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People were staring at her. Most were at least aiming for discreet, but a few threw subtlety out the window and stared openly, whispering amongst themselves when Syd walked into cafeteria. She made a face as she scanned the room for a seat. Several people waved her over when she glanced their way, but she either saw a hint of star strike in their eyes or recognized them from earlier in the week, before she made it clear that she didn’t want to talk about her singing career. As far as she was concerned, she was always a worthwhile topic of discussion, but it was getting to be distracting. She was an SPD cadet now, just like everyone in the academy, but it would be a lot harder to get anywhere if people treated her as ‘Sydney Drew, Pop Star,’ instead of just ‘Syd, new cadet who happens to be extremely talented.’

Her gaze settled on a small table by the windows, a cadet about her age sitting alone, head bent over a book. After a moment, he glanced up, their eyes meeting for a second before he gave her a quick smile and turned back to his book. Syd started walking towards him almost immediately, somehow thankful for that moment of impersonal eye contact.

“Can I sit here?”

He looked up, pure bafflement on his face before he apparently registered what she said. “Oh, yeah, sure!”

“Thanks.” She waited until he shuffled his things off to the side before she sat, extending a hand as soon as she set her tray down. “I’m Syd.”

He smiled, but didn’t make a move to take her hand. “Bridge.”

“Oh!” The exclamation slipped out before Syd could stop it, and she immediately regretted it as wariness and resignation slipped into Bridge’s eyes. Still, knowing first hand how much rumor mills normally got wrong, she asked, “Is it true?”

“Yes.”

Syd smiled and laid her hand on her tray. “That’s great! I thought I’d be the only one who was different.”

Bridge’s smile, when he saw her now-plastic hand, was brilliant.

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