I stare out at the crowd in the largest room of the entire con. There must be three thousand pairs of eyes staring back at me. It's standing room only. I can tell by the constant murmur—when you go to enough cons and sit through enough panels, you just know. You know that there are six thousand eyes staring at you like you're some god of fame and fandom. The audience is shifting in their chairs, the smell of the con so strong and distinct, it reminds me of a thirteen-year-old boy's bedroom.
I should know—thirteen was a rough year for my brother Milo. You never forget that smell.
Just like you never forget the sight of this stage from the audience. It's fifty feet long, set up with a white table draped in a cloth bearing the ExcelsiCon logo. There are three microphones for the five people on the panel, and paper nameplates at each chair identifying each star. (Although how can you not know who they are?)
No one notices that I'm not the girl whose name is on the card in front of me. They don't realize that I am not Jessica Stone. At least not yet. Because as the actors of Starfield—the same Starfield I saw fourteen times in theaters this summer (a fact I wear as a badge of honor)—go down the line introducing themselves, none of them calls me out.
They don't notice.
I mean, I do get the occasional, "You know who you look like?" from strangers who feel the need to tell me that I look like Jessica Stone. And since Starfield came out, I've been stopped in Starbucks more times than I'm comfortable with. Which, come to think of it, is probably one of the major reasons I dyed my hair last weekend and basically killed my entire bathroom with neon pink. But you can't see my hair under my black space queen beanie—the same one Jessica Stone had on in the bathroom when I met her—and with the way the stage lights are shining down so harshly, I probably look more like Jessica Stone than usual.
Oh, starflame, they actually think I'm Jessica Stone.
Cool, cool, coolcoolcool. Just roll with it, Imogen Ada Lovelace, drama is your favorite class in high school. Improv it.
Darien Freeman—ohmygod, the Darien Freeman, Federation Prince Carmindor, the love of my Tumblr life—leans into the mic we share (WE. ARE. SHARING. A. MICROPHONE.) and introduces himself, "I'm Darien Freeman."
Oh my God he's Darien Freeman.
...I know he is.
Cool, cool. Keep calm.
I thought today was just going to be a normal day. Just another Thursday at ExcelsiCon, helping my moms in their booth while drooling over the best cosplay. You know, the usual con stuff.
I think everything started going wrong when I decided to go to the hidden bathroom, the one on the second floor of the showroom's hotel, the Marriott, a really magnificent building in the middle of downtown Atlanta. Pockets of vendors are spread out over the four hotels that make up the convention center, all connected by sidewalks and skybridges. My moms just happened to get a booth in the biggest showroom in the main hotel (they should, they've been going long enough). That's how I know about the off-limits restroom. Technically it's reserved for special guests, but there's never any signs, so it really doesn't count as breaking a rule. Anyway, I'd done my business and exited the stall to wash my hands, humming the Starfield theme that Milo got stuck in my head earlier, when I saw her:
I mean. Jessica Stone.
She was just standing there, and for a second I thought her eyes looked a little red, as if she'd been crying. Which was odd, because I never imagined Jessica Stone crying about anything. Her life is perfect.