Chapter 28 – Tactian 

There was a small boy. Blonde hair. Running through the woods. Frantically. Barbs  catching his face, holly clawing his legs, blood streaming down his cheek. Frantically. 

Ford could smell smoke as he watched this scene. He could sense the distress in the young boys movements. It was night yet something up ahead was lighting up the clouds. Dark orange. 

Then Ford saw what the boy saw. A big house. His home. Up in flames. Two figures laid on the ground. Ford could make out that they weren’t moving. Dead still. The boy ran over to the bodies, tears streaming. 

The boy looked up at the house and back at the corpses. “NEIN!” He shook his head. Ford began to pity this boy for a brief second until something terrified him to the core. 

“NEIN, NEIN, NEIN!” Punching the corpses. He carried on. “I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN!” A clear German accent coming across. The boy carried on punching the bodies. “This is all your fault!” Tears still carried on drenching his face. “You were weak!”

A twig snaps behind him and he turns round. There’s a gun facing him, the barrels in his face but he wasn’t afraid. Just determined.

Ford’s eyes opened and reality entered his body and his mind, soothing the aches of confusion. Light streamed into the building and he recognised his surroundings. He was in St. Mary’s hospital. He knew it because the walls were the same colour as the walls in Hannah’s hospital. ‘Hannah’ he thought to himself. ‘How did he forget her?’

He took a second to study his surroundings. The first person he noticed was a boy sitting next to him.

“Joseph” he breathed. As his memories came back to him. Joseph Darvi was his best friend. Something  clicked back in place and he realised he had forgotten more than just Hannah. He had forgotten most of his childhood.

“Good to have you back” he said smiling.

“It’s good to be back” he said calmly. “Wait! What about the Judgement?! Pyrra! How are you alive?”

“Whoa slow down! Let me explain.” Darvi said solemnly. “The Judgement is still going on, you were only in the second challenge for a day.”

“But it felt like months.” He said to himself.

“‘Perception extension’ it’s a highly illegal technology that Dero must of included in the game”

“Dero? He was a player in the game.” Ford said thinking back. “He came to take Pyrra away”

Darvi sighed. “Ford. There is something you must know.”

“What that you created the game?”.

Darvi sat stunned for a full second before continuing disjointedly.  “Yes, however although I may have created the game but I didn’t launch it.” He took a second.

“That’s what some girl said who seemed to have known you.”

“Zoe?!” He said stunned again. “How much did I miss?” Rhetorically to himself. Ford just shrugged getting off the bed and stretching his muscles. He had become weak but he felt stronger than ever now that he knew who he really was.

“She’s right. I hacked into Dero’s corporation network and stole something because I believed it was the right thing to do.”

He sighed again. “I used to Dolosphere to bypass his security due to the lack of adaptability his firewalls had against it” tapping the Dolosphere headgear attached to both his head and Ford’s. “but he managed to track me through the connection and launch The Judgement through my sever, cornering me in my own creation. I’ve managed to disconnect us from the sever but I cannot take the headgear off until The Judgement is completely shut down.

“But why?!”

“He was clearly desperate. What I stole isn’t exactly legal.”

“What did you take?”

“Pyrra”

###

It took Zoe a couple of seconds to find the light switch and gather herself. She still felt weak but now was not the time to pity herself. She had to act. She turned on the light and directed her attention at the door. It was heavy and metal and was probably barred from the other side with the crowbar. She tried to jimmie it hoping that the bar would dislodge itself but it remained locked tight.

She then turned her attention to the elephant in the room. The walls. They were lined with explosives. Zoe knew absolutely nothing about disarming them and she didn’t dare interact with them for fear of them going detonating pre-emptively. So she started to panic.

“Dero” a voice said from the computer. A voice she knew. “Dero, you need to put a stop to this. This goes way past revenge and you already have what you wanted! Shut down The Judgement”

“Hello!” Zoe said immediately “Darvi, is that you!?”

“Zoe!?” Darvi said incredulously. “But I got you out! How are you with.. Where is Dero?” The anger in his voice rising. “Are you and him!?”

“Dero is dead.” She replied bluntly.

“Did you!?” Darvi said shocked.

“No, no no. He killed himself” avoiding the corpse next to her. “Things are bad, Darvi. Dero isn’t behind this.” She paused. “Does the name Gregorz Goodrich Cooper mean anything to you?”

Zoe noticed a succinct pause in Darvi speech. “How do you know that name?” He said slowly. Zoe was already ahead of him.

“I’m already sending you the video” she said quickly. “But that’s not the main thing! I’m trapped in Dero’s tower which is rigged to blow. And Gregorz is going after something he calls Program: Yottabyte.”

Another pause Zoe picked up on. Then it seemed Darvi got himself into gear. “Right stay put.”

‘Where else was she going to go?’ She thought to herself

“Try and investigate if Dero had anymore information on his private terminal. See if you can shut The Judgement down completely. Ford and I are on our way”. He put down the phone just before she could say ‘be careful’

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