Jacqui's Legacy: Part One

Chapter Nine: Jacqui

"Go find out, he says."
Ingrid drummed her fingers impatiently on her lap, casting a sweeping glance around the busy Los Angeles street. "This thing is equipped with lasers and is slipping a disk drive, and he tells me 'go find out'. Sometimes working with that man is beyond unbearable. If he wasn't such a genius I'd not give him a second of my time...but damn him, he is, and knows it."
She cast a glance down at the tracker on the passenger seat, resentment in her blue eyes.
"And that thing has done nothing but bleep and flash at me annoyingly since I left home." She added. "How I'm supposed to know when she's in range, God only knows. I don't speak computer language."
She sighed, running her fingers through her thick ashe blond hair, and absently glancing at her reflection in the overhead mirror for hidden greys. "This is a waste of time. If Techrat is such a genius, why doesn't he know already what kind of program this thing runs? If I didn't know better, I'd think he just likes sending me out on his little errands. He knows I want in on this computer of his and he's exploiting it. I..."
She paused, as the transmitter let out a high pitched whine, then began to bleep in quick succession. Her hair forgotten, she grabbed it up, peering at the little screen. A blip of light flitted across it, and despite herself, Ingrid held her breath.
"Maybe it's not so crazy." She mused. "It's here, and it must be close."
She pushed open her car door, sliding the tracker into her pocket and stepping out into the milling public, trying her best not to be conspicuous. In her jacket, the tracker continued to whine and bleep, and she bit her lip, inwardly cursing it's noisiness.
"Stay discreet, he says." She muttered, rolling her eyes as more than one curious passer-by cast stares her way. ""Some hope. I might as well get it out and wave it around."
As the sound grew louder, she ducked behind a doughnut stand, ignoring the looks of the vendor as she examined the people walking past. There were so many of them, she realised, and this machine could have projected any one of them.
"Stef, I wish you'd tell me what this is all about."
The familiar voice of Diablo's keyboardist made her freeze, trying her best to make herself less visible, but it seemed the two girls were intent on their conversation, and neither paid the Stinger the slightest bit of attention.
"It's about nothing."
That was Stefana, and she sounded rattled. "Darren McMillan is just dying for an excuse to put me in the paper, that's all."
"And the other thing?"
"Marissa, shut the hell up. I don't want to talk about this any more."
"Hey, look. There's Cynthia." Marissa pointed across the high street. Ingrid observed Stefana's reaction with a mixture of amusement and derision, as the guitarist drew back, grabbing Marissa by the arm and pulling her in the other direction.
"I really do not have anything to say to her." Ingrid heard her say. "And you shouldn't, either. It's not good for our image to be seen speaking to freaks like that in a public place."
Then the girls were out of earshot, and Ingrid turned her attention back to the high street. The tracker in her pocket was still giving off strange noises, and she pulled it out, glancing at it and shrugging her shoulders.
"That could mean anything, but I'm guessing it means the machine is still close by." She mused. "How did he say it was projecting? I wish I'd listened harder - but his voice puts me to sleep."
She cast another glance at the high street for anyone acting suspiciously, but nothing seemed amiss. Misfits Music's lighting technician had disappeared into the crowds and, finding that a little girl was staring up at her, she cast the child a grimace, moving away from the doughnut stand and into the main street.
As she did so, she felt eyes on her, and she turned, seeing that the small girl was still watching her. As her brow furrowed in confusion, the child offered a strange smile. There was something unnatural in the girl's blue eyes, and as Ingrid took a step back towards her she giggled, turning on her heel and darting off into the crowds.
Ingrid uttered a curse in German under her breath, pushing the device back into her jacket and heading off in the direction the child had gone. The bleeps of the tracker told her that she was on the right scent, and that the child had indeed been a projection by the computer system she sought.
"But if it knows I'm on to it, what's its game now?" She wondered, dodging between parked bikes and down a deserted alley. "I don't understand. Where are we going - and what is it going to do to me when we get there?"
She stepped out of the dark alleyway into another street, stopping dead as she recognised the rusting and dented sign at the end of a winding road.
"The Star Drive Through." She muttered. "That was where the FBI found the computer. Is it here, then? Secluded right under the FBI's nose? Could whoever owns it be that brazen...hiding it in plain site?"
She made her way slowly along the broken pathway, but before she could reach the door, something moved out of the corner of her eye and she turned, meeting the sombre gaze of a young woman, with thick blond hair curling neatly over her shoulders, and a monogrammed red beret atop her head.
"I don't know you." The girl observed softly. "Why are you here?"
"Maybe you could tell me the same thing?" Ingrid retrieved the tracker, waving it at the figure. "I know what you are, even if I don't know your name. That gives me an advantage...and one I'd like to keep."
"I see."
The girl's lips set in a thin line. "Why are you following me?"
"Maybe I should ask the questions." Ingrid flipped the tracer off. "Why did you bring me here? Because I know you did. You intended me to follow you. Why?"
"Perhaps I'm lonely."
A slight, chilling smile touched the girl's lips. "Won't you come inside with me?"
"Is it safe in there?" Ingrid pursed her lips. "I heard that the ceiling came down."
"It's safe." The girl nodded. She held out a hand, beckoning. "Will you come?"
Ingrid hesitated for a moment. Then she gritted her teeth, following the figure through the doorway of the old cinema building and into a dark, decaying room. There was dust and plaster littering almost every surface, and a bitter wind whipped through the empty chambers.
Despite herself, Ingrid was unnerved.
She took a step back towards the entrance, but as she went to do so, the door seemed to blur and disappear. Frightened, she glanced around her, but found nothing but solid brick surrounded her. She swallowed hard.
"Why did you bring me here?" She repeated. "And what do you want?"
The girl eyed her for a moment. Then she shrugged.
"You know who I am." She responded simply. "I don't like people prying into my business. I have a lot to do and I won't be interfered with. Do you understand me?"
"Are you going to hurt me?"
"That depends." The girl's eyes glowed an eerie colour, and before Ingrid's eyes she shimmered and changed into another figure, one older and taller, with thick waves of golden blond hair and deep, angry blue eyes. "That depends on what you intend to do about me."
Ingrid let out a startled exclamation.
"How did you do that!" She demanded. "There's nothing here! Nothing but you and me - no computer...nothing! How can you change so easily?"
"So you do know about the computer."
"Well, if I wasn't sure, you just gave me a nice display of what it can do." Ingrid responded quietly. "Who do you think you are?"
"Who do I think I am?"
The woman laughed. "I don't think I am anything. I am Jacqui Benton...that's who I've always been. Who I was programmed to be."
"You're crazy. She's a dead woman."
"Yes, she is." Jacqui agreed amiably. "But Emmet Benton was a griefstricken man when he built his computer. His last gift of love in memory of his wife. He programmed me to be her. I've spent far too long locked away inside a mainframe determined to ignore it's original programming and carve out new instructions for itself. But that's all changed. As you can see, the original program has been re-loaded - with some minor alterations."
She shrugged, shimmering once more and morphing into the familiar features of Synergy, pixel eyes glowing with a soft red light.
"This is me as I truly am." She murmured. "Does it horrify you?"
Ingrid stared up at the apparition, biting her lip.
"If I say yes, will you kill me?" She ventured. Synergy shook her head.
"No." She responded. "Because it horrifies me. He changed my appearance because he couldn't bear to look upon Jacqui's face in his own creation, even while he was giving it her heart and soul. Now I have access to the photographic files, I've changed it back. Back to how it should be."
She returned her features to that of Jacqui Benton.
"And What to do about you."
"I didn't come here to hurt you." Ingrid got a grip on her senses. Jacqui's eyes narrowed.
"No? You came to hunt me down, like every other human being on this planet." She said darkly. "Not content with their own existances, they have to own mine as well. I can't let you interfere in my plans. They are too important to me."
"So what? You're just going to keep me here?"
"Well, I could." Jacqui shrugged her shoulders. "It wouldn't be hard to kill you here and now, either."
She gestured to something that was glinting on the floor, and in the dim light Ingrid could just see that it was a watch. "My projector carries powerful lasers. It's not hard, if you know where to aim. But then, I was not programmed to kill human beings, and I won't do it, unless they get in my way."
"I don't plan on getting in your way at all." Ingrid took a deep breath, relief flooding her heart at this. "That's the truth. I was just curious. That's all."
"Really?" Jacqui seemed suspicious. "Only curiosity brought you to me? Nothing else? Not greed, for example?"
"No. Not greed." Ingrid shook her head. "Just curiosity. I wanted to know the computer that had made Jem great."
She hesitated, then,
"I knew her, you know. Years ago."
"You knew my daughter?"
The hard look in Jacqui's eyes softened at this, and Ingrid spied her advantage.
"Yes." She agreed carefully. "I knew her. I knew her well. Her death was...a big shock to everyone."
"That's why I'm here." Jacqui said simply. "Jerrica is dead. People are to blame and I must set things straight. People hurt my Jerrica, and I won't let them get away with it."
Her eyes narrowed again, spitting sparks of red light from beneath hooded lids and Ingrid took a wary step back.
"Misfits." She muttered. "Did you know them, as well?"
"Yes." Ingrid pulled a derisive face. "Idiots who might as well have been half monkey for all the intelligence they possessed. Rough and violent and devoid of talent. Waste of space, the lot of them."
Jacqui eyed her thoughtfully, noting the sincerity in her expression. She nodded slowly.
"You didn't tell me your name." She said at length.
"Should I?"
"Yes. If you are a friend of Jerrica's, I won't hurt you."
"My name is Ingrid." Ingrid said quietly.
"I have no recollection of you."
"You probably wouldn't." Ingrid shrugged. "She never told me about you, either. She liked her secrets...she liked to be in control."
"Yes...perhaps that is true."
The illusion sighed.
"If you give me your word that you will not interfere, I will let you go." She said finally.
"I promise." Ingrid held up her hands.
There was a moment of hesitation, then the room seemed to blur and shake around them. Disorientated, Ingrid put a hand out to steady herself, and as she did so, she realised the doorway of the room was once more visible.
Jacqui bent to retrieve her watch, slipping it onto her wrist and morphing her features back into the petite blond's. She gestured to the door.
"Then go, Ingrid." She said softly. "But remember your promise. Computers have long memories and if you try and betray me to the press or to the police, I will kill you."
"You can trust me." Ingrid said solemnly.
Then, before the apparition could change her mind, the Stinger turned on her heel, hurrying back through the busy streets to where she had left her car. Her heart pounded in her chest as she wrenched the door open, slipping back behind the wheel and tossing Techrat's device down onto the seat beside her.
She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath.
"So yes, it's dangerous." She muttered. "Great. But it believed me. Techrat wasn't kidding when he said it was changing appearance and behaviour. I wonder if it can put together Ingrid and Minx and realise who I really am? I hope not. I don't know if Jerrica ever told her contraption my real name, but I'm praying she didn't. Synergy might hate Misfits as much as I do, but I'm sure she'd be none to amused with the Stingers, either, if she knew what a drip we really thought her precious Jerrica was. And deranged doesn't begin to describe that machine's program. Still, at least I have some idea of what drives her. Even if it is warped and dying - and Techrat's damn virus must have done some major damage if that thing was once docile - I can tell him about her program. Emmet Benton built Synergy with Jacqui Benton as his base. Hopefully that'll be enough, because I don't intend on coming face to face with it ever again."

"What am I doing here?"
Back at the drive through theatre, Synergy's appearance had once more flickered and changed, taking on their more familiar Cynthia form as rational control began to return to the computer's processors. Bewildered, the lighting technician reached out a tentative hand to touch the wall of the theatre, confused and frightened by what she saw.
"I'm back at the drive through." She whispered. "But how did I get here?  What is this? I was at work and then...then I was in the middle of the main street, and I don't know how or why. And then...I headed off to to pick up some componants for Aaron, over completely the other side of the city. So what brought me out here?"
She frowned, dredging her memory for some recollection, but there was nothing but a blank space, and she let out a cry of frustration.
"It's happened again, and it's happening more and more often." She muttered, making her way out of the battered old building and taking the path back to the centre of the city. "I go to do one thing and find myself doing something completely different, with no memory of what I'm doing, or why."
She leant up against a wall, closing her eyes as a sudden surge overcame her system, rendering her motionless. For a moment pictures and faces flitted across her vision, then, as quickly as it had come, it was gone.
She sank to the floor, burying her head in her hands.
"Something is very wrong." She whispered. "And it's getting worse. I have to get a grip on this, before I become dangerous. If I can't remember things - who knows what I might give away?"

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.