Chapter Five: Sadie's Voice

Syl is probably the biggest person I know for doing impulsive, madcap things, but this one was out of the ordinary even for her. When she stormed out of that coffee house it was pretty much all any of us could do to stare after her, because none of us really knew what to think. It was Cynthia who first got to grips with her composure, and she got to her feet, instructing all of us that breakfast was over and that we had to find Syl before she got lost in the crowds.
Well, that's easier said than done. Los Angeles is a busy city and, even in 1987 the streets were full of cars, people and noise. Cynthia, still disguised as Phyllis, let her temper rip on some of the slow-moving population, causing a few to cower behind bushes to avoid her sharp tongue, and sending at least three babies into loud, unamused squalls. The crying made me think of Hollie, and I could tell, casting Topaz a sidelong glance, that she was thinking the same way.
Before I could say anything, however, I caught sight of what I thought was Syl's ponytail disappearing off into a side-alley and with a shriek I hared after her, nearly getting run over by a squad car in my desperation to reach her. My instincts had proven correct, for once through the busy crowds I could see her more clearly, and I yelled out her name, pausing to catch my breath and heartily wishing that I'd brought my inhaler with me. Running through the streets is not something I do as a rule, and my chest was stating it's clear and concise objections to my behaviour.
Syl seemed loath to answer me to begin with, but once she realised I was in trouble she stopped, coming back to join me and pulling me to my feet.
"Are you okay?" She murmured. "What are you doing here? I thought you and the others didn't believe in changing the past."
"I don't know if I do." I managed, taking a slow, deep breath, and leaning on Syl for support. "But we need to stay t...together, and not just disappear."
"Well, so much for that idea." Sylva gestured behind me, and I turned, realising that Cynthia and the others were nowhere to be seen. I cursed, coughing.
"Great." I muttered. "So I give myself an asthma attack to find you and then lose myself! Brilliant."
"I didn't need you to come after me." Syl protested. "I know where I'm going."
"In your pyjamas?" I raised an eyebrow, and Syl let out an exclamation, glancing down at her apparel with some consternation.
"We must be out of Cynthia's range." She decided after a moment. "Which means we really have lost them. Dammit, I didn't think about that. I don't want to walk around eighties Los Angeles in my nightwear!"
"I wouldn't bother about it." I was slowly regaining my breath now, and I glanced around me. "Look at what everyone else is wearing. Noone is going to think anything of what we've got on. Half of them look like they're wearing nightgowns anyhow."
"I suppose so." Syl looked doubtful. "But still, much as I like these pyjamas, they're not quite the going out in public kind of gear. It's not good for my image."
"But noone here knows Jewel exist. We're just people, not stars." I reminded her. "Not even born, in fact. We might as well not exist."
I frowned, taking another deep breath and standing upright. "There. I'm okay now."
"Are you sure?" Sylva eyed me thoughtfully. "You don't have your inhaler with you and I don't want to have to drag you to some weird hospital. God knows what medical care existed in the 1980s." She shuddered, and despite everything I laughed.
"I promise, I'm fine." I told her. "Though I wish I'd brought my cigarettes. I can see by the end of today I'm going to need them."
I glanced at her.
 "So, since we're stuck together, I better come with you to wherever it is you're going and see if I can stop you making an idiot of yourself." I said decidedly. "Then we can spend the rest of the day looking for Cynthia and the others, because come tonight I don't intend to be in Los Angeles, 1987, if it's all the same to you."
"God forbid." Sylva grimaced. "I don't want to stay here, either. Do you believe that they haven't even heard of plasma screens?"
She gestured to a nearby electronics store. "Look at those! Those are the kinds of things people give to jumble sales or needy causes in starving countries!"
"Well, this is almost thirty years before our world. You can't be surprised if things don't look the same." I scolded her. Sylva shrugged.
"I guess not." She acknowledged. "Okay, come on. I'm heading for the Starlight Mansion. I don't know where Mom has gone, but I figured someone there might be able to help us out, and if not, well, we might be able to find some kind of clue to tell us anyway. We know the Starlight pretty good and we snuck in there this morning before we realised what was going on. We can do it again."
"We're gonna break into the place?" I stared. Sylva shrugged impatiently.
"Oh sure, be technical." She retorted. "Come on, Sadie. In this world you don't have a criminal record. Hell, you don't have a birth certificate! Besides, we're not going to do anyone any harm or damage anything. We're just looking for Mom, that's all. Are you coming? I'm going, whether you are or not!"
Okay, I'm with you." I gave up. "Maybe I can be of help, anyway. Even if we don't technically exist here, we can still be caught for breaking and entering, and locked up in a LAPD cell, you know. Not having a birth certificate isn't gonna be any kind of defence if we're seen. And, well, I suppose I do have some experience in these things."
I sighed.
"If only to make sure you don't end up in handcuffs."
"Sweet." Sylva hugged me impulsively. "Then let's go."
"Why are you so sure that things are going to go wrong anyhow?" I asked, as we walked along a busy high street. Sylva pursed her lips.
"Mom isn't the kind of person who gets upset over things unduly." She said at length. "I only ever saw her as upset as this twice in my lifetime - once when my brother was stillborn, and she had a real hard time dealing with it. The second was when the divorce happened. Both really big deal things, right?"
"Right." I agreed. "But that still doesn't explain why you think time won't iron itself out. Cynthia does have a point - and so does Nancy. Our world can't exist if things don't go according to the pattern here. These things are for sure."
"Are they, though?" Sylva sighed. "I honestly don't know. True, I wasn't real good at science in school, and we never studied the idea of time travel anyhow. But I've watched films. And Cynthia thinks you can't change time but what if you can? I mean...what if that little confrontation in the coffee house is the thing that changes it? Mom was mad, she launched an unprovoked attack on Cyn because she thought Cyn was Phyllis. She'd have to be pretty hurt to do that, so big deal stuff must have been going on before we arrived here. And what if that fight was the thing which turned the scale and made up her mind which side to choose? I'm not convinced that things have to be a certain way just because we expect them to be. And most of all I don't like seeing my Mom upset!"
I frowned, turning this over in my head. Much as I hated to admit it, she did have a point.
"I didn't think about that." I acknowledged at length. "That Mary seeing Cyn as Phyllis could have been enough to change things. In which case we have had an impact on this time just by coming here."
"Right." Syl nodded. "At least, that's what I think. I told you, I've seen enough movies where this kinda thing happens. Besides, it's not gonna do any harm to be safe, is it? If Cynthia is right, well, we can't change the past and Mom will go back to the Misfits of her own accord. And if we have changed things already because of that confrontation, it won't do any harm to try and put that right, if she's already convinced she wants to join the Holograms. Does that make sense?"
Oddly enough, it did.
"I suppose so." I admitted. I sighed. "Though I still think we should all have done this and not just you on your own. I mean, if you'd explained it like that to them..."
"I'm not alone. I have you with me." Sylva said matter-of-factly. "And besides, Nancy got me annoyed with her 'I know everything' attitude. Sometimes I wonder if that girl has any imagination. God only knows how she comes up with so many songs - I guess she must save it all for composing."
"Well, we're all dealing with something we don't really understand." I pointed out. Sylva shrugged.
"Doesn't mean that if we sit back and hide under a rock it will go away." She responded. She paused, eying the street sign with a frown.
"Hey, look. Starlight Mansion is signposted. That's not there in 2015."
"The Starlight Foundation." I read the arrowpoint aloud, pursing my lips. "I suppose that because it was a home for foster girls, it got a lot of people going in and out. It probably needed to be on signs, for social workers and stuff to see it. Do you suppose it had many kids living there? I know that the Foundation in 2015 has a lot of residents across America, but I guess I've never really stopped and thought about the Mansion in it's original sense. Do you know how it came to be there?"
"It was an estate that belonged to a movie director called Howard Sands, I think." Sylva creased her brow in consideration. "Mom used to tell me stories about the Holograms and the Misfits when I was a kid, because I was so into the whole rock star idea, and it was the prize in a music contest that Jem and the Holograms won. Apparently it was fortunate that they did, since their original house burnt down in some freak fire or other, and it meant the foster girls had somewhere permanent to live. It also meant that they could take in more girls, I think. I don't know anything about any of the original Starlight children though. Mom said some of them she used to be fond of, and that she once knew them all by name, but she only remembers a few now and to be honest, I wasn't really interested in them."
"Pity. It would be helpful to know what we were going in against." I remarked. "So who else lived there? The Holograms?"
"Jerrica and the holograms." Sylva nodded. "Which is Kimber, Aja, Shana and Copper's Mama, Carmen." She frowned. "I'm trying to remember exactly what it looked like when Copper, Nancy and I moved in. I know Aaron and Justin did a bunch of renovations while we were on our first tour, because that's when Aaron found Synergy. But I know we also converted some of the rooms."
"So basically we're going to a house full of kids and Holograms, which is nothing like the place we live in after all?" I began to have serious doubts about this idea. "Are we just going to knock on the door and ask where Stormer is? Or what?"
"Well, knocking on the door mightn't be the best idea." Syl admitted, twisting her hands together. "I mean, I can't really ask for Aunt Aja and get her to tell me because, well, she isn't my Aunt Aja yet."
"So we're going to go in the way we were in this morning? First thing? Before Cynthia dragged us off for brekker?" I asked. Sylva nodded slowly.
"I think it might be the best plan." She agreed. "So long as noone is by the pool. It seems easy enough to get in and out that way, and the back door wasn't locked."
"Ookay." I swallowed. "And if we meet anyone? Remember, we don't have Cynthia's holograms to protect us here."
Sylva stopped dead, cursing, and I stared at her.
"Pardon me?"
"I'd forgotten about Synergy." Sylva confessed. I frowned.
"Back in the eighties Syn was still Jerrica's mainframe." Sylva reminded me. "And she probably protected the Starlight Mansion and it's occupants as much as she does us back home."
"But noone detected us when we were there earlier." I objected, as we turned the final corner and the big rambling building hoved into view. "Why would she now?"
"Because Cynthia was with us earlier. She must have been blocking her own signals." Sylva bit her lip. "We don't know how good her sensors were before she was shut down, or how far she might have been able to detect people, but we're gonna have to be hella careful."
"Perhaps we shouldn't do this at all." I glanced the building up and down. "Maybe we should just give it up and go find the others."
"No way." Sylva shook her head. "Someone here must know where Mom is. She might even be here. And we're gonna find her. All we have to do is stay out of sight and listen to what people say. That's all. How hard can that be?"
And somehow I knew when she said those words that it was going to be very hard indeed.

Not without misgivings, I followed Syl around the back of the mansion, via the pathway we had used just that morning. She paused at the gate, peering out towards the pool and satisfying herself that there were no Starlight girls swimming or playing near the water. The patio was empty and I said a silent thankyou for this small mercy. It had been a long time since I'd practiced my breaking and entering skills, and they hadn't always been that successful back when I did use them. Attempting to break into the Starlight Foundation was not something I wanted to do with a bevy of underage witnesses on hand.
Slowly Syl led the way towards the screen doors, hesitating, then pushing it open. I half expected an alarm to ring through the house but there was nothing, simply the sound of children laughing. I followed Sylva across the kitchen floor and into the main hallway, every nerve on edge. I was sure that at any moment a door would open and we'd be caught. As we reached the end of the hall, the tell-tale sound of a door startled us both and Syl dove behind a row of pot plants, pulling me down with her.
As we watched, a tall, fair woman entered the hallway, another girl in tow. I recognised the red hair of the second girl enough to know that she was Kimber, who would go on to make the Foundation flourish, and from the looks of the other girl I surmised her to be Kimber's older sister, Jerrica - though she looked nothing like the Jerrica Pacheco of 2015. In fact, she could even be said to be pretty, in her own way, and I found myself feeling a touch sorry for the woman whose life would, by the time Jewel were performing, have literally fallen down around her.
"I'll talk to her tonight." Kimber was saying. "It'd be totally outrageous, though, if she did agree. Don't you think so? We've had so much fun and the Misfits are nothing but trouble!"
"It's up to Stormer." Jerrica's tones were gentle and serious. "But we've all learnt a lot from Back2Back, Kimber. Including the fact that we've misjudged a musician of her calibre and nature. I think it would be better for her to be here with us. She's your friend already and she could be all of ours. She isn't like the other Misfits."
"No, she isn't." Kimber shook her head. "She's just as bullied by them as we are, and I told her that she has to have faith in her work. She's good, Jerrica! You've seen what she can write! She's really really good!"
"I know she is." A thoughtful look crossed Jerrica's face. "But I do wonder what lengths the Misfits might go to to get her to come back. She's important to them - in fact, they might not be able to function without her. I'm worried that they might try something desperate."
"Stormer's not going to fall for their bribes and tricks." Kimber sounded confident. "Whatever she chooses to do, Jerrica, she'll choose it because she wants to, not because they're putting pressure on her. And it would be so much fun if she was a Hologram! Don't you think?"
At that point the two girls moved out of earshot, and I glanced at Syl, who was literally bristling with indignation.
"How dare they talk about the Misfits like that?" She hissed.
"From all accounts the Misfits were kinda bitchy in the eighties." I pointed out. "And we know Jem and the Holograms were their big rivals. Besides, Syl, they were saying some pretty nice things about your Mom."
"Yeah, but that's the bitch who drove my Aunt Aja out of California and away from her friends." Sylva's eyebrows knitted together. "I don't trust a word Jerrica says!"
"None of that has happened yet." I reminded her. "And we don't know why it did, either. It might be that there's another side to it. Jerrica seems...reasonable, if that's anything to go by. And she and Kimber are on friendly terms."
"Well, this is 1987 and not 2015." Sylva snapped. "Come on. We know now that the Holograms do want Mom to join them. What we don't know is if Mom wants it too - and we have to stop her from wanting it!"
"I'm still not sure that we're going to have any effect on the outcome, but okay." I sighed, shrugging my shoulders. "Which way?"
"In there." Syl pointed towards the room which Kimber and Jerrica had just vacated. "That's where Jerrica had a...a study or something. I remember Aaron saying so. Surely there'd be something in there?"
"Better hope noone else is in there, then." I muttered, but Syl was already gone across the hallway, opening the door a crack and peeking inside. The sound of children's voices from the landing at the top of the stairs sent my heart into a panic and I gave Syl a shove into the room, closing the door behind us firmly and glancing around for somewhere to hide in case we had been seen. The room was indeed empty, but in my desperation to find somewhere to conceal ourselves, I tripped over a badly positioned litter bin, tumbling forward into the wall. I put up my hands to deflect the impact, but it never came. I heard Syl's amazed shriek as I plunged straight through the wall, and found myself face to face with Synergy.

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