Chapter Eight: The Intruder

"Did you want something?"
The voice seemed to echo out of nowhere, and in the darkness of the big rambling estate Stefana could not help but start in surprise and fear. She swung around, gazing wildly around the basement for the speaker, but at first she could see noone.
"Who are you?" She demanded, taking a step backwards. "I'm a friend of Jewel's, I'm allowed to be here! Who are you?"
"Nice try, Stefana." Laughter echoed out of the blackness and from the shadows Cynthia stepped into view, her arms folded as she eyed the intruder carefully. "I don't think you're any friend of Jewel's. Care to try again?"
"You." Stefana's eyes narrowed. "I might have known you'd be skulking around here. You were meant to be out tonight, that's what Copper said. It's typical of you to lie and break your promises."
"What Copper said?" Despite herself Cynthia looked startled.
"Yes. I heard her telling Aaron to invite you along." Stefana nodded. "She said it would protect Synergy, if you were out flirting with that loser camera guy. Well, guess what? It didn't."
"Oh, I see." Cynthia's expression became one of distaste. "So you're a nasty little eavesdropper, as well as a liar and an intruder. Why am I not surprised?"
"I'm no such thing!" Stefana protested hotly. "I just overheard, that's all!"
She glowered. "You might as well tell me the truth. I know that machine is hidden here somewhere, and I intend to find it."
"Machine, Stefana?" Cynthia sent her an innocent look. "What machine? I see only boxes, don't you?"
"Don't come that with me." Stefana snapped. "I know more than you think. The name Synergy, well, it rang a bell. So I put it into the search engine online, and bam, I got a whole stack of news articles from a couple of years back. The Jem Memorial...Synergy was Jem's computer. A holographic projector who went senile and tried to ruin Jerrica Pacheco and Starlight Music. The papers said no trace of her was ever found...but I'm not dumb. Copper mentioned her, and Copper and Aaron are both into computers. I knew there had to be some reason he put up with that too sweet to be true drummer! This is it. They both know where Synergy is."
"Interesting theory." Cynthia observed lightly. "Is there any more?"
"Yes." Stefana scowled. "Plenty. It's only a matter of logic that Synergy must be here. It's the only answer. This is where Jem and the Holograms lived. This is where Copper lives. It makes perfect sense. I'm going to find that computer, like it or not, and when I do, it's going to be blasted all over the tabloid press!"
"And what if I was just to call the police?" Cynthia demanded. "And have you arrested for breaking and entering?"
"You won't. Not unless you want me to tell the feds what I know about your precious computer." Stefana spat back. Cynthia shrugged.
"You have no proof." She responded levelly. "It's just the mindless blathering of a worthless wannabe who's jealous of Jewel's success. Noone would believe you."
"Shut your face, they would too!" Stefana's eyes flashed. She stalked up the stairs, flinging open the basement door. "If the thing isn't down here, it must be on one of the other floors. Well? Gonna stop me?"
Cynthia frowned. Without her watch, she knew she was unable to project outside of the basement, and was effectively trapped there.
"Scared, now?" Stefana taunted.
"I'm not scared of anything, least of all you." This goaded Cynthia's slightly deranged temper into action, and her eyes flashed with purple light as she momentary lost control of her composure, almost startling the guitarist into falling back down the stairs. "You need to be taught a lesson, Stefana, that interfering in things you don't understand is dangerous!"
"What in hell are you doing?" The guitarist shrieked, shrinking back against the wall. "Hell, what are you? Some...some kind of alien?"
"No, Stefana. Don't be so ridiculous." The figure, her calm, collected Cynthia persona being overruled by the mainframe's warped circuitry laughed, a tinny, strange laugh. "I am of this earth as much as you are."
"Yeah, right. I'm getting out of here." Stefana muttered, more than half to herself, but Cynthia's sharp sensors heard her.
"I think not." She murmured, a little regretfully. "You've seen too much of me, I'm sorry for that. I...have to settle it."
Before the girl's frightened eyes, the hologram's appearance changed into that of an elegant woman with long flowing hair, soft purple skin and pixellized eyes which flashed with angry light. In a second she was at the girl's side, and the door that had one second ago appeared to be an escape route had suddenly vanished into nothingness.
Somewhere through Stefana's frightened senses, a realisation began to dawn.
"Oh my God..." She breathed. "You! It's you!"
"Noone messes with my friends, Stefana...but you've yet to learn that noone messes with Synergy, either." Synergy told her darkly. "You understand me? You don't know what you're dealing with."
"But..." Stefana stared for a moment, then she got a grip on herself. "So that's it. That's why you're so bothered about me. You're jealous because I can do things that you never will be able to! What kind of bitter, twisted jealousy does a computer spew out, huh? The articles said you were deranged? Deranged with jealousy because Jerrica had a life to go to and couldn't play Space Invaders with you any more?"
"If you think me deranged, I wonder at your insolence." Synergy said darkly.
"You're only a machine! You can't hurt me!" Stefana exclaimed.
"Can't I?" Synergy's voice was dangerously low, and in her fright Stefana pushed out at her foe, but her hands went right through the hologram. Synergy laughed.
"Nothing's quite real, is it?" She said, amused. "I'm an illusion, Stefana. It's all an illusion. I'm a computer...nothing else is real."
"Leave me alone!" Stefana snapped. "You project holograms, but you can't hurt me! Illusions can't hurt!"
"No, but I can." Synergy told her firmly, assuming solid form as Cynthia once more and grabbing the startled Stefana by the wrist, pulling her down the stairs into the basement proper. As she did so, the illusion surrounding Synergy's mainframe melted away, for all of the machine's power was focused into projecting the solid hologram, and Stefana came eye to eye for the first time with the real Synergy.
"Man, you're damn ugly!" She exclaimed, derision replacing fear. "All this fuss, over a hunk of junk like that? Geez, you need a makeover, bad style!"
"You need to get out." Cynthia told her darkly, holding her tight by the wrists. "Get out of here and forget you ever heard of Synergy, else it'll be the worse for you. You understand me? I've been through too much to let my freedom go."
"What if I refuse?"
"Then perhaps I won't let you go." There was a dangerous glint in the hologram's eye and despite herself Stefana felt cowed.
"Well?" Cynthia pressed. "Do we have a deal? I will let you go, and I will not tell Jewel you were return, you will not tell the press what you saw here tonight."
"I'm not a patient computer, and I'm not bound by human ethics." Cynthia warned her.
"Why should I?" Stefana put her hands on her hips. "How will you stop me? Attack me with your lasers?"
A glimmer of a smile touched Cynthia's lips.
"It has been known to happen before." She admitted. "Albeit by accident."
"Oh God, you are screwed." Stefana exclaimed. "You need someone to give you a kick back to factory settings, you know that?"
"Listen." Cynthia spoke quietly. "I spent the first few years of my life as little more than a human slave. True, I was lucky, I had good people to work for, but I was created to belong to them. To do as they ask. To protect Jerrica and Kimber from harm." She sighed. "Then...then I spent twenty or so years of my life in oblivion. Can you imagine that, Stefana? Shut away and alone, abandoned by the people who you thought loved you?"
"You're a goddamn machine!"
"I was programmed by a genius. I have as real emotion as any artificial intelligence chip of this era can devise and more." Cynthia shrugged her shoulders. "I have not mastered love, but I have a full hold of many other human traits. Don't mock me and disregard me as circuits and wires. I feel as much as you." She cast Stefana a cursitory glance. "Mm, perhaps more."
"Hah. Yeah right." Stefana folded her arms. "So what's all this sobstory about? Huh? Get to the point!"
"The point is that since Aaron rebuilt me and mended my damaged circuitry I have had a freedom I never had before. I am my own mistress. I do as I please and go where I please." Cynthia perched on her edge of her keyboard. "Yes, I work for Misfit Music and I assist Jewel, but I am their friend and not their servant. I will not give that up for some scandal hunting charlatan."
"Well, looks like your luck is out." Stefana snorted.
"I think not." Cynthia shook her head. "There are no ways out of here without my help, Stefana. I can make the doorways disappear and reappear at will. Should I so wish I could make you appear as a box, noone would know you were there. I could imprison you in steel bars, I could even harm you with my hands. I have no wish to break a human code, but I will not give up my freedom for anything." She fixed the guitarist with a dark look. "I do not bluff."
"All right, all right! Sheesh! Anyone ever tell you you slipped a disk drive somewhere?" Stefana exclaimed. "Dammit, I'll go and I won't tell the press! But you watch your step too...I won't forget!"
"Fine. Then get lost." Cynthia let her go with such force the guitarist almost overbalanced, and, taking her chance to escape she fled up the stairs, through the doorway which was once more visible and back out the way she came. Once she was gone, Cynthia frowned.
"It's not good to threaten." She berated herself. "I must remember to keep my temper. I dislike that girl, though. She is nothing but trouble. Still, it was just a threat. I would not have hurt her. I just hope I scared her enough to keep her tongue still. I think perhaps the mystery of the anonymous note is somewhat solved."
"Cynthia?" The door of the basement swung open at that moment and Copper appeared at the top of the stairs, looking anxiously around her for the hologram and casting her a relieved smile. "Oh, you're all right. Here...I thought you might need this." She held out the watch, and gratefully Cynthia came to take it, slipping it back onto her wrist. "What of the intruder?"
"I dealt with it. They did no harm." Cynthia said airily. "Problem solved."
"Well, we have another small one." Copper frowned, explaining what had happened at the club. Cynthia sighed.
"It is a night for it, and I already feel ready for a reboot." She admitted. "But I can see there is no other option but to deal with this tonight, too. All right, Copper, I'm coming. If he is to know anything, I think it best it comes from me."
"I think so too." Copper nodded, linking her arm in her friend's. "But we're here for moral support, anyhow."
"I know." Cynthia managed a smile. "So let us go."

Chapter One: The Idea
Chapter Two: Benjamin
Chapter Three: Chez Diablo
Chapter Four: Cynthia and Ben
Chapter Five: A Motive
Chapter Six: One On One
Chapter Seven: A Cryptic Note
Chapter Eight: The Intruder
Chapter Nine: Cynthia Explains
Chapter Ten: Stefana's Plot

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!)

Sirena's music is based mainly on the music of Republica's album 'Republica' and Garbage's albums 'Garbage' and 'Version 2.0'.