All Ro needed was his signature.
She leaned back against the form-fitting surface of the chair and chewed her lower lip. Once her father signed, she'd be free. With a quick gesture, she launched the heads-up display on her micro and called up the application again. The micro's holographic interface splashed welcome color across the standard-issue tan furniture of their quarters, softening the glare off burnished metal walls.
After a final error-check, Ro signed and locked the document before collapsing the display. She tugged her fingers through her hair. The rest was up to him.
The door to his room opened and she jerked upright, grabbing her micro as it tumbled off her lap. Her father strode into the common room and scowled when he saw her.
"I put on a fresh pot of coffee," Ro said.
Unshaven and wearing the same rumpled coverall he'd had on for days, he brushed past her to pour himself a cup.
Ro studied the set of his shoulders and waited until he finished drinking. "I pushed the consent form to your micro."
He slammed the empty cup on the counter. "You need to stop wasting my time."
"Will you just look at it?"
"I've already told you. It's impossible," he said, turning away and dropping his cup in the sink.
She clenched her hands into tight fists and stood, looking for someone or something to hit, but her only targets were the metal door to their compartment and her father. Both were equally unyielding.
"It won't cost you anything," she said, forcing her hands to relax and her voice to stay level.
His ice-cold green eyes stared through her. "Maldonados don't accept charity."
"It's not charity. It's a chance at a scholarship. A merit scholarship." Ro hated herself for pleading.
"I don't have the funds to send you and I won't be beholden to the Commonwealth." The conversation ended as most of them did--with her father walking away.
Her hands shook and she slammed them on the galley's counter. "Then cut me loose. I'll figure it out on my own."
He turned at the door to the bedroom he had claimed as his workshop and narrowed his eyes. "No."
The blood pounded in her ears. He disappeared inside. She swore at the closed door and stormed out of their quarters.
Nothing had changed.
It was the same when he'd moved them to Daedalus Station three years ago, only telling her he'd voided his previous contract moments before dragging her on the transport. Two years before that, he cut off her access to the Hub's Virtual School, insisting she had everything she needed and refusing to “waste” any more money on it. He'd yanked her from anything she had gotten comfortable with over the course of too many years and too many postings to count. Ro squeezed her eyes shut on frustrated tears, cursing herself for hoping this time would be different.
She dried her face, pulled out her micro, and lodged another formal request with Commander Mendez. Her soft boots muffled the pounding of her feet as she stomped down the corridor. At the first airlock, she slammed her hand against the ident plate. The red light blinked, shifted to amber, and settled back on red, mocking her. "Piece of shit design," she muttered as she lightened her pressure and let her whole hand rest on the metal until it deigned to register her metrics. She'd built better ones as a child out of the junk her father discarded from his workshop.
She counted to three, waiting for the station's tired AI to parse her request and decide to give her access. The round door irised in silence. Daedalus didn't even bother to acknowledge her. Wiggling her middle finger at the recessed ocular, she stepped through the opening into the central nexus and her appointment with Commander Mendez.
"And then what?" Her shoulders slumping, she paused at the door that led to the command section and glared at another one of Daedalus' blinking red “eyes.” "No, I'm not talking to you, dumb-ass." Once again the AI didn't answer. A third door dilated. Ro jumped back as one of the station's doctors stepped through with her two sons.
Ro turned to the observation port, staring out at the craggy surface of the asteroid the station called home. Sunlight glared off the pitted surface of the derelict transport