When she went up to get her tenth doppio the barista started to get suspicious. “Really hitting it pretty hard tonight, aren’t you, Iris?”

Iris could barely keep from grinding her teeth together. She shrugged, languidly. “Got a big paper due tomorrow.”

“Oh, an all-nighter?” The barista frowned sympathetically. “What’s your paper about?”

“Tower distribution in a limited field with no overlapping frequencies. I’ve got the basic solution down, but writing it out’s giving me a pain.”

The barista laughed. “Serves me right for asking, I suppose. I have no idea what you just said — gabble babble gleep glorp, that’s what I heard.” The machine beeped and spat out the shots. “That’s another buck fifty.”

Iris slapped down a twenty. “Run a tab for me, will you?” Boom, bam, down went the shots while the barista was putting the twenty away. Her stomach was in knots, but she kept them down. By the time she’d crossed the store to her laptop they’d settled down next to their brothers and sisters, a large, heavy weight.

I’m not sorry, said her laptop. I did what I had to do. None of you should feel sorry for me. Halfway there, she thought.