Stefana hurried through the hallways of Rebel Records, casting an
glance at the watch on her wrist as she did so. It was getting later
though she knew that Rory Llewelyn was out of the office all afternoon,
she had no desire to run into one of her bandmates.
"But if Sophie and Ingrid aren't still here, I might scream." She muttered, pausing to check various executive offices as she went. "I want to know exactly what they're up to - and I mean exactly! I should have known that, when they involved Techrat, it was going to be more than just a little way to get up Rory's ass. But could they really be so damn crazy? Do they even know what they're messing with?"
A voice broke through her thoughts and she stopped, swinging around to face the speaker.
"I thought that you had finished work for today, ma petite."
"I've been looking for you." Stefana glowered at the frenchwoman. "And don't ma petite me. You don't like me, and I'd rather you didn't pretend that you did."
"Why have you been looking for me?" Sophie affected a surprised look. "Was there something you wanted to discuss?"
"Damn right there is." Stefana put her hands on her hips.
"In the corridors? Where anyone can hear us?" Stefana raised an eyebrow. "Is that what you want?"
"D'accord." Sophie shrugged, pushing open the door of her office and indicating for Stefana to follow her inside. "It's just as easy to conduct confidential employee conversations inside here...but I think you'll find most employees are far too busy to pay attention to another one of your tantrums."
She spoke in friendly tones, but there was a strange glint in her dark eyes that Stefana had never seen there before. She faltered.
"What are you going to do to me?" She asked.
"Talk to you." Sophie looked surprised. "Isn't that what you want?"
Stefana hesitated, then followed the executive into the office, watching as she closed the door behind them both with a click.
"You're not locking that, are you?" She asked. Sophie stared, then let out a peal of laughter.
"Do you think I plan to hurt you?" She demanded.
"I have no idea." Stefana said darkly. "All I do know is that I know things you'd rather everyone around me didn't know, and you've done time for stuff before. Should I be worried?"
"Ah, someone has been telling you stories." Sophie looked amused, making herself comfortable behind the desk and gesturing for Stefana to take the other vacant seat. "Stories of the legendary Sophie Devereux and her husband, n'est-pas?"
"Darren mentioned something about it." Stefana nodded. "About how you were a major league scam artist in France, and how you skipped jail and fled to America under an assumed name."
"You are not here to discuss with me the excitements of my past." She said simply. "Though they are no secret and I am not ashamed of them. My residency here is legalised now, and an American court has judged me a victim of an overbearing husband. It is not easy, is it, when you are coerced by one you love?"
She raised an eyebrow, and Stefana snorted.
"Bull." She said flatly. "I think you're as much a criminal as..."
"As you are, perhaps?" Sophie asked. Stefana bit her lip.
"I'm not a criminal!"
"I beg to differ." Sophie laughed. "You should not be ashamed, Stefana...it's what marks you and I out from other people - that ability to twist the rules. Not that it matters. In fact, your lack of ethics have proven useful to this company on more than one occasion. And I'm sure that will continue to be the case."
Her expression became grave.
"So why are you here, if not to banter about my time in a French jail?"
"I want to know exactly what you and Ingrid are up to."
"I thought that was already made clear."
"No, not exactly." Stefana shook her head. "I got to thinking about what you said - both of you. About Techrat and about your little mutiny. Don't get me wrong, I don't much care if Rory spends the rest of his life begging for pennies, but if you're pulling me into this, I want to know exactly what I'm involved in. I've done too many dirty tasks for Rory without knowing how deep things really run, and I'm sick of it. I'm not stupid, and I'm not scared of threats. What I can say about you would hurt a lot more than what you could say about me, after all."
"Meaning my plans with Minx, or my chequered jeunesse?" Sophie asked lightly. "Non, Stefana. Minx and I - we corroborate each other. Two words against one, as it were - no policeman would believe you. And as for my history? Did your friend Darren tell me that he'd made approaches already for autobiographical Tribune exclusives? I told you I am unashamed of my past. In truth, I miss the excitement."
"I wasn't thinking of telling the police." Stefana's eyes narrowed. "I could tell Rory. That would put paid to more than just your delusions of grandeur. It'd have you and Ingrid both deported on the next plane out of here."
"What makes you think he would believe you?"
"I wouldn't care if he did. Rory is paranoid enough to check into it. I know he's been ticking off Ingrid lately anyhow. Everyone knows they've been fighting." Stefana shrugged.
"Are we going to spend the whole of this meeting rebounding threats off one another?" She asked wearily. "Why don't you get to your point and ask me what you want to know? I might tell you without all of this messing around."
"I want to know what Techrat's special project is."
"Ah." Sophie pursed her lips. "And if I should not elaborate?"
"I don't think you have to, because I think I know what it is." Stefana replied darkly. "But the difference is, if you tell me, then you're including me in the team. If I have to find out on my own, well, who knows what team I'm batting for?"
"Fine." Sophie shrugged. "We were going to tell you, anyhow. Or at least, we were going to show you."
She pursed her lips, then,
"You know Techrat has Synergy's remains." She continued. Stefana nodded.
"He's using those to build his own machine."
"His own Synergy?" Stefana swore, then, "Does he have any idea what in hell he's doing?"
"Naturellement, or Minx wouldn't have trusted him." Sophie responded. "And you know that our reason for bringing you into this was to find out what you knew about the original. Even if it is in someone else's hands, Techrat is certain it won't bother us for much longer. It's emissions are erratic and unpredictable, and Minx said when she tracked it down that it was unstable and deranged. The question is, how long is not long?"
"Well, you're looking at the wrong girl." Stefana kept her composure, though inwardly her mind was racing. "I told you all I knew already."
"I know." Sophie nodded. "But you did also say you saw the real machine in operation. Perhaps your knowledge will yet be valuable when Techrat has completed his work."
"Well, if you value my knowledge, I'd tell you to find another way to frame Rory." Stefana said darkly. "My experience with holographic computers is none of it good, I'm telling you. Apart from the fact it threatened to kill me, that computerised menace doesn't listen to a word human beings say. What makes you think Techrat's will be different?"
"Doesn't?" Sophie raised an elegantly shaped eyebrow. "Present tense, non?"
"You said it was still running." Stefana snapped, inwardly berating her slip. "Didn't you?"
"Well, I believe Techrat's creation will be under some control." Sophie said composedly. "Synergy was under Jerrica's control, by all accounts. The difference is that the man who created that machine is dead. Techrat is alive and well, and able to learn from the design flaws of the original."
"So what, you're going to have this holographic marvel implicate Rory in some controversial and compromising situations, and force him to hand over the company to you?" Stefana demanded. "And then what? You put the computer back in it's box and take it to WalMart for a refund?"
"I don't much care what happens to it after we are done." Sophie shrugged her shoulders. "It is Techrat's machine. He agreed to let us use it, if Minx arranged for him to look at the original computer's parts. It is up to him what becomes of it then."
"And you don't think it's dangerous?"
"Perhaps, but I like the risk." Sophie said complacently. "Don't you?"
"Depends on the risk." Stefana frowned. Sophie shook her head.
"Do not worry. There is no risk to you so long as you keep your mouth shut." She said softly. "There is a bonus involved for anyone who shows their loyalty."
"I know." Stefana paused, then, "And if your plan comes off, don't think I won't collect."
She got to her feet.
"I just hope that you know what you're doing, that's all." She added.
"Stefana, cherie, people say it is impossible to steal from a Federal Lab, and yet we succeeded without leaving a trace." Sophie replied calmly. "People say that it's impossible to understand the twisted mess of wires that Synergy was, yet Techrat has done so enough to build his own machine. Why should you think us incapable of bigger things?"
She smiled, sending her companion a playful wink.
"Perhaps you should read up some more of the exploits of Sophie and Jacques Devereux, mm? You might learn something."
Stefana pursed her lips, but made no response. Instead she left the office, letting the door swing shut behind her with a bang.
As she made her way slowly down the corridor towards the lift, she ran over in her head what she had discovered.
"So I was right." She muttered. "They are building their own computer. Hell, if it isn't bad enough we still have Synergy! If Techrat's turns out to be anything like Cynthia, we're in big trouble. I don't want to be caught in the crossfire of all of this! But should I tell Aaron and Sadie what I just found out? It'd be putting my neck on the line bigtime and I don't know if they could even do anything about it, anyhow. I mean, if it's just going to be used to frame Rory..."
She trailed off, then shook her head, jabbing the buttons to call the lift to her floor with some impatience.
"Who am I kidding? Synergy was built just to provide Jerrica with a holographic stage show and look where we are with her now? The thing's going round the city impersonating people and God knows what else. Like hell do we need two of those!"
She bit her lip.
"Though Sophie seemed to think Synergy was on the way out. I don't pretend that I wouldn't welcome that...but if Aaron knew that I knew all of this and didn't tell him, would he ever forgive me? I need to work out what side I'm actually on for once, and stick to it. It's not gonna hack it this time, being on Stefana's side alone. The stakes are too high and freakazoid laser computers are about to be unleashed from two angles."
She glanced at her hands.
"But the question is, what can I do about it?"
* * * * * *
"Hey, isn't that Aaron's car?"
As Topaz drew her vehicle onto the front forecourt of the Starlight Mansion she frowned, casting a glance across the gravel to where the familiar red mustang stood. "What's he doing here? Copper, does he know you were coming shopping with Syl and I this afternoon?"
"Yes, I left him a text to tell him." Copper's brows knitted in confusion. "So I can't think that he'd be looking for me here. Maybe he came to see someone else...but I would have thought he'd be working. Jewel might have a day off, but he doesn't."
"Weird." Sylva pushed open her door, climbing out of the back seat and coming to help Topaz with unfastening Hollie from her infant seat. "Unless he's bringing tidings from the obsessive twosome we work for...maybe something's come up?"
"These days, everything's coming up." Topaz grimaced, lifting Hollie up in her arms. "Thanks, Syl, that strap's tricky sometimes and it doesn't help that she likes to wriggle."
"She just wants to explore." Copper ran a gentle hand over the infant's fingers, causing Hollie to giggle. "Well, shall we go inside and see what's going on?"
"What about the shopping?" Sylva objected. "I have two new tops, a dress and a gorgeous pair of pants in the trunk of this car, Copper...and with my recent history with car luck, I'm not leaving them there."
"Well, I need to get Hollie inside." Topaz tossed the car keys to her friend, who caught them deftly. "I think we're due a change, and I'd like to do it before she sets up screaming. Grab the bags and lock up for me, would you?"
"Sure." Sylva nodded. "I'll meet you both inside."
Topaz hoisted her daughter more comfortably in her arms, leading the way up the front drive.
"I'm telling you, I can't wait to get this one potty trained." She said ruefully. "Can you get the lock, Copper? She's wriggling all over the place."
"Sure." Copper laughed, reaching in her pocket for her own key and sliding it into the lock, pushing open the door. "Tell you what - you go freshen up Baby Jewel and I'll go track down my husband, see if I can't discover what's going on."
"Deal, though I know which job I'd rather do." Topaz laughed. "Okay, trouble, let's go." As Hollie began to whimper. "I know, your timing is wonderful. Catch you in a few, Copper."
Copper watched her friend head upstairs, then she slid her key back into her pocket, making her way through the house.
"Aaron?" She called. "Aaron, are you here?"
There was no reply, and Copper frowned.
"Aaron?" She repeated. "Aaron, it's Copper. Are you all right?"
The basement door swung open, startling the drummer in the process.
"Sadie!" Copper's hand flew to her chest. "God, you made me jump! I didn't know you were home. I saw Aaron's car outside. Is he here?"
"He's down there."
Sadie's expression became grave. "I thought I heard someone calling, so I came to see what was happening. Is it just you?"
"No - Topaz has taken Hollie upstairs to change her diaper, and Syl's locking her car and grabbing the stuff we bought." Copper replied. "We came back here for a coffee before I headed home."
"Is something wrong?"
"Yes, you could say that." Sadie sighed. "I'm not quite sure how to explain it, or even if I can...computers aren't really my strong point. But..."
"Something's wrong with Cynthia?" Copper's eyes became big. "What's happened?"
"Maybe you better go down and speak to Aaron and Cyn." Sadie pushed the door back to allow her friend past. "I'll stay up here and see what I can tell the others - I think Cyn would rather not see Syl right at the moment, anyhow."
"Not see Syl?" Copper looked bemused. "Why? What did Syl do to deserve that?"
"She didn't." Sadie shook her head. "It's the other way about."
She frowned as Copper's expression became even more mystified. "Look, you just go downstairs, huh? I've been asked to soften the blow, so I'll let your husband explain exactly what's been going on. Either way, I think Cyn would be glad of your company."
"Okay, if you say so." Copper shrugged her shoulders. "Though this is weird, Sadie. You know that, right?"
"Well, what isn't weird around here at the moment?" Sadie responded with a sigh. Copper rolled her eyes.
"Point taken." She admitted. She slipped past her British friend, heading down into the darkness, and Sadie pushed the door shut, making her way slowly into the main lounge.
Sylva was there, surrounded by bags from several of Beverly Hills's most exclusive designer stores and she glanced up as the English girl entered, casting her a warm grin.
"Hey, Sade...you missed one hell of a shopping trip." She said. "I think I almost maxed another credit card - but it was worth it and I'll totally pay it off when our bonus comes through at the end of the month. Look..."
She reached into one bag, pulling out a black dress. "What do you think of this? Logan is going to die when he sees it, I swear!"
"It's real pretty, Syl." Sadie sank down on the sofa, casting her friend a smile. "Though haven't you got loads of black dresses already?"
"Mmm, some, but not like this one." Sylva set the dress down. "Sadie, what's up? You sound bummed."
"I'm tired and bummed, actually." Sadie grimaced. "And I hate being the bearer of bad tidings, so let's just say I'm three strikes and all out this afternoon."
"I don't follow?"
"I need to talk to you about your car."
"Tell me nothing's happened to my new car!" Sylva's eyes opened wide. "I parked it around the side...didn't I?"
"As far as I know, nothing's happened to the new car." Sadie shook her head. "I was talking about the old one."
"Oh, thank God." Sylva looked relieved. "I couldn't have two stolen in the same year, that'd just suck so bad - and I just got to grips with this one. But what do you mean? What about the old one?"
"I think I know what happened to it."
Sadie bit her lip.
"Or, rather, who."
"You do?" Sylva frowned. "What was this, some divine revelation? Noone has a clue who took my car, Sadie, and even less idea of catching them. It's a lost cause."
"Not so much, actually." Sadie sighed. "Syl, I don't want you to freak out. I know you will, but, er, try and do it in moderation, huh?"
"Freak out?" Sylva looked puzzled. "Sadie, I know you didn't take it, if that's what you mean. You were right here when it was taken, so if you're having some kind of weird conscience fit..."
"No, Syl. That's not what I mean." Sadie shook her head. "Not me."
"Do you promise not to freak?"
"I promise to try."
Sadie swallowed hard.
"We think it was Cynthia." She admitted quietly. Sylva's eyes widened and her jaw dropped.
"Cynthia?" She repeated. "Sadie, no way!"
"No way what?" Topaz asked at that moment, pushing open the door to the living room, her daughter in her arms. "Hi, Sadie. I didn't know you were home - your car wasn't outside."
"No, I left it at work and got a ride with Aaron." Sadie responded, as Topaz sat down, settling Hollie on the cushions beside her.
"Why does Syl look like she's giving a guppy mouth to mouth?"
Despite herself, Sadie grinned, and Sylva shut her jaw with a snap.
"You would too if you'd just got told one of your closest friends might've stolen your car." She said quietly.
Topaz's brows knitted together.
"I'm not with you." She responded. "Did something happen to your new car?"
"No, we're talking about the old one. The one that got driven into a building a few months ago." Sadie said gravely. "Topaz, this will sound crazy, but we think...we think Cynthia did it."
"Cynnie?" Topaz was floored. "Why would you think that?"
"Because she said that she thought she did." Sadie admitted.
"But why would she do something like that to me? What did I do to her?" Sylva demanded. "Hell, she's my friend...and why would she lie to me? She let me go and lay into my cousin and everything!"
"Remember that thing we said about not freaking out?" Sadie reminded her.
"Well, it's not exactly easy not to!"
"No, I know, but listen." Sadie frowned, then,
"Look, guys, Cynthia is not well. I mean really not well." She began carefully. "She's been having memory black outs and they're getting progressively worse. She doesn't know for sure that she did anything, but she's got some memories that she can't account for and she believes that's what they refer to. And considering what's been going on, I'm inclined to believe her."
"So what...she did this without knowing what she was doing?" Topaz paled. Sadie nodded her head.
"It, and other things." She agreed. "She was the one who impersonated Syl at the restaurant, too - the one Stefana saw."
"What, has she got it in for me or something?" Sylva demanded. There were tears in her eyes, and Sadie shook her head.
"No! Syl, no, you mustn't think that. It's not you, per se. I mean, we haven't worked out what the deal was with the car yet, or why she did that. Even she doesn't know. But Aaron thinks that there's something inside of Synergy - some warped original program that was woken up when Aja jerked her back to life after Jerrica's death. Aaron remembers that there were differences to Synergy's startup hologram - as if she'd bypassed the modern program and drawn it off the original one. So it's not Cynthia doing these things, exactly. It's something inside Synergy that she has no control over."
She paused, then,
"She's asked that, if Aaron can't neutralise this problem, she be switched off." She added soberly. "She doesn't want to be hurting her friends...and especially not Hollie."
There was a moment of silence.
"So..." Topaz began, then stopped. She sighed. "So essentially what you're saying is that Synergy's had a nervous breakdown and developed another personality?"
"Something like that, I think. I don't know how it exactly works for computers...but yeah."
Sadie took a deep breath, then,
"Aaron said that when he began working on her, much of Synergy's original core program was damaged. He had to rewire a lot of stuff. We've always kind of figured she was independant of programming because of that. But we know that when Jerrica died, that was a shutdown command Emmet put in - so she is still using her original program. Guys, a lot of this stuff that's been going on revolves around Jacqui Benton. It makes a crazy, creepy kind of sense. The girl in the club that we all saw - the one who was so hostile to us and the Misfits - she's the image of Jacqui Benton as a girl, when Emmet first met her. And the JB initials on the hat - Stefana said that the Sylva who accosted her in the restaurant had a necklace with those initials. And when she pretended to be Stefana this morning to me, there was a bracelet. Synergy's programming was based on Jacqui Benton. I think Aaron believes that what began as a maternal set of instructions has become a warped and obsessive one because of the years of damp and neglect."
"So...is she dangerous?" Sylva asked. Sadie shrugged.
"She thinks she is." She agreed. "And Topaz, Aaron doesn't want you trusting Hollie to her care at all till this is resolved. Providing it is resolved."
Topaz put a protective arm around her daughter.
"I won't." She agreed. "But it seems a shame. I mean, if it's not Cynthia who's actually doing bad things - it's sucky she has to pay the price for it."
"Noone would want harm to come to Hollie." Sadie responded softly. "Least of all Cynnie."
"Is Copper down there? I mean, I'm guessing Aaron is..."
"Yes." Sadie nodded. "Syl, Cyn wanted me to talk to you about the car. She's torn up about it, and she doesn't really want to face you. In the circumstances - I know you're upset - but can you, you know, go easy on her? She didn't do it on purpose."
"I'll do my best." She agreed at length. "It's kinda a blow, though. I mean, thinking Sammi did this has made our bond worse, and though I know I can't go over there and apologise to her, after what she said about Synergy..."
She trailed off, light dawning in her eyes.
"Wait a minute." She whispered. "When Sammi came over demanding Synergy, Cyn was there. Nancy'll tell you. I inadvertantly said something about her belonging to Jewel and Cyn blew a fuse. She forcibly kicked Sammi out and then harangued me like there was no tomorrow. If this split personality business has been going on that long, then maybe that's why it was my car she took. After all, she was pretty mad at me. And if she was already unstable..."
"Sounds plausible to me." Sadie nodded. "Didn't your car disappear the night after Sammi was here, or something?"
"It did." Sylva nodded her head. She looked rueful.
"So it was probably my big mouth and that fight that lost me my car, anyhow." She added. "Typical."
"Does Cyn think she did anything else? I mean, there is still the matter of the missing computer parts." Topaz pointed out. "And the ransacking at Misfits Music, too."
"It's hard for her to know, but she thinks that if she took the computer componants from the FBI, we'd have found them by now." Sadie responded. "I guess that makes sense, since the logical places for her to be are here, Misfits Music and maybe the Star Drive Through - she's found herself going there a few times of late. But there's been no sign of them...so I don't know."
"As for Misfits Music - she thinks it's possible she did that, but she can't remember anything about it if she did. She just thinks the car and the ransacking are connected and she's probably the connection."
"We did say whoever was doing this stuff blamed the Misfits for Jerrica's death, didn't we?" Topaz pursed her lips. "Would whatever passes for Jacqui Benton fit into that category?"
"If you consider she's a deranged interpretation of Jacqui who's fixating on stuff...yeah." Sadie nodded. "Avenging her 'daughter's' death would probably be top of the list."
"Which also explains why she struck at me." Sylva groaned. "Mom's a Misfit. And we all know how this holo-freak feels about Misfit kids."
"Don't call her that!" Topaz scolded. "It's Cynthia you're insulting!"
"No, it isn't." Sylva shook her head. "If Sadie's right, Cynthia hasn't got anything to do with this. And besides, if whatever it is stole and wrecked my beautiful merc, then they deserve to be called holo-freak and a lot worse, too!"
"I have to concur."
A fresh voice came from the doorway, and the three girls turned to see the object of their conversation watching them, a sad expression on her clever face. Copper was with her, and the drummer slipped past her into the living room, casting her a reassuring look as she did so.
"Cyn has something to say to all of us." She said softly. "Syl, I'm guessing that Sadie told you about...?"
She trailed off, and Sylva nodded.
"Sadie's explained to Topaz and me what's going on." She agreed gravely. She turned her gaze on the uncomfortable hologram, who dropped her eyes to the ground.
"I do not know how to explain myself." She said at length. "But I want you all to listen to me a moment. If Sadie has explained to both you and Topaz, Sylva, then I will cut to the chase. I am not stable and I might be dangerous. That being the case, I am confining myself to the basement until this is sorted out. If it loses me my job, so be it. If they knew what I'd been up to they would fire me anyway, and I deserve to be fired in any case."
She faltered for a moment, then gathered the courage to raise her gaze, meeting Sylva's blue eyes with her own.
"Saying sorry is not enough." She added. "And I do not know how to make it up to you, but I will do my best. And I will not hurt any of you any more. The basement will be barricaded tonight from the outside, so that whatever happens, I am unable to leave and wreak havoc."
"Barricaded?" Sadie looked taken aback. "Isn't that extreme? Won't locked do?"
"I am able to holographically simulate keys." Cynthia shook her head. "And it it not what I choose to do, but what my system chooses to do with me whilst I am dormant. Simply locking the door is not secure enough."
"We appreciate what you're saying, Cyn, and your concern for our safety." Topaz said softly. "But you're sick and you must be frightened. You shouldn't be alone and locked away like a prisoner."
"That is exactly where I should be." Cynthia's voice shook. "I took Sylva's car and rammed it into a building. I probably wrecked Misfits Music's studio. And..."
She bit her lip.
"And I tried to kill Rio Pacheco." She admitted. "I am not safe to be around."
A round of gasps went up at her final admission, and Sadie got to her feet, coming to put her arm around Cynthia's shoulders.
"You did what?" Copper stared. "You didn't tell me that downstairs!"
"It was after Jerrica died and I was feeling every which way about things." Cynthia pursed her lips. "My emotions overtook me and I was so angry. I was not in control of my actions and had Rose not walked in and startled me back to my senses, I would have pushed him out of the top floor window."
"You remember doing that, but you don't remember taking my car?" Sylva demanded. Cynthia shook her head.
"After my altercation with Rio, I took desperate steps with my system to re-root my rogue emotion." She said sadly. "I believe in my desire to be rid of them, I was not as careful as I could have been. I don't think I removed them. I think that I just blanked them out. So it means that now whenever those emotions surge, I am...not myself. And when I do crazy things, I do not recollect them fully afterwards."
"Do you remember anything at all?" Topaz asked softly. Cynthia hesitated for a moment.
"I remember speeding through the night." She admitted. "And dialogue...calling the police, leaving a message...bits and pieces. Enough to tell me that I took Syl's car."
She paused, then, "It's all right, by the way. I do not expect her to forgive me."
"Syl will forgive you." Sadie said softly, shooting her bandmate a meaningful look. "She knows you didn't do it on purpose. Don't you, Syl?"
"What Sadie said." She acknowledged at length. "Though it's a shock, Cyn. You must be in a pretty bad way to do something so crazy."
"I fear that I am." Cynthia admitted. She frowned, glancing around. "Where is Nancy? Is she not yet home?"
"Not yet." Topaz shook her head.
"I had a message from her a while ago that she'd stopped to help Robin phrase something." Copper added. "Cyn, if you want to get back downstairs with Aaron and see what you guys can come up with, then feel free. We can tell her what's what when she gets home."
"Perhaps." Cynthia agreed. "It was hard enough to admit my guilt and weakness to all of you. To do it again would be difficult."
"Then we won't put you through it again." Sadie said gently.
Before the hologram could respond, Hollie seemed to alert herself to the fact her favourite playmate was in the room and she turned from where she had been disentangling the tassels on one of the cushions, delight in her aqua green eyes.
"Cynta!" She exclaimed, holding out her hands. "Cynta, play!"
This was too much for the stricken hologram and she slowly shook her head, holographic tears glittering in her violet eyes. For a moment they seemed to blur, and she swallowed hard.
"Explain to her why I cannot." She murmured, her voice choking. "I will not risk her well being."
With that she turned on her heel, heading back the way she came. After a moment of hesitation, Sadie headed after her, clicking the door shut behind them.
Hollie's lip began to wobble.
"Cynta!" She protested. Topaz scooped the baby up into her lap, cuddling her tightly.
"Cynthia has to go to bed early today, Hol." She said gently, reaching up to wipe away the tears that sprinkled the infant's cheeks. "Now, how about we go upstairs and find your dolly, and I'll read you both a story...that sound like a good idea?"
"I know, but Cynthia can't play with you right now." Topaz sent a helpless look to her friends. "So shall we go read about the princess and the dragon?"
Hollie continued to pout, and Topaz sighed. She got to her feet, lifting the baby into her arms.
"Well, maybe if I take you up to the bedroom, you'll find something you wanna do up there. You know you like the dragon story." She said, resignedly. "Please don't cry, Hollie. It's been a strange enough day and it's getting stranger."
Once the two, mother and child were gone, the other girls exchanged troubled looks.
"And what happens if Aaron doesn't fix the problem?" Sylva asked softly. "Is it safe to keep her running?"
"It won't come into it." Copper bit her lip. "I know Cynthia well enough to know that she won't put people she cares about at risk if it can be avoided. You know it too."
Sylva looked grave.
"You mean, she'll shut herself down?"
"I do. And what other option would she have?" Copper sighed. "I love her to death, Syl, but if it's got so bad that she actually tried to take a human life, well, none of us are really safe till she's fixed. And if that's not possible..."
She hesitated, then spread her hands.
"Then I guess the world will have to do without Synergy." She concluded sadly. "And so will Jewel."
JACQUI'S LEGACY: PART
The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
All other characters, including their likenesses, are copyrighted to myself as webmistress of Jewel's World from 2001 to the present day and are not to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.
The Teenangel Outsiders, Jesta, Flame, Ryan Montgomery and the future interpretations of Aja, Danse and certain of the other original characters are all or in part the concept of Gemma Dawn whose teenangel outsider fiction world is twinned with Jewel's World. You can visit her site at www.teenangeloutsiders.com!
All events in the stories on this site are based on original ideas and are not rooted in any existing Jem fiction nor in any real life event or person.