Chapter Ten: Nancy's Voice

It had been freaky enough watching Mom yelling and screaming at Aunt Roxy and Aunt Phyl in the music studio, but encountering her face to face on the stairs was something that I had not expected and, quite frankly, had not wanted to experience. I'd seen enough from the studio to realise that my Mom was in no sweet mood, and that the usual dispensation she gave me because I was her daughter was not likely to apply in 1987, when she hadn't even met Dad, let alone wound up raising Aaron and me.
"Well?" Seeing that I had been struck speechless, Mom folded her arms, glaring at me in a way which would have made even Aunt Phyl envious. "Come on, yank, spit it out! What are you, groupies? Why are you sneakin' around in here? Or are you reporters, huh? Tryin' to get a scoop for the mornin' rag."
"If I am, you're giving me a great story already." I blurted out, regretting it as soon as I'd said it. Mom had never been like this with me, not even when she was mad. It was hard to remind myself that she didn't know me, that we were strangers in this world, and inadvertantly I found myself feeling sorry for the school principals she'd intimidated on my behalf over the years.
It dawned on me for the first time that my mother was a truly scary woman.
"We 'ave a special way of greetin' reporters, you know." She said darkly, glancing around at the group of us. "You ain't been invited, an' noone's allowed inside Misfits Music without a security pass. We don't let jus' anyone 'ave interviews, after all."
"Well, since we're here, maybe you can tell us what we want to know, and then we'll leave you alone." I suggested, in more reasonable tones, casting Cynthia a pleading look for help, but the hologram seemed fascinated by the exchange and Topaz and Copper were nowhere to be seen. I cursed under my breath, realising that they must have taken the split second we had had to find a hiding place, and wishing I'd done the same.
But it was too late now. Cynthia and I had been caught out, and Cynthia was proving very little help indeed.
Mom's eyes narrowed till they were little more than slits.
"Or I could 'and you over to Marcus, our security guard." She said evenly. "You wouldn't like that. 'E ain't no softie."
"Marcus gave me a teddy bear when I was small." I protested, then clamped a hand over my mouth as I realised what I'd said. Behind me, I heard Cynthia smother a chuckle, and Mom stared at me as if I'd lost my marbles. Then she pursed her lips.
"So that's 'ow you got in? You know the security guard?" She asked at length. "Pizzazz will 'ear about this."
"No, we didn't pay anyone off." I said quickly. Heck, I'd been fond of Marcus as a kid, and I didn't want to lose him his job unfairly. He'd always been nice to me, and he'd often brought me back postcards or pins from places he'd been on vacation, just because I liked them. "We came in the back way. It wasn't locked."
"Back way?" Mom grimaced. "Bloody 'ell, this place 'as more 'oles than swiss cheese!"
She folded her arms. "So why are you 'ere, then? Most press are too scared to weasel their way inside this place without an invite. What makes you any better, eh? What makes you think you'll get something where the others failed?"
I gathered my wits, realising that the only way to get out of here unscathed was to bluff it out and play the intrepid reporter for as long as I could. I wished at that moment I'd paid more attention to the way the tabloid press get their scoops, rather than dismissing them as various species of insect. But it was too late now. I said a silent prayer for help, then fixed my mother with a hard look.
"Here's the choice." I said quietly, only just remembering not to tack 'Mom' onto the end of my statement. "You kick us out and tomorrow's press will be all about how the Misfits are tearing themselves and each other to pieces because none of them are good enough musicians to compensate for Stormer's absence."
Mom visibly bristled at this.
"Oh, an' what makes you think you'd even get that in print without gettin' sued?" She demanded.
"The fact that I saw it with my own eyes. And my colleague here recorded it, too." I thought quickly, indicating Cynthia, who winked at me, then obediently held up a small cassette recorder. I knew it was only an illusion, but Mom visibly blanched at the sight of it, and it took her a split second to get her composure back under control.
"So what do you want from us?" She asked at length.
"The truth." I gestured to Cynthia to put the tape player away, getting into my role now. "We simply want a statement from you about the future of the Misfits. Is it true that Stormer has been kicked out for good? Are you going to be signing a new Misfit to play the keys? When is the next album due out? Is there any truth in the rumour that your manager, Eric Raymond was behind all of this and that you conspired with him to win control of Starlight Music? Simple questions, I think you'll agree."
Anger sparked in Mom's grey eyes, and I wondered if I'd gone too far.
"Stormer's business 'ere ain't your concern, nor is it mine." She said flatly. "I don't own or run the company, an' I don't control contracts. I can't tell you anythin' I don't know, so go put that in your stupid paper. It's the truth an' that's that."
"Is it true then that Stormer's signing with Jem and the Holograms this morning, to cut a record as part of their group?" I asked innocently.
This seemed to floor my mother, who stared at me in abject horror for a moment. Then she swore, in language I had not heard her use even in the whole of my childhood.
"Stormer's no bloody Hologram!" She managed eventually. "She's a Misfit 'avin' a temper tantrum! Don't be so bleedin' stupid!"
"Miss Burns, I believe a reliable source of ours has intimated that Stormer is all ready to sign such a contract." Now Cynthia intervened, offering a slight, professional smile. "You are unaware of this? I am surprised. I thought it was becoming common knowledge, and..."
"Get out of my way." Mom did not wait for her to finish the sentence. Pushing past me, she headed hurriedly through the stairwell door, and as it swung shut behind her, I could her her yelling for Aunt Phyl as she went. I sank back against the wall, taking a deep breath.
"Should we get out of here while she's distracted?" Copper emerged from behind a large silver unit, Topaz in tow. Cynthia nodded.
"I think it would be a good idea." She agreed. "Though you seem to have frightened her, Nancy."
"Me? You were the one who did that." I objected. "But she did freak, didn't she? Obviously the Misfits have no idea that it's more serious than Stormer just having a paddy."
"Somehow I am not surprised." Cynthia mused. "My recollections of the Misfits is that they would have had less misunderstandings had they better communicated. I believe that Phyllis and Jetta have adequate, even commendable communication in our Los Angeles...but obviously here they are still fairly new acquaintances and such things are still very raw."
"You can say that again." Topaz shivered. "And I thought Phyllis was the scary one!"
I thought she was going to eat me." I admitted, as we made our way cautiously down the stairs towards the exit. "And you didn't help, Cyn!"
"I was curious about the human interaction." Cynthia smiled apologetically. "And I found it amusing when you told her about the teddy bear."
"Well, it's true." I flushed red at this. "I just didn't think before I said it, that's all. He brought it back for me once from the Bahamas, when I was four. He was a nice guy - he worked here right up till I was twelve or thirteen and then he retired. I remembered thinking that the new security chief was a jerk in comparison."
I frowned.
"I hope I don't get him into trouble."
"Doubtful." Topaz shook her head. "Sounded to me like Jetta had other things on her mind."
"Do you suppose Syl's Mom really is thinking about joining the Holograms?" Copper asked. "Mama's never said anything to me about this whole situation, and I don't know if Mary ever considered doing it. What do you guys reckon?"
"I don't know either." I admitted. "Mom isn't big on talking about Misfit wobbly points. I did get the whole Eric Raymond story out of her, but then I probably got the edited version which made the Misfits as blameless as possible, and Eric the big bad villain. Not that I doubt he was a jerk and an embezzler and everything Mom says he was...but you know what I mean. Whenever Mom tells me Misfit stories - Aunt Phyl too - they're always positive ones. I never knew any of this happened. I knew Back2Back existed, but not that Stormer had left the band to record it, or that she might not have come back."
"I am beginning to fear that we are more involved in something here than I anticipated." Cynthia frowned, as we reached the main lobby, tacking ourselves onto a crowd of people as they left the bustling music company. "I am starting to wonder whether I was wrong to dismiss this time situation as being as straight forward as I thought. My calculations indicated that logically you cannot change something that has already happened. It is a scientific impossibility. But then, what if you are back in that time, and the events are yet to happen? I have nothing in my databanks which indicates for sure whether in that situation change is possible."
"You mean Syl is right?" Copper stared at Cynthia in horror. The hologram spread her hands.
"I do not know." She admitted. "Perhaps."
"Great." I rolled my eyes, staring up at the clear blue Los Angeles sky. "So you're telling me not only did you land us in a war zone, but that it's not a sure thing that the war's gonna end up the right way, even though we come from almost thirty years into the future?"
"I am learning that nothing involving human beings is certain." Cynthia sighed. "And few things are ever as simple as they first appear to be."
"So if we go back to the Starlight Mansion tonight without doing anything else, we could find ourselves waking up in a whole new Los Angeles?" Topaz asked slowly. Cynthia nodded.
"I am beginning to fear that that is a possibility." She agreed. Anger mingled with fear leapt into Topaz's eyes.
"So what about Hollie?" She demanded. "What about my baby - you said she'd be safe and she'd never know we were gone! Will she even be there? Will there even be Jewel if we go back without putting things right? And why wouldn't things be right? How could we go back in time and see things work themselves out the opposite of the way we saw them happen!"
"Because we've interfered." Suddenly everything clicked into place, and I bit my lip. "We've come back in time. Stormer saw us in that coffee house, and launched a tirade at Cyn because she thought she was Aunt Phyl. It's such a little thing, but what if it's the catalyst? Little things do spread to become bigger ones, you know. And when you're mad at someone, well...seeing them like that, out of the blue...Cyn tried to hide from her, and that must have made her even angrier. We know that she did it because she wasn't the real Aunt Phyl, but Stormer didn't know that. She would have interpreted it quite differently."
"Could it be enough to make Mary forsake the Misfits forever, though?" Copper looked startled. "She always seems such an even-tempered person! Surely she wouldn't just fly to some crazy conclusion based on that?"
"How well do we really know any of them in this Los Angeles?" I spread my hands helplessly. "That wasn't the Mom I know in there. Nor the Aunt Phyllis. And I doubt the Stormer we met in the coffee place this morning bears a lot of resemblance to the Mary Martescu we know, either. It's like expecting us to act the same as we did when we were six. In this world, they're our age. Maybe even younger - I'm not sure. Stormer didn't look more than twenty or twenty-one, so that'd make her younger than any of us are now. In our Los Angeles she's been married, divorced and whatever else. Life's bound to change people."
"Nancy is right." Cynthia agreed. "Life does alter people, as does the benefit of experience." She looked rueful. "I am perhaps one such example."
"Yes, but a lot of your changes are electronic." Topaz pointed out. "If your circuits hadn't got messed up and Aaron hadn't had to replace bits of you, you'd still be the same as you were then."
"I don't know." Cynthia pursed her lips. "Perhaps you are correct...but then again, my experiences with Jerrica have changed my way of viewing humanity, also. I would say that my growing experience of life is just as important as Aaron's tinkering."
"Oh, thank goodness!"
An exclamation interrupted our conversation and we turned, seeing Sadie and Syl heading up the street towards us. It had been Sadie who had shouted, and, as they got closer, I could see the relief on her face. "We didn't know where we'd find you - but this seemed as good a place as any to start looking! It's one of the few places in L.A that's the same in our time as in this one!"
"What's wrong with Syl?" Topaz cast Syl a confused look, and I realised she had a point - Syl did look more morose than usual.
"We couldn't persuade her to go back to the Misfits." Sylva raised tragic blue eyes. "She's gone to Starlight Music...look." She pointed at a banged up yellow car parked up on the curb not far from where we were standing. "That's her car. She wouldn't listen and she won't go back to them. She's talking to Jerrica and the Holograms...it's too late. And we're going to go back to Los Angeles and I won't exist any more because if Mom isn't a Misfit she'll never meet Dad!"
I raised an eyebrow.
"Melodramatic much." I said bluntly. "Noone ever said that would happen. She could have already met him. Or she could meet him some other way."
"I don't really want to take the risk." Sylva snapped back.
"You did speak to her, then?" Copper looked quizzical. Sadie nodded.
"We found where she was staying." She agreed. "And she was sweet to us, really. She did listen to what we had to say, but then, she explained to us why she can't just trot back to the Misfits and beg to be allowed back in. She does miss them - a whole lot, by the way she was talking - but she can't be taken for granted any more. If she gives in now, nothing will change. And she knows that she's better than that. In the circumstances, it made sense. She's right. I don't know exactly why the Misfits and she fell out, but whatever it was has really hurt her feelings. It's not our place to force them back together."
"So you think she's gonna become a Hologram too?" Topaz demanded. Sadie shrugged.
"She said it hadn't been mentioned to her." She said simply. "But that she was focused on Back2Back's success and that Jerrica had called her to Starlight Music this morning to talk with her."
"We know that Jerrica's gonna talk to her about becoming a Hologram." Sylva added at this juncture. "Because we started our hunt for her at the Starlight, and we heard Jerrica talking to Kimber." Hate flashed into her blue eyes. "That woman is nothing but trouble. After what she did to my Aunt Aja..."
"I told you once, Syl, that all hasn't happened yet." Sadie scolded. "Besides, Jerrica seems okay to me. In this time zone, at least. Cyn, you know her best...would you say that was true?"
"Yes." Sadness flooded Cynthia's features. "In 1987 I believe Jerrica was a very different person to the one she became."
"Standing around here isn't doing any of us any good." I put in impatiently. "What's the deal? Are we letting things lie and working out how to get back home to our Los Angeles? Or are we going to try and intervene?"
"We have seen for ourselves that the Misfits do not realise how deeply they have upset Stormer's feelings." Cynthia said thoughtfully. "And that Jetta was shocked and stunned when you put it to her that Stormer might become a Hologram. It seems clear to me from what we discovered inside Misfits Music that they do both need and want her back. But it is a matter of Misfit pride - they do not want to say so."
"But if Stormer won't come to them, and they won't go to her, what can we do?" I demanded. "Seems like a stalemate to me."
"Sadie and Syl tried to talk Mary round and it didn't work." Copper agreed. "And to be honest, having seen Phyllis and Jetta and Roxy in this time zone..." She shook her head. "I don't fancy challenging them. You were brave as heck taking Jetta on in there, Nance. That's the truth."
"She's my mother." I said flippantly. "Scary as hell, yes, but I do know how she ticks. Once I got my bearings it wasn't so hard."
"You know, Nancy was right." Topaz looked troubled. "When she said that little things become bigger ones. If that meeting in the coffee house has sparked things off this way, well, let's just stop for a moment and think what kind of repercussions it could have if we just walk out and leave it. Ripples start small but they wind up huge, and that's what's gonna happen here. Look at how many things rely on the Misfits being an act into the nineties. It isn't just a case of Syl's parents meeting. Misfits Music would not exist. Without the biggest act to promote, it would have folded long before we came on the scene. Without Misfit Music, there is no Jewel. I would still be singing in my diner in Toronto. I wouldn't have met Cameron, because that was through the music company, so Hollie would never have been born. I would never have met Sadie..."
"Neal would have tracked me down and killed me." Sadie blanched. "Because I would have had nowhere to run to for sanctuary. I'd never have come to Los Angeles."
"Mom would not have met Dad, either, because he would never have come to L.A looking for Aunt Roxy." I added gravely. "Aunt Roxy hared off back to Philly when the band split, so stands to reason she'd have done the same in this instance. He'd have found her there, instead. Mom would never have come into the equation. In fact, without the music company, she'd have been deported back to England. I guess Aaron and I wouldn't have been born, either."
"Without Aaron, I would have decayed beyond all help in the back rooms of Starlight Mansion." Cynthia's voice shook slightly. "Until the building was torn down or fell down around me. There would never have been any Cynthia or any second chance at life."
"And I wouldn't be engaged to be married." Copper fingered her engagement ring. "Because there'd be no Aaron for me to be engaged to. I would have stayed in Detroit, gone to law school...eventually..." She sighed. "And that holds so little appeal now."
"Then it's simple." Sylva said darkly. "It's like I said before, we have to do something! We can't just wander by like tourists and let these things happen. We have a few hours here yet and we have to use them to get the Misfits back together. Otherwise it's not just them it'll be too late for! It'll be too late for Jewel, too!"

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen