It was one of those things people did not talk about. Earth had been around before the Alliance and the Human Alliance Council. It was not only one of the original twelve worlds after Kippler's was discovered, it was the original world, and all the outsourcing for resources could not change the fact that Earth was still populous and only renewable to a point.
Jack did not talk about it much either. Ever since Kailin acquired its priority one status with the Alliance, there were speech requirements concerning what could and could not be said around the students. Undermining HAC was impermissible. Jack usually could not care less, but he tried to show at least a little restraint. Especially around green eyes glimmering with shrewd interest.
Hayley kept spraying but started talking, surprising him a bit until he realized what she was telling him.
"Habitats are an extension of the spacecraft concept, with caveats. Primarily, they are for planet-based installations and are designed to be permanent, self-sustaining structures suitable for maintaining human life." She set down the can and pulled a small brush from her back pocket to work the grit into a corner. "Habitats are to be adaptable, in the case of flexibly conformed, or ideally suited, in the case of rigidly conformed, to the environment, whether that be underwater, nonatmospheric, desert, etc."
Jack stared at her. "What? Did you get that out of a textbook?"
She shrugged, then looked him square in the eyes. "I want Gabrin."
He opened his mouth, then closed it, then looked back. "You running?"
A small laugh with an indefinable amount of humor or lack thereof. "I'm chasing."
"You're interested in the Gabrin project." It does not seem like a question when the headmaster of Kailin University speaks, folds his fingers together, and furrows his brow. "I see."
Hayley feels her jaw tense and her shoulders go back. She forces herself to relax. This ain't a war, girl. Just chill out, she tells herself firmly. "Yes. I have the aptitude," she states bluntly, pressing her advantage. Mr. Scheffer personally wrote the letter accepting her and requesting her attendance at his school, the one named after his great-grandfather and founded by the same.
He seems to remember himself, smiles so that the crinkles return to the corners of his eyes, and the irises seem unearthly blue again. "I would advise you to put together a physical portfolio, wherever you can arrange, demonstrating your expertise to the project leader."
"Dr. Gabrin?" she asks, following carefully and logging away the details in her notebook.
"Yes." Mr. Scheffer's smile turns lenient. "He is a good friend, but he has never been much inclined to accept offers of assistance.
She understands what he is saying. Dr. Clark Gabrin does not want anyone else shoehorning in on his project. At all.
"Do you know Dr. Gabrin?" Hayley asked abruptly as she was putting away the grit.
Jack side-eyed her work, but the floor was laid down evenly and the slick finish mediated but not invisible. Then, he returned to side-eyeing her.
She raised her eyebrows.
He gave her another of those looks, the kind that said he would rather not have to put up with her. "I told you not to try dragging me into your scheming and I meant it." He shook his head at her. "Anyway, it's Kiligree."
She raised both eyebrows. "Just a surname?"
Another annoyed glance. "Jack Kiligree. Your point?"
"Nothing." She shook her head and closed the panels over the supply shelves. She flashed a last smile at Jack. "All done."
He shrugged as if he did not care, but his voice stopped her before she left. "He's in the lab. I suggest you leave him alone."
Hayley grinned and gave him a sharp salute. "Sir, yes, sir."
"Good Lord," he muttered as she exited the room.
The dormitory room was already occupied when Kee Jena arrived. She glanced over the neatly laid out left half of the room: single desk bearing four computers in various sizes and bunk bed with a personal bedspread over the top bunk. She preferred bottom bunks anyway. Then, she assessed the right half of the room, a mess of bags, clothes, and books covering the single bed and double desk. A toolbox poked out from under a grey hooded sweatshirt on the floor.
Jena wanted Kailin. Her daddy, Kee Shen, was an alumnus and the best technical engineer working for the Alliance. Jena admittedly had no interest in technical engineering; however, she was absolutely certain that the Alliance would love her skills at diplomacy and explosives, and she was right. She wowed with her cheerful demeanor in her student interview, won brownie points for her pre-creds, and pleased with her well-written essays. She was in. But to be perfectly honest, she had not expected anything like sharing a tiny 12x12 dorm room with two other girls, one of which could not be depended upon to not make a mess.
"Got a problem with that?" a sassy alto bit out behind her.
Jena sighed in her mind and turned around to flick a disapproving brow over the appearance of the young woman standing in the doorway. "You're my roommate?" she asked politely. An aggressive woman was no reason to not be polite.
The brunette nodded, then cocked her head interestedly. "I'm Hayley. Haven't finished moving in."
"Half done is a recipe for disaster," Jena stated blandly, then moved in toward her own bunk, it being the only empty bed in the room.
Hayley just laughed, a surprisingly pretty sound, warm and without animosity. "Well, sometimes a girl's gotta prioritize."
Jena glanced back at Hayley, saw a sparkle in her eyes. Fight easy, play easy, befriend easy. Jena smiled, an offer of friendship by her own standards. "I'm Jena."
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