The small boat rowed out to the fleet. Beckett's clothes had dried somewhat, but he was shivering. With a few minutes to think, Beckett was surprised with himself. Not only had he managed to converse with these men in admittedly basic Latin, but he had also swum for the first time in years. And he hadn't been half bad either.
His Latin also surprised him. He hadn't said anything terribly complicated, but he managed to express himself and understand these men, one of whom was named Antoni. Beckett wondered if this was the famous General Mark Antoni, who he'd learned about while reading up on Caesar.
But those thoughts were quickly replaced by a sense of dread. Beckett's biggest fear before leaving was that he might somehow get stranded in the past. Now, that exact thing was happening, albeit in a way Beckett never considered.
What have you gotten yourself into, he thought to himself. You've got to get the return switch back.
The boat arrived at one of the larger boats of the fleet. A rope was thrown down.
*Up you go, savage* Antoni said.
Beckett climbed the rope to the top of the boat.
Antoni followed and once at the top, they approached the front of the ship. Beckett saw another man staring out into the sea.
*Hail, Caesar.* Antoni spoke.
It's him. Beckett thought to himself.
*I trust you've got a solution, Antoni*. Caesar said.
*Indeed, I do* Antoni replied. *You wanted to find the Veneti commander. This boy will find him.* He pointed at Beckett.
Caesar looked sharply at Antoni. *Explain please, Antoni. We are running out of time.*
*This boy can swim. He is a Gaul. He can find the admiral, and alert us to his location.*
*He can swim?* Caesar turned to Beckett. *Tell me, what is your name?*
*My name is... Beckett.* Beckett replied after being unable to think of a fake name.
*This boy has a strange way of speaking. Is he from one of the local tribes?* Caesar asked Antoni.
*I don't know.* Antoni replied.
Antoni then began whispering to Caesar. The two spoke very quietly, and Beckett couldn't make out what they were talking about.
*You're crazy.* Caesar eventually said, looking back at Beckett. Antoni continued whispering, seemingly undeterred.
Caesar eventually seemed to come to an agreement with Antoni and turned back to Beckett. *Where are you from, boy, one of the dirty Northerners, I suppose?*
Beckett stayed silent. He was starting to understand their language, but he could not think up a quick answer.
Caesar walked over to Beckett. Beckett slowly moved his eyes up to meet Caesar's. His stony face smiled at Beckett. *Beckett, these are my officers. This is Legionary Crastinus of the tenth Legion.* Caesar held his hand towards one of the larger soldiers. *He is one of my best and most loyal warriors, but is assisting my bodyguards today.*
Beckett looked up at Crastinus. Crastinus looked down at Beckett and nodded.
*Tenth Legion, first cohort.* Crastinus said. Beckett heard the words but did not understand the meaning.
*What does that mean?* Beckett asked.
*That means he is the first man on the battlefield to kill.* Antoni said.
*And this is my top strategist and cavalry master, Praetor Titus Atius Labienius.*
Beckett recognized the name from his reading.
*Your small size and skill will help Rome bring order to Gaul.* Caesar said, as they looked over the large expanse of sea. Far beyond the Roman ships were a number of larger ships.
*How, sir?* Beckett asked.
*Our most resourceful spy was killed in a recent raid just south of here. We have been without an effective spy for too long. Without a man for reconnaissance, we are ill prepared for a battle. I have lost too many men because of this. Strength does not rely on physical force. It relies on intelligent strategy.*
*And how will I help you? I do not know any strategy.*
*You may leave strategy to me. It is merely your talent I require.*
*Talent?* Beckett replied.
*Neptune watches over you. I'm afraid she is not concerned with our fates. If we fight these Veneti head on, it will cost both sides many lives. If you can get onto one of those boats, a great many lives can be saved. Do you know what we are doing here young Beckett?” Caesar asked.
*Sir, you are about to engage the Veneti in a naval battle.* Beckett replied.
*Yes. The Veneti are troublesome. The stories of a young Gallic prince traveling about and stirring up rebellion against my army are disturbing enough, but these pirates must be dealt with immediately. Rome must control all shores on her borders. If the Veneti cannot be subdued, Rome will be at their mercy. Do you see those ships out there on the horizon?*
*Yes. They are the Veneti.*
*Indeed. The Veneti ships are better suited to the conditions of these waters, than are our Mediterranean vessels. They have thicker and stronger hulls and stand taller than our boats in order to handle the stronger tides. However, we will attempt a new strategy.*
*But how will you do this? The Veneti ships are...* Beckett paused to remember the correct word form. *Bigger.*
*Yes. But there is always a weakness. In battle we shall simply exploit this weakness. The Veneti ships rely on their sails’ ability to harness the wind and cut through the water. We will disable their sails and siege their vessels using these.* Caesar pointed towards the long poles on the deck of the ship. At the end of each pole was a long hook. *It is a little crude, but will be necessary in this battle. We hope to capture their commander first, and force the other ships into retreat. Then we will chase them down one by one and take their ships.*
*Will they definitely run?*
*Once their leader is captured, they will retreat.*
Caesar gazed in the direction of the Veneti ships. *Stand tall boy.* Caesar said to Beckett who was slouching. Beckett stood up straight.
*How are you going to find the commander of the Veneti?* Beckett asked.
*He is not.* Antoni spoke up. *You are.*
*I am?* Beckett answered. *How will I do that?* He stuttered as he spoke.
Antoni walked towards Becett and grabbed him by the collar. He dragged Beckett to the side of the boat, lifted him up to the side of the boat, then pushed him. Beckett off the side of the boat into the cold and rough waters of the Atlantic. Beckett came to the surface of the water, and looked up at the boat. Antoni stared back down at him and shouted.
*Now go. And let us know where and when you find the commander.*