Chapter Three – On Tour With The Holograms
“Well, here goes nothing.”
Glancing at her reflection in the wing mirror of the taxi, Clash checked her makeup and hairstyle carefully before paying the driver and sending him on his way. She liked playing a part, but this one was so important…if this didn’t fool the Holograms then she might as well forget the rest of her plan. It all hinged on whether or not she could make them think she was Raya.
Getting hold of a copy of the Holograms’ schedule had not been easy, but she had done it. Having a cousin so involved with Jem and the rest meant that with a quick pay off here and there to her cleaning lady she could learn all she needed, however, and she had taken advantage of this fact more than once. She’d spent the night at a San Diego hotel, drawing on the generous allowance of her foolish father to fund her activities as she did so. Now she was ready to assume Raya’s place in the band. Zipper would keep the real Raya busy for twenty-four hours or so, that was all she needed. In less than twelve the flight would leave for Spokane and she intended to be on it.
“Raya!” Kimber hurried out of the hotel entrance as Clash sauntered up the drive, casting the keyboardist what she hoped was a convincing Raya smile. “You’re back! We were worried…how is everything!”
“It was strange, Kimber.” Clash hid a smile, following her companion back inside. “When I got home, Mama was surprised to see me. I think it was a hoax.”
“A cruel one.” Kimber pulled a face. “Still, at least everything is okay and you’re back in good time, huh? Come on…Jerrica will be glad to see you.”
“Jerrica’s on this tour?” Clash’s eyes opened wider with surprise, and it took all her self control not to say the words aloud. “What’s wrong with the girl – can’t she let her group do anything without tagging along behind them?”
Out loud she said,
“I am glad to be back so quickly. I was so afraid to miss the flight.”
“Well, you’re here.” Kimber dimpled. “Hey, who do you reckon set you up? The Misfits?”
“Probably.” Clash produced a flawless Raya grimace. “I do not like them, Kimber, playing such a mean trick!”
“They probably thought they’d get you out of the way and mess up our tour. Good thing we’ve been staying in San Diego and not moving on, else they might have succeeded.” Kimber shrugged. She grinned. “Anyway, we got the better of them this time. You’re just in time to practice with us for tonight!”
“Practice?” Clash bit her lip. “Kimber, do you think Jem will mind if I do not practice with you? I am very tired…it has been chaos.”
“Nah, I reckon she’ll be cool.” Kimber responded. “She’ll just be glad you’re back in good time.”
She pushed open the door to the hotel lounge, where Jerrica and the rest of the Holograms were sitting, chatting together. They had already arranged with the hotel manager, a big Hologram fan himself to use one of his outbuildings to run through their repertoire, and Kimber had been heading out to confirm it was free when she’d spotted the new arrival.
“Raya! You made it!” Aja exclaimed.
“Is everything all right at home?” Jerrica added.
“It was a hoax call, apparently.” Kimber answered for the other girl, for, had she known it, Clash was trying her best to compose herself to deal with so many Holograms at once. One thing to pretend to be a stranger to them, but another to imitate one of their own select band.
“Well, we can really rock and roll now.” Shana observed with a grin. “And I can play my guitar again, too. Good thing – I’m out of practice on drums.”
“Kimber said she did not think you would mind if I did not practice today.” Clash said quietly, hoping her phrasing was close enough to that of the real Raya to pass muster. “I have had a crazy time, and I’m so tired.”
“It’s fine, Raya, really. We’re just glad you’re back and everything is okay.” Jerrica assured her. “You going to come listen to our run through, though?”
“Of course.” Clash smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Is the room free, Kimber?” Shana asked. Kimber’s hand flew to her mouth.
“Oh! I don’t know! I saw Raya and forgot all about it!” she exclaimed. Aja rolled her eyes.
“One of these days you’ll forget yourself, kid.” She said dryly. “Well, I suppose we should go see for ourselves, then. It shouldn’t take us too long to set up.”
“I suppose then I’ll have to play beat, just for today, if Raya’s not with us on this one.” Shana sighed. “Ah well, be patient with me, huh?”
“Of course.” Jerrica grinned. “Come on, let’s go set up.”
“Where’s Jem?” Clash wondered inwardly. “If they’re going to play…surely she’s here somewhere?” Out loud she said, “Can I help?”
“Sure. Here.” Aja tossed her a key. “Go get my guitar for me, would you? We’ll meet you out back.”
“Okay.” Clash took the key, glancing at the room number, then grinning. “I will be there. Adios!”
Once the other Holograms were gone, Clash glanced around her, then headed up to the desk.
“Excuse me, please.” She said, “But my friend Jem asked me to get something from her room…She will be late for our session and asked me to go ahead to help set up faster.”
“Oh yeah?” The hotel attendant eyed her suspiciously. “And who are you?”
“I am Raya Alonso, I play drums for the Holograms.” Clash injected both indignation and hurt into her tone. “I am staying here – don’t you recognise me?”
“Miss Alonso, I’m sorry.” Another man came to the desk, casting the first a glare. “Jon is new and doesn’t know the system yet. How may I be of assistance to you?”
“I simply need a key to Jem’s room. She has not returned here yet and I need to get things for our practice.” Clash smiled prettily at the attendant. Raya wasn’t much of a flirt, she knew that, so it was an effort not to take advantage of the man’s attention, but somehow she managed it.
The man checked his book, then frowned.
“Why, I’m sorry, Miss Alonso, there’s no Jem down in my book as staying here. I must say it’s mighty strange to me – must be a mistake somewhere. You don’t happen to know her room number? Some careless soul must’ve forgotten to note it down here.”
“No…I don’t know it…I just got back from Los Angeles and I do not remember.” Clash was startled. Jem wasn’t signed in? Stranger and stranger. “It does not matter...thank you for your help. I…I’ll ask Jem about it, maybe she makes the mistake.”
“Sorry not to be of more assistance, miss.” The attendant smiled at her. “Have a good session, won’t you?”
“I will indeed.” Clash muttered as she went to go and locate Aja’s guitar. As she waited for the lift to reach the ground floor, a startling thought occurred to her.
“Maybe Jem is signed in, after all.” She mused. “Only…only not as Jem. Maybe she’s signed in under her real name!”
She clenched her fists with glee. Surely this was the change she’d been waiting for! She knew all too well that the Holograms were all in the know where Jem’s secret was concerned. Perhaps if she spent more time around them, she’d find out too.
Aja’s guitar was easy to find, and she scooped up the case, pulling the door of the hotel room shut behind her and sauntering back down to meet the rest of the group. They were setting up their instruments and she handed the guitar over to the Chinese-American with a shy smile.
“Here…I was as fast as I could. I hope I didn’t delay you.” She said.
“Nope, you’re in great time.” Aja grinned at her. “You know, you do look kinda tired, actually. Perhaps it’s a good thing you’re sitting this one out. And you can give us your opinion on how the new song sounds from an audience perspective, too.”
“Yeah, be brutal.” Kimber agreed with a grin. “I’m still not sure about some of the harmonies.” Kimber wrote all of the Hologram songs, though sometimes the rest of the group assisted in the construction of the melody. Jam sessions with the Holograms were often a lot of fun, and had created some great hits in the past.
“I will do my best, but I am sure it’s great, Kimber.” Clash took a seat, casting the keyboardist a warm smile. “You write such good music.”
“Well, I do my best.” Kimber winked. “Come on, Aja, you tuned?”
“Almost.” Aja checked a chord, then nodded. “Yep, I’m ready to rock. Let’s go, huh?”
“Aren’t we forgetting someone?” Clash demanded.
Shana lifted her drumsticks, eying Jerrica with an amused grin.
“Raya’s right, Jerrica.” She said. “The Holograms can’t perform without Jem, now can they?”
“I suppose not.” Jerrica looked sheepish. “I almost forgot about her…I guess it would be strange if someone walked in and saw…still, she’s just the touch of a button away!”
“Miss Benton?” The door of the room opened to reveal the hotel manager. “Ah, you are here. I was wondering if I might have a word?”
“Oh, drat.” Jerrica, whose hand had gone up to her earring paused, nodding her head. “Of course, Mr Raynor, I’ll be right with you…girls, go on without me, huh?”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea.” Aja snorted. “We’ll wait for you, Jerrica.”
“What is with this group?” Clash was becoming more confused by the moment. “When I infiltrated them before…well, Jem was there, for a start. And now Jerrica disappears and they won’t practice without her? Do they need her to hold their hand all the time? Unbelievable!”
“Well, at this rate we won’t get a practice session.” Shana pulled a face. “What a waste of time San Diego is proving to be! No concert, no chance to practice, prank phone calls…if you ask me I’ll be glad to get out of California and away from those Misfits. I bet they had something to do with all of the above!”
“Well, I don’t think they had anything to do with Mr Raynor walking in just then.” Kimber rolled her eyes. “But I agree with you about the other two. When will those girls give up?”
“Never, that’s my guess.” Aja groaned. “You guys know Pizzazz. She can’t bear to be second best at anything.”
“Well, then she must be hating us pretty bad.” Shana winked. “Because the Holograms are definitely way out of their league.”
“I’m sorry, girls, practice is off.” Jerrica returned at that moment. “Mr Raynor has an urgent meeting here – change of plan. He can’t shift it, so we’re going to have to do without, unless we can find someplace else. We fly out this evening, so I suggest we just go back to our rooms and pack our bags.”
“Oh, brilliant.” Kimber rolled her eyes. “Well, I suppose we don’t have a choice.”
“Nope, fraid not.” Jerrica sighed. “Ah well. Once we’re in Spokane it should be better. And then Raya will have had a chance to rest up and we’ll be back to full strength.” She cast Clash a grin. “So I suppose it could be worse. Come on. Let’s go pack.”
“Where are you taking me?”
From the back of the car, Raya voiced her question for the third time, glancing around her anxiously for a sign of something she knew. She had summoned a taxi to the hotel to take her back to Los Angeles, knowing that the music company would cover it’s costs, but when she had seen a road sign heading in the wrong direction, she had begun to get suspicious. Her fears had grown when, upon demanding to know her destination the driver, his identity hidden behind dark glasses, had made no reply, merely keeping his gaze firmly on the road ahead.
Now the driver glanced at her in the mirror, a smile touching his face.
“What’s it to ya?” he drawled. “Sit tight, little lady. Nothing’s gonna happen to ya. You’re just gonna spend a couple of days with me, that’s all.”
“But Mama…Papa!” Raya gripped the back of the seat. “I must go home!”
“You’re pretty stupid, ain’t ya?” The driver laughed. “Can’t you tell a hoax call when you got one? Silly girl, Raya…now look where it’s got ya!”
“A hoax? Someone tricked me?” Horror flashed into Raya’s eyes. “But why? Who?”
“Sorry, I can’t tell you that kinda information. It’s classified, you know?”
The driver responded, his tone amused. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing…you’re in no danger so long as you cause me no trouble. You got me?”
“But…but if you don’t let me go I…I’ll miss my flight to Spokane! The Holograms won’t be able to perform!” she exclaimed. The driver shrugged.
“Ah well, life’s like that.” He drawled. “You mind shuttin’ up? I’m tryin’ to drive here!”
Raya sank back in her seat, knowing that for the time being at least she was helpless.
“What do I do?” she asked herself hopelessly, gazing unseeingly out of the window at the racing view. “And where are we going…Jem, where are you when I need you?”
“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I am beat.” Kimber dropped down into a seat in the hotel lounge, a look of contentment on her face. “Ahh, that's better. I just wanna spend the evening by the pool…do we have to perform tonight?”
“Fraid so, lazybones.” Jerrica laughed at her sister’s expression. The Holograms had arrived in Spokane an hour earlier, after a delayed flight and confusion at the airport, and as a result had not had time to set up and practice their set. The concert was scheduled for an hour and a half’s time, and Clash was feeling a little apprehensive. She had no mind to go out on stage with the Holograms, that would blow her cover immediately. In any case, Zipper was briefed to let Raya go once the Holograms had left California for Washington. If she hadn’t discovered Jem’s identity by the time the curtain went up, she would have some quick thinking to do.
But then, quick thinking was her specialty.
She got to her feet, moving over to the window. There were no more flights with empty seats to Spokane till the morning, she’d been careful to find that out. Raya couldn’t possibly get back to her band before then. The thing was, could Clash find out all she wanted to know and then vanish, before anyone got suspicious?
She glanced outside at the darkening sky, and suddenly a wistful mood came over her. It was almost fun, being here, being part of the band in this way, even if it was just pretend. Then she hardened her heart. They had humiliated her…they had to be taught a lesson, as much as the Misfits did. She had to show them all what Clash Montgomery was capable of.
“What time will we set up there, then?” she asked instead.
“I reckon we go down there in half an hour, get things together. Maybe we’ll get to run through something then.” Jerrica replied. “It’s a sell out venue, we can’t let the fans down, whatever we do.”
“Well, we can but do our best.” Shana shrugged. “At least we’re out of the way of those Misfits now.”
“Yeah. Their scheme sure came to nothing.” Kimber giggled. “They should know by now that they can’t beat us. We’re outrageous!”
“We’re exhausted.” Aja corrected her.
“Come on, you two.” Jerrica hid a smile of amusement. “We’ve another couple of weeks of this. You going to survive?”
“Hey, we have before. It just takes time to get into it.” Kimber shrugged. “And once we’re there, we’ll get the buzz. It won’t be so bad.”
Kimber was right. Once the group were backstage at the concert, their earlier fatigue seemed to leave them and they were all eager to go.
That was, all but Clash. Confused enough by Jem’s lack of appearance either at the hotel or at the venue, her confusion had only grown when Jerrica had insisted on accompanying them backstage.
“This girl is more warped than I thought.” She mused to herself as she idly toyed with Raya’s drumsticks. “And we’ve ten minutes before we gotta go on…come on, Jem where are you? Some plan this is turning out to be. How can I find out who she is if she isn’t even here yet?”
“Jerrica, the guy just said five minutes.” Aja reported, coming back from where she had been testing her guitar to rejoin the group. “Aren’t you going to change for us? Or you going out there like that.”
“Silly.” Jerrica laughed. “That would go down well, wouldn’t it?”
She reached up to touch her earring. “Synergy? It’s showtime.”
Clash glanced up from her sticks at that moment, her eyes opening wide as Jerrica was bathed in a pinkish glow, and then, before her eyes, her features changed. Jerrica Benton was Jerrica no more.
Jerrica Benton was…
“Jem?” Clash could barely contain her shock. “But…but that’s impossible! I…How did she do that?”
She got to her feet, approaching Jem slowly.
“Jem?” She asked softly. Jem turned, casting Raya a smile.
“What’s up, Raya? Nervous?” she asked.
“I…a bit.” Suddenly Clash remembered who she was meant to be and with some effort she forced her façade back in place. “There…there are so many people here.”
“It’ll be okay. We’re stars, aren’t we?” Jem grinned at her. “They’ll love us.”
“Well, it’s okay for you. You have Synergy’s hologram to hide behind.” Kimber peeked out at the crowd. “Raya’s right. There are an outrageous number of people out there. I wish we’d gotten to practice earlier!”
“We’ll be okay.” Aja shrugged. “It isn’t like this is our first time.”
“Aja’s right.” Jem nodded. “Well, girls, looks like that’s our signal. Ready to rock?”
“Ready when you are.” Shana nodded her head. “Let’s rock them!”
Clash stared at each of the Holograms in turn as slowly the true realisation of what was going on dawned on her.
Jem wasn’t Jem at all.
Jem was Jerrica Benton.
And Jem was…a hologram?
“Clever.” She breathed slowly, for she had always had an admiration for technical gadgetry. “The machine that projected that thing must be pretty awesome to keep the world fooled for so long! She looks so real!”
“Raya?” She felt a hand on her arm and she started, staring at Aja in confusion.
“Are you coming? We kinda need our drummer.” Aja winked at her.
“Oh!” Clash’s eyes widened. Then, “Aja, I…I don’t feel so good.”
“It’s just stage fright. You’ll be fine once you’re out there.” Aja told her. “Come on. We can’t keep the crowd waiting.”
Clash thought fast. No way was she stepping out on stage in front of all those people, not knowing the first beat of any Hologram song.
“I…I think I’m going to be sick.” She faltered, pushing past Aja and making a run for it. The guitarist stared after her, stunned for a moment, then made to follow her, but Shana grabbed her arm.
“Where are you going?” she demanded. “And where’s Raya? We’re on in less than a minute!”
“She’s sick…she said she felt sick.” Aja looked worried. “We can’t just leave her…tell Jem to stall the crowd for a moment or two. I want to make sure she’s okay.”
“Sick? Well, all right.” Shana nodded. “I’ll go talk to Jem. I guess all the dashing about’s gotten to her pretty bad, huh? If it comes to it I can take drums tonight. I hope she’s okay.”
“Me too. I’ll be back soon as I can.” Aja responded. She headed off in the direction she had seen the percussionist flee.
Shana made her way back to join the group in the wings as they were announced, murmuring in low tones to Jem what had happened.
“Poor Raya!” Jem sounded sympathetic. “Can you do drums, then, if she’s really not well?”
“I can and I will, though I don’t want to.” Shana agreed. “Aja said she’d be back as soon as she’d made sure Raya was okay…and here she is. That was quick.”
“What’s up, Aja?” Kimber asked, noting the expression on the guitarist’s face.
“It’s Raya.” Aja sounded troubled. “Guys…she’s gone!”
Chapter Two: Deception
Chapter Three: On Tour With The Holograms
Chapter Four: The Next Stage
Chapter Five: Jem?
Chapter Six: Trapped!
Chapter Seven: An Unlikely Team
Chapter Eight: Laying Plans
Chapter Nine: Letter From The Desert
Chapter Ten: Jetta's Hunch
Chapter Eleven: Some Outside Help
Chapter Twelve: Kimber's Dilemma
Chapter Thirteen: The Great Escape
Chapter Fourteen: Fire!
Chapter Fifteen: Repercussions and Rock and Roll
Chapter Sixteen: The End Of An Era
(The Misfits and Holograms and other animated Jem characters are copyrighted to Hasbro Inc. All characters who do not appear in Jem episodes are my own creation. This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley (2001)