Chapter Three: A Stumbling Block

"What time do you call this?"
Jem folded her arms, shooting her hapless younger sister a dark look. "Practice is at two, you know that. This is the third time, Kimber, and it isn't good enough. You know we can't run through much without your keyboard part. And what exactly are you wearing?"
"Stormer and I went shopping...I lost track of time." Kimber responded apologetically, taking her place behind her keyboard as she did so. "I'm sorry, Jem. I didn't realise how late it was. We were trying on clothes and doing makeup and my clock still isn't working..."
"Well, she is here now, so we can start, ¿no?" Raya Alonso, the band's percussionist put in hurriedly, for she hated conflict. "Aja says you have a new song for us, Kimber."
"Oh, I do! Well, I mean we do." Kimber shot Raya a grateful grin for the subtle change of subject. "Aja and I worked on it together. It's very upbeat, plenty of drum solos for you, Raya, and I have to admit I think the lyrics are kinda catchy. It probably needs us to play through it a couple of times and polish up edges here and there, but I don't think it needs too much work."
"Well, lets see it then." Jem held out her hand for the manuscript and her sister obediently handed it over. "Wow, you guys are adventurous! Sure we can learn all of these chord sequences and key changes in time to perform it at our next concert?"
"You only have to learn to sing it." Aja observed quietly. "Besides, Kimber and I already know the piece backwards. It's basically half way there already."
Jem shot Aja a confused glance at the hidden barb in the other girl's tone, but made no comment, realising that the guitarist was sensitive about her hard work.Instead she shrugged.
"Well, I say we give it a go." She said finally. "How about you guys play it through for us, give Shana and Raya and I a chance to check it out?"
"Sure." Kimber nodded her head. "Raya, I hope you don't mind that we wrote you in certain sections of drumline. I know you like to work out your own beats, but it just seemed to fit, and..."
"I am sure it will be fine." Raya assured her. "May I look?"
"Here." Aja passed her a copy of the manuscript. "Do you reckon you can work with that? Of course, you can tweak it..."
"I'll do my best." Raya dimpled. "Shall I try along with you and Kimber, see if I can set the beat?"
"That would be outrageous, Raya." Kimber nodded. "Okay, Aja, you ready? Then let's rock!"
Once the song was finished, Shana grinned.
"Woo, nice writing." She observed, clapping her hands. "You weren't kidding about upbeat and catchy - I think it's just the kind of song we need to spark a new album. I just hope that the bassline isn't too complex. I...well, don't have a lot of time to practice this week. Regine and I have the fashion show this Saturday."
"We took that into consideration." Kimber grinned at her. "Don't worry. And I'm glad you like it. It'll sound better with your bassline, though, and Jem's vocals, of course. The bassline isn't too tricky, it just adds an extra dimension to the backing."
"Dare I ask to see it?" Shana's brown eyes danced with amusement. Kimber laughed, nodding her head.
"Of course." She agreed, as Raya held out the manuscript Aja had loaned her. "Whaddya think?"
"Looks okay." Shana skimmed it over. "Yeah, no problem. I can get that down."
"The drumline was easy enough to handle." Raya added at that moment. "I like it very much as a song, and I can see a couple of places to make more of the beat, so we keep it up tempo. I think it will be a big hit!"
"Well, the key changes for my bass aren't grotesque, which is a nice thing to know." Shana laughed. "Jem, what do you reckon? Is it a go-er?"
"It sounds very good." Jem said slowly. "Very catchy, upbeat, easy to listen to and I think our fans will love it."
"Why do I get the feeling the word 'but' is marching towards this sentence?" Kimber asked.
"Well, I'm just a little curious about something, that's all." Jem picked the manuscript off Kimber's keyboard stand, spreading it out on the table. "I know I'm not the best reader of music in the world, but as I understand it, that's Shana's bassline, that's your keyboard and that's Aja's guitar. Right?"
"Yep, that's right." Kimber nodded her head. "What of it?"
"Well, if that's my vocal line - and it obviously is, what the hell is that?" Jem pointed to one line of music. "Or are you playing two lines on the keyboard at once?"
Aja and Kimber exchanged looks, then Kimber shook her head.
"It's a counter melody." she explained. "Shall I play it for you?"
"Sure." Jem nodded, and carefully Kimber ran through the segment of music.
"Well, it's pretty." Jem said. "And it'd fit great with the melody, and all...but who's going to play it? You're out of instruments, unless you can handle both on keys."
"Not unless I grow another pair of arms." Kimber responded with a grin, though her eyes held an apprehensive look. "No, we, um, kinda had another idea."
She met Aja's gaze once more, looking for reassurance, and the guitarist winked at her.
"Oh?" Jem's eyebrow went up. "Please tell me you aren't going to ask Rio to play. He's a sweetheart, bless him, and he's great with our stage show but music is not his forte."
"God no! No, not Rio, don't worry." Kimber shook her head.
"We thought it would sound good on a saxophone." Aja added quietly.
"We don't have a saxophone." Jem pointed out. "Nor anyone who plays one."
"So we'll ask Jetta, then." Shana suggested. "She plays, and plays good, far as I can gather."
"That was our thought too." Aja nodded. "Kimber, did you ask her about it yet?"
"No-o-o-o not yet." Kimber admitted. "I spent all morning with Stormer, though, and I asked her opinion as to whether or not Jetta'd do it. She reckoned I should ask...and I s'pose it can't hurt. She can only laugh in my face and say no, right?"
"Well, if Stormer thinks Jetta might do it, then she probably would." Shana reasoned. "I guess we're settled. Cool. I love it already, you guys."
"Outrageous." Kimber dimpled. "Now I just have to find the nerve to ask her! Anyone want to come and play moral support?"
"Wait a minute." Jem held up her hands.
"What?" Kimber looked startled. "What's up, Jem?"
"I'm not having it."
"Having what?" Aja looked confused.
"I'm not having a Misfit playing on a Hologram track."
"Whyever not?" Kimber demanded. "We have a truce with them, remember?"
"That doesn't mean we have to be all cosy with them and play together on record releases." Jem responded. "It's no go. I'm not having Jetta playing any part in this song, or any of the other Misfits, for that matter. They're nothing but trouble for us and I'm surprised at how easily you guys have forgotten it. Besides, they're under contract to Misfit Music. Asking them to guest would mean additional paperwork and who gets stuck dealing with that? I already have enough to do organising our next string of shows."
"I can help you with the paperwork, Jem, if it's a problem." Aja offered. "I know you've a lot on at the moment, but Kimber and I thought of the problem of the different music companies and I don't mind handling it, if you can't do it."
"Please, Jem?" Kimber wheedled. "A saxophone would sound just so-o-o perfect and Jetta's the only person we know who could play it!"
"I said no. I meant no." Jem shook her head impatiently. "End of discussion, Kimber, we have work to do. We haven't time to be messing around with silly ideas."
"But what about the counter melody?" Kimber protested.
"It'll have to go." Jem shrugged. "I'm sorry, Kimber, but we don't have enough instruments to play it."
"We worked so hard on that song." Kimber murmured, picking up her manuscript and glancing over it, then setting it down on the keyboard stand once more.
"I'm not talking about scrapping the entire song, Kimber. Just that line." Jem responded. "In any case, I'm sure it'll work just as well without."
Kimber was silent for a moment, then she bit her lip, meeting her sister's gaze defiantly.
"You don't own this group, you know." She said petulantly. "Aja and I put a lot into this song and it's not for you to tell us what we can or cannot play, you know. Noone else minds. Raya hasn't said anything against it and Shana suggested it herself. I thought we were democratic about these things."
"No. We have a truce to uphold." Kimber shook her head. "Jem and the Holograms are an outrageous group, right? And why? Because our music rocks, that's why! Are you really going to let us risk our sound because you don't want to take a gamble? Life isn't fun unless you're willing to try new things from time to time!"
"Kimber's right." Aja said slowly. "I know the truce is still very new and uncertain, Jem, but we have to at least show goodwill and make an effort if we want the Misfits to do so too. And Roxy did fix our car this morning, too. I don't think it'd be a problem having Jetta on our track. It'd only be a one off."
"I'm not happy with it." Jem replied. "I'm not entirely happy with the truce, either, to be honest. I don't trust those Misfits one bit and I don't believe I ever will. The last thing I'm going to do is let one of them run riot round Starlight Music."
"But we want to be friends, Jem!" Kimber exclaimed. "We have got a truce, whatever you think about it, so get a grip, will you? We can;t be at war forever!"
"You waltz in here twenty five minutes late for the third time this week, dressed like God knows what, and you're gonna tell me what to do now?" Jem retorted.  "Never mind how much I already have to do, and how difficult it is scheduling these practices in between important meetings that the Foundation and Starlight Music rely on!"
"Jem, calm down! We all know and appreciate how hard you work!" Raya put out a hand to calm the singer, but Jem seemed oblivious, her attention fixed on her younger sister.
"And we don't take it for granted, either." Kimber was getting heated now. "These days we can't do a thing without you getting all queen of the world over it and it sucks!"
"Meanwhile you plot behind my back to bring a Misfit onto a Hologram record!" Jem flung back.
"We have a truce!" Kimber exclaimed. "And if you didn't like our song, you could've just said so, instead of getting all snotty about it! The tune won't work without a saxophone so it's either that or no song!"
"Well, I'm not happy about it." Jem shook her head. "I've not seen any of the Misfits doing us any good." She indicated Kimber. "Look. She spends a morning with one of them, and she turns up late dressed like...well...like a Misfit!"
"Stormer and I were having fun. I'm sorry you forgot what that's like." Kimber shot back.
"Are we going to spend the whole of this session arguing?" Shana asked slowly, raising an eyebrow. "Because there are other things I'd rather be doing than playing referee."
"You keep out of it." Jem snapped.
"Jem, please, calm down!" Raya begged. "It's getting out of hand! We can settle this later, when we are all of us less tired and more calm!"
"It's all right, Raya. It's about to calm down." Kimber scooped the manuscript off the keyboard stand, glancing at it and then rolling it up. "I'm going."
"But the practice!" Raya protested. Kimber shrugged.
"Who cares?" She said simply. Then she was gone, the door of the studio banging shut behind her.
"Brilliant." Shana winced at the sound. "I guess that means rehearsal is done for today." She rolled her eyes. "Same time tomorrow or shouldn't I bother?"
"You're not funny, Shana." Jem muttered darkly. "I'll see you later. My sister and I are going to have words about this."
Once she was gone, the remaining three Holograms exchanged looks.
"She's flipping out." Aja was the first to break the silence. "Success has gone to her head or something. I don't know, it's starting to really worry me, how she's acting. Like she wants to control everything we do. And I didn't see any harm in asking Jetta to play."
"Me neither. I like the girl." Shana shrugged. "Sure she's blunt and offhand and sarcastic but that's just who she is. She's harmless enough. Bark is definitely worse than bite, if you get my drift." She carefully replaced her guitar in her case, fastening it shut. "There's a lot more to her than she wants people to know, but I don't think she's so bad deep down. I just don't think she's been as lucky as we have, with having each other growing up and all that."
"And she's the one to ask if you want a sax player." Aja pointed out.
"Definitely." Shana nodded.
"I don't know." Raya bit her lip. "I do not see a problem with Jetta playing on the song, Aja, and I like the tune very much, but I am also worried. Surely the group is more important than one tune? If Jem is not happy, maybe we should think again? We shouldn't do anything we're not all happy with."
"Raya, you're the sweetest person, and I know you want to please everyone." Aja smiled. "But I don't know if conceding this time would help anything. If we're going to keep this truce going we have to make an effort too, else we'll be back to how we were, and none of us want that. Besides, Kimber and I did work very hard on the song...and forgive me if it's arrogant, but I think it'd be a hit."
"Perhaps when she calms down some Jem will realise that." Shana suggested.
"We didn't think she'd react so violently." Aja admitted.
"She is working very hard." Raya observed. "And she had a row with someone on the phone just before we began to practice. Some business arrangement or other, I don't know the details. I think it was perhaps just a bad moment. As Shana says, perhaps when she cools down it will be all made up and forgotten and everything will be fine."
"I hope so." Aja groaned. "I don't like this living in a time bomb type situation. We've had our spats before but there's never been such an air of tension as there is at the moment."
"Practice these days gives me a headache." Shana admitted. "And I could have used this time, with Saturday looming. If you guys don't mind, I'm going to head over to Regine's to discuss the show. It's probably safer at the moment, anyway."
"Sure, no problem. We'll take your guitar back to Starlight Mansion." Aja offered.
"Thanks, Aja." Shana grinned. "Later, girls!"
"Do you really think things will work out okay?" Aja wondered as she carefully packed her own instrument away, then lifted the two guitar cases. Raya shrugged.
"I hope." she said simply. "I don't like fighting. The truce with the Misfits is a good thing, and is important - I hope Jem and Kimber can find a compromise."
"Well, whether it's Jem or Jerrica who comes back to the Starlight Mansion tonight, I hope she's in a better mood." Aja said wryly. "If you ask me we've stopped fighting the Misfits and begun to fight each other."
"Ironic." Raya sighed. "Oh well. I think it will die down. We are too close for it not to."
Aja gathered up her copy of the manuscript, slipping it into her bag.
"Let's ditch the instruments and go to Pete's for some ice cream, huh?" She suggested. "I think we need it after that."
"I'm right behind you." Raya nodded, sliding her drumsticks into her stick bag. "Let's go!"

Chapter One: Ceasefire
Chapter Two: Teamwork
Chapter Three: A Stumbling Block
Chapter Four: Tackling Jetta
Chapter Five: Cracks
Chapter Six: Kimber's Escape
Chapter Seven: Confronting Jerrica
Chapter Eight: Dilemma
Chapter Nine: Begging Sanctuary
Chapter Ten: Kimber's Gauntlet
Chapter Eleven: The Plot Thickens

This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley as of Spring 2002 when it was first begun. Any characters not appearing in the jem series are also copyrighted to myself (E A Woolley) and are not to be reproduced in form or character without express permission. Any character from the Jem series are copyright to Hasbro Inc, Sunbow and Christy Marx 1985-1988.