"Excuse me, can you please tell me where I might find Agent Alex Bray?"
The young officer glanced up from his paperwork, eying the speaker with a smile.
"Agent Bray, miss? Is he expecting you?"
"No, but I have something I must discuss with him. It is of some importance, regarding a case he is working on." Cynthia said smoothly, returning the officer's smile with one of her own. "I am a friend of Elizabeth Santiago, and I might have some information to help him find her."
"Well, he's in the first office straight down the hall, turn left at the water cooler." The officer grinned. "This case is causing bad tempers all over the office, if you must know - anything you can give us to help wrap it up would be most gratefully received!"
"Thank you." Cynthia offered another dazzling smile, setting off in the direction that the young man had indicated. It was not long before she found the door with the black name tag that read "Agent A. Bray, Agent R. Nicholson" on it in white lettering, and she knocked, waiting for an impatient voice to call her in.
Alex was sat at his desk, chewing the end of his pen as he stared at a television screen set up in one corner. At the sound of the door he turned, flipping the set off.
"Cynthia!" He said, surprised. "What brings you here? Please tell me that you aren't going to follow Aaron's example and demand to know what's going down with the investigation twice in one day."
"No, quite the contrary, I assure you." Cynthia took an empty seat. "I hope I might be of help." She indicated the television screen. "The security tape?"
"From the gas station? Yes. Not that it's doing anything more than give me a headache." Alex grimaced. "There is a blurry shape in one or two frames but it could be anyone. It's not good enough to build a description of the character."
"Then maybe I can further assist." Cynthia reached into her pocket, pulling out a slightly dog-eared photograph. "I believe your forensic people might have missed this. It is the photograph that Copper received when she first had a letter from her admirer. We believe wholeheartedly that he is the individual behind her abduction."
"Between you and me, Cynthia, so do we, but we haven't anything much to go on." Alex took the photograph, smoothing it out on his desk. "Where did you get this?"
"Copper's room." Cynthia said calmly, eying his expression with some amusement. "Well, your men were doing no good in trying to locate it, and I had seen it before. I knew what I was looking for."
"And probably left fingerprints all over the scene to boot." Alex groaned. "Great. Cynthia, I thought we told you girls to keep out of Copper's room until further notice!"
"Yes, you did, but I decided to ignore you." Cynthia nodded. "Because my friend is missing and any evidence that can help her is important evidence, don't you agree?" She tapped the photograph. "It was still in the envelope, pushed down amongst Copper's correspondance. She keeps most of her private mail in a very secret place and it had slipped down the back of that cabinet. I was able to find it with the minimum of disturbance - I simply applied a measure of logic to locate it."
"Well, at least we have a likeness to go on." Alex shook his head. "And that's something. I suppose you're forgiven, though if Ray knew you'd disobeyed our orders and tramped all over Copper's room he'd blow a fuse."
"Then it is fortunate that he is still in Sacramento." Cynthia said lightly. Alex eyed her for a moment, then he laughed.
"Perhaps it is." He acknowledged. He frowned, eying the photograph again. "It's a bit bent. Part of his nose is blurred and there's a crease right across his ear. Not to mention what looks like a coffee stain over the edge of his hair..."
"Is it not good enough from which to fashion a likeness for the press?" Cynthia looked anxious. "I was worried when I saw it's condition, but I believed you had sophisticated technology which could overcome that."
"We have technology, but we need as clear a picture as possible to show the public." Alex responded. "If it's all we've got, though, it'll have to do. It's much better than anything we had before."
"Perhaps there is another way." Cynthia said slowly. "I saw the photograph before it became damaged. Perhaps my memory can help you reconstruct the damaged features."
"Human memory is flawed." Alex shook his head. "I appreciate you wanting to help, Cynthia, but I don't see how you can. You saw the picture once, and even then you didn't know the significance of it when you did see it. Your recollections might not be accurate and might make things worse."
"I think not." Cynthia shook her head. "My memory is more accurate than you think, Alex."
"It's just out of the question." Alex shook his head. "We'll just have to send the picture up to the experts and see what they can make of it."
Cynthia bit her lip, then she made up her mind, shaking her head.
"You are mistaken." She said softly. "I can help you - more than you realise. I keep a database of my memories in case I should need to draw on them again to deal with a new situation. I am not like you - I do not suffer the inaccuracies that mankind does. My database is entirely reliable, and should I dig through my recollections, I might well find the information we seek." She sighed. "I did not want to do that, because you would question my knowledge and suspect me of complicity. But if Copper's life is at stake, then I will have to do whatever I can to help her. Her life is more important than my secret, after all."
"Your secret? What are you talking about?" Alex stared. "Cynthia, if you know something..."
"I do not know where Copper is, regretfully." Cynthia shook her head. "But I can help you identify your suspect."
She slipped her watch off her wrist, setting it down on the desk. After adjusting her own projection, the watch dial glittered, emitting a faint glow that soon grew to form the image of a man. As Alex watched, bewildered, the man's features became crystal clear, and despite himself, he reached out a hand to touch the illusion.
"It is a hologram. You cannot touch it." Cynthia told him softly. "But this is the man from the photograph. I have cross-referenced my database and this is the match. I would stake my reputation on it."
"But...where did he come from? How in hell can you be so sure? What is all of this?" Alex gestured to the hologram, his hand passing straight through Cynthia's own arm in the process. Letting out a curse, he jumped back. Despite herself, Cynthia laughed.
"You see, now you have seen something that none of your colleagues will ever believe." She teased. "They will say that you work too hard."
"I thought you were an agent of investigation, Alex. I would have thought that you had heard of me." Cynthia's pretty eyes became grave, as the image of the man disappeared and she returned herself to her normal projection, retrieving her watch and replacing it on her wrist. "Or did you not reside in California at the time of the Jem Memorial?"
"The Jem Memorial?" Alex's expression was blank, then his eyes opened wide. "The ghost! That Benton woman's computer! But dammit, we searched so hard - how is it possible that you have it?"
"I don't have it. I am it." Cynthia told him calmly. "Aaron rescued me from rust and destruction and updated my circuitry to enable me to create Cynthia, in order to better appreciate the world around me. But I have always been a sophisticated holographic synthesiser and I have often put my holograms to the good effect of my friends. Now I wish to put one to the aid of Copper. My visual recollections are all stored on my hard drive, and they are exact. If I should project this young man then you could take a photograph and release it to the press. Such an accurate likeness could not be mistaken."
Alex muttered a curse.
"My brain is telling me I don't believe you, but I haven't a lot of choice." He said at length. "But don't you think you're taking a huge risk, revealing yourself here, in the heart of one of the organisations which would love to have you taken to pieces and experimented on?"
"Yes, a great risk." Cynthia looked sombre. "But Copper's life is worth that to me, Alex, and so it is a risk worth taking. Besides, I do not believe you would betray me. You love Sadie too dearly to hurt one of her friends, and besides, you are a good man. I would not trust my secret to your partner, for I do not trust him. But I feel secure that you will not betray me."
"They stopped looking for you - they believed you must have been destroyed." Alex said quietly. "But I wasn't sure. I wanted to know why you had been used at the Memorial, and who had you...whether or not you were a threat to our security. But then when all went quiet, other cases swamped the bureau and we let it go. I never imagined it would be so close to home, or that I would encounter the very computer that they spent millions on trying to trace whilst investigating a completely unrelated case."
"Then you do believe me." Cynthia smiled. "That is good. It will save much time. Will you allow me to do as I suggest? I can reconstruct his features perfectly."
"Yes." Alex nodded, pulling open his desk drawer and rummaging around, finally finding a poloroid camera. "But it's probably for the best if we do that now, before anyone else comes. I can tell them that you brought the picture - because you did - and nobody need ever know how it really came about."
"With pleasure." Cynthia morphed her features into those of the man. "I am ready when you are."
"That is the freakiest thing." Alex obediently took the photo, taking it and setting it down on the desk to dry. "You must be one heck of a computer, to fool the world for so long."
"I like to think my creator knew what he was doing." Cynthia nodded. "But I am no threat, Alex. You have my word on that. I live a quiet life, I help Jewel with their stage shows and I experience as much of life as I am able. I provide the solution to Topaz's frequent babysitting dilemmas, and I donate my salary from Misfits Music to Kimber Harrison and the Starlight Foundation. I wish only to be left alone to enjoy my runtime in peace."
"Oh, don't worry. As you said, my colleagues would never believe me." Alex said dryly. He squinted at the photo, comparing it to the original. "Yes, now I can see the likeness. Your memory is very good - now I have this to compare it to, I can just make out the damaged features in the first picture. With any luck we will soon have an identification."
He frowned, pursing his lips. "He does look vaguely familiar, but I will have to check the files. I can't help thinking that there was another stalking case we put to bed some months before the fire."
"You believe that he might have done this before?" Cynthia looked alarmed.
"It's possible." Alex keyed a few details into the computer, hitting enter, then skimming down the resultant file names. "It was a model in the Los Angeles area - she'd been in Vogue or some other fashion magazine and she'd attracted unwanted attention. She was stolen away from her boyfriend's apartment in the dead of night, and she was missing for two weeks. We all thought she'd wind up dead, but her boyfriend didn't seem to think so, and took matters into his own hands. When we were setting up surveillance on a building, he stormed in and attacked the man inside. The girl was tied up in his attic. She was fine, just a bit shaken and bruised, and she testified against him in court. It was an open and shut case - an easy conviction."
He looked sheepish. "I'm not sure I should be telling you any of this. It's Federal business, and whatever your secrets, you're a civilian."
"But I am no ordinary civilian, and I wish to help." Cynthia responded. She frowned. "Copper is no longer in Los Angeles, so you need not fear me taking matters into my own hands to rescue her. My projection units will not maintain my three dimensional solid form outside of the city...it requires power that they are unable to produce."
"That's actually something of a relief." Alex admitted. "Ah, here we are. This was the case."
He pursed his lips. "Guy by the name of Jason Carragher. Name familiar to you at all?"
"Copper's admirer was called Jason." Cynthia nodded. Alex scrolled up the screen, then muttered a curse, grabbing the photograph Cynthia had helped produce and putting it next to the monitor.
"What is it?" Cynthia was anxious.
"It's the same damn guy." Alex glanced at her. "Look. The photo matches the one we have on file. It's the same guy. Dammit! I knew that he should never have been paroled early!"
"But it could be worse. He did not kill his last abductee." Cynthia pointed out. Alex shook his head.
"No, but we don't know what he might have done. We found a gun among his possessions, and there were ropes and god knows what else in the attic, aside from those he'd used to tie the chick up." He said grimly. "Cynthia, I'm glad you disobeyed our orders and went into her room. Now we know who we're dealing with, we can get a search warrant on his home and see what we can find there. And with this picture..." he tapped the poloroid, "We can alert the public."
"Surely the public would also recognise Copper?"
"Possibly, but Ray spoke to the motel owners in Sacramento." Alex grimaced. "The guy there recalled a man of nondescript appearance - who could possibly fit this picture, so we'll have to get him to make an ID on that - with a woman who wore dark glasses, had her hair tied up in a scarf and who didn't speak a word. He thought it strange at the time but assumed it was a lover's tryst between a married woman and her lover, or something along those lines. He didn't imagine that it could be Copper till Ray spoke to him...but now we believe it probably was. He'll keep her disguised - so it's his likeness we need to reveal to the public. He's the unknown one, after all."
"Then I'm glad to do my bit." Cynthia stood. "I must go. Good or bad, Aaron should know how things stand."
She cast him a questioning look. "If I may tell him?"
"Yes, that much you might." Alex nodded. "And don't worry. Your secret is safe with me." He grinned. "But when this case is over and Copper is back home where she belongs, I'd be interested to see a little more of you and your capabilities - in the interest of public security, of course!"
"It would be my pleasure." Cynthia nodded. "Thank you, Alex."
She reached the door, then she paused.
"Did Aaron mention to you about Las Vegas?" She asked. Alex nodded.
"We're looking at it as a possible lead, but it would help to know where the lead came from." He replied. Cynthia shook her head.
"I cannot betray my source any more than you can betray your informants." She said lightly. "It is a source whose word I believe to be honest, but I will not have their job...or even worse, their very life...put at risk by my actions."
"I could arrest you for concealing evidence." Alex eyed her speculatively. Cynthia laughed.
"You have no cage which can hold Synergy." She told him, unperturbed. "And besides, the source is not important. Finding Copper is, and you have all the information we know about that. If my source is correct, he will take her to Las Vegas, whatever his diversions on the way."
"And we have already radioed Nevada to be on the alert." Alex told her. "Now we have this picture and an identity, we can forward them to the Las Vegas office. If this guy brings Copper into Vegas, our people will be waiting!"
Chapter One: Where Is Copper?
Chapter Two: Nancy Finds A Clue
Chapter Three: Marissa
Chapter Four: A Faint Lead
Chapter Five: Undercover
Chapter Six: A Reluctant Witness
Chapter Seven: Cynthia Takes A Gamble
Chapter Eight: A Play For Freedom
Chapter Nine: Aaron Decides
Chapter Ten: Midnight Flight
Chapter Eleven: The Race Is On
Chapter Twelve: Nemesis
Chapter Thirteen: Aftermath
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
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!