Beckett sat on the bench at his school's baseball diamond. His track pants and sweater kept him just warm enough not to freeze. Beckett couldn't notice the temperature anyway; he was too busy thinking his last encounter with Caesar at the Rubicon. He then thought about what he had overheard from Mr Hashmi in the teacher's room. He has every opportunity... Does he even have a pulse? The words repeated in Beckett's mind.
Beckett felt the cool November breeze blow over him.
"Why are we playing baseball in November?" Beckett asked. He was sitting on the bench next to James Chin, rubbing his hands together to stay warm.
"Mr Baldwin thinks any time is a good time to play baseball." James replied. "He just likes to drag us out here in the freezing cold. And we follow him like cattle."
"James," Beckett began. "Have you ever done anything... like... big?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"I mean, have you ever like won anything, or done anything outstanding, or had a big moment?"
"Well, I've never won anything in sports."
"What about an 'A' on a test?"
"No." James replied, a little embarrassed. "I started getting Bs last year in math, but that's only because my parents made me get a tutor."
Meanwhile, one of Beckett's classmates got off the bench. Everyone on the bench shifted down a spot.
"Anything else? Like a home-run or something?"
"Yeah, one time. It was kind of fluky. I hit the ball right between first and second, then the fielder missed it. What about you?"
"Yeah, nothing really. I mean. I used to swim, but I never won anything. I do well on those French tests, but it's not because I'm working hard. I don't even really know why it's been easy."
"Why are you asking about this?" James asked.
"I don't know. I guess I'm just wondering why some kids do so well, and why I don't." XXX Hellen Trin was at bat. She swung, and hit the ball. She ran over to 1st base, where Annie was playing. Hellen easily got to first base before the ball reached Annie.
"Good hustle, Hellen. Nice catch, Annie. Picking machine!" Mr Baldwin said from the pitcher's mound. "You're up, Parmpreet."
"Knock it out of the park, Parm." James said, as he shifted down the bench. Beckett shifted after him.
"Will do, boys!" Parmpreet replied.
"Have you ever seen him play hockey?" James asked Beckett.
"No." Beckett replied. "Why?"
"His team is in Vancouver. They sometimes play against the Burnaby team, so he goes up against Ben. I saw them play one time."
"What happened?" Beckett asked.
"Ben plays wing, and Parm's a defenceman. During the game, Ben went one-on-one against Parm, and Parm just stood him up."
"Huh? What does that mean?" Beckett didn't watch hockey.
"Ben had all this speed, and Parm just knocked him over, took the puck and sent it back the other way. And Ben's a pretty good hockey player."
Beckett looked over at the field. Ben was currently playing short-stop. Parm picked up the bat, and Ben instinctively moved back.
Mr Baldwin threw the pitch, and Parm smashed it. The ball sailed up into the air and towards left field. Ben covered for the left-fielder, Tim. Tim ran all the way to the end of the field to get the ball when it finally hit the ground. Tim threw the ball to Ben, who in turn turned to throw it back in the hopes of stopping Parm. But it was too late Parm, had already rounded third.
Parm ran over the plate where Hellen was waiting for a high-five. Everyone was cheering. Beckett and James clapped as well.
"I don't get it. How is he so good at everything?" Beckett asked, shaking his head in frustration and disbelief.
"Well, he wakes up before 5 every day for hockey practice." James replied. "He has discipline."
James and Beckett shifted down the bench again.
"James, you're up!" Mr Baldwin said.
James shot up and ran to home plate. Beckett shifted down the bench again.
"Let's see if we can get another home run." Mr Baldwin said encouragingly. He pitched the ball, and James swung. He hit the ball with a fair amount of power towards left field. Unfortunately, it sailed directly into Ben's glove.
"Nice hit anyway, James." Mr Baldwin said. "Good catch, Benny."
James sulked and returned to the bench.
"Beckett, you're up!" Shouted Mr Baldwin.
Beckett got up and shuffled towards home plate. He picked up the bat and swung it a few times to warm himself up.
"Let's see if you can get it past the pitcher!" Ben taunted Beckett. If you even hit the ball, I won't beat on you for a week! Heck, two weeks!"
"That's enough, Benny." Mr Baldwin shouted. "Besides, no one strikes out more than you.."
""Yeah, but no one is at bat more than me. And no one hits more than me!" Ben replied..
"Also true. But Parm hits more than you..""
"Parm was born with a barbell in his hand. It's not fair."
Beckett took his spot by home plate and waited for the pitch. He stood lazily resting the bat on his shoulder.
"Stand straight, Beckett. You're never gonna hit with any power if you slouch like that." Mr Baldwin said.
Beckett straightened his shoulders. He lowered his stance a little bit. The pitch came in and Beckett swung. Nothing. A miss.
"Good swing." Mr Baldwin said encouragingly. "Keep your eye on the ball."
Mr Baldwin pitched again. Beckett swung and felt the bat hit the ball. He dropped the bat and started running to first.
That's definitely going past the pitcher. Maybe Ben will shut up for a few minutes. Beckett thought to himself as he ran past first. However, when Beckett turned back to look, no-one was clapping or looking in his direction. They were all looking towards Ben, who was surrounded by other students as well as Mr Baldwin. Ben was still standing, but hunched over. He was holding his face and blood was dripping through his fingers.
"Move your hand, Benny." Mr Baldwin said as he ran over.
Ben moved his hand and Mr Baldwin looked at it carefully.
"Might be broken. Take him to the nurse, Annie." Mr Baldwin said. "He'll be fine."
Annie helped Ben walk off the field. Ben glared at Beckett.
Beckett stood quietly behind first base.
"Otherwise, that was a good hit, Beckett. See what happens when you keep those shoulders high." Mr Baldwin shouted. "James, you're up!" ___
Caesar now accepted Beckett’s appearance and reappearance as normal. Shortly before dawn at Pharsalus, Beckett sneaked into Caesar’s camp and was found, this time by Crastinus. He was taken to Caesar and Beckett found himself on a horse next to Caesar, riding out to the battlefield.
*Come with me.* Caesar said to Beckett and the two rode out to the front lines of Caesar’s army. Caesar had pursued Pompey with 22,000 soldiers on foot and 1,000 cavalry. Pompey’s army had 45,000 men with 7,000 cavalry. Beckett had read plenty on this battle. Caesar was going to win despite the smaller numbers.
*You look very calm considering what you're about to do.* Beckett said.
*At least I look that way.* Caesar replied.
The experienced Legions were on the right and left flank. They were formed into three lines. It would not take much for Pompey to break through this line. But Caesar’s Legions would only have to hold the line together long enough for “his secret weapon” to go into effect. But the most important thing for Caesar to do was to keep his legions strong. He could not just ask them to fight. He had to inspire them.
Caesar and Beckett rode to the front and centre of the line.
*Wait here.* Caesar said to Beckett. Beckett held his horse still as Caesar rode out in front of him and turned to face his massive army. 22, 000 men, and they were dead silent.
*Men! I call on you all, to witness how I have sought peace until now. I would never expose you to unnecessary bloodshed, nor to deprive Rome of it’s army. But I have been given no choice. Today when you fight, remember that you are not fighting for me. We are fighting together. We are fighting for Rome. We fight for freedom, and for our homeland, backed by the constitution, our glorious reputation, and against a man who would take all power. I did not want this war. They brought this war to Rome. And they brought this war to you.* Caesar drew his sword and held it high. *Venus: bringer of victory!* He shouted out.
The legions cheered. They chanted “Caesar! Caesar! Caesar!”
Caesar watched over the lines, he made eye contact with as many men as he could. Caesar put his sword away and rode back to his place behind the lines.
*They could defeat an army of 100,000 now.* Caesar said.
*Sir, whether I live or die, I shall earn your gratitude.* Said Centurion Crastinus.
Caesar nodded to Crastinus.
*You will conquer gloriously today, Caesar.*
Caesar led Beckett back to his body guard and battle-signalers behind the lines. Waiting for him there were Antoni, Sulla and Domitius Calvinus. The lines of men looked just like they did in the books. The Legions on both sides created a line of men, three lines deep, that stretched from the Enipus River for the length of two football fields to the line of cavalry at the opposite end. The cavalry is where the battle would be won.
As they rode back to the lines, the chanting filled Beckett’s ears. Beckett turned his horse and rode along with him. Beckett's mind suddenly strayed to the previous day's incident with Ben. Beckett became annoyed that he might have to deal with Ben's threats and bullying again.
*Is something on your mind, young man?* Caesar asked.
*I was playing games with another boy the other day. I hit him in the face with a ball. I'm a little worried he might try to get revenge.* Beckett replied, a little embarrassed.
*No doubt. If he is vain, he will likely take this very personally. In games big or small, strengths and weaknesses never differ. One man or a thousand men will have the same fears.*
Beckett read the story many times. The infantry would charge forward. Caesar’s cavalry, which was 6,000 horsemen smaller than Pompey’s would quickly retreat. As they retreated, Pompey’s horsemen would pursue. When they pursued, Caesar had ordered a back-up line of men to attack the cavalry on foot and turn them back. Once the Pompeian cavalry turned around, the back-up line would attack Pompey’s men from the side. This was Caesar's “flank attack”. By attacking someone from the side, they would be distracted from the forward fighting and were easier to defeat. This was Caesar’s secret weapon. The small force of men who would fight off Pompey’s cavalry would make history. Pompey never saw it coming.
Beckett did not, however, know HOW a small group of back-up soldiers was going to drive off the Pompeian cavalry. On horses, soldiers had a big advantage. How did a small group of men on foot win against a large group of men on horseback?
Caesar sat behind his bodyguards. Sulla, Calvinus, and Antony waited for his instructions.
*We are out-numbered.* Sulla said.
*Sulla,* Antoni replied. *Why so little faith?*
Caesar seemed unbothered by the situation. *Calvinus and I have come up with a plan.* he began. *We will disrupt their cavalry flank Sulla, you will set up a reserve unit behind our small cavalry. Take men from the third line and keep them hidden behind the cavalry and the 10th Legion. When our horsemen are pushed away, Pompey’s men will chase them. That is when we will strike. The reserve unit will attack the horsemen.*
*On foot?* Sulla said, shocked.
*Yes, on foot.* Caesar replied.
*Sir, the Pompeian cavalry is large.* Calvinus said.
*Yes, and they are young and inexperienced. It is unlikely, but it is our best chance to defeat their cavalry.*
*What about our infantry? If we thin the lines any more, Pompey’s men won’t have to work very hard to break through.*
*If we can push back Pompey’s cavalry, the infantry will only have to hold Pompey’s men back for a short time. And they will break through.*
*Very well.* Sulla said. He began to ride off towards his troops to prepare a back-up unit to attack Pompey’s cavalry.
Caesar looked at Beckett and grinned. *General Sulla.* He called out. *Strike at the cavalry’s vanity. Tell the men to aim for their faces. Pompey’s fine young men will fly to save their handsome faces.*
Beckett's eyes went wide. Caesar looked at him and winked.
Eventually the battle started. Horns blared. Beckett watched. Both armies marched towards each other, and Pompey's cavalry charged. Pompey’s cavalry met with Sulla’s. Beckett was glad that he was far enough away to avoid watching the violence. The sight of blood made him sick. Seeing the Veneti admiral being executed still bothered him, and even the sight of Ben’s bloodied face crept back into his mind.
Faster than Beckett expected, the Pompeian cavalry repulsed Caesar’s and gave chase. Then the “secret weapon” was unleashed. Sulla’s back-up force counter-attacked. Just before the two groups collided, Beckett closed his eyes. He could hear his heart beating and off in the distance were the cries and screams and clanging of swords hitting together. He waited a few moments. After a minute of darkness, he heard Caesar’s voice.
*Open your eyes and observe, Master Beckett.*
Beckett opened his eyes and sure enough saw the Pompeian cavalry in full retreat. Incredible.
*And now, Pompey Magnus knows he is defeated.* Caesar commented.
Beckett watched the battlefield. It seemed as though Pompey’s army began to move in slow motion while Caesar’s army continued at a normal pace. Caesar’s men cheered as they continued fighting. For Pompey’s army it was hopeless.
*They are retreating.* Caesar said, staring into the distance. Caesar’s army now attacked Pompey’s army from the front and the left.
Not long after, Pompey's army stopped fighting.
Beckett accompanied Caesar, Antony, and Sulla in Caesar’s procession towards Pompey’s camp. When they arrived, Pompey was gone.
Caesar, Sully, Antoni, and Beckett entered Pompey’s quarters in Pompey's fortification. It was empty. Scrolls of parchment were left on the shelves. On Pompey’s desk sat Pompey’s discarded war helmet.
*He’s gone.* A voice said.
Sulla and Antoni drew their swords and stood ready. A sullen man emerged from the corner of the tent.
*Pompey took what little he needed and left. His men have left too. Pompey will go to Egypt and attempt to raise another army.*
*Marcus Brutus.* Caesar said.
*The defeated Marcus Brutus.* Brutus replied.
*You are defeated, yes. But you are alive. And that makes me happy.*
*My life is yours to do what you wish sir.*
*Then I welcome you back.*
*Truly?* Brutus said. He had expected death, but had received forgiveness.
*Absolutely.* Caesar replied smiling. He held his arms open. Brutus hugged him. Beckett suddenly made the connection. This was the man who would kill Caesar.