Bryce Lynch frowned at Cheviot.

"It's only for a week, Bryce," the boss said, firmly. "And I've already made the arrangements. You'll be picked up at the airport by Mr. Nakamura. He'll bring you to your hotel."

"I really don't see why I need to fly all the way to New Tokyo, sir." Bryce protested. "This is something I can do from here."

"You're also going to take a vacation for three days," Cheviot ordered. "You've worked for Network 23 for four years and haven't taken a break once. This time, I'm making you take one."

"Yes, sir," Bryce gave in, reluctantly.

"There's enough technology in New Tokyo to keep you from getting bored, that's one reason I'm sending you there." Cheviot pointed out.

"Fair enough," Bryce admitted.

As he packed, he thought that he sometimes regretted having been top student of his class at the Academy of Computer Sciences. Working at Network 23, the world's leading television network, had it's rewards. But there were the down sides as well.


The flight to New Tokyo had been uneventful, the onscreen television tuned to a music video channel as they were the most universally well-received option when it came to multi-viewer seatings. The offerings on this particular channel ranged from country to punk. One singer had even tried to combine the two which had sounded like a dog howling at the moon. Bryce wondered briefly if he was a werewolf, then laughed at the ridiculousness of this thought.

As promised, Mr. Nakamura was waiting for him at the airport. He bowed to the man, remembering Japanese custom. To his annoyance, the older man did not bow in return.

He followed the cold-eyed man out to the car, glaring at him behind his back. Once inside the limo, the Japanese man turned to face him.

"Nakamura Ryoshi," he said, as the chauffer pulled away from the airport. He damped a rag with a sweet smelling liquid. It was a smell that Bryce recognized from a few of his classes, chloroform.

Bryce turned to the door, but they were going to fast for him to get out.

As the chloroformed rag covered his mouth and nose, Nakamura Ryoshi whispered in his ear:

"But you can call me Master."


When Bryce woke, he was lying in a windowless room on a bed that was the worst one he'd ever slept in. The mattress was harder than a rock, in his opinion, offering no comfort whatsoever. The sheets were threadbare and there was no blanket, despite the fact that the room was quite chilly.

His body was covered in bruises and he wondered if he had been dragged into the house rather than carried. He frowned at this treatment. Looking for his clothes, he saw that they were nowhere to be found. This was very strange in his opinion. Why would they want him naked?

When Ryoshi walked into the room and began to undress himself, Bryce had a feeling he was about to find out.

"Lie down," the older man ordered, firmly. His voice was cold and demanding.

Bryce knew he would not take 'no' for an answer. But he didn't know why he was being told to get into bed. It surely wasn't night time already. Though as he thought about it, he realized he had no idea how long he'd been unconscious.

Still, something, some primal instinct that he usually ignored, told him not to do what he was being told.

"No," he shook his head.

Ryoshi grabbed him by the neck and manhandled him over to the bed, shoving him face down onto the mattress.

"I'm going to rape you now," he hissed in Bryce's ear.

Those words followed Bryce into Hell.

Ryoshi was heavy, and Bryce could not get out from under him though he struggled and fought, trying to elbow the cruel man in the gut. Ryoshi caught his arm and held it behind him.

"Lie still or I'll break it."

Bryce went still, but not silent. His screams, forced out by the pain that came with being penetrated slowly and deliberately by Ryoshi, filled the room.

Ryoshi didn't mind. He'd had the room soundproofed. Many of his other guests were already aware of (and perfectly okay with) his intentions. The others were told he went to that room when the parties he threw got too loud for him. He thrust savagely, relishing the shrieking and wailing beneath him, until ultimate pleasure took over and he stopped, smiling triumphantly down at Bryce, who had passed out.

When Bryce regained consciousness two days later, he wished immediately that he hadn't. He was certain that he had been violated more than once, though he had no idea how many times it had happened.

"Beautiful," a voice said from the doorway. The lights were dimmed, but the voice was not that of Nakamura Ryoshi.

Bryce's heart leapt with hope. Was he being rescued?

That hope was destroyed as the new man pushed him back onto the bed and climbed on top of him, tearing into his body and his soul. He was slapped back into consciousness each time he came close to passing out, only allowed to fall back into the darkness after this rape was over.


Sobbing in the filthy bed in his little room, he could hear the laughter and merriment above him as the household members celebrated Ryoshi's birthday.

Aware of the young genius sobbing one floor below them, they went out of their way to make sure he heard everything.

"We have to send him back tomorrow," Ryoshi told them. "We told them he would be back in six days and tonight was the fifth. Don't worry though. I have a plan."

A man stepped out of the shadows. They recognized him as a professional parachutist.
"I'll be piloting your young guest home tomorrow," they told him. "Not that he'll ever reach home."

"Mr. Kyoko will exit the plane shortly after it levels off, leaving it on autopilot to trick our young houseguest into thinking he is safe," Ryoshi said, this being the only thing he did not let Bryce hear. "There will be just enough fuel to reach the airport. Then the plane will crash and burn. Thus hiding the evidence of our week of fun."


Edison Carter waited at the airport for Bryce's plane to arrive. Watching the skies, he looked forward to seeing his best friend again. Bryce hadn't called all week, but that hadn't bothered him. Bryce was notorious for not calling people, having not spoken to his parents in almost seven years.

Looking up, he saw the plane that matched the image Theora had printed out that morning. Bryce was there. In just a moment, the plane would land and...

A sudden burst of light and sound filled the air as the plane suddenly exploded.

In the horror and confusion that followed, only one man noticed a Japanese man pick up a public vu-phone and, after dialing, say two words. "It's done."

Edison grabbed the man by the throat. "What's done, asshole? Tell me!"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" the man smirked as he shoved Edison away and began walking away.

"Stop that man!" Edison shouted. "Stop him! He murdered Bryce!"

But with no evidence and the explosion happening to an incoming plane, the metrocops blithely patted Edison on the shoulder, sure it was grief over losing a friend that was making him talk nonsense.


A hundred miles away, Bryce Lynch, alive but with a sprained ankle, limped out of the field he'd landed in. There was a small row of little houses within walking distance that he'd seen as he had come down with the parachute that Kyoko had snuck onto the plane along with his own.

Kyoko had not had any intention of following through with Nakamura's instructions. But he did not want anyone to know. So he had rigged an explosion, not to kill Bryce, but to hide the fact that he had not been aboard the plane.
Grateful for quick parachuting lesson, Bryce had landed miles away from Kyoko. That didn't bother the young genius.

But something else did. He'd been told not to return to Network 23. That Nakamura would be monitoring to see if he was there, and would order his death if he found him.

Exhausted from his ordeal, and with nowhere to go, he curled up in the damp grass and went to sleep, certain that he would die from exposure by morning.


Edison sat in his apartment on the edge of the bed. He tried to think of a way to tell the others that Bryce had died in an explosion. The thought horrified and sickened him, despite his years as a field reporter who had seen so many gruesome events over the years.

His heart ached as he remembered his friend and the adventures they'd had together working on the reports Bryce had helped him with. Thinking of the explosion, Edison wished briefly that Bryce had died in the thermal testing chamber at Security Systems.


Morning came, and Bryce was not dead. Nor was he in the field where he'd lain the night before.

A thick warm pile of bedclothes covered him and the soft mattress he'd been sleeping on.

"You awake?" an unfamiliar but friendly voice asked. It seemed to belong to a person of advanced age.

"Yeah," Bryce said, hoarsely. He tried to clear his throat but didn't achieve much.

"Pneumonia," another voice, this one female, told him. "We had our son look at you. He's a doctor. He gave you a little something to fight the infection. It should be cleared up in a day or two. What's your name?"

"Bryce," Bryce told him.

"Well, Bryce," the woman said, "I'm Lisa Adams and this is my husband Jack."

"Why were you sleeping in Clancy Field?" Jack asked him.

Bryce, though not sure why, told them everything that had happened to him during the past week, trying his best not to be vulgar as he spoke.

Horrified, they listened.

"It seems to me that you need to start a whole new life," Jack finally said. "You're probably lucky that they didn't see you leave the plane."

"They had to leave the plane's securicam off to hide the pilot's jump," Bryce explained, drying his tears with the tissue he'd been given.


Heartbroken, Edison, Theora, Murray, Lauren and Cheviot stood together before the memorial stone that Edison had ordered at Gladhand Meadows. Blank Reg and Dominique also stood there. Each lost in his or her thoughts about Bryce.

"I'll miss him," Edison said, breaking the long silence.

"We all will," Cheviot agreed, the others nodding wordlessly.


"Have you picked out a name?"

"I don't want to be noticed if I start to slip up, so Brandon," Bryce told Jack. "Brandon Williams."

"I like it," Lisa told him. "well, the facelift shouldn't take long, just a minor adjustment to the cheekbones will be enough to fool anyone."

"Are you scared?" the specialist asked him, the crew standing around them in the facility that Bryce had been smuggled into.

"More so of the life to follow than of the surgery itself," Bryce admitted. "It's not going to be easy being on my own when I've always been so protected."

"We would never let you be alone, dear," Lisa smiled as a girl of sixteen walked into the room. "This is our granddaughter, Janice Reynolds. We think she'll make a fine wife for you."

"Wife?" Bryce asked.

"You'll need to live a life completely different from your current one to fool everyone. What better difference than to have a wife and children?"

"That would be a good cover," Bryce agreed.

'Not to mention it would remove the dishonor from our granddaughter and the triplets.' Jack thought to himself.


"This is Edison Carter coming to you live and direct from Network 23 at the Seventh Annual Mind the Future Fair in Clancy Field in Dover. Cut it, Control," he said, with the first laugh he'd uttered since Bryce's horrifying death six months earlier, as he lowered his camera.

A boy of two was tugging at his pant leg.

"Can I be on teefee?"

"May I be on TV," the boy's father corrected him, as he approached and scooped up the child.

"Bryce?" Edison asked, in wonder. But when he looked into the other's face he decided it was a mere coincidence of voice. Lots of people had the same voice, after all.

"Close," the toddler's father said. "My name's Brandon. Brandon Williams. This is Jason. My wife Janice and our other two are over by the cotton candy stand."

"It's good to meet you, Brandon," Edison said. He didn't know why, but now he was positive that Brandon was Bryce. Something told him not to pursue this suspicion, however.

Brandon saw the flash of recognition and gave a tight smile as if to say 'I'm okay. But please tell no one.'

Edison understood.

"You're always welcome for dinner," Brandon said, smiling at Edison.

"Maybe I'll take you up on that some day, Mr. Williams," Edison smiled back as he repositioned his camera. "Take two, Control."

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