Chapter 3: Grounded

After she returned the pile of garbage to its place on top of her bike, Blank Bryce walked around the corner to the warehouse she lived in.

"Where's your homework?" Jenny asked as soon as she walked in.

"Forgot it,"

"You skipped school. Again," Jenny confronted the teenager. "Jesus, Bryce! Do you have any idea-..."

"Yeah," Blank Bryce said. "Because getting a really good education did wonders for my dad. Oh let's see…. where is he now? Dead! Killed at sixteen or seventeen. And for what? Being too bloody smart!"

"Don't you dare talk about Bryce that way! He was a good man and…"

"He was never a man!" Blank Bryce said. "That's the point I'm making. He didn't quite make it."

"You're wrong," Jenny replied. "So very wrong. In those days, sixteen was considered manhood in this city. And Bryce and I had attended college and been working for four years before the disaster."

"I'm just as smart as he was," Blank Bryce argued as she headed over to her bedroom. "You and father's constructs Bryce II and Max Headroom made sure of that."

"Yeah," Jenny muttered. "Until they were both wiped from the System." more loudly she added, "Don't forget day after tomorrow is the Matinee."

"How thrilling! Don't tell me the ending!" Blank Bryce's voice called back from behind the wall of crates.

"I'm going out," Jenny called. "I have to get supper for tonight. I'll be back in one hour. If I see Blank Orville I'll pick up your homework for you."

"Thanks, Mum!" Blank Bryce called out, sounding anything but thankful.

As soon as the door clicked shut, Blank Bryce came out of the bedroom. She sat down at the vu-phone and dialed Breughal's number.

"Breughal," the man's face on the screen said needlessly.

"I need to talk to Cadenet," Blank Bryce told him.

"Sorry, he can't come out to play," Breughal said. "He's grounded for the rest of the week. I've got him cleaning finger and toenails as a punishment. It'll make him think twice before skipping school again."

"Can I send her over to join him?" Jenny asked as she walked back in. "And no, this isn't entrapment. I just forgot my credit tubes."

"Always willing to get more help," Breughal smiled. "We'll talk more about it later," he hung up.

"Mom," Blank Bryce said. "Look, what I'm doing is just as important as school."

"What can be so important that… what are you holding?" Jenny reached out and took the nanite controller from Blank Bryce. "Where did … Did you go to your father's studio?"

"If I can…"

"You mustn't fool around with this stuff," Jenny warned. "This is the reason they killed your father."

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