Welcome To Billington

Eve studied him for a moment; he was a young man in his mid-thirties with kind brown eyes and flawless, chocolate skin. His words were strong and firm but laced with a friendly, almost gentle undertone.

"Does anyone know why this class is required?" he asked.

Again, the room was silent.

"How about a history lesson. Can someone tell me why Billington was constructed in the first place?"

A single student in the front of the class glanced across the room and awkwardly sank lower into her chair. "Interlopers?" she mumbled.

"Interlopers," Clarke repeated, nodding at the girl. "But more specifically, our reaction to the Interlopers. You see, to put it simply, we're not getting anything done. The people in Washington? They're stumped. Progress is at a standstill. We're in a state of chaos, class."

The professor ran his fingers across a palm-sized controller, and as he did so, words appeared along the wall at the front of the class, projected as holograms that illuminated the room like light bulbs:

"With few other options, our government created Billington: a place where young minds can be molded into visionaries and pioneers. A place where our youth can grow into the kind of people who can restore this country to what it once was. Other schools have history and pedigree, but here at Billington, we have intention. We have a specific, calculated purpose. That's what makes us special."

His words were motivating, maybe even inspirational--at least, they probably were to someone, somewhere in that room. Eve looked over at Madison--she was yawning and drawing penises all over her desk. Eve rolled her eyes and turned her gaze back to the projection.

"Now, I realize that's a hell of a lot of pressure on your shoulders, but you signed up for it. Whether you realized it or not, when you enrolled in this institution, you told the world that you're a leader. That's why this class is required--because every single one of you has what it takes to be a leader."

The sound of smacking and slurping broke Eve's concentration; Madison was gnawing at a sticky piece of bubblegum, her lips flapping with each noisy chomp, while Hayden guzzled down juice from a dainty children's juice box. Eve laughed under her breath--leaders, she thought to herself. Perhaps not all of Billington's students were as qualified as Clarke assumed. Just when Eve thought her gawking had gone unnoticed, Hayden's eyes shot toward her and squinted into a piercing glare. Eve quickly turned away and focused her attention on the lecture.

Clarke approached his podium. "Activate your scratchpads, and we'll start with chapter one."

Professor Clarke delved into the history of leadership--"those who triumphed versus those who failed," as he put it--and Eve found herself immersed in a topic she was hardly interested in. As she flipped through the pages of her digital textbook, she caught a glimpse of her two unwanted comrades out of the corner of her eye--Madison continued to decorate her desk with phallic artwork, and Hayden still scowled in Eve's direction.

Time was soon up. The students gathered their belongings, and Madison scoffed at Eve's large, clunky scratchpad as she deactivated it and shoved it into her shoulder bag. They headed down the steps of the lecture hall, and just as she made her way to the front of the class, Eve locked eyes with the eloquent Professor Clarke. He nodded at her and smiled, as she assumed he did to every student, and with a forced half-smirk she quickly scurried out the door.

"What's your next class?" Madison asked, staring at her cuticles as they strolled down the hallway. "Is it a total suckgasm like that last one?"

Eve took a look at her itinerary. "Business Math," she read.

Madison grimaced. "Yuck. Who's your teacher?"

"Professor Richards?"

"Dr. Dick?" Hayden turned to her, and for the first time all day, her glare lifted into the slightest hint of a grin. "You're going to die, Eve."

"What?"

"Eve, hon," Madison cooed condescendingly, "a professor doesn't get a nickname like ‘Dr. Dick' for no reason. Prepare to fail."

"How do you know this?"

"How do you not know this? Everyone knows about Dr. Dick. His class is a nightmare. Let me see this." Madison snatched Eve's itinerary from her hands. "Strategic Communication with Professor Gupta. Sounds boring." She stopped suddenly, her face twisted into a disgusted scowl.

"You're taking Hand-to-Hand Combat?" she gasped. "Tell me this is a joke."

Eve grabbed the paper and shoved it back into her shoulder bag. "What's wrong with that?"

"Well, number one: you're a girl. Number two: you're not a guy. Number three: ew?"

"Maybe she has violent tendencies," Hayden added. "I mean, what do we really know about her?"

"Oh my God, just shut up, Hayden," Madison said, waving Hayden away as if she were a pestering fly. "Eve's not violent... Right, Eve?"

"Seriously? Of course I'm not violent." She paused for a moment as she stared back at the two girls, racking her brain for a believable explanation.

A lie.

"I just like a good workout, that's all."

"Well, if you start to develop manly muscles, we won't be on speaking terms."

The girl was unbearable, as was her devoted lackey. Eve was no expert on friendship, but if this was any indication of what it was like, she needn't bother with the stuff. Still, a nagging voice in the back of her mind urged her to remain quiet. No friction, it said. Friction leads to questions, and questions reveal the truth--your truth. She clenched her jaw and said nothing.

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a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci