Chapter Two: Jewel in Session
"Oh, this is crazy."
Nancy Pelligrini lowered her guitar, casting a glare around at the assembled musicians. "You'd think we'd never looked at this before, instead of having spent half of yesterday and most of today on it."
"Look. This really isn't that hard, you guys. If we're going to lay this down to play on national television in a week or so, we really need to get this passage straight. At the moment it sounds like someone strangled their cat...and Sadie, can you at least try to put your fingers in the right order? It isn't like you haven't played harder."
"It's not so easy as you seem to think it is." Sadie Monahue sighed, glancing at the manuscript and then running her fingers slowly through the correct chords. "Nancy, you might be some kind of musical genius - and we don't dispute it, you are. But for the rest of us normal humans, this is a little more difficult. Have some patience, huh? We'll get it."
"Sadie's right." Sylvina Martescu flicked off her keyboard, rubbing her hands. "My fingers are aching from playing this same passage over and over. Can we take five and then come back to it? My brain is swimming with notes at the moment."
"I'm just trying to get it to sound right." She said slowly.
"And we will." Elizabeth Pelligrini, Nancy's sister in law said gently. "We will, Nance. We always do. But Sadie and Syl do have a point. I mean, the rhythm is fine - I can keep time with no problem, and it's not that complicated. But though it sounds beautiful when you play it, it doesn't look an easy section to play. We just need a little time to gel it, that's all."
"Topaz?" Nancy cast the room's final occupant a glance. Aurora shrugged her shoulders.
"Honestly?" She said. "I find it hard to sing in key while Sadie and Syl are rewriting the music...so it's probably a good idea that we take a breather, and then come back to it."
"Okay." She said defeatedly. "We'll take five. But seriously, you guys, this sucks. I've written crazier passages, I'm sure I have. And we've picked them up more quickly. What's with this one? It's not so very hard. Not really."
"It's not that it's hard, more that it's fiddly." Sylva said. "I mean, if you're not totally concentrating on the score, you miss the key change and that's it for the next three bars." She frowned, squinting at her manuscript. "It's not really clear, actually. You usually copy up our scripts - what happened this time?"
"Mom and Aunt Phyl happened." Nancy said grimly, perching on the windowsill and reaching for her bottle of Evian. "You known how they are with Jewel and Jewel stuff. You'd think after this long, they'd be pretty sure we knew what we were doing. But apparently Rebel Records got some big compilation disk contract that's sent Aunt Phyl's panties into a bunch, and to make it worse, he hasn't approached Misfits Music for any contributions."
"So why does she care?" Topaz looked confused. "Misfits Music doesn't need any favours from Rebel Records."
"No, but she's mad enough that somehow he stole it out from under her nose. She's used to getting what she wants." Nancy explained. "It's an international compilation with big publicity rights attached to it. She's assuming this will mean Diablo get yet another publicity nudge, and there is a whisper that he's spoken with Aja at Starlight Music, too. So the cold-shouldering of this company is deliberate, and it's doing nothing for her temper."
She looked rueful. "I speak with first hand experience, since she called me into the office and basically yelled at me that the next Jewel song had better blow Diablo, Rebel Records and pretty much everything a mile out of the water. Hence the craziness."
She gestured at the script. "I played that for her and she said it sounded great. So we have to master it. If just to stop her ripping us to shreds."
"Ugh." Sadie pulled a face. "Nice."
"I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that Rory Llewelyn would behave that way." Elizabeth, or "Copper" twirled her drumsticks thoughtfully. "He has always hated Phyllis, and Misfits Music has upstaged him enough times. Plus, do Jewel really need that kind of publicity? We've already gone pretty global by now. So has Sirena. We're Phyllis's biggest two acts at present and our sales still top Diablo's, according to most polls. Does it matter so very much?"
"Not to me." Nancy shrugged. "But Aunt Phyl likes to have fingers in every pie. It means she has an element of control."
"So we're gonna be worked to the bone to show the world that Misfits Music is too good for this compilation?" Sylva asked. Nancy nodded.
"Something like that." She agreed. "Seriously, though, I didn't think it'd be such a problem. When I was writing it, I asked Robin on spec if it was playable, and he managed it quite quickly. You guys can play. I didn't think it'd take you so much time."
"You run Jewel music by Robin Sheppard now?" Sylva's eyes opened wide. "What, is he the sixth member or something now?"
"Oh, don't be childish." Nancy sounded impatient. "Listen. I was writing, he just happened to be about. He's my friend, Syl, and friends help each other. That's all. Besides, he's working for our company, and if you ask me, he's the one who's really been slighted by Rory Llewelyn's behaviour. He'd really benefit from that kind of publicity, being so new to the whole thing."
"You usually run music by us before you run it by anyone...unless Phyllis or Jetta ask you." Sylva frowned. "What does creepy zombie boy know about our stuff, anyhow?"
"Chill, will you? It was just a second opinion." Nancy rolled her eyes. "And arguing about it obviously isn't going to teach you or Sadie how to play your sections right, so don't bother, huh? We have way too much still to do to waste half an hour on one of your tirades."
She reached for her guitar.
"Can we try it again?" She asked. "If we do it section by section, and slowly to begin with, maybe it'll be easier."
"I guess it's all we can do, if Phyllis is so hot on it." Sadie rubbed her temples. "Okay. I'm with it up till the bridge. Then the bassline goes into lala land...and I can't seem to get the triplets right."
"I suppose in a sense part of this mania is because we haven't been working like devils for the last few weeks, huh?" Topaz looked rueful, scooping up her microphone and glancing at it. "I've been in England with Cam and Hollie, and we've all been every which way. If you think about it, we've been putting music second to a lot of other stuff since Copper and Aaron got married. Maybe there's some reason for Phyllis to be going crazy. It's competitive out there."
"We've released a new album." Copper pointed out. "We played that festival in Connecticut. And we did a really neat cover of that Holograms song, in memory of Jerrica and for the Foundation. It's not like we've done nothing. Just...well, other things have jumped on us."
She pursed her lips. "On all of us."
"Do you reckon Rory will ask Jesta to be on his silly album?" Sylva wondered, as she powered up her keyboard once more, checking the settings.
"I don't know." Copper admitted. "We haven't talked much since we got back from Detroit. We've both been busy."
"Well, she's your sister. I figured if anyone knew, you would." Sylva pursed her lips.
"Sister is a very fragile term at the moment." Copper said matter-of-factly. "We understand each other better, but I think in a lot of ways that's so far as it goes. I don't know where things are going to go from here, to be honest, and I don't want to push it. Papa would want me to be on good terms with her, so I'm doing my best to keep things that way...and that's about it. It's not really my business if Rory does approach Whatson and ask...though it might be a longshot, if Whatson is still in England."
She shrugged. "And now, can we change the subject? I'd rather not talk about Jess, if you don't mind. Like I said, it's still far too fragile."
"I'd like it if we'd stop talking and start playing." Nancy sighed, playing a quick sequence of chords. "But I guess noone's mind is on music now, is it?"
"Not really." Sylva looked sheepish. "I mean it was, but we've been at this since half eight this morning. Apart from twenty five minutes for sandwiches, we've done nothing else, and it's almost half four. I'm getting burned out, Nance. I know you can go forever on this stuff, but the rest of us lose the will to live somewhere along the line. Can't we just leave the song for today and come back to it tomorrow, fresh? I think if I play it once more today, my head will explode."
"We haven't played it once through right yet, though." Nancy protested. She rolled her eyes. "Though I can see I'm going to be outnumbered, aren't I?"
"Fine." She relented. "Tomorrow, same time. But we do have to get it down, guys. It is a big deal, and it's a good song. I reckon that if we can just get it right, it's going to be a number one."
"If we can get it right." Sadie intoned wryly. "Okay, Nance. Tomorrow sounds good to me."
"Though we shouldn't just work like mad all week." Sylva added. "If you ask me, we're working too hard as it is. We need a girl's night out to relax and let our hair down. I'm sure that'd make the whole thing come a lot clearer."
"Someone wants to go hit Le Klub Kool." Topaz's eyes danced with amusement. "Yes, Syl, I saw the flier this morning, too."
"What flier?" Copper looked curious. "Aaron and I didn't get a flier."
"Oh, they're having some major deal rock nights over the next few weeks." Topaz grinned at Sylva's sheepish expression. "Lots of local acts, party atmosphere - you know the kind of deal. When I saw it I figured Syl would find a reason to drag us out."
"Well, it probably wouldn't do us any harm, if you can find a sitter for Hollie." Sadie considered. "I mean, Cyn's been working like mad lately too - I don't know if you've noticed it, but she's seemed very tired and preoccupied recently. This whole Rebel Records thing must be hitting right through the ranks and she's had a stressful year as it is. We should take her too - do you reckon Kimber would take Hol?"
"I could ask her." Topaz nodded. "Or Cam, if he's not working."
She dimpled. "It feels so nice to have that option, though he probably is. He starts today."
"If you ask me, far more than just visits to the zoo happened between you two when you were in England." Sylva said astutely. "Because every time you say his name you get this goofy smile on your face."
"Well? We're all dying to know." Sylva shrugged unrepentantly. "Are you guys back together or what?"
"I don't know." Topaz admitted. "I mean, yes, in a sense we are. We...we kissed and stuff. We had a major talk in London, and we decided to give it another go. But nothing else happened, Syl. We're going slowly because of Hollie. We have a lot of things we need to do...like really get to know each other...before we decide to make this a proper serious thing. So...so we'll see. Okay?"
"But it feels nice." She added. "Especially having him out here now."
"I see you girls are not busy."
At that moment the door of the studio swung open to reveal Cynthia Benton, Jewel's lighting technician and close friend. Few people knew that Cynthia was really a holographic projection produced by the powerful mainframe computer "Synergy". Over the thirty years since Emmet Benton's death, Synergy had undergone many changes and developments, and though many had tried to discover her secret, as yet the truth about the mystical computer remained as much a mystery as ever.
"Hi, Cyn." Sadie dimpled. "No, we were just going to call it a day. What's up?"
"Pizzazz asked me to come find you - they want you in the main office." Cynthia said simply.
"And you're errand girl now?" Copper teased, slipping her drumsticks into their bag and coming to link arms with her friend. "Isn't that a demotion?"
"No, I just happened to be the one in the office fixing the fax machine when Pizzazz had one of her whims." Cynthia replied dryly. "She has been in a temper since the Rebel Records contract news came through, so I did not argue."
"No, I can see why." Topaz said ruefully. "Okay, Cyn. We're coming."
"We were talking about a girl's night out, by the way." Sylva added. "Tonight or tomorrow - are you up for coming with us?"
"Coming out?" Cynthia looked startled. "What of Hollie?"
"I'll sort something out, don't worry. You can't always be sitter for me." Topaz assured her. "You need a night off occasionally, too."
"Will you come?" Sadie asked. "You look tired, Cyn...it might do you good."
"Well, I don't know about that." Cynthia looked rueful. "My idea of a night off is to switch off my units and power down for a few hours. But then, I enjoy human socialising, and it does refresh my sensors. So all right. I will come. Thank you."
"Sadie's right, Cyn. You do look tired." Nancy squinted at her friend. "Is something up with your projection?"
"I fear that something might be." Cynthia admitted. "It takes some serious wear, producing Cynthia for so many hours each day - I think maybe one or maybe two of it's chips are starting to fail. It's not unstable, but I keep meaning to speak to Aaron about it."
She shrugged. "Too busy so far. But I will do so. I have also noticed tiny imperfections in my disguise, and I don't want them to get any worse."
She pushed open the studio door. "And we should not keep Pizzazz waiting in the mood she is in today, so come on. We can discuss this evening out later, at a safe distance!"
PART ONE: MEMENTO MORI
Prologue: Emmet's Task
Chapter One: Discontent
Chapter Two: Jewel In Session
Chapter Three: Mirage
Chapter Four: The Contact
Chapter Five: Le Klub Kool
Chapter Six: Sullivan
Chapter Seven: Cracks
Chapter Eight: Illusion
Chapter Nine: Jacqui
Chapter Ten: Marissa Demands
Chapter Eleven: Stefana's Warning
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.