Everything about him was exactly what she hated. She couldn’t pinpoint one exact thing.
But it had a lot to do with first impressions.
They were assigned together, on the first day of Cadet Academy, to research Gwenyth’s Pigs in the field. The animals were horribly noxious, and ventilation helmets were needed to even get close enough for the required pictures.
Connor, in no way ignorant of the stench, purposefully irritated the pig-like plant by spraying it with butane he produced from who knows where.
The pistils, formed in a shape resembling a pig’s nose, framed by petals in the shape of pig’s ears, gave a violent shake. The plant’s liquid pollen, responsible for the terrifying odor, flew off in all directions. It was an evolutionary technique used to ward off the Gwen Pig-eating Hoffulus, which salivated something similar to the archaic lighter fluid.
Connor had jumped away to avoid the worst of it, but Maribelle, reaction time much too slow, was showered with a smell that would make anyone faint dead away. Connor didn’t bother hiding his laughter, and it was then that Maribelle realized her nemesis.
And it didn’t stop there. She was far from the only person he terrorized.
Everyone who came into contact with Connor Henway came away with either shock, disgust, frustration, or all three. The Professors have long since assigned him to special Guidance lessons, and yet he refused to cooperate and become a decent person. From leaving bugs in her friend Hannah’s pressure suit to poising the Academy cafeteria kitchen pots with Fastus, giving everyone but himself a schoolwide case of the runs, he was a horror upon the entire Academy. (A disaster, for all intents and purposes. No campus had that many restrooms. Unsurprisingly, he took that day off for a home visit.)
He caused chaos and reigned terror since the first day of Academy. Behavior expected from a child, displayed in especially vicious ways.
The fear he implanted in the student body and the faculty was so deep-set that even the stern and expressionless Physics Professor paused mid-roll call, on a fateful day months later. And, in a state of visible shock, he announced without pretense; “Connor Henway is no longer a part of this school.”
Maribelle had been stricken, as if physically. Sitting in the rows of the desks - indeed, Connor’s seat, in the back corner of the room, so he could stop obstructing people’s sight, was deserted. Which had never happened before, to her previous exasperation. Which was happening now, to her utter amazement.
He never came back. Rumors were passed of simple suspendment - and then, expulsion. No one was expelled from a Career. At Sixteen, Careers were assigned to kids according to personality and skill; no one’s ever switched Careers, or failed one. But Connor was the first. It suited him, she thought. The first failure.
And she was happy to continue like that, until he came back.
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