Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

She slowly places her hand on his shoulder, then digs her thumb into the back of it where the Patrolman can’t see. One last attempt to get her son to calm down. He shifts uncomfortably, but continues to glower at the uniformed man they used to call a friend.
“Jerome, you have to understand. The statutes are clear: any deliberate noise above eighty decibels after twenty o’clock in a residential area is prohibited. Out of respect for your mother I gave the first incident a discretionary pass, but this time you were witnessed by a Civil Order Device.”
“CODs don’t scare me.”
Miriam sighs, then uses her grip to spin Jerome about to face her.
“Whether you’re scared of a Civil Order Drone or not is irrelevant. You’ve been formally recorded while breaking the Public Safety Statutes. I can’t afford to pay another fine, and I’m sure you’ve already spent your UBen this quarter.”
Finally she sees realisation get through the anger.
“You’re going to be serving for a while.” She looks up. “How long will it be, Patrolman Smythe?”
Patrolman Derek Smythe brings his forearm close to his face so he can read the display on his datacuff accurately. Only a few more months before he can afford new glasses.
“The discretionary pass had been noted, so this breach has been escalated to ‘flagrant’, which carries a £500 tariff.”
He taps the lad on the shoulder, waits for him to turn round, then reads the formal indictment.
“Jerome Tarley, you have been found breaking the PSS for the second time in a month. As you rejected the generous pass awarded by a Civil Order Patrolman, the charge is five hundred sterling, payable either as an immediate whole-tariff debit or by fifty hours work in a Community Support Hub.”
“He’ll take the fifty hours.”
Jerome twitches. Derek taps the relevant choice and waits for the update.
“You’ll report to Durrington Community Support Hub at seven o’clock tomorrow. Working periods are four, six, eight, or ten hours. Please notify the Supervisor there of your intended work period as soon as you arrive. They will load the charge and tracking app to your portable device of choice. Thank you for your diligence in making reparations for your disorder.”
With that, Derek nods to Miriam, spins on his heel and walks off down the hallway. Saving this call until last means he’s only two floors from home.
Jerome balls his hands into fists. Miriam slaps his head before he opens his mouth and digs himself a deeper hole. He spins round and glares at her. She leans in so she’s nose to nose with him.
“What? What exactly are you going to do, stupid son? I told you to save your UBen until the end of each quarter so you can cope with karma like this, then spend what’s left. But you’re special, aren’t you? Never been caught, always got mummy to cover your arse. Guess what, Jerome? Saving your stupid arse has cost mummy her savings. From now on, there’s nothing except what we bring in.”
He blinks.
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying get used to your time at the support hub, because I’m going to need you to do a day there each week from now on. You want to eat regularly? You have to help pay for our food.”
Jerome rocks back like she hit him. She keeps the angry expression on her face. Can’t be helped. He’s got to get a grip on the realities of living, or he’s going to get crushed.