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“Oh, sorry.” She moved away a bit, but not so far that she couldn’t see what was going on. This was fantastic. Rishi had drawn a hoard of about seven zombies, all nuanced and gross in the goofiest way. Some of their eyeballs bulged out while others were missing teeth or had wavy lines of bad smell coming off them. Others oozed slime from between their toes. They were all advancing on a tiny circular fox with huge eyes and a bushy tail curled around itself.

“See?” Rishi said. “So maybe there’s this huge gang of roving zombies, and your user gets to pick an avatar, and the zombies are going to eat the fox if they don’t track fast enough or regularly enough. You know? Kind of like ‘Plants vs. Zombies’ but with more tracking action.” He turned to look at her. “What do you think?”

Dimple nodded sagely, her heart thumping in her chest. This was good. This was very, very good. She could already see that. “I do have one serious concern.”

Rishi waited for her to continue, a small wrinkle between his brows.

“Can we make them aliens instead of zombies? Zombies are so overdone.”

“Aliens?” Rishi rolled his eyes. “You totally don’t have my artistic vision.”

Dimple punched him in the ribs, lighter than she wanted to, but he still winced. “Ow. You know, most girls just slap guys playfully on the arm or something. They don’t actually hurt them.”

“Well, maybe you need to expand your idea of how girls behave,” Dimple replied, grinning.

Rishi laughed. “Fair enough. And yes, I can totally do aliens, since they seem so important to you.”

“Awesome. Then we’re totally going to kick Insomnia Con’s butt!”

They high-fived, and Dimple grabbed the sheet of paper and sat on the bed to look at it. “You’re an amazing artist. Will you do the preliminary artwork for the concept?”

He nodded. “Of course. I don’t want anyone else coming in and stealing my vision, you know.”

Dimple snorted. “Totally. By the way, do you have any samples of your comics? Like, your old work or anything?”

Rishi immediately began to click around on his laptop screen, as if he’d discovered something of immense importance that had to be done right away. “Uh, no. Nothing like that.”

“Hmm.” Interesting, Dimple thought. I think Rishi Patel is lying . She flipped over the paper he’d drawn the zombies on; it was a flyer of some kind. “Oh, cool. Little Comic Con. Are you going to this?”

Rishi rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, I don’t know. It was just a thing I picked up on impulse.”

“The thirteenth, from six to ten,” Dimple read. “Hey, that’s this weekend.” She looked up at him. “We can go together. I mean, if you want to. Since you were nice enough to come to the Aberzombie dinner with me.”

Had Dimple Shah just asked him out on a date?

CHAPTER 20

“I mean, not like a date or anything,” Dimple rushed to put in. And then felt like a total jerk because his face fell, just the tiniest fraction of a bit. “But, you know, as a friend. Which is even better, in my opinion.”

He smiled, though she saw it wasn’t his usual vibrant, full-on sun smile. “Yeah, cool. Let’s do it.”

• • •

They put in another two hours researching the market, designing the UI , and getting started on the wireframe and storyboard. The process frequently sent a frisson of excitement up Dimple’s spine. This was her idea they were talking about implementing. In six weeks it would be an actual thing out there in the world, about halfway to completion, not just an abstract concept. Key people would be looking at it, judging it. And if it passed muster, maybe Jenny Lindt would want to work with her to finish it. It would go on to save lives.

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