"What do you suppose is going on at home?"
Sylva perched herself on the windowsill of the main studio, peering out
through the blinds at the busy city. "Do you think Ray took Cynthia's bait?"
"Yeah, I reckon he did." Sadie nodded. "Al said once he has an idea in
his head it's hard to shift. He's obsessed with finding Synergy. Sooner
he dismisses us from his list of suspects, the better. Plus, I think the
whole exercise is good for her, too."
"How do you mean?" Copper looked startled. "The poor girl's sister is dead
and now someone's trying to hunt her down!"
"Distraction." Sadie shrugged. "I know it's extreme, but she did seem a
lot more herself earlier. It's as if this has given her something to focus
on. We don't know what damage Jerrica's death has done to her internally,
and it's not as if she has work to distract her. She still has compassionate
leave, remember? This is something else to think about. Besides, I think
she likes the idea of pitting her wits against federal authority. She doesn't
seem overly keen on them."
"I wouldn't be either, if they were always trying to dig me out." Nancy
grimaced. "But we owe Alex a lot for this, don't we, Sade?"
"More than I can ever repay him." Sadie frowned. "But I'll try and make
it up to him somehow, guys. That's a promise."
"He must really love you, you know. To go to all this trouble." Topaz adjusted
her microphone. Sadie shook her head.
"It isn't about me. It never has been - he told me so." She replied. "It's
always been between Cynthia and him. I wish I didn't feel guilty about it,
though. No matter how you dress it up, him keeping her a secret is him not
doing his job."
"This country is a free one, remember." Nancy shook her head. "What Ray
is trying to do is obscure that through his own curiosity. He's the one pushing
things. Not Alex. Alex is doing what any good man of law should be doing.
Protecting the innocent and worrying about chasing up the guilty. Aside
from a little light show at the Jem Memorial, Cynthia's never done anything
that could be construed as dangerous. Ray's on thin ice."
"And if he never finds Synergy, he can never prove she's dangerous." Sylva
agreed. "I mean, potentially, she could be. If she wanted to be, she has
all the ingredients."
"But Cyn isn't like that." Topaz shrugged. "If she was, I wouldn't let
her near my little girl. Besides, any person can be just as dangerous. Most
choose not to be, that's all. And Cyn is just like one of us. I'm glad Alex
realises it too."
"And we should get back to work, before Phyllis or Jetta come in on us
and want to know why we've stopped."
Nancy played a couple of experimental chords. "I think I'm in key now.
Can we run over it again?"
"Sure." Sylva jumped down from the sill. "I still wasn't happy with that
middle passage, anyway. It's not an easy key change and I don't want to
fudge it when we play live TV."
"I'll say one thing for playing live. It always keeps you on your toes."
Topaz grinned. "All right. I'm ready when you are."
"From the top, then." Copper twirled her drumsticks, settling herself more
comfortably on her stool. "One, two, three, and!"
Across the city, Synergy's sensors had detected the approach of patrol
cars crunching across the gravel of the Starlight Mansion's driveway. Muttering
a curse, she closed the programs she had been working on, firing up her
projectors and producing Cynthia. Grabbing her watch from the mainframe,
she headed up the steps to the door, as she became aware of frantic, impatient
"FBI, open up!" Came a shout, and Cynthia rolled her eyes, slipping the
watch once more from her wrist and setting it down beside the phone. Casting
a quick glance at her reflection in the hall mirror to make sure there was
nothing out of place, she reached for the door latch.
"FBI! Open up!" Came the call again, and Cynthia sighed.
"I'm coming, what do you think I am? Superman?" She demanded, pulling open
the door. "I...What the hell?"
She took a step backwards, meeting Ray's steely gaze with a startled one
of her own. "Agent Nicholson? Is something wrong?"
"Yeah, it might well be." Raymond waved the warrant at her, and she took
it, affecting surprise and astonishment as she scanned it over. "Miss Benton,
we have a warrant to search all parts of this property. Please, do not try
and interfere. We are on federal business and we have the power to put you
under arrest if you try anything funny."
"Try...anything funny?" Cynthia repeated, injecting as much shock into
her tone as she could. "Are you going to trample all over our carpets for
carpets?" Raymond waved an arm at the other officers, and like
a swarm of bees they disappeared into the bowels of the house. "Miss Benton,
what are you even doing here? I was under the impression that this was Jewel's
property? Or are you in on all of this, too?"
"In on all of what?" Cynthia adopted a confused look. "I've been stopping
here with Jewel since my sister's...sister's accident. She...er...it...it
shook me up."
She hesitated for just a brief instant, conjuring up tears, and Raymond
looked uncomfortable. "It's not been easy, Agent Nicholson. We were once so
close, and then to lose her without saying a last goodbye...and....and...I
didn't want to be alone. Jewel let me stay here because it was quiet and safe
and now you're ripping it to shreds." She bit her lip, swallowing hard as
her words reverberated all too painfully around her memory banks. "And why
are you ripping it to shreds, anyhow? Does Jewel know you're here? Where's
"Why we're here is federal business." Raymond said grimly. "And Agent Bray
is on other business. Marshall?"
"Yes, sir?" A petite young woman approached them.
"Take care of Miss Benton while we search the house." Raymond grimaced
at the hologram, then, "Last thing I need to deal with is an emotional woman.
You're better at that than me."
With that he was gone, and Cynthia cast the young police officer a careful
"Do you have a tissue?" She asked softly, folding and unfolding the warrant
in her hands. The woman nodded, ferretting in her pocket, and holding the
tissue out. Cynthia took it, wiping her eyes, then handing it back. The
young officer looked at it, then dropped it into the nearby waste bin.
"Was sorry to hear about your sister, Miss." She said quietly.
"Do you know what this is all about?" Cynthia made her tone plaintive,
dropping the warrant down beside the phone and sinking down onto the bottom
step of the stairs, burying her head in her hands. "It's just been so difficult..and
now...how am I going to explain to Jewel what's happened when they get home?"
"Where are Jewel now?"
"At the studio, I think. Working on their single. I don't know. I've not
been to work since...since..." Cynthia faltered, and this time the emotion
in her tone was real.
"Since Jerrica died." She whispered. "I'm on compassionate leave."
A gentle look entered the officer's eyes.
"I really am sorry, Miss. And for the intrusion. I'm sure Agent Nicholson
knows what he's doing. If you don't live with Jewel, you have nothing to
be afraid of. It's just bad luck you being here right now, that's all."
"I hope you're right." Cynthia drew in a shuddery breath. "I feel a little
"I can get you a drink of water, if you'd like?"
"No...no thank you." Cynthia shook her head. "I think...I just need to
sit quietly. That's all right, isn't it?"
"Yes, Miss. In fact, it would make my job a lot easier if you did exactly
that." The woman nodded.
Cynthia nodded, casting an imperceptible glance at her watch, and then
subtly altering her projection to softlight as she became aware of the basement
door being opened.
"What's your name?"
"My name, miss?" The officer looked startled. "Why?"
"I like to know who I'm crying to."
"Oh, I see." The woman smiled. "Alicia. Alicia Marshall. And you're Cynthia
Alicia paused, then, "Tell me, Miss Benton, did your sister ever mention
a computer to you?"
"A computer?" Cynthia adopted another startled look. "You mean the
"So you do know something about it?"
"Not really." Cynthia managed a wistful sigh. "My father died the year
I was born, so I never really knew anything about it. I had heard the rumours,
of course...who hadn't? Living in the Starlight Mansion as a child was exciting.
Jem and the Holograms were so huge, and they were all ours! Then the group
split up and Jerrica married Rio. She moved out, and we...we lost touch.
I...I was sent away."
"Yes. Put...into care, I guess you'd call it."
"You didn't stay at the new foundation?"
"They considered me a problem." Cynthia said quietly. "I suppose I was
not easy to live with when I was younger. Jerrica and I never made up the
rift. And now she's dead. I wish I could help you, I really do. If it's
tied in with Jerrica's death then anything I can do, I will. But I don't
know how I can. I saw the Memorial on television -didn't everyone?
But that was the only time I really knew for sure there was a computer."
"I see." Alicia folded her hands in her lap. "And you don't know what might
have happened to it?"
"I told you. Jerrica and I never spoke after I was sent away."
"What kind of relationship do you have with your other sister? Kimber?"
"Kimber? We lost touch for a long time." Cynthia shot her companion another
sidelong glance, and in that instance realised that the young woman had
been deliberately chosen by Raymond to get any information she could. "But
we have a reasonable relationship now."
"Did she ever mention the machine?"
"Not to me." Cynthia spoke calmly. "But then she has a house full of kids
to worry about, and Jem and the Holograms was a long time ago. I guess she
forgot about it."
"Well, what's so important about it, anyway?" Cynthia made a careless gesture.
"Wasn't it just stage equipment?"
"That's what we're trying to find out." Alicia sighed. "Noone really knows,
but Agent Nicholson thinks there's more to it, and he's usually right on
his hunches." A wry smile touched her lips. "Or so he tells us."
"Is that why you're here?" Cynthia asked. "Because you think Jewel know
something about the computer?"
"Yes." Alicia agreed. Cynthia snorted.
"Wrong company." She said darkly. "Jerrica had nothing to do with Misfits."
"But you do."
"Jerrica and I were estranged."
"Of course. I'm sorry."
"Me too." Cynthia admitted truthfully. "Sometimes you only realise the
things you want to say after they're gone."
She cast another glance at her watch, then back at her companion. "May
I go to the restroom? It's just across the hall."
"Sure. Be my guest." Alicia shrugged. Cynthia flashed her a smile, getting
to her feet. Once out of sight of the officer, she shut down her Cynthia
hologram, putting everything into projecting her hardlight cover around her
"And I hope it's enough." She muttered. "Nothing here must be suspicious,
else Ray might start up background checks on Cynthia Benton and her expulsion
from the Starlight Foundation. I know Kimber would back me up, but I do
not wish to perjure any more of my friends or family on my behalf. Perhaps
Aja was wrong to reboot me. I appear to be causing so much more trouble
than I thought...but it's done now, and I cannot undo it. And if for no other
reason, Father's work deserves to be protected. I won't give up my freedom
so easily, when so many people are willing to risk themselves and their jobs
to protect me. This will work. It has