-Chapter 25: Hopelessness-

Theora sat down at the table where her brother Shawn worked. She needed to talk to him badly. She'd been up all night trying to figure out how to save Bryce from an undeserved execution. Bryce was only sixteen! His seventeenth birthday was only a few days away and he was never going to see it. As it stood, there was barely three and a half hours left for them to find a way to save Bryce.

She ordered a Blizzard. When it arrived, she twirled the mixing straw with her fingers, but did not drink. Her mind was on a much more important subject: her friend was about to die.

Shawn saw her sitting there as he passed the next row of tables with a tray. Passing the food around to the family at one of the tables, he brought the tray back into the kitchen. When he came back out, he sat down across from Theora.

"That's not Happy Theora I see," he remarked.

"No, it isn't," Theora agreed.

"You look like you just lost your best friend," Shawn told her.

"I'm about it,"

Shawn raised an eyebrow. "Tell me what happened."

"My best friend. Well one of my best friends. Bryce Lynch. Tried for murder on Network 66. According to the paperwork I've been going through ninety percent of the viewers found him guilty. How can you find a rape victim guilty of murder when it was a clear case of self-defense?"

"Ninety? That can't be right. You're talking about "In Your Court" right?"

"Don't tell me you watch that!"

"We switch to it right after "You The Jury" on Network 23," Shawn explained. "Winnie's a sucker for court shows. I know we voted 'Not Guilty' as did most of our friends. When Winnie saw what that man did to that kid! She looked like she wanted to jump through the set and strangle him herself. I can't believe anyone would find that boy guilty. You ask me, I think someone screwed up the votes."

"I think so, too," Theora agreed. "And I have the feeling that it was done deliberately."

Edison hurried into the room. "They've moved up the execution," he told Theora, nodding quickly to acknowledge her brother. "We don't have three hours left." His voice dropped to a whisper. "We don't even have one."

"How can they change the time of the execution?!" Theora exclaimed. "It's on a scheduled program!"

"They claim they're doing a special program tonight which is preempting the normal time slot for "In Your Court"." Edison explained.

In the Board Room at Network 23, Cheviot was on the line to those who ran the Network courts. At this point, the conversation was seriously overheating.

"I don't have time for you to conduct an investigation!" He was screaming at them. "That kid is about to be executed in less than a hour simply because that network has a feud with ours!"

"It will take at least two hours before..."

Cheviot switched off the vu-phone. "Damn it!"

Checking the clock on the wall, he realized that Bryce had less than twenty minutes to live."

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