Max Headroom -

Tragic Consequences

Chapter One

The Northbank Cancer Research Center was run by Dr. Neil Buxton. He had worked there for decades of his life. His wife had died of cancer and it had been his life's mission to find a cure for the disease.

He had been dealt a terrible blow, however, when his request for working with a human specimen had been refused.

He had argued that the specimen would've been already dying anyhow. That it would've been unfair to the potential recipient to not allow them the chance of being cured.

"It's too risky," the head of the Greater London Medical Association had told him. "We at the Association see no reason to risk a human specimen at this time."

Angrily, he swiped the papers off the desk and collapsed into the chair behind it. He was about to turn the TV to standby when he stopped.

Edison Carter was on the air. He'd been jabbering something about how there used to be someone called an Ice Cream Man who would drive around selling frozen treats to children and adults alike.

"If I could figure out a way to get Edison Carter to do a story about my research, they would have to back me. The popularity alone would make them see how necessary it is. But how do I make Carter see how important this is? The world is so different now than it was back when I began this project. Diseases are only important if the people who have them are important. Nobody cares if the poor or the uninteresting fall over dead."

He watched as Edison met up with his team. He didn't know that they were getting ready to go to a birthday party for Blank Reg's dog Fang. He didn't even know their names or how they were connected to Edison. All he did know was that the minute he saw the sixteen year old and Edison sharing a laugh about something, he knew exactly what to do. All that was needed was an opportunity.

A few hours later, Bryce took off the headphones that he'd been listening to. He handed them to Reg. "What was the name of that band, Reg?"

"That particular group was called Twisted Sister," Reg told him. "We called that music 'Hair Metal'. Mostly because the bands had what was called big hair."

"I'm going to step outside for a moment," Bryce told Reg. "I just need to get some fresh air. I'll stay on the porch, don't worry."

"Okay, I'll come out with you. This isn't a very safe area. I'd hate to have anything happen to you."

Bryce shrugged in agreement, stepping outside along with Reg.

The minute Dr. Buxton saw Bryce emerge from the pink microbus, he aimed the peashooter at him and fired a single small dart into the teen genius's neck.

Bryce let out a yelp and pulled the dart from his neck, staring at it in horror.

"Reg!" he exclaimed. "Someone just shot me with some kind of dart."

"Damn it," Reg exclaimed. "Go inside! Tell Edison I'm going to try to track down whoever did it."

Chapter Two: Reason Unreasonable

"Where's Reg?" Dom asked when Bryce reentered the bus without the old Blank.

"He went chasing after some jerk," Bryce explained.

"That's not very nice," Murray pointed out.

"Well, I don't have any prior experience in the matter, but I'm pretty sure that there's no requirement for me to be nice about some random guy who shot me in the neck with a dart gun."

"What?!" Edison exploded. "Which way did he shoot you from? I'm going after the bastard myself."

"Reg has probably chased him off by now," Bryce said. "I'm sure Reg will be back soon."

Reg cornered Dr. Buxton in the doorway of a long-closed coffee shop.

"What is that dart tipped with? The one you shot my friend with."

"Cancer cells," Dr. Buxton told him. "But don't worry. I have the cure. And as soon as Edison Carter agrees to…"

"You son of a bitch!" Reg swore, slamming the doctor into the shuttered doorway. "That kid is only sixteen!"

"A young adult," Dr. Buxton said "Not a child according to the laws of majority…"

"To hell with the laws!" Reg snarled. "He's got almost his entire life ahead of him. Or rather he did until you contaminated him with a fatal disease."

"I told you, I have a cure," Dr. Buxton said. "And I will administer it as soon as Mr. Carter agrees to air my findings on the What I Want To Know Show."

"I will take you to meet Edison only because I care about what happens to my friend," Reg said, darkly. "I don't care about you or whatever organization you work for."

Dr. Buxton followed Reg back to Big Time.

"I don't expect Edison will be in a very good mood as far as you're concerned," Reg warned as he dragged the doctor into the microbus. "Edison, this is the guy that did it."

Edison grabbed the man by the collar and slammed him against the door that led to the small bathroom. "Why did you attack my friend, mister?"

"It's doctor. Dr. Buxton."

"Real doctors don't shoot people in the neck with darts. Did you poison him?" Edison looked over at Bryce who had an apprehensive look in his eyes.

"Yes," Dr. Buxton admitted. "The dark is laced with active cancer cells."

Bryce collapsed onto the cot. Murray, Theora, and Dominique sat down beside him, Theora taking his hand.

"How long will it be, oathbreaker?" Theora demanded. "How long until you're officially a murderer?"

"That depends on how quickly Mr. Carter agrees to air the story about the cure I've developed."

"You will administer the cure now," Edison said, fiercely. "If it works, I will air your discovery. If not, you'll be fortunate if I air your arrest and not me killing you."

Chapter Three: Facing Terrible Facts

Dr. Buxton prepared a syringe of his anti-cancer serum while Bryce waited with an anxious expression on his face. The others either gathered around Bryce with supportive expressions or glared at the doctor with distrustful glares on their faces.

Bryce watched as the medicine was carefully measured. The doctor carefully swabbed his arm. Then the needle was pushed into his vein and the serum injected.

"There," Dr. Buxton said, smiling. "In a few moments the-"

Bryce screamed as he dropped back down onto the bed. He curled up on his side letting out a series of blood-chilling wails as he clutched his head. His body twitched and convulsed as he cried out in agony.

"You son of a bitch!" Edison screamed as he grabbed Dr. Buxton by the throat. "You never told us there were painful side effects."

"I didn't know!" Dr. Buxton swore. "My simian test subjects had no way of…"

"Bullshit!" Theora hollered in his face. "Even monkeys scream when they're in pain. You must have known."

"There's got to be something we can give him to counter these side effects," Murray said, sounding very concerned.

"I'm calling a doctor," Dominique said, firmly. "A real doctor."

Edison held Bryce in his arms, doing his best to soothe the stricken teenager while Dominique's fingers flew over the keys of the pirate station's vu-phone.

"He's burning up," he said urgently. "We need something to cool him off."

Blank Reg pulled a can of soda from the fridge and wrapped it in a towel. "Here. This should do. The ice in the tray isn't fully frozen yet."

"Thanks, Reg," Edison said. He carefully pressed the makeshift compress to Bryce's forehead, glaring at Dr. Buxton. "Well? Why don't you try to help? You're the reason he's suffering. Don't you think you should make some kind of effort?"

"I'd rather not risk my-"

"You'd rather not risk your what? License to practice? Reputation?" Murray shouted. "Both of those are already shot to hell, Mister!"

"Doctor!" Dr. Buxton reminded him.

"Not after I'm finished with you," Murray said. "I'm going to make sure you never practice medicine again. In fact, when I'm done you won't even be allowed to practice the piano."

There was a knock on the door. Theora went to it and opened it slightly. "Hello?"

"Dr. Jack Pike," the physician said in an urgent tone. "I was told that there was a young patient here who was in need of my help."

Theora admitted Dr. Pike who immediately glared at Dr. Buxton. "Still trying to peddle your snake oil, Dr. Charlatan?" he asked, going over to Bryce. He checked the teen's pulse and other vital signs, then glared at Buxton again.

"He had a mild reaction to my anti-cancer serum." Dr. Buxton argued. "That is all."

"A mild reaction? A seizure is not a mild reaction," Edison argued.

"It was just a few minor convulsions, not a full blown seizure."

"You jerk," Edison swore, "Bryce is in agony! Can't you see that?!"

Dr. Pike drew nearer to Bryce with the needle.

"What's that do?" Edison asked, cautiously.

"It's just a sedative," Dr. Pike admitted. "I'm afraid it will only make him fall asleep. His panicked state will probably bring about nightmares. I can't prevent that. I'm sorry. The only thing I can do right now is to do my best to make sure he doesn't hurt himself."

Bryce shook with terror as the sedative was administered. His eye clouded over after a few minutes. Shortly after that, he passed out.

Chapter Four: Facing the Facts

"Reg," Dr. Pike said to the Blank. "I need you to drive to the hospital. I have to admit Bryce for testing and observation."

Reg got into the driver's seat and started the engines, not bothering to notify his viewers that Big Time would be off air for a time. They would just have to get along without music videos for a bit.

Edison, Theora, Dominique, and Murray sat on the cot that Bryce was curled up on, whimpering softly. He was still twitching despite the sedative.

"The fever is still upon him," Dom said, dramatically, as she brushed a stray lock from Bryce's forehead. "I think it's getting worse."

Theora returned the warming soda can to the fridge and replaced it with a cool one, making sure it was properly wrapped in the hand towel.

Dr. Pike got onto the vu-phone and called the hospital. "This is Dr. Pike. I have a medical emergency coming in. The patient is approximately sixteen to seventeen years of age. Suffering from severe reaction to untested serum. Symptoms include high grade fever and seizure."

"Could the seizure be epileptic in nature?" the woman on the vu-phone asked.

Dr. Pike turned to Edison. "Any history of epilepsy?"

"Not that I'm aware of," Edison said.

"There was no mention of it in his medical file," Theora added.

Dr. Pike turned back to the vu-phone. "No history of epilepsy. Seizure is most definitely caused by reaction to bad serum."

"Do you have a sample of the serum?"

Dr. Pike turned to Dr. Buxton. "Well? Do you?"

"Why? So you can steal my formula and get all the credit?"

"Have you not been paying attention?!" Dr. Pike exploded. "It doesn't work! It almost killed my patient. Now, hand over the serum."

Dr. Buxton went to throw it out the passenger side window. Edison saw this and lunged for the man, pulling him back into the microbus's interior.

"Give me the serum," Edison demanded.

Dr. Buxton reluctantly handed him the phial containing the remainder of the serum, then sat down sulkily on the floor in the back of the van.

The Big Time bus pulled into the med-center parking lot. Bryce was transferred onto a stretcher and rushed inside.

Dr. Pike handed the phial of serum to a nurse. "Bring this right to the lab. Tell them to waste no time in figuring out the components. I need an antidote immediately."

The nurse hurried to the lab with the serum phial.

Bryce was brought into the emergency room and placed in a treatment pod. He was moved from the stretcher to the bed.

Dr. Pike attached sensors to Bryce's chest, head, and finger. Then he strapped the young genius down to the bed. "I want to make sure he doesn't hurt himself when he comes to."

Edison nodded in understanding. "Thank you for taking care of him."

Dr. Pike nodded. "You don't have to thank me," he said. "I'm only doing what any proper doctor is meant to do. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head down to the lab and find out about the serum. And I want to do an MRI as soon as we are able. I want to find out if the cancer he was infected with has actually taken hold."

When Bryce awoke, he was still in pain. He wept softly, chastising himself inwardly for what he thought of as being an overly emotional reaction.

"I'm sorry," he said to Cheviot, who had come to the hospital a few minutes earlier. "I'm being so terribly emotional."

"It's perfectly understandable given the circumstances," Cheviot told his young employee. "Don't worry. You've got plenty of medical leave coming to you."

"Thank you, sir," Bryce said.

Dr. Pike walked into the pod with a wheelchair. "It's time for your MRI," he told Bryce.

Bryce nodded and allowed the doctor to unstrap him and move him into the chair.

The testing did not take long, and unfortunately the results were not what Dr. Pike had hoped for.

"I'm afraid I've got bad news for you, Bryce," he said. "The cancer has taken hold. There are treatments I can recommend…"

"No," Bryce shook his head. "I don't want any treatments. Just keep the pain to a minimum."

Dr. Pike was aghast at the teen's refusal. But given Bryce's recent experience with cancer treatments he really couldn't be blamed.

"Will I lose my voice?" Bryce asked.

"You might," Dr. Pike admitted. "But you need to know, you don't just have throat cancer. Some of the cells have already spread to your brain."

Bryce took a calming breath. "How badly will I be affected?"

"I think your intelligence will be spared," Dr. Pike reassured him. "However, you may experience problems with fine motor control, and it may cause further seizures. It could even leave you partially or fully paralyzed if the spinal column is affected."

"And all because I went to a birthday party for a dog."

Dr. Pike shook his head. "I don't blame the puppy." he told Bryce.

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