Chapter Eight: Investigation

Cynthia spoke little on the drive back to the Starlight Mansion. Despite Aaron's optimism that the fault was nothing more than a dislodged or faulty cable, she was not so sure herself. Since the day she had been carefully rebooted by the young technician, she had felt nothing but perfect health, and had monitored her hardware carefully for even the tiniest of flaws. It did not seem likely that she would have overlooked a cable with enough problems to make her feel like this.
"Still, it is possible that my sudden instability was provoked by a power surge, and though my sensors did not detect such an event before it occured, I suppose there is some reason to accept that it could have knocked out some of my circuitry." She concluded to herself with a frown. "Either way, whatever it is, I hope that Aaron can fix it as easily as he thinks he can."
"Well, we're home." Copper slipped out of the driver's seat of Jewel's van, pulling open the back and casting the hologram a concerned look. "Your colour is better - how do you feel?"
"I feel in control." Cynthia said quietly. "But it concerns me that parts of my system do not appear to be registering properly."
"Well, we'll go check it out right now." Aaron told her. "So don't worry." He glanced around at the group of girls. "How many of you are coming down to the basement? I might be making a major mess of things down there if I have to pull Synergy's units out and check the wires and could be dangerous."
"We want to help." Topaz said. "How best can we do that?"
"Probably by staying upstairs and keeping out of it." Aaron admitted. "It's not that I'm being funny, Topaz, but it might take some time to locate the source of the problem. Cyn's circuitry is very complex."
"Well, then we'll wish you, Cyn and Copper luck and stay upstairs." Nancy decided. "But make sure you have your phone, Aaron, in case you want to get a hold of us quickly for any reason."
"Okay, will do." Aaron cast Copper a glance. "You will help?"
"Of course, if I can." Copper nodded her head. She linked her arm in Cynthia's. "Jewel take care of their own."
"Well said." Sylva agreed. She stifled a yawn. "Oh anyone gonna hate me if I go take a nap at this crucial time?"
"Of course not." Cynthia offered her a smile, but it was a shadow of her usual pretty smiles and concern crossed Aaron's face once more.
"Let's get you sorted out." He murmured to the hologram. "Sooner we find the problem, sooner you'll be feeling right again."
"That sounds good to me." Cynthia responded. "I hope that it isn't beyond your capabilities to fix me this've done so much for me before."
"What do you mean by that?" Aaron eyed her sharply, as the trio left their companions and made their way down the cold, dark steps to the basement. Cynthia's brow furrowed.
"I don't know." She admitted. "I cannot find anything in my memory banks to equate this feeling with, so I am as bemused as you are."
"Are you dizzy again?" Copper asked gently. Cynthia shook her head.
"No, not dizzy, but not right with myself." She replied. "My programs seem to be in something of a whirl and some of my files have gotten themselves confused with each other. I need to properly reshuffle them."
"Should we reboot you?" Aaron asked. Cynthia shook her head, a slight glint of fear entering the violet eyes.
"No, please do not. With part of my system not working right, I cannot guarantee that I will reboot safely. If...if at all." She lowered her gaze. "I would rather maintain myself as I am. Then I know at least what is going on."
"I don't want to hurt you." Aaron admitted. Cynthia laughed hollowly.
"I am a machine. I don't feel pain." She said softly.
"I don't believe that, and nor does Aaron." Copper told her gently. "You're as much one of us as you possibly could be, flesh and blood aside. Neither one of us want to make this more uncomfortable for you than it already is."
"Well, I appreciate your kindness, if nothing else." Cynthia offered another of those smiles. "But do not worry on my account. I will happily bear whatever it is that must be done to get my system operational again."
"Then let's get to work."
Aaron knelt down in front of the mainframe, carefully prising free the main panel, and examining the wires and circuits with an expert gaze. Slowly he checked that each wire was connected up fully to it's terminal, and that all of them were doing their proper job. Glancing up briefly at the monitor, he frowned. Cynthia had not been kidding, he realised. Her monitor really was dead. Every so often a blip of light would flit across the screen, but try as he might Aaron could not get anything more.
"This is weird." He frowned. "Cyn? Does that feel any different to you?"
"I did not feel anything." Cynthia admitted. "I watched you take away the cable to the monitor and I watched you reconnect it, but I was not aware of any sensation of change during the whole process." She gestured to the circuitboard. "The entire thing appears dead."
"Then maybe I should replace it." Aaron got to his feet. "Which will mean going downtown to the wholesaler and hoping they have a circuitboard to match what I put in a few years ago." He looked rueful. "I worry slightly that this sudden instability in your system is my fault, that I installed something badly or used inferior circuits when I mended you back then."
Cynthia came to put her hand on Aaron's shoulder.
"You saved my life then." She murmured. "And you have made me more than I ever was before. Even Emmet could not envisage what I would be this far along the line. You are a good and dear friend, Aaron, you did nothing wrong. Whatever this is, it is not your fault."
"Well, let's hope not." Aaron replied grimly, putting the panel back in place and pausing to consider. "I'll go get a new circuitboard, I think. Least we can do is see if that is the problem, huh?"
"Yes, Aaron." Cynthia nodded.
"I'll stay down here, Cyn, so if you need me tell me." Copper said softly. "I don't know if I'll be able to help much in the mechanical sense, but I can give you a hug."
"Sometimes that helps more than bolts and screws." Cynthia dimpled. "Thank you, Copper."
"Well, I'll be back as soon as I can." Aaron promised. "And let's see if we can't settle this problem once and for all!"


Stefana turned away from the window, casting Techrat a glare. "What's with this hot shot virus of yours, huh? Am I gonna be grey before it kicks in? When do we get to see some action?"
"Patience." Techrat rasped at her, sending her a dark glare to match her own. "You cannot rush genius. If my calculations are correct - and they are rarely wrong - the first signs of the program should now be taking effect."
"Well, how are we supposed to know if they are, dumbass?" Stefana demanded bluntly. "I don't live at Starlight Mansion. I don't work at Misfit Music. Dammit this isn't any fun unless I can get in on the action and actually see it!"
Techrat bristled.
"I was told you wanted to destroy the machine." He muttered. "And you will. Why must you people always have to gloat over it all as well!"
"Well, I hate her. She's played the superior so many times and she's just a machine. She's inferior to me in every way and I damn well want to see her get what she deserves." Stefana snapped. "If you're not going to help me then I'm going to go find a way myself. Later, geek."
Techrat watched her leave,slowly shaking his head. His lip curled in distaste.
"Idiot girl." He observed. "She'll ruin everything!"
Stefana did not hear his derision, for she was already more than halfway down the main stairwell and out to her waiting car. She had nurtured a hate for Cynthia for a long time and she was determined that she was going to get to play some part in the girl's downfall.
"I want her to know that she's going to kaput, and I want her to know I outsmarted her." she muttered. "We'll see about her superior act. So what if she's cold steel and computer chips? Doesn't make her damn infallible! She let me go - well, I'm not so nice as she is and I don't have ethics or morals either, especially not where hunks of junk like that weird mainframe is concerned. Techrat said the only cure for the virus is that damn antidote disk, and I'm the only one who has a copy. I made  sure of that! So, unless I have a shock change of heart, and I don't see that happening, the bitch computer is going to bite the dust! No harm in her knowing exactly what to expect, is there? Might make it more fun, in fact."
She slipped into the front seat of her car, putting the vehicle into gear and heading off towards the Starlight Mansion. She was unaware that the hologram had been taken ill on the television set that morning, but she was sure that if Cynthia was feeling below par, she would not be in the office working, in case something happened to blow her cover.
For once Stefana's warped logic proved to be correct, and as she rang the doorbell of Starlight Mansion, she rearranged her striking features into the most amicable expression that she could muster.
"I'll say Im here to see Aaron." She decided. "Since he's computer-tutoring me at the moment, noone will see that as odd. And if I happen to see Cynthia blow a circuit, well, all to the good!"
"What do you want?"
Nancy swung open the big oak door, glaring at the Diablo guitarist as she did so. Despite the fact that generally there was good feeling between the bands, Nancy was not one to mince her words if she disliked someone, and she had never forgiven Stefana for the very first attack that that girl had made on Jewel - one which had almost left Nancy badly hurt.
"I came to see your brother, if I may." Stefana offered a benign smile.
"Aaron? Why would he want to see you?" Nancy looked startled.
"He's teaching me to use the computer. I had a question and I was in the area - I saw his car here and thought I'd drop by."
Stefana was all sweetness and light, but Nancy was not convinced.
"He's busy, so shove off." She retorted. "We've other things to worry about that don't concern you."
"I heard about Cynthia's illness." Stefana's expression became one of concern. "I hope it isn't serious."
Nancy's eyes narrowed.
"How did you know about that?" She demanded. Stefana shrugged.
"Oh, word gets about in this world." She said airily.
"Well, it stops here." Nancy snapped back at her, shoving the door hard so it shut fast in the other girl's face.
"That was odd." she mused, frowning. "I mean, I know my brother is a dope and all that, but tutoring Stefana of all people to use a computer? Is he mad? When the girl has a crush on him? Oh I bet he hasn't seen that either, dumbass that he is. And of all the timing - Aaron gets back from the store with a new circuitboard and then Stefana decides to descend on us? Very very suspicious if you ask me!"
She sighed.
"Well, I got shot of her. Spose that's that." She decided finally, heading back upstairs to her bedroom.. "Stupid girl. That should give her the message she isnt welcome round here!"
In truth she was keen to get back to the song that she had begun composing, and in a way it was a shame that this was so, for she was quick to push her suspicions aside and forget them in her quest for the perfect harmony. Had she been thinking entirely clearly, she would soon have realised that Stefana was up to no good, and that she should at least have alerted her housemates to the fact that their foe was lurking around the Starlight estate. But once wrapped up in musical harmony Nancy's thoughts were often absent and not her own, and she immersed herself easily once more in her music, Stefana completely forgotten.
The Diablo musician, meanwhile, having cursed Nancy's attitude had begun to look for another way into the house. She had been confident of sweet talking whoever had answered her knock with her feigned sympathy and had not liked having the door slammed in her face. As she surveyed the front of the house, however, she realised one of the big downstairs windows was open, and inwardly she let out a cry of triumph. Carefully she approached it, ensuring nobody either inside or outside was in the vicinity and likely to be a witness, then, thanking once more her good fortune, she slipped inside,  making a beeline for the basement where she knew Cynthia's mainframe was based. As she reached the door she heard the sound of voices and she darted behind a curtain, peering out to see what was going on.
The basement door opened and Copper, followed by Aaron emerged, both looking troubled.
"It's weird." She heard Aaron say. "Cynthia's never had a glitch like this one before. I just can't think what's wrong with her, Copper."
"If you don't know what's up, how can you fix it?" Copper responded. Aaron shrugged.
"Beats me." He admitted. "Well, I'm getting a coffee, then I'll go back and see what I can do. I want to help her if I can."
"Of course." Copper nodded. "You go sit down, I'll make coffee, okay?"
"Suck up witch." Stefana muttered to herself as she watched the couple briefly kiss, then go their seperate ways - Aaron to the living room and Copper to the kitchen. Then, once the coast was clear, she slipped across the floor and through the doorway, hurrying down the stone steps to the basement proper.
She paused at the bottom, glancing around her.
"What do you want, Stefana?"
A voice, familiar yet somewhat different echoed out of the darkness, and startled Stefana turned on her heel, seeing the hologram watching her. At first glance, Cynthia seemed perfectly all right, but then Stefana's keen gaze notice the slight flicker of the projection, and she smirked.
"Feeling unwell, Cynthia?" She asked sweetly. "Shame. I came to pay my respects, that's all."
"I might not be a human being but I was of the opinion that mortals pay respects to the dead, not to the sick." Cynthia observed quietly. A wicked smile crossed Stefana's face.
"Yes, they do." She agreed. "Which is why I said it."
Cynthia's eyes narrowed.
"What do you mean?" She demanded.
"Work it out for yourself." Stefana shrugged. "I thought you were supposed to be an intelligent machine."
"You did this to me, didn't you!" Cynthia glared. Stefana laughed.
"Me, Cynthia? I don't know the first thing about computers. What could I possibly do to you?"
"Don't play games with me!" Cynthia crossed the floor at speed, reaching to grab for the guitarist but instead she stumbled and her hologram flickered dangerously, making her appear transparent for a second. Stefana watched with fascination.
"Wow, nice party trick." She observed, her tone infuriating the still dizzy Cynthia. "You should show that to Aaron, he'd love it."
"Oh, shut up." Cynthia forced her rebellious projectors back into some kind of coherence, glaring at Stefana with eyes which were strangely inhuman in their appearance. "Shut up and get out; I refuse to let you gloat over me. Aaron will fix me, and then that'll be that."
"That's what you think." Stefana said softly. "Listen to me, Cynthia, and listen good. You better damn well enjoy the next few days, because after that your system is going to go into meltdown and you'll be nothing more than a twisted mess of wires. Do you understand me?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You have a virus." Stefana said simply. "And there isn't a cure. By the time Aaron figures out how the thing was put together, it'll be too late. You're toast, Cynthia." She smiled glibly. "Such a shame, I feel we never really got to know each other."
She shrugged. "Ah well, doesn't life blow sometimes?"
Cynthia just fixed her with the darkest stare she could muster.
"Maybe you'll be surprised." She said thickly.
"I don't think so." Stefana shook her head. "But we'll see, won't we?" She winked. "And now I'm going to go and talk to Aaron and see if there's any way I can help the situation. Without you there's nothing to stop me luring Aaron to work for Diablo and then what will happen to Jewel? Without you there will be no stage act." She giggled. "And hey presto, no Jewel! Later, Cynthia! Don't sweat it out too much, will you? I'd hate you to waste the few precious days you have left!"
With that she was gone, leaving Cynthia staring after her. Despite herself, she found a sense of dread and panic overriding her normal calm.
What if Stefana was right? Was she dying?
"Aaron will fix me." She muttered. "He has to! D...doesn't he?"

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!)