Thirty-six bodies moved in time as the drums began their rat-a-tat-tat. The keyboard quickly joined in with a cheerful flutter before collapsing into syncopated chords. The guitar began strumming along as the bass bounced away at a simply pattern that doubled the low end of the keyboards. Nothing too complex. Nothing too new. But, goddamn, was it cheerful.
“The sky is blue on this sunshiny day!”
Thirty-six voices chirped along. You could hear the smiles in the air as thirty-six faces beamed towards the audience.
“I love you what more can I say!”
The girls struck little poses, freezing their dance for a lingering beat. Each girl made the same heart gesture with both hands. They each game a little bend at the knee and a tiny arch at the back. It was just subtle enough to be kid-friendly but the producer knew there were countless eyes sweeping over the tits and ass of their favorite of the thirty-six girls.
“If you love me please tell me today!”
The girls were back in there dance. Just like the music, what their steps lacked in complexity was made up for in cuteness and short skirts. Research showed showed that young women and schoolgirl liked practicing the steps the group displayed. It made them feel special to memorize the choreography and it let the schoolgirls dream they could show up to an open audition and make the team. The producer laughed at the idea of researching what men and school boys wanted. “Just make sure we see plenty of leg and the choreography produces some jiggle every now and then. We’ll get our demographics.”
“Just say so and we’ll run away!”
They held the last note long enough for the cameras to give a nice close up Mi-chan. It was the last song of her last night with the team. They had already gone through interviews with her and her other teammates. There had been final messages and more than a few hugs. Mi-chan gave a heartfelt and well rehearsed farewell saying she didn’t know what her next step would be and that she was looking forward to a quiet break while hinting the crowds hadn’t seen the last of her! Copious tears were shed but they all dried when the pre-recorded music started up.
From the observation booth the Producer looked at the packed galley full of media services. It was never empty during show time but tonight it was packed. The next several news cycles would be dominated by the graduation of Mi-chan. The Producer was certain of this and had paid good money to be so. Only a particular nasty natural disaster or perhaps a domestic assassination could wrest away his spotlight.
Two minutes and thirteen second left in the long. Then came closing credits. Mi-chan would get bouquet after bouquet of flowers from the other girls and a few lucky, and closely monitored, fans. The televised version would show this split screened with a montage of fan-favoritve Mi-chan moments. The moments were chosen by an online vote. Anyone could vote for free once a day for the previous two weeks. But in each copy of the special Mi-chan graduation EP was a special megavote code that let fans add one-thousand votes to a favorite moments. The Ep, featuring fourteen minutes of previously released music and a forty-six second special message from Mi-chan to her fans had completely sold out despite multiple emergency pressings. The producer smiled at how much he knew his audience.
Twenty-eight more seconds tell the program ended. Then security would start emptying the theater. Four hundred fans had been cleared for a post concert handshake event with all the girls, except for Mi-Chan of course. She had graduated. Tonight she would dine with the Producer and then head out to an undisclosed resort. She wanted, and deserved, her first taste of privacy after eighteen months in the public spotlight.
The producer gave his trademarked sunglasses another polish. He would not shake any fan’s hand. He would not even be within ten meters of the fans but he wanted to look his best when he greeted Mi-Chan with a warm handshake and for the quick wave they would both give before exiting the building. He had done this before and knew the part he was expected to play. That little slice between suave business man and friendly grandfather was his territory and he had the role down to perfection.
The handshake came. He took her hand in both of his. They turned. The remaining fans screamed as the Producer and Mi-chan turned to leave. Together the turn and gave a final wave while both beaming smiles. The cheers echoed off the walls of the corridor that eventually led to the outside world.
But first they had to go over some final paperwork. They chatted as they went over the necessary forms. He feigned interest in her and in her plans. Even though she had graduated she would forever be a part of his brand, at least in the eyes of the public. He couldn’t leave the reputation of his brand to chance. Not any more. His albums were produced just so. In less capable hands it was apparent what vocal skills a single girl brought to the team. A few of the prior graduates had succeeded after graduation. They acted. They sang. Others had failed to continue along the road of fame after graduation. Others refused to give up and had achieved fame appearing in adult videos. That tarnished his brand. That could not be allowed.
This made the Producer’s job harder. Each of his girls filled a role. They belonged, at least while on the team. Every team needed superstars and shining lights. When those girls graduated the producer could reach out to his contacts and make sure the girls stayed in the limelight. at least for the next few years. But the team also needed those that were seen as attainable. The girl in the middle of the popularity chart. It helped sell the dream that anyone could become a team member and that anyone could be good enough to win the heart of a team member. Such girls sometimes became the darlings of the team, even if they had no particular skill set. They were the ones the Producer’s contacts weren’t interested in. They were the ones whose search for fame and fortune would likely tarnish his brand.
For them, the Producer had found only one solution.
Mi-chan’s last words were “Someone must be moving in.” Together they had just entered his private elevator. It was covered in thick plastic and it did somewhat look like when a moving or construction crew covered the walls and floors of an elevator to prevent damaging the insides as the carted their bulky, heavy equipment. But this was just heavy-duty plastic and it was only to prevent a mess. The Producer didn’t bother to explain. He just let Mi-chan step into the elevator and before she could turn around he fired once into the back of her head. She crumpled to the floor. He reached in and pushed the door-close button. He had no worries about being caught. Security had been told to keep everyone out of the back corridor and the offices beyond and they were very good at their jobs. He closed the door because soon it would stink of blood and the smell would be too powerful for him.
The Producer sent a message to his assistant. A cleanup was necessary and it needed to be thorough. This would be taken care of by the same contacts who not only provided the firearm but who had also prepared the elevator. They were waiting somewhere in the building. It was good to have friends.
Two messages came in from the assistant. The first confirmed that the elevator was to be dealt with directly. This second contained the name of a hotel and a room number. Chi-chan, one of the girls on the lower tier team was eager to take over Mi-chan’s position. The assistant had told her that the Producer was saddened by Mi-chan’s graduation and perhaps Chi-chan could offer comfort. She had responded that she was more than willing to do anything to earn spot on the higher tier team.
He walked down the stairs and said goodnight to the security guard who was signing in an elevator maintenance man. As the producer walked out into the night air he began to hum a simple yet cheerful song.