-Max Headroom - 20 Minutes into the Future-

-A Tragedy for Two Networks-

by Elegant Butler

-Chapter One-

It was supposed to have been the best day of their lives.

Bryce Lynch had awakened on that Saturday morning with an uncharacteristic smile on his face. There was a very good reason for it being there. He was getting married. Not that anyone else at Network 23 knew about it. They would have probably said he was too young. And his boss would've pitched seven thousand blue fits. After all, his fiancee, Jenny, was from Network 66.

Of course, as with all lovers, that didn't matter to Bryce or Jenny. And when he had asked Network 23's in-house priest, the Reverend Vanna Smith, to perform the wedding, she had been delighted. Even more so when she'd been asked not to tell Edison.

"It's none of his business," she had agreed, cheerfully. "You two just decide where you want the wedding, and I'll be there."

She had kept her promise and had even driven Bryce to the spot where the wedding was to take place.

She'd asked a couple of her parishioners to serve as witnesses, to make the wedding nice and legal. And they had kept their silence as well.

It had been a beautiful wedding, small as it was. Jenny wore a pretty pink and blue sundress with a blue bow in her hair. Her eyes were sparkling and filled with love as she arrived at the agreed-upon location in the taxi that they'd agreed on for her.

Bryce and Vanna waited on the steps of the old abandoned church for Jenny. The taxi pulled away and Bryce saw her for the first time that day. In that moment, his love for her grew exponentially.

If Vanna Smith had had any doubts about whether their love was mature enough for marriage, they had left as soon as she saw the look in Bryce's eyes. She watched as Jenny started toward them. She suddenly went off balance as her shoe came off. She stumbled and bent to retrieve it.

"Jenny!" Bryce cried out, seeing the recklessly driven car turn the corner moments before she did.

Vanna grabbed Bryce before he could throw himself at Jenny to push her away. She knew he'd never be able to save her in time. That if he'd been allowed to try, they both would've been killed.

Bryce scratched and bit at her until she let go. Then he turned and saw Jenny. A shrill scream erupted from his lips as he ran to her, more screams following. And who could blame him. Moments ago, she had been the most beautiful girl he'd ever laid eyes on. Now she was a torn, twisted, and bleeding mess. Her dress was now a mass of rags, covered in blood and tire tracks. Her face was mostly obliterated. One of the tires had run over her head. Her spine was shattered, and several bones jutted out of her limbs and torso.

Bryce embraced her anyhow, sobbing and screaming as he clung to her, rocking her lifeless body as though it were a sleeping child.

Vanna approached him, trying of offer comfort. But the moment she touched his arm, he glared at her, and she backed off. He wanted to be left alone with his grief. This was something Vanna understood. She'd help many other parishioners deal with such things in the past. When he was ready to talk, she would be there for him.

Eventually, a grey van pulled up, and Vanna realized someone must've called Breughal and Mahler.

"Bring her body to Gladhand Meadows," she instructed them, paying them the usual bribe that such a transaction required.

"Of course," Breughal said, gazing at Bryce. "I can see that she is deeply loved. And I am moved by such heartfelt emotion."

When Breughal bent to pick up Jenny's lifeless body, Bryce clung to her even more tightly and began screaming angrily and tearfully at him.

"Don't you touch her!" the distraught young genius sobbed "Stay away from us! I won't let you cut her up, or burn her up! You can't have her! Leave us alone!"

After they'd tried multiple times to wrestle Bryce away from Jenny's mangled body, they finally called the hospital and told them the situation. Another five minutes passed before an ambulance arrived. It took all three paramedics to get Bryce sedated and onto the stretcher.

"I need to tell Cheviot what's going on," Vanna told the head paramedic. "Give me any details you can."

"Given what we've just observed," the man said as Bryce was placed into the ambulance, still screaming Jenny's name, his eyes filled with terror and emotional agony.

"he'll be hospitalized in the psychiatric unit at Islington for at least a week until he recovers from this tragedy. He'll be on suicide watch given the events that have taken place, and will receive intensive therapy to help him deal with what has happened."

"Thank you," Vanna said, as she sat down heavily on the church steps.

"How about you," the paramedic asked. "Do you need anything?"

"No, thank you," Vanna shook her head. "I think I'll be alright. I feel so sorry for them. This was supposed to be there wedding day."

"I can understand why he's so grief-stricken," the paramedic sympathized. "He'll be taken very good care of."

Vanna got into her car and followed the ambulance.

When they'd got to the psych hospital in Islington, she used one of their vu-phones to call Cheviot.

Cheviot's face appeared on the vu-phone screen. "What can do for you this morning, Reverend?" he asked.

"I'd say good morning, but it would be inappropriate," Vanna replied. "I'm sorry. But I have bad news…"

She relayed the details of the would-be elopement and of the accident that had cut it so tragically short. Then she told him where Bryce had been taken, and that he needed to come to fill out the paperwork.

"I'll be right there," Cheviot said, in a voice as heavy as she knew his heart must be.

She waited there until he arrived. Then she quietly excused herself and drove to the nearest pub, to drown her grief in drink.

Cheviot filled out the paperwork, went to see Bryce. He watched the young genius sleep, heavily sedated, for nearly half an hour before closing the door and heading back to the guest lobby.

"We'll keep you informed of his progress," the doctor promised at the door. "And we'll let you know when he is ready for visitors. Until then, please don't send anyone over. We can't be sure yet what will set him off."

Cheviot nodded, then left and headed to Network 23, wondering how he would tell the rest of Edison's team what had happened.

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