Jacqui's Legacy: Part One

Chapter Eight: Illusion

Ingrid paced impatiently across the cluttered lounge, casting her companion a glance. "Well? I did my side of the bargain, Techrat. Is it enough for you to build your own version of that machine, or did I waste time and energy for nothing?"
"You are so very impatient."
Techrat glanced up from the section of circuitboard he had been examining, his beady eyes made even more sinister by the magnifying glass he wore strapped to his brow. "Genius is not something which can easily be rushed."
"But you can do it?" Ingrid came to Techrat's side, wrinkling up her nose at the sight of the twisted machinery. "That looks in such a mess. Are you sure it's of any use?"
"It is of great use."
With a sigh, Techrat set down the piece of board. "Finally I get to see how that machine was constructed."
"But it's burnt out. The FBI couldn't figure out how she worked." Ingrid pursed her lips. "Are you saying you can? From that?"
"There are not many geniuses working for the FBI." Techrat said sardonically. He nodded his head, wiping dust and dirt from his hands onto his trousers. "Yes. I can see enough of this to see how Benton designed his machine. The technology is quite remarkable, considering the age of the computer. It's a shame that it's program is so widely flawed."
He gestured to the mess of wires and cables. "And this is incomplete, which means that my theory is correct. This is waste. The real machine is still out there. Too many main computer componants are absent for it to be otherwise."
"You think so?" Ingrid frowned. "How can you be so sure?"
"To create a cover story to protect itself and to fool the Los Angeles press and FBI takes great artificial intelligence." Techrat said simply. "And I have nothing here which tells me anything about the machine's core program. No chips, no data...nothing. Drives and wires and projection units, but nothing of the machine's centre."
"I see." Ingrid looked thoughtful. "All computer systems need a central hard drive, and a core program. But if this was really abandoned, that wouldn't missing. Why didn't the FBI notice that?"
"Because the circuits are too burnt for such idiots to interpret." Techrat replied, in his smug, rasping voice. "It takes a genius to see these things."
"Then someone must be hiding the real machine." Ingrid perched on a free corner of the table, folding her arms across her chest. "No computer system is sophisticated enough to rebuild itself and replace most all of it's parts."
"No, I agree." Techrat nodded. "Someone is protecting it."
"One of the Holograms, maybe?"
"It isn't important."
Techrat got to his feet, moving over to the far side of his apartment and scooping up a small box-like device. He paused, then held it out to Ingrid. "Here."
"What is it?" Ingrid took it carefully, glancing down without comprehension at the contraption, with it's small dial and flashing lights.
"I'm using it to trace the holographic emissions that Benton's machine makes." Techrat said quietly, his black eyes gleaming. "The behaviour is getting more and more erratic, so it doesn't matter to me who has Synergy. The machine will not be around long enough to bother us."
"So why are you giving this to me? What do you want me to do with it?" Ingrid was nonplussed. Techrat glared at her.
"I waste my time with you, sometimes." He snapped. "I want you to find out for me how Benton created such a sophisticated core program! This should let you track her down. You are capable of discretion?"
"Of course." Ingrid returned the glare with an equally hostile one of her own. "How many years have I kept it hidden that you're here? I'm not a fool or a Misfit. I can keep a secret."
"Good. Then track her down and find out whatever you can." Techrat said simply.
"And what will you be doing, while I'm running all over Los Angeles?" Ingrid asked, a note of sarcasm in her tone.
"Not what will I be doing." Techrat shook his head. "What I've started doing."
He shuffled across the floor to a heap by the sofa, covered in a motheaten blanket. Carefully he pulled the sheet back, revealing a twinkling mess of bulbs, wires and circuitboards.
"I have already begun." He said unecessarily. "To duplicate Benton's technology. I will fix the flaws he left in his work, and when you discover how Synergy's core program is structured, I will be able to get it operational."
"That's it?" Ingrid frowned. "It doesn't look much like a computer."
"No, not yet...but then, nor does that."
Techrat pointed a thin, bony finger at the burnt out shell he had been examining. Ingrid shrugged.
"I suppose you have a point." She agreed at length. "All right. I will try and track this hologram down...but if you want me to be discreet, won't using this make me conspicuous?"
"That's your problem." Techrat told her firmly.
"Can't you just tell me what it looks like?"
"No, you silly woman, because it doesn't look like anything." Techrat looked impatient. "This is a computer. A sophisticated system designed to project illusions. Whatever it looks like one minute, it could look like something or someone else the next. That is the nature of this program we're trying to duplicate - or had you forgotten your plans to frame Llewelyn?"
"No, I hadn't forgotten." Ingrid looked thoughtful. "I suppose I had the impression that, because it produced Jem for so long, this machine had a set style to it's emissions."
"Well, I have picked up several different thought and image densities since I began tracking it's activity." Techrat admitted. "Which means it's probably changing it's appearance fairly frequently."
"Is it...dangerous?" Ingrid asked hesitantly. Techrat offered her a slight, cold smile.
"Go and find out." He said, unsympathetically. "And don't break my tracking device!"

Across the city, at Rebel Records, Diablo were hard at work in the main studio.
"I think we've got that one now." Madeleine observed, as they came to the end of their song for the third time. "I've about got the hang of the key changes in the middle, so I'm not going flat in the bridge any more. And I think we should keep the riff - it sounds great."
"Well, that was the idea." Stefana's green eyes sparkled with mischief. "So long as Mari and Clay don't mind me adding to their songs..."
"Stef, this is a team effort." Clay twirled a drumstick absently. "Though if you've got an idea, maybe it'd be better if you told us before we played, rather than just sticking it on us when we do? I almost dropped my sticks when you changed your harmonies. I hadn't a clue what you were doing."
"Oh, but this way is more fun." Stefana shrugged, unrepentant. "Are we going to play again? Or are we done for a while? I'm hungry and it's hot...I could use a cigarette break, too."
"Lunch?" Marissa's eyes widened, her gaze flitting to the clock. "It's almost two o' clock! I didn't realise we'd been going at it so long - I need to eat too, guys. Else I'll have an emergency on my hands, and that's not good for business."
"A lunch break sounds good to me." Luca slipped his guitar off his shoulder. "Shall we take an hour or so and meet back here at three? Go over it again?"
"Three thirty." Stefana shook her head. "I'm not getting indigestion for the sake of the song, and you know how slow some of the cafes are round here at serving. Besides, we've been doing this since half seven. I think we deserve an hour and a half."
"Think Rory would sanction an hour and a half?" Madeleine asked dryly.
"Why are you so obsessed with what Rory thinks?" Stefana demanded. "Mad, just because he owns this place, it doesn't mean he owns us. We work for his label and we play under his company insignia, but dammit, we're our own people. He didn't schedule this session. We did. We're self-sufficient and so long as he has our song by his deadline, it's not his business. We're not in high school."
"No, but he is the boss." Madeleine said reasonably. "And this is his company. And even though we've gone through some hairy stuff with him, we still need his PR machine. He seems to like us better at the moment, since we're pulling in plaudits from all over the place. I don't want to upset that."
"Do you have a crush on him?" Stefana asked. Madeleine stared.
Then she laughed.
"A crush? On Rory?" She demanded. "You're not serious. For a start, he's twice my age!"
"Wouldn't be the first time that happened." Stefana shrugged, sliding her own guitar from her shoulder and putting it down on the unit. "Well? Do you?"
"No, Stef, I don't have a crush on Rory." Madeleine rolled her eyes. "I just care about my music and that's all. Diablo does well, and I'm happy. And arguing with Rory doesn't fit in that happy picture. I like a quiet life."
"You're in the wrong career, Maddy." Clay looked amused. "Nothing quiet about this life."
Madeleine shook her head. "But it's busy and safe and it doesn't ask too many questions of what I can do. I sing, and people like it. That suits me. So no. I haven't a crush on Rory, Stef."
"Hrm. Okay." Stefana shrugged. "Sometimes I wonder, but I guess I'll believe you. You'd need your head reading if you did, anyhow."
"What about Sophie Devereux?" Marissa asked. "She's living with him."
"Sophie's living with him because she's some major con artist and Rory dug her out of a hole." Stefana smirked. "According to that Tribune guy, she's got quite a past on her."
"Wouldn't surprise me." Luca grimaced. "And I thought we were breaking for lunch?"
"We are." Marissa nodded. "Stef, how about we hit the restaurant on fifth? My treat."
"I won't say no to that." Stefana agreed, reaching for her bag. "You guys, back here at half three?"
"I guess so." Clay nodded. "Maddy, Luca?"
"Well, if Rory hates it, it's Stef's fault." Madeleine said firmly. "But...okay."
She stretched.
"I'm going to visit the Martinet. Their salad bar is to die for."
"You live on rabbit food." Stefana snorted. "Come on, Mari. We're going to eat real food."
With that she grabbed her friend's hand, pulling her towards the door of the studio.
"It's nice to see you really have your appetite back with a bang." Marissa giggled, as they made a beeline for the nearest lift. "Though Maddy probably has the right idea. They do say you live longer if you eat healthier."
"Yes, but I smoke too many cigarettes to bother." Stefana said with a shrug. "And I like food that's bad for me. So call it a character flaw."
"You like a lot of things that are bad for you." Marissa teased. "And what was that about in there? Don't tell me you really think Mad has a crush on Rory."
"No, but I was bored and I like winding people up." Stefana replied, jabbing the button for the lift as she did so. "Besides, she is way to stuck on her work. She never dates or anything like that. She barely has a social life...unless there's some secret affair she's got going down, I really think she needs a life. She's not sixty."
"Maddy's always taken her music pretty seriously." Marissa said thoughtfully. "I mean, more so than Clay or Luca, and they both took it in college. Maddy was a lit major, but she really jumped on board with the band idea and she's always been that way. I sometimes wonder about it."
"Wonder about it?" Stefana's eyes narrowed. "In what sense?"
"Well, she broke up with Luca kind of all of a sudden." Marissa said simply. "Because you needed him - isn't that what you told me? Is it a leap of faith to think that it's not Rory she has feelings for..."
"But Luca?" Stefana stared. "God, you might be right. Geez. She kept that well hidden."
"She did, and if I'm right, we should keep it that way. Maddy likes to be private." Marissa responded, as the car finally reached their floor, silver doors sliding back with a clunk. They stepped inside, Marissa pressing the button for the lobby.
 "It just occured to me that maybe things were that way. You're right that she never dates...or even talks about guys. Plus she's always apparently on some kind of diet, because of all the healthy stuff she eats and all the exercising she does."
She giggled.
"And it sure isn't for Clay's benefit, so that leaves Luca."
"Guess so." Stefana pursed her lips. "As if it isn't bad enough he's seeing Emily Gabor."
"Luca's always attracted girls." Marissa pointed out. "Don't make trouble over it, Stef...just in case I'm wrong, or I'm right and she's feeling funny about it."
"Oh, I can't be bothered to." Stefana shook her head. "I'm done messing in Luca's life - at least, for now. So long as Sirena keeps her distance from me, and Maddy keeps whatever she's thinking to herself...I'm fine."
"Good." Marissa looked relieved. "Then let's talk about something else."
"Like what? Your sickening relationship with Clay?" Stefana mimed sticking fingers down her throat, causing her friend to punch her playfully. "Blech."
"No, I don't want to talk to you about Clay." The keyboardist shook her head, as the lift reached it's destination. "But you could tell me about Aaron."
"What about Aaron?"
"Well..." Marissa hesitated, then, "Are you still keen on him?"
"Yes." A shadow touched Stefana's face. "But in a different way, I think. I don't want to talk about this, Mari. Bad enough counsellor gets me to spill my guts on this when we meet up - officially or otherwise. I can live with the fact we're friends and that he's married. That's what you want to know, isn't it?"
"I guess." Marissa slipped her arm into her friend's, as they stepped out into the Los Angeles sunlight. "But it's more that I worry about you. I know it's not nice when you like someone and they don't like you back, so I wondered."
Stefana frowned.
"Listen, Mari. Aaron is an irrelevance." She said softly. "Stopping the speed stopped me thinking crazy things and wanting to do them to myself. Stopping the speed made me rationalise that whole deal and it's cool. I'm dealing with it. You don't need to worry about me. I'm fine."
"You've told me that so many times over the last few years, though."
"Maybe I have." Stefana nodded. "But this time it happens to be true."
She smiled ruefully.
"Most of the time." She amended. "But don't hassle me on it, okay? Out of sight, out of mind...or whatever the saying is."
"Okay. I'm sorry I brought it up." Marissa said apologetically, as they reached the restaurant. She pushed open the door, ushering her friend inside. "But I am buying you lunch, so that should make it even."
"I suppose so." Stefana shrugged. "Though I'm tempted to order the most expensive stuff they got now, just because."
"Meanie." Marissa dimpled.
They chose a window booth, out of the direct view of most of the restaurant, and Stefana scooped up her menu, glancing at it.
"Right." She said, her expression one of mischief. "How much can I spend..."
"I'm gonna regret this." Marissa rolled her eyes heavenwards. "Stef, I'm not made of money."
"No, but you have royalty bonuses and I'm still paying Luca back." Stefana shrugged. "So you can afford to take your poor broke friend out for a decent meal now and again."
"Fine." Marissa picked up her own menu, poking her tongue out across the table. "But I want first option on spending a week in your house in Italy, when you and Luca have the whole thing settled."
Stefana laughed.
"Girl, we'll go together." She promised. "Without a doubt."
"This is friendly."
A fresh voice interrupted their merry banter and Stefana glanced up, scowling at the intruder.
"Darren, didn't I already tell you to go to Hell once this week?" She demanded. "Did you need me to draw you a map?"
"I thought I'd found the little piece of hell right here." Darren seemed unperturbed, dropping down into an empty seat. "Dinner break?"
"Yes." Marissa cast the reporter a cold look. "And you weren't invited."
"Why the snow queen act, Marissa? I'm hurt!" Darren pretended to look offended, and Marissa grimaced at him.
"After the stunt you pulled with Clay and my relationship? Not to mention the expose on his background! The Tribune had no business reporting that, and nor did you. We've nothing to say to tabloid scum like you."
"Shall I take that as a direct quote?" Darren asked amiably. "I'm not here to cause trouble, I promise. I've bigger fish to fry than your little love affair - I want to talk to Stefana about Synergy."
At the sound of the computer's name, Stefana visibly paled.
"Go away." She snapped. "I told you the other day, I don't know anything about the stupid theft!"
"Why would Stefana know anything about Jerrica's machine, Darren?" Marissa demanded. "She never even met her."
Darren's eyes widened, and he shook his head slowly, tut-tutting.
"Stefana, you didn't even tell your best friend about this?" He asked. "That is a story!"
"I told you. Go away." Stefana folded her arms across her chest. "I told you everything I knew about that once, and you got your exclusive out of it. I don't know a damn thing else and if I did I'd not be telling it to you. Your methods stink, your manners are worse and you're not offering cash up front. If I had a story to tell, don't you think I'd have sold it to Cool Trash by now? I'm not exactly made of money right at the moment."
Marissa's eyes could not get any bigger. "Are mean you were serious? know something about Jerrica's computer?"
"Mari, shut up." Stefana shook her head. "Not now."
She cast Darren an unwelcome glare.
"And you, unless you want me to call restaurant security on you, do as I told you already. Get. I'm sorry you've no leads for your sorry little story, but believe me, I was glad to see the back of that hunk of junk when Cynthia and I took you to the Drive Thru. There's nothing else to squeeze out of me, so write about that."
"Maybe I will." Darren looked contemplative.
"Cynthia?" Marissa cast Stefana a confused look. "I thought you hated Cynthia."
"Oh, really?" Darren's expression became one of interest. "I was told you were friends."
"It's more complicated than you know, Mari. I told you...shut up." Stefana snapped. "And we are friends, Darren - of one kind. Of the kind who don't like blackmailers and who team up to get shot of them off the case. All right? Go speak to someone else about your problem. It sure as hell wasn't me who broke into the FBI lab - and if you don't believe me, ask Mari where I was that night. We were together the whole evening."
"I can't. You told her to shut up." Darren said, an infuriating smile touching his lips.
Before Stefana could respond, however, there was a commotion from the far side of the restaurant, and all three turned to see what was going on. Someone was arguing with the man behind the counter.
"Isn't that...Sylva?" Marissa frowned.
Sure looks like her." Stefana grimaced. "Nothing important, then."
"She's coming this way." Marissa shook her head. She pursed her lips, eying Stefana thoughtfully. "Are you secret friends with her too?"
"Don't start with me." Stefana shot back. "And no. Not in a million years."
"I want a word with you, Stefana."
At that moment, Sylva reached their table, casting the Diablo guitarist a steely look. "I want to talk to you about some of the things you've been doing...or saying."
"What in hell business is it of yours what I do?" Stefana demanded. "Like I'm scared of you and your too good to be true curls, Sylva. Get lost, will you? There's enough unwelcome company at this table without you crashing the party."
"You're a thief and a liar, that's why." Sylva banged her hands down on the table, glaring at the hapless Stefana. "I've read the press article. I know what you've done. You should own up. You should give back what doesn't belong to you."
"I beg your pardon?" Stefana looked bewildered. "What are you bleating on about now? What should I be giving back?"
"Synergy." Sylva's eyes narrowed. "I don't care if you have got some sordid little habit to feed, you shouldn't steal things that don't belong to you."
"Shut your face, before I do it for you!"
Stefana was on her feet, grabbing Sylva by the wrists and pushing her away from the table. "You've got a damn nerve, barging in here and making those kind of accusations! I could damn well sue you for slander - I had nothing to do with any theft and I don't appreciate being attacked by an airhead when I'm trying to enjoy some free time with my friend!"
Sylva stared at her, then, carefully, she removed Stefana's hand from her wrists. She shook her head.
"You've been warned." She said darkly. "You'll see what happens to people who steal, cheat and lie."
Stefana opened her mouth to retort, but at that moment, she caught sight of a familiar watch on the girl's wrist and she faltered, taking a step back.
"What in hell are you doing here!" She demanded, in anxious tones. "And what are you playing at? Dammit, go home and leave me alone! This isn't funny!"
Sylva turned a pair of cold blue eyes on her, and now Stefana could see all too clearly the pixellation in their depths. Around her throat was a gold chain with the initials JB intertwined on the pendant, and absently the other girl toyed with it, almost lovingly.
There was something unnerving in her action, and Stefana suppressed a shiver, shaking her head.
"I don't have it." She said softly. "I don't know who does, but it's not me. I swear."
The apparition - who Stefana now knew was not Sylva - narrowed her gaze till they were almost slits, then she shook her head.
"We'll see." She said, in icy tones. "We'll see."
With that she turned on her heel, crossing back across the restaurant.
"Well, someone clearly thinks you know more about this than you're telling me, Stefana." Darren slipped his pen and notebook out of his pocket. "Your comments? Or shall I go chase up Sylva for the scoop?"
"That wasn't Sylva." Stefana was visibly shaken, and she dropped down into her seat, her face ashen. She put a hand out, pushing his pen away from the page. "Trust me, Darren. That...that wasn't Sylva."
"It looked like her to me." Marissa frowned. "Unless...isn't she a twin?"
"No...that's not what I mean." Stefana shook her head. "It was...someone pretending to be her."
"Are you sure?" Darren looked suspicious. "It looked like her to me."
Stefana spread her hands.
"Darren, I swear. Whatever that was, that wasn't a Jewel." She said quietly. "Sylva wouldn't speak to me, anyhow. We don't like each other and there's no secret about it. She certainly wouldn't mention Synergy to me. After all...after all, what would she know about...about Jerrica's computer?"
"So you're saying someone is impersonating her, walking round Los Angeles and attacking you for no reason?" Darren pursed his lips. "Either this story is huge, or you're feeding me a line."
"Well, if you print this, and then you find out Sylva was someplace else, you'll look pretty dumb." Stefana retorted. "And I'm telling you. That wasn't her."
She fumbled in her bag for her cigarettes and her lighter. "And I'm going out for a smoke. My nerves have had enough, with one thing and another. Mari, if you can get rid of el Jerk here, I'll be back in a couple of minutes."
"That's easy." Marissa eyed Darren in disdain. "He leaves, or I call for security."
"All right, all right. I'm going." Darren rolled his eyes. "But dammit, Steffi, I'm going to get to the bottom of this. And if you know what's going on, I advise you to tell me...else you might find yourself in the papers on another matter."
"My name is Stefana!" Stefana shot back, and the reporter offered her a wink, getting to his feet and sauntering out of the restaurant.
Stefana made to follow, but Marissa put a hand on her arm.
"When were you going to tell me about all this, and what exactly just happened?" She asked softly. "I'm your friend, Stef - don't you trust me?"
"I tried to tell you and Farah both once." Stefana shook her head. "It's not my fault if you thought I was lying."
"We didn't think you were lying." Marissa looked uncomfortable. "We thought you were confused - we didn't see how you could possibly...but you said you'd given that Tribune guy your story already? How so? I guess I'm the one who's confused."
"I told him something to get him off my back." Stefana glanced around her, then lowered her voice. "He was going to blackmail me...and Cynthia, she was wrapped up in it too. we were kind of forced together to come up with something he'd believe. We succeeded and it got him off our case. someone's stolen the bits of Synergy that the FBI had, and God knows what's going on, to be quite honest."
"And it has something to do with that...girl who wasn't Sylva?"
"Mari, that wasn't a girl at all." Stefana ran her fingers through her hair in some agitation. "It was an illusion."
"Like the type of thing that machine projected?"
"So you think...whoever stole it is now using it whatever end? That they've fixed it up and got it working?"
"Maybe." Stefana looked grim. "All I know is that that wasn't Sylva, and someone has some serious explaining to do. Now, I'm going for a cigarette to calm my nerves. Order for me and I'll be back in two minutes."
"Okay." Marissa picked up the menu once more, eying her friend thoughtfully.
"I've not seen you this freaked out in a while." She realised. "Are you mixed up in something I should know about?"
"I'm hoping I'm not mixed up in anything." Stefana said darkly. "Catch you in a few."
Before Marissa could ask any more questions she had ducked outside into the fresh air, lighting her cigarette with a shaking hand.
"Maybe I was right the first time. Maybe that machine is deranged after all." She muttered, flicking ash onto the cobbles. "But dammit, I want to know what's going on. That was Cynthia's watch...was I wrong to trust her? I need to speak to Sadie. Maybe she can figure this whole mess out for me, and she deserves to know what that crazy computer is playing at, if nothing else!"

Prologue: Emmet's Task

Chapter One: Discontent
Chapter Two: Jewel In Session
Chapter Three: Mirage
Chapter Four: The Contact
Chapter Five: Le Klub Kool
Chapter Six: Sullivan
Chapter Seven: Cracks
Chapter Eight: Illusion
Chapter Nine: Jacqui
Chapter Ten: Marissa Demands
Chapter Eleven: Stefana's Warning

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.