-Chapter 11: Dismissal-

"What?!" Theora exclaimed about a minute after Edison had returned to Network 23 from Westford.

At the same time that Mr. Lawrence was telling the others at Westford that Bryce was employed as the network's head of research and development, Cheviot had been pulling that rug out from under him.

"Damn you!" Edison slammed his camera down on top of Theora's control desk for emphasis causing the image of Cheviot that appeared on the vu-phone screen to wince briefly.

"That's an extremely expensive camera," the chairman pointed out.

"Damn your camera. You can't fire Bryce!" Edison said. "I promised him his job would be available when he came back,"

Cheviot glared at him. In his mind, however, he was silently pleading 'please figure it out, Edison.'

"Sir, when Bryce gets out, he'll have no place to go. He won't survive in the Fringes. Not even if he stays with Blank Bruno."

"Bryce should've considered that before he decided to become a murderer," Cheviot hoped to God that they would see through the charade he was playing for the sake of the security cameras. That they would understand the truth he could not tell them. That he wasn't dismissing Bryce because of what he had done. Not exactly anyhow.

"How do you think he's going to react when I tell him?" Edison wanted to know. "He'll think..."

"You're not going to tell him, Mr. Carter," Cheviot assured his top reporter. "I am. I don't want him associating you with this information when you go to interview him in two days."

"Interview him?! Are you barking? You think he's going to do an interview with Network 23 two days after you fire him?"

"I hope so," Cheviot said. "So I expect you to get ready with some good and tough questions."

"I'm not going to ram this interview down his throat," Edison argued.

"I don't expect you would," Cheviot said. "Just be careful not to go too easy on him, either."

Disconnecting the call, Cheviot put his coat on and turned to the rest of the board. "I will be back in an hour." he told them.

Stepping into the same lift where Parker's body had been found by a night janitor, he saw that there was still a small stain in the corner. He wondered if it would ever wash away. What, he wondered, about the stain on Bryce's soul?

The lift stopped at the level of the car park where his vehicle was located. He got out, walked to his car, and got in. After a moment, he started the car and drove to Westford to give Bryce the news of his dismissal. He just hoped Bryce would understand why.

Bryce wasn't fond of picking up the trash that passers-by seemed to enjoy tossing onto Westford's basketball court.

"Don't they have someplace better to hurl their garbage?" he asked, putting more of it into the bag he was carrying.

"They think we're trash because we're in juvie," Riku explained. "So the figure trash goes with trash."

"Half of us who are in here landed in this place because of those hypocrites," T-Bone told Bryce

A passerby tossed an empty Zik Zak juice pack directly into Bryce's bag with a cheerful "He shoots! He scores!"

It brought a small laugh to Bryce's lips which was fortunate, since the occupant of the vehicle pulling up was about to spoil the rest of his day.

"Nice car," T-Bone muttered.

Bryce followed his gaze. His eyes widened with hope. It was a Network 23 company car. Was it possible that they had come to get him? Was his nightmare, nice as this part of it seemed to be, finally over?

Cheviot got out and went over to Mr. Lawrence who was standing outside supervising the clean-up. "Would it be possible for me to have a moment to speak with Bryce Lynch?"

"He's on clean-up right now," Mr. Lawrence explained. "He'll be done in about ten minutes. Why don't I show you around while you're waiting?"

"I have a dinner meeting with Ped Xing in half and hour," Cheviot said. "I need to see Bryce now."

"Very well," Mr. Lawrence waved at the three boys. "Bryce! Two minute break."

Bryce set his bag down and went to join Cheviot.

"Sir?" he asked hopefully.

Cheviot couldn't bear to see the look in Bryce's eyes, knowing that he was about to crush that hope. He turned, instead, and watched Riku and T-Bone as they continued to clean up.

"I'm afraid I have to let you go," he said.

Bryce felt something inside himself shatter. How could Cheviot do this to him? Except for the time he'd almost been drawn away to Network 66 with the promise of doing his own show when he had been childishly angry at Cheviot for confiscating his pet parrot, Bryce had been a loyal employee of Network 23 for years. "Why?"

"I think you know why," Cheviot said, hoping that Bryce did know his true reason.

"Yeah," Bryce retorted, "I think I do. You set me up from the very beginning, didn't you?"

"What?" Cheviot asked. This wasn't going the way he'd planned. Didn't Bryce realize that Cheviot's dismissal of him meant that he could be tried at Network 23's own court? That he would no longer risk being tried in a network court that sought to destroy both Bryce and Network 23?

"That's why you hired that ... that..." Bryce slapped Cheviot across the face as hard as he could. "Go home, Ben." he growled. "Don't bother coming back."

Mr. Lawrence hurried over and restrained Bryce, pinning his arms behind him.

"No need," Cheviot told him. "I just gave him some bad news and it upset him. I'll go," he added to Bryce. "When Carter arrives day after tomorrow try to remember he had nothing to do with this."

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