Chapter Nine: Misfit vs Devil
"Steffi, for once, could you please shut up complaining and just get on
with what we have to do?"
Luca rolled his eyes, pushing open the door of Diablo's dressing room. "We have a song to play - and yes, I know it's at short notice, and yes, I know the weather is atrocious, but dammit, we want Christmas number one, don't we? We have to do some work, you know."
"Why? Jewel don't." Stefana sulked. "You can sit around here and play sweet. I'm going to go find somewhere dry to have a fag!"
"Fine, but don't be late back. We have a song to perform, don't forget!"
"I know, dammit! Think I'm gonna let Jewel play their sappy number and bail on our own? Get a grip, Luca!" Stefana was scathing. "I'll see you later."
She banged the door shut behind her, a deep scowl on her face. She had not appreciated being called out on such a dark, dismal night to share the studio with Jewel, for she knew from past experience that the local crowd considered the all girl group their own personal property. Diablo were popular, but Los Angeles was Jewel's home turf and Stefana hated being second best.
"Mind you, maybe it's not all bad." She mused, leaning up against the wall and lighting her cigarette, deliberately ignoring the "no smoking" signs that adorned the walls. "If I'm here, then it means I can think of a way to put a stopper in Jewel's so called smash hit performance, doesn't it? I wonder if those bitches are here yet."
She sidled up to the door which now bore Jewel's logo, unaware that Cynthia's projector was hidden inside, projecting Jewel's voices, and that Jewel themselves were not in evidence.
"I'm glad Aaron finished working on Cynthia's new light effects." she heard Nancy say. "After all, this song has been so much hard work this week."
"We're so totally going to blow Diablo away tonight though." Now it was Sylva. "They won't believe the stage show we've got cooked up...it's gonna make them look like amateurs. Diablo for Christmas number one? Only in Stefana's dreams!"
"She probably does dream about that." Nancy again, this time mocking. "But you're right. Jewel are a dead cert."
"Oh, so that's how it is, is it? Stupid, stuck up bitches!" Stefana clenched her fists in anger, stubbing her cigarette out with rather more force than necessary and stamping it into the carpet. "Fine, that's the last straw. If they aren't going to play fair, then I don't see what's wrong with me cutting corners. I should have finished that Cynthia off when I had the chance - if only that idiot Techrat hadn't been so full of himself that he had to prove he could make an antidote as well as the virus. Damn computer only gets in the way, anyway...I'm going to show her once and for all what Stefana Ranieri is made of. Their equipment is probably all set up - they play first. I wonder if they'll play so well if Cynthia's missing a few bulbs and has a few crossed wires?"
She turned on her heel, stalking up the corridor towards the main studio, and storming inside. Cynthia, who had concealed herself in the corridor as a pot plant, morphed herself back into her more familiar form and slowly followed the guitarist into the studio, slipping into the shadows to watch.
"Everything is going to plan." She murmured. "So let the games begin!"
"Damn Jewel, they always have to have so much damn stuff!"
Stefana tripped over a carelessly laid cable, grabbing hold of the speaker to steady herself. "Yes, I want to trash it, but dammit, I don't want them to know I've been here till it's too late! Now, where's that damn Cynthia? I'll sort out her projection units once and for all!"
"Will you now?"
An unfamiliar voice came from the darkness, and Stefana wheeled round, eying Roxy in some surprise and irritation.
"Who in hell are you, and what do you want?" She demanded. "I'm busy."
"I'm gonna ask the questions, not you." Roxy folded her arms. "What are you doing to Jewel's set?"
"Oh, wouldn't you like to know?" Stefana spat back. "A fan, are you? One of their sad past-it groupies, hoping for a glimpse of her idols? Gimme a break. Folk like you make me sick...Jewel are nothing but a bunch of stuck up liars who pay their way up the charts."
"Stefana Ranieri, I presume." Roxy's eyes narrowed in anger. "Noone talks to me like that, chump. If you don't know who you're addressing, I advise you keep your tongue in your head. Otherwise you might find you're forced to part with it...as well as a few other extremities."
"Oh, I know what this is." Stefana rolled her eyes. "Very smooth, Cynthia. Dress up like Ms Platinum Blonde here and try and fool me. Well, you don't scare me - not now and not ever."
"I am Cynthia, Stefana."
Cynthia stepped out of the shadows, sending her foe a sweet smile. "This is Roxanne Pelligrini - formerly Roxy of the Misfits. She's Jetta's sister in law...Nancy's Aunt. She was in the neighbourhood, and she happened to hear something about a fire at Flash Studios, where Jewel were laying down their video."
"I don't take nice to folk who mess with my family." Roxy agreed. "And messing a Misfit kid, well, that's something else. You better have a death wish, kid, because I'm damn tempted to put your head right through Copper's drum kit and be done with you."
"The Misfits are has-beens and I don't care who you are." Stefana put her hands on her hips. "I'm so scared, big tough Auntie Roxy's come to fight nerdy Nancy's corner, has she? Wow. Auntie Roxy and a computer who's too big for her boots. What the hell was I thinking? I should have brought my catapult and pellets to defend myself! Get a grip, will you? I'm Stefana - I'm not scared by you!"
"No?" In an instant Roxy was at Stefana's side, gripping her by the shoulders and forcing her down into a nearby chair. "Maybe you didn't hear, kid, that the Misfits were the hottest act the eighties produced...and they're still as good as they ever were!"
"Pah." Stefana snorted. Roxy's grip tightened.
"I don't like jealous little wimps who sneak about and play saboteur, rather than settling it the right way, with fists." She said darkly. "You're a coward and I've probably forgotten more things about playing a live show than you ever knew. You take my advice, and you leave this set - and this studio - well alone. You hear me? I want you off this set, and away from Jewel's equipment."
"But Diablo have to play!" Despite herself, Stefana's defiance was beginning to waver as she saw the determination in the older woman's brown eyes. Absently she remembered hearing something about the platinum Misfit and her rough way of handling matters, and a tiny knot of fear began to curl up inside of her.
"You won't do anything to me. You can't, there'd be too much trouble!" She exclaimed.
"If I find you've been messing with Jewel's stuff again, kid, then I'll tear you limb from limb." Roxy's expression was grim.
"You wouldn't dare!"
"I grew up livin' rough in Philadelphia. I learnt to defend myself against a grown man when I was fourteen...believe me, I don't bluff about these things." Roxy's eyes glinted and her grip tightened once more. "I want you off this set, you understand me? And if I hear you've been bothering Sylvina or Nancy or any of Jewel in the time before I leave, I will come and get you. Kapiche?" She indicated the Hologram. "Cynthia here knows where you live, and I'm sure she'd be happy to tell me."
"Let go of me!"
"Not until you give me your word to leave the set."
"Okay! Okay, dammit, I'll go!" Stefana exclaimed. "I'll tell Rory you threatened me, and..."
"I'm not scared of Rory Llewelyn." Roxy assured her smoothly. "Be quiet, little girl. Go home, play with your toys. You can't touch me and you know it."
She loosed her grip and Stefana did not hang around to find out if there was any more to hear. Cursing under her breath she fled the studio, anger in her heart.
"I'll tell Luca I'm sick." She decided, loathing the Misfit as she did so. "I daren't risk that animal tearing into me like she promised. Rory will be angry, but he said that noone must find out about our little plans to undermine Jewel. I'm not gonna be left out in the cold just because one of Nancy's family was never trained to be civilised. And I'll get that computer one of these days...so Cynthia, watch out!"
"Well, she was disappointingly tame."
Back in the studio, Roxy dropped down into the now vacated chair, an amused look on her face. "But I think I solved Jewel's little competition problem. Your trap worked...guess you're not as dumb as you look."
"And nor are you." Cynthia grinned. "I never thought I would work with a Misfit, but I find it quite appealing, to be on the dark side. It is so much more fun to be bad."
"Tell me about it, kid." Roxy grinned. "I s'pose you'd better go let Jewel out, huh? After all, if they don't go on air tonight, I'll have an irate sister in law to deal with. Not that I'd usually mind, but Stormer might make me sleep outside if she finds out I stopped her daughter performing on live TV."
"Indeed." Cynthia nodded. "I..." She faltered, putting a hand to her head as her hologram began to flicker slightly.
"What's eating you?" Roxy demanded. "Don't tell me the excitement was too much?"
"No, I'm fine...just...power surge." Cynthia struggled to regain some control, though it felt like fire was surging through her body. "Damn storm...lightning must have hit."
Her hologram flickered again, changing her between her Synergy and Cynthia forms, and her watch, no longer supported by the three dimensional projection dropped to the floor. As Roxy watched, transfixed, Cynthia battled to regain control of her projection units. Finally she did so, adjusting herself back to Cynthia and groping around on the floor for the watch.
"What in hell was that?" Roxy demanded.
"Power surge." Cynthia looked troubled. "Lightning must have hit the power wires near to the Starlight, or something. I'm fine now."
"I know what I saw." Roxy shook her head. "What in hell are you? Some kind of...well...freak?"
"I'm a computer simulation of a human being." Cynthia said slowly. "If I explain, you must swear to keep what I tell you in strictest confidence. I fear often for my life and safety, and few know my secrets. I have helped you tonight...now I ask for your help in concealing my true identity."
"Say what?" Roxy stared.
"Many years ago, Roxy, I was built by a man named Emmet Benton." Cynthia sat down beside the Misfit on an empty chair. "He was very clever, and I became far more than just a computer. I project holograms, but I also possess advanced artificial intelligence, and, thanks to Aaron, I now have the ability to project myself in solid form."
"Jem's computer." Roxy's eyes narrowed. "Jetta told me about the Memorial, and I thought the woman had been drinking too much! That's what you are, isn't it? Jem's damn computer! That damn machine that Eric was always so interested in. That's how you lured Stefana here...and how you scared Rapture, back at the reunion. Stefana said as much...she called you a computer, and I didn't even register it until...dammit, what kind of machine schemes with Misfits?"
"Synergy." Cynthia spread her hands. "Yes, you are correct. I am Jem's machine, but I am so much more now than I was then. Few know that Cynthia is no more than a projection powered by a powerful mainframe, and I prefer to live my life in anonymity. I am noone's slave, and noone's tool. I fear falling into the hands of dangerous people, who might reprogram me, and use me to harm others." She cast Roxy a troubled look. "I hope that my secret will be safe with you."
Roxy muttered a curse under her breath, then,
"Dammit, I can't believe Jetta was right after all!" She exclaimed. "Does she know about you? Has my sister in law been gloating about this behind my back for all eternity?"
"Jetta and Phyllis do not know of my true origin." Cynthia shook her head. "Stormer is aware of Synergy, but until tonight she was the only other Misfit to know. I would not have told you, either, but the storm interrupted my signal."
"Jerrica was a fool to lose hold of you." Roxy said shrewdly. "My nephew rebuilt you?"
"With improvements." Cynthia nodded. "He upgraded me, and in return I work as Jewel's lightning engineer. I use my capabilities to project superior stage effects."
"Well, if you're helpin' Sylvie and that brat neice of mine, I don't see me blurting this to the press." Roxy pursed her lips. "They'd think me mad, anyhow. But sheesh, we coulda done with a machine like you back in the eighties! No wonder Jem and the Holograms were always one damn step ahead!"
"My loyalties have changed, and so have my objectives." Cynthia responded softly. "Jewel are my friends, and Misfit Music my employers. I hope you do not consider me the enemy."
"Tonight proved otherwise." Roxy shook her head. She grinned. "Hey, you better go let Jewel out of their dressing room, huh? I'm gonna hit the road, make myself scarce...after all, the party here's over!"
"Thank you for keeping my secret." Cynthia said quietly.
"Hell, knowing something that Jetta don't about the company she thinks she rules...that's priceless in itself." Roxy winked. "I've had a fun night, all in all. Hey, you're all right with me, kid. Human or not, you're on the right side."
With that she was gone, and Cynthia rolled her eyes.
"I hope I can trust her, but I have little choice now but to put my faith in her word." She mused. "Meanwhile, I must release Jewel from their prison. They'll play well tonight, and they'll have the number one in the bag. I have no doubt about that!"
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