Montgomery tried not to gag at the sight. “My boyfriend’s all into that stuff. You know—Ryan?”


“Yeah, we all know who Ryan is,” Ellen snapped. “‘Quarterback.’ Dating ‘the cheerleader.’”

Montgomery ignored her. “He’s really into it and I don’t get it at all. Any of it. We fight about it all the time. I thought maybe if I actually learned something about…this…we would communicate better.”

Ezra blinked at her. She could see into his head: a muscled and manly football player was tackling his dreams to the ground. Assuming he knew it was football where tackling was done, and not basketball.

“You’re paying us a hundred bucks so we can teach you to speak geek so you can communicate with your boyfriend better?” Mica asked, making sure he understood properly.

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“Yes,” Montgomery said, trying to sound sure of herself. Trying to convince herself that this wasn’t the absolute worst idea she’d ever had.

“Works for me,” Mica said, going back to his game.

“Awww, the little cheerleader is looking for some personal growth,” Ellen cooed.

“Okay, not helpful,” Ezra said, shaking his finger at her. Then he composed himself and turned to Montgomery with what he obviously hoped was a professional smile. “Now. What…um…areas of our expertise did you have in mind?”

“Well, Ryan likes Star Trek….”

“Really?” Ezra said in disbelief before he could stop himself.

“Quarterback’s a Trekker!” David laughed.

“How old-school,” Mica snorted.

“Which series?” Ellen asked.

Montgomery looked confusedly from one to the other as they fired off their remarks. She tried to respond calmly, and in order.

“Um, yes; I thought it was Trekkie. What do you mean old-school? He watches…the one with the Klingon. And the other one with the doggie. Plus he likes the really, really old one.”

“True Trek?” Ellen asked gleefully.

“There are two with a Klingon as a main character,” Ezra pointed out.

“‘Doggie,’” Mica snorted. “Well, actually, it was a nice doggie. Beagle, right?”

Then: “HA, TAKE THAT, YOU BRICK WALL!” Probably to his video game.

The cheerleader took a deep breath and decided to just continue, hoping that if she braved it out, maybe it would all make sense eventually.


“Xbox or Xbox 360?” Mica asked, suddenly sitting up and paying attention.

“‘Dorky?’” Ezra demanded, a little insulted.

“‘Little guys,’” David snorted. “Hobbits suck….”

“You know, it was a book, too,” Ellen said snottily.

“Oh my gosh, this was a terrible idea,” Montgomery realized forlornly.

“No, wait, we can do this,” Ezra said, leaping up, ready to physically stop her from leaving the media room if he had to. “We’ll be organized. So he likes Star Trek, and all of the…great major motion pictures, and video games. We have experts on all three right here. Mica is a total vidiot. He knows everything about every computer and video game ever made. His name’s on half of the machines down at the arcade. Plus he’s a real fantasy freak. If it’s got dragons, he’s read it. My specialty is science fiction, genre and cult films. I’ll handle that.”

He gave her what was obviously supposed to be a smooth smile. Even David rolled his eyes.

“And Ellen is,” Ezra added as delicately as he could, “our book and sci-fi TV expert.”

Ellen might have actually hissed.

“Ryan doesn’t read…a lot of books…,” the cheerleader said slowly, realizing just how awful that sounded.

“Quelle surprise,” Mica muttered.

“Well…what about books with pictures? We’ll throw in comic books for free.”

“Thanks,” David said, waving his hand without looking up from the latest Captain America.

“We’ll come up with a syllabus and a class schedule,” Ezra continued, growing excited. “Also, we’ll give you reading assignments. And we’ll put it all on Google Calendar so we can arrange class time with, um, minimum interaction.”

“That’s perfect. The part where the interacting is all minimum-y,” Montgomery said eagerly.

“That was almost a Buffyism,” Mica pointed out to Ellen.

“Almost,” Ellen admitted grudgingly.

“And for a final, we could take her to Locacon,” Mica suggested, smirking.

“What’s that?” the cheerleader asked. She liked the idea of a final and assignments. She was good at standardized education. “It sounds familiar. I think Ryan talked about it….”

“It’s Springfield’s answer to World Con,” Ezra said proudly.

“It’s a sci-ence fiction and fan-ta-sy con-ven-tion,” Mica explained, slowly and carefully.

“It’s incredible,” Ellen said.

“It’s got a great dealer’s room,” David pointed out. “I got the Jimmy Olsen ‘giant’ Number Ninety-Five—from the sixties, yeah?—for like twenty-five bucks.”

“Huh,” Montgomery said, nodding. “My final exam. That’s a great idea. So by the end of this little course I’ll be able to fit in and talk with everyone and completely impress Ryan? And maybe not be completely bored?”

The four geeks looked at each other uncomfortably.

“Ah, I think, that might be, uh, blue-skying it,” Ezra said carefully, coughing a little. “Er, really ambitious. We’re looking at just getting you through the day without losing your patience. Or saying anything too insulting.”

“Yes, that’s probably a more workable end goal,” the cheerleader agreed, thinking about it.

“Sports metaphors,” Ellen said, rolling her eyes. “How typical.”

Trek 101

“All right, let’s start with the basics,” Ellen said, marching back and forth in front of the blackboard. She clasped a yardstick behind her back like a nun or a commandant, just waiting for a chance to strike.

Montgomery sat in Mrs. Tiegwold’s English classroom, all alone in the front row. The clock ticked sadly past two thirty: school was out for everyone else who didn’t need special help in the area of high geekery. She really was trying: she had her little bobbly feather-topped pen poised over her favorite pink notebook, legs crossed studiously.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to do much about removing the look of boredom and disdain fixed on her face.

Why they were doing this at school was a mystery. Montgomery could understand Ellen’s embarrassment at maybe taking a field trip to a coffee shop (the poor girl often had dribbles of something—milk, juice, coffee—on her shirt collars), but why not at least at her own house? She probably had tons of backup material. Dolls, action figures, fun props…

“We need to get you to the point where you can at least tell the difference between the Star Treks,” Ellen continued. “We’ll start with a good mnemonic device. THE FIVE RULES OF GIRLS.”

She suddenly lashed out with the yardstick and thwacked a pull-down Shakespeare character chart. The chart rolled up violently, revealing the five carefully chalked-in rules. Ellen smiled smugly at her trick. Not that she had obviously practiced a bunch of times the day before.

“Rule one.”

THWACK! She hit the board.

“Kirk always gets the girl.”

“Kirk, he’s the captain of the old one,” Montgomery said, remembering. “With the short skirts and stuff and the funky music.”

“True Trek,” Ellen corrected. “But you should probably just refer to it as the Original Series. Good for you for recognizing it, though.”

(Mica may have taken her aside earlier and pointed out the value of positive feedback; a grumpy cheerleader wasn’t likely to fork over more money if instructed by a constantly insulting Trekspert.)

The smile on Ellen’s face was forced, just like the cheerleader’s interest, but Montgomery took the compliment anyway and grinned, drawing a little congratulatory smiley face for herself.

Then she realized something.

“Hey, Ellen—you know, that shirt looks good on you. You should really wear light colors more often. With, um, better shoes.”

The yardstick almost broke in Ellen’s hands.


Star Wars and the world of Lucas (not including A Very Wookiee Christmas or Willow)

“Ah, welcome to Château Ezra.”

He was wearing what he probably thought was a nice shirt, a colorful Hawaiian number whose coconut buttons weren’t too badly chipped. It looked freshly pressed.

In fact, Montgomery was pretty sure she could detect a whiff of starch and burnt cotton in the air. There was even…product in his hair, something that made it shiny, spiky, and not very twenty-first century.

Someday he would make a perfect mid-level manager at some sort of computer company: he already had the nondescript build, a slight tub at the tummy, and a sneeringly curved nose made shiny by the wrong use of cleansing products.

She rolled her eyes.

“Your parents are home, right?” she demanded, not coming through the invitingly open door.

“Mais non,” he answered with a bow. No doubt he had made darn sure of that.

“Let’s get this over with,” the cheerleader muttered, stomping in. Ezra went to take her coat, then realized it was spring and she wasn’t wearing one. Without pausing she followed what looked like the most likely route to the living room. “All right, I—whoa, that’s a big TV,” she said, struck despite herself.

It was the largest, flattest, high-def-ist one she had ever seen. And it almost distracted her from the low lighting, stinky candles, artfully arranged bowl of popcorn, and what looked a lot like a fake fur throw.

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