"The Wasted Game"
Gary Baker, March 2013
(proposal for a larger idea of forced time-travel castaways)
The Roman cocked his head curiously as the ranger made his way down the slope toward the fissure.
With determination set in, Keith sidled over a small ledge of oxidized ironstone and peered out into the canyon below. The drop was intense; he could have fallen over and not hit anything for several breaths.
Looking back to the others, he shook his head.
The Roman understood instantly. It was eerie, at times, just how fast the quiet man caught on. Xi could sit on a log talking about anything for long stretches without the man even letting a thought pass by unnoticed. It was clear how he had become what the ranger was slowly becoming less convinced as a gladiator and more of a war general.
His deep-set hazel eyes glittered as he removed his gleaming gold Trojan helmet and set it atop his sword which stood stabbed into a patch of dirt and succulents at his feet. Even without his helmet, clad in only leather thongs, a leather war-skirt armored in golden bronze on the flanks of his hips, a stout metal chest plate, and more armor bracers on his wrists, the man looked ready to tame the fiercest wild lion.
Keith swung his left leg back over and made his way up the slope. Gravel slid beneath his boots and he almost fell onto his face had it not been for Xi's quick movements that caught him.
"Thanks," he breathed with wide eyes and an even greater need to back away from the edge. He knew she couldn't comprehend what he'd said, he knew the ancient Chinese from her time could never have known about American English since she had probably been meant to die long before the America's had been discovered.
Even still the pirate captain nodded without missing a beat. "Bù kèqì."
It comforted Keith, then, to know she at least had wanted him around. Her jet-black hair held in tight braids over a heart-shaped face, eyes like almonds with gaps of oblivion surrounded by an efflorescent mahogany, and yet all the enticing glamour about her seemed to stand behind walls of the unknown in the many various scars and her demeaning frown.
"Nǐ kàn dàole shénme?" She tilted her head to the side.
The ranger paused while on his way past her, brushing dust off his fur-lined officer's jacket. He dropped his gaze to her from over his shoulder, "hrm?"
The pirate rolled her eyes and pointed to him sharply, enunciating herself with a vocalized "nín", then to her eyes "kàn dào", and finally pointed her hand to the fissure "nà biān."
He stood silent as the idea wracked it's way through his head. The only possible clue he could decipher was the body language and the misused signing. She must have meant 'you' by pointing towards him so readily, and 'the gap' by pointing to the break in the rock, but what could she have....?
Suddenly he got it and a smile donned upon his cheeks. "Aha," he laughed, "I get it." So he proceeded to hold one palm face-up at nose-level, then walked his other hand atop it until the 'legs' of his finger person slipped and he imitated the 'man' falling to his death while whistling the drop into a splat.
The mechanic let out a girlish laugh, then pulled out the plane of glass to use it like a point-and-shoot camera. As she turned this way and that, the image on the screen showed variable measurements from one side to the other, with several other blips on the side of the screen making readily active changes. No matter what she had up her sleeve this time, the fact of the matter at hand was that they needed to cross the ravine, the fissure, the canyon, whatever way it was worded it didn't change the fact that only a bird could leap such a magnificent gap in space...
...and Keith, despite his leadership training in ranger academy, couldn't communicate well enough to get the band of time-travelling castaways across and into habitable terrain.
For the time being they were stranded in both time and space. Stuck who-knew where, in who-knew what era, just meters from the edge of survival resources, it looked as though some godly influence had chosen to play a cruel joke on these pitifully unlucky human-beings.
"Oi," yawned the other man, hugging his knees atop a flat boulder, "Ai don' know aboat you, but Oi'm doan." Through the British man's thick accent Keith could decipher an exhaustion unlike that of the physical nature. His was a tiredness of the mind, less of an issue of ability and thus only something a lack of purpose could have instilled.
He stood abruptly and made his way back toward the wastes, hands in his pockets and head hanging low.
Again the Roman missed nothing. He watched the European walk, calculation not too far beyond the infinite of his dark eyes. "Acum există un om care este trist pentru ceea ce a făcut," he nodded, then lifted his helmet to his head and retrieved his blade. As he went after the other man, Xi turned and followed right behind.
The two looked a timeless pair. Both with wicked swords at their hip and a posture of someone who knows how to hold their own should push come to shove.
As the silence broke again, the ranger found himself staring back out across the divide that kept them from finding sustenance. It wasn't very wide in all reality, but the distance was still much to far to challenge for their human genome. The challenge, then, would be doing what their species did best in the time before starvation: find a way to out-do the natural world to survive and build it.