Disclaimer: All characters belong to Hasbro/ Sony Wonder.

Jem

I stood there for the longest time, watching despondently as Martin O'Carolyn's van turned the corner and left the Starlight Mansion gate towards the highway, taking BaNee with him to start a new life. I could feel the tears welling up uncontrollably behind my eyes, but there's no way I can cry now in front of all these people. Don't give in to weakness. Be strong. Show no emotion.

Someone laid a hand on my shoulder, startling me out of my trance. I spun around to see Rio looking back at me. "You okay?" He asked innocently enough. Oh, God, if only you knew. You thick headed man, if only I'd had the guts to say something and if only you had the ability to reason.

I forced a humorless smile. "I think I will be after the initial shock wears off." I said to him. "I just need time to adjust." My stomach churned with guilt as Rio kissed my cheek and started to lead me back towards the house. "Don't we all," he sighed. "It won't be the same without her here."

Most of the guests - The Stingers, and the Misfits in a rare state of compassion, had already gone inside with the rest of the girls. Only my Hologram sisters lingered behind. Aja took one look at my face and forced Rio aside to give me a hug.

"Something's wrong, besides BaNee," She whispered in my ear. I hugged her tightly and whispered back, "Yeah, I know."

"We'll talk about this later." She added and turned around to face the rest of the family. Together we all entered the bustling mansion to join the so called party. My sister Kimber and I took one more glance at the gate before closing the door on the end of an era.

The scene indoors was nothing less than bizarre, or at least it's not something I'm used to seeing.

Over in the rec room, Riot, Rapture, and Minx were all keeping the remaining Starlight Girls distracted. Minx was teaching Deirdre and Ashley basic fingering techniques on the communal piano. Rapture was giving tarot card readings for Lela, telling her what college would bring as Marianne and Terri looked on..and for once Terri wasn't screeching in fear. Riot was, as always, the charmer of the bunch, regaling four of the girls with his wild stories of the famous rock stars he claimed to know personally. From the corner of my eye I spotted Jetta, Clash and Roxy alongside Danse and Video, helping a frazzled Mrs. Bailey prepare the formidable pot luck feast waiting to be served. Pizzazz and Stormer were out on the patio, keeping an eye on those frolicking in the pool. All we could do was stare in awe.

Kimber spoke up first. "Okay, maybe it's just me, but I think we've stepped into an alternate dimension or something."

"I hear that," Shana replied. "I've never felt so disoriented!"

"I've never seen anything like it!" Raya marveled.

Aja quietly pulled me over. "Why don't you come with me quick to go pick up some things. Okay?"

"But-" I surveyed the scene before me, keeping my eyes glued to the hologram of Jerrica, which was keeping up appearances doing laps on the opposite end of the pool. "All right. But we'd better make it quick."

"Right." She grabbed the Roadster's keys from the hook next to the coat rack and led me out the door. "Be right back!" I yelled into the house and shut the door before anyone had the chance to respond. Aja had the Rockin' Roadster roaring out of the driveway and out of the gate before I even had my seat belt on. I gasped in surprise.

"What on earth are you doing?" I asked her, feigning shock. My friend shot me a fiendish grin and clicked on the radio, which was blasting another one of those hair metal bands from the Strip that are so hot nowadays. We shot down the highway, wind ripping through our multi-hued hair. I lay my head back and let my face soak up the sun.

I looked up as she pulled the car into a nearby convienience store and cut the engine. "Won't we be recognized here?" I asked Aja. She just gave me a look. "Oh, Jerrica, just change back to normal and you'll be fine. You know that, girl!" And with that, she strolled into the store without a care. I sighed and ducked behind the dashboard.

"Show's Over, Synergy," I whispered, hoping no one was nearby as the familiar tingling glow enveloped me. I emerged from the Roadster as my ordinary blonde self. The older Hispanic gentleman behind the counter looked at me a little funny, or so I thought.

I found the blue tressed Asian girl rooting around in the huge cooler, selecting some wine coolers. She'd already picked up an array of treats, but it didn't look like it was enough for everyone, and I said so.

"That's because it's not." Aja grunted, reaching the last case and slamming the door shut. She picked up her overflowing basket and started towards the counter. I hurried after her.

"What do you mean by that?" I asked breathlessly. She grinned at me. "It's a surprise. Don't worry, it's meant to cheer everyone up. Especially you."

"Okay." I said uneasily. I guess I'll have to just let her do her thing. We headed back to the Roadster with bags in our arms, setting them in the backseat and taking off towards the mansion again. As I slowly realized Aja wasn't taking the usual route home, I looked at me funny, or so I thought, anyway, but I just nodded at him with a friendly smile and ran off to find Aja.

I found the blue tressed Asian girl rooting around in the huge cooler, selecting some wine coolers. She'd already picked up an array of treats, but it didn't look like it was enough for everyone, and I said so.

"That's because it's not." Aja grunted, reaching the last case and slamming the door shut. She picked up her overflowing basket and started towards the counter. I hurried after her.

"What do you mean by that?" I asked breathlessly. She grinned at me. "It's a surprise. Don't worry, it's meant to cheer everyone up. Especially you."

"Okay." I said uneasily. I guess I'll have to just let her do her thing. We headed back to the Roadster with bags in our arms, setting them in the backseat and taking off towards the mansion again. As I slowly realized Aja wasn't taking the usual route home, I looked up at her. She looked right back at me.

"We've got some time before we have to get back. I thought I'd take you away for a while. Besides, you've got something on your mind and I know what it is."

That took me aback. "Oh? If you've got some ideas, I'd love to hear 'em." I said as I opened one of the sodas from the bags. This should be good, I thought. Aja always thinks she knows me so well.

"Jem is ruining your life." She said bluntly. I nearly choked on my first sip.

"It's true, Jerrica. You try not to think about it, but you know things are starting to fall apart. You've kept this shit up for nearly three years. How much longer are you going to let this go on?"

I shook my head in disbelief. Maybe she knows me a little better than I'd thought. "I don't know, Aja. What am I supposed to do, anyway? If I reveal everything, all hell will break loose. You know that."

"Yeah, I know that. But the longer you let it go on, the worse it's gonna be for you. Think about it. You don't have to tell the world. It's none of anyone's business who Jem is. But it is Rio's business. The poor guy is really in over his head. You can see the guilt in his eyes, Jerrica, guilt that your alter ego put there in the first place. And you know he doesn't deserve to feel like that. It's not his fault."

"Or is it?" I countered. "I've been thinking about it, Aja. A lot. I mean, if he's 'cheating' on me with Jem, that means he's capable of cheating with someone else. Do I really need to have that always in the back of my mind?"

"Does he need to think of himself as less of a boyfriend because another woman is tempting him, when it's really you, and it always has been? Come off of it, Jeri. Neither you nor he need to go through this anymore." Aja said pointedly. It was the first time she'd used that childhood nickname since, well, childhood. I cringed inside, knowing every word she said was the truth I'd been denying for years.

Aja gave me a sad smile and laid a sympathetic hand on mine. "I know it's hard. But whatever you decide, something has to be done." She proceeded to turn the Roadster onto the main road.

"I'm afraid, Aja." I said, my voice trembling.

"I know you are, Jeri. Just think about what I said, ok?"

"Okay." I answered, exhaling deeply. As we pulled into the entrance to Starlight Mansion, just past the tall bushes, I discreetly switched back to the persona I'd held up for so long, hoping no one caught on to the fake me hopefully still in the swimming pool. The car rolled to a stop in the garage. Aja cut the engine and looked at me. "Ready to get back into the action?"

"Sure," I replied. We got out and entered through the door leading to the kitchen. As I stepped back into the melee, without warning my body sagged with a sudden exhaustion. I tried to follow Aja and keep up appearances, but I soon felt my legs shaking. I leaned into Aja, who looked at me in surprise.

"What's the matter with you?" She asked.

"Just get me to a chair, quietly, so no one gets suspicious." I whispered. But of course, it was already too late for that. Before I could say anything, Riot and Rio had come up beside me to lead me to the couch in the family room. Kimber and Shana were watching intently across the hall.

"Jem, my lovely, what's wrong?" Riot asked, taking my hand. I shot the blonde narcissus a withering look. I've told him countless times not to call me that. I'm not his. Rio scowled and nudged himself next to him. He looked at me with nervous eyes.

"Are you okay, Jem? You don't look so good." He asked. I reached up and patted his cheek. "I'm okay, guys." I said, making a point to address both men. "I'm just stressed out." I struggled to sit up, groaning with the unexpected effort. My head throbbed and the room spun wildly. I steadied myself on Rio's shoulder. "I think I should go upstairs and lie down. I hate to leave my own party, but."

"Don't worry about it." Rio cut in. "We'll take care of things down here, won't we, Riot?" He looked at the blond man pointedly. "Of course." Riot replied smoothly. He gazed at me in appreciation. "Anything for you, Jem."

I sighed. "Good. I'll just go tell Jerrica and then I'll be on my way." I forced myself to stand up and walked shakily out through the bustling kitchen, ignoring Danse and Mrs. Bailey's worried glances, past Stormer and Pizzazz out on the patio and over to a lounge chair where my hologram was sunning herself. Even now, Synergy never fails to amaze me with the lifelike imagery she comes up with. I leaned over and pretended to tap "Jerrica" on the shoulder, touching my right earring as I did so. In an instant, our forms changed places with a faint sparkle of pink. "Jem" and I nodded at each other, and she headed into the mansion, presumably towards the bedroom. I got up and followed her.

Jerrica

"Jerrica..."

My mother's voice echoed through the ravaged remains of the 747, ringing off of it's burning shell. Smoke singed my eyes; the stench of engine fuel and lost life choked and consumed me as my heart banged in my chest. I called out for her, searching the wreckage for any sign of her.

"This is far more than you are equipped for..."

"Mom! Mom, where are you!" I yelled, roughly wiping the soot-stained tears from my face. A shriek erupted from my throat as I tripped over a dead man, still smoldering in his business suit. I began shaking, terrified of finding my mother in the same condition. Oh, God, why did I not hug her goodbye? I started to sob uncontrollably as a figure appeared through the fire.

"No..." I whispered hoarsely as the undeniably familiar figure drew ever closer to me. Fear churned in my bowels. It's not her, it can't be, that's not Mom.

Her face appeared to me, but it was blank, like a clean slate. Her voice started to speak, but my ears would not hear it. I covered them with my hands; only to have the Jemstar earrings prick my palms. I held them up to the light and stared in horror as they bled like stigmata. In the distance, I heard Rio's voice, as it was when he was 12, calling out my name. I started to call back to him, until my mother's hand fell on my shoulder.

"Far more..." Her voice purred, echoing into screams inside my head...

I cried out abruptly and sat straight up on my bed, curled up in the fetal position, shaking. Slowly I became aware of the sounds of cleanup and preparation going on downstairs. "How long have I been asleep?" I asked aloud to no one in particular, noticing how it had grown dark outside. Instinctively my hand reached up to my ear to summon Synergy, but an image of those wounds on my hands quickly changed my mind. I shook myself out of my cold nightmare induced sweat and stood up to wash my face in the private bathroom. Gasping slightly at the sensation of the frigid water, I stared at myself in the mirror and smirked at myself.

"So what face will we choose this evening, Miss Benton?" I remarked in a nasal tone to my image in the mirror. "Will it be Glamour and Glitter, or will it be Deception and Liars instead!" I laughed bitterly. I felt hysteria begin to creep into my usually smooth voice, and decided to give it a rest. If these nightmares don't drive me crazy, then my tortured psyche will do it for me.

A knock on my door startled me, and Kimber gingerly wandered inside. "Hey, sis, are you okay in here? You've been napping for an awful long time. And we know you weren't feeling well, so.." Her sweet voice trailed off.

"Thanks, Kimber. Yeah, I'm okay. I had another one of my nightmares." I said, sighing as I sat on my bed. Kimber sat down next to me.

"The one about Mom?" She asked, and I nodded sadly. Kimber shook her head and laid an arm across my shoulders. "You've been having that one ever since damn Eric Raymond burned her master tape."

"I know." I said, rubbing gently across my forehead. She hugged me tighter and continued, "You really have to stop beating yourself up about what happened, Jerrica."

"I know!" I exclaimed, sitting up from her embrace. "But I just can't seem to stop it. And this one was different. Mom actually spoke to me, Kimber."

Kimber's eyes widened. "Ohmigod, what did she say?"

I shivered. "She kept saying, whispering, 'Jerrica, this is far more than you are equipped for.' And then she said it again, except it wasn't Mom anymore, it was something else, something awful, and it turned into a - a barrage of just hideous screams and.." My throat closed up and I burst into tears. Kimber gasped and folded my body into her arms.

"That's the scariest thing I've ever heard," She whispered, stroking my hair comfortingly. "I wonder what it means."

"I'm not sure, but it scared the hell out of me, and I don't think I want to know." I cried, my shoulders convulsing in sobs.

"I know what it means." Aja's voice remarked from the doorway, causing both Kimber and I to jump. We didn't even see her shape cast a shadow from the light in the hall.

"Aja, you scared the hell out of us!" Kimber exclaimed as Aja flipped on the light. "Sorry about that. I couldn't help overhearing about your dream, Jerrica. Sounds pretty serious to me."

I squinted at the light and gazed at Aja. "That's exactly what I was hoping you wouldn't say."

She sighed. "We discussed this already, Jeri." Aja shook her blue tassels and turned away from us. "Come on, both of you. Let's go enjoy the rest of the evening."

Kimber got up to follow her, but I hesitated. "Guys, I really don't feel like facing everyone again." I murmured. Aja smiled sympathetically and came back into the bedroom to lead me out by the hand. "Everyone's already gone home for the night, Jerrica, except for Danse and Video."

"Yeah, the other party animals didn't feel like wasting any more time with us dullards, after Jem left." Kimber remarked flippantly as the three of us descended down the stairs.

"After Jem left...Oh no!" I exclaimed, realizing what I'd done. "In the midst of my illness, I'd totally forgotten Jem was supposed to be upstairs and not me. Wonderful!" I sighed and looked at Kimber. "Did anyone notice?" Kimber shook her head. "Synergy must have realized that, so 'Jem' called herself a cab and went home. wherever that is. I guess everyone figured you wanted to be alone with your thoughts." She shrugged, and I breathed a sigh of relief. "But anyway, we have a surprise for you, sis!"

"Oh?" I said quizzically, raising an eyebrow at my sisters. Kimber grinned. "Yeah, we're having a slumber party tonight, just us girls!"

"It was supposed to be a surprise, Kimber," Aja said, glaring at Kimber, who shrugged a halfhearted apology. Aja's eyes rolled skyward.

"But what about the girls, and Mrs. Bailey?" I asked as the two of them dragged me down the hall towards the family room. "Some of the girls decided to go catch a movie, and the younger ones, Mrs. Bailey put to bed already. She's retired for the night." Kimber said.

"And Rio?"

"Rio sends his love." Aja replied dryly. I started stammering another excuse, but it turned into pleased laughter as I surveyed the warm scene before me. Shana, Raya, Danse, and Video had spread sleeping bags all in the middle of the floor, with a sizeable array of junk food and alcoholic beverages in the center. It was then I noticed everyone was wearing their pajamas, slippers and all. The stereo was playing songs that we used to love when we were younger, the ones Mom used to sing while cooking in the kitchen.

"So this is what you were plotting," I said to Aja, folding my arm and giving her a mock parental look. She feigned innocence and threw up her hands. "Plot, moi? Oh, Jerrica, surely you jest!" She grinned warmly and thrust a wadded nightgown in my hand. I swallowed a happy sob and hugged her tightly.

"This is exactly what you need," Aja whispered. "Trust me."

"I trust you, Aja. Thank you for this," I whispered back.

"Enough mush!" Kimber declared, cracking open a Bartles and Jaymes. She had already joined the circle and proceeded to wriggle into her own nightclothes inside her sleeping bag. Everyone started to laugh, myself included, as Raya leaned over to steal a sip from her bottle to keep it from toppling over.

"What?" She cried. "It would have fallen over anyway! What's the sense of wasting it?"

Aja and I laughed and looked at each other, and then sat on the floor to join the party.