Chapter One: At The Funeral
"And so we commit Jerrica Pacheco to the earth, ashes to ashes, and dust
As the minister spoke his solemn words, there was an uneasy quiet around the graveside. The day was muggy and clouded, unusual for Los Angeles, and somehow it had only added to the gravity of the occasion. The mourners, dressed in shades of black and grey did not exchange many glances with each other, and some seemed completely lost in their own thoughts. Jerrica's husband, Rio, stood a little apart from the main group, an expression of rage mingled with despair on his face. From the huddle, Jerrica's younger sister Kimber uttered a stifled sob, and buried her head in her husband's shoulder.
"As the lord giveth, the lord taketh away."
The minister continued, casting a gentle gaze around the assembled mourners.
"Are you okay?"
Aaron Pelligrini cast his companion an anxious look, muting his tones so as not to disturb the service. "Cynthia, you're white as a sheet. Are you all right?"
"Why should I not be?" Cynthia spoke absently. "I am not human enough to pass out."
"But you are human enough to cry, and you needn't block it all out." Aaron put a gentle arm around her shoulders.
"No, I am better keeping a strong hold on what I feel." She said soberly. "My sister lies in that box, Aaron. The sister who turned against me, and yet the sister who I believe I loved more than anyone on this earth. I shall never speak to her again, and never make my peace with her. All of that is enough for me to face for the rest of my runtime without adding rampant emotion to the equation."
Aaron pursed his lips, watching as a shaky Kimber sprinkled the first handful of soil into the grave.
"I don't understand why you're not doing that, and Rio is." He remarked softly, as Rio stood forward to take his turn. As he did so, Kimber turned away pointedly, and the pain and regret on Rio's face was unmistakeable. "You considered yourself her sister. You have every right."
"Not really." Cynthia sighed. "Besides, I did not want to become overly involved. Coming here was a big enough challenge, Aaron."
"I'm sorry. I'll pipe down." Aaron looked sheepish. "I came to be moral support, not a nag."
"No, I'm glad that you did." Cynthia offered a faint smile. "I don't believe that I would have found the courage to attend without you."
As the mourners began to move from the graveside, Aaron linked his arm in his companion's.
"I think it's going to rain." He observed. "Everyone seems to be heading off...are you going with them, or do you want a ride home?"
"Neither, I think." Cynthia turned, scanning the cemetary. "I wish to have a few words with Kimber, before I leave. I have no intention of going to the gathering afterwards...the discomfort between people here is overwhelming and I do not like it. But I must speak to Kimber. I have not, you realise, since it happened."
"Then speak to her." Aaron grinned, hugging her tightly. "And I'll be waiting in the parking lot to drive you home when you've done."
"You do not have to, Aaron." Cynthia returned the hug, looking surprised. "Synergy is always at Starlight Mansion and the transportation of my remote projector there is not of great importance."
"No, but escorting a grieving friend home from her sister's funeral is." Aaron said gently. "So I intend to do it...don't argue with me. However you say you're handling it, I want to make sure you make it safely away from here."
"What could happen?" Cynthia was puzzled.
"Well, after what happened when Copper told you about Jerrica's accident, pretty much anything." Aaron told her wryly. "I'll be waiting for you...go on, catch up to Kimber before she leaves."
Cynthia nodded, hurrying across the grass to where the owner of the Starlight Foundation was slowly making her way away from the grave. Gently, she touched the redhead's arm.
"Kimber? May I speak with you?"
"Synergy!" Kimber's eyes opened wide, then her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh my god, I'm sorry. Cynthia. I...I guess my brain is none too clear today...I didn't even realise you were here."
Cynthia eyed Kimber's red-rimmed eyes and crumpled hankerchief, and shook her head.
"Nothing to be sorry for." She said gently. "I just wanted to speak to you. I realised I have not since Jerrica...since the accident."
"No. Your friend Aaron came to see me...he said you'd shut yourself down." Kimber lowered her tones, glancing behind her for her husband, then moving further away from the dispersing group. "We're all right to talk here, I promise. I asked Sean for a moment or two by myself, and I think he understood."
"Am I intruding on you?"
"No, you're not." Kimber shook her head. "You're one of the few people who really knew Jerrica before...well, before she changed, and before things became difficult. I'm glad that you came. I was so worried that burying Jerrica today would be also saying goodbye to Synergy."
"Did Aja not mention she had helped to fix me?"
"No...but then she's been pretty busy herself." Kimber slipped an arm into her companion's. "Since we found out about the will. Rio said Jerrica destroyed the original will...and so the old one has to stand. Which means..."
"That you, Aja and Shana now own Starlight Music." Cynthia finished. Kimber nodded.
"Yes." She agreed. "Although Shana and I are both far too busy to do more than take a nominal interest in it. Aja's going to be the one holding all the reins, really. Since she no longer has ties back in England, we discussed it and we thought it for the best. Of course, it doesn't mean Shana and I won't play any part in it. But it's largely going to be Aja's baby now."
"I see." Cynthia pursed her lips. "Then it explains why I have not seen her since my reboot. I had not imagined how busy things had been, though I confess I have had problems of my own with the FBI."
"Don't worry. I think we threw them off the scent." Cynthia dismissed it with a careless gesture. "But I fear I must ask you...I am in Jerrica's will. So is Starlight Mansion. And while the deeds to the Mansion now belong to Phyllis Gabor..."
"You want to know if any of us are likely to claim you?" Kimber asked. Cynthia shrugged.
"I do not know what to anticipate." She admitted. "And with this press reward over my head, the more delving into my whereabouts, the more dangerous it becomes for me."
Kimber sighed, glancing up at the sky as the first spatters of rain began to fall.
"Syner...Cynthia, we all value you as a friend, and a special friend." She said softly. "You worked for Jerrica once, I know. You belonged to us then. But you don't now. You don't belong to anyone, not really. I've noticed the change in you, if noone else has. You were always loyal, always quick-thinking and intelligent, always loving. But you were never really, well, yourself. You were what we needed you to be. Now you have a real chance to be who you want to be. None of us will take that away from you. After everything you did for us, and all you gave us...we owe you that much."
She smiled sadly, glancing at her hands.
"I know it's thanks to you that my daughter and I are reunited, and that Rose is even alive." She admitted. "And since it was because of Rose that I started to mend bridges with Jerrica, I suppose I also owe you that, indirectly."
"I think you would have found Rose without me." She said quietly.
"Maybe, but whether or not it would have been in time, that's another matter. I was so obstinate on the subject." Kimber shrugged. "But honestly? Let the world think Synergy no longer exists, that's my best advice."
"Unfortunately, the contents of the will has confirmed that she once did." Cynthia looked regretful. "I wish I had never behaved so hot-headedly at the Jem Memorial."
"No...it would have been better if you hadn't become public knowledge." Kimber agreed. "But you can't take back the past...sadly."
She paused, then hugged Cynthia impulsively.
"You needn't worry about what we'll do. We don't intend to do anything about you." She murmured. "Keep your head down and the media interest will die away. They won't learn anything from the Holograms about you - reward or no reward."
"I suppose I never really doubted it." Cynthia offered a slight smile. "But it is good to hear it from you directly."
She squeezed her companion's arm.
"I know what you feel...about Jerrica." She whispered. "I know, because I feel it too. And I am sorry, Kimber, for so many things. Do you...think she understood?"
Kimber glanced up at the sky once more. At length she nodded.
"When Mom died, Jerrica was so torn up over it." She remembered. "Particularly because they'd left things on bad terms before Mom flew out of state. But Dad told us that, once you were with the angels, you knew and understood everything that hadn't been said down on earth. And I guess I believed him. Maybe I still do. I think Jerrica probably understands better now than she ever did, how much you and I really loved her. And I hope it helps her to be at peace."
"So do I." Cynthia bit her lip. "And now I must go. Aaron is waiting for me, and I don't think I can spend more time here today."
"No, I know what you mean." Kimber agreed. "But even though she's gone, Cynthia, you still have me and you can always come to see me...you know that, don't you?"
"Yes. I know that." Cynthia nodded her head. "And am more grateful for it than I can say."
Across Los Angeles, in the heat of Rory Llewelyn's plush top floor office, Stefana fidgeted in her chair, twisting her fingers together as she wished she was anywhere but where she was right at that moment. Conflicting thoughts and emotions whirled through her head as she faced her employer's hard, inquisitive stare.
"So tell me what you know about the computer." Rory pressed once more. "Where did you see it? Who has it? How much do you really know about how it works?"
"It's..." Stefana faltered, then shook her head. Inside of her, her resolve hardened, and the unsettled look left her eyes as she made up her mind.
"I'm not sure you really want to hear this, Rory."
"Stefana, did we or did we not just make a pact?" Rory shot his employee an irritated look. "I know you've had a long flight and you're a damn nusiance most of the time anyway, but I give you my absolute word that if you tell me what you know, it will be the last time I drag you in here like this under a cloaked excuse. All right? My promise. And I'm waiting for you to keep yours."
"Yes, I know." Stefana nodded. She hesitated for a second, then, "I'm just working out where exactly to begin."
"Go on." Rory rested his chin in his hands. "I'm listening."
"When Techrat's virus failed, Rory, you wanted to know what had gone wrong." Stefana spoke slowly. "You demanded an explanation. I didn't give you one."
"No, you didn't. You screeched at me and stormed out." Rory nodded. "So?"
"So I'll give you the explanation now." Stefana bit her lip, then, "The true one. The one that I give you now I'm not doped up to the skies on speed, seeing things where they aren't and thinking everyone is automatically out to get me."
"That is not always an unwise self-preservation technique, but continue."
"It's very simple, actually." Stefana eyed Rory for a moment. "The virus didn't work because it never infected Synergy at all."
"I beg your pardon?" Rory stared. Stefana slipped her hand under the desk, crossing and uncrossing her fingers. Then she met his gaze calmly with one of her own.
"I made it up." She said quietly. "The whole thing. I was mad at Cynthia, and I hated her because she kept digging at me about Aaron. I was stoned and I wasn't thinking straight. Maybe it was half-hallucination, I don't know. But the truth is, Rory, I don't know where Jerrica's machine is. I never did. It was all a lie. I wanted the money and I wanted to get back at Cynthia for being a pain in the butt."
For a moment, there was silence, as Rory digested this.
"And that's it?" He spoke at length, his tones laced with indignation and anger. "You took money from me for a lie? You claimed something you knew I would really want to know, in order to pay for your pathetic little drug habit?"
"Yes." Stefana nodded. "That's about the size of it."
"You know what I could do to you for that?"
"Yes, I do, but you won't, because you'd have to explain why you gave me the money in the first place." Stefana shrugged calmly. "And I'm not afraid to tell the truth, if you fire me, fine me or do anything else to hurt me. You asked for an explanation. I gave you one."
"Damn you, girl!" Rory banged his fist down on the desk. "And for once I thought maybe I'd made a mistake about you and your ideas!"
"Well, you were dumb. I was stoned to high heaven most of the time we talked back then." Stefana met his gaze levelly. "And now I'm not, and I no longer feel the need to be your little servant. So if that's all you wanted, I'm going to go join the others and toss around ideas for the album. It's been a long day for us, we're all tired and we want to sleep off our flight back. Sooner we can do that, the better. So ciao, Rory."
"This week just goes from bad to worse." Rory grimaced, watching his employee stalk out of the office, banging the door behind her. "First some lunatic scrapes half the word Starlight on my car...then the car yard calls to tell me my brake cables are out, and now Stefana..."
His eyes narrowed.
"Though do I entirely believe her? That's a good question. One worth pursuing."
He paused, then reached for his phone.
"Of course, the connection to Cynthia Benton was always tenuous and oblique." He admitted, as he carefully dialled in a number. "Since I've seen Cynthia lift and carry, and I know that this machine isn't capable of that. Maybe it was some perverted revenge tactic of her own...but I can't help but wonder. And if she does know something about it, I'm going to find out what it is. It's time I cut a deal...with someone I feel sure will get the story out of her."
At that moment the phone was picked up on the other end, and Rory reached for the newspaper, glancing over the article again.
"This is the Tribune's office?" He asked slowly. "Good. Good. My name is Rory Llewelyn, chief executive of Rebel Records. I wish to speak to your chief reporter, Darren McMillan. I have a business propositon for him...one I'm pretty sure he won't be able to refuse."
Chapter One: At The Funeral
Chapter Two: Stefana's Secret
Chapter Three: Nancy's Studio
Chapter Four: An Old Rivalry
Chapter Five: An Act Of Pique
Chapter Six: Darren Moves In
Chapter Seven: Daisy's Ghost
Chapter Eight: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Nine: Scheming
Chapter Ten: The Synergy Ruse
Chapter Eleven: A Legacy Reborn
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE
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 www.teenangeloutsiders.com!
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.