After school, I got to the library first because I skipped going across campus back to my dorm. I placed my backpack beside a chair at an isolated corner table hidden between the shelves. Braden and I wouldn’t be overheard by other students or the librarians, at the front desk dealing with the after school rush of studiers. I pulled out my school-issued laptop and began my homework while I waited.
Small, portable, and slow, the little black computer was issued to every student for educational use. Naturally there were theories about the school spying, as they claimed to have the right to search our laptops and there were programs (that we were not allowed to delete) installed on them that allow a master, teacher laptop to freeze, manipulate, and copy the images on our screens. When all the detailed, history-recording programs, assigned email passwords we aren’t allowed to change, and all the firewalls and blocked websites were considered as well, it’s no wonder they run so slowly. Or so Braden told me, he was more of a computer geek than I was.
Speak of the devil, I noticed him sit down beside me, though I didn’t look at him. He pulled out his school laptop and pulled up a blank document entitled “Spatial Inequality in Twenty-First Century Mexico City, Mexico”. Then, he pushed that to the side and pulled out his personal laptop. He must’ve gone to his room to get it.
“Spatial inequality, huh?” I said. It wasn’t really a question, but I said it like one.
“Yeah, if the school looks up what I’m doing that’ll come up. So if anyone asks what we’re doing we can say homework and the data will back us up.”
“That’s smart,” I said, “but if your laptop is on the school’s internet can’t they see what you’re doing?”
“If they were to access the modem yeah, but I’m not on the school’s wifi, so it’s safe.” He held up a little black box. “Portable high-speed hotspot. I had my parents send it to me at the beginning of school so the school can’t stalk my personal computer.”
“Nice,” I said.
“I know,” he said back, smiling.
We fell into silence for a second before I asked, “So what’re we doing?”
“We should thoroughly read the website and do research on school rebellion,” Braden said.
“Okay,” I said. “Should we also write some research questions and keep like a notebook or something?” He looked up at me and his eyes met mine.
“That’s a great idea,” he said. I couldn’t help but smile.
“I have an extra notebook in my room, I can go get it.”
I returned to find that he hadn’t moved, only the computer screen had. He was open in a new tab, googling “educational injustice” and “students fighting back against oppressive school systems”.
“What’s it all say?” I asked, “Anything interesting?”
“So far I haven’t found anything that wasn’t like an isolated incident. Like corporal punishment or denying something to a group of students.” He clicked around a little and shook his head. “Nothing relevant like a force trying to fight back is coming up...that’s factual at least.”
“Well there’s a first time for everything. What do you mean ‘factual’?”
“There are stories and movies and stuff that are kinda similar, but that doesn’t help us figure out if the Defiance is real or not.” He frowned. “Their site says stuff about who they supposedly are but that’s about as useful as a definition with the word in it...”
“Does it say what exactly the Defiance is fighting against?” I asked.
“Yeah, students’ rights to the first amendment, students’ rights to privacy...stuff like that. The issue here is that we don’t really know much about who they claim to be so we don’t have anything to look into. Who the Defiance supposedly is and what they supposedly intend to do are mysteries.” He clicked back to their website and stared at it. I leaned closer to the screen.
“Well, they’re asking for people to join, right?” I asked.
“Yeah...” Braden trailed off and gave me a questioning look. “Why...?”
“Maybe we should just ask them. We can stay anonymous and say we’re thinking about it but want more information. Also, side note, have you looked for social media profiles? If I were them I would make social media profiles to reach more people.” I suggested.
“Yes! You’re brilliant!” He was already pulling up half a dozen social media websites. It was good that he was distracted because I was positive my face was the color of an angry cherry. Within five minutes he had four online profiles and a phone number, which I diligently copied down in the notebook.
“Should we call now?” he asked.
“We probably shouldn’t do it in the library,” I said.
“Yeah, you’re right. Do you think anyone is actually trying to join?” Braden turned sideways to face me, rested his elbow on the table and leaned against his hand.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “definitely.”
“Why? Don’t you think it’d be kind of risky? I mean, whatever they’re supposedly planning could be illegal or violent.”
“Yes, but when does anyone here really ever think about the consequences of their actions?” I asked and he raised his eyebrows in agreement. “Also, the idea of this Defiance is so like the plot of a dramatic movie that I think a lot of people would find it rather appealing.”
He looked at me, amused. “Do you have an answer for everything?”
“Yes,” I said simply. “No guarantees on accuracy, though.”
Braden looked at me, amused, before replying, slightly sarcastically, “Wow. What a good answer.”
I smiled. “I know, right?”