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07 November 2004 @ 13:12
How Stormer Got Her Groove Back 1/3 PG-13  
Disclaimer: Jem and all related elements, characters and indicia © Hasbro Inc., Sunbow Entertainment, Marvel Productions Ltd. 1985-2004. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Hasbro Inc., Marvel Productions Ltd., Sunbow Entertainment©1985-2004.

Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.

Author's Note: For Deirdre. Because she asked. And because she deserves a pressie. Huge thanks to my betas for keeping me on track, particularly voleuse and kannaophelia.

How Stormer Got Her Groove Back
by LJC

Part I

"You know how big stars like Luna Dark have personal shoppers?" Kimber asked Aja as they walked through the chrome and glass doors of the Galleria out into the southern California sunshine.

It was a beautiful day even by sunny SoCal standards, with a light breeze keeping the smog at bay, and kids on skateboards and roller-skates whizzed past them, taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather and summer school vacation.

"Yeah?" Aja prompted, digging through her purse for the keys to the van.

"I think I'd miss this, if I had some guy named Javier from West Hollywood picking out my shoes."

Aja laughed. Their arms were piled high with bags and boxes from a string of boutiques they'd visited, and with a sigh, Kimber dumped her haul on the back seat of the van. Aja slid behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition and Kimber immediately reached for the radio dial.

"So... shakes and burgers?" she asked as Aja pulled out of the parking lot, rows of palm trees flashing by on either side as she merged easily into the light afternoon traffic.

"Hey, you wanna fit into all these new outfits, girl, you better be thinking salads and swimming laps."

Kimber pouted, prompting Aja to laugh.

"But after that marathon round of shopping, I am totally craving a peach shake from—"

Kimber froze mid-word, and Aja's brows drew together in a slight frown. "Kimber?"

"Shhh!" The radio was still turned to K-MAX from the drive from the mansion to the mall, and the younger girl cranked the volume up.

She knew this song. It was over-produced, and she thought the singer was utterly generic. But underneath all of the layered, tweaked voice tracks the melody and words sparked a memory. She chased it for the length of the song, and then asked Aja to pull the car over into the parking lot of an Astro Burger, and waited for the D.J. to tell her who had recorded that single.

"That was 'Pretend You Love Me,' the brand new single from Ephemeral—"

It wasn't. She knew it now. It was a different arrangement. They'd changed the key, and the breathy pop-star wannabe's voice was higher, and didn't have the throaty growl she remembered, or the range. But what she remembered was a summer night, sitting on the floor next to two empty pints of Hagen Das, as Stormer had played it for her on her acoustic guitar, almost a year earlier. She'd been stuck on the bridge from the second to third verse, and the lyrics had been shaky in parts.

But she knew.

"Aja, can you drop me in Sherman Oaks? There's something I have to do."

"But what about lunch?"

"Raincheck? It's important."

Confused, Aja let her off in front of the Tower Records on Ventura. With her hair pulled back in a pony tail, wearing jeans and a faded baseball tee-shirt, Kimber was damn lucky she didn't get mobbed, as there were posters for the current Jem and the Holograms single covering the wall next to the wire racks of cassette singles. But in the middle of the day, the store was practically a graveyard, and the bored looking clerk didn't even look her in the eye as he rang up her purchase.

She ripped the plastic off the cassette and squinted at the tiny type in the insert.




The ranch-style house was modest, much smaller than anywhere Kimber had ever lived, including the first Starlight house with its cobwebbed rafters and rickety staircases. But rather than seeming shabby by comparison, the bungalow instead came across as cosy and inviting. Sitting on the side of a steep hill, the deck looked out over the valley and a forest of red Spanish-tile roofs of her neighbours. Stormer usually parked her car on the street, and Kimber knew her friend and sometimes rival was home when she saw the battered orange Volvo parked half a block from her front door.

The first time she'd been here, it had been a week after she and Stormer had started playing together at The Scene.

The floors were covered in green and cream patterned area rugs, and the couch was deep and comfortable. Potted plants broke up the walls between the large windows that looked out over the valley, and one entire wall of the living room was taken up by an entertainment centre that would have put even tech-geek Rio's to shame.

The house was Stormer's pride and joy. When "Back to Back" had gone double platinum, rather than move into a bigger house or upgrade her car to something flashy, Stormer had quietly paid off the mortgage.

It had embarrassed the youngest Hologram to admit that owning her own home was the furthest thing from her mind when Eric had begrudgingly handed over her first royalty cheque. But it had seemed very important to Stormer, who had admitted one night over ice-cream sundaes that she'd grown up in a double-wide with her mother and brother, after their folks had gotten divorced.

Kimber hit the buzzer twice in quick succession, anger on her friend's behalf making her anxious.

Stormer was wearing cut-off shorts and a sleeveless tee-shirt, her hair pulled back from her face in a messy ponytail and a can of furniture polish in her hand when she opened the door.

"Hey—I was just getting caught up on some housework—"

"Did you sell 'Pretend You Love Me'?" Kimber asked without preamble.

"Wh—what?" Stormer stammered, stepping aside so that Kimber could come inside. She marched straight up to the stereo that dominated the entertainment centre opposite the sofa. Stormer had a Bangles tape playing, music to move to while she cleaned, and Kimber stopped it mid-"Manic Monday."

"The song you were working on last fall, when we were putting together 'Back to Back'. Did you sell it?" Kimber pulled a cassette tape from her purse.

"No—I haven't even looked at those songs in forever. Why?"

"You have to hear this," was all Kimber said as she popped the tape into the deck.

Once the single had played through, Stormer sank to the couch, mouth hanging open in shock. Kimber sat down next to her, blue eyes wide with concern.

"How many songs did you have? I know you had the one, and 'Broken.'"

"Maybe... maybe a dozen?" She leaned back, staring at the ceiling and frowning. "They weren't very good—"

"Well—apparently Eric thought it was good enough for Ephemeral."

"Who?"

"They're a new girl group, fronted by that Finnish girl."

"I thought she was Icelandic?"

"Scandinavian. Whatever."

"I remember, now. Eric threw a big party when he signed the band—they're supposed to open for the Stingers next week. I only heard their demo... I didn't even know they had a single coming out. Maybe—maybe it's just a coincidence?"

Kimber sighed and popped the cassette out of the tape player. She tossed it across the room, and Stormer caught it awkwardly.

"Stormer, this is your song. Lyrics, the music—all of it. That's not coincidence—unless you got paid for it, that's theft, plain and simple. 'Pretend You Love Me' is already in the top 20 on the charts. It's a hit. Your song is a hit, and nobody even knows it's your song."

"I don't—Eric? Are you sure?"

"'Composed by Phillip Ericson, Copyright 1989 Oleander Music,'" Kimber read from the insert. "Three guesses who owns Oleander Music, and the first two don't count."

"Phillip Ericson," Stormer repeated, grabbing the tape insert from her so she could see it with her own two eyes.

"Has anybody heard that stuff? The stuff you were working on?"

"No—nobody..." Stormer began, and then stopped, her blue eyes narrowing dangerously. "Except..."




"Pizzazz!" Stormer shouted as she wandered through the marbled halls of Harvey Gabor's stately mansion. A maid saw her coming, and, at the look in her eye, high-tailed it out of there. "Where are you? Pizzazz!"

"I'm in here!" Phyllis Gabor's voice came floating down the stairs, and Stormer stalked through Pizzazz's bedroom suite to a marble bathroom with a tub big enough for a football team.

Floating among the frothy bubbles, wearing a ridiculous pink shower cap, was Pizzazz. Never mind it was three in the afternoon. Phyllis Gabor was hardly known for following anyone's idea of rules—and broke them whenever she could, simply out of sheer contrariness. If the rest of the world was busy with their jobs and lives and mundane drudge work to pay their bills, then all the more reason for Pizzazz to party like there was no tomorrow.

"Want some bubbly?" she asked, nonplussed.

"What?"

"Daddy got a whole case of champagne. It's good—French, and everything." From her cheer, Stormer got the feeling that the bottle resting on the marble Jacuzzi wasn't her first.

"No, I don't want any champagne," Stormer snapped.

"Suit yourself. More for me." She reached over to refill her glass, and the flute slipped from her soapy fingers. Stormer flinched at the sound of breaking glass. "What's eating you?"

"How did Eric get a hold of my song?"

"What song?"

"The song he's got that new band recording—as their first single!"

"Oh. Those losers." Foregoing a glass, Pizzazz grabbed the champagne bottle and took a long swallow. "Their original stuff sucked. You shoulda heard it—it was like a bunch of beached whales."

"But how did he get my songs?"

She shrugged. "I gave them to him."

"You what?"

"Well, it's not like we were gonna record them. Jeez, Stormer, give me a break. They weren't Misfits material, and you knew that when you showed them to me—"

"I showed them to you to get your opinion. Because I respect it, as a musician. You had no right to give them to Eric, Pizzazz! Those songs—they were mine!"

"Puh-leeze. What's the big deal? You're always writing something—so just write s'more." She took another long swig of champagne, and belched. "What are you getting so sore at me for, anyway? If you're pissed at Eric, take it up with him. Not my problem."

"Maybe I will. That's a lot for the show of solidarity—partner."

Stormer slammed the bathroom door, the sound of splashing following her as she dashed down the stairs, her high heeled boots echoing through the foyer.




Eric Raymond's secretary Rochelle was painting her nails as the elevator doors opened on the top floor of Stinger sound. She glanced up as Stormer approached the reception desk, and then blew on her freshly painted nails while the lines on her phone blinked steadily.

"Is he here?"

"Yeah, but you can't just—Hey!"

Stormer ignored Rochelle as she opened the door to Eric's office. Eric was sitting at his desk, feet up on the polished wood, and phone pressed to his ear. He waved dismissively at Stormer, signalling her to wait.

Stormer wasn't in the mood. Walking right up to the desk, she grabbed the phone out of his hand. "He'll call you back," she barked into the handset, and slammed it down.

"What do you think you're—" Eric began, but Stormer cut him off, tossing the cassette single down on the blotter. It bounced, and came to rest against his engraved nameplate.

"What's the meaning of this, Eric?"

Regaining his composure, Eric glanced down at the tape. "Ah. I see you've seen it."

"Were you going to tell me?"

"Why should I?" he asked with a shrug.

"This is my song!"

"Correction, my dear—my song. As in, my song, to do with as I please. If the Misfits weren't going to record it, why shouldn't Ephemeral? New bands means more profits. More profits means more money to promote your band. More promotion means more ticket sales, more record and cassette sales, more money, period. I really don't see what the problem is."

"The problem is, you never asked me. You didn't even put my name on it—"

"Since when do I need to ask you?"

"Since—since—" The anger that had carried her all the way from Sherman Oaks to Stinger Sound began to flag a bit, met with Eric's nonchalance.

"You are under exclusive contract, or do I need to remind you?"

"My contract is to write music for the Misfits—"

"Your contract is to write music for Misfits Music—now Stinger Sound. Ephemeral is part of the happy Stinger Sound family. Just like you. And if I choose to have them record an entire album of your music—which, by the way, they're in the middle of—then there's not a single thing you can do about it."

Eric opened one of his drawers and with one hand, pulled out a thick sheaf of papers, which he tossed to her.

"Read the fine print, Stormer dear. I didn't do a single thing I wasn't contractually allowed to. So save your righteous indignation."

Stormer stared down at the contract in her hands feeling utterly defeated.

"Now get out." Eric had gone from genial to cold in a heartbeat. "I have a meeting in twenty minutes, and I need to concentrate."




"...and then he threw me out of his office."

Stormer rested her chin in her hand, regarding the ice-cream sundae melting in front of her with a marked lack of enthusiasm.

She'd called Kimber as soon as she'd gotten home, and the youngest Hologram had come straight over, stopping only to pick up two pints of rocky road along the way, no doubt sensing from Stormer's dejected tone over the phone that she would need comfort sweets.

"Eric Raymond is the lowest of the low, I swear." Kimber poked the cherry atop her own sundae with her spoon, and watched it slide down the mountain of whipped cream. "He'd sell his mother, if he thought he could make a profit."

"I don't even know if he has a mother," Stormer muttered, setting her spoon down. Not even rocky-road with butterscotch was going to lift her spirits today. "Pizzazz said—"

"That the song wasn't Misfits material. That doesn't mean it's not good. It's better than good. This could have been your single. This should have been your single."

Kimber began to pace the length of the kitchen. She spun on her heel, gesturing with her ice-cream spoon.

"I bet I know what happened. I bet he found out you had a whole album's worth of solo material, and freaked out."

Stormer laughed at the absurdity of the suggestion. "I'm not going solo."

"Maybe Eric was afraid you would?"

"Afraid? Eric? C'mon—you gotta be kidding me."

"If he was so afraid you'd do a solo album that would be a hit, you'd think he'd have offered you a solo contract at Stingers Sound instead of selling your music right out from under you. God knows he's tried to lure me away from the Holograms enough times with that promise."

"He—he did?"

"Twice. He was just using me, to get at Jerrica," Kimber added dismissively.

"Kimber, you're good—you could easily—"

"This isn't about me. This is about you."

Stormer shook her head, eyes wide. "I couldn't leave the Misfits. They need me—"

And I need them, Stormer added silently, but she wasn't going to tell Kimber that. She'd had enough lectures from both Craig and Kimber over the last year, and trying to convince them that her band were anything other than a bunch of spoiled hooligans was often just so much wasted breath. They only saw the bad stuff, and were usually less than willing to listen to her, when she tried to explain that Roxy, Jetta and Pizzazz did care about her, in their own way. Even if they didn't always show it.

"You're right. There are no Misfits, without your songs. Eric knows that. But that snake is just low enough to make a buck off you any way he can."

"But... Eric's right. He says it's in my contract—"

"I may not know a ton about contracts, but I know someone who does. And I bet she'll help us."




Jerrica frowned, paging through the contract again to make sure.

"My God, this is practically medieval. The intellectual property rights section alone... Stormer, did you even read this before you signed it? You signed away your ownership to your copyrights to Eric."

Across the desk, Stormer slumped in her chair, looking utterly defeated. "Eric... Eric said it was normal... A standard contract."

"He lied." Jerrica glanced through the pages of codicils, still frowning. "Under this contract, you don't retain anything—including rights to advances, or residuals for any work you produce while you're with the Misfits."

"Then he really owns everything?" Kimber asked, her voice tinged with desperation.

"Everything she produces while under contract to Misfits Music—now Stinger Sound. Management, publishing, and recording. Lock stock and barrel."

"That snake. That no good, lousy, son of a—"

"I guess that's it, then."

Kimber reached out to grab her friend's arm. "No! Stormer, he can't take your songs and just hand them off to some other band to record!"

"But you just said he could. He did. What else can I do?"

"Well..." Jerrica's blue eyes narrowed, and her sister and Stormer turned to look at her, expectant. "You could try and sue him for undue influence and breach of fiduciary duty. But it would be risky. Since he manages you personally and the Misfits as a whole, he can always claim he's acting in the bests interests of the group, rather than the individual members. I'm afraid your contract doesn't give you any wiggle room there. "

"Sue Eric?" Stormer laughed. "I don't even have a lawyer."

"And court cases can drag on for years... I'm sorry, Stormer. "

"Jerrica, can't we do anything?"

"Kimber—it's out of our hands. Stormer signed the contract. It's good for five years, and she's still got a year to go on it. When you re-negotiate, maybe you can make sure it gets changed then. But in the meantime—"

"In the meantime, Eric wins." Stormer picked up the contract and stuffed it back in her purse, trying not to feel like such a fool for thinking there might be an easy answer.

She'd had such hope, when Kimber had suggested coming to Jerrica for help. Even after all the trouble the Misfits had caused for the band Jerrica managed over the years, Jerrica had always been nothing but fair to Stormer. She'd even gone so far as to offer Stormer a contract to perform with Jem, when she'd left the Misfits the first time. But the hope Kimber had sparked in her breast had died at the look in Jerrica's eyes as she'd paged through Stormer's contract. Eric may have been a sleaze, but the one thing he did know was business. If Jerrica said the contract had no loopholes, then Stormer believed her.

It was over.

Dejected, Stormer sighed. "Thanks for trying anyway, Jerrica. I really appreciate it."

"I just wish there was more I could do. I truly am sorry, Stormer."

"It's not your fault I was a dumb kid who didn't know any better when Eric signed me. I guess... I guess I'll just have to do better next time, right?"

"Oh, Stormer..." Kimber's eyes well with tears, and Stormer felt her own yes begin to smart with unshed tears at the naked concern in her friend's face. She gave Kimber a quick hug, blinking rapidly to keep from crying.

"Hey, at least I know who my real friends are. Don't worry about me. There'll be other songs, and other albums."

She turned to go, before Kimber saw straight through the smile she'd pasted on her face, and she broke down completely.




Stormer buried her head deeper into the pillows, eyes squeezed tightly shut. But the buzzing continued, as if there were a swarm of hornets in her bedroom. Opening her eyes a crack, she was able to focus on the LED display of the clock on her bedside table, and groaned.

Throwing on her robe over the tee-shirt she'd worn to bed, she stumbled out of the bedroom blearily. "Hold your horses, I'm coming!" she yelled and wasn't one bit surprised to find Kimber on her front porch.

"It's 7am on a Saturday!" Stormer wailed.

"I had an idea."

"Kimber—it's Saturday. I sleep on Saturdays. I get to sleep until at least 9am. It's a law."

"I had an idea," Kimber repeated.

"An idea that couldn't wait until noon?"

"You're grumpy in the mornings," Kimber observed sagely.

"It's 7am," Stormer repeated, as English were not Kimber's native tongue. "On a Saturday."

"You obviously do not live with a half-dozen teenage girls all vying for control of the TV before the cartoons start. Once, Terri wanted to watch Wildfire, and JoEllen wanted to switch over to Laser Tag, and Shana actually had to separate them. There was hair-pulling. It got ugly."

Stormer lay down on the couch, and put a throw pillow over her head.

"Kimber—it's 7am." Stormer's voice was muffled slightly by the pillow. "On Saturday."

"What about Riot?"

Stormer tossed the pillow onto the floor, giving up. Obviously, once Kimber Benton got an idea in her head, nothing was going to shake it loose, not even basic respect for the sleeping habits of her supposed friends. "What about Riot?"

"Well—Riot owns half the company, right? If you can't get Eric to amend your contract..."

"Oh, I don't know." Stormer frowned. "I mean, Riot doesn't like me very much—"

"You mean he doesn't like Pizzazz." Kimber giggled.

Stormer flushed and nodded, feeling as if she should stand up for her band-mate, but not sure how given that she hated how Pizzazz acted around the lead singer of the Stingers. "She's always kinda... all over him."

"Yeah. Something tells me he relishes being the predator more than the prey."

"And we both know how good I am with predators..." Stormer sighed. "Wild boars, tigers—"

"Rock musicians?" Kimber added mischievously.

"They're the worst. Seriously, Kimber. Riot doesn't like the Misfits, and I don't know if I like him much. He uses people. He treats Pizzazz like dirt, and she'll still do anything he says without even thinking about it, and he knows it. He manipulates her. And you know how I feel about those parasites he plays with. And his ego—"

"—is the size of New Jersey. I know. But Jer—Jem's gotten through to him in the past. And he can control Eric, a little anyway. Maybe she could talk to him for you?"

"No!" Stormer shook her head, panicked. "No. The last thing I need is for Pizzazz to find out I had Jem bail me out of a jam. With Riot, of all people. No way. Just... no."

Kimber pouted. "At least think about it?"

She sat down next to Stormer, resting her chin in her hand.

"How would you feel if at the next Music Awards, that weirdo from Ephemeral walked up on stage and accepted the award for your song, huh? Forget the money, Stormer—Eric sold your talent. No one should be able to do that. We've got to fight this."

"I'll... I'll think about it," Stormer said hesitantly, and was almost blinded by the force of Kimber's smile. She held up a warning finger before the other girl could throw her arms around her in a hug. " After I've had a shower, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee."




While Stormer showered, Kimber put on a pot of coffee, and, mug in hand, wandered through Stormer's living room.

The walls were almost completely bare, except for a framed black and white photo of a much younger Stormer and her brother Craig, onstage with several guys Kimber didn't recognise. She figured it had to have been back before the Phillips siblings had come out to LA, as both she and her brother appeared to have yet to have discovered the wonders of Manic Panic's "After Midnight Blue".

It was odd, seeing the familiar face peered out from behind the keyboard framed in black locks, and devoid of the ostentatious make-up she sported on-stage and off.

When they'd first become friends, Stormer had told Kimber that after the first Misfits album had gone gold, while Roxy had bought (and subsequently crashed) a new car, and Pizzazz had gone on a multi-continental shopping spree, Stormer had invested in converting the garage and part of the basement into a studio. Her whole life, music had been her escape. Her refuge.

It was something they discovered they had in common. After her mother's death, Kimber had buried herself in her music, hardly looking up from her guitar all through grade school and high school. Her father had been tremendously supportive, even talked about Kimber following in her mother's footsteps, recording music at Starlight. She wished he could have lived to have seen the Holograms success. But then, if he hadn't died so suddenly, and if Eric hadn't taken over control of Starlight Music, the band might never have been formed. Kimber considered her band's accomplishments a bittersweet victory, at best.

Kimber was jolted out of her reverie by the sound of the bathroom door opening. Stormer stepped out wearing her terry-cloth robe, a towel wrapped around her head. She made a bee-line for the coffee pot, adding liberal amounts of sugar and cream to her mug. Kimber waited until Stormer had taken the first swallow of fresh coffee before launching into the idea that had kept her up half the night.

"Okay, so Riot's a great big walking ego, right?"

Stormer nodded, staring into the steam rising from her mug. "The biggest. But what's that got to do with my contract?"

"We're going to offer him the perfect song. The kind of song he can't resist. The kind of song that appeals to his big fat ego so much he can't not want to perform it. Play completely to the bands strengths—and to Rory Llewellyn's ego. A song so irresistible that he'll demand Eric sell it to him."

"But how will that help?"

"Because Eric will have to sell it to him. He's got to stay on Riot's good side, to stay in charge at Stinger Sound, right? He'll have to let Riot have it. And once the Stingers have it—"

"—they'll just take it, the way they do everything. And I'll be worse off than before."

Kimber was amazed at Stormer's self-defeatist attitude.

"No, no, Stormer, don't you see? Then you step forward and tell Riot you wrote it. Eric won't be able to do a thing, you'll see. Riot's sure to give you full credit!"

Stormer paused, considering the idea.

"Why are you so sure Riot will be on my side?" she finally asked, her tone cautiously hopeful.

"He's not as bad as he used to be. Remember how he helped find Ba Nee's father?"

"He only did it because Jem asked him, to score points," Stormer pointed out, obviously not completely letting go of her doubts.

"It'll work, Stormer. I know it will."

"Easy for you to say. You're not the one who has to write the perfect song."

"Hey, all my songs are perfect."

"Now who's got the monstrous ego?"




The next week passed in a flurry of activity. Stormer dutifully went to Stinger Sound during the day, to work on the latest Misfits album, and then each night, met up with Kimber. Her living room had been turned into a war room, as they poured over the Stingers first two albums, making meticulous notes.

Stormer had written for Minx and Rapture during their brief tenure as Misfits, but she was still leery of composing for Riot. The band's sound was limited by the fact that Rapture most often had to handle the bulk of the melody, except for rare instances where Riot played lead guitar. Minx handled bass and percussion on her synth—a beautiful custom deck Stormer had envied from afar ever since the Stingers had hit town the year before. She'd been writing for the Misfits for so long, it was a major adjustment, remembering that she wasn't writing for Pizzazz or Roxy's vocal ranges, and she couldn't count on Jetta's sax to deepen the sound.

She'd thrown away ten different songs before she finally came up with one that she felt truly showcased the bands best abilities—and played down any weaknesses they might have. But coming up with the melody was only half the problem.

Stormer balled up another notebook page and tossed it at the wastepaper basket in the corner of her studio. "I suck at lyrics."

She sent her pencil after it in a graceful arc. It bounced off the edge of the basket, and rolled across the carpet.

"You do not!" Kimber assured her, picking up her pencil from where it landed. "It's just been a long night, that's all."

It was almost midnight, and Kimber had grave doubts she'd be seeing her bed any time before 2am. Shana and Raya had teased her all week, as she'd stumbled down the stairs of Starlight Mansion bleary-eyed at close to noon in search of coffee and waffles. Mrs Bailey had taken to starting a fresh pot as she fixed lunch for the girls, and Kimber was eternally grateful. She'd joked to Jerrica that afternoon at practice that she was becoming a java addict. But so far, the Holograms had been surprisingly supportive of her "extra-curricular activities."

"And I have to be up early," Stormer moaned, starting in on a fresh sheet of paper. "We've got a recording session scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. If I'm late to another session, we may not have to worry about amending my contract. Eric'll fire me."

"You can always become a Hologram."

"I think there's about as much chance of that as you becoming a Misfit again."

Kimber blanched. "Oh God, no. Never, ever again."

"I hate to admit it, but I really loved it." Stormer's smile was sheepish. "It was so amazing, all those new instruments and voices... I know you guys weren't happy, but the music—"

"See, that's why what Eric's doing is so lousy." At Stormer's uncomprehending look, Kimber explained. "You're so into the music—you'd probably have written a song for Ephemeral if he'd just asked, just for the chance to experiment. You were so the lesser of two evils so far as the Holograms were concerned, that whole mess after Jem and Riot disappeared."

"Gee. Thanks."

Kimber frowned. "That came out wrong."

"I'll say!" Stormer stuck out her tongue at her.

"Look, the whole time Pizzazz was treating us like slaves, you really were great to work with. I always love performing with you—even if it was stuck as back-up singers for Pizzazz."

"It was just so amazing, having the chance to work with musicians like you guys, trying stuff you'd never done before. Even if... even if, you know, you guys were miserable, you sounded fantastic. You made great Misfits!"

"No offence, but I think we make much better Holograms," Kimber said wryly. "Now—get back to work."

"Slave-driver," Stormer muttered.

"Slacker," Kimber shot back at her, throwing a wadded up page at her head.




"Kimber..." Stormer shook her friend's shoulder gently. Kimber had fallen asleep on the sofa in the corner of the studio around 3am, and Stormer had covered her with a blanket and kept on working. The birds were singing outside, and it was shaping up to be a scorcher outside.

"Don wanna go school..." Kimber muttered sleepily, and Stormer poked her hard in the shoulder.

"Wake up—I think I've got it."

"Huh?" Kimber sat up, rubbing her eyes. Her blouse and slacks were wrinkled from sleeping on the couch, and her eye-shadow was smudged and almost gone.

"The song? The song you've been bugging me to finish? Hello?"

"You finished the song?"

"I think—I think it's done."

Kimber scanned through the pages of script Stormer stuck under her nose, and grinned.

"Stormer—this is great. This is perfect!"

"It better be, after all this work."
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