“That’s your girlfriend?” says another Jedi, the one that beat Thomas. “Talk about beer goggles.”
For a moment, everything stops. D’ghor’s laugh dies and I feel cold all over. Frozen. Then Noggra gives a horrible roar and grabs that skinny Jedi Apprentice by the throat. She might be in her forties, but she pushes him against the wall of the escalator and bares her teeth against his throat.
As the Klingons and the Jedi rush toward each other, the spectators start clapping. They must think it’s part of our show. But as the hits begin to actually land and people begin to get hurt, they kind of look confused and start getting out of the way of danger. They make a kaleidoscope of colors as they run. Brown shirts and people of all sizes wearing flowing capes, alien masks, and spandex.
“Go! Go! Go!” Jedi yell all around me as they let out their battle cry and we rush forward to meet the enemy.
What I really want to do is find Arizhel.
The Klingons seem to have multiplied, but really it’s that other Star Trek people have joined in. Non-Jedi Star Wars people have joined our side as well. I fly past a Queen Amidala, her dress ripped, her makeup smudged, grappling with an Original Series Chekov. Even Emperor Palpatine is kicking some Vulcan ass. It is now a full-on Star Trek vs. Star Wars battle. It is as though we have been moving toward this moment for years and now it is finally on.
No one looks scared. Everyone looks happy.
“Watch your back!” Master Sven says as he pushes a Jean-Luc Picard away from me. Master Sven then starts parrying blows from a Jadazia Dax. I can tell he is fighting and flirting at the same time. I hear him try to get her cell phone number.
In the distance, over by the elevators, and near the coffee cart, I see Arizhel. I make a beeline for her, dodging swings and weaving in and out of the crowded arena. On my left, I see Padawan Pete.
“This is your fault,” he cries.
He comes after me again.
“Brother!” I say, trying to fight the dark feelings that are rising inside of me. Or maybe more like my Irish temper. “Let us not fight each other when we are at battle.”
But he keeps coming at me. He’s got a mean look in his eye. He’s already killed me once today and this time he is going down.
I use a three-move combination of my own design, one that I haven’t even shown the Council yet, and when I finish, Padawan Pete is on the floor, his nose bloodied. I can’t say that I am sorry.
“I’m reporting you to the Jedi Council and getting your ass kicked out.”
I hear his voice trailing me, but I’ve moved on. I am doing my best to fend off attacks from every imaginable kind of character from the Star Trek universe. At this point, his threats don’t slow me down.
I have an anger inside of me. I have turned to the dark side. And I don’t mind at all.
To my right, Master Doug is putting on a show. He is trying out his best lightsaber moves, trying to outdo anything he’s ever seen Master Sven do by ending each basic stance with a flourish. It doesn’t look effective, but it looks good.
Someone grabs my tunic and spins me around.
I put my lightsaber up, ready to hit my mark.
It is Arizhel.
“Thomas,” she says. Her makeup is running a little bit from being sweaty from the fight. She looks like she wants to say more, but she leans over and puts her hands on her thighs to steady herself.
When she looks up, she smiles.
Then she punches me in the face.
“Ow!” I say. “Why’d you do that?”
“It is my way,” she says.
I see stars. My face really hurts. I bet I get a black eye. “I
feel.…This whole thing is silly.”
“This is not the time to talk of our feelings,” she says. “This is the time to fight.”
She scrambles out of my reach and shoves me up against a pillar. I hear the roar of Klingons near me.
“Fight me,” she growls.
And then I get it. I think maybe what she is really saying is please help me save face in front of my friends; they’re watching.
She does like me.
I shove her, hard, but not too hard. I shove her to show her that I like her.
I want to tell her how I feel, but I know she likes action and not words, and besides, I see something out of the corner of my eye, but I ignore it. I’m too into fighting her. It’s as though we are really in the moment, as if we are really together. Every time a blow connects, I feel a thrill.
But after a few minutes I can’t ignore what I’m seeing. I stop fighting.
“What are you doing?” she asks. “The battle is not over.”
“Stormtroopers,” I say.
The 501st Legion of Stormtroopers arrives and within minutes they have all of us, the Jedi and the Klingons, surrounded, separated, and under control.
“Surrender your weapons,” the stormtrooper who has us says. His voice sounds just like in the movies. He must have a microphone under his helmet.
“There is no glory in surrender,” Arizhel says.
“Yeah, besides, some of those Jedi deserve to get kicked out of the con just for being dicks,” I say.
“You guys can choose. If you don’t settle down, I’m going to have to escort you out of the convention area,” the stormtrooper says.
“Lead on,” I say.
Arizhel takes my hand.
The stormtrooper talks into his little walkie-talkies and ejects us from the building. Others are already outside, among them Master Sven, Master Doug, Padawan Pete, and Arizhel’s friends. They are all too busy yelling and trying to blame each other for not being able to get back into the convention to notice that we are there and that we’re still holding hands.
“Battle always makes me hungry,” I say. “Want to go get something to eat?”
We head away from our arguing friends and leave the convention center and head toward a coffee shop.
I realize as we sit down at an empty table with our cheeseburger special and bowl of chili that I still don’t know her real name.
“I have something to tell you,” I say.
A little kid walks by our table and Arizhel growls at her because she’s staring. The kid starts crying and her mom whisks her away, muttering “freaks” under her breath.
“About last night,” I say.
“Look, I have something to say, too.”
She looks so good to me. Like a moonset on Naboo. Like the colors on an X-wing fighter. Like a costume that Queen Amidala would wear.
“Nothing happened between us last night,” I say.
“I don’t remember anything about last night,” Arizhel says.
“Really?” we both say at the same time.
Tell me your name, I think.
“So, just so you know,” she says. “My name is Chung Ae. It’s nice to meet you, Thomas.”
That Jedi Mind Trick does work.
Holly Black is the bestselling author of several contemporary fantasy novels for younger and older readers, including Tithe, Valiant, Ironside, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and the graphic novel series, The Good Neighbors. She is an unrepentant geek, having met her husband when they were rival Dungeon Masters and currently living in a house with a secret library hidden behind a bookshelf.
Cecil Castellucci is the author of three young adult novels—Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool, and Beige—and the Plain Janes graphic novel series. Her books have received starred reviews and been on the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA), Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the Amelia Bloomer lists. Cecil waves her geek flag high. She waited on the Star Wars Episode One line on Hollywood Boulevard for six weeks, she invited Batman to her fourth birthday party, and she has a collection of broken action figures.
Text by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci. Illustrations by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
* Klingon translation by Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen
ONE OF US
by tracy lynn
Montgomery K. Bushnell, captain of the varsity cheerleading squad, could almost hear her entrance being narrated in the freakish minds of those she approached. Something involving “damsel in distress” and her blond hair being like a “sack of gold coins” or something. In her own head it would have sounded more like the voice-over in an old detective film—the only kind of movie she and Ryan could both watch without fighting.
She slapped a wad of bills down on the desk in front of Ezra. Three pairs of eyes in the room went to the money. And then to her shapely legs. And then back to the money.
“I want to hire your services,” she said, biting back each word with a little disgust. She didn’t want to be there. And it was no surprise.
Sprawled around the media room like it was their personal cave were the four most prominent members of SPRInGfield High’s Genre and Nonsense club (SPRIGGAN). Ezra, David, Mica, and Ellen (she was the only member whose eyes stayed on the money the whole time).
They looked at her with a wide range of emotion: from almost anthropological surprise that someone like her even knew where the media room was (David, Mica), to wondering with lustful disbelief if all of their wishes were about to be granted (Ezra), to hatred so intense it bordered on audible snarling (Ellen).
“You, um, what?” Ezra said, hypnotically caught between Montgomery’s blue-sky eyes and her money.
“I want you to teach me about your…stuff….” She waved her hand impatiently around the room, at the Star Wars posters, the action figures glued to the ceiling, the cans of Mountain Dew and bags of cheese puffs. She retracted her hand a little at the last. “I have a hundred bucks here. I need you to tell me everything about, you know, video games and science fiction shows and movies.”
“Thank you…dear Lord…,” Ezra whispered.
“Why?” Mica asked, not looking up from the handheld game he was furiously stabbing at with his thumbs. His tongue came out once in a while, as if hoping it could help. It curled and wavered in the air a little before he finally sucked it back into his mouth.