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Prologue

"Just who is this child?" Colonel McGruder asked, gazing at the psychological profile floating in his holo display. "And how did we come to have this information on her?"

"Her name is Alicia DeVries," Lieutenant Maserati replied, "Alicia Dierdre DeVries, and she's in her final form. Education administered the standard exams to her class six months ago, and her results popped straight through the filters. So they retested last week. As you can see, the retest only confirmed the original results."

"Final form?" McGruder turned away from the display to look at his aide. "It says here that she's only fourteen!"

"As of six weeks ago, yes, Sir," Maserati replied. "She's, ah, in the accelerated curriculum. If you'll notice here -" the lieutenant flipped a command into his computer through the neural linkage, opening a window in the colonel's display to show him the girl's academic transcript "- she's already made the guaranteed cut for admission to Emperor's New College next year under ENC's gifted students program."

"Jesus." McGruder gazed at the transcript for a moment, then looked back at the psych profile. "If she looks like this at fourteen … ."

"That's why I felt she should be brought to your attention, Sir," Maserati said. "I don't believe I've ever seen a stronger profile than this one, and, as you say, she's only fourteen."

"Too young," McGruder mused, and Maserati nodded. Scholastically, young DeVries was four standard years ahead of the vast majority of her age cohort. The test results had been forwarded to Colonel McGruder's office because the results of every Fourth Form student whose profile cracked the filters were sent here. But Imperial law positively prohibited actively recruiting anyone-however high their test results, however severe the need, and even with parental consent-before he or she turned eighteen … among other things.

"Besides," McGruder continued. "Look at the genetic profile." He shook his head. "Couple the Ujvбri gene group with this academic profile, and she's never going to come our way, anyhow. If she's already accepted for ENC, you know that's where she's going." He shook his head again, his expression sour. "It's too bad. We could really use her."

"I agree, Sir," the lieutenant said. "And I also agree that she's undoubtedly going to be under a lot of pressure to accept the ENC slot. But I think this may be one of the ones we want to flag to keep an eye on anyway. Especially when you consider this."

He sent another command over his headset, and his computer obediently opened yet another window.

"You've already noticed the genetic profile, Sir. But she gets that from her father's side of the family, and I thought you might find her maternal grandfather's rйsumй … interesting, as well," he said blandly.



Book One: The Empires Wasp | In Fury Born | * * *







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