Chapter Four

"Thank God someone finally listened," Jack said while he and the others stood in the lobby of the police station.

After a half hour wait, Edison had finally convinced his friends to talk to the higher ups and let them go. They had just gotten their property back and were waiting on their benefactor to show up so they could go and check his computer. While they waited, a few officers passed by giving them dirty looks but they said nothing to them and went on about their business.

"I guess we learned one thing about being here," Donna said. "Don't help others or you'll end up in a jail cell alongside them."

"That's as may be but I'm not about to stop helping others if they need our assistance," the Doctor said softly. "We'll just know now not to hang around afterwards."

They looked over when Edison strolled up with a young blonde haired officer. Edison laughed and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Well, I gotta go, Jake," Edison said to him. "Let me know if you have any more leads on the cyber cult, okay?"

"Sure thing, Edison. Talk to ya later," he said, turning around and waving to him.

The Doctor frowned.

Cyber cult, he thought to his family, hmmm, wonder what that's about?

Edison smiled at the Doctor.

"Sorry about that, had to stop to talk to an old friend," he said. "So, if you'll follow me. I'll take you to Network 23 and…"

"Wait," Alan said. "We just came from there. They wouldn't let us in. They said they had no public computers."

"Yes, that's true. But you're with me and they'll let you in that way…as long as you behave yourselves, that is. I think they'll frown on you hacking into the database or something like that."

"We'll do absolutely no hacking, I promise," the Doctor said.

"Then follow me."

They followed him outside and walked with him towards Network 23. Edison glanced at them.

"So who are all of you?" he asked him.

"Well, my name is the Doctor. This woman beside me is my wife, Rain. Behind her is my brother, Alan and his wife, Rose. The other man is my brother, Jack and the other blonde haired woman is my daughter, Jenny. Beside her is my son, Dex and the others are my sisters, Awinita, Mingxia and Donna."

"You mean your whole family are blanks?" Edison said in disbelief. "What did you do, if you don't mind my asking? Hack into a government database or something?"

"No, we just like to keep a low profile. We're not much for people poking into our business," the Doctor said. "All of us like our privacy."

"Is that why you don't have a computer?" Edison asked. "I mean, you're the first blanks I've heard of that didn't own one."

"We aren't that interested in them. We prefer the telly over the computer," the Doctor said, shrugging.

"Then why do you need to use one?"

"Well, we're searching for someone. My son has a friend that's gone missing and he'd like to see him again."

"And your friend's name is…"

"Mark Patterson," Dex said.

"Well, I'll see what I can do then," Edison said.

"Incidentally, what's this about a cyber cult?" the Doctor said, casually.

Edison was shocked.

"You don't know? It's big news; all the major networks have broadcasted it."

"We've been out of the loop," the Doctor said. "We've been traveling out of state."

"Yeah and it's been broadcast worldwide as well," Edison said, giving him a condescending look. "I know you're blanks but you do remember that all networks broadcast worldwide, right?"

"We were traveling far out in the country where they didn't have TVs," the Doctor said, trying to keep from snapping at him and saying something rude that would prevent them from getting into Network 23. "So, what is this cyber cult? Just pretend I'm a total idiot and enlighten me."

"It's a secret cult," Edison said. "So far that's all anyone really knows about it. No one knows the true identity of the man running it. He's only known as the Cyber Messiah and his cult is known as The Church of the Cyber Resurrection. We don't know what goes on inside, who the members are or where it's at. We think they brainwash people to go out on the streets and recruit others but we're not completely sure since no one's come forward to tell anyone. But we have found several members left out in the open, completely drained of all their memories, just turned into human shells, for want of a better word. That's all we've found out at this time."

The Doctor was intrigued.

"Do you any footage of any of these victims?" he asked Edison.

"Yes, matter of fact I found another one this morning. Young girl in her teens was left in an abandoned building, her mind completely drained."

"Oh God, that's horrible," Rain said. "Can they help her get back her memories?"

Edison shook his head.

"Not without a way to download them back into her mind," he said.

God, what kind of sick bastard would do that? Rose thought to the others. Especially a teenager.

Well, most cults aren't known for being nice to their followers, Starlight, Alan thought back.

And let me guess, we're gonna find out what's happening now? Mingxia thought.

The Doctor looked back at her, grinned and waggled his eyebrows.

You lot should know me well enough by now to know I wouldn't go without having a dekko at this whole cyber cult thing, he thought.

Yup, that's Bro for ya, Awinita thought, gotta stick his nose into every little thing.

Well, sticking his nose into every little thing better not lead to more jail time or he'll be the next one to suffer a brain drain, Donna thought.

They reached the Network 23 building and followed Edison inside. The CCTV camera turned to them and Edison pulled out his ID card and showed it to the camera.

"Edison Carter and guests," he said aloud.

There was a click and Edison opened the door.

"Follow me," he said to them.


Theora looked up from her monitor and her eyebrows rose when she saw the crowd behind Edison. She was a young woman in her twenties with shoulder length brown hair, blue eyes and a thin build. He quickly introduced them.

"And this is Theora Jones, my controller," he said when he finished introductions. "She helps guide me when I'm out and about and supplies me with leads and information."

"Are these the blanks you got out of prison?" Theora said with a British accent.

"Yeah, they need to use the computer, Theora. I told them they could so if you could look up a missing friend for them? Mark Patterson?"

Theora nodded and ran a search. Edison looked at the Doctor.

"Let her do this for you since this is Network 23 property. I trust you won't foul up anything but if my editor, Murray, saw you on our computers…"

"It's fine. I don't mind," the Doctor said.

He and his family came around behind Theora. After a minute, the search ended.

"Um, well, there are about thirty Mark Pattersons worldwide," Theora said, turning to look at them. "Got anything that might narrow down the search?"

The Doctor looked at his son.

"Dex? Can you help her out?"

Dex came forward.

"Well, I'm pretty sure he's here in New York City," he said to Theora. "He'd be about my age. Early forties. Has…had short brown hair, blue eyes, Caucasian, thin build, bout…5 foot 9 inches…um…no distinguishing marks on his body, no piercings, at least not when I saw him last. No family that I know of."

"Do you know his ident number?" Theora asked.

"No, I don't, sorry."

Theora typed all the information into the search box while Dex stepped back and stood beside his father. While she was searching, Murray passed by, saw them and stopped. He walked over to Edison.

"Having a party at your workspace, Edison?" he said, gesturing to them.

"Of course not, Murr, there'd be strippers here if it was a party," he said.

He sighed when Murray gave him a dirty look.

"No, they're here because they needed a favor from me. They're trying to find a missing person, alright? They're all behaving themselves."

"Well, who are they?"

"If I told you, would you flip out?"

Most likely. Especially since you just said that, now who are they?"

"They're blanks. Friends of Reg."

"Why aren't they using their own computers to find this missing person?"

"We don't own any," the Doctor said.

Murray was shocked.

"You're blanks and you don't own computers?" he said.

"Yes, we're very anti-technology blanks," the Doctor said. "We're trying to start our own Amish Blank community. Sod electricity and technology, it's back to the horse and buggy for us."

Edison clamped down on his jaw keeping his laughter in while Murray let out an exasperated sigh.

"Just get them out of here as soon as they're done, Edison. I don't need Cheviot screaming at me because we had blanks in here."

"Will do, Murr," Edison replied.

Murray shook his head and walked off. The Doctor watched him go and then looked at Edison.

"Cheviot?" he said to him.

"Head of Network 23. His boss."

The Doctor's mouth formed an O.

Theora waited till they were finished speaking.

"I didn't get any matches on a Mark Patterson in New York with that description," she said.

The Doctor glanced at Dex.

"Moved out of state perhaps?" he muttered to him.

Dex nodded.

"Can you check worldwide then? He may have moved," Dex said to her.

Theora nodded. She ran a check and shook her head when it was finished.

"No one matches that exact description. If I had an ident number, I could check death records but if you don't know it, we're stuck."

"Damn," Dex muttered, "this isn't gonna be easy, Father."

"Well, suppose he's one of these blank blokes," Alan said to them. "He might have…erased his ident number."

"Then he's out of the database and I really don't have a way of finding him," Theora said.

And if he came here, I'm betting he doesn't have one and he's living as a blank somewhere, Alan thought to them.

Rain had a thought.

"These cult members…you said they don't know the identities of the ones that came back with the memory loss but surely the other cult members have families that are missing them and might suspect what happened," she said. "Is there a way to get a list of people who might have been abducted by them because I'm thinking if my son's friend accidentally got involved with them…"

"There's no real way to check that either," Theora explained. "There are missing person's reports we could go through but we'd have no real way to verify if they were abducted by the cyber cult or not. All we'd have to go on is heresay."

"Yes, but is there a Mark Patterson that did go missing at some point?" Rain said.

The Doctor smiled at her and squeezed her hand.

Good thinking, Latara, he thought to her.

Thanks, I just hope to God he didn't end up in this cult, she thought back.

She searched under missing persons and shook her head.

"Nope, no Mark Patterson there either," she said.

All of them let out frustrated sighs.

"Sorry, Son, I guess we have to do this hard way," the Doctor said.

"Can I ask you something?" Edison said to the Doctor.


"He's your son?"

The Doctor already knew where this was headed.

"Adopted son," he lied. "Had an older friend who died and I agreed to look after him and I consider him my son and when I married, my wife adopted him as well."

"Okay, I was gonna say, if that's your son that's one hell of a face lift you had since he's older than you are. Thanks for clearing that up," Edison said.

"No problem."

"As for your friend, I don't know what to tell ya if he's not showing up in the database. If he did decide to become a blank then it's unfortunate because now there's no way to track him. I do support most of the blank lifestyle since I have Reg and Dominique as close friends but there are downsides to it and this is a huge one right here. Without identification, your son's friend is as good as gone until he turns up. Now I could take you to Reg and he might know him if he's a blank but we can't help you here."

"Could you do that?" the Doctor said. "I hate to keep bothering you but it's really important that we find him."

Edison shrugged.

"It's not a problem, I was gonna head there anyway. Reg has a friend who has a friend that supposedly managed to escape from the cult and gave us information on the whereabouts of it but the only thing we found when we got there was the teenage girl."

"Yes, you said you were gonna let us see the footage?" the Doctor said.

He nodded.

"Theora, bring up the footage for them," he said.

The Doctor and his family neared closer while Theora reran the news footage from earlier. They stood around her watching quietly while they listened to Edison going through the building looking for the location of the cyber church. Their eyes widened when they watched him running into the room and kneeling next to the girl.

"Oh God," Rain murmured when she saw the blank look on her face.

"And they've all been like this?" the Doctor asked Edison.

"Yup, every single one of them, not a scrap of memory left in their heads."

"Why would someone do that?" Jenny asked.

"We're not sure," Edison said. "The only thing I can think of right now is they're trying to make computer generated copies, though why they'd wanna make a CG copy of this girl, I haven't the foggiest. But it's been done before with me, so I'm not ruling it out."

"Done before with you? You have a computer generated copy of yourself?" the Doctor said.

Edison rolled his eyes.

"Watch this," he said.

He walked over to the other computer screen which was currently blank.

"Max!" he yelled at the screen. "Max, can you come here a moment?"

The screen flashed and they saw a crude looking man wearing a shower cap on his head. He had on the top half of a black suit with a white shirt and black tie and he looked like he was made out of plastic. Behind him was a bunch of rotating multicolored stripes.

"What is it? I was in the s-s-s-shower! It never f-f-f-fails, I get in the b-b-b-bath and there's a yell at the screen," he said indignantly.

Edison rolled his eyes and looked at them.

"This is Max, my computer generated double," he said, gesturing to the monitor. "I'm sure you've seen him out and about on different networks."

"Yes, I'm quite the star star," Max said proudly.

"Wait," Rose said. "Someone stole your memories and made him?"

"Well, they copied them. This kid named Bryce Lynch works here down on floor 13. He's the head of research and development. One of those child geniuses that finished college at 11 or something like that. Anyway, a couple of years ago, if you remember, they had that whole blipverts scandal. Well I was the first one that found out blipverts caused fat people to explode when they watched them and to prevent me from telling the whole truth, this network board member named Grossberg tried to have me killed. I managed to elude security while I was here in the building and with the help of Theora got down to the basement and the parking garage down there. I tried to escape from it on a motorcycle I stole and almost did it. But at the last moment Bryce raised a ramp from the ground, blocking my way, and I went off the bike headlong into a barrier arm and was in a coma for awhile. The last thing I saw before losing consciousness was the words MAX HEADROOM on the barrier arm and when Bryce downloaded my memory into the computer and made him, his first words were Max Headroom so he named himself Max. But he was supposed to take my place and deliver my news reports so no one would realize I was dead after they finally killed me."

"How?" Awinita said. "He looks nothing like you. You can tell he's not even alive."

"Yes, I know," Edison said, snorting. "Bryce's first experiment was a computer generated parrot and it looks nothing like a real parrot either. But Max here is completely sentient and aware of everything we say and do and he can see us and on top of that, he's been a pain in the ass since day one."

"I have not. I have been a g-g-g-great help to y-y-y-you. I am not a p-p-p-pain in the ass," Max said. "I am w-w-w-witty and fun to be with."

"And he does that too. The stuttering and skipping. According to Bryce there was too much of my memory for the program to handle and it caused him to skip while everything tried to settle down. But I guess it never did since he's still stuttering now. He's also a little on the hyper side and a smart ass to boot," Edison said.

"So let me get this straight," the Doctor said. "You basically have a clone of yourself that's hyper and smart-alecky and makes a general nuisance of himself."


Rose giggled when the Doctor gave Alan a pointed look.

Gee, I guess I know what it's like having Max around then, he thought to Alan.

Hardy har har, Alan thought back while the other women giggled.

"But anyway, this is the only reason I can think of for taking a person's entire memory," Edison said, gesturing to the monitor.

"It's not this Bryce person that's doing it, is it?" Jack asked.

"It better not be, by God," Edison said angrily, "or Boy Genius will be the next one to get drained and I'll be the one pushing the download button."

"I can assure you, B-B-Bryce is not s-s-s-stealing people's mem-memories," Max said. "He's too busy watching P-P-Pornovision to do that."

"He's doing what?" Edison said, shocked.

Max smirked.

"Only k-k-k-kidding. I'm such a impish little liar s-s-s-sometimes."

"See what I mean," Edison said to them.

"Well, would this Bryce know how to find Mark?" Dex asked.

Edison frowned.

"I don't think so. Then again, he does do a lot of things I don't understand. I suppose we can go down there and check before talking to Reg but I wouldn't hold my breath. As clever as he is, I'm sure even he doesn't know a way to access wiped files. But just follow me. Theora, I'm taking my camera with me just in case and don't tell Murray I'm taking the blanks down to see Bryce, alright?"

"Will do," she said. "Nice meeting all of you. I sincerely hope you find your friend."

They thanked her. Edison grabbed his camera, beckoned to the others and they followed him out of the newsroom.

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