Chapter Eleven: Crisis Point

Back at the Starlight Mansion, time was indeed running out. Cynthia's efforts to assist Aaron and to keep alive Nancy's projection were fast sapping her remaining strength and her own hologram had become little more than a ghost figure in the darkness of the basement. Her soft responses had long since dissipated into silence and from the expression on her face Aaron knew that the virus had reached the core program. Cynthia was in pain, yet she made no complaint as the young technician delved through her immense database of files, searching manually for anything which might prove to be the nucleus of the cyberdemon virus.
It was proving a long and arduous task. Synergy's data banks, he was discovering, had a far greater capacity than even he had realised, and her ability to automatically scan through them had long since been disabled. With a heavy sigh he returned his focus to his search. If only he knew what he was looking for!
"Yes Aaron?" The voice was barely more than a pained whisper, and Aaron bit his lip at the sound of it.
"I want you to turn off your secondary projection unit. The hologram is draining your power and it might give us more time."
"If I turn myself off, I might never speak to you again." Cynthia's voice shook.
"I know you're scared, but you have to trust me." Aaron said soothingly. "Please, Cyn. I don't like seeing you in pain like this, and there's no need for it. Your hologram isn't a vital use of energy at the moment, and it would conserve your strength all the longer."
"I do trust you." Cynthia whispered. "But I don't think I can be cured, Aaron. I won't switch my projector off."
Aaron frowned.
"Well, it's up to you." He said finally with a sigh. "It's your run time and I won't make you. I just think it would be better if you did, that's all."
"I can't." Cynthia shook her head. "I daren't."
"It would help if there was a quicker way to search your system." Aaron turned his gaze back to the long list of files. "Any ideas?"
"None." Cynthia's response was faint. "Aaron...I can't help you. I...I can't focus on anything, the's's all blurring away. My optical circuits..."
Aaron glanced up in alarm as the room became flooded with shards of angry red and pink light. It did not take him long to realise that these were coming from the hologram herself and as he watched his friend desperately battle to regain her physical form he though he heard her speak to him.
"Aaron, get down!" The words were barely coherent but he understood and instinctively he ducked behind Synergy's main projector as the shards of laser struck out around the room, scorching the floor and walls where they fell. Then there was darkness, and, not quite sure what he might see, Aaron peered out from around his hiding place.
Cynthia was nowhere to be seen.
"Cyn?" He called. "Cynthia? Can you hear me?"
There was no response, and slowly he made his way over to the secondary projector, realising as he did so that the main laser had malfunctioned.
"I'm on my own." he murmured. "Well, don't worry, Cyn. If I can help you, then I damn well will, so don't be scared. I'm hunting your system and I'm going to find that file, even if it takes me forever!"
But deep in the back of his mind he knew that he did not have forever. Time was running out for his friend in a big way, and he was still no closer to solving the puzzle.

Across town, Nancy was facing a similar dilemma. Her disguise was still in place for the time being, for as yet the remote projector had not succumbed to the virus. Though it had been the point of infection, it had evaded the bug which had swept into Synergy's circuits in search of the core program and though her main and secondary projectors had given up the ghost, the ailing computer had placed her faint hopes in Nancy's success, even if it meant draining the last of her resources to do so.
Despite knowing how critical timing was, though, Nancy was stuck. She had driven to a layby not far from the Diablo estate and was considering her best course of action. If Stefana was home, well, she had a problem. Rory had said Diablo were practicing their new song, but that did not mean they were at the studio, and she had not heard any music whilst she was there.
"Now either they're all gonna be in some room of the house playing and they won't even notice a fake Stefana sneaking in through whatever way she can find, or they're gonna suss me from the off and I'm in big trouble." She murmured. "I wish you could hear me, Cynthia! I need some advice!"
The watch crackled slightly, then a faint form began to materialise in the car seat next to her, making her jump.
"Don't do that!" She exclaimed. "I wasn't expecting you!"
"I'm sorry." Cynthia was contrite. "This is the only projector I have that works now, Nancy...I couldn't speak to you any other way. My secondary projector has blown out and I can't speak to Aaron...I thought maybe I could be of help to you." She frowned. "If I can be of help to anyone. I feel so weak." She grimaced. "I didn't know a machine could feel pain till now. I only hope that I can last long enough for you to find an antidote."
"I don't know if there even is one, Cyn." Nancy admitted. "I'm going to try and bluff my way in there, but I don't even know which is Stefana's room, so it's going to be a bit of hit and miss guesswork. Can you keep my cover going at least for a little longer?"
"Yes, Nancy." Cynthia nodded her head. "But listen, if the watch starts to glow or emit strange sounds, take it off. I don't care if it blows your cover, you must. It is dangerous - I don't know what the lasers might do, I have no control over most of my system."
"I promise." Nancy assured her. "Okay, wish me luck, I'm going in. If there is an antidote disk anywhere in that building, I'm damn well going to find it."
"I hope you're right." Cynthia offered a wistful smile. "Good luck. And thank you."
With that the illusion disappeared, and, hardening her resolve, Nancy slipped out of her car, sidling up to the estate as she hunted for a way in. Seeing that the back gate was padlocked shut, she made her way over to it, extracting a grip from her hair and deftly picking the lock till it gave in her hands. Then, pushing the gate open she sauntered into the grounds of the estate, doing her best to appear like there was nothing unusual about her being there.
"Hey, Steffi, I thought you were working on chords!" Luca's voice from the poolside made her jump and she swung around guiltily, trying to find an excuse that would pass muster.
"Stef, work?" Madeleine came to her rescue, laughing. "Come off it, Luca. Stef never works if she can get out of it."
"Shut your face, Maddy!" Nancy regained some composure, even managing to poke an indignant tongue out at the Diablo singer before marching indoors in search of Stefana's bedroom. She had passed the acid test, and Cynthia's hologram had fooled even Stefana's own brother. Now she had to do her part of the bargain.
She had to find the antidote disk.
Stefana's room, she soon discovered, was not difficult to locate. The door was open and clothes and magazines lay scattered on the bed and the floor. The curtain flapped open in the breeze and a packet of cigarettes lay on the dresser by the bed. Nancy remembered that Stefana was the only member of Diablo who smoked, and thanked her lucky stars. She had the right room.
"And if it's already a mess, it won't hurt if I hunt around a bit." She mused. "Anyone who comes in here will probably think Stefana just lost something and is on the hunt for it. If she's downstairs practicing chords then that should keep her occupied for a bit. Question is, what does it look like?"
She frowned, glancing around her. "Where would you hide a computer virus antidote disk? Come on, Nancy, think! If you were a psychotic moron, where would you put it?"
Her gaze fell on Stefana's messy pile of CDs, and she grinned.
"Bingo." She whispered. "I bet that's where it is. What better place to hide a disk than in amongst a pile of other disks?"
She scooped up the pile, skimming over the titles as she examined each disk to see whether or not it could be something other than a music CD. As she did so, she smirked.
"Man, she has bad taste." She muttered. "All this noisy tuneless screechy music...oh my god, and is that what I think it is? Stefana Ranieri has an ABBA CD? Oh man this is too too good!"
"Actually, it belongs to Marissa."
A voice from the doorway made her freeze, and slowly she turned to face the real Stefana, arms folded across her chest. "Nice to see you're inventive enough to play treasure hunt with me, but I think you'll find that I'm the real Stefana, Cynthia. You can drop the charade now."
"I'm not Cynthia." Nancy retorted.
"You're wearing her watch." Stefana smiled slightly. "I'm not quite the moron you think I am. I believe you're looking for this?"
She held up a silvery disk, and Nancy's eyes widened in surprise.
"The...antidote?" She whispered. Stefana nodded.
"Yeah. Techrat's a bit of a moron, his amazing and overstated genius seems to mean that he needs to prove he can create a program to undo devastating damage as well as cause it." She said airily. "You know, you didn't do too badly, either. You weren't far off. I did keep it with the CDs. Only..." She smiled an infuriating smile. "I had a phonecall from Rebel Records only twenty minutes ago. Rory wanted to speak to Luca - he was most surprised to find I was home, when I'd been in his office only a short few moments before. Soo...I figured that someone was spying and trying to find this disk. I knew it was a mistake for Techrat to have made it."
"Give it here, Stefana. It's not a game, it's a life at stake." Nancy reached out to grab it, but Stefana held it above her head.
"It's a machine." She retorted. "That's all it is. A stupid, stuck up machine. She shouldn't have messed with shouldn't have messed with me. Don't pretend you're not Cynthia. I know you are."
"No, Stefana. I'm not." Nancy shook her head. "Cyn, turn off the projection. Save your strength, I can handle it."
"As you wish, Nancy." The voice was barely more than a hiss in the air around them, but slowly the projection faded and Stefana's eyes widened in surprise.
"Nancy? My my, the mouse has a brain!"
"Oh, shut your face and give me that disk." Nancy narrowed her gaze. "Unless you want to be arrested for sabotage."
"What, and have the whole world find out about your stupid little computer? I don't think so." Stefana shook her head. "Let her die. You think I care? It's just a pile of screws and circuitboards anyhow." She smirked. "What's the matter? Afraid Jewel can't match up without cyber geek's technical wizardry?"
"Jewel will always be better than your circus band." Nancy said stolidly. "I'm here to help a friend, Stefana, and that's all. I don't expect you to understand what that is, since you don't have any friends, but I'm here to help Cynthia, and I'm not just going to walk out of here like a meek little puppy without that disk. You hear me? I came to get it and I'm damn well going to!"
Stefana stared at her. Then she laughed.
"Priceless." She decided. "Aaron's mouse of a sister is best pals with a computer because real people think she's a moron. How's that for a tabloid headline?"
"Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about." Nancy snapped. "Are you going to give me that disk or am I gonna have to make you?"
"You?" Stefana raised an eyebrow. "Make me? I think not. I doubt you've ever had a fight in your life."
Suddenly her expression changed into a deceptive smile.
"Well, I tell you what. Since you've made all this effort...and since you are Aaron's sister, unfortunate as that must be for him, I'll give you the disk." She agreed slowly.
"You will?" Nancy looked taken aback at this sudden change of heart. " mean it?"
"Sure, I mean it." Stefana laughed carelessly. "What good is it to me?"
She held up the disk, as if about to hand it to the other girl, then with one fluid movement she brought up her other arm, deftly snapping it in two. "Ooh would you look at that? Whoops! Butter fingers!" She laughed.
"Here. Take it and get out." She said, tossing the two parts of the disk in the direction of her companion. "Have a nice day, won't you? So nice of you to call."
Slowly Nancy scooped up the two pieces of disk, anger blazing in her brown eyes. Without realising what she was doing, she slapped Stefana hard across the cheek.
"You will pay for this, because I won't forget it." She said darkly. "Aaron will fix Cynthia and we will get even. Don't think we won't."
 "Raise your hand to me again and I'll break your fist for you." Stefana snapped back.
"Maybe I'll break your face!" Nancy threatened.
"Ooh, like I'm so scared." Stefana rolled her eyes."Later, kiddy. Clear off before I call one of the others to boot you out."
Realising that she was beaten, Nancy retreated, her heart heavy as she slowly made her way back to the car. Once in the driver's seat, she examined the two halves of the disk.
"I'm sorry, Cyn." She whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "I blew it, huh?"
"No you didn't blow it." Though Cynthia's hologram was not visible, Nancy knew her friend was there. "You tried, and that means a lot. Back to Starlight Mansion, Nancy. It's down to Aaron now."

Chapter One: Machinations
Chapter Two: Minx's Contact
Chapter Three: A Spy At Work
Chapter Four: A Bizarre Alliance
Chapter Five: Threat For Cynthia
Chapter Six: A Trap Is Set
Chapter Seven: An Unusual Morning
Chapter Eight: Investigation
Chapter Nine: Cynthia Breaks Down
Chapter Ten: Topaz's Plan
 Chapter Eleven: Crisis Point
Chapter Twelve: Nancy Remembers
Chapter Thirteen: The End

Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, Sirena, Topaz, Aaron, Sophie, Justin, Elliot, Rosita, Luis and any other characters in this fiction which do not appear in the animated Jem series are copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley) as of January 2002 <unless otherwise specified> and are not to be reproduced without permission ANYWHERE. Jetta, Pizzazz, Stormer, Roxy, Raya and all other original Jem characters are the copyright of Hasbro Inc, Sunbow, Christy Marx and the other writers of the Jem series. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!
The concept of RayzaBlade is copyrighted to my sister Elena...^_^ (Yeah, blame her!)