Ree stood in the bunk she’d shared with her fellow cadets for what she knew would be the last time. Her bag was packed with the few material possessions she had after four years at the Academy - a few books, one in Spanish, a hairbrush, her meagre selection of street clothes. Her favourite pair of jeans. A few notes passed in class, her journal, filled with useless doodles and absentminded scribbles of her name, over and over: Rheanna Carlyn Tripp. Rheanna Carlyn Tripp. A photograph of her and her mom and older brother, laughing and eating ice creams on Mars on the trip they’d taken before she’d turned eighteen, just before Ree had left for the Academy, before she’d taken that final step toward becoming a grown-up. Becoming a Starship Ranger.
Her mom had been reluctantly supportive of her decision to enlist in the G.L.E.E. It hadn’t been a decision so much as something she’d always known she had to do, something that had always been a part of her, this desire to see the stars, to reach out and touch them.
To be her father’s daughter.
She held the burnished metal cross in her hand, the grasping G.L.E.E. symbol cletched tight around the world in the centre. Her fingertips traced the letters of his name engraved on the back. Connor Tripp, Rear Admiral. A medal of valour with honours, awarded post-humously, to a dry-cheeked widow with a small son by her side and a baby on the way. A poor substitute for a husband, or a father. But still, it was something.
Ree tucked the medal into the pocket of her dress uniform and straightened, smoothing down the front of her jacket. She looked at herself in the mirror. Everyone said that she took after her mother, all that red hair and a bit of a temper, but her eyes - she could see the conflict of pride and pain in her mother’s face when she looked into Ree’s eyes, and then was enough to tell her that they were her father’s.
She turned toward the door. It was time to go. Time to walk across that stage and let Uncle Up pin those pips on her, smile at her mom and Ty in the audience, send a salute toward tía Taz, and finally become what she was always meant to be.
She knew her dad would be watching somewhere in the stars.
“My name is Ree Tripp, and I’m a Starship Ranger.”
She tested the words aloud. They sounded good.