The sun was setting. Beckett was riding a horse, following Caesar through the mud. One time, when Beckett had been on his uncle's ranch, he was thrown from a horse. Beckett hadn't ridden since. But when Caesar brought the two horses to the front of the tent, Beckett didn't hesitate. Nestor gave him a boost, he got on top of the horse, and followed Caesar.
As he rode, he could barely see out from under the golden dome-shaped helmet he wore. The cheek guards flapped, slamming his face with each step.
They arrived at the forest and stopped. The soldiers were all standing in long lines, four men thick. They faced the forest. The forest was thick except for one area about 4 meters long that had been cut as a path. This is where the Gauls would likely emerge.
On his horse, Antoni rode up alongside Beckett. *That armour looks good on you.* He said. Beckett wore a hardened leather vest around his chest. Beckett was terrified, but exhilarated. He saw Anotoni had the watch with the return-switch on it wrapped around his wrist. *If we survive this, you'll get your jewellery back.* He rode away.
Beckett could see Sulla moving about, ensuring all the soldiers were in the correct place. He checked everything. He gauged the distance between the soldiers; he checked the sharpness of their blades; he slammed the fronts of the soldiers' shields with end of his own to check the sturdiness. Sulla was thorough. The lines were 4 men thick, and 50 rows long. It looked as though the men in the middle were a bit taller and thicker than the rest. Makes sense, Beckett thought to himself. They are right where the Gauls are going to come through the forest.
Antoni turned to Beckett and smiled. *Watch closely. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but I tell you, it works every time.* He dismounted his horse and joined the soldiers.
*Stay back here.* Caesar told Beckett. *No matter what happens, stay away from the fighting.*
Eventually, Sulla stopped moving, and took his place with the soldiers.
*The forest will force the Gauls into a bottle neck. But once they get out, they will all come at us fast.* Caesar said to Beckett.
Antoni moved into the formation and took a place in the front line. He held his shield firmly and stared at the opening in the forest.
The soldiers were silent. Beckett watched as the all stood still, swaying only slightly. It was something to behold, 200 men standing in a perfect formation, making only the slightest moves. The silence created an eerie atmosphere. Slowly, however, noise started to emerge from the forest. Shouting and screaming and the sounds of feet tramping through the muddy path came out of the forest.
Caesar sat straight and motionless on his horse.
The noise from the forest got louder. Beckett watched the opening. Men began to emerge. Men with long hair and long beards emerged from the forest and formed a mass that slowly started spreading along the edge of the forest, matching them up against the Roman army. The men were armed with a range of weapons: axes, swords, and spears. They held them up and screamed. Beckett watched as they spread their line haphazardly. They lacked the organisation of the Romans. There was no noticeable system. They were just going to attack. The mass of soldiers was also very thick in the middle. This mass choked the path in the forest where the Gauls were marching. Beckett could see there were many warriors who simply couldn't get out to join in the fight.
The Legionaries just waited.
Eventually, the Gauls could not hold themselves back any longer. One charged. Another followed. Then all the warriors ran towards the Roman formation. Sulla blew a whistle. The men at the front of the formation were pounded. Axes and swords fell on the Legionaries' shields, but the men stood their ground. They absorbed a few hits, then they would lower their shields just a bit, and would stab over the top. Beckett watched as the Gallic warriors screamed and fell. Beckett was not close enough to see exactly what happened, but the screams told him enough. Gauls fell; the Romans stood their ground and not one was struck.
Sulla blew the whistle again. The men in the first row stepped to the right and began to move towards the back of the formation. Now the second line was the first line, and the process repeated. The former second line now took the blows from the enemy warriors. Meanwhile the former first line came to the back and started to catch their breath. Some got right back into formation, others took a few moments to check themselves for injury and a few were clearly quite strained from the fight and needed more time to prepare themselves to fight again.
Caesar surveyed. He turned to Beckett. *Not one casualty.* He said.
Beckett continued to watch as all the soldiers got back into the formation. Beckett now understood. They would rotate forward again, and eventually be at the front to fight. In the meantime, they were able to rest and regain their strength. The Gauls, however, continued to attack one after the other with no organisation, only ferocity. But that ferocity was met with patience and timing. Suddenly, both Caesar and Beckett noticed a commotion. On the left edges of the Roman formation, a number of Gauls emerged from a smaller opening in the forest. That side of the formation had been less busy during the fight, but now they were suddenly pushed by a number of fighters. The formation started to collapse a little.
*Stay here.* Caesar said, and he rode over to the left side of the formation. Beckett watched Caesar ride away, but his attention came back to the middle of the formation where the most action was happening. The whistle blew again, and once again, the soldiers at the front moved to the back. Once again, the second line had become the first line. However, there was a bit more noise as one of the soldiers came back screaming. Beckett watched carefully. One soldier held his hand over his face. Blood came through his fingers, and there were a number of other cuts on his arms and deep red blood came out. The soldier walked well behind the formation, dropped his sword and shield, staggered a bit further, and fell to his knees. Another soldier came to tend to the injured man.
Beckett looked away for a few seconds, then slowly brought his eyes back to the injured man, who was writhing and still holding a hand over his face.
Beckett looked beyond the injured soldier. The other Legionaries were now back in formation. Some looked back at the injured man. But slowly their gaze returned to the fight in front of them. The formation, however, had thinned. It had thinned as the injured man and the man tending to him had left the formation.
Then, from the right side of the line, came Antoni came over. He spoke briefly to the injured man. Beckett couldn't make out what they were saying, but after, Antoni took the man's place in the line. Beckett saw the return switch on Antoni's wrist.
This is my chance, Beckett thought. He attempted to lift his leg to dismount the horse, but it felt as though it weighed a tonne. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and lifted. He then dropped down from his horse and ran towards Antoni, who was now standing in the formation. Beckett ran towards the injured man. He picked up the shield, and he ran to row of soldiers and stood right behind Antoni, who was now one back from the front. Beckett stood behind him in third. The shield was nearly as tall as Beckett; he could just see over the top. Antoni's sword hand lay relaxed at his side. Beckett reached for the wristband. He was just about there... The whistle blew, and the soldier at the front moved back. Antoni moved forward, and the wristband was gone. With his shield on his left arm began blocking and pushing off the attacking Gauls. Beckett was now right behind the front. He could hear grunting and screaming. Beckett looked behind him. The men who had just fought were a meter away catching their breath.
Antoni's sword hand was now closer to Beckett, but it kept moving; Beckett would get close, and then Antoni would move, striking the attacker. Every time Beckett got close, Antoni moved.
The whistle blew.
Antoni stopped fighting, stepped to the right, and began moving to the back of the formation. He caught Beckett's face just after passing. *What in Pluto's-* he began.
Beckett could just see over the top of the shield. He saw a charging Gaul, so he lifted the shield and braced himself. The impact hit him. Beckett nearly fell back, but was just able to keep his footing. Blow after blow rained down; every muscle in Beckett's body pumped as he held the shield against the blow. Beckett dropped the sword and use two arms to brace the shield in front of him. Don't fight. Just hold the line. Beckett thought as he watched the soldier next to him hold the shield with far less effort while stabbing back.
Barely 30 seconds had passed, but it felt like 20 minutes. Beckett was breathing hard. He was exhausted. Blow the whistle already!
The whistle blew. Beckett stepped to the right, and moved back towards the back. Beckett stumbled back, dropped the shield, and put his head between his knees. Then everything went black. ---
Beckett opened his eyes. In the darkness, he could hear voices and smell burning wood. The voices did not belong to Romans.
Beckett sat up. He was still in his Legionary armour, and he had a splitting headache. A voice spoke out to him. Beckett did not understand.
*I’m sorry. I don’t understand you.* Beckett said as he held his hand up to shield his face from the heat and smoke.
There was a pause. Then a younger voice spoke.
*He wants to know when the Romans started to use child warriors.*
Beckett wondered what was going on. He looked to the voice speaking Latin to him. It was a young boy, not much older than Beckett. He was dressed in armour similar to what the Gauls wore in the battle Beckett had just been through.
*They don’t. I was unlucky to be there. I did not want to fight.*
The boy translated back to the others then turned back to Beckett. *The Romans were victorious. But when we were forced to retreat one of our spies took you hostage to help us make our escape.*
Beckett looked around. There were a few warriors sitting by the fire. One stood out as particularly large. He wore leather armor around his chest. His shield sat next to him on a log by the fire. What stuck out to Beckett more was the long, orange, wavy hair. The man spoke again. He had a thick accent but his Latin was perfect.
*We shall fight off the Romans and any others who wish to threaten us. The Romans invade our land, kill our people, enslave our children and take our possessions. And we will not stand for it. We will not be remembered as people who gave up their pride and dignity.*
Beckett found some courage. *Why do you fight the Romans? They have so much to give you. They have technology, leadership, philosophy, and law. Why do you resist?*
Vercingetorix looked at Beckett. *Here in what you call Gaul,* Vercingetorix said. *We have different values. We have different beliefs. They are sacred to us. Perhaps the Romans have things that may help us. Perhaps we will learn from them. But we will not learn them at the expense of our freedom. We must choose it ourselves.*
*But Caesar is just…* Beckett tried to interrupt.
*Caesar!* Vercingetorix seemed offended by the name. *Caesar will only get one thing by conquering Gaul. He seeks power. He will not stop until Gaul is his, or until he dies. But make no mistake, boy. What he does is unjust.*
Beckett looked at Vercingetorix. Beckett could not understand why the Gauls did not just join Rome and become more civilized.
*I hope that if you are ever treated unjustly, you will have the strength to stand up for yourself.* Vercingetorix said as he stood up.
Like Caesar, when Vercingetorix stood tall looked twice his real size. Beckett sat up straight and put his shoulders back.
Shouts emerged from the distance. The men sitting and standing around the fire quickly got up and ran tot their horses.
Vercingetorix slowly walked to his horse, mounted it, and rode off into the forest.
It took an hour for Beckett to walk back to the camp. His hair was a mess, and his face covered in mud. He had left the helmet, but still wore the leather armour Caesar had given him. He came up to the wall of the Roman camp, where he found Antoni waiting.
*Well, Pluto spat you back out!* Antoni said, grinning.
*Give it to me.* Beckett replied.
*All yours.* Anotoni tossed the watch to Beckett. Beckett took the watch and walked away.
*Boy!* Antoni shouted.
Beckett turned back.
*You dropped this.* Antoni said as he threw the small pouch of coins.
Beckett caught the pouch and looked at it in his hand, remembering that he agreed to help Caesar.
*Tell Caesar I will be back later.* Beckett said. Then right in front of Antoni, he pushed the button on the return switch and disappeared.
Suddenly, Beckett was back in Annie's basement. Beckett landed on the glass platform. He dropped the small pouch of coins which fell onto the ground. The coins spilt onto the platform. Annie got out of her chair and looked at Beckett adorned in leather armour and covered in mud.
“Dude”, Annie began. “What did you get yourself into? You weren't supposed to be gone that long! What happened?" Annie asked. "Where did you get the armour? Why is your face all muddy?"
*I'm fine. Thanks for asking.* Beckett replied, still speaking Latin.
"Huh? What did you say?"
"Ha! I'm OK. Your machine works."
"You weren't supposed to be gone that long. What happened?"
"How long was I gone?"
"I set it up so that every hour is 5 minutes here. You were gone 2 hours! So that's 1 full day! Seriously, what did you do there? Did you find Caesar?"
"Oh, I found him. I worked for him, as you might have noticed." Beckett looked down at his clothing. "So what did you see? What happened on this end?"
"I wanted to see if it would have any impact on the timeline. So I monitored from my computer. Wanna see?" Annie went back to her computer. "So, when I went back, I was only gone for a few minutes and I didn't interact with anyone. So no impact was noted. Look here." Annie pointed to two windows on her computer screen. "That first one is the past before I went." She pointed to a series of 1s and 0s on the screen. "But look here." She pointed at the second window. It too was 1s and 0s.
"Are they the same?" Beckett asked.
"Yes. My trip had no impact on the timeline. But let's look at yours." Annie opened two new windows. "Look here. This is what the timeline looked like before you left. You can see the other one changes a little bit."
"So, I changed the past?" Beckett asked.
"Well, look here. If we zoom out, eventually it gets back to the way it is in the first window. Any impact you had reduced to nothing after a while. It's as if you were never there."
"So no alternate timelines, huh?"
"Doesn't look like it."
Beckett sat back in his chair.
"So are you gonna tell me about what happened?" Annie asked.
"Yes. But Can I change first?"
"I'll get some of my brother's old clothes. Wanna tell me about it over a round of Crisis Shock?"
"That might be a little too intense for me right now. How about a few rounds of Block Wars?"
"Block Wars? We never play that anymore. Haven't played really since that first week we got it!"
"I think something a little calmer would be good right now."