Chapter Two: Resurrection
The basement at Starlight Mansion was a mess of wires, screws and bolts
when Aja arrived, ducking her head to avoid cobwebs as she made her way
down the cold stone steps to the floor below. At the sound of her footfall
on the stairs, Aaron raised his head from the middle of the chaos, his
hands dirty from oil and dust and his expression tired and troubled.
"I'm glad to see you." He murmured, indicating for the woman to join him. "Syl said you'd promised to help, but you didn't come back with her last night, and..."
"Last night, I was being investigated for murder." Aja said lightly, stepping carefully between pieces of circuitboard to the mainframe itself. "This morning, the big news is that Jerrica's death was an accident and that her will's disappearance was at her own hand. It makes a difference, you know. I felt that, in the circumstances, I could probably come and visit my niece without alerting too many suspicions." She grimaced. "I think the local press are already bored with me, in light of their other, more scandalous news."
"I read the story on Jerrica's husband. Syl brought the paper back with her." Aaron pulled a face. "You'd think they'd have the respect to let these things alone."
"I know this city's press." Aja shook her head. "That's not how they work. Still, so long as their attention is off me and away from Synergy..."
She trailed off, putting a hand on the mainframe and running her fingers along the keys. "You've still had no luck?"
"No." Aaron shook his head. "I was in the process of re-connecting her systems, actually. I was trying to trick her into booting up, but she's always been a little too smart for me, and obstinate as they come. She doesn't want to boot."
"Then maybe I can convince her otherwise." Aja got down on her hands and knees beside the machine. "Here, let me help. Two sets of hands are quicker than one, and the sooner I refresh my memory of how she works inside, the better for us both."
"Yes, I agree." Aaron nodded. "Kimber said Emmet was like a father to you, and that you used to do a lot for Synergy. I really hope that might make the difference. I can put together the wires and boards, but I never knew the mind of the man who built her, and since this is obviously part of her original program..."
"I suppose, when Emmet decided that Synergy was going to be more than just a holographic synthesiser, he had to put something in her to safeguard her program." Aja mused. "I mean, he never lived long enough to patent her...and we couldn't do it now. Couldn't risk the publicity, now people know she exists. I guess he figured Jerrica would always keep her, and so when Jerrica was gone, there'd be no reason for Synergy to carry on. It was a safety measure...we should have thought of it. But none of us really stopped and expected..."
She bit her lip.
"Saying goodbye to a sister you never made peace with is a lot of pain to deal with all at once." She murmured softly. "And Synergy's learnt to feel much more than even she did when we were young. It's overwhelmed her, that's all."
"We learnt the first time we resurrected her that rebooting Synergy was about emotions as much as it was about circuits." Aaron remembered. "She didn't want to boot then, till Copper told her that Raya still cared about her. We should have known that she had a strong tie to Jerrica, even after they fell out. When she realised she'd been abandoned, she did this exact thing. She shut down and didn't want to boot. I should have seen it coming, and stopped Copper from telling her the news until I'd worked out an inhibitor to block the impulse..."
"No, you couldn't." Aja shook her head. Carefully she replaced the last few wires, reaching for the front panel. "I remember very clearly the day that Jacqui died, Aaron. How we all were...how torn up we all felt. How I never saw a grown man cry until that day. Losing her broke Emmet...not just his heart, but his spirit and his soul, too."
She looked pensive. "Shana and I were so afraid he would send us away. All of us foster girls. We'd come to think of Starlight House as our home, and Jacqui and Emmet as our surrogate parents. Jerrica and Kimber were as much sisters to me as my own flesh and blood...I dreaded the idea of leaving."
She frowned. "And then...I don't know. It was like he found strength in something. I don't know if it was us, or if it was Synergy...but somehow he began to drag his life back together. He kept the music company going, and the Foundation, because it meant so much to Jacqui. You know, she was a foster girl herself...I don't think he ever forgot that. He never told us he was building Synergy, and we never found out about her until after he died. But when we found his diary, and realised that he had put Jacqui into what he had created...we knew then why she was so different from any other machine. She wasn't just wires and circuits. She was his labour of love...his last tribute to his wife. He didn't just put her music and her features into Synergy, but he put her spirit into her, too."
"And that's why Synergy was always like a mother figure to Kimber." Aaron mused. "That's what she said, when I spoke to her."
"Yes. Exactly." Aja nodded. "Synergy is not Jacqui - she's herself. But if Emmet programmed it into her to love Jerrica and Kimber in the way that Jacqui always did..."
"It explains why she's acting this way." Aaron pursed his lips. "Like a mother who's lost her daughter, not just a scorned sister who left reconciliation too late."
"That's what I think." Aja admitted. "I thought it all over last night, and it's all I can come up with. What we need to do is make her realise that even though Jerrica's no longer with us, Kimber's still here. And not just that, but Shana and I too."
She smiled. "Not to mention her new friendships with you and Jewel."
"Hollie." Aaron's eyes widened with surprise. "I almost forgot! Cynthia babysits Hollie a lot - thinks the world of the kid, too. Do you think that the thought of Hollie needing her is strong enough to make Cynthia reboot herself?"
"I don't know. I've not met the child." Aja shrugged. "But perhaps. If their bond really is strong."
She tapped her screwdriver thoughtfully on the concrete floor, then began to loosen a small panel on the left hand side.
"I remember where I found the core of Jacqui's files, back when we hunted them down to put together the album." She explained, seeing Aaron's nonplussed expression. "If I'm right, it's that section which needs to be adjusted. She's looping on a shutdown command. If I can stop her doing that..."
"We can reason with her, and use Hollie as the impetus." Aaron finished. "And if it doesn't work?"
"Then I'm out of ideas." Aja grimaced. "So let's hope it does."
She smiled ruefully.
"It's not something I do often these days, putting on old jeans and shirts and taking apart computer systems." She admitted. "It's quite nostalgic, being here now. Even if the basement is a lot colder than where we used to keep her."
"Safer, though. And less damp." Aaron responded. "She's often said that it keeps her circuits cool in the hot weather, too."
"I'm sure it does." Aja agreed. "And considering how much more advanced her projections are these days, she probably needs that." She disconnected a couple of wires, fixing them to new locations. "Emmet would be both proud and amazed by what his project became, you know. I admit, even knowing Synergy as well as I did back in the eighties, I never cease to wonder at the things she's mastered."
"Me either." Aaron agreed. "And just when I think she's reached her limit, she surprises me with something new. Sometimes it's hard to remember she even is a machine. And whether what we're doing is the right thing, in making her more and more like us."
"I think that judgement has to be left to her." Aja shrugged, pushing the panel back in place. "There. I think I've changed things enough to prevent her automatic shut down. Power her up, huh? Let's see if we can't at least talk to her. I have some things I'd like to say."
Aaron reached across for the power button, pressing it and holding his breath as he waited to see what would happen. For a moment there was nothing. Then the blip of light across the big heavy monitor began to pixellate into a grainy image, and a loud whirr came from the main projection unit. Aaron let his breath out in a rush.
"Synergy?" He murmured. "Are you there?"
The voice was blurry, as if fogged by sleep and confusion, and Aja got to her feet, putting her hands gently on Synergy's units.
"Hi, Synergy." She said gently. "Remember me?"
"Aja? Is that you?"
Slowly Synergy's features became clear on the big screen, though at intervals they blurred in and out of focus. "What's happening? Why are you here?"
"I came to see you. Why else would I be here?" Aja asked. "I wanted to talk to you."
"I don't understand." As Synergy's voice became stronger, her projectors glittered with purple light and slowly she took form before them. "You don't usually come to see me."
"Synergy?" Aaron's hand flew to his mouth. "But you look..."
"Just as I remember you." Aja said softly. "Hello, old friend. It's good to see you, believe me."
"And good to see you, also." Synergy agreed. "But I don't understand...I am so confused. What is happening?"
"You had something of an episode." Aaron got himself under control. "Synergy, can you still project Cynthia's solid form?"
"Cynthia?" A moment's pause, then, "With pleasure, Aaron."
The hologram flickered and glowed, then merged into the more familiar features of the young lighting technician. Tentatively Aaron reached for her hand, glad to feel her grip in his. He smiled.
"Welcome back." He said, relief in his eyes. "We were worried for a while there."
Cynthia's expression became one of bewilderment. Then, as she met Aja's gaze, her violet eyes became sad.
"I remember." She whispered. "Jerrica..."
"Yes. Jerrica." Aja agreed slowly. "That's why you've not been well, Synergy. It was a bad shock for you and your circuits weren't sure how to handle it."
"There is a file in my cache which is telling me the correct procedure is to shut myself down." Cynthia murmured. "But I am unable to access it, or properly execute it's commands."
"That's because it isn't correct procedure at all. The file has been misplaced." Aja said carefully. Then her tone changed. "Synergy, nobody knows as well as I do what Jerrica was to you. Even estranged, you had a bond that Emmet gave you and nothing - not even the years of neglect - could take that away from you. But those times are over now. Long over. You have a new life, with people who care about you and who have been worried as hell about you for the last couple of days."
"So what are you telling me?" Cynthia asked quietly.
"That correct procedure is to try and put Jerrica's death behind you and focus on those who are still here." Aja said gently. "Kimber. Me. Shana. Raya. Jewel...Aaron..."
"And Hollie." Aaron added quietly. "Topaz has been frantic, Cyn. Baby has been asking for you a whole lot, and none of us wanted to have to try and explain to her that you weren't coming back."
"Hollie?" Cynthia's eyes opened wide with surprise. Then a look of determination entered them, and she nodded her head.
"I am still very befuddled." She admitted slowly. "But Hollie..."
"Hollie needs you." Aaron agreed. "She loves you in a way only a child can, Cyn. She doesn't know what you are, or what's been going on recently. All she knows is that her best friend has vanished, and she's been fretful when Topaz has tried to explain to her you've not been well. Would you really leave her, and shut yourself down again...knowing that so many people still need you to go on?"
"We think Emmet programmed you to shut down on Jerrica's death to protect your secret." Aja added. "But those rules no longer apply, Synergy. You haven't been Jerrica's computer for a long time, and that's why I've disabled that part of your program. It's not fair for you to give up your existance because of outdated computer coding."
"He programmed it into me?" Cynthia was startled. "But my core program was damaged..."
"Most of it. Obviously not all of it, because you wouldn't remember Emmet at all if it had been." Aaron shrugged.
Cynthia was silent for a moment, and holographic tears began to slide down her cheeks.
"I have never felt grief before." She whispered. "When Emmet died I knew precisely what was to be done. He had prepared me for it for so long, I do not believe I even thought of it. I missed him, but I do not think I grieved for him. But this...is like nothing I have ever known before. And I thought I hated her."
"So did I." Aja pursed her lips. "But I guess sometimes you realise that it's harder to hate someone you once loved than you think."
"I reckon I should give you guys a moment to talk." Aaron got to his feet. "I'll go upstairs and tell the others you're back online, Cyn...and listen. We know this is hard for you, and we don't expect you to be all right overnight. It wouldn't be natural. But you do have a lot of things to go on for - so remember that, all right? The world would be a worse place without Synergy."
With that he headed up the basement steps, casting a glance back over his shoulder as he reached the top. Aja had slipped a gentle arm around Cynthia's shoulders, and instinctively Aaron knew that she understood far better than he could ever hope to.
"We love her, and she's one of the gang, but Aja and the others are her family." He mused, pushing open the door and heading into the kitchen, pulling open the fridge and surveying it for lemonade. "She can do far more for Cyn than any of us right now."
"Aaron, you do know it's not polite to raid the fridge in a house you're visiting?" Nancy's voice startled him and he turned, casting his sister a sheepish grin.
"I was thirsty. Sorry."
"How's things down there?"
"Better." Aaron lifted the jug from the shelf, setting it down on the counter and rummaging in the cupboard for a glass. "You want lemon?"
"You are unbelievable sometimes." Nancy rolled her eyes. "And what does better mean?"
"What I said." Aaron poured a glass, pushing the jug back in the fridge and taking a sip. "She's back online."
"What?" Nancy's eyes opened wide. "Why didn't you say so? She's back?"
"Yes. She's back." Aaron agreed. "Aja is talking to her now. I chose to give her some space to do so - this is a personal thing to them and I'm not part of it."
He drained his glass, setting it down on the counter. "I came up to share the news."
"And wash, I hope." Nancy eyed him critically. "You're not sitting on our sofa looking like that."
"Fussy." Aaron grinned, following his companion into the lounge. "Hey, guys, Cynthia's back online."
"She is?" Copper was on her feet in a moment. "Oh!"
"How is she?" Sadie asked. Aaron pursed his lips.
"Grieving." He said at length. "Aja's disabled her shutdown command, but she still feels this as much as any of us would if we lost a family member. That's why I've given them some time to talk. Aja understands this more than I do."
"And he wanted to steal lemonade from us, too." Nancy added. "Copper, you really need to house train your husband better."
"The atmosphere in here just lightened by about twenty degrees." She observed. "Guess it shows how much she means to all of us."
"Is she coming on up, do you think? Or does she need alone time?" Sylva wondered. Aaron shrugged.
"I don't know." He admitted. "She...was a little confused when we got her working. It was Aja who did it, really...and when she first booted up her Synergy hologram it looked...different. Not like it has done since the rebuild. Aja said it was how she remembered her. For a minute I was worried she'd gone back to startup settings or something - but she seems to be our Cynthia. Just...sad."
"Then we'll have to do our best to understand and to get her mind off it." Sadie decided. "Losing someone you love sucks, Aaron. But she's not alone. She has all of us."
"And Hollie." Aaron nodded. "Topaz, I told her that the kid had been asking for her. I think it made a difference."
"I hope it did." Topaz put a protective arm around the small girl who had been sitting playing in her lap. "Because it's hard to explain to a one year old why a favourite playmate just disappears."
"I have not disappeared, Topaz."
A fresh voice from the doorway made the room's occupants glance up as one person to see the hologram standing in the doorway. At their exclamations she offered a slight, grave smile. "Aaron said you missed me."
"We did. We definitely did." Sylva nodded her head. "So don't do that again, okay? You're part of the Jewel posse and we need you."
"So I understand." Cynthia paused. She glanced at Topaz. "And I am sorry I have let you down with Hollie. It was remiss of me."
"Cynthia, this is a big deal for you. Don't ever think your problems rate less than ours." Topaz said gently. Cynthia offered the smile again.
"Thank you for understanding." She murmured. "It is not like anything I've ever known before."
"Cynta!" Before anyone could respond, Hollie's aqua green eyes had spotted her playmate and she held out her hands. "Cynta!"
"Shh, Hol." Topaz hushed her, but Cynthia shook her head. Gently she lifted the baby up into her arms.
"Hello, Hollie." She whispered. "Have you missed me?"
"Cynta." Hollie's arms went around Cynthia's neck and she rested her head trustingly on her babysitter's shoulder.
"I think that was a yes." Topaz smiled. "She's been asking for you, Cyn."
"Aaron said so." Cynthia agreed. She sighed, then, "And so I must deal with this. Somehow."
She sat down on the sofa, cradling Hollie gently against her as she did so. "How do you process these things? As a human, I mean? Copper...you lost your father. Sadie, your mother...how do you...I don't know...get past it?"
"I don't know." Sadie looked troubled. "Honestly, Cyn, I really don't. I think time just moves on and you get used to it."
"And if you feel...other things, too?"
"Like what?" Copper frowned.
"Guilt, I suppose. Remorse." Cynthia's violet eyes were sombre. "Regret."
"Time is a great healer, Synergy." Aja said from the doorway. "Cliched as it is, it's also true."
"Well, I suppose we shall soon see if the same rules apply to computer systems as they do human beings." Cynthia observed. "In the meantime - I would know everything that occured, if you can tell me. I know it was an accident...and Aja has told me about..." Her eyes darkened. "About Rio and Video and their role in it. It upsets me...even more that I did not know of it, so my advice to Jerrica was always flawed. But I need to know everything. If I am to set this aside, I need to have a complete archive of events."
"We'll do our best, Cyn." Sylva promised. "Though I'm not sure if we even know everything. Aunt Aja might know more."
"I only know what I learnt when Agent Nicholson came to ask me questions." Aja frowned. "And he was more than a little bit interested in you, Synergy. If you ask me, you need to get in contact with your FBI friend and see if he can't squash this here and now, before it becomes more than a passing curiosity."
"Alex has been trying." Sadie put in softly. "I spoke to him earlier, and he told me that he's done his best to bury it. Ray is a difficult kind of person - when he has an idea, he doesn't like to let it go."
"Then I must continue to tread carefully." Cynthia concluded. "And Aja, you must remember to call me Cynthia, and only Cynthia. Synergy is a wanted fugitive...if I am to preserve any part of my independance, you must not use that name. Not even here, among friends."
"I will remember." Aja promised. "And now I should be heading back to the villa."
"Thank you for your help." Copper sent her a grateful smile. "It's more appreciated than you know."
"Oh, I think I can guess." Aja returned the smile with a warm one of her own. "After all, she's pretty important to us too!"
Chapter One: A Troubled
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
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
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.