The bedsit was in a terrible state. The air was stale and the curtains were drawn. The only flicker of life came from the overheated console and the TV where the game was still running. The body lay near the TV. Starved of malnutrition, the brain, through lack of sleep, had slipped into psychosis and then sudden death.
Suddenly the door to the room was forced open. Two armed men in suits flashed torches around until they focused on the dead body. A further, elderly figure quickly joined them and they looked down at the dead body. The elderly gentleman’s face refused to show any emotion. He simply muttered ‘Another one’.
Timmons sat opposite Adam.
‘Forty Koreans all aged 17 to 23, all male, died through not eating or sleeping. Instead they were playing computer games online until their brains couldn’t take anymore’. Timmons said.
Adam closed the file.
‘Intriguing yes. Dangerous, undeniable, but is this really a case for Doomwatch? I mean such cases are yet to occur in the UK’.
‘True, but its likely. And there is another reason. You see, there’s been certain discoveries in Korea’.
‘Discoveries?’ said Adam.
‘Yes. Large gold geothermal deposits have been discovered. The PM is in secret talks as is the President of America. However, the Koreans want to use our resources. Namely you. So you see, we need you to conduct research and see how likely more deaths like this are’.
Adam rubbed his forehead with mixed emotions.
‘There always has to be another motive. For God sake!’
‘Come on Adam. You know the politics. It comes with the territory. We need allies. The whole world is arguably more dangerous now then it has ever been. We’ve got so many rogue terrorist groups that can cause a major
threat. We need to pull in as many states as possible to unite. Strength in numbers. Just like in nature. This research is small fry but it will help. And whether you like it or not Quist you have a responsibility to this Country!’
Timmons stood tall over Adam now. Adam looked up at him.
‘Then you’ll do it?’
‘Go away’. Adam repeated tiredly.
Timmons smiled patted Adams shoulder in a patronising manner and then walked out.
Outside the office Paul, Eve and Miranda were talking as Timmons walked past.
‘I really think I love her’. Paul said.
‘Question is does she love you?’ Miranda replied.
‘I’m sure she does Paul’. Eve countered diplomatically.
‘Yeah your right. She does’. Paul smiled.
A pang of jealousy rippled through Miranda.
‘You know this honeymoon period doesn’t last right?’
Her words did little to penetrate the bubble Paul was currently in.
Adam suddenly appeared in the corridor.
‘We have a new assignment’.
‘It’s not another anti-smoking hatchet job is it?’ Miranda enquired still feeling in a sarcastic mood.
‘No. Computer games. The effect it’s having on people. Aggression, frustration and in a few cases in Korea, death’.
‘Death?’ Miranda, Eve and Paul all seemed to say in unison.
‘Yes. Not many cases but it happens. The player becomes that engrossed that they don’t bother sleeping or eating. You see online you can’t really pause midgame. So they go on and on and then die. The brain can’t cope’.
‘One way to curb the growing unemployment stats’. Paul said quietly. Eve
‘Well anyway, it’s what we’re assigned to cover’.
Miranda felt annoyed.
‘Wait a minute though. This planet is doomed. Yet another emergency conference on pollution was called off because the parties couldn’t all agree. The P.M even said that unless something is done A.S.A.P Earth is doomed. And we’re fannying around about some computer game theory which hasn’t even happened in the UK?’
Adam walked over to the kettle and flicked the switch. He then turned to the others.
‘I quite agree Miranda. This is rubbish. This assignment has other agendas.
‘Never the less this is what we are paid to do. So lets screw our courage to the sticking place. Paul when the kettles boiled, make me a coffee please’.
Adam walked back into his office and closed the door.
‘Is he ok?’ Eve asked.
‘Who knows? I mean does anyone really know him?’
Inside his office Adam closed the door and flicked through the file with passive curiosity. He then sighed and closed he file and rubbed his eyes.
Miranda knocked on the door and then entered without waiting for a reply.
‘Are you ok?’
Adam didn’t reply.
‘Don’t ignore me Adam please’.
He looked up at her.
‘I’m sorry. I’m tired. You know I honestly thought we were beginning to make a difference. But we’re not. Like you said the whole world is burning around us. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper. A whimper because of red tape and greed. You know we might as well close this department down the good it does’.
Adam fell back in his chair and Miranda approached and touched his hand.
‘We can’t afford to think that way. We’re the only people who can really help’.
They looked into each other’s eyes and made a connection. The connection was then instantly abandoned when Paul knocked and walked into the office with Adam’s coffee.
‘Here you go boss just the way you like it!’
‘Thanks Paul. After I’ve had it we’re off out’.
‘Where we going boss?’
‘Shopping’. Adam replied mystically. Paul smiled back and headed out of the office followed by Miranda.
When the door was shut Adam opened his draw and pulled the bottle of scotch out and a glass and poured it. He then quickly drank it and started to drink his coffee. The burning sensation didn’t worry or phase Adam as he was already feeling quite numb.
In Paul’s flat, Kate sat patiently and quietly in the kitchen. Her mind a blur as she looked down at the recently purchased pregnancy testing kit.
Paul pulled up at the town centre Adam climbed out the car followed by Paul.
‘So boss, what exactly are we shopping for?’
‘Games. Shoot em ups and RPG’s mainly’. Adam replied distantly.
‘Come again?’ Said Paul with a hint of confusion.
‘You play a lot of computer games right?’
‘How do you know?’
‘Come on Paul you’re a male in his twenties with money who isn’t an alcoholic or a born again Christian. Of course you play computer games. You know I never really understood the fascination with them. It’s a generation thing. But I realise it’s your younger generations wars isn’t it? Instead of killing a real person you kill an avatar of a real person on the internet. It makes the hunt and the kill all the better for it’.
Paul slammed the car door.
‘A bit cynical boss?’
‘Maybe. Come on. We’re gonna buy some games and a console then we’re going back to mine to play on the internet and waste pounds and pounds of the tax payers expense’.
‘Sounds like my dream job. As long as we don’t get audited we’ll be alright’.
They smiled and Paul lead the way to the best videogame shop.
The videogame displayed a young woman incredibly athletic walking through a deserted street. Suddenly zombies appear out of nowhere. She sees a man she recognises in the distance but he is quickly decapitated. With a tear in her eyes she loads her automatic rifle and begins to shoot the zombies down one by one.
‘Now she is hot’ Paul commented. Adam looked at him.
‘I wonder what Freud would think of grown men falling in love with attractive c.g.i’s? Maybe it’s the future. With our neurosis who needs a real partner when you could just make one to your own specification. Makes cosmetic surgery almost seem normal. Almost’.
They browsed the shop. Adam felt like a tourist but he could tell Paul was a regular.
‘Mmm boss. When we’re done with our research could I keep the games’.
‘I suppose so Paul’. Paul’s face gleamed as he headed over to the new releases.
Adam browsed the shelves when he heard two assistants talking.
‘Excuse me. That phrase you just said MDK. What does it mean?’
‘MDK. Murder Death Kill’.
Adam thought as much.
‘So people choose games like movies by how violent they are?’
The assistants looked at Adam liked he was stating the obvious.
‘Yes. Yes that’s right’.
‘But unlike gore movies where the viewer is the voyeur here he or she commits the heinous acts in full bloody detail?’
‘Yes mate. In full graphic detail?’
‘I see and you don’t just get to perform nice acts. I mean in some cases you can murder, maim and rape for the fun of it?’
The assistants looked and one and other then calmly replied ‘yes’.
‘I see. And how compelling is online play?’
‘The best! The other night I played all through the night and until the early hours. Capture the flag missions mainly’.
‘Why? Is it addictive?’.
‘I suppose partly but there is a sense of achievement, you know?’
‘You know what I think I’m beginning to. Thank you you’ve been most helpful’.
Adam walked off towards Paul who was playing a demo.
‘You know this crazy world of technology I get it’.
‘I’m glad boss. Can we buy this game too?’
Arriving back at Adam’s cottage, Paul liked the rustic quality with which it had been furnished. The kitchen was especially nice and Paul found lots of evidence that Adam enjoyed to cook. However he also found lots of alcohol bottles particularly whisky. Paul decided not to mention it and went through to the living room where he began to unwrap the games console.
‘Do you want a drink?’ Adam enquired.
‘Tea please’. Paul replied.
Adam reappeared with a semi empty whisky bottle.
‘I meant… a proper, drink…’.
‘Eh?…yeah, a Irish Coffee would be good thanks. Need to keep a level head if I’m liberating the galaxy of the filthy alien hordes’.
Adam looked down at Paul with disdain and headed into the kitchen. Adam found a coffee mug and generously poured the whisky in when he noticed a picture of his parents on the side he walked over to it and picked it up.
‘What the hell am I doing?’ he asked the photo. But there was no reply.
The hours passed quite quickly. Adam watched Paul playing on the console online and must admit (although he never would) he enjoyed watching Paul slay the various monsters with very impressive graphics. Clearly inspired by real combat zones he thought.
Adam realised just how plausible it was that certain people were dying due to the competitiveness and hyperrealism of certain games. Come the very early hours Paul discovered he had twenty seven missed calls from Kate then made his excuses swore a lot rung back to no avail and ordered a taxi. With enough time just to pack up the console and games with Adam’s blessing.
Unbeknown to Paul or Adam a figure watched them from outside as Paul left in the taxi. The figure watched and smiled to herself. It was Carly Whyte.
As Paul arrived home he was greeted by two things he really didn’t expect. Firstly, a painful slap in the face. Secondly, the shock news that he was going to become a dad. He cried. With happiness and through the agony of the left side of his face.
The countdown had only just begun to the next offensive by the L.C.F.