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Chapter 5 - Simtrixx Incorporated

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Lady Jayne cradled her tea cup. Conversation flowed freely around the table. Everyone was relaxed and in good spirits. She surveyed the young people around her. It had been some time since she had such a small casual group for tea. Her 'Teas' were usually grander affairs with buffet tables and socialites talking politics or charities. She glanced at Nikki who was laughing openly at something Ash had said, The boy was regaling her with his many, many exploits.

Jace was trying to keep a straight face. He was listening with a half-smile at Ash's outrages lies and obvious exaggerations. He would be leaving them in a few days, she thought and was surprised to feel a tiny twinge of sadness. The boys had signed-up for a Gaming competition. All participants were provided food and lodgings at a gaming complex to facilitate gaming and the show.

It was a new reality series based on a VRMMORPG and promised to be the next big thing for entertainment. The reality show will feature the players' avatars, not the players themselves. Viewers will be able to follow their adventures as they complete quests and level up. They would also be able to vote for their favourites. The confirmation of short-listed candidates was released this morning and the two boys were excited.

"Jonathan," Lady Jayne said quietly studying the handsome youth before her. It was time to let him know that she was aware of who he really was.

Jace stiffened immediately, the amusement faded from his boyish face and colour drained from his complexion. His frozen smile disappeared as he clenched his jaw and automatically straightened up in his chair. His whole demeanour changed in a matter of seconds. His face took on a haunted cast.

"No!" Ash half stood from his chair in shock as his friend's transformation. "Jace! No, don't go back there. You are Jace not Jonathan!" his voice was urgent. "Jace!"

Ash eyed his friend anxiously who didn't seem to hear him. He glared at the older woman.

Taking a deep breath Jace closed his eyes frowning. A few moments later when he opened them again, they were dead and calm. The humour and fun had fled. She could almost hear his defensive walls coming up as he retreating behind them. In a few short breaths the change in the youth before them was undeniable. Jace the easy going teenager was no longer with them. In his place sat Jonathan Carter, serious, intense ... guarded.

"Jonathan?" she asked.

Ash was frozen. All conversation had stopped.

"Are you alright?" Lady Jayne continued in a gentle voice.

A pause.

"Yes," Jace lifted his head warily. "Yes ma'am. I am. Thank you for asking," he answered in a monotone.

Jace waited, expectantly. What was he waiting for? she wondered. She looked at Ash, who was shaking his head urgently, frowning, trying to tell her to stop. Don't do it, please, his eyes pleaded. Don't remind him of who he is. The blond boy was agitated and barely able to control himself, he glared at her ready to leap at his friend's defence. He was trying frantically to warn her of something.

Jace noticed Ash then. He turned slowly to his friend and gave a slight shake of his head.

"It's okay Ash. I suppose the Lady has known for some time now." The same dead voice.

Ash sat down uncertainly. "Jace?"

Jace turned back to smile ironically at Lady Jayne.

"Thank you Ma'am. I trust you to keep my confidence in this matter."

Jace looked directly at her, holding her gaze with his own, daring her to do otherwise.

Lady Jayne couldn't believe it, he was challenging her! Here was the young man who had grown up in luxury and power, not the homeless boy living in his battered car. But she could hold her own.

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