.”
“Hey, I tethered her psyche to the spin top, alright? I didn’t just abandoned it.”
His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “You left her there?!”
“The only one that could keep her active is that kid, the prince. After all, all this happened because of him.” Nonchalant, she shrugged.
He raised one finger to stop her. Frustrated, he shook his head.
“Yeap. A whole lot of troublesome for a single man huh?” She popped a seed into her mouth.
“That man is the only chance my time could survive an epidemic,” he grabbed a waterskin and chugged it.
She paused to observe him. Her eyes widened before she leaped up. “No way! So my guess was right? You were an old timer? Was that the hypcyamic disease?”
“It’s hypercyanemic kid.” He gave his crooked smile.
“NO WAY! You’re that legendary Kamahay.” She pounced his hand. “You are my idol. You are the reason why I was chosen. I mean even qualified.”
As she shook it, Kamaish leaned back and tried to pull his hand. “Kama who?”
“Kamahay, the legendary contractor. You were the one that came back to prevent the first epidemic. Oh..” She seemed to blank out.
Kamaish eyed his hand, which still attached to her. “Are you..hello?”
“We are apart for centuries.” She stopped shaking his hand.
Kamaish was still pulling his hand back. “Can you let us apart?”
“This is weird.” She threw his hand and rubbed her mouth. “According to historical document, you are not suppose to be here. You are suppose to die.”
Kamaish grabbed and whirled her around. “What did you say?”
With his face only a water droplet away from hers, she stuttered. “Bhh..yeah urr…you are legendary?”
She gaped at him and smiled. “Yes, you know centuries between us?”
“You never said I died of old age, kid. Not the way you said it, now talk.” He stood still but she leaned back as if he was leaning forward.
“I…I..” She blushed and looked down. She saw his arm was ready to catch her if she fall but even in her awkward balancing act, he didn’t look surprised. She resorted to muttering, “do I have to?” and pouted her lips.
He persisted. “Start, now.”
“Can we sit?”
“Why not. Got nothing to lose anyway.” He squatted once she dropped into a sit.
She rubbed her eyebrow and sighed. “Long story short?”
“Umm…You went back to find the prince. You waited for some time to get and send the latest sample. You came back to the future, the time bridge rupture, you were lost in time.”
He nodded. “At least—”
“The prince found you after your elopement with Anggraini. You fight, almost kill each other but you succumbed to your wounds after sending the latest sample out.”
He sat down and mouthed, “elopement?”
“Legend said you both fall in love. Blah blah. The third one is Anggraini ran away from you, got caught by the real royal soldier, volunteered to be killed, the prince went crazy, you saved him. You both find goldie, got the sample, came back to future—”
He raised his hand again. “Tell me this ends better?”
“Err…you became the living incubator and the procedure took your life.” She faced her palms up and shrugged with a half smile.
He tapped his fingers together. “So whatever way I am dead?”
“Well, on those cases? Yeah.”
He scrutinized her. “Who sent you, what went wrong?”
“Somebody restarted the epidemic with the prince and goldie’s offspring and not just that, they kidnapped and smuggled the kid through the time just to keep on using him as plan B,C,D,Z…” She raised her fingers one by one.
“So what’s your mission?” Kamaish asked.
“Speed the history. The faster prince and goldie get together, the faster they have offspring, and the more. With that they won’t know which offspring to pick. They cannot kidnap more than one, easy to discover and such, I guess. According to the relativity logarithm this would stop them from even using the prince’s bloodline. At least for now.” She raised both of her thumbs up.
“Oh and…I suppose to force goldie into a brink of madness in between her meet ups with the prince, to alter everything. Apparently her DNA will inherit or activate some additional gene that prevent their bloodline to be the prime candidate for the epidemic.” She pushed her bottom lips out and tilted her head left and right.
Kamaish blinked twice and faced her right palm up with a pair of curious eyes.
“Oh, I’m just going to wing it.” She gave him a hyper-enthusiastic smile. A kind of smile that lingered longer than normal.
Kamaish replied with his halfhearted crooked one. “Then what’s in world’s end am I doing here?”
She looked around them with a pursed lips and shrugged.
“You sure shrugged a lot.”
She shrugged and laughed with her fingers tapping her legs.
“What’s your name?”
She shrugged and her fingers gained more momentum.
Kamaish stared up to the sky. “My name is Kamaish, not Kama high. That’s what the ‘mortals’ call me here since I know the future.”
She giggled and sat next to him. “I know your real name. Like I said you’re my idol.” She blushed.
Kamaish shook his head and tousled his hair. “Strange to be called that, nobody really know me back there.”
“Oh they know you for sure after this mission, regardless, you broke the record for repeated death. Also the reason why the job became a mercenary based one. The union can’t handle it.” She looked down at her hand and pulled out a trinket from her pocket. “I even stole this from your exhibition.”
“My back up comm?”
Kamaish turned to her and asked, “are you leaving to find this goldie?”
She hung her head and responded, “before she transformed or ‘cursed’ into a golden snail.”
“Golden sna…That’s her! I need Panji’s sample after he meet her.” Kamaish mouth made a big O. “Ooh, goldie! I get it. Her name is Candra Kirana. I don’t understand why they won’t give you her real name.” He pulled out his device and searched for Panji’s folder.
“There are double agent everywhere in my time. The person who funded the epidemic had this utopian vision and only selected few should be saved. Blah blah.” She curled his lips in extreme disappointment.
“Let’s team up.”
His words sparked her eyes and perked her up. “YES!” She pointed at her goosebumps before her smiled faded. “But how? I don’t have comm link.”
Kamaish raised his brow.
“You know, double agents, eavesdroppers. That’s why mercenary mission?”
Kamaish pulled up his backup comm. “I don’t approve theft.” He winked
Her eyes twinkled. Her legs stomped the ground in excitement then she grabbed his hand and said, “happy to work with you. Name is Rimani Ajeng.”
“Rimani. Let’s make this happen.” Kamaish shook her hand and smiled crookedly.
“I found her, Kama!” Rimani hollared within his ear.
“Ouch, Mani. Stop yelling.” Kamaish rubbed his earlobe and stretched his jaw.
“I gave her Anggraini’s essence. It was almost magical. The color of her aura just changed. Amaz—” he could hear rustles on her end before she continued, “whoops, sorry, how about you?”
Kamaish looked around at the envoy he prepared for days journey into Kingdom of Dhaha. “I’ll see you soon. Panji is excited to get out of the palace.”
A defeated smile emerged on his face. “I found the spin top too.”
“Oh, thank you. Fi-nah-ly.”
Kamaish’s smile vanished, with nobody on sight he pressed his lips together. “You’re going back?”
They shared a silent moment. “I…might. What’s your plan?”
Kamaish felt a hesitation on Rimani’s end before he answered, “get the sample.”
“Don’t,” Rimani begged, “don’t do it. We both know how it will be.”
A crooked smile spread on his face. “How’s your time looking?”
“Short. Plus we don’t know what would happen to you, last time they did it, the only solution in cryo. I don’t think I can handle talking to a silent face of yours again.” Rimani giggled.
“Again?” Kamaish couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Whoops. Legendary poster boy, I’m busted.”
“I just wish you could meet my sister.” Kamaish rubbed his hands together.
“You adopted sister?”
“My sister, Mani,” he insisted.
“Sorry. Your sister.”
“Çri will be your sister too.” Kamaish opened his palm as looked at his main comm with longing. It’s been weeks since he talked through it. The link was down and it was once useless again.
“That’s nice after spending time alone for as long as I know.”
“Hey, how about me?” Kamaish feigned frustration.
“You’re not exactly spending time with me. Busy with your…Panji.”
“Oh shut it. We’ll see each other soon.” Kamaish rested his comm on a sack with his eyes still glued to it.
“I’m so looking forward to it. The girls here are not exactly…up to my par. Candra Kirana though, I would hate to leave her. She’s a ball of fun.”
“They’re not toys, Mani.” He closed his sack and patted it.
“Yeah, yeah. See you. Mani out.”
Kamaish contemplated at his sack one last time and without looking, he tossed it into a chest before burying it with his clothes.
He turned to see Panji in his casual clothes with his only favorite headdresser. Kamaish observed it for a moment before nodding and waving to their envoy. He answered, “fi-nah-ly.”
Entry day 370 post.
Leaving target. Latest known samples (4) has been sent. Confirmed report on successful arrival with no additional sample needed. Mission completed.
On the ongoing research of time bridge : 100 percent possibility of time ripples, however the negative current is being canceled by maintaining it balance against the disruption hot spots. The main time bridge has been found to contain branches. These rifts can be accessed only for a certain amount of time. There are evidences that future generations also used these branches. The stability of it is still questionable.
Additional mission is requested on the investigation of the volcanic influences. Confirmation of granted mission has been received. Penchi9 accept the indefinite time limit of such mission. Penchi9 logging out.