“Happy Birthday, Son,” said Billy’s Father, stooping as he entered the front door. “I’m so sorry; I couldn’t get out of work yesterday for your party. I tried, really I did. Here’s your present.”
“Thanks Dad, don’t worry about it,” said Billy, throwing his arms around him.
“A teenager, eh,” said his Father ruffling his short, brown hair. “How time flies.”
Billy’s Mum, glared at her ex-husband. At least he’s bothered to show up this time, and with a present. He missed the last two due to unforeseen work commitments. I suppose the price you pay for being in the MI5, was that you sometimes missed out on family life, and that it sometimes caused a break down in your personal relationships.
“Well go on, open it!” said his Father excitedly. “It was the last one on the shelf; I hope it’s the right one.”
Billy ripped the paper from the small rectangle shaped package, throwing it to the floor.
Billy’s Mum sighed, bent down and picked up the wrapping paper, and disposed of it in the pedal bin.
“Wow! Thanks Dad!” screamed Billy as he hugged him again. “The elite edition of Call sign Zero, the new version of my fave game. Can I go up to my room and play it now?”
Billy’s eyes were all lit up with excitement. He watched his Father look to his Mother for approval. No sooner had she nodded her head with a smile, he was halfway up the stairs.
He flicked the TV on and put the disc into the tray of the console. He could hear raised voices coming from downstairs.
“For god’s sake, Dave. Every bloody time, you’ve got a bloody lame excuse of some sort,” yelled Billy’s Mum.
“It’s all part and parcel of the job Carrie, I can’t just drop everything,” his Father retorted.
As the title screen came up, Billy grabbed the remote control and turned up the volume to drown out his parents voices. He soon forgot about the argument downstairs.
Billy scrolled through the game options. You could do small missions, which on completion opened up others. Then there was the main campaign and also a quick game option. The game mode Billy really wanted to play was the online one. Where you could play head to head against an opponent or the one Billy favoured, where you would co-operate with another player on the same team, who could be anywhere in the world.
About an hour later, Billy’s Father called him from the foot of the stairs to say goodbye. He had to return to work.
Billy paused the game and bounded down the stairs, and kissed and hugged him, then returned to resume where he left off.
There was a message flashing in his inbox from his online team member. He clicked the small envelope to open up the text.
Message from Leep of Faith: Hey dude, if you get two direct hits within your first turn, you get a huge bonus!
Being the host of the game, he had managed to pick a side to play as during that time, naming the team ‘Boy Soldier.’ He had set up his base, protecting it with a naval fleet on one side, complete with aircraft carriers and submarines. He had SAMS and tanks along the shoreline, mixed with anti-aircraft machine guns and a whole host of squadrons, specialising in an array of weapons and different fighting strategies.
The aim of the game was to protect your base, and from here, to work your way across the map in a fictitious world, capturing strategic enemy positions, and hopefully ending with successful global domination. Along the way there were missions and side missions to complete, each opening up new weapons and opportunities.
Billy started the game by launching long range attacks to deplete the enemy’s strongholds before marching the army of troops, supported by tanks, across the border into the neighbouring country. He clicked the places on the map where he wanted to attack and also selected what weapons at his disposal he wanted to use. The games servers ran the invasion for him, showing CGI video cuts to certain scenes during the battle. Billy and his team member took turns in between their opponents.
As the game panned out, Billy’s team could manoeuvre their forces into strategic positions in order to advance across the land they were invading.
This all took time of course, and Billy became so engrossed, he never heard his Mum calling him down to dinner, until she burst into his room and demanded he turned the damn computer off. Luckily he completed the first stage of the game, the initial invasion, and so left it where it was, to continue the next phase after he’d eaten.
The small TV on the kitchen wall was on low in the background. Billy glared at it as his Mum dished up.
Billy increased the volume with the remote.
‘We interrupt this program, to bring you this newsflash. A barrage of missiles has destroyed part of Thames House, the MI5 HQ, here in London, and another moments ago, has demolished part of their HQ in Northern Ireland. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Early reports indicate that there are a number of fatalities but the numbers and identities of the casualties are yet to be confirmed,’ said the broadcaster.
The emergency services could be seen tending to the injured and mourning the dead, surrounded by the total devastation caused by the missile attacks.
Billy’s Mum stopped what she was doing, and stared at the TV in disbelief. Billy’s mind hadn’t registered the location of the attack.
The phone rang making her jump, and the bowl of mixed vegetables she was no longer holding, shattered on the tiled floor.
“Damn it!” she shouted and picked up the receiver.
“Hello,” she answered rather abruptly.
“Carrie, its Brian. Have you seen the news?”
“Brian? I’ve just seen. Oh my god! It’s Dave, isn’t it? Please tell me it’s not,” she turned so the TV was visible, and Billy came to her side, and they continued to watch the live streaming of the carnage.
“Well, he’s missing. I thought it best to let you know.”
“Oh god! No! No!” The tears rolled down her cheeks, and bounced off the pile of steaming vegetables on the floor.
“Mum? What’s happened to Dad?” quizzed Billy.
“Hang on, sweetie,” spluttered his Mum, struggling to breath. “You’ve got to find him, Brian, please. What kind of sick animals would do such a terrible thing?”
“We’ll find him, Carrie. Just try and remain calm, for your sake and your boy. We’re unsure of who’s behind this; it’s come totally out of the blue. No warning, nothing. Our surveillance and Intel never heard a peek about this. It’s crazy,” replied Brian.
Billy listened intently, with tears welling in his eyes.
“I’m scared, Brian. What shall we do?”
“Well there’s really nothing you can do, except keep your eyes on the news. We don’t know what this is all about as yet. I know it’s hard but try not to worry about it, be strong Carrie,” said Brian.
“Oh, Brian,” said Billy’s Mum, bursting into another flood of tears.
“Look I gotta go, I’ll be in touch.”
Billy’s Mum replaced the phone in its cradle as Brian hung up, and looked at Billy, who was now crying too, after the realisation of what he’d seen on the TV and heard from the telephone conversation had sunk in.
“Don’t be frightened, hon, but your Father is missing.” She bent slightly and looked him in the eyes. “You’ve seen what’s going on. Some crazy terrorists have attacked his office, but I’m sure he’s fine, probably lost in the crowd helping out with the injured. The appropriate authorities will step in and put an end to this all,” she reassured.
“Scary times, Mum,” sobbed Billy, moving into his Mum’s arms. “It’ll turn out ok. Dad will be fine. He always is.”
“I hope so, Son, I hope so,” she said wiping the tears away. “Right lets get this mess cleared up and eat.”
Billy showered after helping his Mum to wash up, neither had eaten much, and after sitting with his Mum for a while; until she had calmed down, he returned to his room to continue his game.
After watching the brief of the next mission, Billy had to set up and execute strikes on several of the enemy’s ammunitions and weapon compounds around the map. Another hour or so later and Billy’s Mum came in announcing it was lights out time. Reluctantly Billy switched everything off and retired to bed.
Billy woke early and went down for breakfast. The TV was on while his Mum was cooking bacon and eggs. She looked old and like she hadn’t slept a wink.
“Morning won’t be a minute,” she said.
“Any news on Dad?” asked Billy, pulling up a chair.
“Not yet, baby. He’s most likely still down there helping out.”
Billy’s Mum broke down, and again Billy put his arms around her to console her as best as he could.
“There were more terrorist attacks during the night,” informed his Mum.
“Really? Where? Has anyone claimed responsibility?” asked Billy.
“No confirmation from any spokesmen of any known terrorist organisations as of yet,” she said, shoving a plateful of hot food on the table.
“Thanks Mum. That’s weird. I’m pretty sure they’ll hear something before too long.”
“Yesterday it was your Dad’s work and last night it was the Houses of Parliament and No.10 Downing Street.”
“Really? Any casualties?” asked a shocked Billy.
“Well, the Prime Minister is dead, along with some of his aides and about 200 MPs, police officers and civilians are dead and many more seriously injured.”
Billy sat open mouthed.
“The country is on a high state of alert.”
“Some serious shit going down,” said Billy, wolfing down the bacon and eggs.
“Hey, you mind your mouth, young man,” scolded his Mum.
“Sorry,” said Billy.
“I got to pop out to see to the shops, I can’t stay in here much longer, I need some air, and you stay here and listen out for the phone. The moment you hear anything, you ring me on my mobile right away, you understand?”
“Yeah, no worries.” Billy replied clearing the table.
Billy went back to his room, turned the console and TV on, and got straight back on his game. The game played out even if you were offline. Your opponent would make there attacks and when you resumed the game it would update. He could see that overnight his opposition had made advances towards his base, and taken out some of his tanks and battalions.
Another message came through from Leep of Faith, again Billy opened it and it read: You got to take out the aircraft carriers to pull this back around. I’m counting on you, buddy.
After a few turns each moving within range, he placed the crosshairs of his missile launchers over several locations and watched with satisfaction as they struck their targets.
MISSION COMPLETED danced around the TV and a bonus level came up which his team member had to complete.
Billy went to the kitchen for a drink and his Mum rang to see if there had been any news and to say that she would be at least another hour. He told her there hadn’t, and that he loved her. God, she’d only been gone an hour. He took his drink back upstairs and lay on the bed. He slipped his headphones on to listen to some music, while awaiting his team mate to complete the bonus level and see if they’d made it on to the hall of fame.
An almighty crash downstairs startled Billy. He unplugged the headphones, listened, heard more noises, footsteps, and voices, and then grabbed his baseball bat from the side of his bed. He was about to open his bedroom door when someone from the other side kicked it in, smashing him in the face, busting his nose and sending him flying across the room.
“Stay down! Police! Stay down!” screamed several voices, as they ambushed Billy’s room.
Billy screamed in fear and pain and lay motionless on the floor.
An officer spun him over as the others trained their weapons on him.
“Shit! It’s a kid! Search the room and get this kid out of here!”
Radios crackled, and garbled instructions and information came over them. Billy couldn’t make them out; he was in a state of shock.
“We’re too late, the targets were hit,” an officer announced.
“Shit!” screamed the unit’s leader. “Tear this place apart!”
The officers ripped the room apart and took the games console, the TV, and all the other electric appliances out of the room for evidence and analysis.
Billy was taken away for interrogation, as they led him through the kitchen; the TV was broadcasting the news of more attacks. This time the successful hits were on the CIA HQ, the Pentagon and finally The Whitehouse. The death of the President and hundreds of others was being reported.
Simultaneously five miles away, another raid was taking place. The front door of a three storey building was charged in by a battering ram. A single gun shot was heard. The officers of the special terrorist unit burst into a bedroom on the middle floor, only to find MI5 agent David Peel, had blown his brains out.
“Looks like we found our terrorist. Let’s get an ID on that body and get this stuff bagged up and cleared out of here.”
The room was empty, except for a large table with a games console, a modem, and a mobile phone. Call sign Zero was showing on a 50 inch TV, in the top right hand corner it displayed, Leep of Faith, and the words ‘GAME OVER’ flashed across the centre of the screen.