-Chapter One-

It was about eight a.m. at Network 23. Most of the day shift employees hadn t arrived at work, yet. Only the security guards had come in to replace their evening counterparts. The day controllers would be arriving in about half an hour, along with their shows producers. Some reporters would arrive at nine, others a little earlier. Still others would head right into the field and would not see the inside of the Network 23 control room until after their morning stories were completed.

Research and Development was, for the first time in years, closed down. This was due to the fact that its one employee, Bryce Lynch, was feeling rather sick for the first time that he could remember. He lie there in bed, on his side, sobbing from the pain he could feel throbbing throughout what felt like his entire torso.

Bryce rarely showed any sort of emotion, so when Max Headroom appeared on Bryce s vu-screen and saw him lying there in tears, the construct immediately knew that something was very wrong.

Max didn t waste time calling for an ambulance. Once one was on the way, he stayed on screen near Bryce s bedside until the paramedics arrived.

Once Bryce was safely on the way to the nearest medical center, Max returned to Edison s vu-screen.

Good morning, Max, Edison yawned. For you perhaps haps. Max remarked.


Unlike some people, you weren t rushed to the medical center this morning in pain.

Some people meaning someone I know, I assume? Edison asked, impatiently.

Meaning Bryce, Max explained.

Jesus, Max! Why didn t you tell me sooner?

It just happened a min min minute ago.

Which medical center?

Northside, Max explained.

Tell Murray and Theora I m taking the morning off, Edison told Max as he quickly finished dressing and left without finishing his coffee.

The operating room at the Northside Medical Center was abuzz with activity. Bryce was already unconscious and the surgery had already begun. He had been rushed in with an apparent case of appendicitis. But that had been only a ruse to get him into this room, where the real reason for his attack was now being revealed to a group of onlookers who were watching the operation with keen interest.

And you are sure the boy will live? one man asked, his eyes fixed on the incision that had just been made in Bryce s abdomen.

Right up until the very end, a second man assured him. He might even survive it. We won t know until the end. And in any case, we ll have what we need to disgrace Mr. Edison Carter.

As they watched, the surgeons performed the surgery that would lead, they hoped, to Network 23 s downfall.

In the waiting room, Edison Carter looked up at the clock. It had been eleven minutes since he had been informed that Bryce had been rushed to the medical center for emergency surgery. It felt more like eleven hours. He thought of Paddy Ashton, his friend and rival who had died a month or so earlier. He prayed inwardly that Bryce would not also die.

At sixteen, Bryce was the youngest employee at Network 23. Edison often thought of him as the little brother he d never had, and felt very protective of the young genius. He supposed it had something to do with the events that had taken place at Security Systems, when both he and Bryce had been trapped and nearly killed in a thermal testing chamber.

Theora and Murray hurried into the waiting room. Murray didn t like hospitals very much and was wearing a harried expression on his face. Theora looked extremely concerned.

Did they say what was wrong?

Appendicitis, Edison replied.

Fairly routine, Murray recalled. My daughter, Annie, had hers out when she was nine. The recovery s a little painful, but Bryce will manage, I m sure.

We ll see, Edison said. I m guessing he s got a low pain threshold. He hasn t experienced too many injuries, except one or two to his pride. So, I m guessing that he ll be in a little more pain than some people.

He might surprise you, Theora suggested, hopefully.

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