"I don't know."
Cynthia met Topaz's gaze with a hesitant one of her own. "I'm sorry,
Topaz. I really don't know if I have the projective power in me to do as
"Can you at least try?" Topaz pleaded, taking the hologram's hand in
hers. "Please, Cyn. We want to help you, but we need your help before we
can. Noone is going to let Nancy into Rebel Records or Diablo's house as
she is...can you give it a go?"
Cynthia sighed. It was half an hour later and, the plan discussed, Jewel
had descended upon the patient en masse to ask for her assistance. Copper
had soon been filled in, and Aaron had gone upstairs to take a brief break
and the girls had spied their chance to get to their hologramatic friend
directly, without him shooing them away.
"You are good friends to me." A soft smile touched Cynthia's lips. "I
will try anything I can, Topaz. I promise you that. I just don't know if
it will be enough. My system..." She faltered, then,
"I am not well." She whispered. "And no matter what Aaron tries I get
no better. It is frustrating and demoralising for him - and frightening for
me. My memory is unreliable at present and I have not taxed my projectors
more than to keep this hologram going, so I can communicate with you as
long as possible. I don't know whether they will maintain Cynthia and do
as you want to do. As it is I only retain fleeting memory of what Stefana
looks like. It...it comes and goes."
"I want to borrow your watch." Nancy said quietly. "It's the only remote
projector we have, and its fairly discreet."
"Your main projector can project Cynthia, right?" Sylva checked anxiously.
"We don't want to accidentally turn you off."
"My main projection unit is malfunctioning, the lasers are dangerous
and Aaron deactivated it for his and my safety." Cynthia responded quietly.
"My hologram is maintained by the secondary projector - the watch is currently
not in use." She slid it off her wrist, pausing, then handing it to Nancy.
"I will do my best to do as you ask of me, Nancy...I swear."
"I know you will." Nancy hugged the hologram rather awkwardly, then,
"And I'll do my best to find something that can help you out, too."
"Thank you." Cynthia smiled. "I appreciate you all wanting to help me,
it makes me realise that maybe Aaron is right and I am more than just a
machine these days."
"Of course you are. You're our friend." Sylva said decidedly.
"All right, I have the watch on." Nancy fastened the device around her
wrist, not without some misgivings, for she had no way of knowing how the
machine would react in Synergy's current state of health. "Ready when you
"Yes, Nancy." Cynthia closed her eyes for a moment, then, "All right.
My projection is now minimal...I will attempt to power up the remote projector
now I am projecting myself in basic mode."
"Fingers crossed." Copper said. Nancy nodded grimly.
"Activating now." Cynthia murmured, and a soft pink haze enveloped Nancy's
body. Slowly but surely, her features began to merge into that of another,
and as her friends watched in fascination Nancy Pelligrini was replaced
by Stefana Ranieri.
"Awesome." Sylva whispered. "Cyn, you did it! She looks just like Stefana!"
"Cyn, is it hurting you?" Copper eyed the hologram's creased brow with
some consternation, but Cynthia shook her head.
"No...I can manage." She murmured. "But I do not know for how long."
"Then I'll get out of here." Nancy glanced self consciously at her reflection
in Sylva's compact mirror, then steeled herself. "I'll let you guys know
whatever I can as soon as I can, okay?"
"Sure. Good luck, huh?" Copper hugged her.
"Thanks. I'll need it." Nancy responded grimly. "Later all."
"Did I just see Stefana down here?"
At that moment Aaron rejoined the group, screwdriver in one hand and
notebook in the other. The girls exchanged looks, then as one, shook their
"It was just Nancy." Sylva said finally.
"Nancy? Didn't look like Nancy." Aaron frowned.
"Well, it was." Topaz assured him. "She's gone out to see...um..."
"To see if she can locate any information which might assist me." Cynthia
said softly. "She wants to help."
"Well, I don't know how she can, but all right." Aaron nodded. "I suppose
it can't hurt if she tries, huh?"
"That is what I said." Cynthia agreed smoothly.
"Okay...then can I shoo everyone else outta here? Cyn and I need to work
on this thing." Aaron sat down on the floor, setting down his burdens and
eying the girls expectantly.
"Even Copper?" Sylva demanded.
"It's all right. I'll go too." Copper smiled slightly. "You probably
need to concentrate."
"Thanks, Copper." Aaron looked relieved. "I'm glad you understand. Hey!"
He glanced around him. "Cyn, what happened to your watch?"
"I...took it off." Cynthia faltered.
"Where did you put it?"
"I I don't..uh...don't recall." Cynthia's uncharacteristic stuttering
made the young technician eye her in some concern.
"Memory still playing up?" He asked gently. Cynthia nodded slowly, relieved
at the ease of the deception. It had long since been agreed among the Jewel
girls that Aaron was not to know of the ill feeling between the band and
Stefana, for the Diablo guitarist had once been involved in a stage explosion
which had almost caused Nancy serious harm, and all knew that Aaron could
be overprotective where his sister was concerned. None of them had wanted
a scene at the time, and, as the feud had continued, Aaron had remained
oblivious to the undercurrents that existed between them.
"Well, we'll have to find it later." Aaron decided. "For now I want to
tackle this thing head on. I think I can see how to get your monitor running
on alternative power...at least, I hope I can. From there I'm going to try
and hack directly into your system and see if I can't dislodge the virus.
"Do whatever it takes. You haven't much to lose." Cynthia said quietly.
"Don't be like that." Aaron scolded. "We're going to get this thing, even
if it takes me all night and all tomorrow to figure it out. You got that?
I'm not giving up so don't you."
Cynthia offered a ghost of a smile.
"I'll try." She responded. "What do you want me to do?"
Nancy pushed open the front door of Rebel Records tentatively,
glancing inside and swallowing hard before taking a step through the doorway,
allowing the big silver door to swing shut behind her. She paused, glancing
around her for some clue as to where she should go or what she should do
"Think Stefana." She muttered under her breath, catching the eye of the
man mopping the floor and affixing him with a dark glower in the same way
she felt the real Stefana might do. "Now, where would she go? If I was a
psychotic guitarist who'd just paid for someone to make a computer virus...who
would I have told?"
"Morning, Miss Ranieri." A stranger in the uniform of Rebel Record's security
staff cast her a smile, and Nancy started, quickly turning her surprise into
a small smile as she squinted to read the name on his badge.
"Morning...uh...Robin." She gabbled, glad that the hologramatic disguise
Cynthia had provided hid her blushes from view. "I...is Mr Llewelyn in his
"Yes, Miss. Just got back from his meeting." Robin nodded his head. "Here,
how's that there song of yours doing? Hear it's going to be a big hit!"
"It's going to be a huge hit." Starting to get her bearings, Nancy cast
him a superior look. "Because Diablo has class and Jewel are gonna flop
out of this chart into oblivion."
"You show them who's boss, huh?" He said, amused. "Well, must be getting
on, apprehending intruders and the like. Best of luck, missy!"
And with that cheerful remark he was gone across the lobby, leaving Nancy
staring after him.
"Am I imagining it or was that guy just nice to me because he thought
I was Stefana?" She wondered. "Hell, is she only a bitch to us? Or does
she sweet talk the security staff for some reason? Weird."
She sauntered across the lobby towards the main lift, jabbing the buttons
fiercely and tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for the car to arrive
at the ground floor. Since her chat with the security man, her confidence
in the exercise had been boosted, and she had begun to get into role, even
enjoying herself. She stepped into the car with a nonchalant whistle, hitting
the button for the top floor.
"Man with an ego like Rory Llewelyn has to have his office on the top
floor." She reasoned, a smile touching her lips. "Hey, Cynthia, you hear
"Yes." The voice was faint and feeble, but reassuring, and Nancy grinned.
"I'm on my way to Rory's office. Hang in there...noone suspects me. You're
Be quick." Cynthia murmured."I don't know how long I can keep this going."
"All right, I know." Nancy nodded. "Don't worry. I'm on it."
At that moment the lift doors swung back and she stepped out onto the
corridor, wrinkling her nose at the smell of the air freshener as she scanned
the doors for the name label she wanted.
"Phew, what a stink." She muttered. "If I were Rory I'd seriously replace
the cleaning staff. That stuff reeks!"
Rory Llewelyn's office, she soon discovered, was at the end of the corridor
and she approached it slowly, composing herself inwardly for the act she
was about to produce. This was for Cynthia, and she would not let her friend
down, however intimidating the idea of facing the company boss might be.
Swallowing hard, she reached for the door handle, flinging the door open
and marching into the office.
Rory glanced up from his paperwork, eying her in annoyance.
"Most normal people knock, Stefana." He said wearily. "What do you want?
I thought Diablo had a song to rehearse."
"We do." Nancy thought fast. "But we're taking a break and I came to see
you. Got a problem with that?"
"It depends. If you're after money, then yes I do have a problem with
it." Rory set his paperwork aside with a sigh.
"I'm after answers." Nancy put her hands on her hips, hoping against hope
that her bluff would work and that Rory knew as much about the virus as she
suspected he did. Stefana was not made of money, but Rory Llewelyn was a
wealthy backer, and one with enough grudges to bear against Jewel and Misfit
"I only hope I'm guessing right." She muttered to herself. "Oh well, here
"Answers?" Rory raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean, answers?"
"You said that the virus would kill Sy...the computer off." Nancy sent
him the most accusing glare she could. "But I saw her just this morning.
She's not dead, Rory...not even close to it. What the hell are you playing
"Stefana, this was your project, not mine." Rory looked bored with the
conversation already. "Techrat told you that it could take up to a week to
take hold of the machine's system. It's barely been a couple of days since
we infected her projector. Have some patience, will you, and leave me alone?
If Techrat says the computer will die then it will die. Now go away. I have
work to do."
"You suck, you know that?" Now Nancy's angry indignation was real, for
she was incensed by the executive's casual reference to Cynthia's well being.
"Well, if that's the case, will you go bother someone else?" Rory eyed
her meaningfully. "And don't come back till you have something important
to say, okay?"
"Fine." Nancy glared at him. "I will. I'll make sure that computer is
blitzed once and for all - with or without your help!"
With that she flounced out of the office in high dudgeon, banging the
door behind her for good measure.
Once in the corridor, however, she leant up against the wall, taking a
deep breath and thinking over all she'd learnt.
"Cynthia, did you hear all that?" She asked.
There was no reply, and, frowning, Nancy examined the watch.
Again, no reply, and Nancy's expression became anxious. Checking to make
sure her reflection was still that of Stefana Ranieri, she hurried down the
main stairwell and out to her car. Time was clearly running out, and she
had yet to discover whether or not the Diablo guitarist was hiding an antidote.
"At least we know it was her." She mused as she ran. "And Rory is her
backer. It's a start. Now if only it's as Syl said last night and there's
a disk hiding someplace waiting to be found. I only hope I'm not going to
be too late!"