-Chapter 27: Tense Moments-

It took three of Network 66's security guards to pry Bryce free of Jack Randall's grip. When he did, he crumpled to the floor in such a manner that Edison was convinced that Bryce had to be dead.

A sob of grief escaped from Edison as he raced over to the fallen teenager and scooped him up into his arms.

Grossberg glared angrily in the direction of the guards. "Get him out of here," he growled fiercely. "Put him in the same cell they locked Bryce in and don't let him out until the Metrocops get here. Judge Adams, too."

Grossberg turned to face Edison. "None of this was with my consent," he said. "You have to know that. Bryce was my favorite employee when I ran Network 23. I'd never do anything to harm him!

Edison was stroking Bryce's hair, absently as he sat on the floor, still cradling him, not hearing or caring about anything else.

"You can't be dead," he whispered, as tears ran down his face. "You simply can't be. Not when your life was just beginning. Not now. Not now."

Theora wiped the tears from her eyes as she watched the drama unfold on her control screen. She couldn't believe that all their efforts to save Bryce had been for nothing! Murray put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but she didn't think anyone could comfort her now. She looked up to say something and saw that there were tears in his eyes, also.

None of them knew how long they remained like that, all too griefstricken to move. Their voices failed them as they listened to the cold silence that seemed to drag on forever.

Each of them was lost in his or her own thoughts.

Grossberg felt as if a thousand ton weight of guilt had been tied around his neck; one which he was sure would never be lightened. He remembered when he had hired Bryce to work at Network 23. The boy had been twelve years old, his eyes filled with joy and wonder as he looked over the Network's Research and Development lab and all its computers. It was a look that was full of life and possibilities. That had been only four years ago, and now...

Edison thought back to his first encounter with Bryce. To the moment he had broken into the boy's studio for the second time, through the ventilation shaft in the ceiling. That had been when Bryce had introduced him to Max Headroom, whom Bryce had created out of Edison's mind and memories.

Theora also thought back to that time, recalling the cyber-duel she'd fought with Bryce that had led to Edison's accident and Max's creation. Despite the fact that her reporter had gotten hurt as a result of it, she found herself admiring Bryce's skill with any computer system. It had been a blessing to the team that he had chosen to work with them when push came to shove. She doubted the team would ever recover from this loss.

Max could be heard on a small screen in the corner trying to work out a eulogy. He was glitching worse than ever, especially when he tried to say Bryce's name. Occasionally words and phrases like "scumbag" and "kill the judge" came vehemently from his computer-generated lips


Edison, as well as everyone else who heard that one word, felt as if their own hearts had stopped and had suddenly started again.

"Bryce?!" Edison pulled back to look at Bryce, making sure he wasn't hallucinating.

Bryce was looking at him as if he'd just woken from a long sleep.

"Thank God!" Edison said, pulling Bryce back into his arms and rocking him in a display of gratitude

At the control room, the tears of grief that Murray and Theora had been shedding turned to tears of joy at the knowledge that their young friend still lived.

Max's image flitted about on his screen, seeming to do a little jig, which brought a tired smile to Bryce's face.

"We'll work out where you're going to live tomorrow," Edison told Bryce as he helped him to his feet. "For tonight, you're staying at my place."

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