Max Headroom

The high price of genius

By Axel Ingleson

Jenni opened her eyes and was disturbed to find herself in an unlit room with no windows. The only light came from between the slats of a ventilator shaft high in the wall. Too high and too narrow to climb out of.

She checked herself for injuries. Nothing so far, except the feeling of slight nausea she had been feeling for most of that month. But she knew it was only a matter of time before her kidnapper or kidnappers decided to cause her some kind of harm.

She felt along the wall until she found the door. It wasn't locked. But before she could open it, she heard footsteps on the other side and two voices speaking about some unknown person, possibly her.

"How long before we can confirm this pregnancy?" a Japanese voice asked.

Jenni wondered if he worked for Zik Zak and if so, why he was so interested in whether or not she was pregnant.

"We can confirm it today," a female voice replied. "It's been ten weeks since we implanted the fetus."

"What about the other parents?" the Japanese man asked.

"Jake and Sarah are both dead," the woman told him. "I had them put down after they failed to produce offspring. Clearly their DNA was not compatible. They were completely useless to our plans."

"They could've been used for other purposes," the Japanese man scolded. "It's water under the bridge, now. But I ask that you do not kill anyone else unless I give the order. Now, who's left?"

"From the ACS class of 2001?" the woman asked. "Just Jenni and the one we chose as her mate."

"And that is?"

"Bryce Lynch."

Jenni backed away from the door as footsteps approached. The door opened and the Japanese man who flipped a switch on the wall outside the door turned on a light.

As the needle was pushed into her arm, and a blood sample extracted, Jenni prayed that she was pregnant. At least it was Bryce's child if she was. Jenni wondered how they had gotten the sample they needed from Bryce. Then she remembered his recent appendectomy. She wondered if he really had needed his appendix removed, or if the pain had been caused by someone slipping something into his food.

She was very angry with her captors. If they had drugged Bryce… What if they'd used too much? Or Bryce had been allergic to the medicine? The very thought that they might have killed Bryce, and that they wouldn't have cared if they did, made her glare at them as the checked the blood sample.

"Well, she's pregnant," the woman said, as though Jenni wasn't even there.

"Excellent," the man replied. "Make sure she remains safe. We wouldn't want anything bad to happen to her child. Not when it's a link between Network 23 and Network 66. Well, I had hoped Bryce would be the father. It means that Zik Zak won't have to break its current contract with Network XXIII.

"And you still believe that creating a child between these two is the answer to Zik Zak's advertising problem?"

"By mating the pair of them," the man explained, "we link the two Networks. That means that Zik Zak is now free to advertise on both Network 23 and Network 66, doubling our publicity."

"And the parents?"

"See to it that they are married at once," the Japanese man ordered.

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