I could kill Ender Wiggin so easily right now, Laura thought as she looked down at the slumbering child. No one would notice if she slipped a pillow over his head. It would be his own fault for taking a nap in the middle of the day. Or what they say is day anyway. Laura was convinced it was based on the American time zone. They were all arrogant buggers after all. Her fingers twitched as condescension lanced through her and she almost threw her hands around Ender's neck right there and then. Good thing she had such restraint, she mused, as she stared down at the flickering eyelids hiding a mind locked in REM sleep.

But this Ender Wiggin, this snot-nosed bugger was testing every restraint she had. He'd been here three years and already acted like he frigging owned the place. It didn't help that he was those scum teachers favourite too. She'd been here seven and a half years now. Was fourteen in two weeks. She knew what the others whispered about her, knew they all wondered when she'd finally be iced. Because it was so bleeding obvious that none of the teachers appreciated her genius and they were going to earth side her.

She'd been the star pupil at first. Excelled in classes to the point where it was necessary to move her up if they didn't want her intelligence to be smothered. Her whole launch group had adored her; she'd cultivated friendships with them all, reached out even to the kid everyone else hated so damn much. He was a fucking Iraqi after all. But she hadn't cared. No, instead she'd doubled her efforts, drawing him into conversation and slowly helping him to create his own niche within the group. They'd been a veritable family. At two years she'd been placed in Manticore Army, grown with them, and fledged into the Raven wings her name boasted. She'd held on to the ties with her old launchy group, laughing with them in the games room, though her fellow army men had frowned when they saw her fraternising with the enemy. At four years she'd been rewarded for her hard work, gaining the place of Toon Leader and reaping the benefits that came with it. She'd made sure to cement her leadership of the small group of boys, protecting them and training them hard, then caring for the bruises they gained during battles.

And then she heard the whispers. Ender Wiggin, they speculated, was something beyond human. A dwarf with intellect surpassing that of his launchy group easily. The smarter kids whispered to each other about his clever handling of his group, his sly gaining of their respect and how he'd brought the warring factions together.

Laura had initially been intrigued. She'd started searching for him in the lunch room, eager to catch a glimpse of this brilliant child. He reminded her of herself, she bragged in her mind. She'd been so pleased, so excited, believing that there was finally someone here who she could truly match her intelligence to.

Then the teachers had stopped noticing her. She realised it when she handed in a thesis on human psychology. The work had been substandard and she knew it. Had agonised over the fact that she hadn't had the time to complete it properly before the lights had turned off.

She needn't have bothered to hand it in at all. Her lip curled as she remembered the teacher merely handing it back to her, full marks awarded with no notes on improvement.

He hadn't even read it.

Fury had coiled inside her. So many years of hard work and extensive studying had been trivialised in one single moment.

She'd had to dig her nails into her palms to stop herself from screaming and digging those same nails into his eyeballs until she scraped the brain behind.

For weeks after that she'd been handing in essays with only a page of work. One time she'd written an entire three pages in Sanskrit about the life of a camel. Another she'd made sure to botch every single maths question by the difference of the sum of all the numbers used.

Every time they got handed back to her with full marks. Not one comment. Not one glance from the teacher.

She'd been forgotten. They were making their true army and she'd been left out. Long ago she'd realised that the teachers weren't really working to make them all into the commanders and captains of fighter ships or battalions at all. They focused on the few perfect students, and discarded them quickly when they made a debilitating mistake. She'd been so careful in grooming herself into leader quality.

And all of it had been useless.

It wasn't long before she realised who they'd realigned themselves towards. Ender Wiggin had been pushed in ways that she'd never been pushed. Thrust into leadership without a moment's breath, given a team of loser-scum and greenies, heck one of them was so small he looked like a toddler amongst giants when stood with his own army. Dragon Army.

She hated them. Hated them all.

There were others too. Petra Arkanian. Dink Meeker. They were being pushed into positions where they could truly be tested. And time after time they were flying bugger colours past every single test.

And she'd been left, wallowing in the mire of Manticore Army; never traded or promoted.

She hated them. One day they'd need her and she wouldn't even piss on their burning fat heads. Then they'd be sorry. Then they'd beg her for forgiveness and finally realise her brilliance.

And she'd leave them all snivelling in the dirt.

But right now, here she stood, ignored talent staring down at the defenceless prodigy and oh how easy it would be to reach down and snap that little neck.

She stared down at him, soft snores issuing from the gently parted lips as he ignorantly slept. The temptation was so strong that she shook with the force of it, fingers curling in on themselves as she imagined the wet crack beneath her palms.

But no. No. She'd let him live, this bugger-scum commander. She'd let him live because right now she was better than him. Because he'd already killed, even if he didn't know it. She'd seen the limp carcass of Bonso Madrid as he was hurried from the bathroom.

Even if no one ever acknowledged it, she was better than him.

She snorted quietly, bringing one hand up to touch one fingertip to the small throat, then whirled round, striding swiftly from the room.

Ender Wiggin lay very still in the sheets of his bunk, having dropped the pretence that had evidently so fooled her. He blinked blank eyes open, staring at the ceiling above him, contemplating silently in the dark room. The girl (Laura Blackwing, Bean had told him) had been staring at him for a long time. So long that he knew she must have been naked to remain undetected. Clinically cold he dismissed the threat that had been steadily growing; the threat that she had held. She was weak compared to Bonso, hadn't even dared to go through with her desire.

But something in him whispered doubt, murmured the picture of staring lifeless eyes and hair matted with water and blood.

As there was the soft scuff of a slip of paper sliding beneath the door, Ender Wiggin wondered exactly who had won what.


Artistic License used (liberally). As it's been YONKS since I read this book! Constructive criticism is always appreciated!