Ford watched Darvi’s face go pale. He studied his face as he communicated with someone called Zoe. Ford presumed it was the girl from the game. The one who had kissed and slapped her in the same thirty seconds. He blushed when he thought about it.
As he watched, Ford started remembering things that he and Darvi had got up to. It came back to him in trickles as his psyche repaired itself. He remembered how they had both hijacked the tutor’s computer early one morning and turned his login into a snake video game.
They weren’t that popular at school but it was always him, Darvi and Hannah together and then one summer under the setting sun Hannah and Ford became closer than best friends. He then remembered what happened to her. It tore his heart apart as if someone had grinded it in the grit and he physically felt nauseous. The wave passed but the general ache stayed.
Ford could understand why he had buried those memories under soil of false facade and numerous games as it was unbearable. Yet he wasn’t alone. He had given up on himself before but his friends hadn’t given up on him. Darvi hadn’t given up on him. Pyrra hadn’t given up on him and he wasn’t going to give up on her.
Ford turned to Darvi. “No more lies” he said slowly. “If you need my help, I will, but I need all the answers. What happened at the end of that memory?”
Darvi looked down solemnly. “Okay but I didn’t hold back the truth to offend you. I didn’t want you to relapse into another coma”
“Coma?!” He said shocked. This was news to him.
“You were charged with manslaughter by self-defence after you killed one of the attackers.”
‘Manslaughter?!’ Ford couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“You were meant to be under police custody while at Hannah’s bedside but you snuck out. I don’t know how you got the information on their location but you went after them.”
Ford couldn’t remember either how he got the information. It was an anonymous text in his memory as if the name had been censored.
“They caught you and beat you to a pulp within an inch of your life. The trauma caused to your skull left you in a coma. They slowly brought you back with the use of engaging you’re unconscious yet active mind with prototype Dolosphere technology.”
He breathed in before continuing. “But when you came back. You weren’t the same. You didn’t know me, you didn’t know who Hannah was and you couldn’t even remember who your parents were. The scientist behind your therapy deemed you a failure but kept an eye on you and footed your living costs.”
“When did this happen?” Ford asked, terrified of the answer.
“Three years ago”
“Three years!” he felt robbed. He would never get that time back. All he could do was put it right. He put it out of mind and focussed on the task at hand. “What’s the plan?”
“Well, we cannot take the Dolosphere’s off but we can manually shut down The Judgement.” It almost seemed too easy when Darvi explained it. “But.”
‘Of course there had to be a catch’ Ford thought to himself.
“We need to make it there before the Dolosphere battery runs out.” Unplugging his from the wall of the hospital. “Otherwise it will discharge regardless.”
“And how long do they last?”
Ford did the math. A person could probably make it to the headquarters in about 20 mins on the road but when he looked at the time it was five pm. The roads would be completely congested. He thought about cycling but the pavements would be littered with people. That meant running. He didn’t know if he could make it in his condition but he had no choice. That would leave them ten minutes to gain access to the building and shut down the application. It was cutting it fine.
Darvi read Ford’s thought process. “At least it doesn’t require diving out of a window.” They both smiled with anxious glee. It was show time.
Just as they were about to unplug, the TV in the room grabbed their attention.
“We have a sudden news update about the cyber terrorist group, The Judgement.” Both Ford and Darvi looked at each other before turning back to the screen. “We have now been told all the remaining survivors of these sick games have made it to the third challenge.”
Ford looked at Darvi who looked utterly bewildered. “I didn’t make a third challenge” he said softly.
“We go live to a participant of the games who seems to be waking up.”
The footage cut to the hospital that Ford and Darvi were in but in another room. The kid was in an apron similar to Ford’s but struggled to sit up. The kid’s mother sat there crying, trying to help her as she was brought to a sitting position. The reporter brought the mic close to the kid. “Issy, please tell the viewers back home what is happening.”
The kid looked tired and haggard but her swollen eyes were wide with terror as she stared into the camera whispering under her breath. “Say it a bit louder please, Issy.”
The next thing she said made the hairs on Ford’s and Darvi’s neck stand on end like a startled cat.
“Ford Moss. Joseph Darvi.” Then the kid started screaming as a high pitched screech which filled the speakers and the cameraman dropped the camera. The screen cut to a page ‘apologising for the technical issues’ before the original presenter returned talking off screen into his ear mic. He then quickly updated to the audience on what was happening. Ford and Darvi were unplugged and out of the door before they could hear the rest of the announcement, Ford still wearing his surgery gown.
“We apologise for that technical issue. We have new information in. The third and final challenge consists of witch hunt for two players. We are not allowed to disclose the identity of these players but-“ Two pictures flashed up on screen. Someone burst on the news set.
“Ford Moss and Joseph Darvi” he wailed dodging a security guard who went tumbling into the background taking out the green screen. “Find them or the other surviving players die!” He was completely in tears. “I have to save my daughter!” The next security guard managed to find his mark taking down the intruder and then the ‘apologies for technical issues’ clip began to roll again.