Flashback
Chapter Eight: Topaz's Voice

Well, I think it's fair to say that this weirdest-day-of-my-life was getting progressively weirder as it wore on. After having watched Syl's gentle and sweet mother launch a tirade at Cynthia in the cafe, and having seen the Misfits tearing shreds out of each other, I began to wonder exactly what this whole band harmony ethic was all about, anyhow. It seemed to me, honestly and truly, that the Misfits all hated each other's guts and I really could not imagine how they'd managed to record for so long without killing each other.
But then I suppose I didn't grow up in their world. At least, that's what Nancy snapped at me as we headed up the main stairwell towards where the offices were situated. Jetta had headed down the stairs, and Roxy and Pizzazz were still in the studio, so we felt pretty safe snooping around for information. Well, apparently we did. If I'm totally open here, I didn't think we should be there at all. Would you even believe that it's the first time since I joined Jewel that I haven't wished to have a little bit of this eighties glitz and glamour running through my veins?
"Nancy, you grew up here." Copper said at that moment, as we reached the top floor. "You probably know better than the rest of us which office we should be poking around in - if you really think we should be poking."
"We should." Nancy said firmly. "Besides, we have Cynthia with us. Don't we, Cyn? You can disguise us if need be. Right?"
"Certainly, so long as you do not object to becoming a pot plant or statuette." Cynthia agreed, her eyes twinkling with mischief. "I find it fun to be so deep inside Misfit Music, to be honest."
"But you go there every day." I was confused. Cynthia nodded.
"Yes, but not in 1987, when I was essentially working for the other side." She responded. "You forget, Topaz, that I did not see any of Los Angeles except through projected pictures and the descriptions of my friends. Even though I travelled the world with Jerrica through her earrings, I could not necessarily see to project. Even on the few occasions I managed to activate optical circuitry, I did not have the power or the focus to properly control those signals away from my mainframe. It's only since Aaron did so much work on me and upgraded my lasers and projectors that I have fully functional optical circuits at long distance and can see the world in technicolour." She grinned. "And this is something I have never seen."
"Mom had that office, and Aunt Phyllis this one." Nancy paused outside the doors, glancing up at them. "When I was about thirteen, the top floor was remodelled so that Aunt Phyl's office was made bigger and she annexed some of the store rooms, using that door in." She pointed at an unmarked door. "But I'm pretty sure that when I was small, this was the way into the main office. It wasn't really an office though before Eric was kicked out. It was just a big room with administrative potential. Mom took over Eric's office, which must have been the main office then...so we want that door."
"Eric Raymond, Chief Executive." I read. "Do you suppose he's in here?"
"Possibly." Cynthia seemed unphased. "Knock on the door and find out."
"Cynthia!" Copper stared. "We're not supposed to be here!"
Cynthia laughed.
"Then we'll make ourselves supposed to be here." She said playfully. "Let me see...we could be the cleaners. What do you think?"
I glanced down at myself, noticing my fourth outfit change in an hour, and rolled my eyes.
"I'm starting to know how Syl's wardrobe feels." I murmured. "I have to admit, though, this isn't a colour I'd choose to be wearing."
"Strikes me we didn't get a lot of choice in today, anyhow." Nancy shrugged, turning the handle and pushing open the office door. "And looks like it was totally unnecessary, Cyn, because there's nobody here. Room is empty."
"Empty and unlocked? That's strange." I frowned. "Maybe he is around - just not here right at the moment. Surely if he was out of town..."
"Well, then I shall maintain our disguises." Cynthia shrugged. "What is it you wanted to find, Nancy?"
"Stormer's contract." Nancy responded, moving over to the filing cabinet and carefully playing with the lock until it clicked, pulling the drawer open.
"Did you just pick that?" Copper demanded. Nancy shrugged.
"I used to play with these when I was small." She said unrepentantly. "Aunt Phyl had the whole lot replaced when I was four or five and I used to use them for various games. I could always get the locks open, even though I could never find the keys. It became a habit."
"Well, so what's in there?" I came to join her. "Contracts? Files? Bills? What?"
"Lots of folders." Nancy reached in, rummaging around inside. "Mostly they seem to do with sponsorship and that kind of stuff. Nothing directly relating to contracts. So it isn't that drawer - I'll try the next."
She banged the drawer shut, working on the lock for the next one.
"Even if we find this contract, what are we going to do with it?" Copper asked. "I don't want to be a stick in the mud, but they don't seem approachable, and we know that Mary herself is upset about all of this. How would it even matter in the long run?"
"And if she had a contract with Misfits Music, she shouldn't have been able to override it by recording with Kimber the way she did." I added. "So...?"
"So Cyn said Eric Raymond was involved." Nancy banged the second drawer shut, starting on the third. "Nothing but manuscript in there. Eric's chief exec of this place and yet he was using Kimber and Stormer to try and stake a claim on Starlight Music. Is that what you said, Cyn?"
"More or less." Cynthia nodded. "Kimber was most distressed to learn of his involvement."
"So then he wouldn't care if Stormer was breaking her contract to record this album, since he never meant it to sell, and besides, the contract was tied up with him anyhow." Nancy shrugged. "But legally, it must exist. And if it does, then the Misfits have a case for pulling Stormer back where she belongs."
"But how are we going to put that to them?" Copper repeated. "And what if she doesn't want to go? It won't help anything if she's forced to go back to the Misfits."
"I haven't thought about everything yet." Nancy admitted. "But if we could find it, it would be progress."
Something on the floor caught my eye, and I bent to pick it up, my brow creasing as I read over the print on the scraps of paper.
"Stormer's maiden name was Phillips, wasn't it?" I asked at length.
"Yes. Why?" Nancy turned.
"I think I found the contract." I tipped the shreds of torn paper onto the desk. "I think Phyllis might have got to it first. It looks like it's been shredded."
"Great." Nancy banged the third drawer shut, coming to scoop up the bits. "No contract, no legal proof of any agreement. Now what?"
"Shh!" Copper's eyes widened. "Someone is coming!"
"We're dressed as cleaning women!" Nancy reminded her.
"It's Pizzazz and Eric." Cynthia peered around the door. "And Pizzazz is in high temper."
"Remember that statuette option?" I cast Cynthia a beseeching look. "Please, can you make us blend in? I don't think she'd take kindly to anyone in her office, even cleaning ladies!"
"Nothing easier." Cynthia agreed. "But stay very still and for heaven's sake, be silent!"
It is not easy to stay in the exact same position when you're scared of being discovered at any moment. It's not easy for any brain to come to terms with the idea that you resemble a large, spiky pot plant and that nobody looking at you would imagine that you were as human as they were. In fact, it might make me look at my bedroom decor back home in an entirely new light, to be honest. Yes, you even start to wonder what a pot plant sees and thinks, and whether or not they have opinions on the world around them.
Cynthia was not wrong about Phyllis and her mood. We'd seen enough evidence of it already, but this was a more petulant, spoiled Phyllis than the angry, threatening one downstairs. She stormed into the office with Eric in tow, moving over to the window and glaring out at the city with very bad grace. Starlight Music was directly in her line of sight, I could tell, and it did nothing to improve her temper.
She wheeled on her companion.
"I hope you're damn proud of yourself." She muttered. "This is all your fault, Eric! If you hadn't messed about and made Stormer and Kimber sign that stupid contract none of this would have happened. You're paid by my father's company to represent us Misfits, not screw us about and use us to try and get a foothold in Starlight Music!"
"If you'll listen to me a moment, Pizzazz," Eric sounded impatient, but Phyllis cut across him.
"Listen to you? All we seem to do is listen to you! You and your bleatings about Starlight Music. Starlight Music is a dump, Eric! You have Misfits Music, why do you want that wretched place, anyway? What the hell has Jerrica Benton got that we don't have here, huh? It's not her decor. This place is brand new and it rocks! What in hell were you playing at!"
"I want it, Pizzazz, because that brat daughter of Emmets has made a fool of me enough times." Eric snapped. "It's mine by right and I will get it back. But enough on that! I'm an opportunist and I take advantage of the situations I see. If you and the others hadn't bullied and upset Stormer to the point of walking out, then she'd never have teamed up with that stupid Hologram anyhow. Look at it any way you like - this mess is your problem and you girls can sort it out. Its not anything to do with me!"
"Oh? And would you like Daddy to stop paying your wages, then?" Phyllis advanced on him and despite himself, Eric took a step backwards.
"All I'm saying is that I expected someone with Misfit loyalties not to let me down." He told her. "Stormer is the villain here, not me! If she was any kind of Misfit and knew what was good for her she would have joined in the game of humiliating that stupid Kimber and bringing Starlight Music to it's knees!"
"She's always been soft." Phyllis muttered, clenching her fists. "She's always been a weedy little wimp and this is how she repays us for everything the Misfits have given her!"
"If she's that soft, why do you care about getting her back?" Eric demanded. "We can find another synth player. No problem. A zillion people would love to play with a band like the Misfits. Stormer's not important. She's served her purpose and she can be replaced!"
"Can she?" Phyllis's eyes were like slits. "She churns out music, Eric. Good music. We need that music."
"I thought you were taking care of the music." Eric raised an eyebrow. Phyllis cursed.
"Stop questioning me!" She exclaimed. "This is my father's company and you can't boss me about! I tell you what to do and you better remember it, all right? It doesn't matter to you why we want Stormer back or if we even do. You just do what you're told!"
"Fine." Eric snorted. "But if you do want to get her back, you'll have to go grovel to her. She won't listen to me - it's you that she'll want to talk to."
He shrugged. "And I have work to do. I do have other interests, you know, outside of the Misfits."
Phyllis stared at him for a moment. Then she let out a shriek of rage, storming out of the office and banging the door so hard behind her that the whole room shook.
Eric rolled his eyes.
"Wretched woman." He muttered, heading to his desk and sitting down. He pulled a sheet of paper out from a pile, taking a pen and beginning to write.
I was just beginning to wonder if we were trapped in this room now, when there was a loud crash from across the office and the filing cabinet tumbled to the ground. Startled, Eric turned, hurrying to see what had happened, and I took my cue. Realising as I reached the door that Cynthia had been behind the noise, I hurried into the corridor, my companions not far behind me.
"How did you pull that over, Cyn, if you can't touch?" Nancy demanded, once we were all looking more like ourselves.
"I did not. It was an illusion." Cynthia said calmly. "It was a very old school Synergy trick, I'm afraid. The kind of thing I often did when working with the Holograms. Come. Eric will be confused but he will not be able to explain what happened. We should not be near his office when he comes out looking for help."
"That sounds sensible." I agreed. "So what now? We leave?"
"We can't do anything else." Nancy sighed. "There's no contract, and we don't know where Syl or Sadie are, let alone Stormer herself. I guess we just have to see if we can't find them and then work on getting back to our time. This is too messy and violent for us to get involved in."
"Messy, violent and crazy." I agreed. "You and Syl can spat, Nance, but nothing like these guys."
"The Misfits are scary." Copper decided. "Mom always said that they were, back then, but I didn't really take it in. I appreciate how much both Phyllis and Jetta have tamed down over the years, I'm telling you!"
"They wouldn't thank you for saying they'd gone soft." I grinned.
"No, but they have - at least to some degree." Nancy agreed. "Dad said that Mom was prickly as anything when they first met, and I thought he was teasing or exaggerating, but I guess he wasn't. Heaven only knows why he stuck it with her, if she was to him how she was to Aunt Roxy and Aunt Phyl down there!"
"Now that is a question I cannot answer." Cynthia said regretfully. "I do not remember ever encountering Justin and Jetta's relationship before my current incarnation. It is possible that I did, I suppose, but some areas of my memorybanks are still scarred and I have not been able to access everything."
She smiled.
"Though I have no real wish to, since those areas also contain my core programming, and I have no wish to return to the tiresome life of being at someone's eternal beck and call."
"Sometimes it might be easier on us if you were." I cast her a meaningful glance, and she grimaced at me.
"For the final time, Topaz, Hollie is safe and sound in our Los Angeles." She scolded me. "Tonight we will go back to precisely the time we left and she will never know Mommy was gone. I promise. You have my word."
"All right." I sighed. There wasn't much point in pressing it, anyhow. "So what now? Where do you think we might find Syl and Sadie?"
"No idea, but right now it might be wise to become pot-plants again." Nancy froze, then pressed back against the corridor. "Someone is coming!"
Before any of us could react, the door of the stairwell swung open and an exclamation gave away the fact that we'd been spotted. There was nowhere to run, and, as Jetta headed for us, I swallowed hard, uttering a silent prayer that Cynthia's usual quick thinking would come to our rescue and create another distraction.
Jetta, for her part, did not seem at all amused to see strangers walking the halls of the Misfits' music company. She muttered a curse, staring at us each in turn.
"What in 'ell is your game 'ere?" She demanded. "An' who are you? Come on, out with it...otherwise I'll call security on you and 'ave you carted off by the police!"


FLASHBACK: JEWEL THROUGH TIME
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

Epilogue