A few weeks had passed after Beckett's adventure. It was Halloween and all the kids at the school had dressed up. Beckett, not one to put in a great effort, wore his legionary armour. It was a Friday and school had just ended. While most of the kids quickly made their way home, Beckett was standing alone in Principal Hashmi's office waiting. Beckett looked over at the map on the wall. He looked more carefully at Italy and France. He had spent the past few weeks reading about the war in Gaul. He watched a number of videos online as well to help him visualise what he read about. At the end of the war in Gaul, Caesar then started a war with Rome. This is what Beckett struggled to understand.
Mr Hashmi came in. He was dressed as a vampire.
"Have a seat, Beckett." He said.
Beckett shuffled over to the seat and dropped down on it.
"Try and sit up straight." Mr Hashmi said.
Beckett slowly shifted until he was upright.
Mr Hashmi looked at him quietly for a moment. "How's it going, Beckett?"
Beckett waited a moment before replying. "Um, good, I guess."
"Just good?" Mr Hashmi asked.
Beckett shrugged his shoulders.
Mr Hashmi exhaled. He was unshaven and seemed tired. He ran his hand back through his hair and closed his eyes. "How's the paper going?" He asked.
"Um, well, I've been learning about Caesar, but I haven't started writing." Beckett replied.
"You got a bit of time still. Do you have any questions?"
Beckett sat quietly for a moment. Mr Hashmi watched him; he raised his eyebrows.
"No." Beckett said.
"Alright, well. Try to get started on the writing this weekend, ok?"
"Yes, I will." Beckett had not realised, but he had slid down in his chair. He straightened himself up, stood up, and walked out."
He heard Mr Hashmi exhale as he walked out the door.
Beckett started walking out of the building when suddenly he realised he had left his backpack in Mr Hashmi's office. He walked back to the office. The door to the principal's office was closed and the light off. Beckett knocked quietly. There was no answer. He slowly opened the door. The room was empty. He grabbed his backpack and left, closing the door softly behind him.
Beckett walked down the hallway, passing the staffroom, when he heard some laughter.
"Oh, you're terrible, Sam!" Beckett heard Ms Lee, the fourth grade teacher, say.
"I know, I know. I don't feel good about it, but come on!" Mr Hashmi said.
Beckett slowly walked over, stood just outside the door, and listened.
"Seriously, he just sat there and stared at me! I gave him every chance, and nothing. Seriously, at the end of a Friday, I just don't have the patience for it. Seriously, does the kid even have a pulse?" He added on.
Beckett's eyes began to fill with water. They were talking about him.
"I just don't know what it's gonna take to wake that kid up, or if he even can."
"You know, he used to swim. He used to be more active. And he does well in French class." Ms Lee defended Beckett, but it sounded hollow.
"You said it right there. He 'used to...'. He learned how to quit at an early age." Mr Hashmi said. "You'd think his dad would've taught him better. It's like, he has every opportunity in front of him, and he does nothing."
Beckett had heard enough. He quietly walked away. ---
Beckett sat quietly at the dinner table. He slowly ate the plate of spaghetti that his father had cooked.
Beckett's mind raced. He would think about his assignment; then remember what he heard Mr Hashmi say. He would then remember the Veneti admiral getting stabbed.
Beckett's father was not unaware that Beckett was struggling with something. But dealing with this kind of problem had never come easy to him. It was in moments like this that he wished Beckett's mother was still around.
He watched him for a few moments before finally speaking. "Something bugging you, son?" He asked.
Beckett looked up at his father. He wanted to tell him about what had happened with Mr Hashmi, but decided to keep it to himself.
"Still working on my Caesar assignment." Beckett replied.
Beckett's father waited a few seconds, hoping Beckett might say more. "Any questions?" He asked.
Beckett was not used to his father offering help. Nor was he used to getting any help.
"I guess..." Beckett started. "I'm trying to understand why Caesar started the Civil War. I just... I can't really understand what the books and movies are saying."
"Hmm... Well I guess there are a lot of reasons. He was really successful. He conquered Gaul."
"And that was illegal?" Beckett asked.
"Well, some of his enemies in the senate used that as an excuse to criticise him. But they were probably just scared to see someone become so popular and successful."
"So they wanted to arrest him?"
"They wanted to stop him. He was a danger to the established way things were. People don't like that."
Beckett looked confused.
"Well, older people don't like it." His father corrected himself. "The sad thing about getting older, Beckett, is that people start fearing change. They like the status quo. People who have power..." He stopped for a moment and exhaled. "They can be particularly... difficult... when something threatens what they are accustomed to. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, I guess." Beckett replied. "It still seems stupid."
"Well, that's what being an adult is all about."
Beckett smiled. "Oh yeah, what stupid things have you done?" He asked.
"This conversation is over." Beckett's father smiled and winked at Beckett.
Beckett picked up his fork and went back to eating his spaghetti.
An hour later, Beckett was back in his room reading about Caesar and the Civil War. He spent a few hours reading, and the cause of the war seemed somewhat clearer. Beckett turned to his computer. Annie, can we use your machine tomorrow? Beckett typed.
A few minutes passed. OK. See you at 9. Annie replied. ---
The next day, Beckett woke up and started walking towards Annie's house. As he neared Annie's house, he saw Ben Michael's again, walking in the same direction as the previous time.
Does he just hang out here? Beckett thought to himself. Annoyed, Beckett walked forward, keeping his eyes up. Ben saw him and started to sneer. That sneer turned into a smirk. Beckett looked directly at Ben and kept moving forward.
"Back to your girlfriend's house?" Ben said. As he said it, he bumped Beckett's shoulder. Beckett stumbled slightly, but kept moving forward, ignoring him.
Much better. Beckett thought as he walked away. At least my pants don't have grass stains on th-
Beckett's thought was interrupted by a sudden push. He fell forward, landing on his hands and knees. Beckett got up quickly. Ben stood there laughing at him.
"What's your problem, Beckett?" He taunted him. "You make it so easy."
Beckett stood there staring at him.
"What? Anything to say?" Ben continued, shaking his head. "Seriously, man, I'm almost starting to feel sorry for you. Almost. Seriously, did your mom have any children that lived?"
"Can you just leave me alone?" Beckett said. "I never did anything to you."
"Ha! Like you could!" Ben snarled back. "I'm bored. I'll see you later, loser."
Ben turned around and walked away.
Beckett looked down at his knees. His jeans were stained green and brown.
Another pair of pants ruined, Beckett thought to himself. Although the last pair he ruined are in the past somewhere. Beckett remembered that he had never gotten his pants back from his trip to Gaul.
Beckett brushed some of the loose dirt of his knees and continued to Annie's house.
Ten minutes later, Beckett was back in Annie's basement. Beckett brought the Legionary uniform in his backpack and changed into it.
“Where are you going now? And what happened to your pants?” Annie asked.
“Ben did that to my pants. But more importantly, I need to get to a place near the old town of Arminium in Italy. It’s south of the Rubicon River. Or it was. I don’t think it exists anymore.”
“Let me check," Annie said. “Ok. I can put you between Arminium and the Rubicon River. Do you know where exactly you need to go? Take a look at this.”
"What is it?" Beckett replied.
"Ok, so since you went back, I've been looking at the data from when you were gone. I was able to use it to cross it with the data from the Earth Search satellites and get this." Annie plucked a few keys and a map appeared on her screen.
"What's this?" Beckett asked.
I've got satellite data on the past." Annie said.
"I laid the time code from the past over Earth Search's open software program, and now we can see the past from their satellites the same way we can see images from today."
"Do they know you're doing that?"
"The only way they would know is if they looked directly at the program, but they still might not understand what it is. There's tens of thousands of people using their software. They won't look unless you're doing something illegal."
"So you can actually see the whole history of the world through this program?"
"Yeah, check this out. Here's my house in the present." Annie plucked a few buttons and the image came up. "Here it is 100 years ago." She pushed a few more buttons and an image of a forest appeared. "My mom said this house was built 45 years ago, so let's see if we can find the construction." Annie typed in a few numbers, and then moved the mouse, scrolling over the image on her screen. "Here we go." The map began to slowly show the neighbourhood develop.
Suddenly the screen froze.
"Oh, come on. " Annie sneered as she impatiently moved the mouse on the image.
Beckett laughed softly. "Give it a few seconds, Annie. It's going back through space and time.
Annie ignored Beckett. The image bean to move again.
"Here we go. Stupid thing."
Beckett smiled. He knew it was best to keep his mouth shut when Annie got like that.
Annie scrolled the image forward and back a few times, showing the construction in forward and reverse a few times.
"Annie, you're going to be rich and famous." Beckett said.
"Not till it's perfect." Annie replied. "So where are you going?"
Between Arminium and the Rubicon River in 49BC. It should be somewhere where the river is shallow and thin enough to cross. But keep me far enough away, that no one will see me arrive out of nowhere.”
“Are you sure you’ll be able to find him?”
“No problem. If he’s with one of his Legions, he shouldn’t be too hard to find.”
“Well, let’s try.” Annie put all the information into her computer. Annie clicked the ENTER button on her keyboard. A satellite image of Italy appeared on her screen, and began to zoom in towards the North. Annie began to scroll over the area. Eventually, she saw the large procession crossing the river. "Does that look like it?"
"I don't know what else it could be." Beckett replied, as he stepped onto the platform. "Have you got the return switch?"
"I made this new one. It's waterproof, and..." Beckett wrapped the modified watch around his wrist, and as he did a screen opened up on Annie's monitor; a few numbers popped up. "All your vitals! I can track your heart-rate. The number of steps you take."
"Cool. But why do you need to know that stuff?" Beckett asked.
"I guess I don't, but it was easy enough to install; I ripped it from a fitness app, so why not see what could happen? Besides, if you lose the switch, or get injured I'll know, and I can come get you." Annie held up the old return-switch. "I've still got this one in case that happens."
Beckett looked down at his wrist. "That reminds me," he said. He looked around the room and saw a cloth on the floor. Annie must have used it to keep the plexiglass floor clean. "Can I take that cloth?"
"Go for it. What for?" Annie replied.
"I don't need to attract any attention to the return switch." Beckett said as he grabbed the cloth and wrapped it around his wrist, concealing the return-switch. He stepped to the floor panels.
"Gotcha." Annie moved the mouse around a little bit more on the screen. "Ready to go?" She asked.
"Go for it." Beckett replied.
Annie double-clicked the mouse. The computer fan started whirring faster. The blue plexi-glass floor started buzzing and the blue grid-lines turned bright as electricity jumped from pillar to pillar. The white dot appeared on the edge of the blue platform and began to circle towards Beckett, getting closer with each turn. When the white dot reached Beckett, just as before, Annie's basement vanished from sight…
…and was replaced by the sight of a large, open field. Beckett landed on his feet by the edge of a forest. He saw an old farmhouse not to far away and ran towards it. As he reached the house, he came across an old man and woman working the farm.
Beckett straightened his shoulders. And spoke in his best Latin. *I’ve been separated from my Legion. Have they come this way?*
The old man said nothing. The old woman pointed to her left. Beckett looked and saw a small hill on the horizon.
Beckett ran to the hill and climbed to the top. He looked down the hill away from the farm and he saw the Tenth Legion marching south. They were on their way to the Rubicon River, and beyond that, Rome. Beckett ran down the hill towards the line of soldiers, in search of Caesar.
Beckett followed the line of soldiers. Caesar was marching on Rome with only one Legion. Not enough to fight a war, Beckett thought. How can Caesar know this will work? Beckett thought. This war was going to kill a lot of people. Why was Caesar doing this?
As Beckett ran along the long line of soldiers, he looked for familiar faces. As he ran, the soldiers watched him. Beckett tried to keep a strong face as the battle-hardened soldiers stared at his small frame and young face. He listened to the conversation fragments of the soldiers he ran. Those who spoke in Latin seemed unsure of what was happening, but seemed to trust Caesar. They were not loyal to Rome. They were loyal to their general.
*This is going to be a disaster.*
*Just think of the money we’ll have!*
Some just wanted to go home.
*I haven’t seen my family in 8 years.*
*Going to start a butcher’s shop when I get home.*
*Going to find myself a nice lady and settle down.*
Beckett followed the procession of soldiers. There were archers, legionaries, and cavalry. He drew a few confused looks from the soldiers who were startled by his Legionary uniform.
*Caesar’s finding younger men every day!*
*Maybe he’s a courier.*
Beckett heard a few similar remarks as he continued to look.
*Well, if it isn’t our master spy!* It was Sulla. *You disappeared two years ago but you don't look a day older!*
Sulla was on his horse and had been talking to Crastinus, who Beckett remembered from the battle with the Veneti. Beckett turned and instinctively gave Sulla the Roman salute. He pressed his fist into his chest, extended his arm palm open and facing down.
A few of the legionaries laughed.
*I must speak with Caesar.* Beckett said.
*Yeah, me too!* Shouted one of the nearby soldiers.
*Of course,” Sulla replied. *Right this way.*
*Legionary Crastinus, if you will excuse us.*
*Yes, sir.* Crastinus replied.
*Hey! I need to talk to Caesar too!* Called out one voice.
*Yeah, I’ve got something to ask too!* Called another.
*That’s enough, shut up.* Crastinus said as Sulla and Beckett headed towards the front of the line.
Beckett finally saw the end of the line.
*We thought we’d lost you in Tellany. Caesar was furious.* Sulla said. *Will you tell me what happened?*
*I was captured by a small group of Gauls. Vercingetorix was among them.* Beckett replied.
*Oh really?* Sulla said. *He was a gallant warrior.*
*You’ve killed him?* Beckett asked.
*No, not yet. But Gaul is conquered. And now the senate looks to rob Caesar of his accomplishments.*
*But was this not an unjust war? People say Caesar’s ego is the reason he waged this war.*
*You are rather curious about the affairs of generals and politicians! Well, perhaps you can ask Caesar yourself.*
Beckett saw the end of the line and a cluster of men and horses at the edge of a riverbank. Beckett walked forward. He walked up to the bank and looked down at the river. This was the Rubicon. It was hardly a river though. It was more like a stream. It was a narrow line, but crossing it would be an act of war.
Caesar stood still, staring across the small waterway. Beckett had read about the importance of this incident, so it seemed strange that the river was so small. But beyond the river lay Rome. And marching an army into Rome meant a declaration of war. No army could march into Roman territory.
*The spy returns.* It was Antoni. *It would seem the gods want you to witness our fateful journey. I thought I’d seen the last of you in Tellany.*
*Sir,* Beckett thought quickly, *I thought I could be of some assistance in this journey.*
*No need for help here, boy.* Antoni snorted. *This trickling stream stands between us and our destiny.*
Caesar heard Antoni speak. He turned his head to see what was happening. He saw Beckett. He grinned. *Bring the boy here Antoni.*
Antoni shook his head. He turned and gestured towards Caesar. Beckett approached him. Antoni came behind him.
*I wondered when you might return to us, master Beckett. Neptune fortunes you on land as well as in the sea.*
*Sir, I had affairs to attend to with my family. That is why I had to leave hastily.*
*Well, I’m glad to see you back here with us.*
*I wanted to see what was going to happen here.* Beckett replied.
*Antoni,* Caesar turned to face his general. *We should take this as a sign that fortune favours us.*
*Yes. She does indeed.* Antoni grunted.
*Master Beckett, tell me what you're thinking.* Caesar said to Beckett.
*This is a very small river. I thought it would be bigger.* Beckett replied.
*Indeed. As a rule, we tend to imagine problems as bigger than they really are.*
Beckett stood silent. He felt he should say something, but he did not know what he could say exactly. He had been having a similar problem with starting his essay. He finally mustered up the courage to speak.
*Sometimes starting is the hardest part.* He finally spoke.
Caesar smiled. *That is true.* He turned back towards Antoni. *General Anotoni, I believe it will soon be time for us to depart. Make sure the troops are ready. They seem to have gotten the impression we might not go further.*
*Yes, sir.* Antoni replied and turned to the troops.
*Sir, may I ask, why you are doing this? Why are you marching on Rome?”
*Rome is sick. She is sick from a broken government that serves itself at the expense the people.*
*But why do you have to start a civil war? Can’t you just talk to the senate?* Beckett asked.
*You sound like my dear old friend Cicero. Cicero does not understand why Rome has failed. He is a smart man. He has admirable principles. But the nature of Roman government creates disharmony between the classes. The poor have no food. The plebians have little hope. Rome has survived many years as a democracy. But the leaders have forgotten what it means to be Roman. They have discarded their beliefs. If nothing is done, she will die. Change is needed for lasting prosperity. And change will not come through talk. It will only come through action.*
*But many people are going to die if you cross the Rubicon! What about them?*
*Master Beckett, people are dying already from Rome’s mismanagement. But Rome will live on and keep alive all that she has created. The art, the science that we have created… if it disappears, I fear the world will plunge into darkness. Some may die, yes. I will not lie about it. But many are dying as we speak while Roman senators fatten their bellies. If I am lucky, fewer will die after I cross this river. And better still, something greater may be created. My luck may yet run out, but it is all just a game of dice in the times we live in. It must be done. If I don't do this, who will? I owe it to Rome. I owe it to myself. Remember that, boy. You owe it to yourself to see how far you can go. Something greater than you may result. And as much as I feel I am throwing the dice, I feel that this next step is inevitable. Everything in my life has led to this moment. And now… we shall go. The die must be cast.*
And with that, Caesar took the reins of his horse and led it down the embankment and through the shallow, rocky path of the Rubicon. Beckett watched as Caesar entered Roman territory and waged a war. As Caesar walked up the other side of the river, the mud slowly dripped from his horse’s legs. Beckett stared after him, not hearing the sound of the Legion marching towards him. They marched past Beckett and through the Rubicon, unbent in their drive towards Rome. Lost in between the thick shoulders of the Legionaries, Beckett hit the return switch, and transported back to Annie's basement.