“Oh, no!” I say. “We Jedi are tough. I just used the Force.”
“Oh, yeah,” she says. “Good.”
“So, you know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when we get downstairs, I’m going to pretend that we don’t know each other,” she says.
“Right,” I say. “Of course.”
But secretly I’m crushed because I thought maybe I could ask her to meet me for lunch between the Lightsaber Demonstration I’m attending and the Darth Maul signing I’m going to later.
“Good,” she says. “’Cause you know…”
“Yeah,” I say. “I mean, we were. Whew!”
I make a little hand gesture that is supposed to mean “drunk” but probably looks more like “I’m a loser.”
“And no matter what you’ve heard about Klingons,” she says, “it doesn’t mean anything. We don’t have to mate for life.”
“Good to know,” I say, and now I am just embarrassed. I don’t know how to tell her that we didn’t even mate at all. I wanted to. Oh, God, I wanted to. She is so hot. And we’d been talking at the con mixer all night and we had everything in common. Well, except for the whole Jedi / Klingon thing. And then I invited her back to my room, and I have never done something like that before! It was like the best night of my whole life! And Master Sven even gave me the thumbs-up. And then there was a hot girl in my room! And she wanted me. I could tell—she sniffed me! I was all set to lose my virginity. I even had a condom ready. But sleeping with drunk Klingon girls, even if they’re ravishing you, seems wrong.
So does defying the Jedi code.
Jedi are monastic. Celibate.
We’re quiet for a few seconds and I think our awkward conversation is over. And I’m glad, because I feel a little sad. So far, this was the best time I’ve ever had at a convention. And I think I liked talking to her last night way more than I did to my own Jedi Council.
So, I’m kind of looking down at my feet ’cause I don’t want her to see that it kind of meant something to me. Not mate-for-life something. But maybe get-her-real-name something.
And that’s when she does it again. Just like she did last night. She sniffs my arm, and pushes me into the corner of the elevator and growls. And then she kisses me and I feel weak in the knees. I give in to the dark side. I grab her. I kiss her right back.
She pushes me away right before the elevator door opens and she walks out of the elevator and away from me.
I still don’t know her name.
And I only have twenty minutes to get to the convention center for the Jedi Lightsaber Demonstration.
“Hey! Thomas!” Master Sven waves me over to where he’s sitting onstage before the demonstration. He’s cleaning his lightsaber and he’s smiling big, like he thinks he knows how it all went down.
“Thanks, Master Sven, for finding a place to crash last night,” I say.
I don’t want to tell him that I didn’t score, so I just let him keep smiling.
“No sweat, my little Padawan,” he says. “Besides, I had no idea the Battlestar people could party so hard! I ended up crashing with five Boomers last night!”
“We’re about to start,” one of the other Jedi, Padawan Pete, snaps. “Could you guys focus?”
“Careful, Master Sven,” I say. “Don’t defy the Council again.”
“I will do what I must,” he says.
The music begins and we start our choreographed lightsaber routine. Master Sven is the star of the show. That’s why no matter how much of a rebel and sort of code-breaking Jedi he is, our Council won’t ever kick him out.
I’m just learning my lightsaber technique, so I just have one little fight. But I do well enough that people clap.
When we’re done, it’s always the same. The people swarm us and want to take our pictures.
While we’re posing, Padawan Pete starts laying into me.
“I heard you guys were mixing a little too hard last night,” he says. He’s got a green lightsaber that won’t stay on, so he keeps shaking it. “We have an image to maintain and it’s a Jedi image.”
“Leave me alone, Pete,” I say. He is really bugging me.
“Figures with a Master like Sven that you would get funny ideas,” Master Doug says.
“Give me a break, Doug,” Master Sven says. “All Thomas did was meet a girl.”
“She was a Klingon,” Padawan Pete says.
“When was the last time you hooked up with a girl, Pete?” Master Sven asks.
“That’s not the point,” Padawan Pete says.
But my anger is rising and I can’t take it anymore.
“Okay,” I say. “That’s it. I challenge you.”
“What?” Padawan Pete says. “You can’t challenge me.”
“Right here, right now. Lightsaber fight.”
“You are totally going dark side,” Padawan Pete says.
“Trust your feelings, Thomas,” Master Sven says.
“What kind of Master are you for encouraging your Padawan like that, Sven?” Master Doug asks.
“Better than you,” I say, which is exactly what gets Padawan Pete to whip his cape up and pull out his lightsaber to fight me.
A ring of people form around us and I start to use my lightsaber technique to wipe that smugness off Padawan Pete’s face.
And just as I am getting into my rhythm, I see a bunch of Klingons walk by. Including Arizhel, in full makeup again. She stops. She looks at me. I smile at her, wanting to say hello, and I get sliced right in the stomach.
“Gotcha!” Padawan Pete says just as she’s stopped for a second and is watching me fight.
I’ve been killed. There is nothing I can do.
By the rules of the lightsaber fight, I have to fall.
My plan is to go back to the room and sleep for pretty much the rest of the day, but when I get there, Kadi, D’ghor, and Noggra are dressed up and waiting around for me. Noggra smooshes my cheek against her leather breastplate in a bruising hug.
“Oh, honey,” she says. “I feel so guilty for losing track of you.” She gives Kadi and D’ghor a frown, more severe because she’s got her ridges on. “And those two should never have let you drink so much.”
“I’m fine,” I say, even though I know I look like a hot mess.
I hate when Noggra gets like this. She’s D’ghor’s mother, but she’s been a Klingon for her entire adult life. She basically raised him Klingon. Most of the time she just acts like our totlh, but sometimes she forgets and acts like a mom.
“Where were you last night?” Kadi asks. “We called your cell, but it turned out that you’d left it here.”
“I need a shower,” I say.
“Was it that cadet guy?” D’ghor asks. “I’m going to kick his ass.”
“My honor is mine to defend,” I say, and growl to show how serious I am. “I’m a warrior and I can take care of myself.”
“Let her be,” Noggra says, and I nearly flop down on the bed with relief because there’s no way I can explain where I actually was. I’m the youngest Klingon in our group, so I’m always struggling to be tough enough. I figure that if I match the others swig for swig, blow for blow, they’ll forget how young I am.
Unless I do something really dumb, like, say, spend the night with a Jedi.
Under the hot spray, though, I can’t help thinking about Thomas. About his soft and lilting voice and the fierce way he kissed. When we were in the elevator, he kissed me so hard he bit my lip. Of course, hot girls in Star Wars are always princesses and queens with elaborate looping hair, so maybe he figured he didn’t have to be so careful with a girl like me.
I used to be a good girl. Everyone expected me to be quiet and studious and I was good at fulfilling expectations. Chung Ae, perfect lab partner. Princess.
But inside, I knew I was a Klingon. I could feel the growl in the back of my throat when I spoke, itching for me to give it a voice. Honoring my parents and grandparents was a big deal in my house, but Klingons allowed for a different kind of honor. One that didn’t make you small and quiet. One that venerated you for belching the loudest, louder even than your brothers. When I met D’ghor in debate club, it was only a matter of time before I was attending a dipping party and having a life cast made so I could sculpt my first ridge.
It doesn’t take me that long to get cleaned up and ready. Kadi comes in and helps me blend my base and disguise the edges of the latex. Then we’re back on the floor, stomping in our big black boots, frowning and growling and prowling.
“Hey, look.” D’ghor smirks and gestures with his beard.
I turn and there he is. Thomas is holding a lightsaber and he’s swinging it in an elegant arc. He might be a Jedi, but he’s beautiful. A warrior.
Our eyes meet and at that moment, a plastic saber slams into his chest. He turns his head toward the blow and, stunned and furious, he looks at me again right before he falls on his knees.
“Ha!” D’ghor says, lifting up his bat’leH. “You call that fighting? Those are oversized cocktail picks you’re swinging.”
I groan. I know he’s just looking for an excuse to do some chest pounding, but the Jedi are staring at me like they’re waiting for something. All I do is get really hot in the face and hope no one can see me blushing under a ton of orange base.
Kadi rests one of her hands on her metal-studded hip. “Cocktail picks being swung around by a bunch of toothpicks.”
“Let’s go,” I say, and Noggra gives me a weird look because normally I would have been egging them on.
One of the older Jedi pulls Thomas to his feet. He’s younger than Noggra, but not really young, with the top part of his hair pulled back into a ponytail. After Thomas gets up, the Jedi puts both his hands on his shoulders and gives him a shove in my direction. I scowl at them both.