Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Sylva stared at the executive, a look of horrified disbelief on her face. "But Jetta, we spent all the last two days doing this wretched video...now we have to play Connie's show live? Don't we ever get sleep time any more?"
"Nope, not if you want this to be an 'it." Jetta looked unsympathetic. "Stop your whingin', Sylva. You weren't called in 'ere this mornin' till eleven, an' you won't be called to Connie's studio till about two. Between now an' then I want you to lay down the B track for this single release. It's gonna be in the shops from Monday, with a bit of luck...Zoe's workin' flat out to edit up the video so that it will be airin' on MTV from the weekend. Now you 'ave to play it, get people interested!"
"Connie's Corner isn't so bad. It could be KBST." Nancy pointed out. "You know they always want a piece of scandal. That DJ of theirs would spend all morning trying to get info on Topaz and the baby, and he'd take Sadie to pieces."
"He might not." Sadie glanced up from where she had been examining her pastel pink nails for chips. "I'm starting to get the hang of interviews. You smile and you're polite and you tell them as little as possible. I'm getting to be a pro at that."
"Good girl." Jetta eyed her keenly. "See, Sylva? Sadie ain't moanin'."
"Sadie's insane, then." Sylva retorted. "We've barely had any rest at all!"
"You had time to go shopping yesterday." Nancy pointed out. "Mom, what are we gonna be doing on Connie's show? Just interviewing and playing the song?"
"Yep, what else do you wanna do? A circus routine?" Jetta smirked. "Now, get out with you. You 'ave a B side to record.
'Ere, before you do...'ave any of you seen Cynthia this mornin'? I need to speak to her about the set at Connie's show."
"She left before any of us were up." Copper responded. "Can't Aaron do it?"
"Aaron is doin' it, love." Jetta grinned. "But there ain't a better backstage team than Cynthia an' Aaron, an' Cynthia's department is lightin'. If you see 'er, let 'er know I'm lookin' for 'er, all right? I wish that girl would get a cellphone!"
"We'll tell her." Nancy promised. "Though if she's working downstairs, we probably won't see her before you do."
"That's strange, don't you think?" Copper remarked, as they left the office and headed to the main recording studio to tune up.
"What is?" Sylva asked. "Jetta making us work? Sadly, no!"
"No, I meant Cynnie not being on hand." Copper shook her head. "We didn't see her at all last night...and we haven't seen her this morning, either."
"You think something's wrong?" Nancy asked. Copper shrugged.
"That's what I can't figure out." She admitted. "Synergy was fine before I left this morning, because I asked her if she could print off some rhythm sheets for me from the net. Surely that wouldn't take up enough of her memory to stop her projecting Cynthia? But she didn't mention anything was up to me."
"It's hard sometimes getting my head around Synergy and Cynthia." Sadie admitted. "They have the same mind, but they're two different entities...I don't know whether to think of them as one or two."
"Cynthia is like one of us." Sylva said thoughtfully. "Synergy is a computer, and I think that's the difference. Even though they have the same mind, as you say, it's easier to forget Cynthia isn't human like the rest of us. Synergy always seems like the computer she is...Cynthia could be real flesh and blood."
"I wonder why Mrs Pacheco didn't get her patented in her father's name." Sadie mused. "She told me a lot about herself and her original family...I know she's bitter about being abandoned and shut away. I wonder why she wasn't patented posthumously."
"I think the money was never there." Copper said. "Mama was a Hologram, but she was never rich as a member of the band. Everything that the Holograms made went into living costs, more or less. Raising the Starlight girls and running Starlight Music. Consequently there wasn't a lot of surplus profit."
"When the band seperated, there was a big crisis." Sylva nodded. "That's part of the reason why Raya took her first acting job - isn't that right, Copper?"
"Yes, but she found she really loved it." Copper grinned. "And she met Papa...they fell in love...and here I am to tell the tale several years on!"
"Sweet story." Sadie remarked. "I keep forgetting that your mother knew Synergy before we did, Copper."
"So did mine." Sylva pointed out. "Though I didn't find that out for quite a while!"
"It's amazing really that, even this far down the line, there still isn't any technology to match Cynthia." Nancy pursed her lips. "Emmet Benton was a clever guy, whatever you think of his family. He knew what he was doing when he built her."
"Definitely." Copper agreed. "But I'm sure he didn't intend her to be so eccentric or independant minded. That's where I worry about Cynnie, guys. Parts of her core program are so warped and damaged from her long time offline...I worry when she disappears like this. It always suggests to me that she's planning something."
"And so I am, Copper."
From her hiding place, Cynthia observed the group as they disappeared into the main studio, a smile on her face. "So you're playing Connie's Corner tonight? Aaron was right about that." Amusement touched her violet eyes. "Funnily enough, Diablo also got a call from the studio to play tonight's show. What an interesting coincidence that was!"
She glanced down at the phone in her hand. She had borrowed it from Aaron to make the call, though he was as yet unaware of it, and she had neatly imitated the voice of the busy production assistant for Connie's show, Julie Kazar. She had arranged with Rory for Diablo to appear on the show, and then had made a quick trip to the studios herself, morphing her features and mannerisms into Rory's as she sweet-talked the production staff into making space for his group.
"And then, the fireworks begin." She mused, blending herself back into the background as an intern turned down the corridor. "Who would have thought that now I'd have stretched this far? From being the Holograms' most loyal accomplice, to my employment at Misfit Music was one step...now I am willingly participating in a scheme with one of the Misfits themselves...and thoroughly enjoying the chance to play the devil! I remember Roxy very well...I know she is both rough and ready, and she will scare the living daylights out of Stefana. A pleasant thought...I should like to see it. It will not, after all, be hard to trick Stefana into sabotaging what she thinks is Jewel's equipment."
She pursed her lips, considering.
"I just hope that Roxy doesn't ask too many questions as to how I can arrange all of this so easily." She decided. "She is still a Misfit, even if we have a common goal. There was good reason that they never knew about me all those years ago...and I'm not sure it is safe for her to make the connection now between Cynthia and Synergy, even though so many years have passed. Misfits are ruthless and reckless, and that is all very well, but I do not wish to become the hunted."
She lifted Aaron's phone, flicking through the numbers till she found the one for Roxy's phone. Hitting call, she passed on her progress to her co-conspirator.
"So Jewel and Diablo will conveniently play the same show tonight." She concluded. "I think it will be very easy indeed to lure Stefana into a trap...she has such hate for Jewel, she will not think twice."
"Good." Roxy's voice came back down the line. "Then I'll see ya tonight, yeah? Don't wimp out, okay?"
"I never do, Roxy."
"Well, with you Bentons, I never know."
"Trust me - I am not your average Benton." Cynthia was amused. "I will see you tonight, Roxy...and we'll teach Stefana not to mess with that which she does not understand!"
"Oh brilliant. This evening could not get any worse."
Sylva glanced out of the window of the limousine, grimacing up at the sky. "Thunder and lightning, and now you tell me that Diablo are playing tonight too? Cynthia, you really know how to cheer a girl up!"
"I only thought you should be aware." Cynthia shrugged. "Jetta mentioned it to me, and told me that Aaron and I must do everything to ensure your performance tonight was extra-special. I told her that I would make sure it was a night to remember."
"What are you up to, Cynnie?" Copper looked suspicious. "I know that look - it's your scheming one!"
"Scheming?" Cynthia opened her eyes wide. "No, Copper. Merely planning in my mind how best to accentuate Jewel's new song. I have worked hard to organise a layout that will, I hope, please you...and Los Angeles is buzzing at the idea of a new Jewel single in time for Christmas."
"Hrm." Copper narrowed her eyes, eying her friend thoughtfully. Cynthia adopted a hurt look.
"Why are you so suspicious of me?" She asked. "I am only doing my job!"
"I hope you are." Copper told her. "We don't need any bad blood with Diablo, especially not at this time of year."
"Well, Diablo are not my concern." Cynthia said primly. "Jewel are. You may take me at my word - I am programmed not to deceive."
"Yes, and there is a lie right there, since you damn well lied your ass off when it came to the Jem memorial!" Nancy exclaimed.
"That was different. It was the only chance I could see to avenge myself on Jerrica, and I did not know you well enough to know if I could trust you with my intentions." Cynthia defended herself. "Now I am your friend, and I hope you can trust me."
"We do trust you, Cyn." Sylva assured her. "We just wish that sometimes you would follow your original programming!"
"There is no fun in following the crowd." Cynthia shrugged. She cast Sadie a grin. "How do you feel? Your first time to sing live on television!"
"I was fine till you reminded me of that." Sadie grimaced. "I'll be all right, though. Nancy kicks the song off, and I'll hopefully get into my rhythm by the time my section comes around. Truth is, too much is resting on this. Jetta's drummed it into all of us how important this is - me especially."
"And here we are. Torrential rain to greet us and everything." Nancy rolled her eyes. "I hope we're not going to be drowned rats for this performance!"
"They can do wonderful things in make up." Cynthia said absently. "Will you excuse me? I must ensure your set is ready."
"Okay, I'm sure she's up to something now." Copper frowned. "Am I just being paranoid, guys, or does she seem to be plotting something to you, too?"
"I don't know. Hard to say." Nancy pursed her lips. "But I think I'd rather not ask."
A studio employee greeted them at the door, and, although most of the fans had been discouraged by the weather, a small cluster were huddled at the entrance in hopes of seeing their idols and getting highly sought after autographs. Soon, however, the group were safely inside their dressing room, enjoying it's warmth and discussing the best way to tackle the interview. Cynthia, now forgotten, crept along the corridor, carefully locking the door of Jewel's dressing room to ensure that none of them would come out early and interfere in her performance. Then she gently removed the Jewel logo from the door of the dressing room, fixing it instead to the room next door. She stood back, admiring her handiwork.
"No better place to lure Stefana than Jewel's dressing room." She mused. "Particularly as one of Jewel. Now to find Roxy."
"Right here, kid." A voice from behind her startled her and she turned to see the former Misfit watching her with careful brown eyes. "Well? It's done?"
"Yeah. I locked Jewel in so that they did not get involved." Cynthia nodded. "They are in there." She indicated. "And Stefana will think that they are in this one."
"When she realises that she's got it wrong, though, she'll go looking, surely?" Roxy demanded.
"Indeed." Cynthia winked. "Which is why I took the precaution of recording Jewel's conversation earlier on." She put her hand in her pocket, producing a tiny handheld dictaphone. Had Roxy but known it, the machine was as holographic as Cynthia herself, for the computer saw no need for additional expense, and had every intention of using her projectional abilities to make Stefana believe that the dressing room was inhabited. She had secreted one of her small projection units from the stage for the purpose, and she closed her fist tightly around it, not wanting it to be seen by the astute Misfit.
"So she'll hear them say something about the weather? Great." Roxy rolled her eyes. "How are you gonna get her in the studio?"
"I can splice." Cynthia snapped. "I'm a technician, what do you take me for? Stefana will hear Jewel talk about special equipment in the studio, that is vital to this performance. She'll take the bait...she's a bitter, vengeful creature, but she has few brains."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Roxy looked approving. "I got Clash and her people out of the way. They think there's a glitch in the broadcasting equipment - probably because I made one. We've about half an hour, maybe less - what do this Diablo look like? How will I know Stefana?"
"Look for someone who shoots off her mouth." Cynthia said dryly. "Stefana has dark hair, green eyes, and she never smiles, except when she is scheming. You will know her when you see her, Roxy. She is the one who has caused Jewel and myself all the trouble." She looked wistful. "I only wish that there was some way to correct her programming faults. It's such a shame that humans cannot be adjusted the same way as computers."
"Hush, someone's coming!" Roxy hissed. "Must be Diablo. I'll see you in a while...make sure it works, huh?"
"Don't worry." Cynthia winked. "Nothing will give me more pleasure than to upset Stefana Ranieri. Trust me...nothing will go wrong."
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
Chapter One: Back In Los Angeles
Chapter Two: Christmas Plans
Chapter Three: Like Old Times
Chapter Four: The Truth About Anna
Chapter Five: The Video Shoot
Chapter Six: Topaz's Sensation
Chapter Seven: Sadie's Tattoo
Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Nine: Misfit vs Devil
Chapter Ten: An Old Flame
Chapter Eleven: Topaz Again
Chapter Twelve: A Christmas Present