Chapter Nine: Cynthia Breaks Down

"You're very quiet this afternoon."
Aaron glanced up from the pile of circuits and wires that he had been toying with, sending the hologram a concerned look. Cynthia barely registered his glance, a preoccupied look on her pretty face.
"I said you're quiet. Am I hurting you?"
" I'm just thinking about things." Cynthia said softly.
"Well, can you give me a hand? I reached a part of your system that I'm not sure I should touch."
"What's the point." Cynthia sighed, shaking her head. "Do what you like, Aaron. It's not like it matters."
"Okay, what's up?" Aaron set down his screwdriver, casting her a frown. "You've been like this all afternoon now...are you feeling worse? What's the deal? I can't help you if you don't tell me."
"I know what's wrong with me." Cynthia said quietly. "I wasn't sure before, Aaron, but when I think about it, it checks out. Parts of my hardware are absenting themselves from my system, and my programs won't run as I tell them to. I have a virus."
"I thought you were virus proof?" Aaron looked startled. "You've never contracted anything from the net before."
"No..." Cynthia looked wistful. "No, this is different, Aaron. I think it was designed for me. Oh, I don't know who by, but remember the video tape that was stolen? I think that must have been the decoy...I think I was infected then. It's the only thing that fits."
"I see." Aaron looked thoughtful. "And you can't tell me any more about this virus?"
"I wish I could." Cynthia looked helpless. "Aaron, I can't control what's going on inside of me at the moment. Something happened earlier, something which led me to know that I had a virus, but I can't put the events together and make a sequence of them. Parts of my memory banks are out of order and my long term memory is playing games with me. I can see faces but I can't allocate names to them all, and I don't like it. I...I don't even know what my circuits look like at the moment. I cannot locate the relevant data. I fear I cannot be of help to you. It wasn't like this before...but over the last hour or two I've felt things...slip away from me. I suppose maybe I should just stop trying to fight it. It's getting me nowhere."
Cyn, this isn't like you."
Aaron came to join her, his expression anxious as he sat down beside her. "You're acting defeatist, like you're giving up...I've never known you like this."
"I don't want to think about it." Cynthia whispered. "I am a computer. We are made, not born. We cannot die...we just outlive our usefulness and are replaced. We don't have any kind of feelings about it, that's just how it is. There is nothing to fight about - a machine is programmed to accept her fate."
"Which is what?"
"The virus hasn't a cure that I can find, and believe me Ive looked through all of the memory I can access. Half of my files have been overwritten with the word cyberdemon, over and over again, and it's beginning to make me dizzy and confused. I might as well face it. By the time you figure out the stem of this program, I will be of no use to anyone."
She spoke calmly, but Aaron was sure he saw a holographic tear slide down her cheek, and despite himself he hugged her tightly.
"You're not just a machine, so don't talk like that." He murmured. "You're a very dear friend and we all love you very much. The world - Jewel's world - would be a much worse place without Cynthia or Synergy, so don't give up on us now, okay? If you have a virus, well, we'll just have to find an antidote."
"There is no antidote." Cynthia murmured. "She said..."
"Who said?"
"I don't remember." Cynthia's expression was helpless. "My memory..." She trailed off, burying her head in her hands. "I'm forgetting something every few minutes, or that's how it feels." She whispered. "I don't know how to stop it. I...I might not even know who you are by tomorrow."
"A machine shouldn't feel like this." Cynthia shook her head. "We're not supposed to care about dying, it is a mortal concern, not a mechanical one. Oh, but Aaron...I have never been afraid to die before. Not ever. When I was abandoned, I never once stopped to think that I might never be booted up again. I believed that Jerrica would come back for me, that somehow I would be all right. I believed it right up till I couldn't process coherent thoughts any more. But this time...I have so much! I feel so human...and I really wish I did not, because I begin to know how a human being feels and thinks! It is a mortal trait to fear death...but I am afraid!"
Now the tears came, holographic blips of light that flickered across her projection and Aaron hugged her once more, biting his lip as he did so.
"It's not strange to me that you should feel like that." He said finally. "Cyn, you're as human as a machine ever could be. You've spent so long perfecting Cynthia that you've begun to think and act like a real person almost automatically. Yes, you have a mainframe and a hard drive dictating your actions but they're becoming habitual and second nature, and the number of programs and enhancers you've downloaded off the net have only added to it. You have every right to feel afraid, because you're as much alive as any of us these days. Don't ever believe you're not."
"Does it matter, when I am going to die?"
"I won't let you die." Aaron soothed. "Listen, as long as there is fight left in either of us we're going to attack this thing and get it out of your system. But you have to devote all the run time you can to reordering your files and fighting it off. You're losing ground because you're giving up."
Cynthia sighed.
"Very well." She agreed. "I will try." She forced a feeble smile. "You are a good friend, Aaron. Whatever else I might forget, I...I will not let myself forget you."
"Well then let's get back to it." Aaron got to his feet. "Starting with your missing hardware. Can you bypass whatever the block is and relocate your monitor?"
"No." Cynthia shook her head. "All routes are blocked, I can't..."
A strange, mechanical whirr interrupted her words and both turned to stare at the mainframe. Slowly the monitor sputtered into life, and as the pixels began to swarm together, a word became apparent.
"Cyberdemon." Aaron whispered. "That's what you said was overwriting your files, didn't you?"
"Yes." Cynthia nodded. She frowned. "At least...I think I did." She sighed. "I'm sorry. My memory..."
"It's all right." Aaron assured her. "I'm going to try and trick your mainframe into reinstalling the monitor. Maybe then I can start hunting out files with the codename Cyberdemon."

Meanwhile, upstairs in the lounge, Jewel, with the exception of the songbound Nancy were discussing the situation for themselves. Copper had soon passed on that the news was not good, and it had cast a damper over the whole group. Cynthia was one of the family, as Topaz had put it, and none of them wanted her ill.
"But Aaron doesn't know if he can cure her." Copper had concluded. "It's horrible, guys. She's deteriotated even since this morning and neither of us know what to do about it."
"Do you think she can be fixed?" Sylva, who had long since woken from her nap asked anxiously. Copper shrugged.
"He doesn't know and nor do I." She admitted. "It's like nothing either of us have seen before."
"It's creepy." Sylva shivered. "I don't know why, it just is. Cynthia shouldn't be able to get sick like this. Should she?"
"I don't know." Copper replied gravely.
"I don't suppose...well, there's no way she could have picked up a virus off the net?" Topaz asked hesitantly.
"Synergy isn't susceptible to those kinds of viruses." Copper replied. "I don't think..." She trailed off.
"What?" Sylva was alert in a moment.
"I was gonna say I don't think that a virus would do this to her, she's a powerful machine and she's careful on the net. Oh, but what if that isn't how it's happened at all? Remember how strange it seemed, her getting the video tape back so easily?"
"You think someone infected her with something then?" Topaz asked. Copper nodded.
"Im beginning to." She agreed, getting to her feet. "And I'm going to go tell Aaron what I think, too."
"Why would someone do something so horrible?" Sylva wondered, once Copper was gone. "It's sick...and how? I mean, what kind of sad loser sits in their hovel designing viruses to kill the world's most sassy computer?"
"I dunno, but if Copper's right this whole thing could be more serious than we thought." Topaz said gravely. "Think about it. A net virus or a loose cable could probably be solved easy enough, but if someone with brains has devoted themselves to this as a project, solely for the means of destroying Synergy..."
"You think it could kill her?"
"Yes." Topaz nodded. "I really do."
Sylva bit her lip.
"So what'll we do without her?" She murmured. "She's one of us, one of the gang. I can't imagine not hanging out with Cynthia any more. Aaron has to fix her, even if this is some creepazoid virus that some loser has made!"
"What are you ranting about now, Syl?" Nancy pushed open the door of the lounge, mug of coffee in her hand and manuscript in the other, tossing it down on the table as she took her seat. "There, I'm done with that thing for now. Total writer's block thanks to an unwelcome visitor at the door this morning!"
"I beg your pardon?" Sylva stared at her.
"We think Cynthia has a virus." Topaz said quietly. "And if she does, it was probably designed for her. We don't know who by, but Copper's gone to tell Aaron. We reckon the video business was a sham."
"Do you think Ben is involved?" Nancy asked, looking surprised.
"Ben's a sweetie and he likes Cynthia. He'd never do anything like this." Sylva shook her head.
"I agree." Topaz nodded. "He's straight down the line. Besides, he and Dean are longterm pals, arent they?"
"True." Nancy nodded, setting her mug down. "Okay. So who then?"
"Who knows?" Topaz groaned. "Any weirdo in Los Angeles."
"Nance, what did you mean just now, when you said we had an unwelcome visitor?" Sylva looked curious.
"Oh, just Miss Moron Guitarist herself, Stefana." Nancy pulled a face. "Wanted to see Aaron about computer tutoring or something. I told her to take a hike...why?"
"Does anyone else think Stefana is a prime suspect in all this?" Sylva wondered.
"Stefana?" Topaz's eyes opened wide, then, "Does she know enough about computers?"
"No...Syl has a point here, for once." Nancy looked thoughtful. "Stef wouldn't need to know about computers. She knows enough about money and that's good enough to hire someone to hack up a virus for her."
"You sure about this?" Topaz asked.
"Well, lets look at it." Nancy said reasonably. "Stefana knows about Cynthia, and hates her beyond belief. And she was here at the house this afternoon. She even knew Cynnie was sick...and I know none of us told her."
"You know, that is weird." Topaz admitted.
"Ooh, wait till I get my hands on that bitch." Sylva seethed. "I'll...I'll make her give us the antidote!"
"Providing there is one." Nancy intoned softly.
"Oh come on." Sylva said scornfully. "What evil psychotic genius would make a masterpiece virus and omit to make an antidote? Don't you watch television, Nancy? Haven't you seen the movies about this kinda stuff? There's always an antidote and the hero or heroine always gets it in the nick of time. Duh!"
"Syl, this isn't a movie set." Nancy raised an eyebrow. "And there isn't a hero or heroine. This is Cynthia's run-time...hell, her life we're talking about, and it's real. If Stefana paid some guy to make her a computer virus it doesn't necessarily mean that there is an antidote."
"Maybe not." Topaz said softly. "But I think it's worth finding out, either way."
"What do you mean?" Sylva stared at her.
"Well, I have the starts of a plan." Topaz said slowly. "But it depends on how much control Synergy still has over her projection units."
"Sounds intriguing." Nancy took a sip of coffee. "Go on."
"Well, all I'm suggesting is that we do a little bit of investigation ourselves into the mystery." Topaz responded. "If Stefana is involved in this, then the best way to find out about it is by blitzing the places she haunts - Diablo's place and Rebel Records are good starting points."
"You mad? Just burst in there?" Sylva demanded. "Get arrested?"
"Well, yes, that would happen, if we were to go as ourselves." Topaz admitted.
"Huh?" Sylva stared.
"Mm, I think I'm beginning to see what you're getting at." A slow smile touched Nancy's face. "And if you are suggesting what I think you are, may I be the volunteer?"
"With pleasure." Topaz's eyes twinkled.
"Erm, excuse me? Bemused keyboard player here!" Sylva put up her hands. "Say what?"
"Well, I just thought we could play a few games at Rebel Records." Topaz said slowly. "Listen up, Syl...this is what we're gonna do..."

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!)