Hayley Lamar was defined by her teachers as a no-good, rebellious troublemaker—anything but a lady and certainly not a good student. Perhaps this should have bothered her. She was raised properly in the good southern Bible belt, after all, but truth was, the moniker didn't bother her at all.
So when her grades came through after secondary school and she saw just how much trouble she'd have hitting a regular college, she planned ahead and applied to every single Alliance priority one school on the world (there were twenty-four) and requested a scholarship. Officially, these schools went to the best of the best of the crop of young people coming up on Earth and, sometimes, throughout the entire twenty-two star systems. In reality, they went to the ones with the highest scores on aptitude tests, and Hayley knew how to score on one of those.
Three of the schools liked her scores in psychology, technological hardware, and space flight aptitudes. Fourteen discounted her because of her dismal scores in diplomacy, interpersonal relationships, and regulation aptitudes. A regular mash-up found other things right and wrong, but one liked her scores in the first three aptitudes and suggested another: protections. She accepted this last with attached scholarship and showed up on the Kailin University campus three months later with a chip on her shoulder and a black duffel bag slung over behind it.
And that was how Hayley Lamar, dangerous girl extraordinaire, got into Gabrin.
Shelley Huntington didn't even have to try. She was just minding her own business, blowing away a few "security" and acquisitions companies out of the water by hacking their private files, forwarding data on their illicit money and luxury item laundering activities to the appropriate legal bodies, and otherwise supplementing her meager computer repair shop income with pricey freelance security upgrades for web-based companies that could see the value in her proposals. It didn't hurt that she was a bit of a hacker vigilante. Her reputation landed her more work than she could handle.
And that dratted recruitment paper from the Human Alliance Council. The last thing Shelley felt she needed was a remand notice to a priority one school. Let's face it: she didn't need a degree to do what she liked best and she certainly didn't need to do it for the Alliance government to make money at it.
But the remand notice came, and her mother kissed her in pride, and her father insisted that if she got herself an arrest warrant over trying to refuse, he'd disown her from the entire family and have their rabbi expel her from the synagogue (they were old school buddies—Shelley had little doubt Rabbi Herschel would do it), so off Shelley went with her unprepossessing computers and her prepossessing knowledge.
And that was how computer genius extraordinaire, Shelley Huntington, ended up at Kailin University and drafted into Gabrin.
Kade Broussard was a bit of a different color: he was twenty-two years old and had enough school credits to get out of any more university work at all. Except he wanted something more and different than the hand he had been dealt, and if there was anything that boy knew how to do, it was to deal himself another one.
So he packed up his certifications, applied for joint instructor/student stream, pulled in every contact he had in the twenty-two star systems (he had at least one in each), threw in a half a dozen letters of reference for good measure, and was accepted.
Of course, it didn't hurt that he had The Good Hunt, Inc. wipe out all traces of his privateering activities (those permits from planetary governments and head spacers came in handy; usually he was getting The Good Hunt off his tail, not hiring their services) and the issue never came up in his interview. Nobody would guess from his easygoing demeanor and excellent culinary skills that he was a bit of a genius of government-sanctioned space piracy. So when he showed up on campus with his letters of entrance and ran double orientation, nobody thought twice of it.
And that was how Kade Broussard, cooking-up-trouble-and-mouthwatering-cuisine extraordinaire, joined on to Kailin's most important project.
Gideon Thompson was short of a real, proper earthling, though he wasn't really a spacer either. He'd been bounced around in the Orphaned Child Community from the time he was five years old and his mother had suddenly realized she was too inept to raise him. In the interval between then and now, he had learned how to utilize home-based chemicals to create fireworks, to stress test purportedly noncumbustible and otherwise indestructible items, to blow up buildings, and to expand upon the pyrotechnics offerings on his local black market.
Then the fire department near his last school had decided it was time to put an end or a use to his love of all things explosive. They sent him for community education and reform to the only priority one school that would take him based on his aptitude tests. (Rumor had it, Kailin hired a grizzled militancy veteran for the sole purpose of whipping the kid into line.)
And that was how Gideon Thompson, the-kid's-got-issues extraordinaire, snuck his way into Gabrin.
Kee 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.
And that was how they got two crazy firecrackers in the Gabrin project at Kailin University.
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