Part Two

Chapter Eleven: A Devil Returns

"It's good to be back in Los Angeles."
Clayton Blake pushed open the steel black doors of Rebel Records, pausing to grimace back at his companions. "It's not good to be back in the clutches of Herr Blond-Bonce, however. I didn't think touring with Sophie would be all that fun, but she's much more laid back than he is."
"Rory only sent Sophie because she speaks so many languages." Madeleine Dacourt said sensibly. "And she was edgy as hell in France. For some reason she thought the secret police were on her tail."
"So that's what she kept muttering about." Marissa Young giggled. "I wondered. She's so weird sometimes - I almost wish I spoke French to understand her."
"Yeah, that was what it was about. I doubt she remembers my roots are French-speaking." Madeleine grinned. "But we're back now - and even if Rory is here, this is home, right?"
"Where Rory is is never home." The final girl in the group said darkly. Her companion chuckled.
"Stef, we know you hate him and he isn't so keen on you, but we were under the impression that a truce had been drawn up after the trip to Hartford." He said playfully. "Can we keep the ritual bloodshed till after he's heard Sophie's report on our tour? Diablo are back in Los Angeles - that's something to celebrate!"
"And Los Angeles has gone mad in the meantime, Luca." Clay said dryly. "I was reading that paper on the plane back, and damn, everything happens when we're away. That Pacheco bird at Starlight Music has gone and topped herself..."
"It was an accident, they said." Madeleine reproached him. "And a tragedy."
"Well, it's a tragedy that's got absolutely nothing to do with us." Stefana said bluntly. "So another rival is dead. Great. Next?"
"Come on, Stef. You can't be jet-lagged, surely?" Marissa linked arms with her friend, leading the way across the polished floor to the main lift and pushing the button for a car. "I know it was a long flight but you slept most of the way."
"Oh, I'm all right." Stefana sighed. "I guess I just didn't want to come back quite so soon, that's all. Europe was amazing. They loved us. And Italy..."
Her eyes softened. "Italy was so beautiful. Dad always told us stories about it, but I never thought it was half as beautiful as he said it was. I wish I could have remembered more of the Italian he tried to teach me. Seriously. It was way cool."
"Someone found her spiritual home on this tour, then?" Clay asked teasingly. Stefana shrugged.
"Maybe." She agreed. "And at least it wasn't somewhere you'd freeze your butt off in a kilt, or get eaten by some stupid loch ness monster!"
"Your understanding of Scottish culture always overwhelms me." Clay looked amused. "As does your inability to remember the fact I was born in England."
"Your Ma lives in Scotland. She's Scottish. Ergo, you're Scottish." Stefana snapped.
"And your Dad was born in Italy, ergo, you're Italian?"
"I wish I was." Stefana sighed. "I woulda loved to have grown up over there."
"Well, at least it brought your appetite back with a bounce." Madeleine squeezed the younger girl's arm. "It's been good to see you eating like a human being again, instead of like a mouse on rations. I was a bit worried after the incident with the horse in Paris...but Italy got you back on track."
"Noone told me they ate horse in France till I was halfway through eating it." Stefana retorted. "Not even the French speaking member of our party!"
"Well, I thought you knew what you'd done." Madeleine looked sheepish. "I did apologise. And you didn't die from it."
"No. Till I knew what it was I'd ordered, it tasted fine." Stefana sighed. "Oh well. We're back now. Do you guys think there was a dearth of reporters at the airport?"
"I told you. Los Angeles has gone nuts in our absence and everything you read is about this Pacheco chick." Clay said with a shrug. "She's died in an accident, her husband's having an affair, her will is missing, her former bandmates are inheriting her company, her magical computer is still at large...all riveting stuff, if you like that kind of thing."
"Magical computer? Clay, what were you drinking on the plane back?" Luca raised an eyebrow.
"Synergy." Stefana murmured.
"Yeah, that's the thing. Synergy. What Steffi said." Clay nodded. "And I'm not kidding, Luca. This thing blew up a storm at that Jem Memorial five years back and the Feds couldn't track it down. Now one of the tabloids put out this major story that Jerrica's death was a sham, the same as Jem's was...that this computer faked it and Jerrica is hiding out somewhere in the mountains in a cave finding her inner self."
"Oh brother." Marissa giggled. "You aren't serious?"
"Perfectly. I'll give you the article when we get home. Split my sides laughing." Clay smirked. "But seriously...that's all the press is on about at the moment. Jerrica this, Jerrica that, Starlight Music, and the computer. Boring as hell."
"No Jewel?" Madeleine raised an eyebrow.
"Itty bitty column about a new single. Nowt else."
"Wow. Things are mental around here." Madeleine frowned. "I wonder what Rory's take on this is."
At that moment the lift car reached the ground floor, and they all stepped inside, Marissa pressing the button for the top floor. "Reckon he has some big publicity blitz idea for us, now we're back?"
"Guess we'll soon know." Stefana glanced at her hands.
"It's crazy press, anyhow." Luca said matter-of-factly. "I remember the Jem Memorial - vaguely, I was never much of a fan of Jem, so I only really clued into the hype after it happened. But even if that damn machine existed once, if the FBI didn't find it, it probably doesn't any more."
Stefana bit her lip.
"I guess we don't know anything for sure." She said quietly.
"Stef, if you tell me you believe in ghost computers, I'll either decide you're stoned or putting me on." Clay put his hands on his hips. "And since you've quit the former, I'm gonna have to go with the latter. Well?"
"I don't believe in ghost computers. I was just saying."
"I think she's jetlagged after all." Marissa looked amused. "Jetlagged and homesick for Rome."
"Don't tease me." Stefana snapped. "I just said I liked it. No need to go mental over it!"
"Well, you took your time from the airport." As the lift reached it's floor, the doors swung open to reveal their manager awaiting them, an impatient expression on his face. "I expected you well over an hour ago."
"We got stuck in baggage claim. They had a screw up with the flights and our stuff came through delayed." Luca explained. "We got here as soon as we could."
"Well, I suppose it will do." Rory looked resigned. "Is Sophie with you?"
"No. She had a meeting, or something, and told us she'd come by here as soon as it was done." Madeleine replied.
Rory pursed his lips, then, "If you're not too tired, I want you to head down to the studio and sort out the tunes you were playing in Europe into some kind of potential album. I know it's at short notice, but I want it out before Jewel get theirs off the presses and I want to be the one to dent this Starlight press you've all been happily missing over there."
"We've seen some of it, Rory. It seems to have blanketed everything." Marissa remarked. Rory nodded.
"That about sums it up." he agreed grimly. "Oh, there is one other thing. Stefana, I wish to speak to you in my office."
"Now?" Stefana looked startled.
"Yes. Now."
"Rory, if this is some kind of underhand business..."Luca began, but Rory put up his hands.
"No, Luca, it's not." He said, an edge to his tones. "Not that I have to answer to you. I've told you what I want you to do. My conversation with Stefana is private, regarding matters which are not your concern."
"Stefana is my sister. Of course they're my concern."
"Her health matters?"
"I beg your pardon?" Luca looked floored. Rory offered him a smile.
"In light of Stefana's more recent activities, I wish her to undergo a full medical, to ensure she is fully fit to do the job she is doing." He said benignly. "And those matters are kept confidential - company policy. Stefana?"
"Okay, okay. I'm coming." Stefana rolled her eyes. "But you could just believe me when I say I don't do drugs any more."
Rory made no attempt to reply, merely leading the way down the corridor to his office, and holding the door for her. She entered with very bad grace, dropping down into a chair and eying him warily as he shut the door.
"Well? Medical now? Don't you trust me?"
"I trust you. And in Hartford I gave you my word that I would not pursue that matter any further." Rory said matter-of-factly.
"But you just said..."
"I lied. Your brother is annoyingly overprotective and what I have to discuss with you is something I would rather not discuss with him, for various reasons."
Rory sat down in his chair.
"Rory, I am not doing your dirty work for you again!" Stefana was on her feet. "If this is that kind of meeting, I'm cutting out of here now!"
"Relax, my dear. Sit down. It's nothing of the sort." Rory dismissed this with a careless gesture. He pulled open a drawer, extracting a newspaper and dropping it down onto the desktop. "I just require some information from you, that's all. Regarding something that happened, oh, must be two years or more back now."
"Two years or more?" Stefana looked bemused, nonetheless sitting back down in the empty seat, and Rory indicated the paper.
"Yes. It pertains to that."
"Ghost machine still at large?" Stefana read the headline, then frowned, dropping the newspaper back onto the desk. "Ghosts, Rory?"
"No, you silly girl. Not ghosts." Rory shook his head impatiently. "Synergy."
"You told me, once, you knew where she was. That you'd seen her and knew it was in operation." Rory's eyes narrowed. "And when Techrat's virus didn't work, I stopped believing in what you told me. I thought it had been so many other things. Discarded. Perhaps that it was just a rumour and had never existed at all. Then they start talking about the will...and this computer is suddenly hot property again. So hot, Stefana, that they are offering a half a million dollars for information on it. That's a lot of money. Money which could well go into Diablo's next promotion campaign."
"What do you want with Jerrica's computer, Rory?" Stefana raised an eyebrow. "You can barely operate that hunk of junk on your desk. What makes you think you could operate this one?"
"I want to know about it. What it can do. Whether it can benefit me." Rory said softly. "I knew Jem, Stefana. Kissed her. Touched her. She seemed real to me. How is that possible, that a machine can make such an illusion? I want to know about that machine...I want to find it."
"Well, you're asking the wrong person, aren't you?" Stefana folded her arms across her chest.
"I think not. You told me you knew about it. Think about what your information could bring your group, Steffi. Think of the promotional boost half a million dollars could make. Money's always tighter here than at Misfits Music. We don't have the Gabor bitch's bottomless well pockets. This money could matter. Really matter. Don't you care about making Diablo the best any more?"
"You said this wasn't about dirty little assignments." Stefana shook her head.
"It isn't. It's a request for information. Tell me what you know."
Stefana paused for a moment, gauging the situation. Then she sighed, spreading her hands.
"All right." She said carefully. " But promise me, Rory, that if I do, this is the last little meeting we'll have in your office like this. I'm done with the subterfuge."
"I think that's a fair deal." Rory nodded his head. "Agreed."
Stefana fell silent again for a moment, her green eyes unreadable.
"Stefana?" Rory raised an eyebrow. "Is this one of your games? Or are you going to tell me what you know about this computer?"
"Yes." At length Stefana met his gaze. "Yes, I am."
She bit her lip, then,
"If you're sure you want to hear it, then I'll tell you."

Chapter One: A Troubled Conscience
Chapter Two: Resurrection
Chapter Three: Under Pressure
Chapter Four: A Confrontation
Chapter Five: A Nighttime Chat
Chapter Six: Smokescreen
Chapter Seven: Under Siege
Chapter Eight: Back To Work
Chapter Nine: Daisy Again
Chapter Ten: Vandal
Chapter Eleven: A Devil Returns

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!
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.