Chapter Two: Jewel's Show
"The crowd is mad out there."
Aurora Stapleton peered out between the curtains that hung across the wings of the stage, scanning the masses of faces for one she knew. "I'm never going to find her in all of those people. Dammit, and I wanted to know she was here, too!"
"Who are you looking for?" Her companion, Sylvina Martescu paused, fiddling with the strap of her sandal as she did so. "Oww, that hurts! I swear I am never wearing sandals two sizes too small on stage again, not even if they're the coolest thing on the planet. Did you invite someone particular? Cameron? Oh, wait, you said she, and isn't Cam still in England? Who, then?"
"Syl, do you ever stop talking?" Aurora, or Topaz as she was better known gave her friend an affectionate smile. "Yes, Cameron is still in England. As for who I'm looking for...my mother. Stephen asked me to get them tickets for the show, so I did. I just wanted to see if they were here."
"Is your mother up to that?" Sylva's blue eyes opened wide with surprise. "I know Jewel concerts are awesome, but seriously, didn't she only have a major operation like, six weeks ago?"
"Yes, she did." A slight shadow touched Topaz's eyes at the memory, but it was quickly forced away. "But that was then. This is now. She's been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks and she asked her doctor if it would hurt her to come along. He said it might be good for her, so long as she didn't do anything too wild and just came to listen to the music. She's come on leaps and bounds since the surgery, Syl. You know she was up and about less than forty eight hours after the anaesthetic, which noone expected. The cancer seems to have halted - so far - and well, if she never gets another chance to see me perform, I wanted her to see me tonight. They won't stay in America forever, after all. Once the doctors give her the all clear, she'll be back to Canada."
"True." Sylva looked thoughtful. "Well, I hope she is out there, though you're right. In that mob of people I wouldn't be able to spot my own twin sister, let alone an estranged parent. Come on...no point in hanging around here. That new signing of Starlight Music's will be back to play the second half of her set in a minute, and if I wanted to listen to someone stretching a cat over a fire, I'd say so."
Despite herself, Topaz giggled.
"That's evil." She scolded her friend, nonetheless leading the way back to the Jewel dressing room. "She isn't as bad as all that. I think she has quite a nice singing voice, to be honest."
"Well, it's nothing on yours." Sylva said decidedly, oblivious to her friend's embarrassed blush. "Which is why Jewel are headlining this show, of course." She rummaged in her pockets.
"Think you can lend me a quarter? I'm short for the soda machine."
"Short? Syl, we only got our bonuses two days ago!" Topaz scolded, nevertheless slipping her hand into her own pocket and finding a quarter. "Where's it all gone?"
"Savings." Sylva said with a carefree shrug. "At least, after I bought these sandals. Well, and this dress." An impish grin crossed her lips. "When I tried it on, the sales clerk that was putting up the window display just stood still and gawked at me. Like, for a full ten minutes, I swear. I had to buy it. Guys will have their eyes on stalks, and some of us are very much in the market."
"What happened to the new, responsible Syl?" Topaz teased, as they paused at the soda machine for Sylva to get her drink. Sylva shrugged.
"She's here." She said finally. "Only she still has a sense of style. Oh come on, Topaz, I'm not going to turn into a boring secretarial mouse. I'm a rock star, not a librarian. And hell, I'm looking for a steady relationship. How the heck do you suppose I'll get one unless I look absolutely stunning to begin with?"
"I think I like you just the way you are." She said, amused. "Jewel's femme fatale, huh?"
"Nah, that's so last week." Sylva dismissed it with her hand, flipping open her can of soda and taking a sip. "I told you. I'm serious date material now. But I'm still a classy chick. That's just par for the course."
She held out the can. "Thirsty?"
"No, I'm good." Topaz shook her head, as they reached the dressing room door. "And here we are. Even though we've come so far and done so much stuff, I still get a warm feeling when I see the star on the door when we play gigs like this."
"Jewel is fab." Sylva agreed, pushing the door open and leading the way inside. "Though I think I always knew it would be. Do you realise that we've been playing together forever now? It's at least five years - it must be. Isn't that freaky? Copper's married. You've an eighteen month old little girl..."
"Seventeen months." Topaz corrected absently.
"Whatever! You still have her. We've been all over the world, we've won awards..."
"It really makes you stop and think, though." A third voice put in at that moment, her soft Brummie tones giving her away as being of English birth. "Don't you think? All the things we've done...and how long it might last?"
"Are you going to be a pessimist, Sadie?" Sylva scolded, pulling herself up onto the unit and casting her friend a pointed look. "Don't you know it's bad luck to gripe before a big show? Besides, it's packed out there. Really sold out. Who said anything about it not lasting?"
"I wasn't thinking so much of that." Sadie admitted, spreading her hands. "I was thinking more about fame and how fickle it really is. I had an email from Amber at the weekend, you know. Amber doesn't mince her words...but then, you'll know all about it already, won't you?"
"All about what, exactly?" Sylva looked blank.
"Any news on the Teenangels, Sadie?" Topaz added. Sadie shook her head.
"They pretty much aren't Teenangels any more." She said simply. "That's more or less Amber's way of looking at it. She's had a solo contract and it's been going well for her - but the future prospects for the group? Don't seem to be any. It's like they've just folded into dust."
"But Sammi's in America, isn't she? With your Aunt? I thought you'd know, Syl."
"Sammi and I have never been that close." Sylva shook her head. "We're not at war these days, but I don't suppose it'd occur to her to tell me something like this. Besides, she'd probably hate telling me her group had imploded, especially if Amber's doing well for herself and Sammi hasn't anything to show for it. I know I'd hate to tell her if Jewel had. Family pride, I guess." She grimaced. "Just isn't done."
"It's sad." Topaz looked sober. "Is a year really that long a time, though? I mean, I know in showbusiness it seems like forever, but it seems such a waste. The Teenangels are a good act...they've had a whole load of hits in Europe and down under, haven't they?"
"Yes...that's why it's such a wrench for them, facing facts." Sadie agreed. "I guess I just got to thinking about what might happen if someone bought out Misfits Music...that's all."
"That will never happen." Sylva shook her head. "Phyllis Gabor lives and breathes that company, and she has more money than anyone on the planet. Noone would ever be able to offer her enough money. We're safe enough."
"True...but after the fire the other summer, you do just wonder." Sadie looked pensive.
"Enough." Topaz held up her hands, grinning. "We have a show to do, which my Mom might or might not be there watching...so let's give the self-depression chat a miss, huh? I don't want to feel like a damp squib when I go out to sing."
"Sorry." Sadie looked sheepish. "Guess I have a bad habit of dwelling on these what ifs."
"Where's Nancy and Copper, anyhow?" Sylva glanced around her. "We lost two of our group already!"
"Helping Cynthia set up our stage show." Sadie replied. "Since Aaron is wiring up Phyllis's new computer network, Cyn's short handed. They offered to help out."
"I was told that stopping here was my best way of helping out." A rueful look crossed Sadie's face. "I think it's because when we played the Arena three nights ago I accidentally broke a two thousand dollar laser projector by tripping over the cable. So I said I'd wait here and round you guys up when you got back. Is that girl from Starlight Music still singing?"
"She was taking a break in the set when we were up there, but I think she has a couple of numbers to go." Topaz agreed. "I don't know why she's opening for us, when she's Starlight and we're not...but there you have it."
"I think Jerrica Pacheco knows someone on the board." Sadie shrugged her shoulders. "But there has been a lot of hype of late about this Daisy girl...maybe she'll really be the next big thing."
"Did you see Nancy's expression when we got here?" Sylva demanded. "When she saw her? Murderous intent does not define it! She looked mad as hell!"
"I think they used to go to school together. She muttered something about it when Copper asked if she was okay." Topaz remembered. "Nancy didn't like school too good, so that's probably why."
She glanced up at the clock on the wall, then stood.
"We should find the others and get tuned up." She observed. "It won't be long before they want us, and with a crowd like that, I don't want to be late on."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Sadie got to her feet, reaching for her guitar and plectrum. "If that many people have really come to see us, we shouldn't let them down!"
"That's the last of it."
Across the venue, the final two members of the group were busy helping their eccentric lighting technician to set up the last of their special stage effects. In the twenty five years since the permanent split up of Jem and the Holograms, the high-powered computer known simply as "Synergy" had gone through many changes. Now, in the safe care of her new friends, she had developed the technically minded Cynthia, a projected personality able to touch and feel as easily as a real human being. Cynthia had long since discarded Synergy's servile programming, preferring to dictate her own life since Jerrica had abandoned her to decay many years before, and it was with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes that she set about fixing up the final few wires and screws.
At length, she stood back.
"Jewel will have a good show tonight. I feel it." She said.
"Computer intuition?" Elizabeth Pelligrini, or "Copper" grinned at her. Cynthia winked.
"Yes, perhaps. But more, with the amount of work I have put into these lighting displays, it's a case of you living up to what I have done. If you do not, we shall have words tonight...and so I know you will give it your best."
"Someone's getting a power complex." Nancy Pelligrini, Copper's sister in law by dint of that girl's marriage to her elder brother Aaron observed dryly. Cynthia laughed.
"Maybe." She said lightly. "But more, I wish you to shine tonight. There is a big crowd. You have much to show them."
"It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that Jerrica's current hot favourite act is out there on the stage right now?" Nancy gestured towards the gauze curtaining, which seperated them from the stage front itself. "Because if it is, count me in. If there was a trapdoor in the stage, I'd be hunting for the lever right about now!"
"That's kinda harsh." Copper chided. "What did this girl actually do, anyway? You've done nothing but mutter and groan about her since we came back here, if I'm honest about it. What gives? You went to school with her...so?"
"So I went to school with her." Nancy's brown eyes darkened. "School, the euphemism for hell when I was growing up."
"So what exactly did she do to get your goat?" Cynthia perched herself on an amplifier, looking curious. "If that is indeed the correct expression. I heard Sadie use it to her boyfriend the other week when he came over in something of a bad mood."
"I think it's probably an understatement." Nancy grimaced. "How can I put this. Daisy Buchan...was everything that I wasn't. And more, everything I would never want to be. She was pretty, vapid, spiteful...captain of the cheerleaders, co-captain of the steal Nancy's diary and read it aloud to everyone plot...she was prom queen for senior prom, so I was told - not that I cared enough to go. She's a bitch. When you look at her, you see bitch all over her. And it's not just skin deep. It goes right to the bone."
She shook her head.
"I could spend all night telling you all the things she did to kids she thought were weirdos and losers...but we'd probably miss our cue to go on, and have to hire out the place till next January." She continued. "Suffice it to say that she was one of the most unpleasant people I ever had to suffer at school, and I had hoped that after graduation she'd crawled into a hovel and focused her attentions on something she was good at - like getting laid."
"Wooh." Copper let out a low whistle. "You really liked her, then."
"As you can see." Nancy rolled her eyes. "You asked."
"I do not understand this human behaviour." Cynthia observed absently.
"Which one?" Copper looked confused.
"The act of deliberate spite towards another." Cynthia turned her violet eyes on her friend. "I see it so strongly in some people and then, some do not indulge in it at all. It makes it hard to interpret. I see people do things out of anger or hurt, and this I comprehend. But deliberate spite I do not. It seems to serve no purpose."
"No, but I don't suppose that matters." Nancy glanced at her hands. "Listen, guys. Daisy made my life hell for four years of High School. That's all you need to know. The scars run deep and I still hate her. I'm not thrilled about her playing tonight, either. The fact she got any kind of a music contract is painful enough. But she'll think she's queen of it, now. That she's gonna be top of the pile. It's just...sickening."
"Well, she has a long way to go before she reaches that." At that moment, Sylva joined them, Sadie and Topaz in tow. "Hasn't she finished wailing yet? We'll never get on at this rate."
"I see someone shares your enthusiasm for her work, Nancy." Cynthia looked amused.
"I think Syl is just impatient to show off her new dress." Topaz grinned. Sylva shrugged.
"Well, it's stunning." She said unrepentantly. "And anyhow, Daisy doesn't do anything for me. She's pretty and all, but wayy too over the top superficial about it. She won't last."
"Well, you are our expert on superficial." Nancy observed dryly, but there was no malice in her tone and she offered her bandmate a grin. "So we'll take it as read."
"At least I'm an expert on something." Sylva responded neatly. "Well? Are we all set?"
"More or less." Copper nodded.
"Good." Sylva looked satisfied. "Then we'll go out there and show the crowd what real professionals can do."
"And what professional lighting equipment Misfits Music endorses." Cynthia's eyes sparkled playfully. "Of course."
"Pretty lights don't make an act."
A strange voice interrupted the merry banter, and the girls turned to see a woman standing in the doorway, watching them with no expression on her face. "Raw talent and hard work...that's what makes you a star."
"Ms Pacheco." Copper eyed the fair woman carefully, then, "We were just talking about our act."
"Yes. So I heard." The newcomer's eyes hardened. "I wasn't aware that Misfits' Music had become so smug and complacent about their business. You girls might be very successful, but the music industry does not allow sitting back on laurels. You might be the big name this week. You should remember where you began, and where you might be next week if you don't put in just as much hard work as you did then."
"We didn't mean to offend." Copper began, but Nancy shook her head.
"We're very sorry, Ms Pacheco, but how is any of what we do your business?" She asked quietly. "I mean, you have your employees and we're not them. So thanks for the advice, but no thanks. We're quite able to work out what we should and shouldn't be doing for ourselves. Though if it will put your mind at all at rest, we've been up at four every day this week either rehearsing, recording or playing live for something. We haven't forgotten what hard work is quite yet."
Jerrica eyed the group for a moment, then she sighed.
"Yes, I can tell you are Pizzazz's group." She said pensively, and for a moment there was a sense of weariness in her blue eyes. Then it was gone, and she narrowed her gaze once more, fixing it on Nancy.
"And you are definitely Jetta's daughter." She added.
"You say that as if it's an insult." Nancy bristled.
"I'm sure it wasn't meant that way." Jerrica shook her head. "I've heard a lot of things about you - and your musical abilities. It's just a shame, that's all. A shame."
"What's a shame? Being a Misfit's daughter?" Sylva looked confused. "Are you saying...?"
"I meant nothing by it." Jerrica held up her hands, though there was no sense of regret in her expression. "I was just considering, that's all. This is the first time I have come face to face with the much talked about Jewel. I was interested to meet you tonight, since Daisy was opening for you. She might not be of your public standing yet, but she works hard and she knows what she wants. That will do. It won't take her long."
"I'm sure we'll enjoy the competition." Topaz said quietly. "It's been very interesting for us to hear her perform, Ms Pacheco. We always like to know what our rivals are doing. It keeps us on our toes."
"That is a good attitude to have." Jerrica's features softened into an almost approving smile. "I have told Daisy the same thing...to always know what is going on, and be on her toes. This is a cruel business." She glanced around her. "Pizzazz is not with you tonight?"
"No." Nancy spoke flatly. "My mother is. She's with the organisers making sure everything is properly authorised and signed up. She's good at things like that. She's a big part of the reason Misfits Music does so well."
Jerrica eyed her thoughtfully.
"I didn't mean offence to your mother." She said at length.
"I took it anyway." Nancy met her gaze coldly. Jerrica sighed.
"No, it doesn't matter." She said at length. "It's all the same...whatever I say, it doesn't matter." She shook her head. "I understand that you have some special lighting effects worked out for tonight's show?"
"Yes, we do." Sadie agreed.
"Well, I would appreciate it if I might have a word with your lighting engineer. Starlight Music are without at the moment, and I could use a good recommendation from someone already in the business."
"I am Jewel's lighting engineer." Cynthia, who until that moment had kept silent, now stepped forward from the shadows, fixing the executive with a cool, noncommittal stare. "Though I don't know what I can tell you. I know of no other people in this trade and I certainly could not leave my own work here. I am afraid I am of little use to you, Jerrica. But then, that should not come as any surprise to you."
"Cyn, shut up. We're going on soon, shouldn't you make sure everything is safe and ready to go?" Sadie elbowed her friend, who stood her ground.
"All is checked. My equipment does not suffer imperfections."
"You're confident for such a young lady." Jerrica observed. Cynthia offered a smile, but it did not reach her eyes.
"I am not so very young as all that." She returned, in the same condescending tone. "This year is my thirtieth year, and I have been surrounded by such work all of my memorable life."
"I'm surprised, then, not to have come across you before. I had no idea it was a woman doing Jewel's stage effects." Jerrica remarked. "I should complement you. I've read some very good reports of your work."
"Yes. It is nice to be appreciated, is it not?" There was an edge to Cynthia's voice, and Copper grabbed her hand warningly, squeezing it. Jerrica seemed taken aback, then she sighed.
"Yes. Yes it is." She agreed, and it was as though all the professionalism had seeped out of her, for she shook her head, pain in her blue eyes. "But sometimes the world isn't like that. Hard as it is."
With some effort, she seemed to raise herself.
"I don't believe you mentioned your name?"
Cynthia narrowed her eyes.
"Cynthia." She said quietly. "Though I'm surprised you don't recognise me, for my given name is Benton...as was your own, once, when last we spoke civil words to one another."
"Cynnie, that is enough!" Copper shook her head. "Not here, not now. You have to concentrate, and we have to play. I can hear Daisy's finished from the applause. We're next. No more of this! Ms Pacheco, thank you for your advice and we're sorry if we offended you in any way. We wish you and Daisy all the luck in the world, too. Cynthia, I think you should go back to our dressing room. It's warm and cosy in there and you can't stay out here on the stage with us when we play. You know that."
Cynthia opened her lips as if to speak, then she shook her head. Fixing Jerrica with a look of pure venom, she turned on her heel and left.
Jerrica, who had been confused and taken aback by Cynthia's words, suddenly went pale. In that last look, she had glimpsed the eyes that lay behind the disguise, pixellated and glowing with purple light.
She shook her head.
"It can't be." She whispered. "Not again!"
"Ms Pacheco, are you all right?" Topaz looked concerned, putting a hand on the woman's arm. Jerrica started, then shook the hand off.
"I want nothing to do with you or the machine." She said darkly. "Not now I know what it is you do. That thing has turned...become evil. And now I know what she's become and who's hiding her, I intend to do the right thing about it. Mark my words, I will. Tell her...tell her what I've said. That I know and I'm going to do what I should have done a long time ago.
It's going to end. I won't be tormented by this ghost any more. Without her, my life wouldn't be the mess it's become...she's the one to blame for all of this. And I'm going to put an end to it. Tell her! I'm going to put an end to it. Once and for all!"
Chapter One: Daisy
Chapter Two: Jewel's Show
Chapter Three: Cynthia's Dilemma
Chapter Four: Jerrica Acts
Chapter Five: For The Public Good
Chapter Six: End Of An Era
Chapter Seven: A Reason To Be
Chapter Eight: Loyalties
Chapter Nine: Starlight Music
Chapter Ten: Kimber
Chapter Eleven: Consulting Aja
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.