Upon entering, the first thing they noticed wasn’t the headmistress. Instead, their eyes were drawn to two other girls standing before the headmistress’s desk.
The girl on the left had sandy blonde hair worn loose, wild, and falling to the small of her back, shimmering silver with subtle hints of gold. Her skin leaned towards tawny, making for a truly stunning compliment to her hair. Anise stared intently into the lime green eyes of this vision of perfection, before quickly breaking away.
Isla was more interested in the other girl. Onyx black hair, arrow straight and falling to her posterior, highlighting in gentle grey hues whenever she moved. Her sepia skin had warm orange undertones, and her dark hazel eyes appraised Isla in turn, a pleasant expression occupying her soft features.
And walking around from behind her desk, the headmistress, her black suit giving her a refined air, an elegance that made her both sexy and imposing. She wore her hair in a long ponytail, jet black and silky, swept forward over her right shoulder to put the finishing touch on an incredibly beautiful and sexy woman.
It seemed she had just been discussing something with these two before being interrupted. “We’ll continue this in a few minutes,” she said with a wave of her hand. Indicating that the other two girls could leave – each of them giving the new arrivals a warm smile and wave on the way past – she turned her attention to the new arrivals.
“They were gorgeous…” Anise breathed.
“I’m sure both my daughter and her best friend will be pleased to know they left such a positive first impression,” said the headmistress, smiling.
Anise stiffened. One of those girls was the headmistress’s daughter? Oh boy…
The headmistress gave a discrete cough. “Welcome you to Aida’s premiere idol academy and agency, Dreamstar Academy, the place where dreams are made and stars are born. I am the headmistress, Amanda Lawson, it’s a pleasure to meet you both.” Her voice and speech were perfectly enunciated and measured; soft, calming, bordering on hypnotic.
Her new students introduced themselves. Amanda then proceeded to give a few words of encouragement and advice, pacing back and forth. “Feel free to take things at your own pace. It is for you to decide what sort of idol you wish to be. We are merely here to facilitate this and provide the requisite avenues for you to walk.”
She stopped pacing and faced them. “Rushing headlong into things will likely trip you up, but equally, so will being too cautious. Strive for a balance of the two and never be afraid to ask for advice. Every teacher, producer, and coach here is happy to help.”
Next, she had them sign a few documents, clearing up a few remaining points of an administrative nature, including details of their dormitory rooms. She placed the papers safely in a drawer, walked back around to her chair, and sat.
“Very good. That will be all for now. Go and get settled in at the dormitory, I’m sure you must be tired after your flight. You will have a mentor each for your first week here, they will be along to see you shortly.” Amanda pulled some papers from another drawer, clearly indicating their meeting was over.
They thanked her and exited out. Appearing back in the spacious hall, they were immediately collared by the two girls they had seen initially. The sandy blonde girl moved forward and beamed, extending a hand. “Hey! Great to meet you, I’m Lisa, this is Mira.”
The girl addressed as Mira shook their hands in turn. “Charmed.”
Anise found herself staring once more, not least because Lisa’s mischievous expression seemed to indicate an identical level of interest to her own. She also had severe difficulties not staring directly at the beautifully rounded chest facing her. “I’m Anise, nice to meet you!”
Isla nodded. “Isla Ainsworth! How’s it going?”
Anise immediately interrupted proceedings with a comment. “Uh, I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I don’t recognise either of you. I thought I’d learned about most of the idols here…”
“We transferred in a few months back. We’ve kind of been floating about the colonies for the last few years,” Lisa said, vaguely waving a hand around.
Mira shifted position, her every movement watched hawkishly by Isla. “Lisa’s father moves about a lot, so we decided it might be fun to go along for the ride.”
This made Anise metaphorically punch herself several times. “How did I miss two cuties like you? Aaah, I really am slipping, Isla was right!” Throwing her arms up theatrically – as though asking Fate why he hated her – she lamented; her normally-fortuitous hair had failed her.
“You ain’t living this one down for a while,” Isla said pleasantly, plainly hinting that this might be held over Anise’s head at some unspecified point in the future.
Their new friends understandably looked confused, but Lisa had learned long ago to take life as it came and not worry much beyond that. “Anyway, we need to head back in. We’ll see you girls around!” She waved and entered Amanda’s office, followed by a smiling Mira.
“Jeez, Lisa is incredible …” Anise muttered, thinking this must have been how Isla felt earlier when she saw Luna. Shaking her head as if to remove these thoughts, she grasped her friend’s hand. “Right, let’s go check out our rooms.”
Isla pointed along the hallway. “Lead on, O Failed One!”
“You weren’t kidding, were you…” Anise muttered.
Back down the stairs to the foyer, outside, and onto the road network connecting the various areas of the island together, they began a casual saunter. Heading over to the left-most western side of the island where the dormitory building was located, Anise could finally take in their surroundings; most-especially all the idols.
“Aaah, so many cute girls… idols on all sides, I’m surrounded by beautiful girls…!”
Isla managed to contain her laughter for long enough to comment. “You really do love your idols, don’t you?”
“Yep! It’s not like we have many at home, so mostly I’ve been restricted to looking at them on the stellarnet. But being right here among hundreds of adorable idols… ah, this is the best thing ever…!” Anise spun around a few times. “We’re really here, Isla, on Aida!”
“We’re also in the middle of a road, so unless we want this to be a really short trip, we should probably get to the pavement,” Isla, the slightly more sensible of the two when Anise was gasming over idols, said.
Approaching the western end of the campus, Isla spied something interesting. Four squat buildings in a square arrangement and pink stone paving in a cross-shape running between them. They were built from brilliant white stone to match the academy’s domes, and shiny black and silver metals were much in evidence.
Isla fidgeted in excitement. “Isn’t this a shopping centre? There are shops here on the island? So we don’t have to travel all the way to the mainland just to get snacks?”
A gentle sigh from beside her indicated that Anise probably needed to educate her friend again. “Yes, there are shops, among other amenities.”
“What sort of amenities?”
“There’s a salon, a swimming pool, a café and bar over the other end of the campus, all sorts. Didn’t you read the e-pamphlet we received? It was all in there.”
“I skimmed it…”
“Never one for study, were you? Well, now you know.”
A little beyond the shopping district the sea calmly washed in and out of a small bay with three enormous black metal landing pads built out over the water in a triangle shape. Each was octagonal, some two-dozen metres across, and connected to the island via a series of walkways and staircases.
They made their way up and around the bay, ignoring the empty landing pads for now, then up from there to stand before the imposing dormitory building itself, situated near the northern edge of the island, far enough from the pads and well soundproofed enough for the resident idols not to be bothered by noise as flying vehicles came and went.
“Is it just me, or does it feel like this should be the main academy building?” Isla said.
Anise glanced up and shielded her eyes from the midday sun. “It’s pretty impressive, certainly.”
Round like a doughnut – including the hole in the middle – the dormitory featured three storeys constructed from sandy white bricks unique to this region of Aida, similar in size and shape to the red bricks used on Earth. Before them, a dark wooden porch through which they could reach the entrance doors, and immediately ahead in the foyer, two elevators. A staircase in the far left corner led to the second floor.
“Guess we go up?” Isla said.
“Yeah, Headmistress Lawson said we’re on the second floor, rooms thirty-four and thirty-six.” Anise led the way, taking the stairs for sheer novelty; steep stairs existed on Mars, but elevators took less room and were therefore the preferred choice.
They reached the top and Anise moved with purpose along a gently curved hallway with rooms to either side, scanning the number plates. She stopped at a door. “Here we are!”
“I’m at the next one down?”
“Yep.” Anise opened the glossy, jet black door and stepped inside. “Wow…”
Isla peered around her. “This is really nice, I’m gonna go check mine out!” She moved down to the next door, unlocked it, and entered.
Directly ahead a wide window had been opened to let some of the gentle summer breeze in. In the left corner, a wide single bed with crimson sheets. Under the window, a desk. And embedded in the right wall, an airtight and soundproofed sliding door. Isla pressed the small touch pad next to the door and beamed as it whooshed open to reveal an area between their two rooms.
To the left, a door split down the centre to slide to either side, opening into a surprisingly spacious bathroom fitted with bath, toilet, and basin, nestled between their rooms. And to the right, an area with shelves and cupboards for shared toiletries, towels, and other essentials.
Anise opened the sliding door on her side and stared at her friend. “Shared bathroom, it seems!” Her own room, visible behind her, was a mirror image of Isla’s, bed against the right wall rather than left.
Isla entered the bathroom. “This is really nice.” A frosted glass window occupied the centre of the wall above the bath, bathing the room in afternoon sunlight and highlighting several trillion dust motes. Isla waved a hand. “We should probably dust.”
Entering behind Isla, Anise had a quick look around. Toilet to the left on entering, basin to the right, bath ahead. Compact yet spacious, and a handy shower attachment on the wall at the tap end of the bath. “Yeah, this is really nice, I actually thought we’d have communal bathrooms.”
“Maybe it’s to promote the idea of sharing and helping each other out?” Isla suggested.
“Actually, I’m surprised you didn’t already know.”
Anise shrugged. “It’s not really the sort of thing an academy for idols advertises in their publicity materials.” She switched to a TV announcer voice. “‘Come to Dreamstar Academy and experience real en-suite bathroom facilities!’ Doesn’t really work, does it?”
This made Isla giggle. “Probably not, though personally I think having an en-suite is a huge selling point. Better than communal.”
“Yup. Anyway, let’s get unpacked, I’m desperate to sit down already.” Anise wandered back through to her own room.
Isla moved to her window and looked out. “Oh wow… hey, Anise, check out the view!” she called through.
Anise did so. Their rooms looked out over the central area, green and lush with a well-manicured grass lawn. In the centre was what appeared to be a sizeable – and circular, of course – gazebo, wooden with a set of steps leading up on each of the four cardinal directions.
Inside, they could just make out a number of benches and tables, again in a circular shape. Surrounding this structure, a circle of eight tall trees provided a degree of privacy for the girls in the rooms facing into this area.
“We’ll have to have lunch out there one day soon, Anise!” Isla yelled.
“Sure!” Anise called back, and resumed unpacking. “And maybe some other things of an enjoyable nature…” she murmured in a suggestive tone, giggling to herself.
Their other packages and suitcases had all arrived safely and were stored in the centre of each room ready for unpacking, so the next hour was spent industriously settling in. Anise finished first, always the more efficient and pragmatic of the two – at least when she wasn’t lost in idol-related reveries – and sauntered through to the other room.
“I wonder why this planet’s named Aida?” Isla said, neatly folding some cute underwear items she really should have grown out of several years ago. “I mean, I know it was named after someone, but I never really paid much attention beyond that.”
Anise sat on Isla’s bed and watched her friend folding cute pants, though it was debatable which she was more interested in; her friend or her friend’s pants. “I guess you didn’t read Catherine Wong’s autobiography?”
“You really should, it’s a great book.”
“So you could say it’s… Wong of me not to read it?”
Anise sighed. “Not the puns, Isla…”
“Sorry, I’ll behave, carry on!” Isla said, giggling at her best friend’s mildly annoyed features. “And make it the abridged version, please.”
Sometimes Isla’s puns really wore Anise down. She shrugged and leaned back, staring vacantly at the ceiling. “Basically… it all boils down to love.”
“Yeah. Catherine was a Chinese woman, one of the first people to use hyperspace to explore the new frontier. She went into space in one of the new explorer ships we’d been cranking out for the last couple of decades after discovering hyperspace, and spent nearly ten years charting nearby star systems.”
“That’s some dedication!”
“Especially so when you consider that she left her own girlfriend back on Earth.”
Anise grinned at her friend’s flushed cheeks. “Girlfriend. One of the first and most prominent explorers of probably the most important period in human history was a lesbian.”
Isla took a brief break from folding underwear and sat on the bed. “Wasn’t that something like a hundred years ago now? How the hell did Earth manage to remain so… backward?”
“No idea. Inertia, maybe. The longer something exists, the more resistant it becomes to change. I guess Earth was still steeped in the old world, all those old beliefs and superstitions and things. Or maybe they just didn’t want to change, we’ll probably never know. History isn’t really the most reliable thing.”
“I get the feeling the colonies happened as quickly as they did because people wanted out,” Isla said darkly.
“Probably! Anyway, back to your question. Catherine’s girlfriend was a Japanese woman called Misaki Aida, and if you take the Japanese words ‘Ai da’ literally, it means ‘It’s love’. Catherine fell in love with the new world she’d just discovered, her girlfriend’s name popped into mind… and the rest is history.”
“So she basically named it after her girlfriend, the rest was a happy coincidence? That’s really sweet!”
“Yep. Take a guess what Misaki’s profession was!”
“Here’s a hint: we probably wouldn’t be here without her.”
“One of the most popular and successful idols ever, she was a large part of why the second idol boom happened. So we owe both of them a lot, their legacy lives on in literally everything we’re going to do here.”
“Wow…” Isla finished folding things and stowed them in the top drawer of a dresser at the foot of the bed. A spacious built-in wardrobe occupied the space next to this, so she unpacked her clothes and put them away in there.
“Some of their descendants are here on Aida as well,” Anise added.
Isla’s expression morphed into one of surprise. “How’s that even possible? Or did they adopt?”
“Isla… you really didn’t listen to anything in school, did you?”
“Sorry, this is a whole new world to me, and I don’t just mean Aida. It’s not something I’ve thought to look into before!”
Anise giggled. “Well that’s okay, you’re right that it’s not something most people would look into unless it affected them personally. And no, they didn’t adopt, they used techniques pioneered early last century which allowed them to, for want of a better phrase, conceive naturally.”
“So it’s possible we could run into one of them while we’re here?”
“Maybe! They probably just want to be left in peace, though, so let’s not go searching them out.”
Isla’s expression morphed once more, this time into incredulity. “I know exactly how much you love idols, Anise, you’re not being very convincing.”
This made Anise crack up. “Busted, huh? Yeah, I’d love to meet them. I want to learn everything I possibly can about idols, both past and present. But I do understand there are certain boundaries, don’t worry.”
“Well… okay.” Isla was naturally sceptical of her best friend, knowing full-well how passionate she was for absolutely everything involving cute female idols. Whether that be their history, the current idols working in the industry, or the future of idoldom in general. On the other hand, she also wasn’t a creepy stalker or anything, so Isla gave her the benefit of the doubt.
A knock at Anise’s door interrupted their chat. She stood and walked through to her room. “Looks like we’re popular already!”
Isla smiled inwardly and continued hanging clothes. “I doubt that, this soon after arriving.”
Anise opened her door to find two unexpected arrivals.