Excerpt from “Sovereignty”

“I was coming back from a ceremony with your Mom. A new ship commission, I think. Something with a good buffet and lots of brass. Summer. I was wearing the good uniform and she looked stunning. Anyway, we got off the airvan and we were heading for the gate. And I see this kid there, twelve, thirteen maybe and he’s squatting over some smoke. Burning something in the front yard. So I sent your mother up and I went over to take a look. Worried he’s gonna set the alarms off or something. So I go over there and there’s young little Calvin Nash, and he’s made a circle of rocks in a clear patch and he’s holding a bottle of medicinal alcohol in one hand. And there’s a burning rat trap in the middle of the rocks, you know, the old cage ones people used to use before robots started doing all the housework. So I thought that maybe he’s sterilising it or something, but then I looked closer and the trap’s still got the rat in it. He’d caught it roaming around their kitchen and instead of putting it out for the Pest Control people, he took it outside, doused it with alcohol and barbecued it alive. Still twitching. I remember he just crouched there watching it burn and when it went out he poured some more alcohol and lit it up again. Poor thing stank up the place in open air. I remember I said to him, I asked him why he’d done it. Didn’t he know about Pest Control? You know what he told me? He stands up and he looks me in the eye and he says, I wanted to make sure the job’s done.

Swallow your bite, honey.”

— “Mila’s Dad”, SOVEREIGNTY (my next novel)

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