Children of Paradise

Lieutenant Chun shook his head, looked at the graffiti, then at the kid. The boy’s jaw was set, like he was biting down hard, and his eyes were wide. He flinched, just a little, as the Lieutenant crossed his arms.

‘How old are you, son?’

‘F— nearly fifteen, sir.’

Hell, thought the Lieutenant.

‘Do you realise that you’ve committed a very serious offence here? Stealing paint is bad enough, and so is vandalism, but this sort of filth could get you banished to the surface – and I don’t know what you’ve been told about life as a scavenger, but take it from me that it’s harsh. Pretty short, too, mostly.’

The kid’s jaw was trembling. He let out a whine. Lieutenant Chun slapped the top of his head, hard.

‘You bloody idiot! What would your mother say? Are you so desperate to leave a bloody great hole in the lives of your family? Well?’

‘No – I just… I’m… I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t think – I’m sorry!’

The boy was crying, now – great big ugly sobs. The Lieutenant grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled the kid’s head up, so their gazes met.

‘“The Patrons are no gods”,’ he quoted. ‘Who told you to write this?’

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