Chapter Seven: A Reason To Be
"This is so nice, you know."
Sylva set down her fork, casting her companion a grin across the table. "It's been a long time since I've had dinner with a guy friend and noone's had any expectations of it...it's real nice to just kick back and know that the world don't think we're about to elope."
"You mustve known some pretty interesting guys, then." Logan's eyes twinkled, and he raised his glass, toasting her playfully. "I'll drink to that. It's been great, moving back to Los Angeles. But a lot of the old crowd aren't here any more...like me, they flew the nest after graduation. Most went to colleges outta state. Aaron's the only one still regularly around these parts, now Clyde's taken a job out in Minnesota. It feels good to have made new friends, even in the short time I've been back."
"Well, I'll drink to that!" Sylva grinned, lifting her own wine glass. "In this line of work, it can be hard to make friends that aren't already in the business somewhere. Though I suppose it helps that you knew Aaron and Nancy in high school."
"It does. I still see Nancy somewhat as Aaron's kid sister, not as a superstar songwriter and performer in her own right." Logan admitted. "Though honestly, I never expected someone like you and someone like her to work so well together. You couldn't be more different - and I don't mean that in a negative sense to either one of you."
"I guess that's why it works." Sylva looked pensive. "Honestly, when I met Nancy, I didn't know how in hell we'd work, either. We just didn't agree on anything. But it's weird how living and working so closely with someone can change things. Now, if you were to give me a pen and piece of paper and ask me to list my six best friends, Nancy'd be among the names. Crazy, huh?"
"And what about you and me? Why've we made friends so quickly, huh?" Logan teased. "Because I feel like I've known you since High School, too."
"I know. It does seem like we've always hung out." Sylva dimpled. "I dunno. Maybe it's a California thing. I was born here, you know."
"I thought you were from the east coast?"
"Yes, I am. But Anna and I were tiny babies when Mom and Dad moved across the country." Sylva shrugged. "Home has always been Washington DC for that reason. But this is my spiritual home - must be because I was born out here."
She grinned. "Were you born in California?"
"Yes. Sacramento, actually. Not Los Angeles." Logan took a sip of his wine, setting it down. "We did move about quite a bit, with the family's military connection. Settled down here after a while, though. I loved it the moment I got here. Who wouldn't?"
"Beats me. I love DC, but I wouldn't wanna live anywhere else." Sylva laughed. "Even if it does mean sweeping the press off the doorstep occasionally."
"Speaking of..." Logan grimaced, nodding in the direction of the restaurant door. Sylva turned, then pulled a face.
"Oh, great. Bug invasion."
"I beg your pardon?" Logan stared. Sylva grinned.
"Nancy. She always likens reporters to various species of swarming insect. At times like this, I really see her point."
"Sylva? Hot date?" At that point they were interrupted by a man in his early thirties, his eagle eye darting between the musician and her companion. "Someone you'd like to introduce to the Los Angeles press?"
"Yes, if you like." Sylva shrugged. "This is a friend of mine, Logan Matthews."
"Just a friend?" A second reporter asked. Sylva nodded.
"Sorry to disappoint, but yes. Just a friend." She agreed. "He's an old school pal of our Road Manager, and he's just settling back into the area. So I'm afraid there's no big juicy story in us tonight...just two friends out for a meal."
"You know...Logan, is that what Sylva said? - many guys would give their front teeth to spend a night out with one of LA's hottest rock act." The first reporter raised an eyebrow. "Just friends?"
"It's as the lady says." Logan drawled, offering the pressman a lazy smile. "Just friends."
"Well, if you say so." The reporter shrugged his shoulders. "Though I'm sure that a picture of you cozying up together in this place will speak a thousand words in tomorrow's press..."
"Why ask us anything, if you intend to print what you like anyway?" Sylva asked. "God, anything for a story. Don't you know you have a responsibility to the city to print news? Like, true stuff? You're not working for the fiction section."
"Well, when you put it like that...it's not as if you'll be tomorrow's hottest story." The second reporter cast her an infuriating smile. "We've just been down Starlight Music...hey, since you've been so accomodating and all, could you give us a quote on the latest buzz coming out of the city?"
"Starlight Music?" Sylva paled, her mind immediately flitting to Cynthia. "What about Starlight Music?"
"Didn't you hear the story? Been all over the radio stations already." The first reporter looked startled. "A big star like you don't know what's going down? Guess you were more immersed in your little just friends moment than you thought!"
"My companion asked a question - could you be so kind as to answer it?" Logan asked quietly. "I appreciate you're busy people, and so are we. So if you have something to say, say it and then maybe we can all get back to what we were doing before."
"I meant the accident, of course." The second reporter cast Logan an unfriendly look. "I told you. Already all over the networks. Though we're working on the angle that it was no accident. She wasn't the kinda babe to take chances...not like that."
"Wait a minute." Sylva put up her hands. "There's been an accident? At Starlight Music?"
"Well, noone quite knows what happened." The pressman shrugged his shoulders. "All I know is there's a stiff in the morgue with the nametag Jerrica Pacheco, and we're gonna get to the bottom of why. You got a comment for tomorrow's press on the subject? Can get you on the front page after all!"
"Jerrica Pacheco is dead?" Sylva's eyes almost fell out of her head. "Oh God...that's...that's terrible!"
"Terrible with one r or two, Jerry?" The second reporter glanced at his colleague, who rolled his eyes.
"Come on, bonehead. We've got real news to dig up." He said. "Starting with that broad's husband...I'm telling you, there's a story there!"
With that the reporters were gone, and Logan eyed his companion keenly.
"Are you all right?"
"Syl...are you okay?"
"I...I guess so." Sylva pulled herself together, offering him an apologetic smile. "Just...oh wow. This is...we only spoke to her last night, Logan. She was right there..."
"You know this woman?"
"Doesn't everyone?" Sylva responded. "Jerrica Pacheco. Jerrica Benton...aka Jem, Jem and the Holograms...none of this mean anything to you?"
"The woman who runs Starlight Music?"
"This is big news." Logan bit his lip. "But I don't understand...how does it affect you?"
"It doesn't. Not me." Sylva paused, then reached for her jacket. "Logan, do you mind if I ask you to take me home? I can't be here enjoying myself...not now."
"Sure, but care to fill me in? I mean, is she a bosom friend of yours?"
"No...no." Sylva shook her head. "But...you've met Cynthia, haven't you?"
"Yes, of course. Nice chick. Very together. Very pretty." Logan agreed. "Why?"
"Cynthia Benton, Logan." Sylva got to her feet, sliding her jacket over her shoulders. "Jerrica is...was her sister."
"Oh." Logan's eyes softened. "I see. I'm sorry...didn't occur to me. Cynthia's a lot younger than Jerrica, isn't she?"
"She's almost thirty...but yes. She was...well, she was born the year her father died." Sylva nodded. "She and Jerrica haven't always gotten along, but this is gonna be a big shock to her nonetheless. And...well, she's my friend. I want to be there for her."
"Of course." Logan raised his hand to get the waiter's attention, asking for the bill. "After all, we can do this another night."
"Thanks for understanding." Sylva planted a kiss on his cheek. "You're a good friend."
"And so are you. Cynthia's lucky." Logan told her. "Once I've paid, I'll drop you home. You'll call me, huh?"
"I will." Sylva promised. "And thanks again. God only knows how she's feeling right now."
* * * * * * * * *
It was Sadie who first broke the silence. "Copper, are you serious? Dammit, really serious?"
"Is this something I'd joke about?" Copper demanded. "Of course I'm serious! Aaron and I saw the bulletin and I knew I had to come over here and see if you guys knew!"
"Well, we didn't." Topaz pursed her lips, then, "I'll go upstairs and get Cynthia. Providing she hasn't left her watch there and switched to scandisk, I'll bring her down with me. You're right, Copper - one of us should tell her."
"Let me do it." Copper pleaded. "That's why I came over here."
"If anyone should tell her, it should be you." Topaz nodded. "Your mother was a Hologram, and Cynthia trusts you and Aaron above all others. I'll be right back."
"Do you think it was an accident?" Nancy asked, once the singer was gone. Copper spread her hands.
"I don't know." She admitted. "Aaron said he saw a car wreck coming home tonight, but he didn't think...I mean, we both think now that was what he saw, but..."
"Cynthia mentioned it too. She said there were road-blocks." Sadie said gravely. "And that Jerrica wasn't at Starlight Music."
"The accident happened some time this afternoon, from what they were saying on the news." Copper twisted her hands together. "And that she was killed instantly. The car's been taken in by law enforcement and forensics have already been all over the scene. Whether it was an accident or not, they're gonna look into it for anything they can find. She's such an important person in the city...they'd do the same if it was Jetta or Phyllis."
"They would." Nancy paused, then, "I wonder what Alex knows about this."
"Haven't we already asked enough of him for one day?" Sadie said quietly. "If Jerrica's dead, whatever she was going to tell him tomorrow dies with her. He'll have less to cover up than we thought."
"That could be seen as a motive." Nancy said grimly.
"Alex?" Sadie looked stunned. Nancy shook her head.
"No. Not Alex. Cynthia." She responded.
"But Cynthia was with Aaron, and then with you." Copper protested. "Wasn't she? And besides, do you realise what you're suggesting?"
"She was, and yes, I do." Nancy agreed. "But I dunno...Alex might wonder. And if he wonders enough, maybe he'll think that Cynthia's a threat to society after all. Let's face it, who else has a motive like Cyn's for getting Jerrica out of the way?"
"We don't know it was anything other than an accident." Sadie said sensibly. "And the only people who can connect Cynthia with Jerrica in that way are us and Alex. He's not a hack cop. He'll come and speak to us and her before he starts yelling that Jerrica's computer is on the rampage. You know that."
"It's turning into a horrible evening." Copper sighed, running her fingers through her damp locks.
At that moment the door of the lounge swung open once more, to reveal an apprehensive Cynthia, Topaz in tow.
"Topaz said you were here...is there something wrong?"
"Yes...Cyn, there is." Copper steeled herself, then, "Can we go downstairs to talk? Down to the basement? I'd rather it was just us...one to one."
"Of course." Confusion marred Cynthia's brow, but she nodded, gesturing. "Lead the way."
Copper bit her lip, then did as she was bidden, heading across the house to the basement steps. At the door she paused, casting her friend a pensive look. Then, at length, she hugged her.
"Don't hate me." She said softly. "I only bring the news."
"Copper, why on earth would I ever hate you?" Cynthia stared, pulling open the door. "What is this about?"
Copper made no response, merely slipping past her friend and down the cold basement steps. Nonplussed, Cynthia followed suit, finding the redhead at the bottom, running an idle finger over the computer mainframe.
"So what is all of this about?" Cynthia asked softly. "You seem agitated, Copper. What ails you?"
"How active are your net sensors tonight?" Copper asked, glancing up at the big monitor, then turning, moving away from it.
"I've been wholly engaged in work at the music company, and I was about to run scandisk. I don't play online when I'm scanning, it creates more work for my processors." Cynthia frowned. "Why?"
"Then you don't know. And I do have to tell you." Copper swallowed hard, then took her friend's hands in her grip, squeezing them reassuringly. "Cyn, I came over tonight because Aaron and I saw something on the news. Something you need to know about."
"The news?" A guarded expression entered Cynthia's violet eyes, and Copper shook her head.
"Not what you think." She said, her heart breaking as relief flooded her friend's expression. "Oh, don't...please don't look like that! It's not what you think, but it's worse. Much, much worse...and I don't know how to tell you. I know how I would react...how I did react...if it were me. I..."
"Copper, calm yourself." Now the hologram was concerned. "Whatever it is, tell me. I am a computer, and I do not have entirely the same impulses as you do. My circuits are far more stable...whatever it is, I can deal with it. I am designed to."
Copper met her friend's expression, tears filling her brown eyes.
"Oh Cyn..." She murmured. "Cyn, there's been an accident. I'm sorry...I'm so sorry. Jerrica...she didn't make it. She...she's dead."
For a moment, there was complete silence, and Copper gazed at the hologram anxiously. Cynthia's expression had frozen on her face, as she slowly digested her companion's news. Then she turned, meeting Copper's eyes with her own.
"This happened when?" She asked, in tones so dead that Copper flinched. "Tell me. I need to know."
"I'm not sure of all the details, only that it was this afternoon, and it was a car wreck." Copper reached for Cynthia's hand again, but Cynthia pulled away, turning on her heel and moving across towards her mainframe.
"Then Aaron and I were too late indeed. Ironic."
"Aaron's pretty sure that...that was what you passed." Copper swallowed, then, "Cyn, I hate to be the one to bring this to you. But I...we felt it had to be me. And...and that you had to know."
"Yes. Yes, I had to know." Cynthia turned back, and for the first time since the two had met, Copper saw nothing in her friend's eyes. "Thank you. I realise it was not a pleasant task."
"Cyn...are you okay? Do you want me to get anyone or...or anything?"
"No." Cynthia shook her head slowly. "It is quite well, Copper."
She closed her eyes.
"My duty here was over a long time ago, but I tried to pretend it was not." She murmured. "I was programmed to help and protect her, and tonight, you bring me the news that tells me that...whatever I think, whatever I claimed to be, I failed. I failed in the one thing my father asked of me."
"Cyn, you didn't fail! Listen, you've had a shock..."
"Stop." Cynthia held up her hand. "Stop. I am not like you...There is nothing you can bring me. At the end of the day, it all seems so very clear. I'm a computer system who just exhausted her entire reason for being. If Jerrica is dead, there is no longer any need for Synergy."
"Cyn? What are you talking about?" Copper took a step forward, a little frightened by her friend's solemn, emotionless speech. Cynthia offered her a slight smile, then, carefully, slipped the watch off her wrist, dropping it down onto her mainframe with a clatter.
"Runtime terminated." She murmured. "Initiating shutdown sequence."
"Cyn?" Copper's eyes opened wide. "Cyn, what are you doing?"
"What Jerrica tried to do a long time ago." The hologram became almost translucent. "Finishing the process."
Then, with a final whirr, the image burst into shards of light. There was a creak and a groan from inside the mainframe, then the monitor flickered and went dead, engulfing the room in darkness.
"Cyn?" Copper whispered, stumbling to the wall for the main light switch. "Cyn?"
She hurried to the mainframe, pressing buttons and keys in an attempt to get some kind of response, but there was nothing. A thin blip of light darted across the screen, but there was no other sign of life. She bit her lip, taking a step back.
"Cynthia." She whispered. "Oh my God, what have you done?"
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.