Part Three

Chapter Three: Nancy's Studio

"So this is Nancy's studio?"
Stefana followed Sadie gingerly into the old nightclub building, wrinkling up her nose. "This place? It's hardly a studio. It's falling apart - look at this wallpaper!"
She rubbed a finger along the wall, watching the paper fade beneath her touch. "Are you for real?"
"Yes." Sadie nodded. "Phyllis bought it for Nancy to use for her writing. If anyone finds out I brought you here, I might not live to see another Jewel release, so keep it to yourself, huh?"
She slid a key into the lock of a second room, pushing open the door. "In here is where Nancy does her writing and all her stuff is. There are chairs and it's clean. We can talk. But no smoking in here...Nancy forbids me."
"Okay, okay." Stefana grimaced, obediently following her companion into the chamber beyond. "At least there's precious little chance of anyone overhearing us talking in this place. From the outside it looks condemned."
"It's structurally sound." Sadie shook her head. "Phyllis had it all checked out. It's just dusty, and Nancy's only cleared the bits she uses. See, in here is better."
"Maybe." Stefana dropped down onto a battered chair. "The decor still stinks."
Sadie smiled.
"Between you and me, it's not my favourite colour either. But Nance says it helps her focus." She replied, following suit. "So? Now we're alone and away from prying ears - what did you want to tell me, exactly? About Cynthia?"
"Yes, about that madcap computer." Stefana rubbed her temples. "Rory had me in his office yesterday demanding to know exactly what I knew about it."
"What?" Sadie paled. "How does he know you know anything?"
"He doesn't, exactly." Stefana twisted her hands together. "But it has come up between us before. You weren't in the States then, but when I first found out about Cynthia I...well, I tried to get rid of her. With..."
"A virus." Comprehension flooded Sadie's gaze. "Yes, I've heard about that. It didn't work."
"No. I still don't know exactly why."
"Nor do I, but I think Aaron and Nancy were at the root of it." Sadie settled herself more comfortably. "So you told Rory then that you knew something about Synergy, I presume? To get his backing on the project?"
"Yes. He paid for everything, and paid me for my information."
Stefana eyed Sadie carefully. "Are you going to yell at me for that?"
"No. It's a past thing and noone is any the worse for it. Besides, I wasn't here to judge it for myself. What I want to know is what exactly it has to do with now?"
"Well, when the virus didn't work, Rory stopped believing what I'd told him and called me a waste of his time. We had an argument and that was the last it was mentioned." Stefana remembered. "Till yesterday, when he'd apparently had a change of heart. He wanted to know again exactly what I thought I'd seen. He said the reward money would go into Diablo's PR."
Sadie bit her lip.
"And what did you say to him?"
"I told him I made it up because I needed the money, and I didn't know any more about Synergy than he did." Stefana sighed. "He was angry. What I don't know is if he believed me. If he didn't, it means he'll keep searching for the machine regardless."
"Everybody wants a piece of her." Sadie said morosely. "The press, the FBI, Phyllis, now Rory..."
She trailed off, frowning. "Hey, hang on. Steffi, rewind. Did you say you told him you made it up?"
"Yes. Why?"
"You lied to protect Synergy?"
"No, I lied to protect me." Stefana looked rueful. "Synergy is mad and she scares the hell out of me. I've learnt she's fine so long as she's left alone and noone bothers her. The last thing I want is the world having an army of them made. One is bad enough."
"I see." Sadie smiled. "Well, thank you for it anyhow. It seems like a lot of people are lying to protect her at the moment...its like everyone who really knows about her understands that if she was public property it could have catastrophic results."
"Yeah, well, I don't much care about the machine, Sadie." Stefana admitted. "She and I aren't friends. But, well, she's in your house and you and me, we are pals. So consider it a favour I'm telling you this. Even though if you tell the others, it didn't come from me. After all, we're rivals."
"I would never betray you." Sadie crossed her chest solemnly. "And I really do appreciate it."
She sighed. "All of this couldn't have come at a worse time for her - or us - though of course Jerrica's death is the precise reason it has come now." She said sadly. "I know you don't believe machines are capable of feeling, Stef, but if you'd seen'd know she'd felt it. And then of course there are all the problems with know who she is?"
"Yeah. Some upstart local girl trying to hit it big with a pop nightmare." Stefana pulled a graphic face. "I do not do happy girly pop, and never did. Sooner she's garotted the better."
"Yes, I thought you might feel that way about her music." Despite herself, Sadie giggled. "But it's worse than that. She and Nancy are old school foes, and well, did you know our studio got wrecked recently?"
"I was in Europe." Stefana put up her hands. "It wasn't me!"
"Silly." Sadie laughed. "I know it wasn't you. We're a little afraid it might have been her."
"Gah, can't she get her own agenda?" Stefana snorted. "I wrecked your studio a year or more ago. She needs to get with the program and find something original to do. If that's the best she can manage, Sadie, she's no challenge for anyone."
"You'd think so, but if it was was vicious." Sadie sounded troubled. "And it might not have been. We can't prove anything at the moment. But the studio was torn apart like someone really had a grudge against Misfits Music."
"Right. Like I said, it's all at the worst time." Sadie glanced at her hands.
"Well, if you need her pounding, tell me. I'm game." Stefana cracked her knuckles contemplatively. "I haven't punched someone out in a while and she seems a good potential target."
"I thought you'd done with all the violence and stuff now you're clean and soaring your group up the US billboard?" Sadie teased. Stefana shrugged.
"Not really." She said cheerfully. "I like to have fun, Sadie. No laws against that."
"I didn't hear any tales of terror from Europe."
"No, well, I behaved there." Stefana admitted.
"Was it good?"
"Unbelievable. I can't wait to go back." Stefana sighed. "I'm thinking, when I have enough money - and I've almost got Luca paid off with that last album bonus - I'm going to buy a holiday home in Italy somewhere. Napoli, I think. That's where my father was was like another world and I'd like a piece of it."
She glanced at her watch, getting to her feet.
"I have to go. Luca wanted us to go over something this morning and I'm running late." She observed. "Remember, you didn't get this information from me."
"I remember." Sadie nodded. "Thanks, Stef."
Stefana shrugged.
"Don't mention it." She responded flippantly. "Guess I'll see myself out."
With that she was gone, and Sadie sat back in her chair, contemplating.
"I wonder what means Rory might have at his disposal." She mused. "And if he believes Cynthia and Synergy are the same being still. That might be worth finding out. I should have asked Stef...oh, but she'd be putting herself even more under suspicion if she started asking awkward questions. Best we leave her out of it. Till Rory makes a move, we don't know what we're dealing with, anyhow. Better we know that before we jump in."

Outside the studio, as Stefana crossed the main street, she was unaware of a pair of eyes watching her from a cafe table across the street. From behind his menu, Darren McMillan cast a thoughtful glance over the Diablo guitarist, observing her demeanour as she glanced furtively over her shoulder, then tucked her wispy hair behind her ears, sticking her hands in her pockets for her cigarettes and lighter and heading briskly down the high street.
"Why'd she go in there?" He mused, frowning. "That place has been closed down for the best part of two decades. What does she want there? Hell, I don't suppose that's where the machine is?"
He frowned, setting his menu down.
"Maybe this would be worth checking out." He mused, tossing some coins into the tray and getting to his feet, pulling on his jacket. "Though I can't see how that'd connect to Jerrica Pacheco. Maybe Jem and the Holograms played the club in the past, but they sure as hell didn't own it. Did they? I didn't think they had money for extras like this."
He pushed open the door of the cafe, heading across the street. Pausing for a moment to ensure he was not observed, he put a tentative hand on the door handle, giving it a tug. To his surprise, it opened quite easily, and he stepped into the dusty interior, glancing about him for any clue to why Stefana might have been there.
"Can I help you?"
A voice from behind him made him jump and he spun around, registering the speaker with surprise and apprehension.
"This is private property." She continued. "Did you know that?"
"Garnet?" Darren recovered himself almost at once. "What is this, some kind of musician's convention?"
"I don't understand." Now Sadie looked confused. "Who are you and why are you in Nancy's studio?"
"Nancy's studio?" Darren repeated dumbly. Sadie rolled her eyes.
"Fine." She said frankly, crossing the floor in a few swift steps and grabbing Darren by the arms, taking him by surprise. She propelled him up against the wall, holding him tight and meeting his startled gaze with a calm one of her own.
"You know my name." She said conversationally. "So that means you know who I am. And if you know that, you'll know I've done time on the inside and I'm not afraid to turn a guy over if he doesn't answer my questions and stop asking his own. So we'll try again, okay? Who are you and why are you in Nancy's studio?"
"Darren McMillan." Darren was surprised into replying. Sadie's eyes widened.
"The Tribune reporter?" She demanded. A smile touched Darren's lips.
"So you've heard of me, too." He said, an amused note touching his tone. "Would you mind putting me down? It's not very ladylike to hold company against the wall and there's a railing digging right into my spine."
"It'll have to dig." Sadie's brows knitted. "I don't like reporters who trespass on Jewel property."
"This club belongs to Jewel?"
"It belongs to Phyllis Gabor. She allows us to use it." Sadie said quietly. "Nancy writes here, not that it's any of your business."
"Why was Stefana Ranieri here? She's not a Jewel."
"I don't think you should be asking questions of me, in your predicament." Sadie said sweetly, increasing the pressure on the reporter's arms. "But as it happens, Stefana and I are friends and this was somewhere quiet to meet. We don't get much privacy to socialise with people without the press intruding. I did hope this place would be a good place to do just that...obviously not."
"She didn't look like she was just socialising, as she left. She looked in a hurry to get away from here."
"Well, so would you if you were half an hour late for your session." Sadie retorted. "For someone who likes spying on celebrities, you don't seem to realise how hard we work."
"I've answered your questions. Will you damn well let go of me now?"
"I guess so." Sadie released her grip, dusting her hands down. "So long as you get out of here. This place isn't any of your business."
"Why?" Darren narrowed his gaze.
"Because it's private property!"
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were hiding something here." Darren took a few steps towards the open doorway, pausing to gauge Sadie's reaction. The guitarist shrugged.
"Few hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment." She said flippantly. "Nancy writes here. Her musical stuff is in here. Naturally, we don't want every Tom, Dick or...or Darren coming in to take photos and souvenirs."
"Musical stuff, huh?" Darren raised an eyebrow.
"Sure. Take a look see."
"Not, say, a very unique computer?"
Sadie's eyes became big at this. Then she burst out laughing.
"Oh, you really are priceless." She decided, amused. "Is that why you came in here? To find out whether that blasted machine of Jerrica's was in here? Oh God. I was told you were a good reporter, who dug up information and wrote top notch stories. How is it you can't even get your music companies straight?"
"Excuse me?"
"Let me spell it out for you. Jerrica worked for - and owned - Starlight Music. Jewel work for Misfits Music. The Misfits were Jerrica's rivals. No way in hell they'd be trusted with anything like that computer."
"And Stefana?"
"You really aren't straight on the music companies in LA, are you?" Sadie snorted. "I guess it is hard if you can't count three. Look, if that's what you came looking for, satisfy yourself it's not here. I don't care. But then I want you to get out. If Nancy knew a press-man had been in here she'd be foaming at the mouth, so it had better not appear in your next edition. Not unless you want to be arrested for trespassing."
"A good reporter is always ready to be arrested in the line of duty, Miss Garnet." Darren pretended to salute her. "But since you're being so accomodating, I wouldn't mind a look around."
"Then be my guest. But don't touch Nancy's stuff." Sadie warned. "And don't think about coming back here when noone else is here, either. Miss Gabor eats reporters like you for lunch, and she has impressive legal backing."
"Okay, kid, you can quit the threats. I just want to satisfy myself you're not hiding the scoop of the century in this dump." Darren put up his hands. "Then I'll be out of your hair."
"Then get on with it." Sadie folded her arms, leaning up against the wall. "The clock's ticking and I have a busy schedule too!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"I wonder where Sadie's got to."
Sylva stretched out on the big rug in the Starlight Mansion's front lounge, idly pushing around one of Hollie's stray building blocks. "She went out a good hour ago now - any idea where she went to?"
"She asked for the key to my studio." Nancy dropped down onto the couch, dropping her pen and manuscript pad down onto the table beside her. "So maybe she went to write. Or more likely, some peace and quiet away from the chaos. Do you know where I found my hairbrush this morning?"
"Surprise me." Sylva rested her chin in her hands.
"Inside my sock drawer." Nancy grimaced. Sylva snorted.
"Male FBI agents, probably." She said dismissively. "Guys don't seem to know a sock drawer from a video case, honestly. Do you know, I was over helping Logan settle things into the apartment the other day and he actually had his salt and pepper pots in the fridge? He told me it's so he doesn't forget where they are - but who chills salt and pepper?"
Nancy laughed.
"Someone who's a screwball. Trust you to take a liking to a nutcase." She said derisively. Sylva rolled her eyes.
"We're just friends, Nance." She said. She frowned. "If Sadie's lost in the mists somewhere, I won't be able to grab her for a shopping trip, will I?"
"Don't look at me. One a month is all my credit card can stand when I'm out with you." Nancy put up her hands.
"You did look good though, on Connie's Corner." Sylva remarked. Nancy shrugged.
"Maybe that's just me."
"No, honey, it's because you've been taught how to manage your style since you became a star." Sylva shook her head. "By the way, what's with the hair? Where are your yellow streaks gone to?"
"They were fading out again, and I decided I was done with them." Nancy said simply. "Copper dyed them out last night. I'm glad, honestly. I'm sick of the dye and it's making my hair go horrible. When the dyed bits grow out you won't even know it - time to go back to natural black for a while."
"So how do you work Goldie, then, if you have no gold?" Sylva raised an eyebrow.
"I don't see silver in your hair." Nancy retorted. "Besides, I'll spray it for shows or something. Or Copper did suggest maybe dying the tips for a performance in something less permanent than the stuff she'd been using to strip and colour my hair before. That sounded...kinda interesting." She shrugged. "You're the one who says that you can't always have the same image. So I'm up for a change!"
"Okay, you win." Sylva grinned. "At least you've a nice dramatic natural colour to work with. You'd be a nightmare if we were dealing with mouse brown."
"Well, we're not." Nancy retorted. "And I've kinda missed being basic black."
She glanced up at the clock. "Is Topaz still at the hairdresser with Hollie?"
"I think so. She hasn't called. Maybe they went to the park afterwards." Sylva responded. "Looks like it's just you and me again. Unless Cynthia's home."
"Cynthia's always home."
"I mean, is she working?"
"I think she's at Misfits Music, working on the studio." Nancy agreed. "Though she thinks it's a lost cause, and so does Aaron. They're waiting on new equipment so I' guess she'll be home when there's nothing more they can do."
"I have been home for a half hour, Nancy."
The hologram's voice came from the doorway, startling both girls. "I am sorry, I did not realise you were looking for me."
"We were just discussing where everyone was." Nancy explained. She frowned. "Hey, Cyn, are you quite all right? You look...funny."
"Nancy's right." Sylva squinted at her friend. "Is something up with your projection?"
"Perhaps. I just rebooted my lasers and they take a while to power up after a long day projecting." Cynthia glanced at her reflection in the mirror over the fireplace, pursing her lips. "I see what you mean. My colour is a little off."
She shrugged, sitting down. "I don't suppose it matters, anyhow. I was going to rest them this evening, but I thought you should know that we have company. I detected someone coming up to the house and came up to tell you, in case it was press."
"Press?" Sylva was on her feet in an instant, moving to the window as the doorbell rang. "I don't see any cameras..."
"I guess I'll go see who it is." Nancy shrugged, disappearing into the hall.
"Should I make myself scarce?" Cynthia wondered. "Do you think anyone will notice my projection isn't up to scratch?"
"No, they'll just think you're pale and stressed after recent events." Sylva shook her head. "Besides, unless it's friend, Nancy won't let them in. So don't worry, Cyn. Unless you want to go down and rest your lasers, we'd like your company."
"I shall stay a while." Cynthia decided. "Much as my circuits need the occasional break, I find things better when I am with people."
"I thought you bypassed all of that?"
"No, merely controlled it." Cynthia frowned. "But I hear voices, so now is not a good time to discuss this. It seems we have a guest after all."
Before Sylva could respond, the door of the lounge swung open once more to admit Nancy and the visitor. Sylva let out an exclamation.
"Sammi! What are you doing here? You should have called ahead to let us know you were coming - we thought you might be press!"
"Press? Hah." Samantha snorted, shaking her head. "Press, police, we've had them all at the villa. Mum was a suspect, you know, in Jerrica's death."
"Yes. Which is the biggest piece of nonsense on the planet." Sylva pulled a face. "Aunt Aja wouldn't hurt a fly, no matter what Jerrica did to her."
"I didn't come here to really talk about that, Sylvie." Sammi admitted, taking a seat and pulling absently at the tassels on the chair's cushions. "You came to see her a few days ago."
"Yes, I did." Sylva looked surprised. "Why? Nothing odd about that."
"No, though you haven't really been over a lot since we got to the States." Sammi responded.
"We've been hellish busy, Sam." Nancy put in. "It's not been a deliberate slight by any of us. We've just been manic."
"Oh, I know what that's like." Sammi dismissed it with a careless gesture. "Honestly, I miss the whirl. But it might be all right - you know Mum is going to be running Starlight Music?"
"We heard a rumour. Is it for sure?" Sylva's eyes lit up.
"It's true...and the Teenangels will be signed to the label - at least, if Mum can work it all out." Sammi nodded. "We're all kinda happy about that."
"Why did you come over, Sammi?" Nancy asked. "And do you want coffee or something? We've lemonade in the fridge."
"Lemonade sounds good, Nancy. Thank you." Sammi nodded, and Nancy grinned, getting to her feet and leaving the room.
"It's really you I wanted to talk to, anyhow." Sammi made herself more comfortable. "About your visit to the villa."
"Okay." Sylva looked confused. "Shoot."
Sammi paused for a moment, then,
"I want to know about the computer."
Sylva stared.
"Synergy. I want to know about it."
"Who says I know anything about"
"You did." Sammi said calmly. "You and Mum spoke about it. I know you have it and I know it's here, in the Starlight Mansion. You more or less said as much. I want to know about it."
Sylva was silent. She cast Cynthia a helpless look, and the hologram spread her hands. Slowly she shook her head. Sylva sighed.
"Sylvie, we're family. Don't lie to me."
"I wasn't going to." Sylva bit her lip. "Listen. Synergy was at the Starlight Mansion when your mother used her, that's true. But the room where she was isn't a room any more. We knocked a wall through and renovated it."
"No, you meant she." A shadow touched Sammi's face. "Is that all you're going to say to me? I know you know where the thing is. I know that you came to Mum to ask her help over it for something. I know that this is a secret you have with her that I know nothing about. It's not the first time Mum's had a secret from me. I knew the computer existed. I didn't know it still did till your visit. And now I know it does...well, I want to know where it is."
"If I knew that, it doesn't mean I should tell you."
"Not even as my cousin?"
"Sammi, you don't understand..."
"No, stop it." Sammi held up her hands. "Don't patronise me. I know you know about it, so stop jumping around it. You know where it is - probably, all of you know."
"Know about what?"
Nancy re-entered the lounge at that moment, lemonade in hand.
"Synergy." Sammi responded. Nancy's expression changed, and Sammi's eyes darkened.
"Yes, I thought so. It is a Jewel secret." She said quietly. "One Mum can share with her niece and not her daughter. Well, that's fine. I can handle that. It doesn't matter now, anyhow."
"I beg your pardon?" Nancy raised an eyebrow, handing the visitor the glass. "Did I miss something important?"
"No, I'm about to say that." Sammi's tone had an edge to it. "See, girls, my mother is one of the beneficiaries of Jerrica's will. And that will doesn't just have Starlight Music in it. It also has this place...and it has Synergy."
"This place was sold. Phyllis Gabor owns it."
"I don't care. There are no deeds of sale for the computer." Sammi retorted. "And I might not be a lawyer, but I know what that means. That means the computer belongs one third to my mother - and I'm her daughter. So I want to know about it! Don't prevaricate with me any more - that computer belongs to my family and I want it back!"

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

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!
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.