Pretty Smart News Ch. 01bygossog©
"I am trying not to freak out here," Amelia said, blowing on her hands to keep her palms dry. "How do I look? Do I look OK?"
"You look awesome," Marie reassured. "Don't worry."
As did all the candidates, Amelia hoped to come across as smart, sexy and talented. Her new dress suit, a sharp charcoal gray ensemble purchased specially for this day, helped immensely. But she wasn't used to it, and fretted about its fit.
Marie took her hands. "We're all excited, that's all. A chance to come right out of school into a new network? How great is that?"
"You've got the best talent and the best chance of any of us," said Tammy.
"Aw, you guys," Amelia gushed. They always seemed to know what to say, to prop her up when she was feeling uneasy. "I hope we all get in. The Webster Trio."
Marie laughed. "All for one, one for all."
Amelia, Marie and Tammy were all seniors majoring in broadcasting at Webster College; of the more than 30 classmates who had sent in audition tapes, only they had been called up for live tryouts in the city.
Thirteen other candidates were here, all women, all graduating. They paced nervously in the corridor, cracking little jokes to ease the tension, peering into compact mirrors. At stake were coveted positions, including reporter and anchor, with Pretty Smart News, "PSN", the new channel set to elbow its way onto the cable news landscape. Today's audition was closed to the public, and it was rumored that another round awaited those who survived this one.
Richard Stagner, the billionaire founder and CEO, wanted all new talent for his program, creating an unprecedented opportunity for aspiring newscasters. He was 35, had never married, and had a reputation as a bit of a playboy; yet had never suffered anything remotely resembling a scandal. The only times he ever appeared outside the business section were his occasional public dates with famous models.
Amelia had several things going for her: the top student in her class; reasonably good-looking (crucial for a TV career), and the credibility and poise -- already -- of someone several years in the business. Teachers and classmates alike considered her most likely to succeed. Well aware of the premium placed on good looks, she had hired a personal trainer; she shed 25 pounds, and had never been in better shape than now. She wasn't quite in supermodel or centerfold form, but her efforts had paid off with a slimmer build and more defined face.
Marie was a B student, but her sunny personality and drop-dead gorgeous looks could, with a little bit of luck, catapult her into a big-market job. To Amelia's irritation, Marie seemed to expend no effort at staying beautiful; from regular activity and normal eating, she enjoyed a pretty face, fine auburn hair, and a body to die for. Still, Amelia held no grudge. Marie was such a good-hearted, unpretentious person and great friend.
Tammy had a slim but not skinny build, long black hair, and what Amelia considered an exotic, captivating face. To her benefit, every TV station in America seemed to be hiring an Asian woman anchor these days. She was also a good student and expected to do very well on her own.
At the end of the corridor, a door opened and a well-dressed woman stepped out. Her name tag read J. Dunn. She had the demeanor of a high school phys ed instructor. "Candidates, this way please." All she needed was the whistle and clipboard.
"Good luck!" Amelia whispered to her friends. As the women filed in, murmurs of surprise bubbled among them. The "Coach Dunn" nickname was appropriate: she had herded them into a locker room.
It was clean, well-lit, and spacious, but still just a locker room, with maplewood benches and metal lockers, doors open and keys inside. On a garment rack hung dozens of identical yellow bikinis. "There you go," Dunn said. "Find one that fits, change into it, and then file into the next room."
The students stood there, perturbed. This didn't sound like a news audition at all.
"If you're auditioning for PSN," Dunn said, sighing, "then yes, you are in the right place. Let's get going. People are waiting."
One girl moved hesitantly forward, and that prodded the others into motion.
Amelia's dismay was apparent to her friends as she stripped off and gingerly pulled on her bikini. It was skimpier than any she had ever worn, and revealed all sorts of skin she would rather have kept covered. All the bikinis were like this. Good thing I trimmed, she thought; otherwise her pubic hair would have stuck out in front. Who would have thought how she groomed down there would make a difference in TV news? In back, the bikini wasn't a thong, thank heavens, but it still only covered about half her butt cheeks, and kept feeling like it wanted to ride up.
She cast a furtive glance around the room, sizing up the other girls changing. They all looked prettier than her. Some obviously spent time at the gym, but many seemed to have the effortless sort of beauty that Marie had.
"I don't like this," she told Marie. She hadn't meant it to sound like a whine. The bikini top was just two small triangles connected by spaghetti-thin straps, and there was no lining. The pale yellow cups were almost see-through, enough that her areolae and nipples were way too obvious. She wouldn't consider wearing this to the beach in a million years.
"It'll be OK," Marie reassured. "We're all in this together. You look fine. I mean, look at mine. It's way too small."
Amelia knew her friend meant to deflect some of her embarrassment, but it didn't help. Marie's swimsuit covered less, especially of her larger breasts. It might have been a size too small. But Marie definitely had the perfect body for such a skimpy suit, and looked incredibly sexy in those few strips of cloth. Amelia, in her own eyes, just looked overexposed.
Tammy was not voluptuous at all; instead, she was lean, flat and toned, with some subtle curves in the right places. She looked great too. Amelia simply felt fat. If she had know swimsuit auditions awaited her at graduation, she would have tried to drop 40 pounds instead of 25. At least, from the grumbling she heard from others around her, she wasn't the only one uncomfortable here.
When they all were ready, Coach Dunn, who had been watching and waiting, led them out.
The gymnasium was empty except for a judging table and about 20 people, mostly men in shirt and tie, facing the area where Coach Dunn herded the candidates. The locker room was bad enough; out here, in a skimpy bikini that wasn't even opaque, Amelia felt severely underdressed.
"Line up," Coach Dunn commanded, and then stepped out.
"My god, that's him!" Marie whispered to Amelia. And it was: the man in many commercials, promos, and magazine covers was here before them, in person.
"I'm Richard Stagner. Glad to meet you all." He was dressed in elegant casual clothes, and his voice was cheerful and confident. "The best of you may find your future with Pretty Smart News." He walked up and down the row of women, inspecting them like a drill sergeant. This seemed to the women to take quite a long time, and the silence was making them uneasy. Finally, satisfied, he stepped back to address them.
"You may wonder," he said, "why we lined you up here in swimsuits. You may be offended by this. You may consider it a cattle call. You might think I'm overlooking your real talents by paying attention only to the surface.
"I assure you I am not doing this for the hell of it. Everything we do here today is for the purpose of making our new network succeed. I haven't gotten to where I am today by getting distracted by nonessentials.
"This will be a new way of doing things. How an PSN newswoman looks, head to toe, will be very important. This is why I've brought you out here like this."
He paused, looking them over again. The silence and the suspense were nerve-wracking. What happened to sitting behind a desk, reading from a teleprompter, or standing in front of city hall Live with a mic in hand? Why was Stagner spending so much time on this beauty pageant?
"Okay," he said, and began pointing at certain candidates. "I'd like you, you, you" -- he selected nine women in all -- "to please step forward." Amelia was one of the group selected. Marie and Tammy were not.
What's going on? Amelia thought. Surely he wasn't deciding already! He doesn't even know our names!
She wanted to look back at Marie and Tammy, but felt it was best to continue facing forward. She didn't understand why she was selected; all he had done is see how they looked in swimsuits. Maybe he had spent enough time with the audition tapes that he recognized everyone on sight. Maybe her sterling reputation had preceded her. But if he was judging on looks, and she was in this group, but Marie was not...
Let's worry about this later, she told herself. Just continue to make a good impression, and take advantage of the opportunity.
"For all of you that have stepped forward," Stagner said, "I'd like to thank very much for your effort in preparing for this audition."
Immediately Amelia had a sinking feeling. She knew where this was going. Still, the confirmation left her stunned.
"We wish you the best in your future aspirations. Ms. Dunn will show you back to the changing room."
That was it? Rejected, just like that? Amelia turned with the others, tears forming in her eyes. Marie and Tammy were just as shocked as she was. How could he just toss her away like this? And not based on any evaluation of talent, but from a stupid bikini contest! Dejected, she walked back to the locker room.
By the time she had changed back into her suit dress, which she didn't even get a chance to freaking use, Amelia was fuming. That sexist pig, making them humiliate themselves like that. As for Marie and Tammy: it looked like they were in. So much for All for one, one for all. Some support that was. She was convinced she would have bowed out for them if the tables were turned.
The PSN staff had anticipated just the mood Amelia was in, as two uniformed female guards stood by Coach Dunn, making sure the "rejects" didn't cause any problems.
"Can't I even say goodbye to my friends?" she said, willing her eyes to stop tearing up.
Dunn refused. "The other candidates will be very busy and cannot be interrupted. You can catch up with them afterward."
Amelia and the others were escorted to the parking lot.
Meanwhile, Stagner's helpers herded Marie, Tammy, and the remaining women into a side room outfitted with benches. He explained in brief what would happen during the next audition. The gym was being rearranged and would be ready in a few minutes.
Four podiums, each with their own teleprompter, would be set up. Four women at a time would read from them as they were evaluated on diction, expression and poise. There would be some stress elements to the audition, the nature of which would have to be left as a surprise.
Stagner offered to answer any questions, but the candidates, mostly a little dazed from the weirdness so far that day, didn't have any; until a blonde-haired girl asked if they had to stay in these bikinis.
"Just for a little while longer," Stagner said. "You'll be out of them soon."
Marie and Tammy were in the first group of four. The podiums were set in a slight curve radiating outward, so no reader could see peripherally what the others were doing. It seemed silly to keep the girls in bikinis for this round; yet Stagner did promise it wouldn't be for long.
Marie stepped up to her podium. It was a bit low, slightly above waist height, and draped with cloth on all four sides. There was a small mike, which she adjusted, and a teleprompter screen about 10 feet away. Sample text was already scrolling by, adding "if you have trouble reading this, ask for a focus adjustment." Marie saw her text clearly.
Stagner made sure all four were ready, and started the audition. Fake news text began scrolling: a house fire, a gas station shooting, a city councilman in trouble, and so on. This was much more reassuring, closer to the sort of audition the women had expected. It was a little hard to concentrate with three others reading aloud, but Marie willed herself to focus just on her own text. As she spoke, she looked ahead for the best places to add emphasis, to take a breath, to look amused or serious. Soon she was in her zone, fluent and confident.
Four judges were evaluating just her, and at times she noticed Stagner walking back and forth. About five minutes had passed; hadn't he said something about a stress test?
"Very good," he shouted. "Now something is going to happen that will surprise you. However, you will not stop reading and not lose your composure."
Marie braced herself, wondering what to expect. A loud noise? Equipment failure? Flashing light? The gym plunged into darkness? When the surprise did arrive, she gasped from the shock of it, and lost a beat; but managed to keep going.
A man had tiptoed behind her, and reached around to cup her bikini-clad breasts. Almost certainly a man's hands; she didn't know if she could afford to peek down and check. They felt large and rough. She heard a yelp from her left; then footsteps, and voices she couldn't quite make out. She focused even more on the teleprompter. The man behind her started fondling and massaging her breasts.
"We've lost one girl," announced Stagner. "But the rest of you are doing fine. Keep going."
Was it really smart to just stand here and take this? Marie wondered. Maybe it was a test of initiative, of a newscaster standing up for her principles. But it didn't seem that way; Stagner's instructions were pretty explicit. As far as she could tell, one woman had been disqualified for not following them. And the time to be decisive had probably passed.
Marie found it more difficult to concentrate as the unseen man kept caressing her. How long would this continue? Not only did he use his entire hands to cover as much as he could; he would sometimes trace a finger in her cleavage or along the sides of her breasts, which the skimpy top left bare. Warmth was spreading through her body, and she leaned slightly on the podium, for support if she would need it.
She peeked at her judges, who were in her field of view as she read her text. They were expressionless and intent. She really didn't know if her facial expressions were correct anymore; was her growing arousal apparent? At least she could keep reading the words and maintain good diction.
The man finally stopped, to Marie's relief. Good, she passed the test. She quickly got her composure back and looked forward to finishing this exercise.
But the man wasn't finished. Not at all. Instead, Marie could feel his fingers behind her neck, untying the knot keeping her bikini top on. He wouldn't dare, she thought, astonished. But he did. When the knot was undone, the material fell forward and down, revealing her bare breasts. She felt a lump in her throat and tried to concentrate on her text. Granted, the bikini top had not left much to the imagination; but why were they doing this?
The man quickly untied the lower knot and took her top away. Amelia would have completely freaked out about this, Marie thought. Standing there topless, in front of a group of strangers, and having to pretend nothing was unusual about it! This audition seemed to have jumped the tracks.
Another woman, again not Tammy, yelled "That's it!" Now it was down to Marie and her friend. Should I really be putting up with this? she wondered again. The man was fondling her again, rubbing her exposed nipples with his thumbs, teasing. But she was sure that the test was almost over, and if she could hold on, she'd pass. It seemed silly to bail out now, when she had made it this far.
She could still hear Tammy reading the news. Her friend was also still in, and almost certainly topless. How was she holding out? It seemed that her voice was rising at times in pitch.
Marie hoped she wasn't starting to sweat. There were so many things a newscaster had to keep together: voice, expression, posture... to perspire wouldn't be good. The room was cool, and she wore only a set of bikini briefs, but the man fondling her bare breasts was quite good. Where she had first felt alarm, part of her now welcomed his touch. But she really had to try to ignore that and concentrate on the words. What if he got her hot enough to make her come? It seemed more possible each passing moment. If that happened... that would be the end of that. All that work for naught.
Oddly enough, she felt a ruffle of the curtain-like fabric covering the back of her podium, tickling her thighs. A draft in the room? Between the teleprompter's demands and her growing sexual arousal, she could pay little attention to it. Her set of judges stared at her implacably.
Suddenly, a set of hands touched her thighs, just below the hip; she almost screamed. Keep reading, keep reading. There must have been a man crouched inside the podium the whole time. That was freaky! There wasn't even time to wonder what he was going to do when he let go of her left thigh and brought out something. The metal was cold against her skin. Scissors. He cut the strap on each side of her briefs and the material fell limp, exposing her bare bottom in back, and her pubic hair in front. At least the podium shielded her lower half from the judges. Her legs were close enough together that the material hung from between them instead of falling to the floor. The man in the podium prodded her legs apart just enough to be able to pull the material away. She was naked. She was still reading. And so was Tammy! Would they both pass the test?
The audition wasn't over. The man beneath the podium placed both hands on Marie's bare bottom, not to caress, but more for his own stability. What now? thought Marie, but she already knew. While the man behind her still fondled her breasts and her sensitive, erect nipples, the man below started exploring her vagina with his tongue. Slow, wide strokes, like licking ice cream; quick darting movements, in as far as the tongue could go, and kisses at and around her clit, with occasional suction, not rough, but just enough to drive her crazy.
This was too much to take. Soon she could not concentrate on the teleprompter; the sensation of touch, of the two men manipulating her naked body, crowded out almost everything else. If she was still speaking, it was probably babble. She was going to come, and she rarely did so quietly, and there was nothing she could do about it. When she did, spasming, with a moan punctuated by gasps, the men stopped. The one behind her held her by the shoulders to keep her from collapsing.
She looked over at Tammy. Her friend was also nude, writhing back and forth, long hair swaying. Her dark brown nipples were the size of gumdrops, erotically prominent on her small breasts as the man behind her played with them. The other man kept his face buried in her crotch, his hands at the backs of her thighs for support. Tammy was no longer reading (her eyes were closed anyway), and her moans grew higher and higher in pitch. As she came her head pitched forward and her body grew limp like a marionette's; the men helped her stay up until she regained her balance.
The handlers led Tammy and Marie to stand before Stagner and the judges. Marie's head was starting to clear, and she guessed both she and Tammy had failed the test. Whoever passed was made of stronger stuff. There would probably be one last humiliation, maybe a naked march back to the locker room, and that would be that. She vowed to hold her head high, though. She had tried her best.
"Well, what can we say?" he said. Puzzled, Marie tried to figure out his expression. He didn't seem disappointed.
"You two look great in bikinis," he said, "and you look fabulous naked. And you have a great attitude about sharing your bodies. This will take you far. And you are both invited to return next weekend for the final round. Congratulations."