That’s all players confirmed. Time to start, methinks.
Can I pre-sign for the next one?
Day 1: It was a dark and stormy night
(Yeah, seems like a paradox but read on)
I flipped through the channels quickly, not really looking for any program in particular. In other words, I was in the state that frequently made Blur say ‘needs to go and get a life’. Well, it can’t be helped. Not today, at any rate. It is raining tigers and lions out there, and I am not suicidal enough to face such a day after having recovered from a severe case of pneumonia only a few days earlier.
After I had spent what seemed like an hour on the couch, I placed the remote down on the table beside me, and leaned back on the couch, sighing as I listened to the rain falling behind the windows. Tap tap tap tap. The sound would drive me crazy. I was so horribly bored.
Maybe I should have headed for work after all. I could have put on a raincoat and used that large, ugly umbrella Aunt Kathy sent me for my birthday…
“-accident occurred near Palm Avenue, along the East Road.” I heard the television blare in the background. Great. The News channel. The last thing I needed to listen to. “Luckily, the victim has escaped with only minor injuries, though his motor…” The rest of the words faded away as my cellphone rang.
Carelessly, I picked it up, and frowned at the name on the display. My boss. He must have seen the morning news too.
“Tina,” he began, and I bit my lower lip to keep myself from groaning. The excitement in his voice told the story on its own. “Have you seen the new-”.
“About the drunk driver?” I asked, twisting and untwisting a strand of hair around my index finger.
“He wasn’t drunk.” said my boss. “He hadn’t gone to the Gold Bar, like everyone else seems to think. Tony says that he questioned enough people to be quite definite on this point. The ‘hit car’, as I have termed it,” You would. “Had been waiting for him at the intersection, and they got him the moment he came to the lonely stretch of road after Palm Avenue… you listening?”.
“Yes. Isn’t it a bit of a conjecture?” I fought to keep the derisive tone out of my voice.
“Well, we must follow it up till we know it is conjecture, then.” he roared from the other side, and I quickly moved the cell away from my ear. “I am assigning you this one, Tina. Get to him and get as much info out of him as you can, before others get the same idea!” I actually groaned this time.
“Can I get to work on it from tomorrow?” I knew the answer though, instinctively, as I picked up the keys to my bike, and examined myself in the mirror. My hair looked like a bird’s nest during a tornado.
“Of course not! You must go THIS instant. I know you were a sick a couple of days ago,” his voice grew a teensy bit softer. “But this is important. Should I send Tony to assist you?” Well, it mightn’t be too bad if Tony is there as well, but… I felt the tiniest prick of my ego against the back of my skull, and replied with a very confident “no”, before he put down the phone.
Today will be a long day.
Getting down from my motorbike in the General Hospital’s parking area, I hurried into the reception, and asked for the room number of my quarry. He was in an ordinary ward, the receptionist told me, as the accident hadn’t caused him any significant damage except a fractured wrist. The only reason he was still here was because he hadn’t recovered from the shock of the accident yet.
When I knocked on the appropriate door (I hadn’t visited a hospital since I was a little child, and couldn’t recall whether hospital wards had doors back then), I already had all the questions set in my mind. Most likely, I wouldn’t get answers to all the questions, so I had to be fast, and get the important ones out earlier.
“Come in.” I pushed the door open, and found myself in what was a mostly empty room, with a single occupied bed in the middle. The lighting was quite bright, and I could see him quite clearly. He appeared to me to be exceptionally… ordinary. About my age, fair, dark hair, serious expression as he squinted at me, and wearing the hospital clothes. He picked up his glasses from a side table and put them on. There was a nurse in the room too, who was arranging one of the empty beds.
There was a momentary silence, before I stepped up to his bed, and stood near the foot of it, waiting for his scrutiny to end.
“I am sorry, but I don’t seem to recognize you.” he said at length, sounding quite wistful as he crossed his arms and stared at me. “Do I know you?”.
Time to adopt a different personality. I smiled, showing him my sparkling whites before sitting down on a chair positioned by the side. Being a reporter of a rather small newspaper meant that he had a really low chance of having seen me on television anyway. “I am Tina Tedwell. How are you feeling now?”.
“Weird.” he replied, making a face as he stared at the bed. “Better than before though. That accident was scary sh-” he hesitated, before changing the topic. “Can I know who you are?”.
“Oh, of course. I am a reporter from the Daily Column,” I watched him carefully for the usual signs of alarm, but he showed none. He seemed almost interested as he leaned a bit closer to me. “I heard about the accident, and came to meet you-” I was cut short as he suddenly raised a hand, signalling me to stop. His eyes had grown oddly narrow. We sat there in silence, and the nurse left the room.
“Um,” I started, but he let out a low hiss, as if urging me to stay silent as he struggled to hear something. Then, almost as suddenly as he had grown so tense, he relaxed, lowering his hand, and smiled for the first time since our meeting.
“You aren’t one of Them, then?” What did he even mean? I wanted to ask him that directly, but for some reason, I just shook my head, watching him with curiosity as he nodded. “I thought so. They wouldn’t send someone so early. It would be too suspicious…” Then his eyes brightened. “But the fact is that it doesn’t matter much anyway. If it isn’t you, it is the next person to visit me.”.
“I am sorry? What are you saying?” I could resist no longer. He stared at me kindly.
“Well, it’s hard to explain simply, Tina. Before I proceed, I should introduce myself… though maybe I don’t need to.” He took off his glasses, and cleaned them, while I stared at him, open mouthed. The words seemed almost immeasurably meaningless, yet somehow, I knew exactly what he meant. I knew who he was anyway, had checked with the receptionist before coming here, after all…
“So basically, there are some people who want me.” He said, airily, as if that was something quite ordinary.
“But… why?” I asked.
“Well, for one….” he hesitated again, before continuing. “For one, they don’t think that I deserve to live after what I have tried to do. For two, and more importantly… Actually, I can’t explain it shortly. It isn’t a very long story either, though.” He sounded so apologetic, that I nodded quickly. He seemed relieved, and, adjusting himself in the bed more comfortably, he began to speak, his voice slow, deliberate, and almost sing-song.
Though what they were trying to do had only been done once before, it wasn’t actually very difficult. In fact, the basic problem was so simple that anyone could solve it if he was given a pen and a paper, and enough time. The problem in this method was that the solution changed depending on who tried to solve it, and there was only one actual way to solve it properly.
That way was what they were trying to discover. In layman’s terms, they were trying to answer a question by eliminating all the possible answers that were wrong, leaving them with what had to be the only possible correct answer.
One of the people involved in the project was someone I knew rather well. His name was Cray. Dr. Cray was what he was called in the laboratories, but to me, to us, he was too close a friend to refer to by saying ‘Doctor’. He was highly respected among the other scientists for his sincerity and the actual interest with which he approached the problem of recreating, as he used to say, ‘the possible impossible’. Often, he was in the laboratory long past work hours, toiling away on sheets of paper scribbled all over with tiny equations.
Then, one day, they lost him somewhere. It was quite mysterious. The man had simply disappeared into thin air. A night before, they had seen him, his tall figure bowed down before a computer terminal, his pale fingers flying across the keyboard. The next morning, he didn’t sign his name on the attendance sheet.
They searched for him all over the facility, but didn’t find any clue to where he had gone. Well, except something rather strange. Cray liked taking photographs. When we were young, we had wanted to be wildlife photographers, and as a sort of memento of those days, Cray always kept a small digital camera on his desk. The camera had been used to take a photo the night before.
The photo had been taken using an automatic timer. The time limit set was about twenty seconds. It showed a computer screen filled with many unintelligible lines of code. Only one person knew what the code could possibly mean, and he kept it a secret. Later that night, when everyone had left the facility, he executed the appropriate instructions in the terminal.
It would, he knew, initialize 15 separate code sequences that connected to the Overworld, but an address lookup on those sequences had returned a ‘Unauthorized’ warning. Tempted by the possibility of striking gold and wrapping up the prolonged research work in a few minutes, he watched the computer screen with intense apprehension.
Words appeared, but they were too garbled for him to understand. Disappointed, he left, after switching the terminal off.
He couldn’t switch off what he had set off in the Overworld.
Day 1 has started! Soft DL is 72 hours from now.
With 15 alive, it takes 8 for a lynch.