The Prodigal

Chapter One

A/N: This is a follow-up to my earlier story, "The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!"


FADE IN

CUT TO: Three attractive middle-aged women (a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead) dining at an elegant restaurant.

Sonorous Male Voice-over: "Tonight on Orange County" ...

Brunette: "Is this chicken or is this fish?"

Redhead: "It's Chilean Sea Bass. It's fish."

Blonde: "I hear the seared flounder is pretty good."

Blonde pauses for a beat.

Blonde: "Oh, have you heard about Nancy?

Brunette: "No."

Blonde: "She thinks Bryan is having an affair ..."

CUT TO: Max Headroom


Max: "Why in God's name do you WATCH this show?

"Seriously, it's about a bunch of wealthy women ... who are as ss-shallow as all get out-tt ... who have nothing bb-better to do than to eat in expensive restaurants, shop in expensive bb-boutiques, and gossip about the most intimate dd-details of their ll-lives (and those of their friends and loved ones) in front of millions of people!

"Have these women no LIVES? Do they think us voyeurs?"

STATIC


FADE IN

"You foolish girl!" the looming nun screamed in Romanian. The cane was at the ready in her right hand.

An eight-year-old Teodora Barbu (who was to become the future Theora Jones) held onto the back of the chair for dear life.

Please, God, please … take me away from here, Teodora prayed silently in Romanian.

WHACK! went the cane. Teodora winced as she felt the sting of the rattan cane against the back of her legs.

"You will pay for your disobedience!" the nun screamed in Romanian. WHACK! went the cane again.

Teodora grasped the back of the chair tightly. I must not cry, she thought. If I do, it'll only make things worse.


All at once, Theora - now a grown woman - suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. Her breathing was labored, her chest heaving.

"Theora," said Edison's voice. "Theora!"

Theora looked around the room. Edison? What is he doing HERE? she wondered. She glanced around to find Max Headroom - Edison Carter's digitized doppelganger - staring back at her from the TV that was sitting next to her bed.

"Theora, are you all rr-right?" Max asked, concerned.

Theora held her temples and shook her head. No.

"Should I call pp-paramm-medics-ss?" Max asked in his signature stutter.

Theora shook her head. No. "I'm fine," she said.

"Y-you just said you ww-weren't," Max countered.

"I don't need paramedics," said Theora crisply.

"What's w-wrong?" Max asked.

Theora looked at the clock radio sitting on a nearby nightstand - Oh-Two-Thirty hours. "Nothing."

"SOMETHING woke you up," Max shot back.

Theora let out a sigh. "Flashback," she said, glancing at Max.

"What's a ff-flash-bb-back?" Max asked, his curiosity piqued.

Theora licked her lips. "When people undergo … traumatic experiences," she explained. "Sometimes … they … RE-LIVE them."

"But … you were just in bb-bed!" Max countered.

"They're haunted … by the memories," Theora continued. "There's no escaping them. They're … all-consuming.

"They strike … without warning."

"Even in bed?" Max asked.

Theora nodded. "Even in bed," she replied softly.

"Wanna tt-talk about-tt i-it?" Max asked.

"Maybe later," Theora replied.

"You're safe now," said Max reassuringly.

Theora smiled. "Thanks, Max," she said quietly.