Beckett woke the next morning still wearing his clothes. He remembered starting to read The History of Rome. He started at the end of Caesar's life. This was the only part he knew about from Crisis Shock. He started there, and then went back to the beginning of Caesar's life and read forward.
He had read a bit about Caesar's early life, but had fallen asleep sometime after he got to Caesar's battles in Gaul. Caesar had been appointed the governor of Gaul. After some of the Gallic tribes launched attacks on Roman camps, Caesar began a war against any tribe that showed aggression. One battle stuck out. That was the battle against the Veneti in modern day Brittany in an area called Tellany. The Veneti were a sea-faring tribe, and Caesar had beaten them in a naval battle called the battle of Morbihan.
Beckett lifted himself from his bed and went back to his desk. He sat down, ready to read a bit more when his computer made a beeping noise.
He moved the mouse on his computer to turn the screen on, and he saw that there was a message from his friend, Annie Kim.
Come over? It read.
Beckett looked at his watch; it was 8:30.
On my way, he typed.
Annie's house was a 15 minutes away. Beckett got out of the house after telling his father a little about what he had learned about Caesar and the Veneti.
Beckett was a little surprised to get the message from Annie. Annie and Beckett usually hung on on Friday's after school. On Saturdays she was usually studying or getting extra tutoring. Beckett's friendship with Annie sometimes surprised him. She was a straight-A student, while Beckett was barely passing his classes as indicated by the previous day's chat with Mr Hashmi. They both liked video games; that was their biggest connection. Whenever a new game came out, Beckett and Annie were over at Annie's on the Friday playing it until 10pm when Annie's mother drew the line, and sent Beckett home and Annie to bed. If Annie ever resisted, her mother, who spoke excellent English, would begin shouting in Korean. That meant business.
Annie grew up in Canada, but still spent summers in Korea where her father worked most of the year at a big electronics company. They still chatted occasionally online, but Beckett often found himself hanging out with other classmates, like James or Lin from his home room class.
Beckett thought about how little he'd seen Annie since she came back from Korea so far. He wondereded why she asked him over: a new video game, perhaps?
Suddenly, a familiar face appeared walking towards Beckett but on the opposite side of the street. It was Ben Michaels.
Nuts, Beckett thought. Not really the person I want to see on the weekend.
Ben was in the same grade as Beckett. Fortunately, he was in a different class, so Beckett was able to avoid him most of the time. Ben a mean streak in him. Beckett was quiet and shy, making him an easy target. Ben knew just how to pester a student and avoid getting in trouble. It was not just the tripping and the shoving; it was the terror he could inflict just by looking at you and smiling that devilish grin. That grin said something far worse. I'm going to do something to you, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
Ignore him, Beckett. The teachers would say. Since Ben rarely touched anyone, the teachers seemed to ignore him. He was just a pest, and the teachers seemed more focused on telling students to ignore him, rather than telling him to stop. Running into Ben on a weekend was potential for disaster. There were no teachers around to witness the kind of annoying things Ben would do when no one was watching. He might rip your shirt collar, or trip you. He would occasionally punch Beckett in the arm. It wasn't particularly painful, but it did remind Beckett of his place at school. Ben was strong, and intimidating. Beckett just didn't know how to respond.
Ben saw Beckett and crossed the road, that large grin on his face. Beckett stared ahead, pretending not to see him. Ben got in front of Beckett and walked straight up to him.
"How's it going, Beckett?" Ben asked, the tone in his voice telling Beckett that he was not genuinely interested in how Beckett was feeling.
"Fine, Ben." Beckett answered looking at the ground. Beckett tried to move around Ben, but Ben got in his way. Beckett slouched his shoulders forward.
"Where are you going?" Ben asked.
Beckett stood silently for a moment, then replied. "Nowhere."
"Going to your girlfriend's house?"
"Annie's not my girlfriend." Beckett mumbled.
"Yeah, why would she date a loser like you?" Ben said, and then quickly pushed Beckett. Beckett lost his footing, fell backwards, and landed on his rear in the wet grass next to the sidewalk. Beckett felt the cold dampness spread onto his legs and lower back, but worse was the humiliation. This was the real terror of Ben: his ability to make you feel powerless and small. Ben rarely touched anyone... at school at least. Beckett supposed that outside of school hours, Ben was a little more daring. He looked up at Ben, who simply laughed, and walked away. "See you later, loser."
Beckett stood up, and looked down at his backside. His jeans were wet and there was a large grass stain where he had hit the ground.
Nuts. He thought to himself as he continued on his way to Annie's. --- Beckett climbed the stairs to Annie's front door and knocked. Annie's mother opened.
"Good morning, Beckett." She said. "Come in. Annie is downstairs".
Beckett took off his shoes and walked through the living room to the stairway. Beckett hadn't seen much of Annie lately. After she came back to Burnaby, she'd kept to herself a bit. Beckett still came over on most Fridays to play video games after class, but Annie always seemed to be distracted, as if she'd been thinking about something else. Beckett assumed it was just more pressure to get good grades.
Beckett walked down the hall and to the door that led down to the basement. "Hey, Annie," he called out, as he walked down. "What's going on?"
There was no reply.
"Annie?" Beckett called out again.
Beckett looked around the basement. The TV was off and the video game controllers were neatly put away. The desk in the corner had Annie's books on it, but she was nowhere to be seen.
"Annie?" Beckett called out again.
Suddenly, a small hatch on the wall under the stairs popped open. Annie emerged.
Annie's black hair was in a pony tail, as it usually was; however, she was dressed quite differently. Instead of her typical jeans and top, she was wearing a pair of denim overalls. She was breathing heavily, and was blinking her eyes. Annie took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes for a moment. Beckett had seen this before, it meant she'd been staring at a computer screen for a while.
"What are you doing under there?" Beckett asked.
"Working on something. Come in and I'll show you." Annie replied as she dropped down and climbed back through the hole in the wall. "Replace the panel when you come in."
Beckett bent over and looked into the small hole. There was faint light, so Beckett could not see very far into the space. He got down, walked and crawled through the the hole. After replacing the panel on the wall, he started crawling.
Beckett emerged in a small room in the corner of the basement. The room had no door, just the a hole in the wood panelling. Based on Beckett's understanding of the layout of Annie's house, he figured that they were under Annie's upstairs bedroom. The walls were unfinished, just wood, and it was a bit colder than the rest of the house. The room was quite large. The floor was concrete, and the light was provided by a bright lamp that Annie had plugged in and hung from the ceiling. However, there was something in particular that caught Beckett's attention.
There was a strange fibre-glass panel in the corner, roughly 2 meters on each side. At each corner a wooden beam was fixed. All four beams were connected at the top through metal scaffolding that ran above the fibre-glass floor. Cables ran from the bottom of the floor to both a power source on the wall, as well as to a computer that had been set up on a small desk with an old chair. While the wooden poles and scaffolding made the entire contraption look quite ragged, the fibre-glass floor was quite clean. It was a strange contrast to the rest of the room, which was quite bare. The air was quite stale and there was a scent of sawdust filling the room.
"What on earth is this?" Beckett asked?
"Oh, just you wait, Beckett." Annie said. "This is gonna blow your mind."
"You finished Crisis Shock in three days the first time you played it." Beckett replied. "Can it top that?"
"Easily. You won't even remember that in a few minutes. This one takes the cake." Annie said, quoting Lieutenant Jansen, the protagonist from Crisis Shock. "By the way, where did you disappear to yesterday after class?"
"Mr Hashmi wanted to talk."
"Yeah, this year hasn't started off very well. And I've got that biography for social studies class. By the way, who are you doing yours on?"
"Louis Riel. You?"
"Julius Caesar." Beckett replied. "Know anything about him?"
"Let's take a look." Annie sat down at the computer and went onto wikipedia. While she read, Beckett looked over the floor. There were wires connecting the floor back to the computer. Whatever this floor was, it was controlled from Annie's computer.
"Is this something you did at science camp?" Beckett asked. "Is this what you were working on over the summer?"
"No," Annie replied. "The actual wiring and construction was stuff I learned there, but the real cool stuff here is the program I wrote." She was clearly excited. "Alright. You want to see what this is? Come here."
Beckett walked over to the computer and stood behind Annie.
"Check this out." She said and opened a video file; it was Annie and she was at school and filming herself with her phone.
"My name is Annie Kim and today is October 4th, 2017. I am currently at Wilfred Laurier Elementary School and it is precisely 3:05pm. Any minute now, Beckett and I are going to walk out the door. I will look over here at where I am currently hiding and smile. I'll be wearing a black jacket and jeans. Beckett will be wearing jeans and his green baseball jacket."
Beckett looked down at his clothes; he was wearing the same thing.
A few seconds later, the video showed Beckett and Annie walking out of the front doors. This Annie looked over at the one filming and smiled, and then continued moving along and talking to Beckett. There were two Annies in the frame at the same time! The one making the video of herself, and the one in the background talking to Beckett.
Annie stopped the video.
Beckett was perplexed. "What the heck was that? What did I just see?"