Okay, I’ve done lots of fantasy; how about some science fiction this time?
Amelia Hand stared at the screen of her phone, holding it in her right hand as she reached for the lock of her room with the other. “You can’t be serious,” she said, pressing her palm to the sensor.
“I’m afraid we are, Amy.”
The door swung open, but Amelia stood where she was as she shouted, “Mother, I have told you a hundred times, don’t call me Amy! Nobody calls me Amy any more! My name is Amelia. You gave it to me – why won’t you use it?”
“Maybe my tastes have changed since you were born, Amelia. One gets into habits, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Amelia said. She looked up from the screen at her open door and stepped through, into the familiar clutter of her tiny room.
She knew very well that one gets into habits. Like the habit of not worrying about money. Like the habit of relying on her parents. Like the habit of taking her own sweet time about her education.
Except now it appeared all those habits were about to be broken.
“You’re really cutting me off?” she said, sitting down suddenly on her bed.
“We have to, honey. Your father needs every mu we can get our hands on. You know how expensive medical care is!”
“It’s not the medical care that’s so expensive, Mother, it’s the resource tax.”
“Well, in your father’s case it comes to the same thing, doesn’t it? Anyway, darling, the point is, we simply can’t pay your way any more. You’ve had six years of grad school at our expense, and I’m afraid that if you want to finish your degree you’ll just have to do it on your own.”
“But Mother, I have everything but my thesis done!”
“Amelia, you’ve been ‘All But Dissertation’ for two years now. Just when were you planning to actually do your dissertation?”
“I’ve been researching it,” Amelia said defensively. “I’ve got dozens of gigs of background information!”
“Then go ahead and do it, honey, before your money runs out.”
“I can’t,” Amelia wailed. “I’m not ready!”
“Then either get ready, Amy, or do without your doctorate.”
“Mom, I can’t do without a doctorate! I can’t get a license without a doctorate, you know that, and without an export license how am I supposed to make any money?”
“I see plenty of unlicensed journalists on the net, honey; they must be making a living somehow.”
“But Mother, I want to have kids someday! I want life extension! I can’t earn enough for that without an export license. I probably can’t even afford to get my nose fixed!”
“There’s nothing wrong with your nose.”
“It’s a blob, Mother. It’s a lump. It’s ugly.”
“It’s a nose. It’s your father’s nose.”
“It’s his genes, but it’s my nose, and I intend to get it fixed eventually. But that’s nothing compared to kids or life extension, and I can’t afford those without a license!”
“Your father wants an extension contract too, Amy, and he needs it a lot sooner than you will, and that’s why we need our money now. You’ll have plenty of time to earn yours, but if Julian doesn’t get that contract now, while he’s still young enough to get decent terms, he’s not going to be around in another forty years. I don’t think either of us wants that. Not to mention we want to start saving for my extension!”
“He couldn’t wait just a little longer?”
“Amy,” her mother said. “Amelia. Seriously, now – would just a little longer make any difference? Have you actually started your thesis?”
Amelia glanced unhappily at the big and distressingly blank screen standing open on her desk.
“Well, sort of,” she said.
“Then let me make you a deal – one last concession, since you are our only daughter, and I really would like to see grandchildren someday. I am not going to send you any more credit, but I will countersign one more loan, enough to get you through another month or two. That will give you time to find a place, get started – or if you really do think you can get your thesis done, then go ahead and do it quickly. It’s up to you. But I warn you, this is the last you get from us until we have both our extension contracts signed and paid for, resource tax and all.”
Amelia started to argue, then stopped in mid-breath and thought better of it.
“All right,” she said. “Thank you, Mother. I’ll check the aid sites this afternoon and see what’s available. And I will get that thesis down on disk, you just wait and see!”
“I hope you do, darling. I really do. And I’ll let you get right to it. Do let us know when you decide what you’re doing, won’t you?”
“Of course, Mother.”
“Then I’ll say goodbye. Take care.”
“Goodbye, Mother.” Amelia cut the connection, then flung the phone at the armchair against the opposite wall.