Max Headroom / Steve Wilkos
Carter's Controversy

-Chapter 2: After the First Commercial-

Steve waited patiently for the ads to end. He looked at his audience, wondering what they thought of Edison Carter. He didn't like the reporter very much. This was a man who in his opinion should've know better. Carter defended the innocent against large corporations with his show. So he of all people should not be dating a boy of sixteen.

Bryce, on the other hand, was not the typical teenager whom Steve protected on his shows. He seemed a little shy in a public setting, and that gave Steve pause. But he was also gainfully employed, a college graduate, and extremely intelligent. These things put the young genius in a unique position regarding his apparent relationship with Edison.

The signal for the show to resume was given and Steve turned to Bryce.

"Bryce. How many times have you gone to the mall? Or had a date with someone your own age?"

"I honestly never left my lab at Network 23 until started working with Edison." Bryce admitted.

Steve turned to Edison. "So you saw a socially naive child and thought 'I'll take this blank slate and mold him into the person I want to have sex with.' is that it, Mr. Carter?"

"No. That's not it," Edison said. "I want to help Bryce become a complete person. I just want to fill in the blanks, that's all."

"Yeah. You want to fill him in all right," Steve retorted sarcastically. He turned to Bryce. "You have no friends your own age you can go out with?"

Bryce shrugged. "Not really. I'm not allowed to met up with most of them."

"Why not?" Steve asked.

"Network policy forbids contact with employees at rival networks," Bryce explained.

"And you know nobody your own age outside those people you graduated with."

Bryce nodded.

"That's really sad," Steve said, turning again to Edison. "You must meet all kinds of people during your investigations. And not once have you ever thought of using that to find a friend for this boy that you supposedly care about."

Edison looked down. He had to admit that Steve had a point. He did know a lot of people. And even if it wasn't appropriate to do so during his investigations, there was no real reason for him not to find another teenager for Bryce to talk to once in a while.

"Now, the audience didn't hear what was being said on that video we showed at the beginning of this program. Would you care to tell us what Carter said to you before he gave you that kiss?"

"He asked me to marry him," Bryce admitted. "I told him yes."

"Marry him. Isn't that so sweet. He asked you, a boy of sixteen whom he knew has no other prospects. Who has no friends his own age, and probably very few friends of any age, to marry him."

"I really wish you'd stop turning this good man into a villain," Bryce cut in. "He hasn't harmed me in any way. He isn't taking advantage of me either. I'm not stupid. Far from it."

"Nobody is calling you stupid, Bryce," Steve told him. "But even a super-genius can't be fully informed on a subject he doesn't know exists. But right now," he said, turning to the audience, "let's meet the man who called the show. Gene Ashwell."

Ashwell walked out on stage. "Hello, Bryce," he said, sounding amicable.

Bryce glared at him. "You're sick, you know that, Ashwell?" he snarled. "You take a perfectly good relationship and turn it into something sordid."

"How many times has Carter screwed you, Bryce?" Ashwell asked. "How many times?"

"I've never touched him in that manner," Edison said, angrily. "And since he is of age of consent, if I had it would be none of your damn business."

"Why would you do this, Ashwell?" Bryce demanded, "Why risk Network 23's reputation airing out my private business on a show that's airing on a rival network?"

"You need to be a kid for a while, Bryce." Ashwell had a look of adult superiority on his face.

"And you need to be a grown-up," Bryce retorted. "Just because you're the laughingstock of Network 23, you think you need to make everybody else look bad."

"I am not..." Ashwell began, "Look, you have no true understanding of the psychological harm that Carter is causing you by..."

"Oh, that's rich coming from the man who broke into my studio in the middle of the night and robbed me. while I was right there sleeping." Bryce shot back.

"I didn't rob you. I have the right to go anywhere in Network 23 that I choose, and Max is network property."

"You just strolled into his room while he was asleep and took something without asking?" Steve asked.

"That has nothing to do with this matter," Ashwell argued.

"You claim to be concerned for this boy's emotional well-being, and yet you just take something. And it never occurred to you that it might upset him to find that somebody could've broken in with him there. Somebody who might have kidnapped him."

"He's not to afraid of that. He's too naive to understand that there's something to be afraid of." Ashwell snarled.

"Just because I'm not having sex doesn't mean I don't know a little about it," Bryce shot back. "I know what goes where."

"After Carter's shown you a few dozen times, I'm not surprised," Ashwell argued.

"I've never let Edison touch me that way," Bryce pointed out.

"Yeah, right," Ashwell grumbled. "You've been his whore since you two met."

"Get the hell off my stage!" Steve yelled at Ashwell. "Look, I'm really sorry he put you through all this. But I still have to know, are you and Edison in a physical relationship?"

"Honestly, I'm a little too scared to let it get that far," Bryce admitted. With a deep blush he added, "When I created Max Headroom, I took a full-body inventory of Edison and..."

"You looked?!" Edison exclaimed, nearly falling over with laughter. "We hadn't even officially met and you looked at my..."

"It was a simple inventory for research purposes," Bryce told him. "I have one, too, you know. So I didn't think looking at yours would be a big deal. I didn't consider the emotional impact it would have on me. Mind you, I still don' know if I'd ever be able to take you in."

"We can wait until you're ready," Edison said. "Unless you'd rather find somebody you're less intimidated by. Maybe Steve is right. If you're really scared by what I have to offer, maybe you should find somebody else."

"I want you, Edison," Bryce told him. "I feel this is right in just about every way. It's just the size of... I don't know if I can handle it."

"I'm sorry, Bryce," Edison told him. "I'm calling the engagement off. You shouldn't marry somebody you feel sexually intimidated by. It wouldn't be fair to either of us to be in a relationship where we couldn't share an intimate moment. I want you to be happy, Bryce. I want whatever relationship you get into to be as fulfilling as possible."

"Sex isn't the only part of a relationship," Bryce pointed out.

"But it is a part of one," Edison replied. "Bryce I will always love you, and I'll always be there for you when you need a shoulder or a helping hand."

"I guess I can live with that." Bryce admitted.

"I think that's a very smart decision from both of you," Steve told them. "And given Bryce's admission, I don't think we need to read these lie-detector results," he added, ripping them up. "Bryce, I wish you only the best. Mr. Carter, keep up the good work on your reports."

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