A MIND OUT OF TIME

"Theora?" Edison asked over the vidicam link. "Theora? Is everything okay?"

"Oh, sorry Edison." Theora straightened up at her control desk. "Everything A-Okay. Subject is just arriving by the front door. Visual analyzer reads subject as green. Non-belligerent. You should be able to get a reasonable interview with him."

"I hope so," Edison said. "Cheviot's been begging me to do this interview all week. And we've finally got enough of a lull in all the excitement to do it."

Murray hung up the phone in his office, then walked into the main part of the Control Room. "Theora," he said, sounding cross. "I'd like to have a word with you. Ted, take over Carter until I tell you otherwise."

Theora stood up, a worried expression on her face, and walked into Murray's office.

On the way there, she wondered what Murray wanted to talk to her about. Had Dr. Duncan betrayed her confidentiality? She could only pray that Murray would not jump to any conclusions.

Sixteen was legal in London in those days, but not in many of the other countries where Network 23 aired. Would she be let go for the network to save face in those more restrictive areas? Murray would never believe that she hadn't slept with the young man who was currently in his lab wondering what to name the new primary color he'd recently invented. Not when her unborn child had his DNA.

"Sit down," Murray said when she walked into his office. "Would you mind telling me what's going on between you and Bryce?"

"Nothing," Theora said. "You can ask him if you want."

"But you're pregnant by him."

"So it seems."

"This is a serious matter, Miss Jones," Cheviot said from the vu-phone screen. "You're too good of a controller to send off. However, I must insist that you terminate the pregnancy immediately."

"I won't," Theora said, firmly. Anger flashed in her eyes. "Faer… as I knew him when we made love… had a reason for coming back and giving me this child. I will not kill it."

"Who the hell is Faer?" Cheviot demanded.

"Bryce Lynch," Theora explained. "Though I did not know it until the day after we made love."

"Miss Jones, if you do not report to me within two days with a record stating that you've had an abortion, I will have you declared unfit for motherhood and they will force you to have one."

"You can't do that!" Theora exclaimed.

"You forget how much power I have, Miss Jones," Cheviot said as he vanished from the screen.

With tears in her eyes, Theora fled from Network 23.

"What do you mean she left?" Edison was demanding from his place beside the man he had been about to interview. "Sorry," he added to his subject. "Technical problems."

He walked over to a corner and spoke into the camera. "Where did she go?"

"I don't know," Ted told him. "All I know is that Murray called her into his office and next thing I know she's running out of here like a bat out of hell."

"Put Murray on," Edison growled through clenched teeth. "Now!"

Ted stood up and called to Murray who was on the other side of the room.

"Now what?" Murray grumbled as he crossed the room. "Edison? What's the problem?"

"You tell me," Edison said. "You better not have fired Theora, Murray."

"What is happening with Theora is between her and Cheviot," Murray told Edison.

"Like hell," Edison said. "Theora's our friend. If she's in trouble, it's our job to help."

"There's nothing I can do, Edison," Murray said.

"I don't believe this," Edison complained. "Theora's a decent woman who's done a lot to help this Network and now you don't want to help her."

"Some things are too controversial to get involved in," Murray apologized. "I've put a lot of work in to make this show respectable. And I've made a lot of sacrifices. And I will not risk the reputation of this show for one controller. Not even Theora."

"Then perhaps I should leave, also," Edison threatened.

"She's pregnant," Murray finally confessed.

Ted's face lit up.

"It's not yours, Ted," Murray said.

"It's not your place to tell me that," Ted said, crossly.

"So then, who is the father?" Edison asked.

There was a long silence.

"Well?" Edison pressed. "Who is it?"

Murray's voice was barely more than a whisper when he finally answered.

"Bryce."

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