‘Oh, come on, Dad.’ Sofia Reyes could not have looked more horrified by the sight of her father waiting for her outside Starbase Bravo’s school. ‘You had to show up in uniform, too?’
Captain Javier Reyes doubled down by swooping at his daughter for an over-the-top hug, invoking his paternal right to be a complete embarrassment. ‘That’s the enthusiasm for daddy-daughter time I was looking for, kiddo.’
He let Sofia extricate herself from him, then from the friends she was trying so hard to look cool in front of, the eternal priority for any fourteen year-old. ‘I miss the days nobody knew who you were.’
‘So sorry my professional successes are an inconvenience to you.’ Just to drive his point home, he ruffled her hair. ‘Perhaps I was stopping by because something terribly tragic has happened.’
‘Please. You wouldn’t have waited, you’d have pulled me out of math.’
‘You hate math, maybe I wouldn’t do you that favour.’ They fell into step heading down the corridor away from the school, lingering a little behind the heaviest throng of foot-traffic at letting out time.
‘Which means you don’t have a good reason, you’re just fussing.’ But then something occurred to her, and she frowned up at him. ‘You’re not leaving the station, are you? For the storm?’
‘Oh, no.’ He shook his head. ‘No, all the ships in the sector – across half the quadrant – are coming in. Starfleet, merchant marine, people being recruited to help out, go into the Paulson Nebula, start the evacuation. I’m needed right here.’
‘But people will be taking off.’ Sofia sighed. ‘Like Sean’s dad, he’s one of your shuttle pilots.’
‘Yeah, probably,’ Reyes admitted. ‘We need our pilots flying evacuation ships, or doing patrols through the nebula. Interference is so bad we can’t reliably pick up every distress call.’
‘And Tere’s moms are gonna have their hands full down in the docks. If all these ships coming through are gonna need repairs or maintenance or whatever,’ Sofia continued, thinking aloud. They were approaching a bit of a crowd waiting for one of the turbolifts, so she stopped, grabbing her father’s arm and turning to him. ‘Dad, how bad is this going to get here?’
Reyes glanced up and down the corridor. He knew how much his daughter could handle, but in truth he trusted her judgement much better than that of the average passer-by on Starbase Bravo. Deeming the coast clear enough, he sighed. ‘We’re safe here from the storm. It’s dangerous because of the way it affects the nebula, it won’t hit us. But I won’t lie, we’re going to have a lot of people running to safety here. People who’ve lost their homes, people who’ve lost family, people who don’t know what’s coming next. We’re going to have ships getting ready to run into that danger, and not all those crews will be Starfleet-trained – they’ll be worried, too.’
‘You’re saying stay clear of the Promenade for a bit.’
‘These are all good people who need help or are running into a fire so they can help,’ Reyes said firmly. ‘But you know people aren’t at their best when they’re scared. All I want is for you to be careful.’
‘Okay. Don’t go to the Pit and Pendulum,’ said Sofia Reyes, who had never been to a bar unaccompanied in her life anyway. ‘I get it, everyone’s going to be on edge, I’ll make sure you and Mom know where I’m going and when I’ll be back if I’m going out and all that.’
‘You’re right to think of your friends.’ Her father gave a small, proud smile. ‘You’ve been through this sort of thing a dozen times. A lot of them won’t be used to their parents being under this kind of pressure, or heading off into this kind of danger.’
‘Ugh.’ She made a face. ‘Don’t tell me I have to be responsible for them and stuff.’
‘Keeping our heads when things are a bit wild? It’s the family way.’
‘I thought embarrassing me was the family way?’
He laughed, and now the way home was a lot clearer, so they caught the next turbolift and he let his daughter complain about school. Particularly math.
In safe and secure sections, Starbase Bravo’s designers had made sure exterior windows saw a lot of foot traffic; the view was there to be enjoyed, after all. So when they swapped turbolifts a few dozen decks down, their route swept them alongside a staggering view of the buzzing activity swarming in the station’s vicinity, and the bulk of the station stretching out below.
Sofia paused there, peering down at the worker bees humming around the exterior of one of the modules. ‘What is that? The other medical facility?’
Reyes sucked his teeth. ‘We keep it on standby for emergencies. They’re double-checking the power grid to bring it online.’
‘That’s just as big as the main hospital section,’ Sofia said in a hushed voice. ‘You’re gonna need it?’
‘I hope not. But yeah, it’s all hands on deck.’ He lifted his eyes to the thick web of ships in proximity to the station, nearly double the normal traffic. Somewhere in the invisible distance, the Paulson Nebula roiled with storms and fear and chaos.
Immediately outside of school, Sofia had been too indignant and proud to be affectionate. Perhaps the magnitude of the situation was sinking in, or perhaps they were just far enough from prying eyes, but now she slid closer to her father, holding his arm as her voice dropped. ‘You think you can help everyone?’ She sounded her mere fourteen years for once, not puffed up with the usual shields of a teenager.
Javier Reyes had no such prideful compunctions against putting an arm around his daughter. ‘No,’ he admitted. ‘But we’re going to help everyone we can. Bravo’s going to be a safe haven, whether you’re running from trouble, pulling people out of it, or getting ready to run into it. We got this.’
He did not add the last thing on his mind, the simple truth of why he’d picked her up after school. Not because he thought she was in danger, and not because she needed the situation explaining to her personally, though Reyes was not in the habit of lying to his family.
But putting a brave face on for his daughter made it a hell of a lot easier to believe it himself. And if they were going to weather the storm ahead, he was going to have to believe it.