Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future
Starting Anew

(Authors note: Not connected to any other Max Headroom stories I've written in the past. Also, this story contains disturbing content related to automobile accidents.)

-Chapter Four: Carter's Reprieve and Two Old Classmates Arrive-

After his morning shower and cup of coffee, Edison put on his clothes and tapped the buttons on his kitchen vu-phone.

"I trust you can tell me where the head of my Research and Development department is?" Cheviot asked.

'Oh shit,' Edison thought to himself, "Cheviot's back early."

There must've been a more revealing expression on his face, because Cheviot frowned.

"Bryce?" The older man asked, clearly fearing the worst.

"He's alive, thank God," Edison told him. "But the crash was pretty bad."

"How bad exactly?" Cheviot asked. "His mind wasn't..."

"That survived intact, sir," Edison told him, stressing the word 'that'.

"Meaning what, exactly?"

"One hand, one arm, and one leg were severed," Edison explained, causing Cheviot to wince in sympathy pain. Quickly he added, "Replacements have already been attached. He needed a artificial leg, though. There were no biologicals that were compatible. I was just calling to say that I'm taking the day off to spend a little time with him at the hospital."

"You said crash," Cheviot said, backtracking.

"Yes, sir. I took him to a Scumball game along with Murray and Theora. The rest of us were also mildly injured, but he was sitting in the spot that the other vehicle hit. It's a miracle he wasn't killed."

"I've never pegged Bryce as one who would voluntarily attend a live sporting event," Cheviot mused.

"I made him go," Edison confessed. "All of this is my fault. I'll understand if you want me to resign."

"Resign! Are you out of your skull, Carter? My Head of Research and Development is out of commission for God knows how long and you want to cripple this network even further by removing our top presenter? You can have the weekend off to make amends with Bryce. But I want you back on the job first thing on Monday. Have I made that clear?"

"Yes, sir," Edison agreed.

"Good," Cheviot said, reaching for the disconnect switch. "Tell Bryce we're all pushing for him."

"I'm sure he'll appreciate it, sir," Edison replied as his boss brought the call to an end. He finished his cup of coffee, then headed out the door.

Bryce was stilll napping when his former classmates, Douglas and Jenny, appeared in the door of his hospital room.

"May I help you?" Mrs. Reynolds asked.

"Are you the physical therapist?" Douglas asked.

"Yes. And you are...?"

"Douglas McDougal and Jenny Parker," Douglas replied. "We were Bryce's classmates at ACS."

"We heard he was injured and wanted to see how he was doing," Jenny added.

"How'd you get in here?" Mrs. Reynolds inquired. "This is a highly exclusive area."

"Hijacked a gurney," Jenny smiled.

"Learning to play doctor as a kid does have it's benefits," Douglas added with a smirk.

Jenny rolled her eyes.

"I should have you removed," Mrs. Reynolds warned them. "However, since you are only here out of concern for a dear friend, I'll tell you what. I need to make copies of his exercise and rehab chart. That should take me about twenty minutes due to copier problems. You have that amount of time to visit."

"Thank you," Jenny told Mrs. Reynolds as she departed.

Mrs. Reynolds knew she could get fired for doing what she was now doing. But she also knew how important the presence and encouragement of friends was. These two teens were friends of her client and that, to her at least, was more important than social status.

Jenny wasn't concerned about any of these things. All that mattered to her and Douglas was that their former classmate had been badly hurt and was struggling to recover in the hospital.

Douglas disappeared into the bathroom for a few minutes. While he was gone, Jenny sat on the edge of Bryce's bed, gently running her fingers through his hair, frowning at the framework of bandages wrapped around his head. Glad that neither his teeth nor nose were listed as broken, she nevertheless felt tears running down her face.

"At least your handsome face is still intact," she whispered, unaware that Douglas had returned to the room and was listening to her."

She clasped Bryce's right hand in her own and gazed down at it. It was and wasn't his hand at the same time. For a moment, she pondered the age old question of how much of a person could be replaced before they became someone new; and who would they be if they did.

"Pondering?" Bryce asked, sleepily, as he woke and saw her sitting there.

"Yes," Jenny admitted. "The old body replacement conundrum."

"That one would give Socrates a run for his money." Douglas grinned.

"I think I have it figured out, though," Jenny smiled.

"Oh?" Bryce inquired.

"Who you are after all that depends upon who you are in the mind and heart of someone who loves you," Jenny explained, blushing slightly, looking directly into Bryce's eyes.

Those eyes widened as he realized what she was telling him.

"I think I'll just leave you two alone," Douglas said, leaving the room before either could stop him. He hadn't gone far before he ran into Edison.

"Old classmate?" Edison asked him.

Douglas nodded. "Jenny's talking with him right now," he warned. "I'd leave them alone right now if I were you."

"Girlfriend?" Edison was rather amazed. Bryce had always been one to keep his emotions in check. The accident had changed that, however. Edison was admittedly curious to know how much.

"Possibly," Douglas told him. "She's really sweet on him. Mind you, they're going to have to work really hard to make this work. He's bound to feel that she's only in the relationship because she feels sorry for him. And there will be those who encourage that feeling."

"Why?" Edison asked.

"Do you really think Twenty-Three is the only network with a pet genius?" Douglas asked him. "We're everywhere."

"She's with Sixty-Six, isn't she?" Edison realized. "Well, if either Cheviot or Grossberg cause any problems, we'll just deal with that problem when we get to it."

"Truth is," Douglas admitted, "those two are so perfectly matched genetically speaking that if you wanted to protect any relationship between them, I and the rest of us 'pet geniuses' are at your disposal."

"Nice to know," Edison told him.

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