This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
Edison Carter stared at himself in the bathroom mirror and wondered what the hell was the matter with him. He was a reporter of renown, having confronted and interviewed a number of powerful, dangerous people in his career without a second thought. So what was the big deal about asking a woman to the Network Awards banquet?
Well, for one thing, it wasn't just any woman. It was Theora Jones, a woman of startling beauty and wisdom. A woman whose talents had saved his life on more than one occasion. A woman who Carter suspected knew him better than he knew himself. And therein lay the problem.
"Look," he told the reflection. "You two are good friends. You have a close working relationship. This isn't anything romantic or like that--it's just a banquet. That's all. No big deal. So...get in there and ask her to go with you." To his considerable disgust, though, the mirror image refused to obey; sighing, Carter checked his receding hairline for any more traces of grey and shook his head. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.
"Uhhh...Edison?" The reporter whirled around suddenly to find Bryce standing there in the doorway; the teenage genius looked almost out of place here, far away from his hidden laboratory. To be honest, the kid looked downright terrified.
"What's up, Bryce?" he said casually, grabbing a comb from his back pocket and pushing his side hair into place.
"Sure, why not?"
Bryce fidgeted. "Well, you've been in here an awfully long time. And most of it's been spent talking to yourself in the mirror."
"I'm practicing my delivery," Carter said firmly, in tones that closed the subject effectively. "What brings you out of your den?"
"Well...I wanted to ask you something." When Carter nodded for him to continue, Bryce shuffled his feet and cast his eyes downward. "What...what do you think of Theora?"
Carter pretended to consider the matter carefully. "I think a lot of her."
"Do you think she'd be willing to...uh....go to the banquet with me?"
Ah-ha. "You thinking of asking her?"
Bryce blushed. "Well...kinda." He leaned against the doorway and looked wistful. "I mean, she's really smart, and she's easy to talk to..."
"...she has dynamite legs," Carter offered, grinning as the kid's blush deepened.
"Yeah," Bryce sighed. "She's really incredible. And it's like, well, I don't know that many girls my own age, and the ones I do know aren't anywhere near my intelligence level..."
"Are you going on a date or a pop quiz?" Carter quipped.
"You know what I mean!" Bryce protested. "So anyway, I was thinking about asking her, but I really don't have....you know, any experience doing that sort of thing, so I thought I'd ask you. I mean, you've dated a lot of women in your time, so you know how to do it..."
"Ah." Carter turned and leaned against the bathroom sink, folding his arms across his chest. "You want me to teach you how to ask a woman out."
"Well, no." Bryce smiled weakly. "I was hoping you'd ask her for me."
Carter barely managed to keep his jaw from falling open. "I see," he managed to say.
"Well, if you asked her, I'm sure she'd say yes!" Bryce pleaded. "You two are good friends, and if you presented the offer, she wouldn't see it as a stupid teenager crush! She'd see it as what it really is!"
"Uh-huh. A smart teenager crush." Bryce glared at the older man; Carter took it in stride and walked over to the doorway. "Bryce," he said, placing a paternal hand on the boy's shoulder, "I am going to do you a tremendous favor."
'You'll do it?" he said hopefully.
Carter shook his head. "I am going to make you ask Theora yourself. No time like the present to learn the ropes. You'll be a better man for this experience."
"But she'll say no!" Bryce wailed.
"Well," Carter shrugged, "that's a possibility. But I wouldn't ever be able to live with myself if I didn't give you the opportunity to try..."
Carter breezed into the newsroom and sauntered over with practiced casualness to Theora's desk. "What have we got today?" he asked.
She tapped her keyboard and called up a list of headlines. "A fire in the Fringes. A speech by the chairman of the Network Censorship Board. A man claiming to be haunted by ghost rats."
He made a face. "I hate slow news days."
She smiled back at him and shrugged. "I can keep looking, if you want."
"Please. The last thing I need is to be stuck interviewing members of the lunatic fringe." He accepted a cup of coffee from an intern and sipped at it. "So...anything else going on of interest around here?"
Theora sighed. "Well, there is one thing. Have you any idea why Bryce has been coming in here several times a day and staring at me?"
Carter abruptly choked on his coffee. "You're kidding," he managed to get out.
"Afraid not. I think he's developed a crush on me. Rather sweet, but the age difference alone..." She smiled at Carter. "I'm not quite sure how to quell this without severely hurting his feelings."
"Maybe he just wants to ask you to go to the banquet," Carter casually suggested.
Theora nodded. "Perhaps."
Carter was all set to say it: "Theora, why don't you go with me?" It was in his mouth, ready to be spoken--but at the moment his mouth opened, Max suddenly appeared on Theora's main terminal screen. 'HEHEHEHEHEHHEHEY!" he bellowed.
"Good morning, Max," she said placidly, switching her computer session to another screen.
"MMMMMMY, MY, YOU CERTAINLY LOOK LOVELY TODAY," Max commented, smiling with considerable charm. 'HAS ANYANYANYONE T-T-T-T-TOLD YOU THAT YOU ARE UTTERLY STUNNNING?"
"Max," Carter said, an undercurrent of warning in his voice. Any sane person would have taken the hint and shut up. But Max kept blathering on, much to Theora's amusement and Carter's discomfort.
"YOU KNOW, KNOW, THERE'S A BANQUET FOR NETWORRKK 23 TONIGHT, TONIGHT, TONIGHT, WHOA-OHHHH," the simulation noted. "AND I-I-I-I WAS WONDERING IFFFF YOU HAD A DDDDDDATE FOR THE OCCASION?"
"Why Max," Theora said with considerable amusement, "are you asking me out on a date?"
Max considered the question for a moment. "WELLLLLLLLL....YES."
"I'm very flattered," Theora replied. "Let me get back to you, all right?"
Max smiled brightly, then glanced over at Carter. "FFFFFINDERS KEEPERS!" And before Carter could say anything, the computer creature vanished as suddenly as he'd appeared. Theora bit her lip to keep from laughing as Carter's face grew red with equal parts embarrassment and outrage.
"I don't believe this," he muttered.
"What? That Max asked me out, or that he did it before you could?"
Carter stared at her, incredulous. "You're not taking him seriously, surely?"
"Why not?" she shrugged.
He set the cup of coffee down on her desk. "For one thing, you're human, and he's...Max. For another, how's he going to get you there and back? And where's he going to sit in the room? Hell, how's he going to sit?" He shook his head in dismay. "I can't believe you're even considering it. And," he added, looking up, "how did you know I was thinking about asking you to go to the banquet with me?"
She smiled at him. "Bryce isn't the only one who's been spending a great deal more time in the newsroom than usual." Her grin grew at his sudden discomfort. "At any rate, I'll consider your offer as well...and Bryce's, too, even though he hasn't actually asked me. Now then, get upstairs to the helicopter pad and hit the streets. The minute anything pops up, I'll let you know."
Dazed, Carter rose to his feet and stumbled out of the newsroom. Theora looked up and smiled at Murray, who was leaning over her desk and looking thoughtful. "Nice to be in demand," he commented.
"Unfortunately, the supply is rather limited," she replied with a gentle smile.
A few minutes later, Carter reached the roof of Network 23. "How's it going, Martinez?" he called to his pilot, who was leaning idly against his chopper.
"Going slow. Nothing going on out there," Martinez informed him. "You going to insist on wasting fuel on another sweep?"
"Do I have a choice? Star reporters never have stories handed to them, you know."
"No, usually you just fall right into the middle of them." Carter grinned at the other man and opened the passenger door of the helicopter, and was just about to place his camera in its accustomed spot when the "control" signal flashed rapidly. Sighing, he lifted the device up and flipped the activation switch on. "What's up, Control? Miss me already?"
Theora ignored the remark. "Edison, there's someone in the main lobby who'd like to speak with you." Her voice was unusually tense, an affectation that he generally associated with trouble.
"Anybody I know?" he asked, his mind running through the possibilities.
"No...I think you could call him a fan of sorts."
"Theora, I really don't have time for this..." Carter began.
"He's got about four dozen sticks of dynamite wrapped around his chest."
Carter paused. "Come again, Control?"
"He's got a bomb, Edison. And he's threatening to set it off in the lobby if you don't get down there and speak to him right away."
Martinez and Carter stared at one another for a long moment; finally, the reporter shrugged and hauled his camera over his shoulder. "On my way, Control," he said, and headed towards the roof door.
Martinez called out to him, making him pause. "Hey, Carter?"
The pilot grinned. "Might be a good time to ask for a raise!"
On the way down the elevator, Carter received instructions from Murray. "Play this one cool, Carter," the older man warned. "Don't press him, don't try to get him to surrender, and for God's sake don't piss him off!"
"Why Murray, I had no idea you cared," Carter drawled. "What have we got on him?"
"Nothing," Theora informed him, "which in and of itself should tell you something."
Carter frowned. "This doesn't fit with Bruno's usual attention-getting tactics. He tends towards the clever, elegant stunt--this is a bit extreme. Think you could get hold of him and see what he knows?"
"I'll try--perhaps Reg would know where he is." At that moment, the elevator signalled that the ground floor was just beyond the doors. "Edison," she said with a trace of worry, "be careful."
"Roger, Control." Carter smiled. "Hey, if I pull this one off, will you go with me to the banquet?"
He was a young man, grimy and wearing tattered clothing that strained to cover his lanky form. Around his chest he wore several rows of little red sticks that were wired to the depressed switch in his right hand. The dozen guards that had surrounded him almost immediately knew all too well about "dead man switches", and kept their distance.
"Where's Carter?" the stranger yelled, looking around wildly. "I want to speak to Carter! Right now!" The guards watched his every move with wary eyes, half in hope they could defuse the situation without any trouble, half in frustration because they knew they couldn't.
The elevator rang and its doors opened; the young man whirled around and saw Carter strolling out with his camcorder in position. "It's about time!" the terrorist exclaimed.
Carter looked over the youth carefully. "You rang?" he asked sardonically.
"Okay...okay." The bomber waved at the guards with the switch. "I want all of them out of here...Carter's going to be my hostage. You guys get out of here right now, and no one gets hurt--otherwise, I'm going to kill 23 in the ratings once and for all!" The guards hesitated, but a nod from Carter gave them enough assurance to follow orders and leave the lobby. They quickly assumed a new position just outside the front doors of the building and waited for their chance to strike.
Carter waited until they'd left, then strolled over to a nearby bench and sat down. "Okay, you wanted to see me," he said. "Make it quick, kid. I haven't got all day--it's a slow news day and I've got to find some material for my show."
"What?" the bomber exclaimed.
"You heard me. I need a story for tonight, and you're keeping me from it. So let's get rolling. What's your name?"
The young man shook his head in disbelief. "Man, I've got a bomb! I can blow you, me and this entire station to bits! That's not good enough for your program, man?"
Carter shot him a look of disgust. "Give me a break. Terrorists and mad bombers are a dime a dozen. Those stories are for the rookies and the drunks." He suddenly leaned forward, making the bomber jump backwards in surprise. "But...if you had a really good story, we might be able to help each other. You get your attention, I get my story. What do you say...what was your name, anyway?"
"Uhhh....Rick." The young man was nonplussed by Carter's change in tactics, and was no doubt trying to figure the situation out without success.
"Okay, Rick," Carter smiled warmly, "let's get started. So, why are you holding the building and me hostage?"
Rick blinked, staring at the reporter. "Are we on live now?"
"Not yet. I want some background information beforehand, so I can approach our interview with some degree of authority." Carter knew that upstairs, Theora was in fact recording every detail of their conversation, but he saw no reason to tell his captor about that little detail.
Trouble was, Rick wasn't buying. "I want to go on live...now." His thumb twitched against the trigger.
"Cutting into programming now," Theora quickly announced; the red light on Carter's camera flickered into life. "You're on, Edison. Make it good."
"This is Edison Carter, coming to you live and direct on Network 23," he said instantly with smooth, practiced ease. "And what I want to know is, what would drive a young man to hold an entire building...an entire network...hostage? What would make him demand the attention of the masses, wrapping himself in an explosive jacket to make his point? With me now is the young man in question, Blank Rick." He turned the camera towards the young man, who was trying to brush his hair out of his face. "So...what are you protesting? Blank rights? Pirate TV? More shelter in the Fringes?"
"Uhhhh...." Rick was sweating with hesitation. "Well, none of those, actually."
Carter nodded. "Good. Something different. What is it?"
The kid shuffled his feet, staring at the floor. "Well, there's this girl..."
Carter blinked. "Say what?" And up in the control room, his sentiments were echoed by both Murray and Theora.
Rick smiled weakly and shrugged. "Well, I am with the Blank Underground...kinda. I just joined. And there's this girl, see, and she's really neat, but she doesn't even know I exist. So I thought..."
"You thought you'd pull a major league stunt that would get you lots of attention, hers among it." There was a strong note of incredulity in Edison's voice, but fortunately Rick didn't notice it. "Well, that's certainly original."
In the control room, Theora was torn between laughing and crying. "Of all the stupid, moronic, idiotic tricks for someone to pull," she muttered, trying to make contact with Blank Reg and Big Time TV. To her relief, however, her secondary computer screen flickered, then filled with the features of Blank Bruno. "Bruno! I've been trying to reach you..."
"So I gathered," he said dryly. "Would it help if I were to tell you I have nothing to do with this situation?"
"Edison was wondering," Theora replied. "Bruno...who is this, and what on Earth does he think he's doing?"
"His name's Rick," the Blank replied. "He's been working with the underground for about a month now. Good, solid worker, though not too good in the thinking department, as you can tell. I had him on sentry duty most recently, but the other day he vanished...along with a box or two of dynamite." He smiled sympathetically. "It is so hard to find reliable help these days, Miss Jones."
"No doubt." Theora leaned back and rubbed her temples wearily.
"So," Carter said carefully. "What's this lucky lady's name, Rick?" Inside, he was seething with frustration and outrage, that a reporter of his caliber was stuck interviewing a lovesick would-be terrorist. You never saw Janie Crane or Sarah Jane Smith getting nailed into situations like this, but then again, everybody watched the Edison Carter show. Such was fame, he decided ruefully.
Rick was smiling shyly, acting as though he didn't have a care in the world...to say nothing of enough dynamite to send Network 23 into the stratosphere. "Uhhh...her name is Lycia," he said.
"Lycia," Carter repeated, struggling to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "And have you ever talked to Lycia about this?"
"Well, no," the young man admitted. "See, she's really important in the underground, and you know, I'm just a grunt worker and all..." Carter idly imagined Bruno's face when he heard all this; nothing like one of your own spilling all your organization's secrets on live TV. "So I figured that maybe if I did something important, she'd notice me and maybe..."
"I get the picture." Carter desperately wanted to add 'Did you ever hear of valentines or flowers, you idiot?' but restrained himself. "So, what do you want us to do, Rick?" he asked politely.
"Well, I was hoping that by coming here, I'd get her attention...." He smiled bashfully at the camera. Carter groaned inwardly--the kid had a sweet innocence and natural photogenic personality that never failed to win audience sympathy. They'd have to see this through to the end, which would hopefully have a happy ending--because if it didn't, the viewers would angrily switch channels and kill 23's ratings. Gah.
"Well," Carter said, "let's see what we can do."
"So where is she?" Theora demanded.
"I haven't a clue--I didn't even know who he had a crush on, until a minute ago," Bruno complained. "It's not like we all spend our time together, you know--and Lycia tends to move around quite a bit. Let me send some people out to her last known location and see what I can do."
"So," Carter was saying, "when we get Lycia's attention...what then?"
Rick bit his lip; obviously, he hadn't thought that far ahead. "Geez, I don't know. What do you think I should do?"
Defuse the bomb, Carter was thinking, and then I'll be more than happy to kick your kiester from here to the Fringes. And just when he thought things couldn't get any worse...an all too familiar face appeared on the TV set in the lobby.
"OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH...I KNOW KNOW SOMETHING-THING...ABOUT LOVE...YOU'VE GOT TO WA-WA-WANT IT BAD! BAD!" Max's horrendous rendition of an old song shrieked through the room. The computer creature studied the two men in front of him carefully, and tilted his head. "SO," he commented, "I-I-I DIDN'T KNNNNNOW THIS WAS A SWEEPS-SWEEPS PERIOD."
"It isn't Max," Edison said wearily. "This is Rick. He's a Blank terrorist who is going to blow this place sky high unless we find his unrequited love and connect her up to the show."
"AHAHAHAHAHA! AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION! GRRREAT FOR THE RATINGS!" Max chortled with glee. "SO....WHAT-WHAT-WHAT HAPPENS THEN?"
"That was what we were just discussing," Edison sighed.
Rick was utterly flabbergasted. "Is that really him? Max Headroom?" He pointed at the screen with his free hand. "Man, this is so cool! I mean, I've seen him, but I've never really seen him, you know what I mean? Wow!" He peered more closely at Max. "Man, he even looks like you, Carter!"
"I-I-I PREFER TO THINK HHHHE LOOKS LIKE ME," Max said airily. 'SO...RRRICK, WHAT HAPPENS WHWHEN THAT LUCKY G-G-GAL ENTERS THE P-P-PICTURE?"
"Well," the kid said bashfully, "I'm kind of hoping she'll be really impressed..."
"BUT HOW-HOW!--ARE YOU GOING TO WUH-WUH-WUH-WOOOOO HER?"
"I don't know!" Rick cried. "I'm not good with that kind of stuff...and every time I look at her, I get all flustered and I can't talk!" He walked around the lobby, utterly oblivious to the security staff outside that would cheerfully blow his brains out, given half a chance. "Oh, why did I do this?" he said to the ceiling. "What was I thinking of?"
"Tell me when you find out," Carter muttered.
"HEY-HEY-HEY," Max soothed. 'WHAT YOU NNNNEED IS AN AG-GGGENT! SSSOMEONE TO SPEAK-K-K FOR YOU! YOU!" He assumed a dignified pose. "I VOLUNTEER."
"Oh no," Carter moaned softly. "No..."
"You will?" Rick said hopefully. "Oh man, if you told her how I feel, she's sure to listen! That would be great, Max! Thanks!"
"Guys?" Carter lifted his head and raised a hand for attention. "May I point out that at the moment, no one even knows where this girl is?"
"NOOOOOOOOO PROBLEMO!" Max declared. 'MMMMAX IS ON THE CASE! CASE! I'LL FIND THE LADY LLLLYCIA AND TAKE CARE OF EVVVVERYTHING!" There was a sudden flare of light from the monitor, and a second later, Edison and Rick were back on screen.
"Oh God," Carter moaned quietly. "I'm finished...."
Having nothing to do in his lab, Bryce had decided to screw up his courage and pop the question to Theora. All the way to the newsroom he rehearsed the speech he'd written up (and made five subsequent drafts of), carefully designed to persuade her to go to the banquet with him. Unfortunately, he'd been so involved in writing his spiel that he hadn't paying attention to the network's programming, and was thereby at a loss when he saw the bustle of activity around Theora's desk.
Murray was listening to his headphones. "Switch to Janie outside for an update," he advised the technical crew, then turned his attention to Theora. "Anything?"
"No. Not a thing." She was fuming from the look of it, tapping her fingernails against the desk and glaring up at Murray. "Where on Earth can that girl be?" she declared. "Bruno swore he'd have her there within an hour, and it's been over 90 minutes! What could possibly be taking so long?"
"Maybe she's copulating," Bryce offered without thinking. At the shocked--nay, horrified expressions on both Murray and Theora's faces as they turned to regard him, he decided to bravely tough it out. "Audience commercial surveys show that two factors contribute to people being unavailable for TV viewing--sleeping and copulation. Since it's mid-afternoon, it's highly unlikely she's taking a nap, so that would suggest..."
"That's quite enough, Bryce. Thank you." The expression on Theora's face could freeze a waterfall in five seconds flat; Bryce wondered what he'd said to garner such a response, but from the look of things, this wasn't an optimal time to ask her out. Smiling slightly, he moved away from her work area and got out of the newsroom as quickly as he could.
And at that moment, Theora received some welcome news, though she could have wished for a better source: 'I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I FOUND HER! HER!"
Lycia scratched her head and squinted at the television screen, looking as though she'd just gotten up--which in fact was the case. "What's the big deal?" she demanded grumpily. "Can't I just take off for an afternoon nap after being up all night? Huh?" She turned towards Bruno. "Got anything to eat? I'm starved."
"I'll see what I can do," Bruno promised. "For the meantime, however, please talk to Theora."
"You bet." Lycia flopped back into a chair and sprawled out comfortably. "So, what's going on? And by the way, you tell that computer voyeur that the next time he starts serenading me while I'm trying to sleep..."
"I'll warn him," Theora said hurriedly. "Here, let me show you our problem..." The screen split in two; half showing the Network 23 newsroom, the other displaying Rick and Carter, who were sitting around eating some sandwiches provided by the security staff. The young man wasn't quite as stupid as he looked--he'd made the reporter eat one first to make sure they weren't drugged.
Lycia scratched her head again and frowned. "Isn't that Rick?" she asked Bruno, gratefully accepting the food he'd brought to her. "What's he doing down there at 23?"
"Trying to gain your attention, I'm afraid," Bruno informed her. "It seems you have an admirer, my dear."
"Really?" She considered the notion. "He is kinda cute. But why go to all this trouble? I'm not that hard to talk to, am I?"
"Men in love do foolish things," Bruno suggested.
"We can debate philosophy another time," Theora pointedly suggested. "Right now we need to defuse the situation, as it were. Lycia, would you be willing to speak to Rick and convince him to leave peacefully?"
"No problem," the young woman nodded, her long black hair bobbing around her face. "I mean, we really don't need this kind of publicity and all. Sooner we get him back here," and she licked her lips speculatively, "the better, right?"
Theora sighed. "Right. I'm feeding your signal into the program...now."
"WAITTTTTT A MINUTE!" Max abruptly declared, filling Theora's screen and staring at her in righteous indignation. "WE N-N-NEED TO COME TO AN UNDERRRSTANDING!"
"Max, I really don't have time for this," Theora pleaded, to no avail.
"LOOK. LOOK. I F-F-F-FOUND HER. I GOT HER-R-R-R TO B-B-B-BRUNO'S. I WANT A REWARD! REWARD!" Theora guessed where this was leading, and looked up at Murray for guidance; he simply shrugged in a "what can I say?" manner.
"All right, Max, what do you want?" she asked.
He pretended to think it over. "HOW ABBBBBOUT A DATE FOR THE BANQUET?"
"I'm sorry, I've already got one lined up," she replied, getting a startled glance from Murray. "How about another time?" As she talked, she rapidly typed out a message to Bryce and sent it quietly to him.
"BUT IT'S NOT FAIR! FAIR! I-I-I-I-I WON!"
"Max, I am not first prize in a testosterone contest," Theora told him firmly. "Now get out of the way so I can help Edison get that young idiot out of the building and back to the Fringes."
'BUT-BUT-BUT..." And suddenly Max flickered out, rerouted down to Bryce's system. Before the simulation could return and cause more trouble, Theora quickly typed a series of commands and routed the Fringes feed into the network line.
"Excuse me," Murray said as she leaned back with a sigh of relief, "but did I just hear you tell Max you have a date for tonight?"
"Hmm-mmm," she nodded with a smile.
Murray scratched his head. "I have been standing here all day, and not once have I heard you say 'yes' to a single member of the long line of suitors that has passed by your desk. So who, pray tell, is the lucky guy?"
Theora smiled again but said nothing.
"Rick?" Lycia leaned closer into the camera in Bruno's hideaway. "That you?"
"Uhhhh...Lycia...." The young man turned instantly into jello. "Hi."
"I understand you did all this to get my attention," she said, smiling.
"Well," she said seductively, "you've got it."
"Uhhhh...." Nearby, Carter sighed quietly and shook his head. Some days...
"Why don't you get back here and we'll talk about this," Lycia suggested. "After you dispose of the dynamite, of course. I like an explosive relationship as much as the next girl, but that's pushing things. Okay?"
Rick's head bobbed up and down furiously. "All right then," she purred, "I'll be waiting for you. Hurry back...Rick." The feed from the Fringes went dead; Carter jumped up with a start and hurriedly pointed his camera at the starstruck kamikaze terrorist, who was wearing what had to be the most idiotic, insipid smile any male had ever worn.
"Well, Rick?" Carter prompted.
Carter withheld a sigh. "Control, tell Martinez to get the chopper ready. Rick's going to go up to the roof, taking me as hostage so that the security guards don't try anything. Break the feed in the elevator--might be good for a few commercials."
"Got it, Edison," said Theora. She glanced up at Murray, who had been standing right behind her during the Fringe feed. He was shaking his head and chuckling to himself. 'What's so funny?" she asked.
"Leave it to Edison to make his own kidnapping arrangements," he said with a smile.
With a sigh and a grunt, Carter removed the camera from his shoulder and lowered it to the elevator floor. A quick glance up showed that they'd be on the roof within a minute or so--one final statement about what had happened, preferably with a happy ending tie-up, and a last shot of the helicopter taking the lovesick bomber back to the Fringes, and this would be over and done with. "Well, you must be pretty happy with the way things worked out," he commented to the other man.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Rick said dreamily. "Mr. Carter, I can't thank you enough for everything you've done. I apologize for all the trouble I put you through." And to the horror of both Carter and Theora (who was still monitoring the situation), he let go of the trigger and extended his hand. Carter's eyes widened and his jaw dropped...
...and nothing happened. Rick looked at him in confusion for a moment, then realized the problem. "Oh, that was never wired to the dynamite," he assured Carter. "What do you think I am, crazy?"
If anyone who was watching Carter's program noticed the swollen jaw and black eye on Rick's face when he finally climbed into the Network 23 helicopter a few minutes later, no one commented on it.
That evening, Carter strolled into the banquet hall and, after giving the room a quick once-over, headed over to the tables reserved by Network 23. To his surprise, someone had positioned a television set nearby, and on the screen was Max, replete in a tux and sunglasses, surveying the crowd much as his flesh-and-blood counterpart had done a few minutes earlier. "Fancy meeting you here, Max," Carter commented. "Bring a date?"
"NOPE-NOPE-NOPE," his doppleganger replied. 'TH-THEORA SAID SSSSHE HAD A DATE-DATE ALREADY." Max suddenly looked at Carter carefully. "WHO'D YOU CCCCCOME WITH?"
"No one," the reporter shrugged. "She told me the same thing. Maybe Bryce got lucky?" At that moment the teenage genius appeared in the doorway, similarly unattached. His gaze found Carter and Max, and the forlorn look on Bryce's face lightened a bit. He walked over to join them, looking uncomfortable in his obviously-new formalwear.
"Let me guess," Carter said. "She already had a date."
"Yeah." Bryce slouched dejectedly. "To make matters worse, she patted my head and said I was like a kid brother to her, it wouldn't be right. But she was terribly flattered." He snorted softly. "Yeah, right."
"SOOOOOO..." Max said. 'IFFF IT WASN'T-WASN'T ME, AND IT WASN'T YOU-YOU TWO..."
"Yeah," Bryce agreed. "Who did she come here with?"
And at that moment Theora appeared in the doorway, looking stunning in a blue dress that shimmered in the bright lights. She looked around, saw the Network 23 contingent, and smiled brightly as she came over...escorted by none other than...
"MURRAY?" Three voices bellowed.
As they walked past the stunned trio, Murray smiled and shrugged. "What could I say?" he said apologetically. "She asked me." A smug Theora tugged at his arm, and the couple headed over to the main table, where Cheviot and the directors of the station were sitting.
"I don't believe it," Carter said, gaping. "I just don't believe it."
"She picked him?" Bryce echoed. "But...he's so old...and bald..."
"AND SHE CCCCCOULD HAVE HAD MEEEE!" Max pouted. "ITTTT'S NOT FAIR! FAIR!"
Carter sat down in a nearby chair and smiled in resignation. "You know what they say, guys," he shrugged. "All's fair in love and war."
"That's not logical," Bryce pointed out, sitting down as well. "In fact, it’s incredibly stupid."
"And that," Carter replied with a grin, "is your second lesson in romance, Bryce."
I still get a perverse kick out of this story. It was written the year I’d committed myself to several zines, all with May deadlines--up until April, I’d managed nary a word for any of them. And suddenly I hit a writing groove the likes of which I fear I’ll never see again. Beyond making the zineds very, very happy and getting overwhelmed with trib copies, most of the stories hold up very well.
There was one slightly embarrassing note to this one. I’d cranked it out in one afternoon, given it a cursory examination, and fired it off to Pam Spurlock, editor of Maxzine, who must have only given it the barest of readings. Imagine my horror when I read the finished product in the zine and discovered that the banquet was both a) in two weeks and b) that night. This annoying little detail has been corrected in this version. By the way, MAXZINE is still available—write Pam for details. She’s a great writer whose work you should really check out!
Blank Lycia is based on Lycia Naff, who played "Sonya Gomez" in a few second-season episodes of Star Trek: TNG and has quite a sitcom record on her resume. She was in one of the "Blanks" episodes of Headroom (albeit you only see her face on one of Bruno’s monitors), and, having a soft spot in my heart for her, I used her character here.
Sarah Jane Smith? What’s a Doctor Who companion doing here? Simple--giving in to the pleas of my friend Kevin Parker (who runs the Elisabeth Sladen fan club), I wrote a few stories for his Sarah Jane zine, "Roving Reporter". Wanting to do something a bit off the beaten track, I hypothesized that when the Doctor ostensibly dropped Sarah off on Earth, it wasn’t her Earth, but rather the Max Headroom universe. I had a lot of fun with the idea--at one point Kevin complained that I had to get Sarah back home, so I dutifully had the TARDIS show up at the end of the second story. Sarah asks Edison to wait a moment, goes inside, then comes back out. She walks away with Carter while the TARDIS vanishes. It was fun hearing Kevin’s anguished screams when he read that one.