Before Anise stood the two girls they had met earlier. “Lisa! Wasn’t expecting to see you again this soon. Hi, Mira!”
Lisa beamed. “Greetings! We are technically here on official academy business, so I’m on my best behaviour. So Mother tells me.” Her faux formal tone was clearly at odds with the wholly relaxed girl they had met earlier.
Mira stifled a quiet laugh. “Lisa doesn’t do so well with being serious.”
“You can relax in private, right?” Anise said, moving to one side and inviting them in.
“Thought you’d never ask,” Lisa said, and slid into the room with Mira.
“We’re in Isla’s room while she finishes unpacking.” Anise led them through the connecting doors.
Isla looked around from the wardrobe and greeted the new arrivals. “Hey again! Feel free to crash on my bed.” She pointed vaguely over her shoulder, still fussing.
They did so, and Lisa immediately asked a question. “Settling in okay so far?”
“Great, thanks,” Anise said.
“Glad to hear it. Mum told you that you’d be getting a mentor each for the next week, yes?” Lisa received a nod from Anise in response. “Well, you’re lookin’ at them!”
Isla closed the wardrobe and sat with Anise. To make room, Mira shifted herself over to the chair tucked under Isla’s desk. Making herself comfy, Isla turned to Lisa. “Didn’t you say you only came here recently yourselves?”
“Ah, don’t let that fool you,” Lisa said with a knowing wink.
Mira crossed a shapely leg over the other and leaned back comfortably. “Indeed, we’ve been active idols for several years now, working some of the colonies, spaceports, star bases, military bases. Anywhere we could.”
“We’ll be here to help you settle in, and to help you both decide on your direction.” Lisa tugged her phone out. “I’ll be taking your numbers, if you please.” A brief bout of giggling – mostly from a lightheaded Anise – as they exchanged sMail and other contact details, and Lisa put it away again. “Right, any questions you’d like to ask?”
Isla raised a hand. “I was interested in how many girls are at the academy.”
“Four-hundred, I think?” Anise said.
“Close. Four-hundred girls, yes, but four-hundred-and-twenty rooms in the dorm,” Lisa corrected her. “Mum’ll never turn prospective new students away if she can help it, and the dorm was built with a little extra capacity for just that reason. The two of you wouldn’t even be here otherwise, we’re more or less full. At least officially.”
Isla’s eyes widened with wonder. When Anise had suggested a couple of months previously – sending messages back and forth between Earth and Mars – that the two of them should try out to enter this Academy, Isla had believed herself to be wholly incapable of such things. And now it seemed they had been doubly blessed; without the extra space available they couldn’t even have entered.
Lisa crashed out full-length on the bed, propping herself up on an arm. Anise verged on hyperventilation at this point; Lisa’s breasts continued to taunt her.
Returning her gaze to Isla, Lisa resumed. “Students drop out, graduate early, move for reasons beyond their control, all sorts. It fluctuates pretty regularly, but at full capacity there are normally around four-hundred idols here. And right now, thanks to you two, there are a couple more.”
“And you’re the headmistress’s daughter? Did you have any trouble getting in, or wasn’t this place full at the time?” Anise asked.
“I receive no special treatment,” Lisa said. “We had to go through the usual exams and things, same as anyone else.”
Mira sniggered. “Quite the reverse, I think Amanda probably rides your delicious ass more than any other girl here.”
“Probably!” Lisa jumped off the bed and moved to sit in Mira’s lap, leaning down to peck her on the lips as thanks for the nice compliment.
Anise’s eyebrows levitated. She pointed between them. “Hang on, are you two…?”
Mira’s expression could best be described as suggestive. “Best friends. And a little more when the mood takes us.”
“What she’s not mentioning is that the mood takes us most nights,” Lisa said, chuckling as Isla blushed. She moved back to the bed, sitting near the end once more.
Anise grinned, almost manically. “I so made the right decision to come here.”
This elicited an appraising look from Lisa. “Oho? Interesting, maybe I’ll be talking to you some more about this a little later, Anise. I’m paired with you, incidentally, Mira here will be helping Isla.”
“Anything you need, just ask,” Mira said.
Isla again raised a hand. “So if you’re the headmistress’s daughter, will you be taking over the academy one day? I guess not, but I really have no idea how this would work…”
Lisa gave a brief head shake. “Nah, I won’t be taking over or anything, it’s not like an inheritance or something. I have zero interest in doing so anyway, Mum knows that.”
“What are you interested in doing?” Anise asked.
“Music production. Made a name for myself across half a dozen worlds as a DJ playing all sorts of electronic music, but I’ve always loved tinkering with production. So that’s what I decided to do.”
“So one day you could end up writing songs for us to sing?” Isla said.
“Maybe! That’d be the dream, certainly. That, and being able to play more of my own music at live events. I’ve got two albums out already, more planned.”
“Must be nice to have a solid idea of your direction,” Isla said quietly.
Mira leaned far enough forward to gently touch a hand to Isla’s leg. “That’s why we’re here.”
Lisa placed her own hand on Isla’s shoulder. “Exactly. We only decided to transfer in now because of the eighteen year minimum age requirement, and we’d spent the last year moving around so much with Dad that we didn’t think the time was right. But just because we’ve only been here a few months doesn’t mean we’re unable to guide the two of you.” She leaned forward to get a good look at Anise. “Mum says you’re hoping to produce and direct music videos?”
“Yep! At least partially. I love learning about idols in general, but that’s more a hobby. My real passions are music and video, so I figured putting the two together would be a good plan. Oh, and photography! I thought maybe I could do something with that, too.”
Lisa held Anise’s gaze for a few moments, smiling pleasantly. “I have the feeling we’re going to get along well. And we can certainly help you with that, no problem. Though the photography thing… mm, yeah, I’m not sure about that, not really my area, sorry.”
“That’s okay, I’m sure I’ll be able to figure something out,” Anise said.
“What about you, Isla? Thought about what you’d like to do?” Mira asked.
“Thought about… still not sure beyond that. Anise mentioned earlier that being a pure idol might suit me, though,” Isla said. “Uh, a Personadol?”
“Personadol as a term isn’t used so much these days, but personally I like it,” Mira said, smiling warmly.
“In that case, let me tell you a bit about your options,” Lisa said. “The academy trains, promotes, and mediates, sets up auditions, puts students into contact with producers, directors, and others in need of talent, and all manner of other useful things. It’s called an academy, but really it’s more of an agency with a few trappings of education.”
Mira cut in. “The main academy buildings have all sorts of useful facilities, by the way. My partner has a workshop there, for example. I’ll introduce you to her one day soon, she’s always happy to meet new vict… I mean, subjects.”
Anise let out a hesitant laugh. “I feel worried, all of a sudden.”
Waving a hand, Mira shook her head and laughed. “She’s a lovely girl, you don’t need to worry. But as a designer she’s… pretty intense. If you let her design an outfit for you, well… let’s just say you’ll be thoroughly accommodated.”
Lisa chuckled at this. “I let her design a stage outfit for me a couple of months back. Felt more worn out than if I’d just had an all-nighter with Mira.”
An appreciable increase in the local temperature indicated Isla’s face verged on melting down at such steamy comments. “You’re a very open girl, aren’t you, Lisa?”
“Yep, I see absolutely no point beating about the bush with what I like.”
“Might be worth having Azusa take a look at you as well. She’s my partner’s apprentice, a real talent already. Kind of hyper and a bit clumsy, but she’ll also design for free to get experience,” Mira said.
“Good idea, it’s worth having custom-made outfits, makes you stand out from the crowd,” Lisa said. “Anyway, back to what I was saying, being an idol is like…” She paused to ‘um’ and ‘ah’ for a moment as she worked out the best way to explain this to a new girl like Isla. “Okay, at its simplest you can think of it like a framework. The basis on which to build other things. With me so far?”
Isla made an ‘okay’ symbol with a finger and thumb. “Yep.”
“Right. So this framework opens up new avenues for you, new disciplines, new paths, whatever you want to call them. Like me? I’m into music and audio production, largely electronic stuff. So I’m building those things on top of my idol framework, using connections I’ve made in the business to further those interests.”
“And I’m both a model and producer, so I focus myself heavily on jobs that involve runway walking and modelling,” Mira said.
Isla’s face lit up. “You’re a producer?”
Mira gave an almost imperceptible nod. “I am. I coordinate outfits, set up meetings and events, deal with agencies… basically helping other idols to be their best. There’s more to it than just that, but we can get into specifics later if you’re interested.”
“You mentioned pure idols, right?” Lisa said, finding her thread. “By doing that you’ll focus on variety shows, live stage events, singing, dancing… basically just being yourself. Never underestimate the power of personality, Isla, it can be the best weapon in your arsenal. An idol’s fans want to see more of her, both public and private. The different personae she wears, to use the term you mentioned. And tapping into the goodwill of your followers is a great way to get a leg up on other interests.”
Anise piped up again. “As I said earlier, Luna started out as a pure idol, but she does much more than that now.”
Lisa pointed at her. “Yep. So you liked her, Isla? What about her took your fancy?”
“Everything! She’s so pretty, her eyes shone like the moon, she’s got an amazing body, that gorgeous dark hair… I’d love to see her live one day. I’m sure those billboard holograms don’t do her justice.”
Lisa chuckled at Isla’s steamed up expression. “Seems you’ve got a bit of a crush! Though to be fair, pretty much everyone fancies Luna. As a pure idol, she used her personality and looks to build a loyal following of fans, then leveraged that success to break into movies, TV work, even playing a couple of sports at close to competitive levels. She’s insanely dedicated. You’ll need to put one-hundred-and-twenty percent in just to snap at her heels.”
“I might’ve underestimated what being an idol involved…” Isla muttered.
“There’s more to it than merely making people smile,” Lisa said, turning unusually serious. “For every idol who succeeds, a dozen more fail, and hundreds more than that don’t even get the chance. Being an idol means being the best there is. Mum wouldn’t have admitted you entry if she didn’t see something in you. Something I can see as well, incidentally. You just need to find it and make it shine.”
Anise slipped an arm around her best friend’s waist. “You understand now, though, right?”
“Much better than I did before we left Mars. I think I owe all three of you an apology, I wasn’t taking this as seriously as I should’ve been.” Isla looked mildly downcast, ashamed of accepting a position at what was plainly a prestigious academy-cum-agency while having effectively no idea as to the level of commitment required of those who attended.
Aida was the place to be for anyone with an interest in any of the arts, both old and new; television, music, movies, idols, stage shows, Aida had them all. A whole planet dedicated to entertainment in all its various guises, supplying talent to the entirety of the human realm across a dozen planets and hundreds of outposts and colonies. Isla understood now that she had been silly to underestimate a place like that.
“You don’t need to feel bad about it,” Lisa said. “Not everyone knows what they want to do with their life, and sometimes it requires a bit of a kick up the ass to figure that out. I’m always available for a bit of butt kicking, by the way. And potentially other things involving your butt, just putting that out there.”
Isla managed a smile despite her cheeks steaming like those antique kettles she had once seen. “I’ll bear that in mind, Lisa, thanks. Other than Luna, what sort of competition am I looking at?” Figuring herself to be way behind Anise already, she needed to play catch-up.
A marginally evil grin appeared on Lisa’s lips. “Competition? Intense and more or less non-stop. Don’t worry too much about girls who aren’t doing what you are doing, but you also shouldn’t ignore them. Idols develop new interests and talents over time, and one of those you ignored could end up doing something you’re engaged in now. Finding a niche is a good way to stay on top, and simply working harder than everyone else works, too.”
“You can also team up with potential rivals, that’s a perfectly valid tactic,” Mira said. “Mostly people are happy to have a friend or rival to train with. By constantly challenging each other, you’ll both be pushed to new heights.”
“Don’t let your guard down, though,” Lisa said. “Oh sure, people are friendly and polite, and most of the time everyone is really sporting about the whole thing. But make no mistake, either of you, you’ll be competing at the very highest levels with top talent from a dozen worlds. Aida and the academy here simply allow you a useful head start, they don’t guarantee success. That’s on your heads.”
“I said to Anise earlier that there’s a lot to take in and learn. Pretty sure that might be the understatement of the year,” Isla said, her brows furrowing.
“Now you know why you both have a mentor for the next week,” Mira said.
Jumping up and off the bed, Lisa stretched, then beamed at her new friends. “Righto, we should get going and let you settle in properly. Any problems or questions, give us a call.”
Mira joined her and they exited, wishing their brand new friends – and potentially rivals – a pleasant evening.
Meanwhile, Anise had some difficulties thinking straight. “The way Lisa’s hair sparkles as she walks… aaah…”
“Shall I set idolgasm alert level to max?” Isla said, a half-smile on her lips.
Anise snapped back to reality with a discrete cough. “No, that’s okay, thanks.”
These enthusiastic outbursts of Anise’s always amused Isla. Her best friend’s predilection for perving over idols – Anise would probably call it research – resulted in her regularly entering the misty-eyed state Isla had termed idolgasming.
Returning to her own room, Anise waved and closed the connecting door, wanting a little privacy for a time. Isla knew better than to ask why she wanted some privacy for a time; she had seen how her friend looked at Lisa, after all.
The rest of the evening was spent between putting things away and occasionally sitting together to chat about their direction from here on out, before getting an early night in hopes of combatting the worst effects of the inevitable hyperlag.