Y sat typing furiously, every keystroke sending a thrill down his spine. He couldn’t believe it. The Aurebesh font shone on the black screen and the keys exuded a red glint that threw his face in an eerie light. He was finally receiving a response. He knew there was something special about it. It wasn’t just the wallpapers, screensavers, storyboards, movie trailers, e-book excerpts or even the concept art, it was something else entirely. He had felt something unearthly when he had touched it. Something electric seemed to have passed through him. A force.
“Audio by B&O Play! This is going to be our movie screen from today onwards!” announced R gaping at Y’s newly acquired HP Star Wars TM Special Edition notebook.
Y winced. He didn’t want his laptop to be public property too soon. But that is what happens in hostels. Nothing is really ever yours.
“i5 intel core processor and 12GB RAM! You can game your a** out, dude! You are one effing lucky guy!” S marveled, thumping Y on his back.
His roommates were more than ecstatic to have a Star Wars Special Edition notebook in their midst. There were the obvious pluses- the god-awesome audio; the considerably improved movie experience, not to mention the gaming affair. Add to that the Star Wars paraphernalia. The frenzy and the psychedelia surrounding it all was palpable. Y deemed himself lucky and kept thanking his father a million times for the pluperfect birthday gift.
But Y knew that wasn’t all. There was something about the notebook that was arresting. Something exclusively related to him. It seemed as if the notebook was intrinsically oriented towards him, although he knew that was such a stupid thing to say. But within a few weeks of spending time with it, trying to locate that which lent it a strange quality, he had hit upon something.
“Submit your assignments immediately,” the Automata professor ordered.
The class instantly began to hurry about. Sounds of scraping chairs filled the room as everyone went ahead with their laptops to get their assignments checked. Y preferred to wait till the majority had gotten theirs marked. He was possessive about his new laptop and didn’t want anything to happen to it. So he stayed on one of the last benches of the class and tested his code a few times. Satisfied that it was working, he switched to his favorite tab of late. The command prompt. He was staring at the response from last night.
“Hey!” Someone spoke into his ear making him jump.
Y quickly pressed Alt + Tab, which took the screen back to his assignment. Z stood next to him, her straight hair falling neatly on her shoulders.
“Hey–hello” Y changed greeting midway. It was an effort to speak in front of her. They hadn’t spoken in, like, ages.
“I was wondering if you could show me your assignment,” she asked tentatively. “Don’t worry, I have done mine. I just can’t seem to get this last test case.” And she brought over her notebook and placed it next to his.
Y tried to breathe normally while she spoke. He couldn’t drive away the past images from his mind. He guessed she had gotten over him. But he clearly hadn’t. Sure, it had been a fiasco, their being together. But a much-loved fiasco, as per Y. He would give anything to get those times back.
“So, should the files be displayed in this case?” she finished asking.
Some strands of her ramrod straight hair were partly resting on Y’s shoulders. He knew she wasn’t aware of it. He also knew that he himself was painfully aware of it.
“So?” she asked again, bringing Y’s attention to her words. Why had she suddenly come to him with her problems? Couldn’t she have asked someone else? Probably no one was willing to help. Y drove the thought away since he knew no one would refuse Z. Guys would create the assignment for her if she asked them. He brought himself back to the current situation and tried to assess the situation as objectively and emotionlessly as he could.
“Umm…let me see…” he said, staring into the code and trying to make out what had happened because he hadn’t heard a single word of what she had said. “Maybe you should put an ‘if condition’ here-”
“Is that yours?” Z asked, pointing to Y’s laptop and cutting him mid-sentence.
Y looked at her and nodded. So, his dear HP notebook had got him some attention from his ex-girlfriend. Atta boy!
“Nice,” she said and smiled.
His heart gave a lurch. Was it the doubt that had brought her to him or was she merely curious about his new laptop or perhaps she wanted to renew their friendship…? He forcefully drove away the thoughts from his mind. He didn’t want to have any expectations. He was just hoping she hadn’t read anything on the command prompt. For all he knew she might have, for the way she had stealthily crept up on him.
That night, he stared at the message, thinking of what to respond.
“Are we watching the movie tonight?” S jumped on him unexpectedly, barely giving him time to switch screens.
What was it these days with people? Since when had they acquired this new habit of jumping on him?
“Uhh…let’s see…I have this thing to prepare for…” Y looked for a valid excuse, some project that they had been given, to fend S off.
“Do you want to- like -top the semester or what?” S said, disgusted. “Come on dude! Get a life! The mobile assignment has a week to go!”
Y thanked S inwardly for reminding him and giving him the excuse on a plate.
“Yeah but I haven’t started yet and if I don’t do it, who will you guys copy from?”
S knew most of the able programmers were kind of tight-fisted and selfish in case of their codes. Y was the only one who freely distributed his code. Open source, in the true sense. The force of the argument was too much for S. He couldn’t afford to lose his assignment which he would be copying from Y.
“Okay dude! This time I leave you. Finish this fast. We gotta live, dude! Life is not all work!” Saying so, he went off for a smoke.
Y heaved a sigh of relief. He switched back to the black screen. The message glowed red as before. Magical. Out of this world. Then suddenly came a swishing sound. The sound of light sabers-one of those special features of his Star Wars Special Edition. A new black window popped up.
A new message winked at him onscreen. This one startled him no end. What was this? Another invitation? As if one wasn’t enough.
But this time, it was from the other group…
Now he wished he had replied to the previous message. What was he supposed to do now? Should he reply at all? Or just close the window?
He kept alternating between various windows- sometimes working on his assignment, sometimes staring at the messages. Finally he fell into a fitful sleep, dreaming of galaxies, Tatooine, light sabres and what-not.
When he rose next, the laptop was gleaming where he had left it before, the messages blinking like stars in the galaxy and the system clock showing 10 am. The classes were supposed to start at 9. Thankfully, none of his roomies were in. He guessed they had slept off in someone else’s room after movies and booze. He rushed into the bath, somehow clothed himself, packed his notebook and a couple of books in the bag, and rushed off to class.
After the classes, he decided to wait a while in the library, partly to get some work done and majorly for some privacy. He knew both he and his laptop would be hounded at night. And he wanted to reply to the invitations that very day. For that he needed some solitude. And some research. He was still finding it all hard to believe. He scrolled up and found the series of messages beginning with ‘A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away…’ and started going through each one of them.
Y literally jumped and closed the flap of his notebook shut in alarm. Why on earth were people doing that to him?
“Whoa! I am sorry! Did I scare you or something?” Z’s silky voice caused ripples through Y’s body.
“N-noo…” he stammered. “I was just a bit taken aback, you see.”
“I am sorry…” she said and settled down beside him.
He couldn’t understand why Z was being so friendly with him. Not that he didn’t like it. Quite the contrary.
“Did you finish the mobile assignment?” she asked him.
He was feeling asthmatic again as her hair brushed against his arms.
“Okay…seems as if you were at something completely different when I arrived. You just shut the lappy so vehemently I thought I had offended you.”
“Hey no no no! Don’t take me wrong! I was just a bit zapped. People have a habit of jumping on me these days, so I’m probably a bit edgy. Anyway, you tell me. How is everything? Made any progress with your assignment yet?”
“Not even started,” she said and grinned.
Y’s breath seemed to catch in his throat as the effect of Z’s grin at close range became palpable. He had worked so hard to get her face off his memory. Obviously he hadn’t succeeded much. But now, he knew her face would be pasted on his mind for weeks.
“Okay, good,” he said stupidly and instantly regretted it.
“’Guess I must get going. Catch up with you later!” And she left, making Y feel stupider than ever. Whoever says ‘okay good’ to an admission of an assignment not done? No wonder they had broken up.
However, that night, as he sat checking his notifications, a message window popped up and Z’s smiling face appeared.
“You know what, let me just get to the point,” she wrote. “I guess I have been making you uncomfortable all this while. Let me be frank, I am not a great conversationalist.”
Y read the messages with open-mouthed surprise. Talk about guilt and messing things up.
“It’s just that I wanted to ask you-”
“Hey mate!” S and R bounded into the room carrying T in their midst. “Time for some bashing!” And they hurled T onto the bed.
“Come on Y! It’s time for revenge!”
And they began to kick T playfully, who squirmed in a mock pained voice.
Y ignored them and went back to the screen. Z had already written a few messages.
“What are you up to, well?” S said and came to Y’s side to see. “Since you got this new laptop, you-”
He stopped, staring at the screen. Then he burst into guffaws.
“Oh my God! Oh my good lord! The guy has got his girl back! He is into a reelaytionship again!” he sang.
Y rolled his eyes. “I have got no girl. She was only-” he began.
“It’s okay dude! We get it,” R said in a mock-comrade voice. “Z is mighty pretty. And in the message, she says: ‘I want to-‘. What does she want? Go ahead-read it!”
Tittering madly and kicking each other, they exited the room with T following in their wake.
“Effing idiots” Y said to himself, but a smile played on his lips at the thought of Z wanting to say something to him. He quickly opened the chat box and began reading. What he read next blew away his mind.
“It’s just that I wanted to ask you if you have accessed the portal yet. I am sorry I saw those messages…I couldn’t help it. You were sitting on the last bench and pondering over that message. I was bursting to ask you then. But I thought it wouldn’t be prudent. Anyway, I tried to tell you today. But I guess you didn’t want to share. Anyway, I just want to tell you that I have joined…”
Y was suddenly all confused. What on earth was she talking about? All he could make out was that she had read his messages. But portal?
“Hey…could you go a little slow? What is this portal you are talking of? And you have joined what? I don’t get it.”
“Oh…you didn’t know about the portal? What about the messages then?”
“The one I saw on your cmd…”
“Yes…I chanced upon that…I sent a few signals and got a ping…”
“Yeah I know. I reckoned you would know. It’s a portal this thing. This whole special edition notebook. I don’t know if you have felt it but there is a certain force exuding from it.”
Y couldn’t believe Z was recounting his precise experiences! How did she know?
“Yes…I have felt it…But how do you know? If it’s only the special edition that is a portal or whatever you say, how would you know about it?”
“Oh well my brother has it. My elder brother. The moment I held it, I knew there was something special about it. And then came the messages.”
“Who told you it was a portal?”
“When you respond to the message, you will know.”
“But you got it from two of them. You got a choice. I didn’t…”
“I got the second message first. The one from the Dark side…”
“It was hard to resist. Only a few get the message. My brother didn’t. I did though.”
“So, what happens after?”
“You are a part of the inter-galactic team. There is a mission that’s about. And they are recruiting from all the ends of the universe. This was an Earth venture…”
“Stop wowing. Whom are you going to reply?”
That set him thinking. It had been about four days and he hadn’t been able to decide which side he was on. The Jedi or the Sith? Just then, another thought creeped in. Why was Z asking him that? Did she want him on a certain side? Was she being sent for it? Or she wanted it of her own accord? Did she still care for him?
“I don’t know yet,” he wrote.
No one wrote anything for some time.
“The Dark side is enthralling I guess,” Y typed.
But Y knew who he wanted to join. Perhaps they were meant to be on opposite sides.
Master Yoda’s words flashed at him from the screen :
For the mission inter-galactic.
With you may the Force be.”
Y made his decision. He began to key in his response.
“Accept me master, will you?
With me, the Force is strong.”
He pressed enter and sighed. Switching to Z’s chat box, he wrote, “I have replied.”
“Good…” came from her end.
“I guess I know…Somehow we just end up on the wrong sides. Like we did last time…”
He couldn’t believe Z was finally talking about their break-up. He didn’t know what to reply.
Her messages hadn’t ended though.
“You know, I didn’t particularly want it to end…It just happened. I was not aware…I flared up…you have always been the nice guy. Maybe that’s why they chose you. And the Dark ones chose me…”
Y’s heart had stopped in his tracks.
“Listen…I know there is nothing wrong with you. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. You just accidentally got it from them. The Jedi would love to have you, I am sure.”
“You know, perhaps we are not meant to be together…perhaps we will always be at loggerheads…”
A warmth he remembered from a long time ago suffused his heart. She did feel for him. She wanted him to choose her side.
“No…we can be together if we wish. Nothing can stop us. It is all up to you.”
“I have pledged myself. And so have you…”
“That doesn’t mean a thing. I will bring you back.”
Y knew he wouldn’t let intergalactic wars rive them apart.
He wrote to her,“The Force is strong with us.”