She first got sent to Fort Benning for basic, then after 10 weeks they moved her to Fort Hill, then finally to Maryland to begin the Cryptologic Intelligence program she'd been promised. Numbers, patterns, and data make sense to her. They always have. She'd sit in her room for many hours making codes for her parents and brothers to decrypt. When she was twelve, she came up with a clever puzzle game based on solving primes, and even had an article written about her in a monthly mathematics magazine.
Then everything changed. Her parents divorced, she started hanging with rough crowds, then by 10th grade, she was a shell of her former self. She didn't have hope or even know what it looked like. Then, just after she'd turned seventeen, and summer break was about to begin, she met a man in the school's gymnasium who changed her life. He was neatly dressed, uniformed and sitting behind a folding table arranged with brochures and metal pins. "How are you?" he said. She tried to hurry by, and pretend not to hear, but they locked eyes. "You look smart. You're very smart, aren't you."
In that moment, she felt something move through her, like nostalgia but more in the here and the now. She remembered who she really was. That she had value. And that yes, she was smart. Very! So they talked.