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I pocket my phone as a blush rushes into my cheeks. She turns the jacket inside out, showing me the seams.

“See, you need to take the shoulders apart, cut it, and then sew it back together if you want to resize it properly. The shoulder pads will be a beast because this is hella fine work.” Is that awe in her voice? And not even bored awe. This is a first. “Is this handmade? Who drafted the pattern?”

“No one—I mean, someone made it. But it’s not really important.” I squirm, training my eyes on the grease-stain splotch on my Doc Martens. “It’s just a…it’s just dumb.”

“I thought you said that if someone likes something, then it’s not dumb.”

She has me there. Defeated, I try to grab the jacket out of her hands, but she steps back, turns it right side out again with an expert flip of the wrist, and fits the coat over her shoulders like a cape.

The blue accentuates the green of her hair, making her look strange and ethereal and awesome all at the same time. I hate how it looks good on her, oversized and all. Anything would. She wears life like Elvis wore sequins, with no apology laced into the seams. I don’t even want to think how it looks on me. Clownish. Frumpy. I’m sure I would be the laughing stock of the cosplay competition.

“It’s really well made,” she goes on. “Is this a costume for something?”

I sigh. “Yeah. Starfield? The Federation Prince?”

Sage bunches her lips together. “I didn’t know you dressed up.”

“It’s called cosplaying, and I don’t—I mean, I haven’t. But I want to.” I lower my eyes again to my shoes, and the words come out in a torrent. “There’s this cosplay competition in like two weeks at ExcelsiCon in Atlanta, and the prize is two tickets to the premiere of Starfield and some cash and…and it’s a long story but I really want to win. I need to win. I mean, I probably won’t but—but my dad said that the impossible is only impossible if you don’t even try. So I want to try.” I swallow the lump rising in my throat. “But yeah. I can’t sew.”

She cocks her head and doesn’t say anything for a long moment.

My cheeks begin to burn red. I spin around toward the Pumpkin. “Never mind. It was stupid—forget I said anything—”

“Sounds like fun.”

I stop. Turn around.

Sage, the girl who barely even looks at me while we’re working, wants to help me? Right, that’ll happen when Princess Amara comes out of the Black Nebula (i.e., never).

She takes off the coat gingerly. “You’re in luck because I need more pieces for my portfolio.”


The service bell chirps. A customer at the truck window. Neither of us moves to leave.

She hands the jacket back to me. The starch is almost gone, the coattails droopy. It doesn’t smell like Dad much anymore, more like me and vegan burgers and that particular musty old-coat smell. When I first got this hare-brained idea, I didn’t think about how I would wear the costume. I just thought that I could find a little of Dad in me again. Maybe whenever I pushed my arms through the sleeves, or buttoned it up, or looked myself in the mirror…but I’m built of different lengths than my dad. Different curves and edges.

“Really really,” she replies after a moment. “You don’t have to always do everything alone, you know.”

I smile, hugging the coat—as blue as the ocean, the perfect shade, the perfect color—tighter to my chest. “Thanks.”

The customer at the service window dings again.

I half-expect Sage to rescind her offer, tell me to go back to staring at people through the order window and scrolling through the forums on my phone because I’m asking the impossible. Get a costume together in a week? Compete in a professional-level competition? It’s crazy. There isn’t enough time in the world to disassemble this jacket and put it back together.

Sage juts out her hand for me to shake. “My house. This evening.”

I unravel one arm from the coat and take her hand, shaking it. “Deal.”

She squeezes it tightly, and for the first time since I met her she smiles—not a demonic grin, but a real human-person smile. “Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

It was. It was and it wasn’t. But I’m glad I said yes. “You made an offer I couldn’t refuse,” I say truthfully.

The customer at the front window impatiently dings the customer bell again, like she’s trying to send us a message in Morse code. “Hell-oh!” she calls.

Sage rolls her eyes, letting go of my hand. “Ugh, soccer moms. Your turn.”

I gather up my crappy sewing kit, fold up Dad’s jacket, and return to the truck where a very aggravated young mother is standing at the window, banging on the service bell.

My phone buzzes again as I hop into the truck and stash the jacket in a safe cubby. It’s from Carmindor, from this morning—I must have fallen back asleep. A sun-drenched picture comes up beside the text. I can see bits of him, curly hair, the shadows of a strong jaw, but not really his face. I don’t think he took it to show me who he was, actually, but the sunrise behind it.

This morning’s sunrise was pretty spectacular.

“Hello,” the woman calls. She’s wearing a white visor and a determined frown. A tourist. “Don’t you work here?”

“I do,” I reply, putting on my apron. “Would you like to try our pumpkin fritters today? It’s our specialty—”

She shoves a five-dollar bill at me. “A bottle of water. That’s all.”

“All right, all right,” I mutter, reaching for her water and change. Someday customers at the Pumpkin will learn to be nice. Or better yet, someday I’ll get out of this food truck entirely.

For the first time in a long time, someday actually feels possible.

I RUN THROUGH THE FIGHT SCENE in my head while the rest of the crew preps for another take.

Left, right, dodge. Pick up, ram, back-step, back-step, back-step—

My heel slides off the edge of the set piece. I almost lose my balance and fall, but manage to lean forward just in time. Calvin-slash-Euci looks up before tucking his phone into his jacket. No one yells at him for having a phone on set.

“Take twenty-three!” Amon yells. “Darien, let’s see a little more Carmindor in this one.”

“Like I haven’t already,” I mutter, rolling my shoulders.

We’re on the ship’s bridge, for one of the major scenes of the film, but right now it just looks like a bunch of plywood with fancy running lights and one huge green screen behind me. Everything will be added in post.

We take our places on the far side of the set. I can do this footwork in my sleep. Calvin hops back and forth, the camera lights shining against his waxed Euci forehead.

“You cool?” he asks.

“I’m cool,” I say. We haven’t exchanged more than a few words since arriving on set, but I don’t think we’d be friends in real life, anyway. He’s the sports-playing type. Got his start on some family show, then migrated to Hollywood. Plus he’s, like, almost thirty. “Why?”

He shrugs nonchalantly. “Just wanna make sure this isn’t too hard for you.”

I look at him strangely.

“Since everything’s come so easy to you,” he adds, adjusting his fingerless gloves. “Rich mama, good connections through your daddy. It’s not exactly a secret.”

“I—” I almost stammer. “Hey, I’m not my parents.”

“Just their biggest investment, right?” He shrugs. “Hey, don’t worry. After this thing bombs you’ll be back to gigs more in your league.”

I open my mouth to object, but nothing comes out. I don’t know what should come out. Is he right? That this is out of my league?

“Okay, let’s start.” Amon gives a signal with his hand to start rolling.

Don’t think about it. Just act. I try to shake off his words, but he’s got this smirk on his face that is more menacing than friendly, and it throws me off.

Does everyone think that? That I didn’t bust my chops to get here like the rest of them? That because my mom is a zillionaire socialite and my dad an agent I’ve had it easy? Or is Calvin just salty because—

—because I’m Carmindor, I realize. I’m Carmindor, and he’s not. No matter that I auditioned, that the casting director picked me, or that Calvin’s white and Carmindor definitely isn’t. Maybe none of that matters. Maybe Calvin Rolfe is the kind of person the fans would accept as their Federation Prince.

I start back-stepping, sliding my feet across the plywood. Calvin advances, gaining momentum, tensing.

“And…GO!” Amon shouts.

There’s an explosion behind us—bright lights, the actual effects to be added later—as half the ship blows. Calvin lunges at me. I dodge left, grab his right hook, but he powers through it and sends me careening backward. I slam against the floor, pulling my weight back, scrambling to get my feet under me. He picks me up by the collar; I grab his hand and wrench it away.

Quickly, I reach for my gun. Too slow. He rams his shoulder into my chest and I stumble into the console. The entire structure shakes. He grabs hold of my neck and pretends to squeeze—one second, two…okay it’s getting a little tight now, actually.