Chapter Eleven: Copper's Voice

For a moment after Syl's exclamation, there was silence, as we all digested the truth in what she had said. It had hit us all with sudden very real clarity that this was no longer a game and that we were no longer just visitors to this time zone. We had changed things - and unless we worked out a way to fix it, there would be nothing to go back to.
Despite myself, I bit my lip. I did not really want to go back to a Los Angeles without Aaron being there. It was a touch selfish, I admit it, when I knew that both Syl and Nancy's existances were in peril, but well, I do love Aaron so very much. I guess it's true what they say. Nothing is ever "someone else's problem." In this case, this was very much our problem. The only thing was, what could we do about it?
"Well, it's all very well deciding we have to act." Topaz said at length. "The next question is, how?"
"I was just thinking the same." I owned. "How can we get the Misfits back together, if Syl and Sadie already failed to persuade Stormer to talk to them? If she's not convinced, how would we tackle the others?"
"I believe that I might have the starts of an idea." Cynthia said slowly, and I shot her a sidelong glance, seeing a little of her mischievous sparkle returning to her eyes. "Sadie, you said that Stormer does miss the Misfits?"
"Yes. Honestly, I think she's unhappy at the moment, stuck in some kind of limbo between two bands." Sadie agreed. "But she won't go and speak to them unless they apologise to her, or at the very least tell her that they need her and want her back with the band. She's adamant on that point. She wants to know that they do want her, and that she's not just going to be exploited."
"That sounds fair enough." I sighed. "Unfortunately, it means that we have to tackle the harder side of the equation. Can you see how we'd get Phyllis and the rest to grovel to her? I don't."
"Perhaps not." Cynthia pursed her lips. "But then, maybe we will not need to do that, exactly. Nancy, you and I both saw how your mother reacted when you mentioned the possibility of a Hologram's contract for Stormer. We all heard Pizzazz in Eric's office, on the subject of Stormer's music. And we heard them in the studio. Would you agree that the rest of the Misfits would take Stormer back in a heartbeat, if they thought they could do so without losing face?"
"Yes. But we already established that won't happen." Nancy replied. "One side at least has to buckle."
"Yes." Cynthia nodded. "But not necessarily in the presence of the other."
"Okay, what are you talking about now?" Sylva stared. "I'm lost. What do you mean?"
"Well...it occurs to me that Stormer does not have to speak to the Misfits at all, nor vice versa." Cynthia shrugged. "Here is my suggestion. We know Stormer is at Starlight Music. Do you think it a likely place that the other Misfits would visit?"
"Not unless someone put a gun to their heads." Nancy shook her head emphatically. "It's the same as one of them going to Rebel Records in our time zone. Not happening."
"That is what I thought." Cynthia mused. "So you believe that, should they do so, it would have a strong effect on Stormer?"
"You're still talking in riddles." Sylva complained. "Do you have a plan or don't you?"
"Yes." Cynthia seemed to make up her mind. "And this is what we are going to do. We are going into Misfits Music, and we are going to take on the Misfits."
"We are?" I stared. "With or without armour?"
Cynthia laughed.
"Not as ourselves, silly." She chided. Her features blurred and morphed into those of Stormer, and I gasped.
"Won't they be suss if Stormer comes and begs to them and then doesn't want to know them?" Sadie asked.
"It will not be like that. I have no intention of making Stormer grovel, and we will worry about her and Starlight Music presently." Cynthia said calmly. "Now for your own disguises. What, do you suppose, would be more provocative? Stormer going in alone, or...surrounded by Kimber and the other Holograms?"
As she spoke, I saw the dial of the watch I still had in my protective custody sparkle, and, before my eyes, Topaz took on Kimber's red hair and dark blue eyes, Syl adopted Aja's features, Nancy Shana's, and Sadie, Jem's. Glancing at my own feet I recognised the tights I was 'wearing' as ones I'd seen in my mother's promotional photographs, and I felt a shiver go down my spine.
"Too weird." I murmured." You think this will work? We go in there as Jem and the Holograms with Stormer? You think we can pull that off?"
"Certainly. It is easy to believe what you see." Cynthia agreed. She grinned. "And I must admit, being surrounded by Holograms in eighties wear makes me nostalgic."
"I suppose we should be saying truly outrageous." Topaz glanced at her reflection in the tinted glass window of the music company, running her fingers through her hair. "I always wondered what it'd be like to be a redhead."
"We don't have forever." Sylva reminded her. "Come on. Whatever Cyn has in mind, we ought to get it over with."
"Sylva is quite correct." Cynthia nodded. "Or should I say, Aja?" She winked. "Come on. We are about to create a sensation inside of Misfits Music."
"I hope you know what you're doing. You might make things worse." Sadie said hesitantly. "And I'm not sure I should be Jem. Didn't Jem tend to lead the Holograms? Didn't she do most of the talking? As soon as I open my mouth they'll know I'm not Jem because I speak like a Brummie!"
"That can be changed." Cynthia told her, this time speaking with Mary's husky tones instead of her own. "Besides, you should not worry. I will do most of the speaking. You need not say anything - leave it to the rest of us. You are simply there to add to the Misfits' annoyance."
"Great." Sadie rolled her eyes. "Okay. Let's do this, then."
She pushed open the door, leading the way into the lobby. Immediately there was a commotion at the sight of them.
"Jem and the Holograms?" One of the receptionists exclaimed, and a tall security guard with a nametag reading 'Marcus' ambled forwards, fixing us with a curious glare.
"I'm not sure you ladies should be here. I have strict instructions..." He began.
"Relax, Marcus. They're here with me." Cynthia materialised at his side, casting him a smile. "And they're not here to cause trouble."
"Miss Phillips!" Marcus's confusion seemed to increase tenfold at the sight of the youngest Misfit in amongst the rest of us, but Cynthia shrugged her shoulders.
"Yes, that's me." She agreed. "Are any of the other Misfits here?"
"You better believe we are."
A voice came from across the lobby, and we turned, seeing Roxy leaning in the doorway of the stairwell, an unreadable expression on her face.
"You got a nerve coming back here, now it's all over the place that you're a traitor! You're even bringing that trash in this place with you!" She shot us a venomous glare. "You better have a good explanation else someone's gonna get their face rearranged and it ain't gonna be me!"
"She has such a great way of greeting her guests." Topaz murmured, rolling her eyes. Her remark was meant only for us, but Roxy clearly heard it, because her expression darkened.
"You want a piece of me, Kimber?" She demanded, advancing threateningly towards us. "Or didn't you hear what I said, huh? This is Misfit turf, and you're trespassing."
She glared at Cynthia.
"All of you are trespassing."
"What's going on down here?" Another door opened to reveal the receptionist who had exclaimed, followed by Phyllis and then Jetta. Obviously she had run to raise the alarm, and it did not take me long to realise that most of the other people who had populated the lobby on our entrance had taken refuge somewhere else in the building, away from what promised to be a showdown.
"We got a visit from little miss Benedict Arnold and her new cronies." Roxy folded her arms. Phyllis's eyebrows knitted together.
"You got a nerve." She snapped. "What are you doing, bringing those creatures in here? Have you no pride? Or are you happy to let the Holograms turn you into even more of a soft little wimp than you are, huh? Let them walk all over you, see what good it does you!"
"Nobody is going to walk over me." Cynthia said stolidly, taking a pace or two forwards. "These are my friends, that is all. I am not afraid of you - of any of you. I came back here only to see if you'd come to your senses yet, that's all."
"Our senses?" Jetta demanded. "That's rich, comin' from you!"
"Maybe you shouldn't treat her like dirt, then." Sylva snapped in, unable to keep her silence any longer, and much to my amazement it was not her own voice with which she spoke, but those of my mother's old friend, Aja Phillips. "You shouldn't take her for granted! She's good at what she does and you girls don't damn well deserve to have her writing songs for you! I understand now why she doesn't want to come back and take more abuse! If I were her I woulda walked outta here and never come back!"
"Shh, Syl!" I elbowed her, before she could start on another tirade. "Remember who you are!"
"Oh, shut your face, Aja. Noone cares what you think." Phyllis was scornful. "Besides, the Misfits..."
"The Misfits are nothing without Stormer." Nancy interjected quietly.
"So what do you know about the Misfits?" Roxy snapped back. "And why are you here, anyhow? Come to try and gloat because you think we can't go on without little miss traitor here? Is that it? Come to rub it in our faces?"
"The Holograms are not like that." Honestly, I was beginning to get into character, and I was starting to see where Cynthia was heading with her little charade. I added my piece, hoping that the plan would work, and not horribly backfire on us all. "We are Stormer's friends, and she is not some puppet in a game between you and us. We came because we thought you might want to talk to her - that maybe you would want a chance to apologise for how you have treated her, and ask her to come back." It was a little unnerving, speaking with my mother's voice and knowing I had my mother's face, but then I remembered that Synergy was able to project both sound and image, and I realised that, once again, Cynthia had thought her plan through meticulously. There would be no opportunity for the Misfits to suspect we were not genuine, and I had the feeling that even if Sadie decided to speak, it would not be in her own accent but that of Jem.
"Guess we misjudged the Misfits." That was Nancy, but in Shana's voice, and I  had never heard her talk with more disgust in her voice before for the band her mother had been a part of. She bit her lip, then turned her gaze on her mother.
"I was under some impression that you girls took care of your own." She said bitingly.
"Okay, this stops now." Phyllis held up her hands. "This is my father's music company, and I will not have Holograms running riot around it, calling us names and generally being a pain in the butt. Get the hell out of here, will you? Else I'm calling the police!"
"Does that include me?" Cynthia asked innocently. Phyllis's eyes narrowed.
"You're a nasty little traitor, a wimp and a loser." She snapped. "How dare you treat us like this? We're the Misfits!"
"No...you were the Misfits." Cynthia said coolly. "But you know as well as I do who writes the music for the Misfits. And I'm not a traitor. If I was, I would have signed paper at Starlight Music - I was offered the chance to. But these guys are my friends and when I explained to them that I wanted to give you guys one last chance to make things right, they understood. They even offered to come with me for moral support. That's what being a friend is about - doing the right thing for someone whatever the end result."
She paused, letting this sink in, then, "I know as well as you do that I'm good at what I do." She added. "I like being a Misfit - I like it a whole lot. But I don't like being pushed about and treated like garbage because you think it's funny. It's not funny and I'm not going to take it any more. If that's all youre going to fling at me, then I'm going to leave with the Holograms, and you won't see me again. I'm giving you your chance...it's up to you."
"Why you..." Phyllis looked about to fly into a rage, but Jetta forestalled her.
"Wait." She said at length. "What do you mean, it's up to us? What in 'ell do you want from us?"
"We ain't Holograms, Stormer." Roxy was still eying us as if she wanted to rip our heads off. "We don't do nice and we don't do soft."
"Nobody asked you to." Cynthia said quietly. "Well? Do you want me to go?"
Jetta cursed, then,
"This ain't to do with the 'Olograms." She said quietly. "There were some bleedin' nosy reporter in here earlier and they reckon your deal with the 'Olos is a done thing, but it ain't about them. It's about the Misfits. That's more important."
"So you damn well walk out of here and I'll dent your nose for you." Roxy said bluntly. "You got that? You don't belong with them. You belong with us."
Cynthia eyed them thoughtfully for a moment. Then,
"I don't feel like I do." She said pensively. "Not unless you take my work seriously."
"What do you want, for us to get down and beg?" Phyllis demanded. "This is ridiculous!"
"Shut up, Pizzazz." Jetta held up her hands. "Enough. We need Stormer. You said it yourself. We do."
"An' she ain't walking out on us again." Roxy added. She fixed Cynthia with a doubtful stare.
"Are you?"
Cynthia said nothing, and for a moment there was silence.
At length, Phyllis let out a sigh.
"All right, already." She said, petulance in her tone. "Fine. We need Stormer. Okay. Whatever. You happy?"
Cynthia still said nothing. She seemed very cool and composed somehow, like she knew she had the upper hand, but I wasn't sure if she did. Was she pushing it too far? Would she make things worse instead of better?
Phyllis let out a cry of frustration.
"Dammit, all right!" She exclaimed at length. "Stormer, please come back to the Misfits. We want you to. All right?"
"Is that really what you want? What all of you want?" Cynthia looked hesitant.
"Jus' do what she said, okay, yank?" Jetta sounded tired. "Enough fightin'. You proved your point. The group needs you - you write bloody good music an' we play it damn well. We're a good team an' you know it. Enough of all this. We got enough work to do an' Eric's still on our backs about our album. You got what you wanted - now will you get rid of your entourage an' let us get back to normal?"
A smile touched Cynthia's lips.
"Thank you." She said quietly. "That's all I wanted."
She nodded.
"I'm going home now." She added. "To get my stuff together. But I'll be back sooner than you think. The Misfits have plenty of work to do, and I have several new song ideas. It's good to be back in business!"
She cast us a glance, nodding towards the door, and with some relief we headed for the exit. In the doorway, Cynthia paused, turning back.
"I would have come back sooner." She said with a playful wink. "You only had to ask."
Then she was gone, but as the doors shut behind us, I was aware of Phyllis's shriek of rage. I grimaced.
"That was pushing your luck." I chided her. "What if she'd changed her mind?"
"She wouldn't." Cynthia examined her holographic nails, blurring her image back to a more familiar one, and with some relief I found I was no longer masquerading as my mother. "She knows she needs Stormer, and Roxy and Jetta would not have let her jeopardise it. They knew it too. But much as I am able to work with her in the future, I find Pizzazz tiresome in the past. I remember so much more clearly why Jerrica and the others were so antagonised by her presence. I am very glad that she grew up eventually."
Topaz laughed.
"Makes me wonder what we'll be like in the future." She admitted. "But what now? We've convinced the Misfits that Stormer is back with the band, but don't we have to do the same to Stormer?"
"Yes." Cynthia agreed. "And to do that, we have to think more from Stormer's point of view. We went in there to antagonise them into admitting they needed her, and it worked. The result was exactly as I hoped. But this is more difficult. Stormer is less desperate. She does not need them how they need her, and now for the first time she knows it. The only thing which will entice her back is if they show her that they need her - and what better way to do that than for them to go to Starlight Music and tell her so, right there in front of Jerrica, Kimber and all of the Holograms?"
"But they won't." Syl looked confused. "You just said yourself that..." Then she trailed off, and a smile touched her lips. "Ohh, I see. You're going to go in there!"
"Indeed." Cynthia nodded her head. She smiled. "And so are you, Syl...Nancy too. I wish you to be Roxy and Jetta, since you are probably the best positioned to know about their characters of all of us. Me, I will assume Pizzazz once more. We will go and we will speak to Stormer herself. It seems logical that, if she really does miss the Misfits how you believe she does, a genuine gesture will bring her back to where she should be."
"What about Copper, Topaz and me?" Sadie asked.
"We can't all go." I reasoned. "There are less Misfits than there are Holograms."
"Besides, someone needs to stay here and make sure that none of the Misfits decided to gatecrash Starlight Music in a victory charge." Cynthia pursed her lips. "They are unpredictable and I would not like to guarantee that they would not."
"So we're sentry duty?" Topaz asked. "Oh well. Works for me. I don't really want another confrontation."
"Nancy, you take Cyn's watch." I held the watch out, and, after a moment's hesitation, Nancy took it. "You'll need it to maintain her projections inside, and it won't project through the walls."
"Good thinking." Cynthia nodded. "Then all there is left for me to do is to change us into Misfits. Stand in front of us, you three. I do not need witnesses for what I am about to do."
"Hasn't stopped you so far." Sadie reminded her, but obediently we closed ranks.
There was a pause, then Cynthia muttered a curse.
"It isn't working." She exclaimed. "I haven't enough power!"
"What? But you have to!" Sylva exclaimed, frightened. "We can't leave it here, you have to! We have to speak to Mom! Come on, Cyn, you said you had enough to do twenty four hours. What is this?"
"I've changed so many times and made so many holograms, I don't know that I can do it." Cynthia said helplessly. "My battery readings are lower than I anticipated and I just got a warning. If I use the power now, I might not be able to maintain our connection to our world and my mainframe for very much longer!"
"Which means?" Topaz's eyes widened.
"Which means that you'd all be stuck here the moment I vanished." Cynthia looked distressed. "And there'd be nothing I could do about it!"

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