Chapter Six: Copper's Voice

"So what exactly are we supposed to do now?"
As the crowd closed around us, it was Nancy who spoke, putting her hands on her hips. "Cyn, we've lost Syl and Sadie now! And whilst I'm glad to be free of Syl's bleating for a few hours, Sadie's  kind of important! Can't you use those sensors of yours to track them down?"
"I only have my watch with me." Cynthia shook her head slowly. "And that is already putting my mainframe under great strain, to project your costumes and my own disguise."
As she spoke, her image shimmered and blurred back into her more familiar Cynthia form, and as she did so, I could tell she was disconsolate. "They are out of my range now - I cannot detect them. I am sorry. This is not at all how I intended my plan to go."
"It's all right, Cyn." I spoke softly. "I don't think you should have brought us back here, but now we are here, there's nothing that complaining about it is going to achieve. We need to find Syl and Sadie, but we have all day to do that, right? We don't have to go back to the Starlight Mansion till midnight. So we've time yet. We'll find them."
I ran my fingers over the smooth face of the projection watch. "And I have this safe and sound, here on my wrist where nothing can happen to it."
"So where do we begin looking?" Topaz wondered, taking a few paces up the high street and then stopping. "Syl can be unpredictable and I don't know where she might have gone. Does anyone else have any ideas?"
"Well, she said she was going to save the Misfits." Nancy rolled her eyes. "If you were a half-crazed musician, where would you go?"
"The obvious starting point would seem to be Misfits Music." Cynthia offered, a slightly hopeful look entering her violet eyes. "It is, after all, where the Misfits are based."
"Well it's a place to start." I said with a nod. "And we're not far away - presuming it's on the same ground now as it is in 2015?"
"Yes. Right opposite Starlight Music's headquarters." Cynthia nodded. "Of course,  you will have to expect it to be more like it was before the fire - this is a time in which this company is only a couple of years old."
"I'm sure we can find our way around it." Nancy assured her. "Remember, I grew up there, pretty much. Things have changed some since I was a little kid, but not a whole lot."
"The big question is, how would we get in?" Topaz asked, as Cynthia led the way down a side-alley towards a busy crossroads. "We don't have security clearance in 1987. We're not going to be able to just walk in the door."
"Perhaps not." Cynthia looked thoughtful. "But I am sure I can find a way around it. I do still have holographic capabilities, after all."
"It seems strange, being here." I murmured, as we reached the end of the street, pausing to stare at the large looming black glass building and the equally imposing structure of Starlight Music across the road. "Starlight Music looks so glossy and new and cared for...it's so much bigger somehow, with everything being used instead of rooms being rented out to pay overheads."
"And there's no Rebel Records memorabilia." Topaz agreed. "Look. Back home there's a billboard over there with the logo on, because Phyllis is always talking about it being ripped up. But the place doesn't exist here."
"No. It was built on one of the few remaining green areas in Los Angeles, three blocks or so away from here." Cynthia's expression became one of distaste. "But in 1987 there are no Stingers in Los Angeles. Mercifully."
"Oh, get a load of that!" Nancy let out a chuckle, pointing up at the roof of Misfits Music, and as one person our gazes strayed to where she was pointing.
"Oh my God..." Topaz giggled. "I can't believe the Misfits were so blatant!"
"It is garish and unecessary." Cynthia remarked. "I recall that Jerrica called it an eyesore. I can see exactly what she means."
I stared up at the big square display, watching the images of the Misfits roll around once more, and then the company's logo fill the screen. I grinned.
"Phyllis isn't shy of advertising, is she?" I said at length. "Though it seems a bit much. I prefer the logo the place has nowadays. It's less..."
"Embarassing?" Nancy smirked.  "I don't remember it being there when I was a kid, you know. It must have come down during the time when Eric Raymond left and Mom took over as chief exec. I can't imagine her letting it stay if she had any say in it."
"Jetta isn't even in the sequence." Topaz pointed out. "It must have been there longer than she has."
"In 1987, Jetta is a very new Misfit." Cynthia reminded us. She smiled at me. "Just as Raya is a brand new Hologram."
"It seems weird to look at the two companies and see Starlight Music as Mama would remember it best." I admitted. "She could even be in there. I understand why Syl freaked out when she saw her mother, in some ways. It would freak me out to see mine. Or...or Papa. Though I don't think they've met yet."
"No, indeed not." Cynthia shook her head. "Raya is still very young, Copper.  Far too young to be thinking about marriage, babies and a film career."
I grinned.
"Papa was a fair bit older than her." I pointed out. "But I suppose you're right. She can't have been more than twenty in 1987."
I turned to glance back up the street.
"My grandfather had an orchid nursery somewhere in this neighbourhood." I remembered. "He sold it and retired, though, when he and my grandmother went to Arizona. It doesn't exist in 2015, but it must be here now."
"We've no time for sightseeing." Nancy grabbed my arm impatiently. "We're here to find Syl and Sadie, and we only have a limited amount of time to do it in, so shall we worry about that first and go hunting for nostalgia points later?"
"Nancy is right." Cynthia agreed. "The sooner we locate them, the better. But first we must do something about how we appear. Come. Out of the main street. I wish to observe the people who leave the building. I must make us look like Misfits Music's employees."
"The irony of that is overwhelming." Nancy rolled her eyes, but she did as she was bidden, and soon we were all crouched behind a row of ornamental bushes, as Cynthia settled on our disguises.
I have to hand it to her. Impulsive and crazy as she can be, when she stops to think something out she is meticulous about getting it right. It's weird, being friends with a hologram, because we come to expect her to act like the rest of us, and of course, sometimes she doesn't. I honestly don't know how much of it is because she is a computer underneath it all, and maybe hasn't grasped some of the finer points of human behaviour, or if it's not that at all. Sometimes I wonder if she understands us better than we understand ourselves, and her reckless moments are entirely deliberate.
And yet, even though she'd gotten us into this crazy situation, it was hard to be mad at her. After all, she had only acted in Jewel's interests, however odd the logic.

At length Cynthia nodded her head, indicating to us all that she was done. Before our eyes her features morphed once again, this time into those of one of the executives we had just observed leaving, and one by one she converted all of us to similarly attired members of staff.
"Now we will be able to get in." She said softly. "Just don't do anything to draw attention to yourselves. We are simply here to seek Syl and Sadie. They have not the protection of my holograms, so they will be easier to spot. I cannot grab them should I see them, because to maintain these projections I cannot run my own three dimensional one, so you must all be on your guard."
With that she led the way towards the automatic doors, pausing to let me pass in front of her, and as I did so I realised that Cynthia's hologram did not have enough physical presence to open the doors.
"I cannot walk through them and evade suspicion." She murmured, seeing my expression and winking. "As I said, we must alert noone that we are not all we seem. Once upstairs I will change our appearances into that of interns or menial staff, so noone will bother overly about what we are doing. But for security clearance we must look like we rank high. We are less likely to be questioned that way."
"It looks very new in here." Topaz commented thoughtfully as we crossed the lobby unchallenged, heading for the peculiar shaped elevator shaft.  "Phyllis's father paid for it, didn't he? I mean, in the first place?"
"Yeah. It was a present from Harvey." Nancy nodded. "Pretty much because she told him she wanted it, basically."
Topaz let out a low whistle.
"It never fails to astound me how much money that family has." She remarked.  "I would've thought it made the Misfits formidable competition, with that kind of influence and clout."
"Yes, but then, Jem had Synergy." Nancy grimaced. "And the whole secret identity thing attracted millions. It was part of her mystique. People loved the mystery woman  who seemed to appear and disappear at will."
"She was one of my most prized creations." Despite herself, I could tell that Cynthia was preening. "I think she was a very believable projection, even despite the fact that my circuits lacked many of the new developments Aaron has since installed."
"Well, the world fell for it." I agreed.  "Even after she supposedly died...people never found a body but they still believed in Jem."
"Yes." Cynthia  frowned. "To be honest, being back here makes me a little nostalgic for those days. The Holograms were a strange kind of family for me, and I felt like a mother to them, in the absence of Jacqui Benton. I was practically programmed to be their guardian by Emmet when he knew that he was dying. I was the only one who knew how sick he was, and he impressed on me what  my responsibilities to him and to his family would be. It makes me a little sad to think that things have changed so much."
"You have us as your family now." I told her gently. "We love you to death, you know we do. And Kimber and Mama and the rest, they love you too. Just because you and Jerrica have fallen out, it doesn't mean you've lost all of those ties."
"No, I realise." Cynthia seemed to shake herself out of her reverie. "I am sorry. I must be picking up vibes from my mainframe here in 1987."
She smiled. "Honestly, I am fine. Come. I believe the main studios are on the fifth floor."
"Poor Cynnie." Topaz murmured to me, as we entered the car, Nancy pressing the button for the fifth floor. "This is a real blast from the past for her, isn't it? I mean, we're pretty much tourists here, trespassing in a time we don't belong to. But she's not. This is when she - and the Jem phenomenon - were at their peak. She must miss it a lot."
"I never thought about it, but I guess she does." I agreed. "Sometimes it's hard to know what she thinks about anything, to be honest."
"Yes, I know." Topaz nodded. "I was mad at her for dragging us back here, but I guess I feel a touch sorry for her too, now." She pursed her lips. "After all, in this world, she was part of a family. It must rub it in that things went so horribly wrong."
"Shh, she'll hear." I warned. "There are things we'd all like to go back in time to change, Topaz. Unfortunately we can't...and besides, she does have us now. Even if she doesn't have Jerrica."
"True." Topaz acknowledged. "And we do need her. Even if she does crackbrained things like bringing us here!"
At that moment the door of the elevator slid open and we stepped out into the corridor, immediately aware of the sound of raised voices. Nancy's eyebrows shot into her fringe as she recognised her mother's clipped tones, and as we got closer, we were all able to make out some of Jetta's favourite expletives mixed into the conversation. Phyllis's tones, strong, irritated and snappish cut across them, and soon a third voice joined the melee, followed by a loud crash.
We exchanged looks.
"Are we sure that coming here was a good idea?" Topaz ventured. "Sounds like we've walked into feeding time for the gorilla house at the zoo."
Despite myself, I giggled.
"Well, so we've established that Misfits do fight." I pointed out. "But I vote we don't let them see us!"
"Hang on a minute." Nancy pulled herself up onto a bank of lockers, settling herself carefully. "Something's going down in there, and I want to see what."
"If you sit there gawking through the window they'll see you." I warned, but Nancy shook her head.
"One way glass." She responded. "Aunt Phyl put it in so she could spy on people in her studio and make sure they were working. At least that's what Mom said. Apparently Eric used it to watch the Misfits from a safe distance, also."
"Perhaps if we listen to what they're saying, we'll learn something about where Syl and Sadie might have gone, or if they've seen any strangers running around the halls." I mused, clambering up beside Nancy. "What do you think?"
"I think I wanna see the free for all." Nancy admitted, as Topaz followed suit, and Cynthia adjusted her projection to appear disconcertingly at the end of the locker bank, making us all jump.
"Jetta sounds like such a Londoner." Topaz remarked. Nancy snorted.
"She is one. Duh."
"I know! But more than she usually does!" Topaz retorted. "Or at least more than she does back in our time."
"Well, she's only just moved to Los Angeles in 87. I guess she's lost the edge over the years." Nancy shrugged. "Not surprising, really."
I peered into the studio, taking in the scene with a mixture of horror and fascination. The room held three occupants, and it was not hard to identify Jetta, Phyllis and Roxy Pelligrini, the group's bass guitarist whom I had only met a few times, but who I knew to be Nancy's real aunt and Syl's adoptive one. There was no sign of Stormer, but then again it didn't seem to me like they needed Stormer to be present to argue. In the middle of the studio, Roxy was sweeping the remains of an electric guitar off the unit, putting her hands on her hips.
"Well, that was bloody mature." Jetta's tones were scathing, and I realised that Topaz was right about her accent. "'Ow are we supposed to bleedin' well play anything now you've mashed the guitar like some playschool tot, huh?"
"Oh, shut your face, big nose." Roxy advanced on her companion with the remenants of the guitar's neck, glaring at her. "Or your saxophone will be next. Besides, if you'd damn well listen to me, you'd know that your stupid black pipe wasn't supposed to come in for three more phrases yet!"
"I was trying to drown out your awful 'armonies!" Jetta shot back.
"Oh, give it a rest the pair of you!" Phyllis exclaimed, banging her hands down hard on the unit. "We're damn well going to do this song and we're going to do it right! Quit complaining! And Roxy, stop smashing equipment and get a new guitar, huh? Don't play about!"
"We could play this song from now 'till next Christmas and it'd still sound bloody awful." Jetta put her hands on her hips. "It doesn't matter 'ow we do it, it ain't gonna work. I say we burn it and give it up as a bad job!"
"Well, it's not my fault Stormer had a baby tantrum and walked out on us!" Phyllis's temper flared. "At least I'm trying to do something about it!"
"Yeah, like your big bribe her back plan worked." Roxy snorted, tossing the broken piece of guitar out of the open window and down into the street below. Absently I hoped that there were no innocent passers-by walking past at that moment, for I got the feeling that missiles were not uncommon out of the studio window when the Misfits were in session. "Where is she, huh? I don't see her. Maybe she's hiding behind the practice room door!"
"Oh, don't be pathetic." Phyllis snapped. "So it didn't work, get over it! We don't need that soft little wimp all that much anyhow! We'll go on without her - or we would, if you two would quit fighting and get playing! And besides, it's not my fault that Eric decided to doublecross us and use Stormer for some kind of weird plot of his own. If he was doing his job he'd be worrying about our interests, not his!"
"Well, your Daddy employs him." Jetta's tones dripped with sarcasm. "Why not run to 'im and tell tales?"
"Jetta, if you want that saxophone inserted in you..." Phyllis balled her fists, and Jetta snorted.
"Oh, shut up. You don't scare me." She retorted bluntly. "Truth is we don't 'ave a decent song, we don't 'ave a manager whose eye is entirely on what we're doin', an' we don't 'ave a synth player. Find us a decent song to play an' I'll play. Right now I've 'ad enough of this noise and Roxy's toddler antics. I'm cuttin' out of 'ere!"
"Jetta, get back here!" Phyllis shrieked, but Jetta seemed oblivious, turning on her heel and walking clean out of the studio. I was impressed at her ability to completely ignore the singer's shrieks, because I confess they made me put my hands over my ears. I knew she was earsplitting when she was younger, but honestly, I was beginning to think that Cynthia's rendition of Phyllis in the coffee shop had been decidedly tame.
Glancing at Topaz, I could see that she felt the same way.
In her interest in the events in the studio, Cynthia had let the holographic disguises slip, and it was our own selves which clambered down off the lockers, exchanging looks.
"Time out." Nancy said at length. "I never knew Mom and the rest were like that."
"I guess they do miss Stormer." Topaz reflected. "It's kinda sad, seeing them fight that way."
"Sad? It's scary!" I put in. "No wonder they had such a fearsome image!"
"Cyn, we appear to be wearing pyjamas again." Nancy observed, and Cynthia muttered a curse, obediently redressing us in eighties wear.
"I am sorry. I was engrossed in the display." She admitted. "It is hard to maintain concentration on two things at once when your power cells are so far away."
"Well, it doesn't look like Sadie or Syl are here, so we ought to try somewhere else." Topaz reflected. Nancy pursed her lips.
"I don't know." She said slowly. "Honestly, guys, I'm starting to wonder if Syl had a point, much as I hate to admit it. That wasn't a normal kind of fight in there. There's big deal hassle going down with the Misfits. What if they don't make it up?"
"But Nance, we know that they do." I pointed out. "Remember? We already had this chat."
"I know...but part of me keeps saying what if." Nancy sighed. "I guess I'm wondering if it would do all that much harm to try and...well...make sure that the Misfits do stay together? I mean, while we're here."
"Do you want to talk to them?" Topaz raised an eyebrow. "In that mood?"
"No...not right now." Nancy shook her head. "But maybe we could do some snooping around. I mean, Stormer must be under contract to this company. Perhaps we can pull them together contractually somehow."
She shrugged.
"Couldn't we?"
"I suppose we could try." Cynthia shrugged. "All right. Let us see what we can find. But we must be careful. Remember, we still have to find Syl and Sadie!"

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