“Okay, so fess up. You’re secretly a Caruci shipper, aren’t you?”

“A what?”

“Carmindor and Euci. The slash. Don’t play coy. I’ve been watching you check out my artwork. I thought you were a Carminara girl.”


“Carine?” she goes on. “Zoruchi? Amaruci? Zomara? Oh please say it isn’t so.” And then, as if a secret question, “Sondara?”

Is she speaking in tongues?


“You can hide behind your Carmindor and Amara, but I see you.” As if that settles things, she pulls out a sketchbook and a mechanical pencil from her bag and then turns to a page with a half-finished drawing of two men in Sailor Scout uniforms. She looks up, her dark eyes rimmed with kohl and gold. I feel naked without my makeup. Unprotected.

Come on, you’re an Oscar-nominated actress. Play your role!

“I’m Carminara all the way,” I reply smoothly, pushing Ethan’s glasses up the bridge of my nose like I’d seen him do a thousand times when he’s confident about something. “I…stan Darien.”

I hope Dare never hears me say that out loud.

She laughs, and it sounds like honey.

I sit there for a few more minutes while people browse Harper’s art selection. A girl stops and looks at one of the prints, which shows Princess Amara and Zorine (Zomara?), her childhood best friend, holding each other in a loving embrace—with all six of Zorine’s arms. She points and asks, “How much?”

Harper says, “It’s ten for one, three for twenty.”

The girl scrunches her nose. “Ugh, never mind. I’ll just print it off the Web.”

“Hey, before you go,” Harper says. “Save Amara!” She grabs a pin from my side of the booth and hands it to her. “It’s free.”

The girl brightens. “I’d love to,” she says, and takes the pin.

The nerve of this girl!

Harper seems unbothered. “A lot of people do that.”

“And you just let them?”

“What can I do about it? Even if I offer my prints exclusively at cons, someone’ll scan them onto the internet and people will just get them that way.”

“Shouldn’t they want to contribute to the creators?”

Harper rolls her eyes. “Not when everything online is free,” she says sarcastically.

I lower my gaze to the print. I guess I can kind of relate. My signature being sold for hundreds of dollars, photos of my life being pawned to the tabloid with the highest bidder, my story confiscated bit by bit until nothing is mine anymore.

I look through a few of her fanarts and stop at one of me—the real-life me.

It’s from when I took that spill on the Oscar red carpet, and she has all of the details eerily perfect. The way I styled my hair into a half bun, the cut of my evening gown. My utter lack of grace has been GIF’d so many times I get sick to my stomach just seeing it. My hands flailing, the dress caught on the heel of my shoe—

Just looking at it makes me angry.

I had a bruised cheekbone for a week while I listened to everyone make fun of the disaster, as if my mortification was entertainment. I guess sometimes it is. I thought that was the worst that would happen to me. But then I became Princess Amara.

I flip the portfolio closed.

“Aren’t you going to hand out the pins?” Harper asks. There’s a few scattered on the table and another big box under my feet.

I pick one up and realize that I should, even though it pains me. Imogen is being me—and promised not to mention this pointless initiative—so I guess it’s the least I can do. Until I get a lead on the person who stole my script, and to do that I need to wait for another post.

I hold the pin out to a passer-by. “Save Amara,” I force out.

The person doesn’t even acknowledge me.

I try with the next group. “Save Amara!”

Again, they pass without even looking in my direction.

I frown and look at Harper. “Why aren’t they paying attention?”

“Because you sound dead, Mo,” she says with a laugh. “It’s like you’ve never done this before. Here, watch and learn. SAVE AMARA!” she cries, throwing the pin into the crowded aisle.

The next person—a World of Warcraft cosplayer—stops and takes one. “Oh, cool! I heard about this.”

“There’s a petition to revive her—”

“Although it’s not official,” I interject. There’s no way I could see the studio ever acknowledging something like this. Harper shoots me a strange look, so I quickly add, “But please can you sign it?”

“Sure!” They sign without so much as another word, buy two of Harper’s fanarts, and move on their way.

After they’re gone Harper says, “See, it’s easy. Just, you know, make it sound like you care.”

“I do care!” Not.

“Mmm-hm. Are you okay, Imogen? You seem a little—”

The phone in my pocket dings.

I set an alert for tweets by the person who stole my script. Another ding, and then another, and another, and people begin pulling out their phones. Even Harper takes out hers.

Frightened, I do too.

Another page from the script:

Looks like we’re in for some stormy weather;)

PS – Can you guess where I am? A surprise might be coming if you can find me!

I feel the urge to vomit. They’re taunting me.

[INT. THE NOXIAN COURT –– late evening]

A group of soldiers push CARMINDOR, tied up and beaten, into the middle of the council. CARMINDOR stumbles and collapses onto the dais. Blood drips from his mouth, where he has been punched repeatedly. The NOX KING’s throne sits empty, and beside it PRINCESS AMARA’s.

Her empty seat is bittersweet, and her voice in CARMINDOR’s head returns –


Look how you’ve fallen, ah’blen. I warned you not to play with fire.

CARMINDOR struggles to his knees in front of the council.


Let me go or you’ll face the wrath of the Federation ––


Oh, my dear brother, can we not talk peace? We have both suffered such a tremendous loss at the hands of the Black Nebula.


(through gritted teeth)

You have suffered nothing of the same.

A figure steps out from behind the throne, clad in threads of gold that glow like the sun. At the sight of him, the council bows as if to a god.

CARMINDOR cannot believe his eyes.



Now’s my chance. I have to find this trash human before the worst happens.

The script is being held up this time, the background is blurry. I squint, trying to focus it. It’s colorful, with lines? Drawings?

I can see people in the shot. The backs of heads, cosplayers—and then I see the World of Warcraft guy who just stopped by our table.

They’re here. In Artists’ Alley!

I quickly look around, but my peripheral vision is constantly blocked by these nerd glasses. I shove them onto my head but of course don’t see anyone suspicious. Everyone’s looking at their phones, gossiping about the script. I couldn’t care less. The only thing I care about is who is leaking it.

I don’t notice that Harper is looking at me until I’ve already decided to leave and look for the thief. She doesn’t stop me, and I lose her booth in the crowd.

The photo was taken somewhere nearby—that much I know. There’s the purple in the banner in the background, and the retro carpet, and the narrow aisles…

I spin around, trying to gauge where the thief would have been when the photo was taken. I pass another aisle, glancing down at the tweet, at the background around the script page, up at the sea of cosplayers and fans. I feel like I’m suffocating.

How can so many people congregate in such a small space for…what? A bunch of vendors that only want one thing: their money? Don’t they realize that most of this stuff doesn’t really matter?

It’s just make-believe. A bunch of adults pretending that their love for a TV show or a movie or a game means more than it actually does.

I just don’t get it.

I walk along the aisle until I think I come to the spot where the photo was taken. The thief was here, overlooking Artists’ Alley. I had been less than fifty feet away. I grip my phone and scan the masses of humanity, but I don’t recognize anyone from the hotel lobby.

Blond hair, biker jacket, pink nails, lip gloss, mole-on-cheek, bunny, I recall the lobby scene in my head. The girls on the sofa, the guy at the desk with his back turned. None of them are here.

I approach a girl behind a row of anime plushies. “Was someone standing here just a few minutes ago?”

She looks up. Her hair is streaked with pinks and purples and greens, her glasses are large and round. She blinks at me, and then slowly shakes her head. “I haven’t seen anyone.”

But then I notice that she’s playing a game on her phone. I doubt she’d have noticed someone standing here, anyway. I turn away from her but then she says, “Hey, you kinda look like Princess Amara—that girl.”

That girl.

In alarm, I pull on my glasses. “Thanks, I get that a I—”