© Joseph Switzer
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Chapter 1: The unhappiest of places
Beckett sat in the school office waiting for the principal.
He looked at the newspaper on the chair next to him. One of the headlines: “Crisis Shock is a video game for smart people -Vidula Ranasinghe”.
"Principal Hashmi will be with you in a few moments," the secretary said, placing the phone back in the cradle.
“What are you in for? Get into a scrap with Ben?”
“Videogames in class?”
“Not cheating, was it?”
“On what test? It’s September.”
“True. Doing your homework?”
"Oh,” was all Beckett could muster. That was it.
The door to the principal’s office opened.
"Mr. Jamieson. Good to see you. Come into my office," the principal said, before looking back at the newspaper. “And bring that paper please.”
"Coming," Beckett muttered. He grabbed the newspaper and walked to the door. He looked at the part of the floor where the linoleum of the school's admin office became the carpet of Mr Hashmi's office, sighed and stepped across.
"Have a seat," Mr Hashmi said, taking his own seat behind the desk. "Do you know why you're here?" He gestured towards the plastic and metal chair in front of Beckett.
Beckett put the newspaper on the principal’s desk. "Is it about my homework?" he replied as he sat down.
"That's part of it. But it's not as simple as that. We're not worried about the actual homework. But the fact that you aren't doing your homework tells us something important."
Beckett looked at the principal for a few seconds.
"It tells us about your attitude, and that you're not starting the year the way we wanted you to. We talked last year about how you would have to work harder this year. We let you pass those classes so you wouldn't have to stay behind. That's what used to happen when I was in elementary school."
"I know," Beckett replied.
“But we can still consider putting you into back into one of the grade 5 classes.”
Beckett winced. “I really didn’t like Mr Baxter’s class.”
"I feel like I'm repeating myself. We know that you are smart; we know that you have it in you to do well. A few of your teachers have told me about how enthusiastic and animated you become when they overhear you talking about movies, comic books, and games. They wish you had the same kind of zeal for your school work."
Beckett shuffled his feet under the chair.
"Also, Madame Durand says you're one of the more talkative students in French class. That's impressive, Beckett. Most of your classmates hate talking in French class."
"Why do you like French class so much?"
"I don't," Beckett responded. "It's just because my father taught me Latin until I was in the 5th grade. You know that. It makes French easier."
"It's still impressive. Just because you have an advantage, it doesn't make it any less impressive."
“We only spoke briefly last year. I was dealing with other issues at the school, which I’m sure you remember. I’m sorry we didn’t get much time to talk. I really should have asked you, what’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you first moved here you seemed like a real hard worker. You were doing extra-curricular activities: swimming, karate... Are you still swimming?”
“No. I stopped.”
“No. I quit.”
“I’m seeing a bit of a pattern. Now your school work is slipping out from under you. What are you doing in your free time?”
Beckett stayed quiet.
“Video games?” the principal asked. “Nothing wrong with that, but you need to put in the effort with school. Your friend Annie gets tops grades; why don’t you study with her?”
“We just hang out. We play video games.”
Mr Hashmi looked at the newspaper on his desk and saw the headline about Crisis Shock. “Have you read the article about Crisis Shock? The boss at Earth Search was saying it’s a good introduction for young people to history. It’s got lots of references to Rome and Julius Caesar. Do you play it?”
“Yeah,” Beckett mumbled.
“Doesn’t it make you curious about history?”
“No. Not really.”
“You have a social studies assignment for Ms Johnstone due in a month, who have you chosen for your biography?"
"I haven't thought about it yet."
Mr Hashmi looked down at the newspaper again. "Then I'll choose for you. You like video games. You know Latin. Your father is something of an expert on ancient history. You'll do Julius Caesar. What do you know about him?"
Beckett thought about Crisis Shock.
I'll finish what Caesar started... the game’s antagonist Commander Bison said before murdering a room full of his subordinates.
"Only from Crisis Shock and movies," Beckett replied. "He was a Roman leader, or something. He got killed."
"That's a start," the principal laughed, shaking his head. “Do you know why he was killed?"
“Well, you’ll find out, I guess. You've got the weekend to begin."
“What? I thought I got to choose!”
“Do you have another idea?”
“Well, no, not really.”
“Then the choice is made for you.”
“It’s just… another thing I’m gonna do badly.”
“I suggest you make an effort. Otherwise, we will strongly consider putting you back in Mr Baxter’s class.”
Beckett felt his throat tighten.
"Do you have any questions?"
"Can I go?"
"Yes. Go. It’s due in a month, right? I’d still get started tonight!" Mr Hashmi replied as Beckett turned towards the door. "Oh, and we sent an official report-letter to your house about your start to the year. It should arrive today."
Beckett closed left the principal’s office and closed the door. He went wide-eyed.
Wait, they sent what?
Chapter 2: the House on Collingwood Drive
Beckett ran hard.
Beckett's house was a 25-minute walk from school. He was about to make it in 11 minutes.
Beckett saw his home and slowed his pace. He took a few moments to calm his breathing. It was close to 4 o'clock and there was still some light out. In Burnaby, British Columbia, the sky is often grey from September until June. If it isn’t t raining, it always looks as though it might suddenly start.
Beckett caught his breath and moved towards the front stairs. The large brown house on Collingwood Drive stood out because of the pink front door. He cut across the neighbour's un-mowed lawn and moved towards his house from the right side to avoid being seen from his father's study window on the left. Beckett climbed the concrete steps, careful with each step to not make a sound. He slowly put the key in the lock. Once in, he turned the key and lifted the door to prevent the hinge from squeaking.
After entering, he pulled the door closed. He looked at the floor below the mail slot: nothing. If the mail had come, his father had already taken it. Beckett made his way down the hall stepping carefully to avoid the squeaky floorboards. He stayed close to the wall where the floor was less worn. Beckett's uncle and cousins lived on a ranch in rural Alberta. When they would go out in the nearby woods up in the mountains, they had been taught how to avoid making noise in case they came across a bear. Although Beckett's uncle could be obnoxious at times, the lessons still had their use. As he made his way towards his bedroom, he could hear the sound of paper rustling coming from his father's study.
Nuts, Beckett thought. He shrugged his shoulders and frowned. There was no need to hide it anymore. He walked towards his room, stepping on the middle floorboard.
The floor creaked.
"Beckett? Is that you? Come talk to me please," Beckett's father called.
"Yeah, coming," Beckett responded.
Beckett entered his father's study. Opposite the door and in front of the window that Beckett had avoided was his father's desk. There was an opened letter on the desk; it must have been the report from school.
"So what's happening?" his father asked.
Beckett took a quick breath. Excuses flashed to mind. Other students are bugging me. The teachers don't like me. But looking at his father's stern expression, he knew it would not work. "I don't know, dad. I don't like school. It's not a lot of fun," Beckett replied.
His father turned in his chair to face Beckett. "It's school; the point is to learn. I'd rather you enjoyed that, but if you don't, well, you need to do the work."
"I'm doing the work, dad. I'm just not... doing it well."
"I thought you were going to make an effort this year. It's barely been a few weeks, and already the principal is concerned," his father responded, holding the reports up.
"Dad, I don't know. I just... don't know. And Mr Hashmi said… he might put me back in Mr Baxter’s class."
His father let out a deep breath.
“Hey, that might not be a bad option.”
“It doesn’t have to happen, but if it does, maybe you just need to extra time.”
“Dad, I’m not… stupid. I don’t wanna be with the grade 5 kids.”
“Then you’ve got to do the grade 6 work! You know, I remember when you were so excited to go to school, and to go out to all your extra activities. Now you sit around and play Crisis… Shock all the time."
“Dad, it’s the only time I… feel like… like… me.”
"I just wish I could get you to see that school doesn't have to be this painful experience. There are so many opportunities for you if you do well in school. So many great things to learn about."
"Like what, dad? No one is able to show me why any of this is interesting. We sit in math class and do math problems. We sit in history class and the teacher makes us read books. No one ever tells us why we do it. And now, I have a stupid assignment about a historical figure who's been dead for two million years. It's just so boring."
"It's not supposed to entertain you. Your teachers have more important things to worry about than entertaining you. It's supposed to prepare you for the future."
"Prepare me for what? I have no idea why we study this stuff. How is math and history gonna help me find a job?"
"Look, just do the work!"
“Can we move back to Ottawa?” Beckett groaned.
“You were way nicer back then. Before you got fired.”
“I quit, Beckett.”
“Like father, like son.”
They locked eyes. Eventually, Beckett looked away.
"This assignment, who is it about?" his father asked.
"Caesar. Julius Caesar." Beckett replied.
"Do you know anything about him?"
"Just from TV and video games. He was a leader. He got killed. They mention him in 'Crisis Shock'."
"Who killed him?"
"Other senators. In 'Crisis Shock' the leader kills all his advisors because he doesn't trust him. He says, 'I did what Caesar should have done'."
"See? History doesn't have to be so boring, then, does it?"
"I guess not. Does this mean I can play video games this weekend?"
"No. When is the assignment due?"
"In two months."
"Let's see if I can find it,” Beckett’s father said as he got up and went into the closet. After rummaging around for a few minutes, he pulled out a cardboard box and set it down on the carpet. He removed the lid and began pulling out books. "I think I have a few books on Rome here."
"I guess this is my weekend, huh?"
"Yup, I've already locked your video games up, and your computer locks are on as well."
“Got it! Here you go, son,"
Beckett took the book and read the title: The Roman Empire.
"This one might help too."
Beckett looked at the second book: Caesar, the Gallic War.
"This is about how he conquered Gaul, which is Western Europe today. It's a tougher read, but maybe you'll get something from it. You can still use your computer, but stick to Wikipedia and other history websites."
Beckett took the books in his hand and looked briefly at the covers. The Roman Empire had an image of Roman soldiers marching. The Gallic War had a face on it, Caesar's no doubt. He noted the large forehead and nose. He tucked the books under his arm and headed towards his room.
"Let me know how it goes," Beckett's father said. "It can be complicated, but I can help you if you get stuck on anything."
"Thanks dad." Beckett replied.
I'd rather be playing Crisis Shock, Beckett thought. He entered his room and put the books on his desk. He sat down and opened The Roman Empire.
Beckett looked at his computer. He moved the mouse to wake up his computer, and opened a browser, which went right to youtube.com. Beckett typed Julius Caesar into the search bar.
I'll start with a video, he thought. But then he looked back at the book. On the first page, he saw a painting of a man on a horse crossing a river. 'Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon', the caption read.
Beckett began reading.
Chapter 3: Annie's Basement
Beckett woke the next morning still wearing his clothes. One word was in his mind: Veneti. It was a tribe in Gaul that Caesar had defeated in a naval battle.
Beckett 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.
Beckett looked the clock on his screen; it was 8:30.
On my way!
Annie's house was 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.
Suddenly, a familiar face appeared walking towards Beckett but on the opposite side of the street. It was Ben Michaels.
Nuts. Not really the person I want to see on the weekend.
Ben saw Beckett and crossed the road, a 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. With his shoulders slouched forward, Beckett tried to move around Ben.
"Where are you going?" Ben asked, blocking Beckett.
Beckett stood silently for a moment, then replied. "Nowhere."
"Going to your girlfriend's house?"
"Annie's not my girlfriend."
"Yeah, why would she date a loser like you?" Ben 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. Outside of school hours, Ben was a little more daring. He looked up at Ben, who simply laughed, and walked away. "Geez, I barely pushed you. 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’d 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.
"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 put away. The desk in the corner had Annie's books on it, but she was nowhere to be seen.
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. "And 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. He got down and crawled through the hole. After replacing the panel on the wall, he followed Annie.
Beckett emerged in a room in the corner of the basement. The room had no door, just a hole in the wood paneling. 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.
“Are we under your room?” Beckett asked.
“Yes, but that’s not super important,” Annie replied, pointing to the floor.
“Holy crap!” Beckett was stunned.
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.
"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 and Annie looked at Beckett’s clothes; he was wearing that same outfit.
“You need to get some new clothes,” Annie said.
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.
"What the heck was that? What did I just see?"
Annie grinned. "Time travel."
Chapter 4: A brief trip
"Holy cow!" Beckett said, though it immediately seemed inadequate, considering what he had just seen. "Hold on... what... how... how did you... just... No way!"
"I did," Annie replied.
"Now that is where it gets complicated," Annie replied and turned back to her computer. "Think of time like a computer code. It's just a bunch of 1s and 0s and depending on where those numbers are, you can change the program. I figured out time's code, and now I can look back over that time and insert your code into it. But, your code isn't part of the pattern, so you can roam freely. Your code can move around the past code."
"Does that make you part of history? Does your code become part of it, or can you come back out?"
"You can come back out, but I don't know what happens to the past code. I only went back for a few minutes. I need someone to go back for a few hours. Then I can see the impact that their presence will have on time."
"How will you know?"
"Look." Annie maximised a window on her screen and pointed to it. "There it is, Beckett. This is time."
Beckett moved towards the computer and stared. It was an unending stream of 1s and 0s, all moving in the same direction.
"Crazy, isn't it. It's all there," Annie said. Annie typed a few numbers into a search bubble within the window. "Do you see this? This is where I went when I made that video of us. I have a before and after recording of the trip." She opened a new window with a screen shot. "You see? Nothing changed. But I didn't interact with anyone. I need to see what happens with a longer trip and even interacts with people."
"A longer trip? You're gonna go again?" Beckett asked.
"I'm not. You are," Annie replied.
"Me? Ha. Where am I gonna go?"
"Who's your social studies project on?"
Beckett froze as he started to realise what was starting. "Whoa, Annie, no way. I'm not going back to Rome."
"Because it's insane. It's ludicrous. It's risky! I could get killed!"
"You won't get killed. All you have to do is take this." Annie said as she passed him a plastic wristwatch.
"What's this?" Beckett said staring at the watch in Annie's outstretched hand. It looked like a cheap plastic digital wristwatch, but instead of a digital display, there was a large red button.
"It's the return switch. Just push the button, and you'll come right back." Annie said. She walked up to Beckett and wrapped the watch around Beckett wrist.
Beckett looked at the watch. The red button stared back up at him.
"Once you're finished, or if things get dangerous, just push the button and you'll come right back."
"No way, Annie. I can't do this." He began to take the watch off.
Annie waited a few seconds. "Ok, well at least go back 15 minutes, just like I did. Get a video of yourself."
Beckett paused a moment.
"Fine. 15 minutes," He replied. "So, what do I do?"
"Awesome! Just use the camera on this phone." Annie said, passing him an old phone. "Make the video and hit the return switch. Easy."
"Ok, but what do I do NOW? How does this thing work?" Beckett said, looking back at the platform.
"That's easy." Annie put her hands on Beckett's arms and backed him onto the platform. "Just stand there," she said before walking back to her computer. She sat down, and opened up a new window. The window had a clock of the current time. "This time is linked to the atomic clock. So, it's precise to the nano-second." She pointed at a second clock. "This is where I input where you are going. Then the computer finds the spot in the time code, and sends you there." Annie typed in the date. "How did you come here today?" she asked.
"I came down Douglas onto Hardwick." Beckett replied.
Annie pulled up a map view of the street.
"Alright. I'll put you in the front yard of this house," Annie said. She clicked on the location in the map. "You ready?"
Beckett stood silently for a moment. "You know what? Maybe this isn't such a good idea," Beckett replied. He took a step towards the floor.
"Too late!" Annie said. She then moved the cursor on the screen over to the 'execute' button on the screen.
The lights in the room darkened as the humming grew slightly louder. Small currents of electricity streamed between the columns at the corner of the platform. Suddenly, a bright white light formed in the corner of the grid. It began circling slowly around the platform coming closer to Beckett with each circle. He followed the light until it was under his shaking legs. He closed his eyes tight and made tight fists. There was a loud thump.
“Hey, um, Annie I’m not wearing any shoes,” Beckett said.
But it was too late. Beckett's feet fell away and light surrounded him.
There was a flash of light, and suddenly Beckett landed on his rear in the wet grass. He stood up and looked down at his rear-end. Now his pants were thoroughly stained. And worse, his socks were now wet.
"Great," he said to himself. He looked around and realised he was in someone's front yard on Douglas. He got up and looked around.
Suddenly, Beckett saw himself walking towards the house. He dropped down and ran behind a bush.
After watching himself walk down the sidewalk, Beckett smiled, realising what he was witnessing. Oh my God! I'm... in the past! he thought to himself. Annie did it! She actually did it!
Beckett took out the camera and went behind a tree and started filming his past self walking away.
Beckett smiled as he was filled with a strange mix of shock and amusement. Out of the corner of his eye, however, Ben Michaels came into view. Beckett stopped smiling. Beckett continued filming as his past self came across Ben. His past self looked at the ground, trying to avoid Ben and then got pushed over.
Beckett stopped filming as he watched his past-self stand up. Beckett saw the look on his own face after the encounter. It was a mix of shame and embarrassment. Beckett watched for a few more seconds, then looked down at his wristwatch and pushed the button.
Beckett was back on the platform in Annie's basement. Annie stood there smiling at him. Her eyes beamed in anticipation.
"Well...?" Annie asked.
It took a few seconds for Beckett to get over what he had seen.
"Umm... yeah, uh, what did you do, Annie? How is this possible?" Beckett managed to ask through the mixed feelings of amazement and embarrassment. "Annie, explain this to me. How did you do this?"
"It's not easy, but it's simple," Annie began. "So, all programs on the computer are coded. Everything is a sequence of 1s and 0s. So I just figured out what that code is, and found a way to locate different space and time within it, and then insert myself, or in this case, you, into it."
"How is that simple?" Beckett asked.
"It's a simple idea. Writing the code is the hard part. I've been working on this for a while. Mom thinks I'm studying, but I've been in here."
"So what does that mean? Time and space are a code? Are we living in a code? Are we in a computer program?"
"That's above my pay grade," Annie replied, quoting Lieutenant Jansen again. "So, do you wanna go back and see Caesar?"
Beckett stood for a moment thinking about it. "I don't know. That seems a little risky. I mean, I can get enough info from the books, I think."
"Well, I know that, but I want you to go back so I can monitor what happens when you go back further and stay longer, like a couple of hours. I want to see what effect it has."
"Nah." Beckett said.
"Beckett, it's right here. You can just go now."
"Forget it! You know, I thought we were gonna play video games." Beckett said.
Annie looked at Beckett for a moment and then turned around. She began to shut down her computer. "Alright. Let's play video games."
Beckett and Annie sat on the floor in the basement and played Crisis Shock in battle mode. The gravity of what Annie had accomplished sunk in as they played.
"So what are you going to do with this program? I mean, are you going to sell it? What's the plan?" Beckett asked
"I don't know," Annie replied. "I figured I could use it to somehow get into university. You know, like get a scholarship. It'd save my parents money. Maybe my dad could work less."
"University? How are you even thinking about that? I'm not even thinking about high-school yet."
"It's all my parents think about. Dad went to Seoul National, the top school in Korea. He wants me to go to a top school in North America."
"So then, what will you do? How are you going to turn this machine into a scholarship?"
"Well, once it's ready, once I know it is safe and I can prove that it's safe, then I'll contact the Science Faculty at SFU or UBC, and hopefully that will start the process."
"But isn't this program dangerous? I mean, we're just using it to go back in time a few hours. What if someone uses it to change the past? What if someone goes back and messes up, or even erases our timeline? We've seen too many movies to not know how dangerous this stuff can be."
"That's what I need you for. I need someone to go back in time for a longer period of time, and even further back in the past to see what could happen. I can monitor what happens in the past code from my computer. That'll provide me with useful data. I need to get the bugs out of the program."
"Bugs? You want me to help you de-bug the program? It's too dangerous."
"You'll have the wrist-band on you. You can come back if things get ugly."
"Look, maybe..." Beckett began. "Maybe we could do something, like go back a year, somewhere in the neighbourhood... Nothing too big, though."
Annie listened and then replied. "Alright. Look we can take it slow, you know. Go back a few hours, then maybe a few days. We'll build up to it."
Annie sat quietly, looking at Beckett. "You're a time-traveller. How does it feel?" she asked.
?"I think I'll wait and see how I feel when I go back a little further. But to be honest, Annie, I'm not sure I totally believe what you've done. I mean, you've made maybe the biggest discovery in the history of science, and here we are sitting and drinking hot chocolate. Shouldn't we be calling NASA, or Harvard, or the CIA?"
"To be honest, Beckett, this is why I need you to help me."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"I need to understand what happens when we go back in time, and further back, when someone interacts with someone from the past. If there is a danger that we can affect the timeline, then we need to know. It could be too risky to just hand this over to someone. Remember what happened in Crisis Shock? As soon as Lieutenant Jansen gets the data for the cure, the Agency shows up and takes the data to reverse engineer the virus. I'm not handing this program over to the university just to see someone take it to use it for their own nefarious purposes," Annie said, borrowing the word 'nefarious' from Lieutenant Jansen.
"Look, um…," Beckett started. "Let me think about it."
"Cool," Annie replied. "Thanks."
Beckett and Annie returned to Annie's house and spent a few more hours in her basement (the part of the basement Annie's mother knew about) and played Crisis Shock. A beep came from Beckett's phone. Beckett paused the game and checked the screen. His father had texted.
Just ordered pizza for dinner. 20 minutes.
"My dad just ordered dinner. I should get a move on," Beckett said.
"Ok. see you Monday?"
"See you Monday."
Beckett put on his jacket and started walking home. He took a slightly longer trip home. He avoided Douglas Road because he was scared he would see Ben again.
Beckett got home and walked into the kitchen. The pizza was on the kitchen table as Beckett's father set down the two plates.
"What happened to your pants?" Beckett's father asked.
"Oh," Beckett had forgotten that his pants were still stained. Normally, Beckett would have lied and just said he fell down. "I had a run-in with Ben on the way to Annie's." He said.
"Ben Michaels?" his father asked.
"Yes," Beckett replied, regretting his honesty.
"Oh." His father replied.
There was an awkward moment of silence before Beckett sat down. The two ate quietly
"You know you could think about going back to karate-"
"It's fine, dad. Whatever."
They ate pizza in silence. When he was finished, Beckett got up and went to his room. He sat down at his desk and stared at Rome at War for a few minutes. He began reading.
He reread the part of the book about Caesar's conquests in Gaul. After a few hours of reading, and watching a few videos online, he started to feel like he understood what had happened, although why it happened was a bit unclear.
Beckett lay down on his bed. He thought about what Annie had done. She'd created something that might change the world. Even if she never shared what she invented, she actually sat down and figured it out.
He thought about what had happened that week, his warning from Mr Hashmi, his run-in with Ben, then his father's reminder of things that Beckett had quit. Beckett sat and thought about the fact that if Annie hadn't showed him what she had done, that it would have been another weekend of video games. By Sunday night, he'd have been sitting in his room, feeling regret that he hadn't done any studying.
Beckett took his phone out. He opened the camera app, and went to the video he made of himself earlier that day. He watched as he desperately tried to avoid Ben, but was inevitably pushed to the ground. He turned of the camera and let out a deep breath.
He texted Annie.
I'll go to Rome.. See you tomorrow.
After a few minutes, Annie replied: awesome.