MAX HEADROOM: KILLER INSTINCT

-Chapter 26: Racing Against Time-

Max Headroom wasn't ready to give up on trying to save Bryce. He could find no evidence of tampering regarding the show, however. No matter how he tried. There were no video drugs. No subliminal messages.

"I can't find anything," he told Edison. "The show is clean... technically speaking."

"What about the ads?" asked Edison's fellow reporter Janie Crane.

"The ads!" Theora exclaimed. "Max, check them quickly. Also, check "Porky's Landing" just before it."

Max checked the ads that had run on Network 66 at the time of the trial. Nothing unusual came up. Then he tried "Porky's Landing". As he ran it through a set of filters, they saw a display come up onto the screen during the times when Miss Jackson's character appeared on the screen.

"There!" Theora exclaimed. "Copy that and send it to Edison's camera!"

"What is it?" Murray asked.

"There was a subliminal message during Porky's Landing encouraging viewers to vote against Miss Jackson's clients on "In Your Court". Anyone who was already watching Network 66 had already decided on their verdict before the trial even started."

"We've got to bring this to Grossberg," Edison said. "Only he can order a stay of execution now!"

"Hurry, Edison," Theora begged. "You've got ten minutes!"

At Network 66, as Edison was racing to his rescue, Bryce was sitting on the edge of the cot, wiping an occasional tear from his face. "Be calm, Bryce," he told himself. "There is nothing to be gained from useless tears. You life is over and nothing is going to change that. In a few minutes they'll come in and kill you and that'll be that." But the tears refused to stop. He found himself wondering what method of execution the viewers had selected for him.

The door opened and closed again, letting in the briefest light before the darkness came again. Footsteps came toward him. Was it already time? A lamp was turned on and in its glow, Bryce could see the face of a middle-aged man.

The man looked at Bryce with sad eyes.

"Is it time?" Bryce asked him. "Did you come to kill me?"

The man nodded. "Yes it's time. But not here. You're to be brought before Judge Adams to hear your method of execution. Then it will be carried out in that place."

Bryce stood. "Let's go then," he said, grimly. "No point in putting it off."

The nameless man led him back out of the cell and back onto the set of "In Your Court" before departing and leaving him alone in the presence of the judge.

Judge Adams looked coldly at Bryce as the young genius stood alone before him.

"The audience has chosen that your execution be through suffocation, Your executioner will be Jack Randall."

A large man, who looked like he worked out nearly every day, stepped onto the platform where Bryce stood to a round of thunderous canned applause.

Bryce thought the applause was a bit much. They were about to murder him and it was being played up like it was a major sporting event. As he was thinking this, Jack Randall stood directly behind him. He pulled Bryce against him with one arm, holding him firmly in place. Then he clamped a hand over Bryce's mouth and nose, cutting off his air.

At the same time that Bryce had been led out of his cell, Edison was showing his evidence to Grossberg.

"This is a serious miscarriage of justice," Grossberg said as he got to his feet. "I'm coming with you. We have to stop this before it's too late."

The two raced to the lift and descended to the level where the execution was to take place.

Bryce felt his consciousness leaving him as Jack Randall continued to deprive him of oxygen. His vision grew cloudy and began to darken as his life slowly slipped away. He heard shouting as his consciousness left him for what he was certain was the last time. Then everything went black.

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