Part One

Chapter Three: Cynthia's Dilemma

It was getting late.
Cynthia glanced out across the darkening Los Angeles skyline, preoccupation marring her pretty features as she pulled her knees up to her chest in a protective gesture. By her feet, a small redhaired toddler gathered grass in her chubby pink hands, piling it over Cynthia's shoes with a gurgle of delight. Still the hologram remained oblivious, lost in thought.
"Are you both spending the night out here?"
A voice from the doorway elicited a shriek of "Mama!" from the infant, and at last Cynthia turned, casting Topaz a sheepish smile.
"I didn't realise how dark it was becoming." She admitted, scooping the baby up into her arms and shaking the grass blades from her feet. "I am afraid I was thinking and became distracted. I thought her company would help clear my thoughts, but I fear I have been a poor playmate for her tonight."
"When you asked to take her with you, I hoped you might shake off this mood." Topaz admitted, holding the door open for the two to pass inside. "Are you still dwelling on what Jerrica said to us before we played our set?"
"Of course I am. What else?" Cynthia sighed, passing the baby gently into her mother's care. "I was foolish. Copper tried to protect me, but my anger around Jerrica is too strong still for me to be rational. I said too much, and I lost momentary control of all of my faculties. I believe she met my gaze and saw Synergy, just for a brief second. She knows me now. I am no longer safe."
"Do you really think she would hurt you? Go against your father's wishes and ideas and betray his work to the world?"
"Yes. I do." Cynthia said simply. "That woman is not the Jerrica Benton that I was created to protect. She has become something else...and whatever she says, that something is of her making. It is certainly not of mine."
"She seems unhappy." Topaz looked pensive. "Last night, she seemed tired...anxious. Upset. Worn out, even. Maybe she was just startled to see you. Maybe you could go talk to her. Even reason with her..."
"No." Cynthia shook her head. "I will not beg Jerrica to spare me from publicity. I will not ask anything of her, ever again. She made her feelings very clear last night...she has had plenty of time to reflect on her treatment of me twenty five years ago, and she still sees no wrong in them. So I will not seek her out. It would be a waste of power to do so."
"But Cyn, if she really is going to threaten your safety..."
"Then she will." Cynthia's expression became obstinate. "But just as soon as she mentions the name Cynthia Benton to anyone, I will create a new identity. Copper has already said that if need be, my mainframe could be transported from here to her and Aaron's new home, out of the way. I do not wish it so, but this is not my first home, and rather that than the alternative."
"Not your first home?" Topaz looked surprised. "I thought you were built here. Isn't this where Emmet lived with the girls?"
"No, on many counts." Cynthia shook her head. "Firstly, I was built at the old Starlight House, which burnt down not long after my father's death. But I was not there at this time. When Jerrica and Kimber were growing older and there were more children around the house, he moved me to an old drive through movie theatre, where he could work on me undisturbed. That was where I first met his children face to face."
A hint of sadness crept into her violet eyes. "And now, it has come to this. That I must hide from one of those that he programmed me to protect."
"Well, as far as we can, Cyn, we will do our best to protect you." Topaz promised. "Right now, though, the next move is Jerrica's. And Hollie needs a you want to help?"
Cynthia hesitated, then cast a smile at the baby.
"Well, Hollie? Would you like two bathers tonight instead of one?" She asked playfully. Hollie reached out a fist for Cynthia's sleek hair.
"Cynta play." She commanded, and despite herself, Cynthia laughed.
"You always want to play." She scolded lightly. "But very well. It will be Princess Hollie and the sea monsters in the bathroom tonight."

"Do you think she's still dwelling over it?"
In the main lounge, Sylva cast a glance out of the door, seeing her friends heading up the stairs towards the main bathroom. "Cynthia, I mean. She's been odd ever since we got back last night."
"Jerrica more or less threatened her existance." Sadie said wisely, setting down her book. "I know what it feels like to be hunted and to not know whether or not you're still safe when you wake up in the morning. What else would you expect her to do? Jerrica was cryptic last night, but it was fairly obvious what she was referring to."
"So you think that Cynnie is in real danger?" Nancy frowned, glancing up from her manuscript. She chewed on the end of her pen, then, "I thought it was that strange woman being strange and melodramatic. God only knows that something's touched her brain. Why on earth did she come to speak to us last night, anyway? Would you see Mom or Aunt Phyl doing that to a rival's group?"
"Jerrica is a strange one." Sadie shrugged. "I'll give you that. Maybe she thought that she might learn something from us. Something about Misfits Music. Maybe she really meant to give advice. Maybe she was just curious to find out what kind of musicians Jetta and Phyllis put out. I don't know. It did seem a bit out of the blue. But then, we have to remember that this latest signing of hers knows you, Nancy. Maybe she's said something to Jerrica, and so Jerrica wanted to make sure that you weren't out to cause trouble for her newest musician."
"That would be just like Daisy." Nancy's eyes darkened. "You're probably right. And I am a Misfit's daughter, which, apparently, means I'm the devil's child, judging by the way she looked at me last night. Maybe Daisy has said something to her about me."
"Well, there was no trouble between acts last night." Sylva settled herself more comfortably on the couch. "We played one hell of a set and the crowd loved our light show. Jerrica made a threat, but then again, she's scared of Cynnie. We know that. Remember the Jem Memorial? She was petrified."
"Do you suppose that's what she meant, when she said that Syn had ruined her life?" Nancy pursed her lips. "The Jem Memorial?"
"You'll have to fill me in a little." Sadie observed. "I've heard about the Memorial, and I know that Synergy confronted Jerrica there - that's how the world first found out that she even existed. But I didn't think anything other than words were exchanged. Synergy isn't the kind to do anyone physical harm, and I didn't think they'd even spoken since."
"I don't think they have." Nancy shook her head. "But after the memorial, Starlight Music went under. For a while it wasn't even operational. There were any number of legal suits against it, and against Jerrica - all to do with Jem and the fact that her whole existance had been a sham. Synergy forced out Jem's secret in front of not only the LA press, but press who'd travelled to be here. And I think, if memory serves, it was televised, too. Word spread fast. The Starlight Foundation almost buckled with it, though Kimber rallied the Holograms and they put themselves into it as they'd done before. The Teenangels helped out too -  a whole lot. With one thing and another the Foundation survived. It took another month or two, but Jerrica eventually dragged Starlight Music out of the mire and back into business. She let out rooms of the main building to other companies for meetings, to raise revenue. She's had various acts but none have been big business. Then she signed Daisy."
She grimaced.
"I don't know why, but the world seem to like this one." She added grudgingly.
"Well, then Starlight Music is back on an even keel." Sadie responded. "Right?"
"Yes...but remember, that company was started by Jerrica's father." Sylva pointed out. "I think he left it to her in his will...or something. It's a family business."
"I suppose then it makes sense for her to hate Synergy so much." Sadie considered.
"I don't think she has any right to complain about the Jem Memorial at all." Nancy shook her head. "Jerrica shut Synergy away and left her to die. Syn isn't your average computer, we all know that. It's almost as good as murder, to leave her to rot."
"We love Cyn as one of our family, and as if she were as human as we are." Sadie looked thoughtful. "But in a court of law, she was Jerrica's possession and simply a machine. Technically speaking, she did nothing wrong."
"Are you going to tell Cynthia that, or shall I?" Sylva demanded. Sadie grinned.
"I was playing devil's advocate." She said. "I wasn't here when it all happened. But you know I wouldn't forsake Cynnie. Give me some credit."
"Well, to be honest, the next move is Jerrica's now." Nancy pursed her lips. "Cynthia was silly to give herself away, but it can't be taken back now. We just have to see what materialises, if anything, and do our best to protect her as long as we can. We've known her long enough to know that she would be a very dangerous thing if controlled by the wrong people."
"And to take her life away would not be fair." Sadie added. "Not when she's become as real as she is. You guys protected me from Neal when I needed someplace to go, and in some ways this is the same thing. To us, Cynthia is real. We owe it to her to make sure Jerrica can't get at her."
"But Nancy is right." Sylva sighed. "The ball is in Jerrica's court. All we can do is wait and see what happens next."
She settled herself more comfortably. "My feet are still killing me, you know. Those sandals are evil."
"Too small. I did warn you." Nancy snorted. Sylva shrugged.
"Sometimes good fashion sense does not come without pain." She responded. "And speaking of pain, Nance, maybe it would help us all a little more if you told us something about this new rival we seem to be up against. Like, do you think Jerrica would involve her if there was some kind of attack on Synergy?"
"Not if she had any sense." Nancy said darkly. "Daisy isn't someone who keeps a secret well."
"Will you tell us exactly why you hate her? At least then we'd know what to expect from the girl." Sadie looked curious, and Nancy sighed, spreading her hands.
"Fine. What's to tell, really? She was a cheerleader...that pretty much says it all."
"Hey, I was a cheerleader!" Sylva protested. "You don't think I'm a bitch...or do you?"
"No...I admit, these days I don't." Nancy acknowledged. "But I guess that's because I know you better and you know me better. I knew Daisy well enough in school and she did not improve with time and familiarity. Basically, guys, she was the most unpleasantly shallow being you'd ever encounter."
She frowned.
"I wasn't...well, I never fit in in school. But then you guys know that much already. Kids in elementary school called me Wednesday Addams and the nickname spread up through junior high to High School. Daisy loved it. I used to wear my hair in braids then, and they all thought they were so clever coming up with it. One time, one of Daisy's boyfriends set fire to one of my braids with his lighter. I was lucky not to be really badly burnt - as it was I lost the end of one pigtail and my hair had to be cut. I think that was the first time I let on to Mom that Daisy Buchan was seriously bad news. Her Dad was the head of the school governors or something...I dunno what...but she thought it meant she could rule the school. One time she broke into my locker and stole my diary." At this point she paused, meeting Sylva's gaze with a slightly sheepish blush. "I think you already know something about that. But she spread the contents over the whole school. Every single one of my private thoughts out for public viewing. I never kept a diary since then. I remember in gym class once she and her friends kept tripping me up till I got detention for goofing around. The number of times they stole and ruined my assignments - I lost count. Once or twice they'd take them and submit them under their names so I'd look like a copycat and have to redo things if I wasn't going to fail the class. Once they knew how to break into my locker, they did it more than once...and poured stuff all over my folders so I'd have to copy my notes up again."
"She sounds like a charming piece of work." Sylva grimaced. "I'm really beginning to realise why you think cheerleaders are the scum of the earth...but surely she was just one kid?"
" kid with a following. You know how things are in High School. There's always the popular kid everyone wants to be like." Nancy was bitter. "Daisy was that kid. She had a cousin, too - Margot...she was just as bad. Margot was generally the brains, and Daisy was the spite. I've never been so glad to see the back of anyone as I was them at graduation."
She paused, pursing her lips.
"She had a crush on Aaron at one point, and he refused to date her because he didn't think she had a brain." She remembered slowly. "I often wonder if that's a large part of why she singled me out so much in our junior year. It was bad before then but it got worse after he turned her down. Aaron was...well, he was the guy everyone fancied in his grade. We couldn't have been more different, but he wasn't afraid to fight guys who hassled me. Unfortunately, hitting a girl wasn't his style - though he told me several times that she deserved it. And then of course, he graduated, and my last year I was pretty much on my own."
She shrugged. "That's about it, really, sparing all the gory details."
"Aside from Aaron, didn't anyone stick up for you?" Sadie asked softly. Nancy snorted.
"I didn't exactly do friends in High School." She said darkly. "I was the weird kid, remember? And most of the other kids were just glad it wasn't them getting picked on, so they gave me a wide berth if they didn't join in. Aaron was all I had, really. Suffice it to say that noone I went to school with is good news."
"Logan is all right." Sylva objected. Nancy grimaced.
"If you like that kind of guy." She said pointedly. "But he was Aaron's friend. Not mine."
"Do I sense a budding romance, then, Syl?" Sadie asked playfully. Sylva grinned, shaking her head.
"No, not right at the moment." She replied. "But he is taking me out for dinner tomorrow night. It's nothing romantic, though. It's to celebrate his first month at his new job in Los Angeles, and finally settling down into the apartment and making it his own."
Sadie raised an eyebrow.
"So you're going back to his after?"
"Possibly." Sylva shrugged. "But don't get any ideas about it, Sadie! We're friends, and both of us are capable of keeping our hands to ourselves."
"There is so much irony in that sentence I don't know where to begin." Nancy looked amused. "Oh, I dare say Logan is all right, though I'd rather not spend too much of my time with him if it could be avoided. And we're really not getting anywhere talking about me at high school. It's been a while - Daisy has had five years to change and either grow up or become worse...and it doesn't tell us what we might be facing where Cynthia is concerned."
"No." Sylva admitted. "And on that count all we can do is watch and wait."

Prologue: 1990
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

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