Chapter Eight – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

Everything Has Meaning

The new day had started with a focus that disconnected Conor from the caffeine headache bidding for his attention. He woke wide-eyed and alert long before his alarm clock needed to help.

He had spent most of the morning marvelling at his achievement, or at least he believed it was his to claim. Despite the excitement of the code’s sudden decryption, the mystery and circumstance surrounding it had brought an anxiety that gave everything he looked forward to an uncertain sting.

It had been late afternoon the day before when, in a sulk, Conor had succumbed to the idea that perhaps the code was unbreakable. Or at least that was to say that it couldn’t be broken in the time he had to work with. His decryption engine continued to run, offering cross comparisons and cipher analysis, but a reality had begun to dawn that if he could break it, he would have done it by now.

As the day drew into evening his seated composure sank from an upbeat lean forward to a lazy slouch. He watched as the sun set from his window, an accepting smile across his face.

With a sigh Conor changed into his running gear, intent on burning off the stress that had built up over the past three days and as he left Tennyson and stepped into the cold, a sense of relief lifted the weight from his shoulders. Failure was at least a conclusion, it was over.

The night carried the usual chill in the air as the road lighting lit up a course down Walton Street near the Radcliffe Observatory. The route he set out looped round and round, cooling his head and relaxing him of any thoughts, the tarmac footpaths smooth under his feet.

Nearly two hours had passed before his exhausted frame stumbled through the car park heading for home, steam rising from his forehead as his body heat met the cold. Yearning for his bed and the rest it would offer, he burst through the door to his room and took a cool bottle of water from the portable fridge under his desk.

Taking long, indulgent gulps, Conor felt his breathing begin to slow and the burning in his chest subside. He slumped on to his bed, exhaling loudly as his body fell into the mattress. His eyes closed for several seconds before they opened again, slowly letting his thoughts stray back to the code. Sitting up, he leant over to his desk and stroked his hand over the mouse pad, watching with little expectation as the screensaver dissolved.

He squinted in confusion; the progress bar was gone. The view he had grown accustomed to had changed, replaced instead with a message. Conor dropped the bottle he was drinking from. Cipher Decode Success.
Even as he read it, Conor couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was the Enigma cipher. Of course! The Enigma. He remembered reading about the Enigma when he was studying the ergonomics of World War Two during his History A-Level. It was invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of the First World War and although initially used commercially, it was made famous by the Nazi German Military in World War Two for communicating encrypted orders and controlling engagements.

Encrypting and decrypting a message on the Enigma machine required four key settings.

First was the wheel order, three rotors which dictated the sequence (125). Second was the initial position of the rotors (137). Then came the Plugboard settings, these permitted variable wiring that could reconfigure connected letters to effectively swap before and after the main rotor scrambling unit (PB: A-B); and finally the ring settings, the position of the alphabet rings relative to the rotor wiring (TXT). Conor looked at the code:

125.137.PB:A-B.TXT

CICRX PRBDG BPCBZ

20/11/15, 10.30AM

It was obvious, staring him in the face the whole time. The code was even broken up into sets of five letter groups as used by the German Military.

Still unsure as to how the engine had managed to break it, he noticed that the code had been converted from ‘CICRX PRBDG BPCBZ’ to now read ‘RADCL IFFEC AMERA’.

Considering the Enigma machine had no space bar, he immediately removed the spaces to reveal the message.

The main research library to the University of Oxford was the Bodleian, or ‘the Bod’ as many called it. It was one of the oldest libraries in Europe and, in Britain, second in size only to the British Library in London. Radcliffe Camera was a beautiful reading room that stood as part of the Old Library in Radcliffe Square.

Feeling the pure rush of accomplishment, Conor stared at the decrypted message, sighing in relief at its simplicity:

RADCLIFFE CAMERA

20/11/15, 10.30AM

It was 9.45AM and Conor was sat fully dressed at the end of his bed, staring at his reflection in the wall mirror.

The Bodleian Library was a twenty minute walk from where he was staying, but, deciding to leave early, he gave himself plenty of time.

He had considered talking to Samuel before leaving but was almost certain he would only try and talk him out of going, or worse insist that he came along. This was something Conor would do alone.

With his body still aching from the evening run, he stepped out of his room a few minutes before 10.00AM. Clicking his door shut, Conor noticed Samuel’s door slightly ajar from across the hallway and gently pushed it open.

Instantly the smell of morning odour that followed a night of cigarettes and drinking filled his nose. Samuel was fully dressed, asleep, face down on his bed, his heavy breathing and occasional snort filling the silence in the room. Conor smiled sympathetically at his friend before quietly pulling the door shut.

He gave a yawn and covered his mouth as he walked downstairs. Being awake for most of the night had worn him down despite the adrenaline. He’d buy a sugary drink on the way to get sharp.

Heading for the main door he deviated off course to check his mailbox; it was empty but he was glad to know it.

Going down the steps, the fresh morning air helped bring some colour to his cheeks. At this time of day the early lectures were already under way and the roads had now settled from the bustling bumper to bumper of morning rush hour.

Conor decided to walk, leaving his car to gather rust for another day. With an upbeat pace he took the most direct route he could. Sticking to the pathways, his feet skimmed along the pavement as he looked up to the endearing dome growing in the distance.
Radcliffe Camera was one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks, her presence ever prominent along the Oxford skyline. He was looking forward to seeing it up close.

Coming off Broad Street, Conor walked past the main entrance of the Bodleian Library just after 10.20AM. He made his way along the side road of Catte Street, with the vast stone brickwork of the Library to his right, and the grand entrance to Hertford College to his left.

He followed the road ahead through the steel gate towards Radcliffe Square until he passed the old library to his right. Conor’s pace stuttered as Radcliffe Camera suddenly came into view. The sheer scale and beauty of the building took him by surprise.

Designed by James Gibbs, one of Britain’s most influential architects and built between 1737 and 1749, Radcliffe Camera (or Radcliffe Room) was one of the first examples of a circular library in England.

The architecture for the time was seen as inspired. From the outside it appeared built in three levels; the base made of brick materials sourced from local stone, the central compartment complimented with Corinthian columns which paired up between near fifteen foot windows and an upper level that finished with a beautifully designed lead dome. The interior was broken into two stories known as Lower and Upper Camera. Lower Camera was a grand reading room whilst Upper Camera acted as an archive to a wealth of literature.

Although it was not originally part of the library, Radcliffe Camera was introduced in 1860 to house Oxford’s medical and scientific collections, but these were later transferred to the Radcliffe Science Library in 1861. In recent years Radcliffe Camera kept a collection of books on Anthropology, English, Film, History and Theology.

Conor walked up the stone steps and through the main entrance archway, taking in a wonderful smell of stone, oak and old parchment. He had already gone through the formal declaration process to be granted access to the Bodleian during his first month at the University. This was traditionally oral, but in recent years was now done by signing a declaration letter.
Instantly Conor understood why Radcliffe Camera was considered such an architectural triumph; he appreciated the textured interior and how the lighting from the surrounding windows gave the bookcases and tables a glow. The first floor could be seen from the ground floor study area, a huge encircling ledge that opened up to give way to a breathtaking inner dome. The stone work above the encircling archways offered subtle details that attributed to impeccable craftsmanship.

Conor walked out onto the ground floor known as Lower Camera. He scanned the room from left to right. There were surprisingly few people studying here considering the room’s size, perhaps thirty-five, forty at most, spread out across both floors. Some sat reading on the ground floor whilst others typed on their laptops, seemingly using the tranquil environment as the perfect study area. He checked his watch – it was 10.24AM.

Conor tried to keep moving, suddenly aware of how peculiar a situation this was. What was he supposed to do? Did he need to go somewhere? Were they expecting him? There was nothing obvious or out of place. He didn’t recognise anyone. Conor thought back to the message. Perhaps the Enigma settings doubled up to be the location of a book? A chapter, a page? There had to be something.

He sat at one of the available workstations in the centre of Lower Camera, taking a deep breath and trying not to lose heart.

Looking at the time on the monitor, he could see that it was now 10.27AM. Should I just wait? Conor clicked to open the library intranet and paused for a moment to think.

Raise the flag. Reaching inside his jacket pocket, he pulled out the white card containing the code and placed it on the desk in front of him.

As the time bore down on 10.29AM Conor grew agitated, frequently turning in his chair, glancing from reading room to Upper Camera. He tried to focus, to envisage what was expected of him.

The time on the monitor updated relentlessly, the seconds passing quickly until it finally refreshed to read 10.30AM.

Good morning, Conor, a message read, suddenly appearing on the screen in front of him. The sender was anonymous.

He couldn’t hide the relief from his face. Instinctively Conor glanced around Lower Camera trying to figure out where it had come from. There were fixed terminal stations everywhere he looked.

Who is this? he wrote, glancing anxiously from left to right.

A friend. The response came back quickly.

Did you send me the code?

Yes, the user replied. Conor imagined the sender staring at him from afar, watching his every move.

What is this?

A project of discovery, Conor. An opportunity worth anything you could fear losing.

He frowned. An opportunity to do what?

Can you keep a secret?

Yes

A game for the young, the user replied. Do you want to be part of something that will change the world?

The grandeur of the message made him nervous. Is this a joke? he wrote, peering up to Upper Camera and catching the suspicious glance of an elderly man disappearing behind a pillar.

Why did you break the code? the user responded.

With a squint Conor leaned back into his chair, looking down at the small white card in front of him.

Codes are made to be broken, he wrote.

There was no response. Lightly tapping at the table as the seconds passed, he glanced at the time. It had been over a minute.

Conor shook his head. This wasn’t an invitation; breaking the code had meant nothing, there was no reward. This was an interview.

He thought for a moment before typing a new response.

Because everything has meaning.

How interesting, the user responded.

Sensing that he needed to choose his questions carefully, Conor thought hard before asking; Will you tell me your name?

You can call me Rysbrack.

As the response came back, he caught a glance from the corner of his eye. A curious stranger he didn’t recognise; a man on a laptop wearing a dark blue hoodie, his head low and hunched. Their glances met for seconds before quickly breaking contact.

Where are you? Conor asked.

That’s for you to tell me, the user responded. You only get one chance, Conor. Make it count.

He scratched his forehead and exhaled, his eyes now darting around the room, scanning from terminal to terminal. An awkward stare caught by a young woman, a glance to Upper Camera in hope. Conor felt his nerves taking over, clouding his thoughts. Whatever clues had been offered, he’d missed them. He tried to factor in the layout of the room, picture where he would stand if the roles were reversed. This would be a guess, a shot to nothing.

You are… he typed, freezing to ponder for a final moment, looking up at his chosen target. By the second column, next to the fire exit. He hit return and held his breath.

Almost instantly the session terminated, his PC restoring to display the library intranet.

Conor leaned forward, the look on his face turning desperate. He closed his eyes. Fail, Conor. Poor show.

* * *

Appearing gormless and expectant, Conor waited for another five minutes, staring blankly at the monitor screen. His disappointment clearly visible, he glanced around the room in frustration.

Eventually he lowered his head, logged off and left, giving Radcliffe Camera one final look before heading for the exit.

Ellie gave it ten minutes before making the call. Leaning up against a bookcase secluded in the corner, she held the mobile phone to her ear.

‘We’ve got another bite,’ she said.

‘Who is it?’

‘Conor Martin. Twenty-one. Freshman at St John’s. Studying Computer Science.’

‘Interesting. How did it go?’

She sighed. ‘Not as we wanted it to. We’ll need to alter our plans if he’s to progress to the next stage.’

‘No good?’

‘I wouldn’t say that,’ she whispered.

‘Is he right for this?’

‘Difficult to say,’ she said. ‘There’s something about him.’

‘This is your call. Should we proceed?’

Ellie paused before speaking softly. ‘I think so.’

‘You need to be sure.’

‘I am sure… Yes, we proceed.’



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Chapter Seven – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

A Friend In Need

Samuel Milton strolled across the shingled courtyard outside Tennyson House, kicking the odd pebble as he walked. The temperature was starting to drop during the evenings and he could see his breath appear in front of him as if he were smoking.

In his right hand he held a new top-of-the-range smart phone. It had arrived by special delivery that morning with a message that had brought both frustration and a confused sense of obligation to his afternoon.

‘Thank you for the lovely gift, mother, very subtle,’ he said, the mobile pressed to his ear.

He never thought his absence would cause her to behave so desperately. Starved of attention, she was suddenly taking great interest in his life.

Samuel had fallen in and out of her affections enough times to know when he was being used. He remembered the story his grandmother had once told him about how, as a baby, he knew the face of his au pair long before he recognised his own mother.

He could picture their lofty estate on the hills in Winchester, even more deserted than usual. He never did understand their infatuation with owning a property that was fit to house a small village.

She was alone and it had now dawned on her that the endless spa sessions and ladies’ lunches had left a gaping hole where their relationship should have existed. Clear as day she was back-peddling in an attempt to remain part of his life.

A smile grew across Samuel’s face as he sensed the call coming to an end.

‘OK mother, if you need to get hold of me I’ll be on this number. OK, bye mother, yes, yes, I love you too. Speak to you soon.’

He hung up and exhaled a deep breath. Having just come home following another tiresome day of lectures and study, appeasing his mother with the pretence of affection was the last thing he needed.

Finance Mathematics required the application of formulated methods to decipher relationships and patterns within strings of numerical data. During his time at the University he would learn differential and integral calculus, advanced equation theory and matrix algebra.

He remembered choosing the course while he was back at home, watching curiously as it fed his family’s insatiable appetite for wealth and finance. In truth he didn’t know what he’d do with the qualification if he got it. Samuel was set to enjoy his years at University as if they were his last taste of true freedom. His student visa provided the immunity he needed to shirk the reality of adulthood.

He held the phone in his hand and stared at it for a brief moment. Samuel smiled, imagining his mother in a phone store asking the shop assistant for the most expensive handset available, most likely making a point to state that money was no object.

He refused to think on it. With aggression boiling in his veins, he snapped and threw the phone into the sky. Its ultra-thin case sliced through the air as it landed with a splash into the canal. He watched as it hit the water, stroking his hands clean as the ripple faded.

‘If you need to get hold of me I’ll be on this number.’ She wouldn’t ruin this for him, no matter how hard she tried.

As he sprang up the stone steps and walked into the warmth of Tennyson his nostrils filled with the rustic smell of oak furniture and polish. To his right stood a wall of pigeon-slot mailboxes for the tenants; to his left, an empty visitor’s area where two leather sofas and a glass coffee table sat disused in the corner.

The walls of the ground floor were decorated with framed black and white pictures, each taken from the oldest rooms in Tennyson House, moments of time from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. He briskly walked through the reception area and headed for the stairs, the wooden floor giving a soft echo with every step.

When Samuel got to his room he dumped his leather Ashwood satchel on the floor, threw his jacket on a tub chair in the corner and checked the time. Within forty minutes, he was dressed in an Armani shirt, putting the finishing touches to his hair and smelling of Gucci aftershave.

Samuel took one last look in the mirror before placing his comb on the glass shelf below it, nodding his head to the sound of a music channel playing at an excessive level from his television.

He checked the time. The night was all planned out in his head. After catching up with two of his new American friends on the first floor, they would set off for the Red Lion. A destination chosen with purpose. They had all watched in amusement as Samuel repeatedly tried and failed with the blonde behind the bar, but tenacity counts.

There was just one last task before his evening could begin.

Samuel hit the power button on his remote control as he headed for the door. Leaving his room, he walked across the hall and knocked with repetitive rhythm on Conor’s apartment.

For the past three nights Conor’s absence had been both acknowledged and intriguing, but a fourth night was becoming unsociable and Samuel wasn’t having it. He’d drag him out kicking and screaming if he had to.

He pressed his ear to the door and waited impatiently, tapping his finger against the frame, giving it a few seconds before unleashing another string of heavy thuds.

Founded on honesty and fuelled by alcohol, his friendship with Conor over the past couple of months had taken him by surprise.

Thinking of home, the few friends he could speak of were the sons of politicians and bureaucrats, none of which he could consider true. Over time it had led him to harbour a distrusting nature, a state of mind that his ex-girlfriend referred to as ‘impossible to accept’.

It had made his friendship with Conor especially important to him and the sudden change in his behaviour that much more confusing.

Still there was no answer. With his patience worn he reached for the door handle, rattling it loudly in the hope he wasn’t about to walk in on something that could ruin their friendship entirely. Turning the handle, Samuel applied some pressure until the door clicked and gave way. Gently he pushed it open.

The room was in murky darkness. He could make out the silhouette of a wardrobe with its doors left open, a selection of clothes scattered over the bed. He sniffed the air, taking in the smell of strong coffee and cheap deodorant.

Flicking the light switch he noted the only thing that mattered. Conor was gone.

‘Lock your door next time old boy,’ Samuel mumbled playfully to himself. ‘You never know who may be about.’

Enjoying an opportune moment to pry, Samuel stepped into Conor’s room, swiftly closing the door behind him.

Opening the drawers to a cabinet, Samuel stumbled across a family picture of a young Conor sitting with his parents at a restaurant table. He stared at it closely, unable to stop himself from feeling jealous. Seeing the affection in their eyes, the smiles on their faces, the goofy, happy body language. How the other half live. Gently he returned the picture to where he had found it.

Whilst turning his head to the en suite, something caught his attention; a glint from the corner of his eye. A small piece of white card.
Son of a bitch! Samuel walked over to Conor’s desk to pick up the code resting out in the open. Why didn’t you tell me? He held it up to the light, turning the card over to check it front and back before discarding it with a flick towards the desk.

Once fascinated by the mystery, Samuel was, like so many others, disillusioned. There were four pupils in his class alone working on codes, tempted by the lucrative cash rewards being offered to them. Wasting weeks, months of their lives on an unbreakable cipher.

Samuel lifted the lid to Conor’s laptop and pressed down on the space bar. He glared intently at the screen as the screensaver disabled.
First appearing puzzled, he soon signed.

‘Oh Conor,’ he whispered. ‘You should know better than to play against a child at a kid’s game.’

 

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Chapter Six – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

The Beginning Of Something Pure

Over a month had now passed and for Conor the day-to-day life of an Oxford student was starting to take shape. The first core module of his degree was well underway and his week-by-week schedule was all but memorised.

Outside of his lectures and seminars, Samuel and Conor had already achieved several nights out that were worthy of being reminisced. The coming years held great promise, giving Conor every reason to believe that he would look back on his days at University with fond memories.

It was 10.00AM and the Computer Science class were proving noisy and boisterous as they settled in for their morning seminar. Students had been trickling in to the classroom for the past fifteen minutes, a curious mix of lonely characters with inward personalities. There were nearly thirty in total, their heads always low, eyes ever focused on their smart phones or tablets. But gathered among their own they would open up, vocal and opinionated, conversation ranging from the latest films that had hit the cinema, to up and coming video games and the pending releases of long-awaited gadgets.

Professor George A. Miller sat on his desk at the front of the room. His short height and podgy stomach fed to the IT teacher stereotype. His feet dangled as he repeatedly threw his favourite baseball lightly in the air to catch it. Generally this was how most of his sessions began; the class wasn’t known to start until the professor’s feet had touched the floor.

Conor was still an absent member of the classroom long after Professor Miller’s soles had hit the ground. He stood at the front of the room, addressing his students.

‘Memory, in the form of computational data storage, has an interesting if not cryptic parallel with the way memories are stored in our brains. Random access memory, or RAM, allows your CPU to load pieces of information out of sequence from the way they have been stored on the disk, optimising the processing of data for efficiency, no different from you reciting your childhood without having to track back through puberty…’

Conor was louder than intended as he came through the main entrance, the door slamming shut behind him to amplify his lateness. He drew the eyes of his fellow students and prompted a few mumbles. He gestured an apology to Professor Miller as he made his way to an available seat, giving friendly nods to the people he knew or those that would offer eye contact. Miller paid no attention to Conor’s arrival, apart from a raised eyebrow and a brief look of disappointment.

Conor slumped into his chair and unpacked his things. It was a frustrating constant that he recently found himself running late wherever he went.

‘The first examples of random access memory date back to 1947,’ the professor continued. ‘Back then it was called the Williams tube. This worked by storing data with electrically charged points on the face of a cathode ray tube…’

Conor was barely comfortable when he overheard two students in front of him whispering.

‘I heard some guy at Merton broke it,’ one student said.

‘What? The code? Who?’

‘I can’t remember his name. Something Johnson or Jameson.’

‘Bullshit.’

‘No, seriously.’

‘What did his code mean?’

‘He wouldn’t say.’

‘You gullible muppet.’

‘Honestly, he was like sworn to secrecy or something.’

Conor moved to the edge of his seat and leaned in closer.

‘Perhaps Conor would be so kind as to take us through it?’ the professor announced, the sound of his voice pulling Conor’s focus back to the seminar. The class slowly turned to look at him, peering with anticipation. The professor allowed for several seconds of uncomfortable silence before he spoke.

‘Would you like to voice an opinion?’

‘An opinion?’ Conor asked, his heart thumping in his chest. ‘Of course, my opinion… Yes.’ He fidgeted in his seat.

‘On the advancement of Computer-Aided Verification,’ Professor Miller guided.

‘Yes, well… Who doesn’t have an opinion?’ Conor smiled.

‘Indeed,’ Professor Miller said, holding an expectant gaze with his arms folded.

Smiling awkwardly, Conor felt the burning stares of his classmates. He tried to speak but his mouth had turned dry. He had nothing, not even a witty retort to steal some points.

‘Another time, perhaps?’ Miller offered, satisfied that Conor had sunk low enough into his chair. ‘Or, even better, could I have a minute of your precious time after this session, please?’ he then asked.

Conor gave an affirming nod, encouraging his class to return their focus to the front. The moment passed with an embarrassment that would linger.

The hands of the main clock inched forward without urgency, it was painful. Seminars under Professor Miller had a tendency to defy the laws of time, to turn minutes into hours and the attendees from buzzing enthusiasts into lifeless drones.

Conor stayed with the session as long as he could, a concerted effort considering his usual attention span. It was well into the second hour when his eye line had drifted mischievously to his smart phone – social media was soon playing its part in distracting him.

The professor wrapped things up with a collection of playful threats on the agenda of next week’s seminar. He gave some suggested research and a reminder on the pending dissertation creeping up on them. Before long the class was on its feet.

Conor kept rooted to his chair, acknowledging the students as they bundled their way to the exit, shrugging off the occasional smirk and whisper. He listened to the rumbling sound of his classmates from behind the main doors until the room had softened into silence.

Lining up the excuses in his head, he rose from his chair and made his way to the front of the classroom. Professor Miller was packing away his things when he glanced up to observe Conor’s walk of shame.

‘Mr Martin,’ Miller said, ‘There’s something I need to ask you…’

He packed away his notes and closed his bag, turning to him with a curious expression on his face.

‘Are you my Woody?’

‘Sir?’ Conor approached, looking puzzled.

‘It’s a question I sometimes ask myself.’ Professor Miller finished shutting down his laptop and projector before walking round his desk to lean up against it.

‘In 1953 a student named Allan Stewart Konigsberg enrolled in the City College of New York under the University’s illustrious film program… From the outset he appeared a promising student. Young, perhaps. Presumptuous, maybe. Like so many his age, yet to appreciate the way of the world.’ He offered a nod to Conor.

‘It only lasted a short while before it became apparent that there was a problem. Whether it was the course or the work or the tutors, I don’t know. But what was clear was that something didn’t quite sit right with him. He was unsettled, the University didn’t seem to match his perspective on things.’ The professor held a long gaze at Conor.

‘Eventually, after a succession of poor grades, he was kicked out… Not that this was to be the measure of him. He went on to write, to direct, to inspire. By then he was known by his stage name, Woody Allen.’ The professor let his words sink in for a few seconds.

‘So, considering that the greatest teaching failure of all is to not recognise potential, when I have a student consistently going out of their way to try and fail in my class I always ask myself the same question: is this student my Woody?’

Conor stared at the floor.

‘Well? Are you?’ the professor pushed.

‘I don’t know,’ he answered softly, raising his head.

‘Of course not,’ the professor agreed. ‘Neither of us do. This is something we need to figure out together, you and I. But we need to do it quickly, Conor, and this starts with you arriving to my seminars on time and prepared. Understand?’

‘Yes, sir,’ Conor nodded.

‘Alright. Then I’ll see you next week. Now off you go,’ the professor gestured to the exit.

* * *

Thirty minutes later and Conor was opening the door to his bedroom at Tennyson House.

He threw his bag and jacket on the floor before collapsing on to his bed. His head heavy in thought, he stared at himself in the mirror across the room.

The professor’s words had carried weight this time, a warning he couldn’t ignore. How did he let it get to this? He needed to pull himself back, to bring himself closer to the rails. The risks he was taking were getting him in trouble. Just one more night, he told himself. Putting on the travel kettle, he set things up for a strong cup of coffee.

Landing on his desk chair, he ran his finger over the keyboard to his laptop, disabling the screensaver and dissolving the rotating images from the screen.

The progress bar of a decryption engine appeared in front of him.

It started as a myth, a whisper around campus. Conor first heard the rumours over a pint with Samuel and then again during a Digital Systems workshop a week later. Some were saying that it began in Cambridge, but no one truly knew. It was never first hand, always a friend of a friend or the roommate of a stranger.

There was no explanation given, nor did there appear to be any pattern or connection, but students at the University were being chosen, singled out. Those who were selected spoke little of it, only to say that they had been sent a mysterious message, an encrypted invitation that they found in their mailbox or slipped under their door.

The message would contain a code that was unique to each student; a series of numbers and letters which would appear at random, encrypted by an elusive cipher.

Quickly, gossip had speculated on its purpose, the prize of breaking the code ranging from University acknowledgement to the absurd, but from there the stories would differ. Some would attempt to break it and fail whilst others instantly discarded the code refusing to participate in whatever this was.

Even now he couldn’t believe it. It had been four days since Conor had found a mysterious code in his mailbox, sandwiched between a pile of takeaway menus and college leaflets.

Everyone was talking about it, but not once did he imagine being chosen. To him this represented one thing alone: a test. An opportunity to stand out among the elite. To rise above the cream of Oxford.

For every minute since that day his thoughts had rarely strayed from the task. Everything had changed. He rubbed his eyes and felt the stubble that was growing on his face. Was this a joke? If it was he had played the role of the fool convincingly.

Conor had spent the past three nights staying up until the early hours trying every decryption technique he could think of, endlessly searching for help from the internet. Nothing had worked. There was little to go on except to analyse the code against every encryption method known and the options seemed infinite.

He held up the card to the light, reading the code with pained frustration:

125.137.PB:A-B.TXT

CICRX PRBDG BPCBZ

20/11/15, 10.30AM

The deadline had brought with it stress that was proving difficult to mask. Conor’s vague lecture contributions had already got him noticed, for all the wrong reasons, but the late nights had now pushed him beyond his usual ‘just in time’ arrivals and into inexcusable lateness.

It was only a few minutes past 12:30PM and already Conor’s eyes were showing the bloodshot story of insomnia. When he looked in the mirror all he could see was his weathered face peering back at him, desperate for rest. His occasional yawns grew closer together. As the kettle boiled he reached for the caffeine.

The only truth he could console himself with was that this was his last night. Either he broke it tonight or he didn’t; either way tomorrow was the deadline and he craved the end one way or the other. Conor tried to focus, shaking off the morning and settled in for what was to be another long session in front of his computer.

 

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Chapter Five – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

The Odds Game

Conor and his new friend Samuel Milton took in the view as they sat comfortably in the warmth of the Eagle & Child. They watched as the rain lightly tapped against the windows, as the puddles slowly formed on the street corners. Passers-by were pulling out their umbrellas and frantically running to shelter. The tables and chairs inside quickly filled up with shivering punters shaking off the rain.

‘Have you ever heard of the human regression theory?’ Samuel asked, handing Conor a shot of tequila. He glanced to the new arrivals coming in from the cold. Conor shrugged.

‘It’s the belief that the human race will eventually peak in its ascension. Achieve all that we are capable of, and then over time, slowly regress, forgetting all that has been learned.’ He picked up his tequila and gestured to the room. ‘It can make you wonder, when will we know that we’ve peaked?’

Conor had met Samuel during his first week at University. He was staying in the opposite room at Tennyson House and had given an almost immediate impression of wealth and boyish charm. He spoke with a rich, distinctly royal English accent and projected the self-worth and confidence you would expect followed a childhood spent wanting for nothing.

‘So, what are you taking?’ Conor had asked him.

‘Strictly class A’s, often with whisky. And you?’

Samuel’s dry sense of humour had taken a while to get used to. He had a cold exterior that would deflect questions and repel interest, a demeanour that required perseverance and patience. Instantly Conor had considered him the first test of his new mindset, an opportunity to meet someone he would have otherwise never met; and after several exhausting evenings attempting to keep up with his provocative intellect and rapid switches in conversation, an acceptance between them grew. Some would call it a friendship, but it was early days.

Conor had spent the past hour sharing memories and drinking stories from back home. Samuel listened intently in parts whilst on occasion drifting his focus, distracted by the mock Tudor character of the pub, the visible wooden beams, the lamps and roaring fire place. It offered an ambience which appeared to remind him of home.

Conor would have happily listened but depending on his mood Samuel would often be guarded when talking about where he came from and, in particular, his family.

He was also proving a strong drinker; three rounds with an accompanying shot and there was no sign of effect. Conor started to imagine that he had a silver flask of whisky tucked away in his jacket pocket at all times.

‘So, how’s your course going?’ Conor asked, the taste of tequila still warm on his breath.

‘Tiresome,’ Samuel sighed.

Conor wasn’t thrown by the response.

‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I didn’t think it was for you.’ He was still confused by Samuel’s choice on studying Finance Math at Pembroke.

‘No offense taken, chap. To be fair it’s more my attendance at University that’s the driving factor here, rather than any purpose.’

‘So why are you here?’

Samuel looked away, appearing to choose his words before returning his attention.

‘I am here, dear boy, because I find the thought of contributing to society troublesome at best.’ His tone became less playful. ‘I’m here because parents like mine offer to pay the tuition fees of their children just to remove you from their sight. I’m here at the courtesy of my beloved ex girlfriend Michelle, who took my virginity and my heart and then replaced me with a pretty boy named Craig. Turns out she’s engaged now, which makes you wonder why stupid decisions aren’t rewarded more often!’

He took in a mouthful of his pint and swallowed it down.

‘I’m here for the stories, Conor, the experience. Something to tell my grandchildren when I have them, God forbid. I want proof that I lived… Why are you here?’

‘I told you. A degree in Computer Science.’

‘Oh yes, that’s right. Fascinating.’ Samuel rolled his eyes. ‘Why are you here?’ he asked, pointing down at the table. It was clear he meant Oxford.

Conor paused to think on his answer. No one had asked him it before. Oxford was deemed an achievement in anyone’s eyes, the instinctive reaction was to congratulate him, ask what he was studying and wish him the best of luck. But Samuel didn’t seem to carry the same enchantment to his new digs.

‘I was jaded. No, jaded is the wrong word; frustrated would be better,’ Conor admitted. ‘Back home I rotated my evenings around the same bars and clubs, regurgitating a copy of a night over and over… All my life, I’ve just wanted to do something worth remembering. I guess I’m looking for something.’

As he spoke Conor noticed a red-head by the bar ordering drinks.

‘A chance to meet people,’ he said softly. She had a lean athletic body and was wearing skinny jeans and a tight pink top.

Samuel frowned, noticing Conor’s sudden daze and followed his eye line to the bar.

‘Remember, dear boy,’ he smiled. ‘Women are an odds game that’s never in your favour.’

Undeterred, Conor rose from the table, wobbling slightly as he stood to his feet. Unlike Samuel the pace in which they had got through the first few rounds was not without effect.

‘Just give me a minute,’ he said.

Samuel watched jeeringly as Conor carefully walked towards the bar, heading straight for the girl. Weaving in and amongst the crowds and tables, he moved as quickly as he could, reaching the bar in time to see that she was being served her drinks. He casually positioned himself next to her. Aim high, aim far.

‘Hello,’ he said, trying his best to sound charming.

His greeting prompted her to glance at him for a brief second before turning back to her drinks.

‘Hi Fresher.’

Conor reeled. ‘Jesus, that obvious?’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t say that,’ she said, turning her head slightly, a touch of sarcasm in her tone.

‘Well, ten points in any case.’

She gave no response. Conor made every effort to keep his eye line above her neck.

‘Nice place, Oxford,’ he tried again. ‘You live here?’

‘Of course.’

‘You come here often?’ Quickly he regretted his choice of words.

‘And why would you ask that?’ she moved to face Conor, giving him her complete attention for the first time. She had dark hazel eyes.

‘You don’t do this very often, do you?’ she asked, smiling. ‘Not that I’m suggesting you’re inexperienced or amateur. No, you’ve had some experience with girls or you wouldn’t have approached at all. It’s just that you’ve got insecurities. I’m guessing it’s because this is your first time away from home. Are you studying IT?’

Conor couldn’t hide his surprise.

‘Computer Science. How did you know?’

‘You’ve got a look about you.’

‘I’ll take that as a compliment.’

‘Take whatever helps,’ she said, looking away to shield a smile.

Conor caught it but played along.

‘Thank you. What makes you think this is my first time away from home?’

‘Well, for one thing it explains this newfound courage of yours.’ She took a sip of her drink. ‘You can’t quite believe your luck, can you?’

He looked away before returning with a smirk.

‘OK, maybe.’

The barman served the last of her drinks onto a tray and took the twenty pound note she had held out folded between her fingers.

‘So, what’s your name?’ Conor asked, feeling a sudden need to act fast.

‘Oooh, direct. I’m impressed.’

‘But not enough?’

‘Not today,’ she took the change from the barman, giving him a wink, and turned back to Conor. ‘So why Oxford? What’s wrong with the University in Leicester?’

‘What makes you say Leicester?’

‘Well judging by your accent I’m guessing it’s Leicester, but I suppose it could be Coventry or outer Nottingham even.’ Conor did his best not to give her anything. She studied his face and smiled. ‘But it’s Leicester, definitely Leicester.’

‘I have my reasons for Oxford,’ Conor said enjoying her interest. ‘But we don’t know each other well enough and perhaps we should. Can I give you my number? You can’t learn everything from a glance and I think…’

‘No, not by a glance,’ she interrupted. ‘But by watching the way that they talk, dress, compose themselves in conversation.’ Conor noticed that he was leaning against the bar and stood up straight. ‘You can get enough… And after looking at you and a minute’s conversation I’m guessing you were born and raised in Leicester. Perhaps a little excessively mothered from a young age, middle class of course, kept your head down in school and did well but not as well as you hoped.’

She squinted in thought. ‘From there you went on to further education definitely, no doubt fuelled by binge drinking and nights out with equally testosterone driven primates. But that of course led to boredom and boredom to escapism. I’m sure Oxford felt like a logical choice.’ She took another sip of her drink.

‘How many points do I get?’

Conor leaned back up against the bar, wondering whether there was any point in speaking at all.

‘Have you ever heard of the human regression theory?’ he thought to say.

She smiled and picked up her drinks.

‘Have fun, Fresher, but not too much fun. OK?’

‘Don’t you want to know my name?’ Conor called out as she walked away.

‘I don’t need it,’ she replied, disappearing into the crowd.

He stood at the bar, dazed by the elegance in which she had palmed him away. If the odds weren’t in his favour back home, they weren’t worth calculating in Oxford. He glanced back to Samuel to find him grinning ridiculously and saluting with his pint. He’d enjoyed the show.

Conor thought for a second, trying to imagine how the exchange could have played out better for him. Was it the way he was dressed? His hair? He sighed, eventually settling on a reason that his pride painfully allowed him to accept.



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David P. Philip


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A Game For The Young – One Year Later!

Time flies it would seem, and though I still can’t believe I’m writing this, it was ONE YEAR AGO today that my first novel ‘A Game For The Young’ was published!

Firstly a huge thank you if you’ve been able to take the time to read it.

Looking back over the year has given me a chance to summarise some of the highlights so it seemed fitting to share them:

  1. The initial response from my post on Facebook about writing a novel. Everyone was so supportive – and continue to be.
  2. Seeing the reviews from readers as they came in: https://davidpphilip.com/novels/a-game-for-the-young-reviews/
  3. Doing a few telephone interviews for local media and getting a two page article published in Etc Magazine: https://davidpphilip.com/blog/david-p-philip/thank-you-etc-magazine/
  4. Reading books and listening to audiobooks at a rate far quicker than anything I’ve done in the past: https://davidpphilip.com/blog/book-reviews/
  5. Reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter: http://twitter.com/DppAuthor
  6. Launching my website (and switching between various WordPress themes for weeks on end): http://www.davidpphilip.com/
  7. Learning the necessary skills to edit the video trailers for the novel: https://davidpphilip.com/novels/videos/
  8. I’ve recently spent some time in a recording studio, which was weird but a lot of fun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q8p5iOZS9g

I’m writing my second book at the moment, but it’s a slow process. Hopefully I’ll have some news on that later this year (or next).

Thanks again for all your support

dp_signed

David P. Philip


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Chapter Four – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

An Oxford Morning

SEVEN MONTHS LATER

I was fifteen when I read an article in a newspaper headlined ‘Student Life: An Education For The Modern Stone Age’. It was full of the sort of shit you’d expect, but the message it sent was pretty clear: If you don’t know what to do with your life then go to University.
Remember when your parents told you that school was the best time of your life? Well when they said that, they meant University. They just can’t remember anything else before it.
Picture a place where the onus was on you to live. To push the boundaries. To drink more than you can remember and sleep with whoever is willing. It was unlike anywhere else in the world, a home where you built the memories you would reminisce on.
If you’re my age and like me then any moment from now your parents are going to suddenly corner you and ask a question you can’t possibly answer: “What do you want to do with your life?”
What do I want to do? Shit I don’t know. Does anyone know at my age?
What you need to remember is in that moment they don’t need details. They just want to hear that you’ve got a plan. Trust me, when that moment happens just tell them “I want to go to University”. They’ll probably be proud.

Conor J. Martin

The air was fresh as Conor Martin set out for his morning run along the Oxford riverbank. The footpaths were empty at this time of day, which suited him fine. He was always one to prefer running alone.

The gravel crunched under his feet as Conor picked up the pace from the gentle jog he’d taken through the streets near Gloucester Green.

The sun was rising above the fields to the east of the City, resting low on the horizon and giving a picturesque view of the Oxford skyline.

Conor’s thoughts turned to his breathing, steady and deep as he pressed on, the light breeze blowing on his back giving him a gentle push. His mp3 player thumped dance music into his ears, helping him keep a regular beat and focus.

Day five had started well. Conor was finally beginning to feel settled. His enrolment at St John’s College had completed the day before, leaving him to enjoy the twilight hours of Freshers’ week; three days and counting before his first lecture.

He was set to be taking a degree in the Foundations of Computer Science, three years of extensive study. Not that he found that daunting; Conor didn’t really have an issue acquiring knowledge, it was knowing what to do with it that seemed to be the problem.

He had started applying for Universities six months ago, a decision pushed by the insistent questions his parents had bugged him with throughout the summer.

When it came to searching he stood by his motto. Aim high, aim far. It had served him well.

Oxford was the oldest University in the English-speaking world. Getting accepted had taken four applications, three interviews and more than a dozen sleepless nights in uncertainty.

Conor lifted his head to look down the bank and check the path ahead; it was clear but for the occasional dog walker. The canal to his right was peaceful and still, empty of the row boats that would soon occupy it. Beneath his feet the terrain felt rough and uneven, but the view made up for everything. He only wished there was a route like this back home.

Conor was born and raised in Leicester. He had spent his entire life living with his parents in the same mid-terrace three bedroom house off Vancouver Road. It surprised him how little he missed it. This was the first time he’d spent any real time away from home but Conor already felt the freedom that came from having his own private space.

Tennyson House was a halls of residence situated less than a mile from the University campus. It consisted of four floors and housed 160 single study bedrooms. From the outside the building gave off an almost gothic feel, with old brickwork and late eighteenth-century architecture. The windows were single-paned and bordered with Victorian design. Conor imagined it to be listed, perhaps once a Museum or Hospital, most likely protected under national heritage. It was full of history and character. The hallways throughout were carpeted with a rich cream and blue fabric and the walls were painted with magnolia, making it feel clean and fresh. Conor’s room was on the third floor. It was a decent size although perhaps not as spacious as he’d hoped. It had come furnished with a single bed, a basic desk, a small wardrobe and an en suite bathroom.

Tennyson brought with it a distinguished reputation, a credited history of famous tenants and a famed view that looked out onto the Castle Mill Stream. On his first day he had found the whole experience intimidating, the scale and the prestige. But after his fourth, Conor’s new home was beginning to feel comfortable. He was enjoying the simplicity of making his own decisions without his parents authorising his every move.

Conor was now an only child, and his family’s history was pained by a tragic loss. He was five when his younger brother Alex died from leukaemia and ever since Conor had had his parents’ complete attention; perhaps at times more than he could bear.

When it came to showing them his acceptance letter, he was greeted with a mixture of emotions. They were thrilled for him on the outside, his mother had even helped Conor pack his bags, sparing him of any tears or clichés. But he could sense the fear in their voices as they wished him luck, and felt it even more so in their over-protective hugs. Conor needed to leave the nest, he had a point to prove, and this would be good for him and it would be good for them as well.

Oxford was over a hundred and thirty miles from Leicester. It had taken close to an hour and a half to drive in his dated Vauxhall Astra, the journey blowing away rust from under the wheel arches and leaving a trail along the M1. It gave him the space he needed to grow and ensure his parents couldn’t drop by unexpectedly if they missed him. This was his chance to show them that he could stand on his own two feet.

So he set out searching for a fresh start and with three commitments made. The first was that he’d keep up his running schedule and maintain a level of fitness whilst at Oxford. The second, that he’d call home at least once a week to keep his family at a safe distance. And the third… He would go into this with an open mind.

University life was an opportunity to mix with people that he would have otherwise never met. A mass of cultures, varying ages, endless variety congregated within an epicentre of activity. He would go into it with his eyes wide open, be understanding and accepting of difference and try everything at least once.

Conor’s adrenaline had now pumped through his veins and warmed him under the morning sun. Time had passed and the light breeze that had once pushed him along was now cooling his face on the return journey.

By 7.00AM he was ending his run with a sprint to the finish, his heart pumping nearly in sync with the music that willed him along. Sweat streamed from his forehead as he finally slowed to an upbeat walk.

Conor panted for air as he looked out at the City, giving a moment to appreciate what he’d accomplished and wondering what memories the next three years of his life would have to offer.

 

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David P. Philip


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Chapter Four (Opening) – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

Page 22.

An Oxford Morning

‘I was fifteen when I read an article in a newspaper headlined ‘Student Life: An Education For The Modern Stone Age’. It was full of the sort of shit you’d expect, but the message it sent was pretty clear: If you don’t know what to do with your life then go to University.

Remember when your parents told you that school was the best time of your life? Well when they said that, they meant University. They just can’t remember anything else before it.

Picture a place where the onus was on you to live. To push the boundaries. To drink more than you can remember and sleep with whoever is willing. It was unlike anywhere else in the world, a home where you built the memories you would reminisce on.

If you’re my age and like me then any moment from now your parents are going to suddenly corner you and ask a question you can’t possibly answer: “What do you want to do with your life?”

What do I want to do? Shit I don’t know. Does anyone know at my age?

What you need to remember is in that moment they don’t need details. They just want to hear that you’ve got a plan. Trust me, when that moment happens just tell them “I want to go to University”. They’ll probably be proud.’

Conor J. Martin

 

Have you read A Game For The Young?
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David P. Philip


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Chapter Three – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

Leap Of Faith

‘Inconclusive.’

The professor repeated what he’d told Ellie earlier that day.
It was nearing midnight and a young team of scientists had assembled on the ground floor of a Computing Laboratory – one of their agreed meeting points in the Department of Engineering Science.

They kept the room dark. Desk lamps glowed around them offering a soft light.
There were four shadows in the room: Ellie, James, another student named Sara and the professor, who was standing perched against a desk while the others sat in front of him.

‘Inconclusive? What the hell does that mean?’ Sara asked, rising to her feet.

Sara Morgan, a charismatic biologist studying Chemistry at Keble, was prone to speaking her mind. She was often considered fiery by the professors who taught her (or ‘worked with her’ as she would put it).

James was more composed. ‘Are they questioning the validity of the research?’

‘Not exactly,’ the professor said softly. ‘The Board have… concerns. Look, guys, this happens more often than you might think.’ The professor tried to reassure them. ‘The funding required to take this project to the next level is extensive. The Board need to ensure that all areas are covered, that the very best in their chosen fields are assembled and consulted… That the right approach is taken and that the correct equipment, support and… expertise is in place.’

‘Bullshit!’ Sara erupted. ‘They can’t do this! This is ours!’

Her face was red with fury, the vein on her neck throbbing and defined. Her fists clenched.

The professor spoke calmly.

‘They can, they did and it’s done. I’m sorry.’ He knew what this meant to them.

‘Motherfuckers!’ Sara shouted at the floor, pacing up and down. The professor let it go. Sara’s temper was always going to struggle when dealing with this.

‘So what’s the next step?’ James asked, ignoring the sound of Sara kicking her chair in the background.

‘There isn’t a next step, not for a while. The funding is pulled. But I can assure you that all your names will be credited as key contributors to the research when it’s published.’

‘And when will that be?’ Sara asked, barely holding back the aggression from her voice.

‘Most likely in the next few years. It depends on the Muscular Dystrophy research. I hear significant progress is being made. Perhaps in a couple of years they’ll…’

‘Oh, come on,’ James interrupted. ‘It’ll go private. They’ll never get the funding to take this all the way. Some corporate American pharmaceutical will take this on and reap the rewards.’

The professor paused before speaking. He had to choose his words carefully.
‘Perhaps… not exactly like that, but in a way… yes, that’s possible.’

Sara slumped into her chair, the stages of acceptance were passing quickly and giving way to the sadness now showing in her eyes.

Whilst they had been waiting for the decision their minds had run riot. They had convinced themselves that only the very best outcome was possible.

Ellie sat waiting for her turn. Unlike the others she had been given the time to process what had happened. But it didn’t make it any easier; she had watched as they arrived beaming with hope and eager to hear the news. The disappointment was unbearable.

Ellie looked around the room, deciding it was time to speak.

‘Look, I don’t know about the rest of you but this isn’t over for me. I can’t just walk away.’ Everyone looked at her confused. ‘Look, we’ve started something, and it’s more than… this…’ Ellie rose to her feet. ‘This would be a cure to the human weakness. It would change life as we know it. How can we be expected to step back? Is it vain that I want to be part of this? I’ve given two years of my life… We’ve all given… We owe it to ourselves!’

James slouched in his wheelchair, his spirit broken.

‘What are you suggesting? It’s over.’

Ellie hesitated before continuing. She’d been thinking long and hard on the best way to broach this.

‘Well, what did they say? ‘Inconclusive’, right? Fine, then we take that on board. We take it to the next level ourselves.’

‘Animal testing?’ James frowned.

Sara glanced at him pitifully, muttering something inaudible under her breath.

Ellie tried to sound as confident as she could.

‘This isn’t about the money… Screw the funding! We have nearly everything we need already. We take it to human trials.’

The room fell silent. Ellie was uncertain even as she said it, but she had done it. She had put it out there. If anything she was convinced everyone else was thinking it too.

‘Who would be the test subjects?’ James asked, knowing the answer.

Ellie gestured to the team, palms open.

‘I can’t just walk away… and I’m surprised you can?’ She turned to the professor.

He had kept quiet, choosing to observe. Often a closed book, he was difficult to judge at times.

‘I understand that you’re angry,’ he said, speaking with a tone that was more forceful than usual. ‘I can’t deny that I’m disappointed too, but we need the funding and this needs to be research accredited to the University. We can’t go rogue. We need the support. This is too significant to act alone. The risks are…’

‘I’m in,’ Sara asserted, biting her nails as she spoke.

The professor recoiled. Shocked by the simplicity the team seemed to view this decision with. Considering the time they’d spent together over the past two years it was easy to forget they were so young and their immaturity at times took him off guard.

‘Me too,’ James said, turning to the professor for a reaction. He had begun putting on his coat.

‘I’m sorry, I cannot be part of this. What you’re suggesting… It isn’t safe. I’d lose my job, my career.’

‘You could oversee the project,’ Sara offered. ‘Make sure that everything was being done correctly. We’ll do whatever it takes.’

‘No,’ the professor replied, putting a scarf around his neck and checking the time on his watch.

‘But this is our chance!’ Ellie tried not to sound desperate. ‘You said yourself the amount of faith you put behind your science will reflect what you get out of it. This is our leap of faith. This is our moment. How can you say these things and then…’

‘Do not use my words against me, Ellie!’ the professor snapped. ‘I wouldn’t have got any of you involved in this if I thought it was dangerous.’ He seemed angered by the idea that the team were doing this under his guidance.

‘Let it go,’ he pleaded, lowering his head with almost a whisper.

‘We won’t,’ Sara spoke defiantly. ‘We can’t and you know that.’

The professor could see the determination in their eyes, the devotion. He’d seen it before.

‘You don’t know what you’re asking,’ he warned.

‘All we’re asking is that you trust us, Professor,’ Ellie pleaded.

They knew the truth just as he did. The history of pharmaceutical publications were rife with law suits and damage claims from scientists protesting that their research had been stolen or misused in some way. This would be no different.

The professor offered each of them a glance, acknowledging the sincerity in their eyes. He knew they wouldn’t let this go. How could they? Why should they? Of course they are right.

They were a young team and couldn’t help but be ambitious, but unlike them he knew what they were asking; the risks, the danger.

The project now verged at the pinnacle of two years in extensive planning; an Everest of research had been overcome. Their opportunity was now.

He needed time. Time to think, time to assess, time to weigh everything up, but there was none. If he didn’t agree tonight he may never see them again.

Was it too late to turn back? He had started this. He had put them in this situation. The responsibility bore down on him like a curse. They needed him. He couldn’t risk a side project led by a team of students spinning off out of control. No, he would have to see it through. And the risks? The risks would be the ante to a reward beyond comprehension.

The professor stood, rooted to the spot, muttering under his breath and privately debating. Eventually he nodded as if in agreement with himself.
Walking to the exit, he left the group awaiting his response. He opened the door and glanced down the corridor to check it was clear.

The professor looked back at the team he’d assembled, leaving an uncertain pause before he spoke.

‘Follow me. There’s something I need to show you.’
 
 

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David P. Philip


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Chapter Six – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

Page 36-37.

“It started as a myth, a whisper around campus. Conor first heard the rumours over a pint with Samuel and then again during a Digital Systems workshop a week later. Some were saying that it began in Cambridge, but no one truly knew. It was never first hand, always a friend of a friend or the roommate of a stranger.

There was no explanation given, nor did there appear to be any pattern or connection, but students at the University were being chosen, singled out. Those who were selected spoke little of it, only to say that they had been sent a mysterious message, an encrypted invitation that they found in their mailbox or slipped under their door.

The message would contain a code that was unique to each student; a series of numbers and letters which would appear at random, encrypted by an elusive cipher.

Quickly, gossip had speculated on its purpose, the prize of breaking the code ranging from University acknowledgement to the absurd, but from there the stories would differ. Some would attempt to break it and fail whilst others instantly discarded the code refusing to participate in whatever this was.

Even now he couldn’t believe it. It had been four days since Conor had found a mysterious code in his mailbox, sandwiched between a pile of takeaway menus and college leaflets.

Everyone was talking about it, but not once did he imagine being chosen. To him this represented one thing alone: a test. An opportunity to stand out among the elite. To rise above the cream of Oxford.”



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A GAME FOR THE YOUNG

DISCOVER THE EXPERIMENT DESTINED TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY

Exploring obsession, addiction and the abuse of power, David P. Philip’s debut novel, A Game for the Young, expertly toys with the idea of knowledge being a drug. After being accepted into Oxford University, Conor Martin finds himself thrust into an interviewing process like no other—with a chance to join an enigmatic team. This group of individuals have sacrificed the last two years of their lives to a project so important, it has the potential to change every life on the planet… read more

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Chapter Four – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

 

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Chapter Three – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

 

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Chapter Six – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

 

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A Game For The Young – Afterword

 

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David P. Philip


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