23. Game Over
It was 17:30; Ms Jarro McCourt was due to wake from her day of game testing any minute now.
He felt slightly nervous about his intentions to ask her out this very evening.
He was not usually a spontaneous person.
But if he did not take heart today, he would probably never meet her again.
He glanced shyly at her pretty face and her enchanting smile.
He wondered for a moment who it was that she smiled at in the game.
Perhaps she would tell him, he mused.
He swallowed hard.
He would ask her out.
It was not that difficult, after all. Just ask her!
He could do that.
He would do that.
Suddenly the alarms of the monitors blasted to life.
He was instantly on his feet, his eyes going to the monitors.
No heart beat.
No brain activities at all.
Without stopping to think he raced for the emergency equipment, and called for his colleague at the top of his lungs.
Within moments he was trying to bring the girl back to life.
Dr. Miller was administering oxygen.
He waited for the paddles of the defibrillator to load.
A ping told him that the device was ready to be used.
"Back," he cried, and turned the defibrillator on.
The girl's body jerked.
He bent over her to check for breathing, heart beat, and reflexes.
He tried again.
Her back arched with the shock of the defibrillator racing through her.
The ambulance arrived.
Injections, oxygen, again the defibrillator.
Finally he stepped back from the dead body of the girl, who had been Jarro McCourt and pronounced the time of death, his voice shaking, and his face clammy with sweat.
"Jarro McCourt. Time of death, 17:47, Saturday, August, the 21st, 2004."
The crew of the ambulance put Jarro McCourt's body on the stretcher and carried her away.
He knew there would be an autopsy.
But he did not care.
He felt shaken to the core of his soul.
Why had she died?
Why had she collapsed all of a sudden?
He tried to recall if there had been anything unusual, anything at all, which should have alerted him to a threatening stroke or heart failure.
He shook his aching head.
There had been nothing.
No warning at all.
There should have been something.
Those monitors were state of the art, picking up any neural whisper, sensitive to the slightest irregularity of heart beat and blood pressure.
There had been nothing at all to hint at an impending collapse.
An hour or two ago, he had thought something was odd about her vital signs, true.
But it had been nothing he could pinpoint.
His colleague had not recognized anything out of the ordinary, too.
Had he missed something?
Was he responsible for her death?
He was too frozen with shock and the slow ebbing of the adrenaline, which had surged into his blood with the emergency to notice the computer expert entering the room.
Mr. Smith was pale as a sheet, and his hands were shaking.
In a daze, Mr. Smith walked to the computer, which had played and controlled the game.
He had been advised not to take anything away or make any changes, because the police would be along to check everything later.
But he had to know.
He had to know if there was anything obviously wrong.
If there was anything on the read-outs to show a fatal error of the game.
A killing error.
He called up the read-outs of the game.
With trembling fingers he hit the buttons to call up the relevant information.
He stared at the figures.
He tried different keys.
He stared at the figures.
He lifted a shaking hand to rub his eyes with fingers cold as ice with shock.
He tried another set of keys.
An image formed on the screen.
"How is that possible?" He cried with his voice breaking.
Mr. Smith's sudden exclamation made Dr. Jim Watkins jump. His heart racing he looked up at the computer expert, who looked as if he had seen a ghost.
"Is something wrong with the game?" He asked, his voice half-choked. "Has the game killed her?" He felt a sudden, unreasonable surge of anger and hatred at the computer man. If it was the game, he would kill this freak! He clenched his shaking hands into fists, so hard that his knuckles stood out whitely, and the veins sprang up in thin blue lines on the backs of his hands.
Mr. Smith slowly, dazedly turned towards the physician.
"Yes," he said, and his voice trembled. "There is something wrong. But I cannot see how this error could have killed her."
He looked back at the screen, and then pointed at the image displayed there.
"The game never started. Look at this picture. This is all she can have seen. A still picture! The game never started. Nothing can have happened in there at all! She should have woken up again almost instantly. I don't understand that! The game never started!"
Dr. Jim Watkins stared at the computer man. Then he rose slowly and walked over to look at the screen. Mr. Smith was right.
The image on the screen was a still picture.
It was a landscape, a very pretty landscape.
But it was completely lifeless.
Nothing moved there.
Nothing was alive there.
Nobody sane would have stayed there for hours and hours.
Mr. Smith was right.
The game had never started.
How was it possible that Jarro McCourt had spent the entire day lying here, apparently in trance, apparently in the game?
Why had the monitors shown exactly the neural activities Dr. Jim Watkins had recognized from the other test runs?
Why in hell had Jarro McCourt died?
After Mr. Smith and Dr. Watkins finally left the room, the picture on the computer screen remained peaceful and undisturbed.
The picture showed a large oak tree, a few feet away from the muddy lanes of a narrow country road. A grassy lawn spread at the foot of the tree. The landscape on the other side of the road showed soft green hills and groups of budding trees. There were hedges of blooming whitethorn. It was a lovely scene, idyllic, rural and lush with spring. The sky above the hills was blue as can be, with white fluffy clouds, and everything looked crisp and inviting.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.