Caroline looked both ways down the hall, then knocked on a door nervously. It swished open and she walked into her friend’s dorm room.
Lexi stood preening in front of a mirror, touching her hair which was bunched up like mouse ears on top of her head. She turned when Caroline came in and smiled brightly, showing perfect white teeth.
“How do I look?”
She twirled in front of the other girl.
Caroline raised a skeptical eyebrow. Lexi wore a pair of tight purple shorts that did not quite cover everything. Her butt cheeks poked out in back. And her top looked . . . revealing. It was also purple but seemed skintight. And, it shimmered.
“What is that?” Caroline said.
“This is the latest thing. It’s a hologram that looks like a blouse. Here, touch.”
Lexi grabbed Caroline’s hand and pulled it to her midriff. Caroline raised her other eyebrow as her fingers sunk through purple light and she brushed the other girl’s skin.
“Isn’t that the sweetest thing?” Lexi gushed. “It feels so free! I don’t have to wear a bra or anything.”
She raised her arms above her head and danced a little jig, making everything shake. The hologram followed the movements of her upper body flawlessly.
She said, “This is going to be great in the summer!”
“Uh, so what happens when the power goes out?”
“Phsh! The powerpack lasts for hours, don’t worry.”
Changing the subject, Caroline said, “Is that a tattoo?” She pointed down at Lexi’s leg. “Tell me that’s not permanent.”
“You like it?” Lexi lifted her leg a bit to show it off. Two letters were inked on her inner thigh: EU.
Lexi said, “It’s in the same font the old European Union used, but it stands for ‘Epsilon University,’ of course. All the cool kids are getting one. I can tell you what parlor we use if you want to get one, too, Caroline.”
Caroline sighed and said, “No thanks. I don’t want a tattoo.”
Lexi wrinkled her nose. She said, “You are such a cube, Caroline.”
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are. You’re positively cubic. I mean look at what you’re wearing. A sweatshirt and dumpy pants.”
Caroline glanced down at her own clothes. She looked back up with a glint in her eye.
“At least I don’t dress like a prostitute.”
“Hey! I do not dress like a prostitute. I am the normal one here. You’re the cube, wearing cubic clothing! You’re never going to get a boyfriend dressed like that, Caroline.”
“I don’t want . . . I’m not looking for a boyfriend right now, Lexi. Look, I came by to talk about something serious. Are we alone? Is anybody else here?”
Caroline looked around the spacious suite. The middle of the room was dominated by a giant bed, at least three times the size of a normal one. Caroline furrowed her brows as she noticed it.
“What’s with the bed? Why’s it so big?”
“Oh, that’s the latest thing. Communal sleeping. All my roommates and friends, we all sleep together. It’s so close and intimate. I feel safe.”
Caroline stared at her incredulously. She said, “How many of you sleep together each night?”
“It varies. Usually five or six. Last night Lizzie had her boyfriend over and my cousin was in town, so we had eight. You should try it! You’re always welcome to sleep over here.”
“Ew. No thanks. I could never . . . no. I prefer sleeping in my own bed.”
“Aw! You should try it one night, at least. There are times when I wake up and we’re all breathing in sync. I think maybe our heartbeats match too! I just love moments like that. Then I fall back to sleep again lying next to everybody else. It’s like puppies sleeping together for comfort, you know?”
“Okay, look.” Caroline shook her head to clear it of the disturbing images the other girl invoked. “What I’m here about is we’re starting a . . . well, it’s sort of a club. You know about Dr. Milford’s death, right?”
“Yeah, that was so sad. He died in the park after his lecture. They say he keeled over while feeding the pigeons.”
“It wasn’t a natural death. I can’t prove it. But we have reason to believe that Dr. Milford was taken out by SSI.”
Lexi covered her mouth with her hand. She said, “Are you serious?”
“Yes. Look, there are a few of us getting together and . . . and we’re thinking about starting a chapter of the Resistance. Here at the university.”
“Omigosh, Caroline! The Resistance? That is so cool! I can’t wait to tell Liz about this!”
“Well, no. This is not something we want to get out. I mean, if SSI really did kill Dr. Milford, they could be coming for us if they find out we’re even thinking about resisting.”
Lexi’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
She said, “Oh.”
Caroline nodded. “That’s why we want to keep this on the down low. Okay?”
“Okay. But I want to help. And being in the Resistance sounds so exciting! You don’t mind if I tell Lizzie, do you? We can trust her!”
“Just be careful, okay? This is not a . . . it’s not a social thing, alright? We just want to see if we can do something to strike out against . . . against authoritarianism. Totalitarianism. Suppression. That sort of thing. It’s not about the cool people getting together and trying the latest synthetic drugs.”
“Hey! That’s not all we do. We make out, trade clothes and talk and stuff, too.”
Caroline frowned at her.
“Just be careful who you tell, okay Lexi?”
“Okay! Gosh, you’re such a cube.”