Matthew McGrogan is a history graduate from Manchester. He mostly writes in the sci-fi genre, and is currently working on a sci-fi thriller novel, Sentinel. When he isn’t writing, he teaches chess at local schools and plays at his local club.
An extract from the novel Sentinel
Ed woke to the sound of birds. It was still dark outside; frost lined the edges of the window beside his bed. He heard rain, soft against the flat roof of the house. It dripped down through the branches of the tree outside, and made Ed all the more reluctant to get out of bed. How different it would be to wake up in the city. The sound of the factories had been inescapable the last time he had visited the Institute.
A passing train disturbed the birds and brought Ed round fully. He became aware of his father’s muffled voice. He couldn’t usually hear anything through the door. He kicked off the duvet and sat up, and as he did so, the wall in front of him came to life.
‘Good Morning, Edrodin. You have one reminder set for today: Speech. Importance: Urgent. Location: The Institute.’
The voice was far too enthusiastic and to-the-point at this time in the morning to belong to a human — and today especially Ed had no patience for it. He still wasn’t quite sure how to interact with the system his dad had installed. It didn’t seem to respond to what Ed said. He had tried several times to make it say “Dad” instead of “Stagent”, but it never worked. The new technology at the Institute was far more impressive. Or so Ed hoped, as even close family hadn’t been made aware of the specifics of the announcement. It had to be more impressive than this, though. Before he had time to clear the sleep from his eyes, the voice continued.
‘Stagent, Kenzo, and Athena are present in the kitchen. Would you like me to notify them that you are awake?’
‘No, no,’ Ed said, then hesitated a moment. ‘Thanks,’ he added. What were they doing here this morning? They had been preparing for today for months. Ed also wondered why Matige wasn’t there — he was the head technician on all of his father’s projects. If they were having a last minute meeting before the speech it would make sense to have all of them there. He was disappointed, really. Matige was the one who Ed always tried to impress the most on the few occasions his father showed him around the workshops.
Ed walked over to the wardrobe and picked out his smart clothes. The jacket felt loose around his shoulders, and the shoes dug into his heels, but Ed thought he looked respectable. He needed to make a good impression today. He sighed, took a deep breath, and walked over to the door. It slid open without a sound, and the once muffled voices became clear.
‘Oh it was nothing, Ken. We sorted it out last night, once you’d left. It’s hardly the biggest argument the three of us have ever had, is it?’ Dad sounds stressed, Ed thought. He hovered on the landing, unsure as to why he was trying to be quiet. His dad hadn’t mentioned any argument last night.
‘No, it’s not, but it does sound serious,’ Athena said. She sounded calm, as always.
‘Serious enough to postpone the announcement?’ said his dad.
‘I’m not saying we should postpone it, you know that,’ Kenzo said. Ed heard him put down a mug with some force on the table before he continued. ‘I’m just saying we should make sure we’re all on the same page.’
‘Matige is a control freak. We’ve known that for years. He has to learn to compromise.’ His dad paused. ‘-and he has to learn that my word is final.’
‘And you think he’s going to do that after yesterday?’
‘He said as much. Stop worrying about him, anyway. He wants it as much as we do,’ his dad said, regaining his usual authority. ‘Besides, we should be worrying about convincing the people, not each other.’
‘Fine. We should still head over early, though. He’ll be there by now. It’ll set both of our minds at ease,’ said Kenzo.
‘Fine, we’ll get going.’
Chairs scraped against the floor. It was hardly a celebratory atmosphere, Ed thought. He was just about to go downstairs and say farewell to his dad when Athena spoke.
‘What about Ed?’
‘Take him with you in a few hours.’ Ed’s father sighed. ‘Kenzo’s right, we’d better go and talk to Matige before this all gets started.’
Ed had known something would come up to prevent him from being involved properly today. He was ready, his dad just didn’t believe it yet. Ed heard the front door open.
‘Athena,’ his dad began. There was a moment of silence. ‘Give this to Ed when he wakes up. I’d rather him have it than me, today.’ Ed heard metal clink as his Dad put something down, and then the house shook as the door shut.
Ed waited on the landing for what he thought was a couple of minutes, letting the conversation sink in. It had done nothing to settle the nerves that had been rising in his stomach for weeks. He tried to look inconspicuous as he walked downstairs.
‘Morning, Ed,’ Athena said.
‘Your dad has made you breakfast.’ There was a plate on the table. Ed wasn’t looking at that, though. He was looking at his mother’s locket. Surely that wasn’t what his dad wanted to give to him.
‘Yeah, right,’ he mumbled, and sat down.
‘Ed,’ Athena began. Ed felt his cheeks go red as she looked at him. ‘Did you… hear what we were talking about before?’ Ed couldn’t match her unfaltering gaze.
‘Yeah,’ he said. He couldn’t lie to her. ‘Sorry — I just woke up and — what’s going on?’
‘My son is just a worrier, Ed. It’ll be fine, nothing for you to worry about.’
Ed knew when he was being left out. He walked over to the locket and picked it up, turning it over in his hand and resisting the urge to open it. ‘What’s this here for?’
‘Your dad wanted you to have it.’
‘Why?’ He wanted to say he’d never known his father to go anywhere without it, but he didn’t. It made him even more nervous.
‘I don’t know,’ she said. She stood up, and continued. ‘Come on, eat your breakfast. We don’t want to be late.’
End of extract.
Matthew can be reached at Matthewmcgrogan1@gmail.com