Winter's Warm Embrace - Chapter 3

Reaching the old fountain on the edge of the city, Father Blank stopped the carriage.

Those who had been following stopped and gathered around the fountain's edge, watching as Bryce and Paula descended from the carriage; first Bryce, then Paula with Bryce's assistance.

Father Blank stood at the end of the pathway that led to the fountain, smiling at the bride and groom.

Unlike most weddings, Bryce and Paula approached the good Father as one.

Father Blank turned to face Bryce. He spoke, almost gravely, but with a telling smile.

"In this place where we hide ourselves from the world, our Sister in Blankdom, Paula, was born. She bears only Paula as a name, and has very little to call her own. Will you take her to your world, or will you join the family of the fringes?"

"I will join Paula as I am more likely to be accepted her than she there." Bryce said.

This brought a smile to many faces. How truly did he love her to give up all he had for her?

"Paula," Father Blank continued. "Do you accept this offer of true love?"

"I accept it with all my heart and free of guilt knowing that it is given willingly."

"Bryce," Father Blank addressed the teen genius, "do you accept Paula into your heart as your wife from now until time ends?"

"I do," Bryce promised.

"Paula, do you accept Bryce into your heart, and into your dwelling, from now until time ends?"

"I do," Paula smiled.

"Then, it is by the grace of God and the unspoken law of the Fringes that I declare you to be husband and wife."

It was two days later that word of Bryce's location reached his former boss, Ben Cheviot.

The old man was furious when he learned that Bryce had taken up with a woman from the Fringes. He had nothing against those who blanked out their identities. They watched television just like everyone else did after all. But for his best employee to run off and marry one! To leave Cheviot in the lurch was just not done. Even if Cheviot wasn't technically in the lurch.

Bryce was at the market getting some food for Paula and himself when two Network 23 security guards approached him. Putting down his would-be purchases, he made his way to the door, first walking fast, then starting to run.

The guards gave chase, catching up to him as he reached his new cardboard home.

"Paula! Paula!" he cried out to his wife.

Paula came out of the large box just as the guards grabbed Bryce.

Struggling and kicking, Bryce tried to get away from the two men as Paula drew near, aiming kicks at their knees and shins.

They called in reinforcements from the metrocops.

"You want her arrested?" a cold-voiced metrocop asked.

"No, just hold her there until we get him home," the head of those guards who were present replied.

The guards forced Bryce into the car, ignoring the couple as they called out to each other, until they had turned the corner and Paula was out of sight.

"You could've at least brought my wife, too," Bryce argued.

"Don't worry about her," the driver told him. "we'll give her a few credits to forget all about you."

"She'll never stop loving me," Bryce told them. "She said so at the wedding."

"You'd be surprised at what a few credits can do," the guard sitting beside him said. "And the boss would never approve."

"I don't care what Ben Cheviot approves," Bryce told them as they reached the network and led him inside. "Let me go. This is kidnapping."

"It's an intervention, actually," Cheviot told him, sternly. "You've been unduly influenced by this Paula person. She's not good for you. You have a good comfortable life here. Safe and warm. And she's got you living in a cardboard box."

"Only because you'd never accept her."

"You're right that I wouldn't accept a Blank into my network. They have no records, can commit nearly any crime without being tracked. I'd be a fool to let her in here."

"Then, I'm going back to her," Bryce declared.

"The only place you're going, young man, is back up to Level 13. And from now on you are not to leave this building unless you are accompanied by a responsible adult."

"Are you putting me under house arrest, sir?" Bryce asked, snarling the 'sir'.

"No, but I will if I have to." Cheviot told him, sternly. "Now go to your studio and stay there. I'll be up to discuss this further in the morning."

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