Beckett walked outside Caesar's compound and slowly walked towards the city. He was looking for a quiet and dark place to press his return switch.
As he walked, he saw another person, dressed in a cloak, with a hood concealing his or her face.
I need to get away from this guy. Beckett thought to himself.
Beckett picked up the pace. He began walking faster. He moved towards the market area. He came out in the main market area. He looked behind him and the hooded figure was still there.
Am I being followed? Beckett thought.
He looked out into the market. There were far fewer merchants, but a lot of people were still hanging around. I'll lose him in the crowd. Beckett thought to himself. As he began to duck among the people out socialising.
Beckett moved quickly, ducking left, and then cutting in front of other people in the market. He looked behind him. He saw the hooded figure. Keep going. Ditch this guy. Beckett thought.
He followed two men quietly, then cute between them and took a hard right.
Don't look back yet. Just find a doorway to duck into. He thought to himself. He got away from the more open part of the square and moved towards one of the buildings that encircled the market. Beckett got closer, and saw a laneway off to the side. He quickly looked behind him. He couldn't see the hooded person.
He quickly dove into the small alley. He pressed himself up against the wall. He saw his follower walk straight by without looking.
Beckett exhaled. He began to walk further down the empty laneway. He slipped his hand under the rag tied around his wrist, and put his index finger on the button.
*Hey!* A young-sounding male voice called out from behind Beckett.
Beckett turned startled. The hooded figure stood behind him.
*Who are you?* Beckett asked. He took a step back and prepared to run.
The young man removed his hood, revealing a young face and a blonde head of hair. *My name is Gaius Octavius. I am Caesar’s nephew. You are Beckett. They say that you are blessed by Neptune. They say you move through the sea like a fish.*
*What do you want?* Beckett replied. *I came here to see Alexandria. My mother thinks I am in Rhodes studying. She’d kill me if she knew I had come to Egypt.
*I’ve heard of you. You assisted Caesar against the Veneti. I heard your swimming ability is unparalleled.*
*It’s really not that hard-*
*Good. Then you can help me.* Octavius said grinning.
*How? What do you need?* Beckett cringed at the idea of another dangerous mission.
Octavius smiled. *I want you to teach me.*
Beckett was impressed. Octavius was so determined he learned to perform a decent freestyle stroke in a few hours. The two sneaked through the street of Alexandria to a beach far from the harbor where there were few boats. Beckett remembered it taking months to learn what Octavius had learned in less than three hours.
*This is incredible.* Octavius said.
*Remember, move your hips. Most important thing.* Beckett replied. They were words he had often heard, but never spoken before.
*Now, check this out.* Beckett said as he lay back in the water floating. He kept himself afloat with his arms and legs treading the water. *Take in a big breath of air first. The air in your lungs will help you float.*
Octavius did the same. “Fantastic. Perhaps Gaul is not such a barbaric place after all.*
*My home is...* Beckett paused. *It’s not the most exciting place. But I suppose there are lots of opportunities for learning.* Beckett thought about all the different activities he had given up over the years: baseball, violin, swimming. He started to feel a little regret.
*Shall we race to the lighthouse?*
Beckett and Octavius swam for another few hours before returning to dry land. They ate some bread and fruit that Octavius kept in a pouch. Beckett had a bad habit of forgetting to eat while he was in the past. He didn’t realize how hungry he was till he saw the bread.
Beckett sat quietly and bit into the bread. After a few minutes of quiet, Octavius spoke.
*So what did you do before you came to Alexandria? And how did you come to be here?*
Beckett swallowed the small piece of bread. He was not sure what to say. How could he tell his story so that it makes sense?
*Did you work?* Octavius asked.
*No. I attend school. Where I come from all the children learn.*
*What do you learn?*
*Science, math, reading, even art.*
*And swimming, no doubt.*
*Yes. But I don't really do that anymore.*
*Why not?* Octavius asked. *You seem really good at it.*
Beckett sat quietly, trying to remember how and why he had stopped swimming. Eventually, he responded. *I think the other children were better. It stopped being fun.*
*Fun?* Octavius seemed surprised. *I agree, this is fun, but I think it's fun because it's something you can become very good at if you don't quit. If you had continued to swim from the time you started, would you be better now?*
Beckett thought about it. It was a strange question. *I never thought about it that way.*
*My days,* Octavius began, *are consumed with study. Every day I read. I learn Greek. I learn sciences. Years ago, I wanted to quit. Fortunately, I was not allowed. Now it's just something that is a part of me.*
*But why? Why do you do this? Why do you work so hard?*
*At first, I did not know why. Today, I look at the state of Rome. So much has been accomplished in spite of all the corruption and poor management. If we can reduce these problems we can accomplish more. This war has been a waste of resources, a waste of life, and a waste of time. I dream of creating something greater, something where excellence is the standard and not the exception.*
Beckett sat listening, trying to process what Octavius was saying.
*Focus on your task, and you'll see the big picture eventually.* Octavius said. *What tasks currently do you have to deal with? Why did you undertake them?*
*To be honest, I did not undertake them. They were assigned to me.*
*Just like mine. Is there a positive outcome if you move forward bravely?*
*Then regardless of you you arrive where you are, I suggest you act bravely. A poor effort helps no-one.*
Beckett bit off another piece of bread. *I will think about it.* He replied.
Beckett thought about the last few years. He had spent most of his time tolerating school, and not applying himself. He had quit working. He had spent his free time playing video games. The games were fun, but they were never something he thought about getting better at. They were just entertainment. He thought about what Ms Lee and Mr Hashmi had said about him in the staff room. They were right. Beckett used to do a lot, but he had given up when things got hard.
The two sat quietly eating for a few minutes. Beckett began to think about getting back home.
*Have you seen the lighthouse up close?* Octavian asked.
*No, I've only been around the harbour, and in Caesar's compound.* Beckett replied.
*I should show it to you. The architecture is outstanding.*
*Yeah, let's see it.*
*We have to be careful. Ptolemy and Achillas' soldiers are about causing mischief.*
*Well, I'm the one with a talent for mischief, so I should be right at home!* Beckett replied with a smile.
*Yes, but their mischief may involve torturing you if they find out who you are.* Octavian replied.