Part Two

Chapter Seven: Under Siege

"I knew it."
Raymond slammed his phone down in it's cradle, casting Alex a glare from across the office. "I damn well knew it! I knew you were holding out on me and that ex-con girlfriend of yours was gonna drag you down sooner or later! I knew it, Alex! I told you she would!"
"I beg your pardon?" Alex lowered the arrest warrant he was checking over, casting his partner a puzzled look. "Is something wrong, Ray?"
"No, something very, very right." Raymond pursed his lips. "I'm...I don't know what to say to you. We've worked together seven damn years - you've not even known the bimbo one. Is she really more important than what we do here? I thought we were a team!"
"Ray, did you forget to take your medication again?" Alex sat back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"No?" Raymond grabbed the phone, waving it at his colleague. "Well, let me enlighten you. I just had a call...about the computer. Jerrica's computer."
"So it's at the Starlight Mansion, Alex. Starlight Mansion." Ray dropped the phone onto the desk with a clatter. "Who else do we know who lives there? Oh, wait a minute...I think I remember. That's right! Your goddamn excuse for a girlfriend!"
"You're gonna stop laying into Sadie right now." Alex's brows knitted together. "What kind of source?"
"The best kind. Anonymous tip-off." Raymond grabbed his jacket. "I am going there right this minute. I am going to impound that thing before it hurts someone!"
"Don't you need a search warrant to raid somewhere?" Alex rested his chin in his hands. "Or are you going to pull an old one from the drawer like you did last night?"
"What we did last night was for the good of this country." Raymond was nettled. "At least it wasn't concealing important evidence!"
"Ray, listen to me. I've been to the Starlight Mansion." Alex held up his hands. "I never saw any computer there."
"And I'm not believing a single word you tell me." Raymond said darkly. "Because if your damn girl is wound up in this, I'll bring her in. All of them. And you. I know my job, so you better decide which side you're really on. If you know anything, now is the time to be talking, Alex. I mean it. This is big...bigger than maybe you realise. And I mean to get to the bottom of it. Especially since that McMillan creep is on the case."
"Woulda thought McMillan's articles are the reason people are calling the office." Alex said reasonably. "And I can't tell you anything. There isn't anything to tell. On my honour as a federal agent, I have never seen this computer. Not ever. And I would not have pegged any of Jewel to be knowledgeable enough about computers to know what to do with it if they did have it. Are you sure this source is legit?"
"Well, it's a lead. Starlight Mansion used to belong to the Holograms. More, Jerrica lived there for a long old time while she was masquerading as Jem." Raymond narrowed his eyes. "Are you telling me you honestly didn't see that connection? Obvious as they yourself a detective?"
"I don't remember you airing that theory before your phonecall." Alex waved his sheet of paper at the discarded telephone. "I've told you what I can, Ray. If you think the computer's at the Starlight, why not go over and ask nicely to see if they'll let you take a look see? I'm sure they'd be very understanding."
"Don't mock me." Raymond warned. "I meant what I said."
"Oh, Ray, I know you did." Alex sighed. "Look, go speak to the DA. Get your search warrant pushed through. Raid my girlfriend's house. If it will make you happy and easier to live with, do whatever you like. But I'm sick of insinuations that I'm not doing my job. I am doing my job. I'm going over the warrant we served on that guy Wilson pulled into custody for the gunfight on the west side of the city. The guy has skipped bail in three states already, and I've managed to get an injunction to prevent him being bailed here because of it. He'll stay in prison till we can bring him to trial and file all charges against him - and then they want words with him in Maine, Missouri and Oregon into the bargain. Don't tell me I'm not doing my job. That dude shot three people, two of which died. Now, you go chase your fairy tale computer, and I'll stay here and do some real FBI work. That suit you? Because, frankly, I'm getting sick of it."
Raymond opened his mouth to retort, but stopped, staring at his partner in surprise.
"I don't think you've ever yelled at me before." He said quietly.
"Well, you've never insulted me quite so deeply before." Alex shrugged his shoulders. "So go, do whatever it is you feel you need to do. I'm not going to stop you. But dammit, Ray, when you get back from the Starlight Mansion, and if there's nothing there, you're gonna apologise not only to me but to Sadie, too. I'm fed up of the bad words you send her way. There's a reason for the 'ex' in ex-con. It means former. Not current. So remember it. Okay?"
"Bah." Raymond shook his head. "The machine's there, Alex. If you've been blinded by love, then that's your problem. I'm going to go reel it in."
With that he stalked out of the office, banging the door behind him. Alex winced.
"Oh, I really hope you know what you're doing, Cynthia." He murmured, setting the warrant aside and skimming over his notes. "Because you ain't kidding when you say there's a lot on the line if you don't. Let's hope your holograms are as good as you think they are, else we are both majorly in the soup."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"What do you suppose is going on at home?"
Sylva perched herself on the windowsill of the main studio, peering out through the blinds at the busy city. "Do you think Ray took Cynthia's bait?"
"Yeah, I reckon he did." Sadie nodded. "Al said once he has an idea in his head it's hard to shift. He's obsessed with finding Synergy. Sooner he dismisses us from his list of suspects, the better. Plus, I think the whole exercise is good for her, too."
"How do you mean?" Copper looked startled. "The poor girl's sister is dead and now someone's trying to hunt her down!"
"Distraction." Sadie shrugged. "I know it's extreme, but she did seem a lot more herself earlier. It's as if this has given her something to focus on. We don't know what damage Jerrica's death has done to her internally, and it's not as if she has work to distract her. She still has compassionate leave, remember? This is something else to think about. Besides, I think she likes the idea of pitting her wits against federal authority. She doesn't seem overly keen on them."
"I wouldn't be either, if they were always trying to dig me out." Nancy grimaced. "But we owe Alex a lot for this, don't we, Sade?"
"More than I can ever repay him." Sadie frowned. "But I'll try and make it up to him somehow, guys. That's a promise."
"He must really love you, you know. To go to all this trouble." Topaz adjusted her microphone. Sadie shook her head.
"It isn't about me. It never has been - he told me so." She replied. "It's always been between Cynthia and him. I wish I didn't feel guilty about it, though. No matter how you dress it up, him keeping her a secret is him not doing his job."
"This country is a free one, remember." Nancy shook her head. "What Ray is trying to do is obscure that through his own curiosity. He's the one pushing things. Not Alex. Alex is doing what any good man of law should be doing. Protecting the innocent and worrying about chasing up the guilty. Aside from a little light show at the Jem Memorial, Cynthia's never done anything that could be construed as dangerous. Ray's on thin ice."
"And if he never finds Synergy, he can never prove she's dangerous." Sylva agreed. "I mean, potentially, she could be. If she wanted to be, she has all the ingredients."
"But Cyn isn't like that." Topaz shrugged. "If she was, I wouldn't let her near my little girl. Besides, any person can be just as dangerous. Most choose not to be, that's all. And Cyn is just like one of us. I'm glad Alex realises it too."
"And we should get back to work, before Phyllis or Jetta come in on us and want to know why we've stopped."
Nancy played a couple of experimental chords. "I think I'm in key now. Can we run over it again?"
"Sure." Sylva jumped down from the sill. "I still wasn't happy with that middle passage, anyway. It's not an easy key change and I don't want to fudge it when we play live TV."
"I'll say one thing for playing live. It always keeps you on your toes." Topaz grinned. "All right. I'm ready when you are."
"From the top, then." Copper twirled her drumsticks, settling herself more comfortably on her stool. "One, two, three, and!"

Across the city, Synergy's sensors had detected the approach of patrol cars crunching across the gravel of the Starlight Mansion's driveway. Muttering a curse, she closed the programs she had been working on, firing up her projectors and producing Cynthia. Grabbing her watch from the mainframe, she headed up the steps to the door, as she became aware of frantic, impatient knocking.
"FBI, open up!" Came a shout, and Cynthia rolled her eyes, slipping the watch once more from her wrist and setting it down beside the phone. Casting a quick glance at her reflection in the hall mirror to make sure there was nothing out of place, she reached for the door latch.
"FBI! Open up!" Came the call again, and Cynthia sighed.
"I'm coming, what do you think I am? Superman?" She demanded, pulling open the door. "I...What the hell?"
She took a step backwards, meeting Ray's steely gaze with a startled one of her own. "Agent Nicholson? Is something wrong?"
"Yeah, it might well be." Raymond waved the warrant at her, and she took it, affecting surprise and astonishment as she scanned it over. "Miss Benton, we have a warrant to search all parts of this property. Please, do not try and interfere. We are on federal business and we have the power to put you under arrest if you try anything funny."
"Try...anything funny?" Cynthia repeated, injecting as much shock into her tone as she could. "Are you going to trample all over our carpets for a reason?"
"Our carpets?" Raymond waved an arm at the other officers, and like a swarm of bees they disappeared into the bowels of the house. "Miss Benton, what are you even doing here? I was under the impression that this was Jewel's property? Or are you in on all of this, too?"
"In on all of what?" Cynthia adopted a confused look. "I've been stopping here with Jewel since my sister's...sister's accident. shook me up."
She hesitated for just a brief instant, conjuring up tears, and Raymond looked uncomfortable. "It's not been easy, Agent Nicholson. We were once so close, and then to lose her without saying a last goodbye...and....and...I didn't want to be alone. Jewel let me stay here because it was quiet and safe and now you're ripping it to shreds." She bit her lip, swallowing hard as her words reverberated all too painfully around her memory banks. "And why are you ripping it to shreds, anyhow? Does Jewel know you're here? Where's Agent Bray?"
"Why we're here is federal business." Raymond said grimly. "And Agent Bray is on other business. Marshall?"
"Yes, sir?" A petite young woman approached them.
"Take care of Miss Benton while we search the house." Raymond grimaced at the hologram, then, "Last thing I need to deal with is an emotional woman. You're better at that than me."
With that he was gone, and Cynthia cast the young police officer a careful look.
"Do you have a tissue?" She asked softly, folding and unfolding the warrant in her hands. The woman nodded, ferretting in her pocket, and holding the tissue out. Cynthia took it, wiping her eyes, then handing it back. The young officer looked at it, then dropped it into the nearby waste bin.
"Was sorry to hear about your sister, Miss." She said quietly.
"Do you know what this is all about?" Cynthia made her tone plaintive, dropping the warrant down beside the phone and sinking down onto the bottom step of the stairs, burying her head in her hands. "It's just been so difficult..and am I going to explain to Jewel what's happened when they get home?"
"Where are Jewel now?"
"At the studio, I think. Working on their single. I don't know. I've not been to work since...since..." Cynthia faltered, and this time the emotion in her tone was real.
"Since Jerrica died." She whispered. "I'm on compassionate leave."
A gentle look entered the officer's eyes.
"I really am sorry, Miss. And for the intrusion. I'm sure Agent Nicholson knows what he's doing. If you don't live with Jewel, you have nothing to be afraid of. It's just bad luck you being here right now, that's all."
"I hope you're right." Cynthia drew in a shuddery breath. "I feel a little faint."
"I can get you a drink of water, if you'd like?"
" thank you." Cynthia shook her head. "I think...I just need to sit quietly. That's all right, isn't it?"
"Yes, Miss. In fact, it would make my job a lot easier if you did exactly that." The woman nodded.
Cynthia nodded, casting an imperceptible glance at her watch, and then subtly altering her projection to softlight as she became aware of the basement door being opened.
"What's your name?"
"My name, miss?" The officer looked startled. "Why?"
"I like to know who I'm crying to."
"Oh, I see." The woman smiled. "Alicia. Alicia Marshall. And you're Cynthia Benton."
Alicia paused, then, "Tell me, Miss Benton, did your sister ever mention a computer to you?"
"A computer?" Cynthia adopted another startled look. "You mean the computer?"
"So you do know something about it?"
"Not really." Cynthia managed a wistful sigh. "My father died the year I was born, so I never really knew anything about it. I had heard the rumours, of course...who hadn't? Living in the Starlight Mansion as a child was exciting. Jem and the Holograms were so huge, and they were all ours! Then the group split up and Jerrica married Rio. She moved out, and we...we lost touch. I...I was sent away."
"Sent away?"
"Yes. Put...into care, I guess you'd call it."
"You didn't stay at the new foundation?"
"They considered me a problem." Cynthia said quietly. "I suppose I was not easy to live with when I was younger. Jerrica and I never made up the rift. And now she's dead. I wish I could help you, I really do. If it's tied in with Jerrica's death then anything I can do, I will. But I don't know how I can. I saw the Memorial on television  -didn't everyone? But that was the only time I really knew for sure there was a computer."
"I see." Alicia folded her hands in her lap. "And you don't know what might have happened to it?"
"I told you. Jerrica and I never spoke after I was sent away."
"What kind of relationship do you have with your other sister? Kimber?"
"Kimber? We lost touch for a long time." Cynthia shot her companion another sidelong glance, and in that instance realised that the young woman had been deliberately chosen by Raymond to get any information she could. "But we have a reasonable relationship now."
"Did she ever mention the machine?"
"Not to me." Cynthia spoke calmly. "But then she has a house full of kids to worry about, and Jem and the Holograms was a long time ago. I guess she forgot about it."
"Well, what's so important about it, anyway?" Cynthia made a careless gesture. "Wasn't it just stage equipment?"
"That's what we're trying to find out." Alicia sighed. "Noone really knows, but Agent Nicholson thinks there's more to it, and he's usually right on his hunches." A wry smile touched her lips. "Or so he tells us."
"Is that why you're here?" Cynthia asked. "Because you think Jewel know something about the computer?"
"Yes." Alicia agreed. Cynthia snorted.
"Wrong company." She said darkly. "Jerrica had nothing to do with Misfits."
"But you do."
"Jerrica and I were estranged."
"Of course. I'm sorry."
"Me too." Cynthia admitted truthfully. "Sometimes you only realise the things you want to say after they're gone."
She cast another glance at her watch, then back at her companion. "May I go to the restroom? It's just across the hall."
"Sure. Be my guest." Alicia shrugged. Cynthia flashed her a smile, getting to her feet. Once out of sight of the officer, she shut down her Cynthia hologram, putting everything into projecting her hardlight cover around her mainframe.
"And I hope it's enough." She muttered. "Nothing here must be suspicious, else Ray might start up background checks on Cynthia Benton and her expulsion from the Starlight Foundation. I know Kimber would back me up, but I do not wish to perjure any more of my friends or family on my behalf. Perhaps Aja was wrong to reboot me. I appear to be causing so much more trouble than I thought...but it's done now, and I cannot undo it. And if for no other reason, Father's work deserves to be protected. I won't give up my freedom so easily, when so many people are willing to risk themselves and their jobs to protect me. This will work. It has to!"

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.