A/N: This follows "The Prodigal"
Theora glanced at her watch.
Eleven-fifteen, Theora thought. He's running late. Murray had told her earlier that morning that Edison had a doctor's appointment.
Max Headroom suddenly appeared on Theora's monitor and asked, "You bb-buying that whole 'dd-doctor's aa-app-pointment' th-thing?"
"Where else WOULD he be?" Theora asked.
"You mm-might w-want to rr-run a chch-check-kk on him," said Max.
Max knows Edison better than I do, Theora thought as she pondered Max's suggestion.
What am I saying? He IS Edison. He has Edison's mind.
With a few clicks of her computer keyboard, Theora called up a GPS tracking program and ran a search on Edison Carter's badge (a GPS tracking chip was embedded inside every Network 23 employee's ID badge).
A map showing Edison Carter's current location suddenly appeared onscreen: 418 East Fletcher Street.
It was an address Theora knew all too well. Null.
"Edison sent me a text message," Theora lied as she stood in the doorway of Murray's office, her purse slung over her shoulder. "He wants me to pick him up at the doctor's office."
Murray looked at Theora. "Why does he want you to pick him up?" he inquired.
Since when does Ol' Blood `n Guts send TEXT messages?
Theora shook her head. "I don't know," she replied, trying to cover for Edison. "I'm sure he has his reasons."
Murray sighed resignedly and turned back towards his work. "Go," he said.
Null was a semi-private bar located on the west end of town. There was no sign in front, the bar wasn't listed in the phone directory, and they didn't advertise a great deal (hence the name, Null, meaning zero … meaning official non-existence).
It was a neighborhood place. You had know someone to get in.
Theora rang the doorbell. A peephole in the door was slid sideways and a pair of beady eyes stared back at Theora.
"Password?" came a voice from behind the door.
"Troy sent me," Theora replied.
The door opened and Theora walked inside.
"Haven't seen YOU in a while," said the bouncer as he closed the door behind Theora.
"I'm here on business," Theora replied.
Edison sat at the bar with his back to the door, cradling a beer and talking to Tony, the owner/bartender.
It was at that moment that Tony glanced to up to find Theora standing behind Edison, her arms folded across her chest, her jaw set on edge.
"Expecting someone?" said Tony nervously as he caught sight of Theora standing behind Edison Carter.
"No," Edison replied as he looked up at Tony. "Why?"
It was then that realization dawned on him.
"She's behind me, isn't she?" Edison asked. He stared straight ahead, not daring to look at Theora.
"Yeah," said Tony as she glanced sidelong at Theora.
"How's she look?" Edison asked.
Tony glanced back at Theora. "Offhand, I'd say somewhere between more-than-slightly-pissed and 'I've a good mind to rip your lips off'," he said dryly as he took note of the stony expression on Theora's face, which was something akin to that of a truant officer who had just caught a wayward pupil playing hooky from school.
"That bad, huh?"
"Good morning, Theora," said Edison brightly. He stared straight ahead without looking at Theora.
"Good morning, Edison," Theora replied flatly as she stood behind Edison, staring at the back of his head.
"Nice to see you," said Edison cordially, staring straight ahead towards the back of the bar.
"Good to see you too," Theora replied coolly as she continued to stare at the back of Edison's head.
"You know about Null …"
"It's a bit of an open secret," Theora replied. It was not easy to get into Null. By the same token, it wasn't especially difficult either.
"You're good," said Edison as he took a sip of beer. "I'm impressed."
Theora continued to stare at the back of Edison's head without saying a word.
"Used to do this with Gorrister," said Edison. He then added with a smirk, "Old man never had a clue."
"I know most of the clubs," said Theora finally. "Even the underground ones."
She's a former party girl, Edison suddenly remembered.
"She's a VIP," said Tony brightly.
Edison raised an eyebrow at Tony. You're REALLY not helping here.
"Eh … I'll leave you two alone," said Tony as he left Edison and Theora.
"Care to sit down?" said Edison as he offered Theora a barstool just to his right. "Unless you LIKE staring at the back of my head."
Theora sat down on the barstool without saying a word.
"Can I get you something?" Tony asked Theora.
"Ice water," Theora replied.
"I owe you one," said Edison to Theora as Tony poured a glass of ice water and passed it to her.
"Thank you," said Theora softly to Tony as she accepted the ice water.
"You know the underground?" Edison asked.
Theora took a sip of her ice water. "I told you what I was," she said. "There aren't many I don't know.
"It was my world."
"I partied too when I was young," said Edison. "Who hasn't?"
"Do you remember any of it?" Theora asked.
"Do I REMEMBER any of it?" Edison asked, repeating Theora's question. "Yeah ... Why?"
Theora took a sip of her water and said nonchalantly, "You didn't try hard enough."
"HEY!" Edison exclaimed.
Theora reached underneath the bar, produced a cell phone, and dialed a number. "It's Theora," she said into the phone. "I have Edison ... He's with me ... We should be back in about an hour ... Thanks."
"Murray?" Edison asked as Theora hung up the phone.
"Yes," Theora replied as she reached down under the bar and put the cell phone away.
Edison took a sip of his beer. "I don't know if I give a shit any more," he said.
"What do you mean?" Theora asked.
Edison sighed. "Network 23 ... Network 66 ... What's the difference?" he asked. "Either one of them would kill me if it served their interests."
"Cheviot is not Grossberg," Theora reminded Edison.
Edison took another sip of his beer and glanced at Theora. "Not YET," he said darkly.
"It's not just you," said Theora. "It's me too.
"You heard what Grossberg said. When he's finished with you, he's coming after ME ... and Murray."
"You're right," Edison said glumly.
"The world doesn't begin and end with YOU," said Theora.
For a woman, she's got some SERIOUS balls, Edison thought.
"I don't trust Cheviot," said Edison. "He's part of the system.
If he had to, he'd kill both of us ... just like Grossberg."
"We're not going to accomplish anything by sitting in a bar," said Theora.
Edison reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a credit tube, left it on the bar, turned to Theora, and said, "Let's go."
He and Theora then left the bar.