By Raja Thiagarajan
“—and then I have to cancel the subscriptions—What? I’m sorry, can you repeat that last.”
“I—” Amelia closed her eyes and silently counted out three seconds. It didn’t really help. “Are you telling me you can’t take a minute tomorrow to say goodbye to your granddaughter!?”
She watched her mother’s face, looking for the moment she received the message. As usual, her mother kept her face expressionless. “Believe me, I want to say goodbye to Rachel, but there’s no slack in the schedule.”
Amelia frowned. “Wasn’t there supposed to be some reschedulable personal communications time? What happened to that?”
After a couple of seconds, her mother sighed. “I told you, last month’s solar flare hit the temperate-soil shipment hard. Life Support/Nutrition decided they didn’t feel comfortable certifying it. The replacement will arrive tomorrow, and I need to be on standby in case there are any problems.” Her mother’s expression quirked in a way she hated. “I’m the senior troubleshooter, so it’s my job.” She paused and said, “Of course, if you could set a time when Rachel is available and awake, I can almost certainly build a five-minute break into the schedule.”
“I’ve heard that—!” Amelia stopped and lowered her voice. “I’ve heard you say that before. And you’ve admitted before that even a scheduled break doesn’t guarantee anything.”
After a couple seconds her mother jerked back a little. That must have been when the message arrived. “You know that isn’t fair. This is the most complicated project I’ve been a part of, so many moving pieces, and it’s one of the most complicated projects in human history.” Amelia rolled her eyes, but her mother kept talking, of course. “What I don’t understand is why I can’t say goodbye now. Isn’t Rachel right there?”
“Mother! It took me an hour to get Rachel settled! I am not going to wake her up right now!”
A couple seconds, then, “Come on, this could be our last chance—!”
“What did you say to me as a teenager? ‘Your lack of planning is not my emergency’? That goes both ways, mother! And what did you say to me when you joined this project? ‘Rachel is too young, she won’t remember any of this?’ Well now I’m saying the same to you: Rachel won’t remember you, whether or not you say goodbye to her!”
Amelia moved to break the connection. The last thing she saw was the look of hurt on her mother’s face.
Raja Thiagarajan is a software developer with deep interests in science fiction, computing, and progressive rock. He thinks cinema is overrated as an art form and television is underrated.
This was Chapter 1 of a four-part flash fiction series by Raja Thiagarajan. Find links the whole flash fiction cycle below:
- Chapter 1 – “Amelia”
- Chapter 2 – “Interlude”
- Chapter 3 – “A Plague Of…”
- Chapter 4 – “Awake” (TBP Dec 3, 2021)
You can read more of Raja’s flash fiction in Loop Garou, an SF e-zine. Click here to download EPUB and PDF files of Loop Garou 6.
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