Stormer peered around the door of the main office, casting her bandmate a nervous look as she did so. "Jetta, is Pizzazz here or at home or where? I kinda need to speak to her."
"She's up in the studio, examining the new equipment that came in." Jetta told her. "And as for me, I'm about out of 'ere now she's back. I'm sick of filin' forms and crap for 'er, anyway." She dumped the pile of folders down on the desk, casting Stormer a suspicious look. "What gives, anyway? What's up?"
"I am, Jetta." The door swung open fully and Jetta muttered a curse as she recognised the youngest Hologram.
"Are you 'aunting me or something?" She exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
"I didn't know where else to go." Kimber confessed. "Jerrica and I didn't exactly make up this morning. Actually, it got worse and I walked out on her. I don't want to go home, but..."
"But you don't know if Pizzazz will play nice an' let you stay at ours." Jetta groaned. "Look, Stormer, before you ask, I am 'avin' nothin' to do with this. I already took enough of a risk last night. I ain't gettin' involved this time. You want 'er to stop over, you go ask Pizzazz yourself." She gestured. "She's right there waitin'."
"I was going to." Stormer swallowed hard. "I wish Roxy were about, but she went out someplace and I don't know where she is. I don't really want to face Pizzazz on my own."
"You won't, love." Jetta told her sweetly. "Kimber's with you."
She slipped her bag onto her shoulder, making her way out of the door, but Stormer put a hand on her arm.
"Please, Jetta, come with us." She begged. "Pizzazz likes you."
"She won't like me if she finds out I'm part of the Hologram Refugee Support Group." Jetta snapped. "Look, Stormer, I risked me neck last night an' this morning. Right now, I 'ave a lunch date an' I'm not plannin' on being late. She's your friend. If she's that important to you, you go ask Pizzazz. I'm 'avin' nothin' to do with it."
With that she was gone, and Stormer and Kimber exchanged looks.
"So much for that idea." Kimber commented. Stormer nodded.
"I did think it was a long shot." She admitted. "Especially after this morning." She sighed. "Come on. I suppose we'd better do as she said and go find Pizzazz. Sooner we do this, sooner we can run for the hills."
"I feel like a naughty schoolkid, trespassing in the principal's office during recess." She admitted. "It's kinda fun."
"It isn't fun if you're caught."
The two girls swung around, trepidation crossing both faces as they realised Pizzazz had found them. She eyed each one in turn, her green eyes narrowed in suspicious confusion.
"Stormer, what is she doing here?"
"Pizzazz, you know we have a truce with the Holograms." Stormer gathered her courage. "Kimber and I were just hanging out, you know, as we do."
"Well, hang out somewhere other than my music company!" Pizzazz told her. "I might have to live with this damn truce, Stormer. I don't have to like it!"
"Pizzazz, there is...another reason I'm here." Kimber swallowed hard as the sharp green eyes became fixed on her. "I wanted to ask you a favour."
"Go on." The eyes narrowed further until they were almost slits and despite herself Kimber faltered. Pizzazz was not excessively tall or overly well built, but there was an aura of power about her. Beneath the wild, fierce exterior lay a fearsome temper and a spoiled, petulant character which was not often swayed unless the singer felt in the mood. She was not heartless or evil, but she was a difficult customer to manage, and Kimber knew that she herself was probably fairly high up on Pizzazz's list of pet hates.
"Well?" Pizzazz was getting impatient now, and Kimber rallied her nerve, meeting the singer's gaze with an earnest one of her own.
"There's been a fight." She said evenly. "And I've walked out on the Holograms. I wondered if I could stay at your place for a while, till I work something else out. I won't be any trouble and I'll keep out of your way. I just..."
"Stay? A Hologram? At the Gabor place? Do you think I'm stupid, or something?" Pizzazz raised an eyebrow, then she paused. "Hold on. Rewind. What did you say?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"About the Holograms. What was that?"
"Jerrica and I have fallen out." Kimber responded quietly. "And for the time being at least, I'm taking a time out from the band."
"Well, well." Pizzazz's green eyes became thoughtful as she turned this over in her head. "Perhaps I spoke too soon. What kind of a fight?"
"Just a sister spat." Kimber was evasive. "That's all. Will you help me?"
Pizzazz's features transformed themselves into a friendly smile.
"Why, of course I will." She murmured. "We have a truce, after all. Why should I refuse?"
She turned to Stormer.
"You can work it all out - I have enough to do today." She said briefly. Then she was gone, leaving the two girls staring after her.
"Something's up." Stormer found her voice first. Kimber nodded.
"But she said yes." She responded. "That's a start."
"I get the feeling she rather relished the idea of you and Jerrica not being bosom friends." Stormer sighed. "But I suppose it doesn't matter. We got what we wanted and you have a place to stay for a while. Let's go fix things up before she changes her mind, huh?"
In the studio at the end of the corridor, Pizzazz had secluded herself with the equipment as she gave free rein to her amusement.
"This is too, too perfect!" She murmured, moving to the window to watch the two girls leave. "Whoever woulda thought that some good would come out of Stormer being friendly with that girl! And I don't even have to lift a finger. The trouble's already caused! Jerrica and Kimber did it all on their own! Hah...the Holograms are finished! All I have to do is make sure that little miss Benton doesn't have any reason to think that we aren't honouring the truce one hundred percent. The more time she spends here, the bigger the rift between the Bentons will become. Okay, so she's a wimp. But she's a wimp with writing ability and a wimp who could probably be corrupted into abandoning her sister's stupid music company for good, if worked on in the right way. It's so perfect! Absolutely perfect! And I didn't have to do a thing! All I have to do is sit back and watch that wretched group come apart at the seams!"
"Everything's so unnatural at home."
Aja took a sip of her milkshake, setting the cup down on the table with a sigh. "You could cut the tension there with a knife, even when Jerrica isn't around. Raya and I are trying our best to be cheerful but the girls know now that there's a problem, Rio. We're not sure what we can do. Jerrica hasn't spoken much to anyone since it all happened, and well, I don't want to approach her because I'm afraid I'll make things yet worse. Even lose my temper. We were hoping that you might be able to change things."
"I would, if she would answer my phone calls." Rio sighed. "Look, Aja, I love Jerrica and you know that as well as I do, but sometimes she's beyond even me. She works far too hard and I can't always talk her into leaving the office. Even when I do, well, she's still often mentally there, worrying about this or that. The best thing in the world would be if I could take her out of Starlight Music and get her away from it all properly. Not just a week or two, but longer. Thing is, she wouldn't go and the music company needs her."
"The music company has us, and Joanie. We could manage it." Aja pointed out. "If she was speaking to me, I mean. It's bad though, Rio. Kimber spent last night at the Gabor place with Stormer and the other Misfits. I'm not worried about Jetta or Roxy, but Pizzazz is acting suspiciously nice - Kimber's words - and despite the truce I think she's up to something. I think she's playing this situation for all it's worth and if the story isn't all over Cool Trash by this time tomorrow morning I will be very much surprised."
"What can we do?" Rio asked. "Jerrica is at the root of all of this, not Pizzazz. I know that girl will cause trouble whether there is a truce or not, Aja, but Jerrica set the ball in motion, even if she didn't mean to." He frowned. "What about Shana?"
"Staying with Anthony till the fashion shoot is over tomorrow." Aja replied. "I'm going along to see it, and so is Raya, as moral support. I asked Kimber if she'd come and she said she would try to. I don't think she need worry. Jerrica won't be there. She's far too immersed in her work to notice."
"I called the office after I got your call to meet me here." Rio admitted. "And Jerrica was in a meeting but I spoke to Joanie. She's worried about this Hologram business too. She says that the Starlight Foundation relies on the Holograms and that something has to be done."
"Yes, we've discussed this." Aja nodded. "We've all agreed that we have to do anything we can in the interim to keep Starlight House running, for the girls' sake, no matter what happens to the band. Shana told me that she's accepted a further contract from a friend of Mr Evanson to design a wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses, because the money is good and it'll help keep the girls fed a while longer. Kimber and I are still working on doing something with our song, only we haven't enough instruments."
"Well, you could ask the Misfits, or you could ask the Limp Lizards." Rio suggested. "Didn't they help with Kimber's solo stint with Stormer?"
"I think so, but we don't really know them." Aja sighed. "And asking the Misfits...oh, that seemed like such a good idea before all of this, but it's the reason in part that everything flared up. I feel like it's all my fault, Rio. It was my bright idea to suggest Jetta's saxophone."
"I think there's more to it than Jetta's sax." Rio told her gently. "And I promise, I will do anything I can to help."
"I know you will." Aja smiled. "Thanks, Rio. We need all the help we can get at the moment."
"Well, I couldn't let you girls down. I've known you all too long." Rio winked at her. "If you need a technician for this song of yours, regarding equipment and stuff, give me a call, okay?"
"No, I don't want to get you in trouble with Jerrica." Aja shook her head. "But thanks a lot for the offer, Rio. It means a lot."
"And it still stands, so think it over." Rio told her. He got to his feet. "Right now, though, I have to dash. Have to check over something before I go and try and coax my girlfriend out for something to eat. Later, Aja. Good luck with the song."
"We'll need it. Thank you." Aja told him wryly. She stirred her straw idly in her milkshake, watching him leave as she pondered his words.
"Are we desperate enough to ask the Misfits to play on this song, and risk angering Jerrica more than ever?" She wondered. "The Starlight girls are worth it, but do we need to take that risk? And if we did...who would we be talking about? Jetta, obviously. Roxy? If Shana can't play bass, why not Roxy? She's more than good enough. And if Kimber's going to sing - and surely, she must, because she wrote the lyrics and it's only fair - surely we'd need Stormer too. Oh, I don't know. Would Pizzazz let us just take three of her band to help the Foundation, and would they even help? I wish I knew what the best thing to do would be! I don't want to break up my family, but I don't know how else to keep the Starlight Foundation afloat!"