Beckett could barely hear him as his head was half submerged in the water. Beckett tried to move faster, but he just got more exhausted as he moved his arms faster.
All this effort for almost no improvement, was the thought going through Beckett's mind. It was hardly a thought though; it was more of a feeling, or an understanding. No words entered his mind, just a feeling of frustration.
Beckett arrived at the end of the pool. All the other swimmers were out of the pool and watching him.
"More practice, Beckett. More practice." Coach Benning said as he began to walk away. "That's all, folks. See some of you tomorrow, the rest of you on Saturday."
"I AM practicing." Beckett said to no-one; he then lifted himself out of the pool and headed to the change rooms.
Later that day, Beckett was in his science class. They were dissecting a worm.
Annie had carefully sliced the middle of the worm and Beckett had carefully pinned the still writhing annelid to the wax surface that the science teacher, Mr Stratos, had provided.
Mr Stratos was one of the older teachers in the school. And even though Beckett struggled in his science class Beckett like the way he talked to the students. He also supported and encouraged the students to perform the live dissection of an earthworm. Many of the other students opted, or their parents opted, for the computer simulation of the dissection.
The worm was open and its insides exposed. Beckett looked down at the worms organs. Suddenly, it hit him, he remembered flashes of light and sprays of blood from Zela. Beckett recalled the scene of the mysterious time traveller that Caesar had killed. He remembered seeing the spear sticking through his upper abdomen, the man held the base of the spear, his hand covered in his own blood.
"Beckett?" Mr Stratos said.
Beckett felt Annie's elbow nudge his arm twice.
"Huh? What?" Beckett replied.
"Show me the gizzard, Beckett." Mr Stratos said.
"Sorry." Beckett said as he picked up the small hooked probe.
He pointed to a small opaque round shape in the worm's midsection.
"That's the crop, Beckett." Mr Stratos said.
"I just pointed to that." Annie added in a hushed voice.
"Sorry." Beckett replied.
"No problem, Beckett. You have 2 more chances. Can you show me where the intestines are."
Beckett pointed again.
"That's the septa."
"Hey, language young man. This is the intestines here, but you're in the general vicinity. Ok, final question. The seminal receptacle."
Beckett took a moment to carefully examine the worm. Seminal receptacle and seminal vesicle: which one is which? He wondered to himself. He took a deep breath and pointed, figuring he had a 50/50 chance of getting it right.
"That's it." Mr Stratos said.
Beckett exhaled, as Mr Stratos walked away, making notes on his ledger.
"One out of four." Beckett said to Annie. "One out of four."
"Hey, you're doing better in school. Who cares about one class?"
"I just don't get it. I thought things would be easier now."
"What? Like you wouldn't have to try?""
"Kind of. I mean, isn't that how it is for you?"
Beckett groaned and slouched in his chair. That's when he felt something small and slimy slap across his face. He opened his eyes and put his hands on his face. It was a worm!
"Ah, gross!" He shouted. He took the worm off his cheek and dropped it on the table in front of him. He looked over to his left and saw Ben Michaels laughing.
"Ignore him." Annie said, handing Beckett a kleenex from her jacket pocket.
"I know." Beckett replied. Ben hadn't bothered Beckett as much since the day Beckett pulled him over a few months earlier. But when there was a chance to be a pest, Ben took it. Beckett had learned that when he retaliated or replied, that it just pushed Ben to escalate what he was doing. Beckett took the kleenex and wiped his face.
Beckett stayed focused on his the task ahead of him. He felt embarrassed by having Ben's science lesson smack him in the face, but he thought about seeing Ben face down in a puddle, and a slight grin broke.
"What are you smiling about, loser?" Ben shouted.
"That's enough, Ben. Quiet down and get to work." Mr Stratos finally intervened.
Beckett resisted the urge to look in Ben's direction. He looked forward at the worm in front of him. Don't look back. He told himself. Don't give him the satisfaction. He kept his eyes on the worm until the thoughts of Ben left him. He looked back to his textbook, which was open to a page that had a diagram of a dissected worm that reflected the one in front of him. He looked over the labelling and then back at the worm opened up in front of him. He noted the differences and tried to understand why he couldn't answer the questions correctly.
"I don't get it." Beckett said to Annie. "I mean, I'm sitting here in class with you. We're looking at the same book, spending the same amount of time doing the same work. You get the answers right, and I get them mostly wrong. What am I not doing right?"
"I don't know." Annie replied. "But when you started writing your biography, was it easy right away?"
"No, it took time."
"So be patient. Keep practicing."
"I guess, but I just don't get it. Why is this so unclear to me?"
Annie smiled and kept making notes in her notebook.
Beckett became instantly frustrated. He went back to his notes, compared them with the textbook, and looked back at the dissected worm. He began repeating as he moved between the three sources, "gizzard, gizzard, gizzard". He traced thought about what the gizzard's function was and what the book said about it. "So the gizzard grinds food, so after the food is ground up, what's left goes to the... intestines..." He moved his pencil along the diagram in the textbook, and then looked over to the worm in front of him. He looked carefully, at the diagram and the worm.
"How can you tell the difference between the intestines and the septa?" He asked Annie.
"The intestines are a lot bigger. The septa is just there to keep the worm's internal organs separated. The intestines move along the worm's body. That's why you can cut a worm in half and it survives. It's organs are compartmentalised. If the bottom half is removed, the worm can still function."
Beckett heard the words, he understood the meaning of the words individually, but he couldn't put it together in his mind. He leaned back in his chair, dropped his pencil on the desk, and rubbed his forehead. "This makes no sense." He looked up at the clock. It was almost time to go home. At least the class had gone by quickly.
"Five minutes everyone. Time to clean up." Mr Stratos said. "Remember, there will be a diagram of a worm on your test next week, so be sure to review your notes. Take a photo of the worm if you need to." He chuckled a little bit.
Beckett and Annie were back in their homeroom, getting their stuff out of the cloakroom.
"Hey, um, I was thinking," Annie began. "Do you wanna have another go with the... time machine?"
Beckett looked at Annie. He suddenly remembered landing on the floor panels in her basement after she rescued him when he got in over his head in Zela.
"We don't have to go anywhere dangerous. But I thought we could just test out the translator. I've been working on it on my own. Trying to download different languages into it."
"Do we need to time travel for that? We could just go to Chinatown and use it." Beckett replied.
"I know, but I thought we could try it on an ancient language. Besides, I've already tested it in Chinatown."
"Annie? Do you speak Chinese now?" Beckett asked quietly.
"Just a little Mandarin. No Cantonese."
"Wow. So English, Korean, Mandarin..."
"Hey, I know some French too." She finished for him.
"Ok, but why an ancient language?" Beckett asked as he put on his coat.
"Well, the translator is really weird, it can translate words directly, but when I was using it in Chinatown it didn't really work that well. A lot of times, it just translated words that made no sense. I was standing near a group of four people and the device just stopped working.
"So, I took it home and started tinkering with it. I recorded a conversation I had in Korean with my mom, and then ran it through the translator. Again, it translated the words, but the meaning was really weird. We say a lot of things in Korean that translate directly awkwardly into English. I never thought about it, but it reminded me about your problem with Caesar."
"That takes the cake." Beckett replied.
"Exactly. So I figure, you can't use the translator that way; you still need to understand what the words mean when you put them together."
Beckett and Annie left their homeroom and began to make their way out the front door.
"So why do we need to go back in time?"
"A few reasons." Annie replied. "First, I wanna test the translator. I want to see if it can work with ancient languages. Second, I want to see what happens when XXX. And..."
"And...?" Beckett prompted Annie to continue.
"And I wanna try."
"I want to go back and learn from the past. You spent all that time in Rome and with Caesar. I want to go back and see what it's like. The only real time I went back was to rescue you, and that was only a few minutes."
"Well, yeah! Of course!" Beckett said. "But, are you really sure you want to do it? I mean, I went back a few times, and all I did was get into trouble. I guess I could stay back and monitor you." Although it does sound kind of boring...
Beckett pondered the idea of time-travelling again. He was still struggling a bit. He'd been having dreams about the incident in Zela. He saw a man get murdered, and Beckett couldn't get the image out of his head.
"Maybe something a little more low-key would be a good idea. I don't know that you wanna go back to something violent, like where I was."
"I think I know where I want to go." Annie replied.