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Read the first chapter of Judge Dredd: Bitter Earth for free!

The latest Judge Dredd prose novella is now available to buy in print, ebook, and on Kindle devices – and you can read the first chapter, for free, now!

Judge Dredd – Year Three: Bitter Earth by Laurel Sills is the latest in the Judge Dredd: Year Three novella series, following Judge Dredd as he undertakes his third year on the mean streets of Mega-City One.

It is now 2082 and flying out to the Cursed Earth to babysit Tek-Div nerds working on soil reclamation is hardly Judge Joe Dredd’s idea of useful work, but everyone has to do their bit.

But an explosion goes off when Dredd and his fellow Judges arrive, and then people start disappearing, and it turns out he’s got work to do after all…





Dredd clenched and unclenched his fists, shifting against the safety harness holding him in his seat as the Landraider armoured tank grated along the dirt road, leaving MC-1 far behind, now a smudge on the distant horizon.

Soon the Cursed Earth stretched out in an endless haze in all directions, the sheer space of it all doing strange things to his mind. It wasn’t his first—or second—time out here, but it didn’t seem to get easier.

Where were the towering blocks, the teeming traffic, the looping pedways? And that sky! A muted light seeped through the floating rock field that rolled lazily above them, the reason they were in a tank and not an H-Wagon. The sky was supposed to be viewed in small glimpses between the pillars of human invention. It wasn’t supposed to stretch, limitless, exposing all and everything beneath it to any casual glance. The only cover out here was the Landraider itself; no backup maze of backstreets and buildings. He itched to order the outer shields down and cover the wide viewing hatches, but as the youngest Judge on the mission, he kept quiet.

“Don’t like the look of those rocks,” said Judge Deng, strapped to the opposite wall, next to Judge Smee. He pursed his lips.

“There have been no recorded instances of a Judge being killed by a stone falling from a Death Belt,” Judge Smee said, breaking her silence for the first time since they had deployed.

Deng looked a little shocked she had spoken. “How do you know that?” he asked. “There was nothing about that in the mission notes.”

She frowned and looked at him like it was a stupid question. “I read everything the archive had on the Cursed Earth for this mission, didn’t you?”

Deng didn’t answer, and instead went back to scanning the sky through the viewing hatch. Smee leant back in her chair, and resumed staring into space.

Dredd was familiar with Judge Deng, who’d come up in the Academy in the same year as him, but he hadn’t crossed paths with Judge Smee, who’d trained with the other psi-cadets. Judge Deng was clenching his jaw, maybe as displeased as Dredd was that he’d drawn the short straw and been assigned to a babysitting operation, but Smee didn’t seem similarly afflicted. She actually looked relaxed; relieved, almost.

Wearing her straight dark hair cropped just below her ears, she looked as though she had some East Asian heritage. Sometimes, Dredd looked at a person and found himself wondering what it was like for your genes to be a mystery to you. Being a clone of the Father of Justice, he knew exactly where he came from, and whose shoes he needed to fill. He liked the certainty of it, but knew from hard experience that genes meant nothing when it came to personality. His disgraced twin brother Rico was a case in point.

Being a clone of the big guy hadn’t stopped him from being assigned to this backwater mission either. When Chief Judge Goodman had summoned Dredd to his office to tell him he’d been temporarily reassigned to the Cursed Earth, Dredd had to grind his teeth to stop an insubordinate protest escaping.

Goodman must have noticed, as he’d felt the need to explain himself, which was out of character.

“Just until the heat from the Carver killings case cools off,” he’d said, pacing behind his desk. “And lest we forget, there’s still folks in the SJS gunning for you after the unpleasantness with the Santon family.”

Goodman sighed and rested his hands on the back of his chair. “Frankly, son, I just need you out of the picture for a few months.” He smiled reassuringly. “Nice, quiet, boring job out of the city.”

Dredd had ground his teeth some more and kept his objections to himself. The way to keep the heat off would be to take down more criminals and clean up the streets, not slink off to put his feet up for a few months. Reaching up to his harness, he pulled the release and pushed himself out of the seat, grabbing onto a handhold that hung from the ceiling to steady himself. “Going to check on the prisoners,” he said, before making his way to the driving deck.

“Don’t you mean ‘volunteers’?” Smee corrected as he left.

He grunted in response and curled his lip. These were perps grabbing hold of a good deal—too good, in Dredd’s opinion. Medical experimentation in return for a shortened sentence. Injecting a prisoner with drugs didn’t change what they’d done or what they were capable of. He’d assumed the offer would be reserved for low-risk offences, but after scanning the crimes of the dirtbags they had loaded into the tank holding cubes that morning, he was dismayed to see a string of high-violence offences stacked up beside every name.

Dredd nodded to the tank driver as he entered the driver’s compartment. Garrison, a grizzled old Judge with a bitter twist to his mouth, was serving out his twilight years as a glorified chauffeur.

“Hear anything from below?” Dredd asked, standing over the hatch that led to the holding cubes.

“Not a whisper. Hold on,” Garrison pulled down a lever, and the whole tank shook as they began to go up a steep incline. Dredd planted his legs and braced himself against the back wall.

“Not the perps below I’d be worrying about if I were you, but the mutie in the back.” He shook his head.
Dredd frowned at the older Judge’s statement.

“No point lying out loud, son; if you’re thinking it, then so are they. Those things can get straight into your head. No secrets around Psycho Div, I’ll tell you that for nothing.”

“I’m just going to check the volunteers,” Dredd said, itching to escape the conversation.

Garrison let out a bark of laughter. “More like ‘lab rats.’ Tell you what, they sure are going through ’em. Twenty of ’em in this transport. Used to trickle through, no more than five or so every few months. But now—” he whistled.

“Must be more like a hundred of ’em.

Dredd reached down to open the hatch.

“—and I’ll tell you something else. I haven’t driven any ‘volunteers’ back to a life of freedom. Makes you wonder where all of them are getting to.”

Dredd’s boots clanged against the metal steps as he descended into the vibrating darkness, hitting the lights on the way down. Eyes blinked at him through the bars of the travel cubes lining the far wall. One of them started barking and a few of the others took up the game, some hitting the bars and others laughing. All seemed as it should be.

“Judge,” a big perp called from the cube closest to the bottom of the stairs; he hadn’t been one of the ones barking. “I hear that right? We being sent to die out here?”

Drokk. He must have heard what the Judge had said as he opened the hatch. Ignoring him, Dredd began to walk slowly past the cubes, checking none of them were hiding any contraband or weapons.

“That wasn’t part of the deal!” the perp called as he walked away. “Safe, they said it was. Just some last-round drug tests and then we can go live our lives free again.”

Dredd turned to look at him properly. He was older than Dredd, maybe in his thirties, with a cloud of ugly bleached-blond hair, the roots growing dark and long now, and gang tattoos covering his neck and forehead. They marked him for a high-up in the BoJo gang. It had been taken down recently, exposing their seemingly respectable leader for the crooked self-serving scumbag he really was. They’d made mega creds running so called ‘charitable’ MC-1 projects, enslaving the cits they were supposed to be sheltering from vagrancy to work in their factories. Dredd had seen the reports. A full block had been turned into glitzy condos for BoJo’s enforcers, living it up on the suffering of everyday civs. A guy used to that sort of high life wouldn’t stay straight long outside of a cube, whatever it was he’d signed to say otherwise.

“Keep your mouth shut,” Dredd said, his hand moving to his Lawgiver.

“Typical Judge. Let the crazies bark as much as they want, but hear one word of the truth—”

“You want to make the rest of this journey conscious?” Dredd asked, setting his Lawgiver to stun and aiming it at the BoJo scum’s chest. “Either way, you’re gonna shut your mouth. Understand?”

The perp raised his hands and took a step back, miming zipping up his lips.

Dredd nodded and lowered his weapon; he couldn’t have that sort of rumour spreading amongst the other volunteers, true or otherwise. Satisfied the cubes were holding up and feeling like his trip below may have caused more harm than good, he left the volunteers barking in the dark. He strode past the driver before he could get another word in, slid the door into the passenger deck shut behind him, and went to strap himself back into his seat. Judge Smee looked him in the eye as he fastened his belt. While her face remained calm, her dark brown eyes glittered with fury. Dredd found himself breaking eye contact and looking at the floor. What was her problem?

“Right, let’s get this cleared up now,” she said, looking at Deng and then back to Dredd. “I know what a lot of Judges think of Psi-Div, or Psycho Div, as our driver so artfully put it. To be honest, I couldn’t give less of a drokk what you think. I just need to know that while we’re on this assignment, as fellow Judges, you’ll have my back, just as I’m going to have yours.”

So it was true, they did read minds. She’d been listening in on his conversation with the driver just as Garrison had warned.

“It is against protocol—”

“—to read the mind of a fellow Judge,” Smee finished for him. “I am aware of that.”

Dredd frowned. “And yet—”

“We could hear you,” Deng interrupted, before Dredd could get any further. He shrugged, as if to apologise for siding with Judge Smee.

Dredd let out a breath, watching the young Psi-Judge as she folded her arms and glared out the window. Reassuring another Judge that he had their back felt ridiculous. He had his orders, and they were both Judges, even if they were in different divisions. While mutants where illegal in Mega-City One and subject to deportation or death, human psychics—mutant or not—were extended citizenship as long as they served the Justice Department. Some people couldn’t bend their minds around that, but Dredd hadn’t put much thought into it. The Law was the Law, and Psi-Judges were protected by that Law, as well as being trusted to enforce it.

“What the stomm is that?” Smee said, half standing until her belt restrained her.

Dredd turned to look out the viewing hatch behind him as Deng let out a strangled gasp. The distant sand dunes were writhing, the earth shaking as if from a small, localised earthquake.

“Probably just a sink hole,” Dredd said.

“No, not that,” Deng undid his belt and crossed to press his hands against the window.

“Just wait for it,” Smee added, rising to stand beside him.

Dredd kept his eyes trained on the moving ground. Suddenly something shot from the earth, rising maybe twenty feet into the sky, writhing with what looked like hundreds of tentacles. Dredd made out an enormous hinged jaw lined with jagged teeth before it plunged back under the surface, as if into water. The three of them watched in silence until the ground grew still, and the Landraider took them around a high dune that blocked the now still earth from view.

“Was that a—?” Deng stopped mid-sentence, eyes darting to Smee.

“That was my cousin, Morty the Mutie,” Smee said, sitting back down.

The big man let out a laugh, his body visibly relaxing, and Dredd approved of the use of humour to defuse the tension.

“Some sort of large sand creature,” Dredd supplied. “We’ll report it when we arrive at the science station.”

The sky was the dark orange of dusk when the double domes of the station came into view, backed by a low range of hills of twisted rock, as if they had been melted in a great heat and reformed. Dredd didn’t like the look of them; they would provide cover for anyone wanting to get close to the facility without being seen—or wanting to get away from it. Dredd couldn’t see much evidence of the work within. The assignment report said it was a research centre to try and make headway in detoxifying the Cursed Earth. It was a noble venture; if they could claw back pockets of desert, they could cultivate crops, help feed the ever-multiplying mouths of MC-1. But it also seemed unlikely. The desert wasn’t called ‘cursed’ for nothing. And from what they had witnessed on the way over, it was no exaggeration.

The Landraider rumbled into a huge airlock that closed behind them, and was then blasted with cleansing chemicals to remove any toxins picked up in the desert before passing through the second gate and into the compound. Three Judges—Tomyo, Felps and Woodhead, from their badges—waited to greet them as the hatch opened, ready to board the tank for the journey home; Dredd, Smee and Deng would be relieving them. Dredd nodded in greeting. Deng clasped arms familiarly with Tomyo as Dredd jumped out onto the dust-blown earth and felt the heat of the dome-magnified sinking sun. It was stuffy inside the domes. The parking hangar was just big enough for the tank to turn, and for a bay of dune buggies. Dredd wondered what they were for. Science expeditions to get samples? The first dome was mostly taken up by an unremarkable white building, the lower storeys windowless. Opening the holding cubes from the secondary hatch, together they got the volunteers to line up, the six Judges training their Lawgivers on them.

“Cartwright will be along soon, to tell you where to take ’em,” Tomyo told them.

“Cartwright!” Deng said. “She’s a legend. My sister’s in Tek-Div, she says she laid the groundwork for that new Lunar colony they’re talking about. I’m actually looking forward to meeting her.”

It was strange to hear Deng talk about a sibling, although Dredd knew that some Judges still kept up a semblance of a family affiliation. From what Dredd had experienced of family, you were better off without them. Deng looked up as a woman in her sixties with short silver hair emerged from the building, flanked by two people in matching white lab coats, holding data tablets.

“Welcome to the bio lab,” she said to the Judges as her assistants checked off the volunteers. “If you’d kindly follow my assistants to the volunteer holding cubes—” She held her arm towards the door behind her.

And then the courtyard exploded.

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OUT NOW: Judges Omnibus Vol.2 – read the first chapter!

Three stories, one growing nightmare – the second omnibus of the acclaimed JUDGES fiction series is out now in paperback, ebook, and on Kindle!

In the United States of America of 2041, Eustace Fargo’s new justice system has been in effect for eight years. The old days of waiting times and backlogs are over: judgement is quick, and sentencing is instantaneous. The old police academies have all shut down, and the new order is triumphant. But are things any better? Unrest is worse than ever. Criminals are more likely to kill rather than be caught. There’s a war coming for the streets…

Writers Michael Carroll, Maura McHugh, and Joseph Elliott-Coleman delve further into the origins of Judge Dredd’s world as due process is cast aside in the pursuit of instant justice – but will these new officers, invested with the powers of judge, jury and executioner, save the country from itself?

This prose collection is available to order now – and you can read the first chapter below!




St. Christopher, Connecticut

Tuesday, January 4th 2033


“Niño’s gonna flake,” Gabriel Drake Nyby told his boss. “He’s not built for this kind of pressure.”

The passenger seat of Romley’s Tesla was warm and comfortable, and much as Gabe was afraid of Romley, part of him wanted the conversation to go on longer. It was cold out there and the cops were pissed that one of their own had been shot by a Judge. They were liable to take it out on anyone who crossed them.

A block ahead, the four cop cars parked at awkward angles in front of the main entrance to Mercy South Hospital were tinted orange by the setting winter sun.

Romley pursed his lips. “All Niño has to do is put an end to Officer Chaplin. Once that’s done, Chaplin’s colleagues will rebel against the Judges. That’ll give us time to recover our stock.”

Gabe’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he dug it out and flipped open the cover. “Aw man… That’s not going to happen now.” He glanced to the side: Romley was still staring straight ahead, towards the hospital, and as usual wasn’t showing any emotion. “Nodge says the Judges’ve already destroyed the stock. Piled it in the empty lot across from the factory and just torched it. Damn Judges work fast.”

“Yes. They do.” Romley tapped a rapid beat against the steering wheel with his thumbs. “All right… So in your judgement, Niño is not going to be able to go through with it?”

“I doubt it. He’s no killer, Mister Romley. I mean, not in cold blood like that.”

“Is he still using?”

Gabe hesitated long enough that there was no need to answer.

“I see. I thought so. My own fault for relying on an addict. I should have dealt with him sooner, but he had such good contacts…” More tapping on the steering wheel. “But he’s out of our reach now, and out of our control.”

Gabe’s phone buzzed again. “Aw hell no… Now the senior Judge is on the scene, along with Captain Witcombe. Niño’s got no chance now.” Another sidelong glance at Romley. “He’ll talk, or he’ll run. He’s not going to be able to stand up to them.”

“Okay.” Romley continued to stare towards the hospital for a moment, then turned to Gabe. “Mister Nyby… Consider yourself promoted, on the grounds that you do me two small favours. You’re unlikely to be able to get to Niño, so forget about him. There are only three others in the organisation who know who I am. You, Francie Hamilton and Merrick Bergin.”

Gabe almost flinched at that last name. “Bergin’s one of yours? We’ve been in a low-level turf war with him for years!”

“I know.”

“Jesus. All the trouble that guy caused us. You know he offed three of—”

“You’ll drop that subject, Gabriel. You’re going to take Hamilton and Bergin out of the picture, permanently. And immediately. Then you’ll go west. Chicago at least, preferably further. One way or another Niño Aukins is going to talk to the Judges and we can’t stop that. He doesn’t know you’re working for me, but he’ll name you as a friend and that might be all the Judges need to come looking for you. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, but, look, Niño’s built a network of contacts over the years. If they can get that out of him—”

“None of them know anything that could lead back to me. So we’ll let the Judges have Niño as their prize.”

“If you’re sure. But I can’t just take off and—”

“You’re either an asset or a liability. Choose now,



“Good. I want Bergin and Hamilton dead tonight. Get to them before the Judges do, and then leave town. I’ll find you when I need you.”

“Look, I can’t just take off. I’m gonna need—”

“Glovebox. Forty thousand. Take it. And if you squander it, or draw the wrong sort of attention with it, I’ll find you that much sooner.”

“I understand.” Gabe popped open the glovebox and pulled out the thick envelope. “Hamilton and Bergin. Two in the head, two in the heart. Not a problem.”

“One last thing.” Romley reached over and rested his hand lightly on Gabe’s arm. “I know you have a fouryear-old son you’ve avoided telling me about. His name is Raphael, chosen to please his mother who has a thing for angels. Which is also one of the reasons she chose you as her partner. You’re embarrassed about that, so you’ve told your friends that your son is named after a turtle.”

Gabe stopped breathing.

“You didn’t tell me because you were scared I’d use him against you.” Romley patted Gabe’s arm, and smiled. “I was right about you from the start. You are a good judge of character. You only see the boy once every couple of weeks anyway. He barely knows you. A clean break really is the best way. And it won’t be forever, I’m sure. A few years and things will have settled down enough for you to come back.”

“What about my—?” Gabe cut himself off. There was no arguing with Romley. When you went to work for him, he learned everything there was to know about you. Treated you like you were the only one he really trusted

just so that you’d trust him in return, until the day you realised that he was doing the same thing with all of his other seconds-in-command. Gabe had known about Niño and Hamilton, but that was all. He’d never even suspected that Merrick Bergin was in anyone’s pocket, let alone Romley’s.

“Go,” Romley said. “I know I can rely on you to do the right thing, Gabriel. Your son is also relying on you.”

Clutching his envelope full of fifty-dollar bills, Gabe climbed out of the car and clicked the door closed behind him.

The Tesla moved away gracefully, the only noise being the hiss of its tyres on the asphalt.

Gabe zipped up his jacket, then stuffed his hands deep into his pockets as he quickly crossed the road. His old Lexus was three blocks down. He knew it had a little over half a tank—enough gas to get him out of the state, but first he had to make two stops.

Hamilton would be easy enough: Gabe and Francie had known each other for nearly thirty years. Not exactly friends, but close enough that he knew she’d open the door to him.

Gabe unlocked his car and climbed in. It started first go, which he took to be a good omen, and he let it idle for a while in the hope that it would warm up.

Francie Hamilton fronted as a respectable woman, in a nice neighbourhood, the sort where the houses still put Christmas wreaths on the door and the local kids loved the winter because they’d make fifteen or twenty bucks for every drive they shovelled.

Gonna have to leave the engine running… a gunshot on that street will bring every neighbour to their windows.

He hoped that it would be Francie herself who answered the door, and not one of her kids.

Getting to Merrick Bergin was going to be a lot tougher. Gabe didn’t even know exactly where the man lived— but he knew enough people who did. A couple of them owed him favours. He’d start with them first, then move on up the chain. But it had to be done fast, and without alerting Bergin. Simple rule: if you’re gunning for a guy, don’t tell him.

Before the night was out, a lot of fingers and teeth would be broken. And families.

Gabe reached under the passenger seat and groped around until his fingertips brushed against his old reliable Sauer Mosquito. The Lexus had been sitting there for so long that the gun was almost too cold to touch.

But it would warm up soon enough.

Merrion, Mississippi

Thursday, May 5th 2039


Errol Quon had daydreamed about the graduation ceremony for most of her life. She’d always pictured a bright sunny day. A pool-table-flat lawn covered with perfect rows of wooden chairs occupied by the cadets’ proud family members. The cadets in their dress uniforms, crisp creases, polished brass, everything a perfect fit. Beaming smiles as they accepted their certificates. A rousing cheer as they tossed their caps into the air.

That’s how they did it in the movies. A ceremony to mark not the end of their training, but the beginning of a new life.

Whenever some friend or relative had been boasting about their kid’s wedding costing a fortune, Quon’s mother Sharlene always commented, “A wedding is not a marriage.” Likewise, a graduation ceremony was not a career. It didn’t matter that there was no band, no press photographer, no flags or ribbons. What mattered was the intent.

Eighteen of them started together at the Police Academy in Merrion, a much lower number than in previous years, but that was no surprise. Almost no one wanted to be a police officer any more. Quon’s one remaining friend from high school, Jess, had begged her not to join the academy: “What’s the point of trainin’ to be a cop? They’re already obsolete. You wanna be a Judge, that’s the future.”

Her own parents agreed. “I know you had your heart set on it, punkin,” her father, Nicholas, said, “but you have to face up to the fact that life won’t always work out the way you want.”

But she’d signed up anyway. She’d always known that being a police officer—especially one of mixed race here in the south—was going to be tough. Old prejudices often ran deep, and with the rise of the Judges, she felt that ordinary cops would be needed more than ever.

On the first day, at orientation, the academy’s lecture hall echoed as the tutor read out each cadet’s name and details, then he said, “This day ten years ago, this hall was full. One-forty cadets. Now… eighteen.” He looked at the students in turn, and to Quon it seemed that he settled on her. “A lot of you aren’t going to make it.”

He was right. Of the eighteen cadets in her class, four

quit in the second week. Three more before the end of the first month.

The others stuck with it, though. At first. But oneby-one, they’d fallen away until only Quon and Milo Visconti remained.

Visconti was exactly a year older than Quon, which they’d discovered during that orientation class. It had given them a reason to talk to each other, and to bond.

Their relationship was intensely physical at first. Frenzied nights of dorm-sneaking and perspiration and giggling and stifled cries of ecstasy, but that aspect quickly faded as appetites and curiosity were slaked. They remained friends, no hard feelings, no recriminations.

Quon thought of it as her first grown-up relationship. Jess had once told her, “You know you’re grown up when you can break up with someone and not hide when you see them coming. Though I suppose that might mean maybe you weren’t so interested in the first place.”

Aside from Jess, Quon had never managed to cultivate any close friends; just people she knew. She was okay with that. People were complicated and didn’t stay inside the lines. Jess was a good example. If you wanted her to do something, you just had to tell her that she wasn’t allowed to do it. Or that she wasn’t able to do it.

Opposites attracted; Jess was spontaneous and reckless and dangerous, and Quon was careful and considerate and respectful.

But it was only when she left home for the academy, and no longer had her parents and Jess to act as landmarks, that Errol Quon realised who she really was.

Three months into their training, she told Milo, “Some people live to bend the rules… I like to straighten them. Neat rows. Order over chaos. If everyone obeyed the law, we would all be much happier. It’s that simple.”

He laughed at that, “Yeah, good luck surviving in the real world with that attitude, Quon. They’re gonna grind you into paste on the first day. I’m not saying we should totally go with the flow, though. I figure we should make the flow go with us. You know what I mean?”

“Be the pace-setter, not the follower.”

“That’s it.”

But a month after that, Visconti told her, “I’m done. This job is a dead end, Quon. The Judges are running the show now.”

“They made you an offer,” Quon said. A statement, not a question.

“Sure did. I’m surprised they haven’t talked to you yet.”

Her only response was a shrug. Representatives from the Department of Justice had approached her twice, and both times she’d immediately turned them down. She’d never told Visconti about that: much as she liked him, she knew his ego wouldn’t respond well to learning that the Judges had favoured her over him.

Visconti was gone within the hour.

The following morning, Captain Deitch called Quon to his office.

She knew what he going to say: it was obvious from the cleared shelves, the packing crates piled up against the wall, and the stack of folders on his desk that he was steadily sorting into two smaller stacks.

“Cadet Errol Quon. With your friend gone you’re the last one standing.” He gestured towards the packing crates. “Told you last month they were gonna shut us down, and now they have. As of tomorrow morning, the contractors are moving in. Gonna strip the place, remodel it for the Judges. The first Academy of Law in the Magnolia State. Guess we should be kinda proud of that, in a way.”

The captain regarded her in silence for about five seconds, then said, “Sorry, kid. We’ve all been retired or sidelined, so…”

Quon didn’t move, didn’t change her expression. She’d always been good at keeping her emotions under wraps. But inside she felt like she was standing on the edge of a cliff. “Sir… I request a transfer. To another academy. I think that’s within my rights and—”

“Yeah, it’s within your rights. But it’s not gonna happen. All the academies are winding down. They’re trying to shed their cadets, not take on more. The Department of Justice cut every goddamn state’s police training budget down to near zero.” The captain picked up the final folder and moved it over the stack on his left, hesitated, seemed to come to a decision, then dropped it onto the other stack. “We have no staff, no money, no academy. Quon, if you don’t want to be a Judge, go get yourself a job in a library or something. That’d suit you: they like to keep everything neat and tidy, same as you people.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You people?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Well, no, I don’t mean you people like… you know I don’t give a damn what race someone is, or who they—I mean…”

She knew what he meant. What they always dance around. If you’re female and tall, with a strong build and short-cropped hair, the average person will assume you’re a lesbian. It suits them to categorise people. Makes things easy. She understood that.

She let him off the hook. “What about you, Captain?

You’re only, what? Fifty? That’s young to retire.”

“Not as young as some.” He dropped into his chair, leaned back with his fingers interlocked and resting on his chest as he looked around the office. “Nineteen years I’ve been here. I’ve seen it all, Quon. Good cops, bad cops, clock-watchers and thugs and those goddamn ghouls who want to become a cop because they got a thing for seeing dead bodies. Every kinda weirdo and freak came through those doors and it was my job to knock the rough edges off them, mould them into a shape that’d fit neatly into society. So I can tell when someone’s got it, and when they haven’t. Quon, you’ve got it. Ten years ago, you would have passed with honours. You’d have made a great cop. Now…” He shrugged. “You seriously never gave any real consideration to joining the Judges? Just say the word and I’ll contact Judge Leverett. Give

you my highest recommendation.”

“I don’t want to be a Judge, sir. Just a cop.”

He smiled. “That’s because you’re an idealist, Quon. Your biggest flaw.”

She decided to cut him off before he embarked on his ‘You want everything to be sunshine and roses’ speech. “Yes, sir. You’ve told me that before. Sir, what do I do now? Are you telling me that I have no choice but to quit?”

“Well, no academy, so, yeah. You kinda do have to quit.”

She nodded slowly. She’d seen this coming. They all had. When Fargo introduced the Judges, everyone knew that it wouldn’t be long before there were no more ordinary police officers. That day was some ways off— there were still a lot of cities where the Judges barely had a presence—but no academies meant no new officers coming down the pipe. That had been one of Visconti’s strongest arguments: “You’ll be signing on to a ship that’s already sinking, Quon.”

She still had five weeks to go. If the Judges would just hold off that long, then she’d be a police officer. Sure, in time the Judges would take that away, too, but it would be better to be an obsolete officer than an obsolete cadet.

Captain Deitch gestured towards the door. “Take off, Quon. You’re just making this harder on yourself. Clear out your locker and… I was gonna say if you hurry you’ll catch the next bus home, but what the hell, it’s not like

I’ve got anything else to do. I’ll drive you.”

“Or you could not.”


“Meaning that the contractors might be coming tomorrow but they won’t be doing all the work at once, right? So we’ll stay on. You train me. It’ll go faster with just one student. We’ll work around the builders and decorators, not give them any reason to complain about us still being here. And when we’re done—if I pass— you’ll give me my commendation and find an assignment for me, just like you would if none of this had happened.”

She had more prepared, but the captain jumped to his feet almost immediately.

“All right. Yeah. Let’s do that. Screw Fargo and his dead-eyed dreadnoughts, pushing us around like we’re no better than cold broccoli on a kid’s dinner plate.” He began rummaging through one of the crates piled against the wall. “Your records are here somewhere… We’re gonna finish your training, Quon. You’re gonna graduate and become a damn good cop and we’ll show those pushy bastards that they’ve got a long way to go before they can control us.”

Quon knew that a lot of other people would have smoothed the path for her, but Captain Deitch had a point to prove to the Judges. He push her hard, personally supervising every minute of her training even as the physical building was being noisily stripped and rebuilt around them.

On the day of her unarmed combat final she was already on the mat in the academy’s gymnasium, waiting for her opponent to finish warming up, when the doors were pulled open and Senior Judge Leverett strode in.

Leverett stopped in front of the captain and glared at him. “The hell is this, Deitch? You know you’re trespassing?”

“No, we’re not. This precinct was absorbed by the Department of Justice, and I haven’t quit yet.” Deitch stepped to the side to see past the Judge. “Cadet Quon is about to take her finals in U.C. You’re interfering with that.”

Leverett pulled off his helmet and looked towards Quon. “My offer won’t remain open forever, cadet.”

She shook her head. “Thank you, sir, but I don’t want to be a Judge. I believe that the law should work for the people, not the state.”

“Then I’m shutting this down. All of it.”

Captain Deitch said, “We’re not costing the department anything—I’ve been paying the instructors from my own pocket—and the country’s still going to need cops for a few more years. You should be thanking us, Judge.”

Leverett smirked. “All right, then. Quon, let’s see what you’re made of.” He called out to Quon’s instructor, Blake, a former Marine who was charging them a hundred bucks an hour. “Unarmed combat. Right?”

“Yes, sir.” Blake approached the mat wearing his usual smug grin and cracking his knuckles—he knew Quon hated that.

“She any good?” Leverett asked.

“She’s fast. Got a strong right, a little weak with her left. And she’s hesitant. She pulls her punches.” Blake’s grin spread wider as he stared straight into Quon’s eyes. “Because she’s too dainty. The little princess doesn’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Then I’m giving you both permission to let go,” Leverett said. “Three minutes, no rules, no consequences.

Anything goes.”

Captain Deitch grabbed the Judge’s arm. “That’s not how this is done.”

Leverett shrugged him off. “It is today.” He nodded to Quon. “If this man is not unconscious or begging for mercy by the end of your three minutes, I’ll consider this—whatever this is… Captain Deitch’s experiment— to have failed, and you’re both out of here.”

“We don’t agree to that!”

“I don’t care what you agree to, Deitch. I’m a Judge. I make the rules, I give the orders. Quon, your three minutes starts… now.”

Blake lunged at Quon and she immediately raised her arms as she shifted her weight back on to her left foot.

He was only a little taller than her, but at least twenty kilos heavier, and with two decades’ more experience. And strong, too. Tendons like steel cables, skin like leather.

She pulled her head back and to the left as Blake’s clawed fingers slashed her face, close enough that the hairs on the back of his hand brushed her cheek.

He’d been aiming for her throat. If he’d connected…

She’d known he was dangerous, but a killing blow, in front of a Judge?

You have been holding back, she told herself. Blake and Captain Deitch have both told you that.

It wasn’t that she was afraid to hurt someone: when it came to physical force, there was no point in using more force than was necessary. Keep things neat. Stay inside the lines.

Blake faked a jab with his left, but she’d seen him do that before, and easily blocked his right fist.

She ducked back and to the side, shot her left leg out at the same time. Slammed her heel straight into his groin.

The impact told her he was wearing a protective cup, which she’d expected: he was a thug, not an idiot. But he flinched all the same, pitching his top half forward and dropping his hands to protect himself.

An elbow to the side of his head, hard. He stumbled, and she body-slammed him, crashing into him with her shoulder.

His feet skidded, lost their grip, and as he hit the mat butt-first, he tried to grab onto her. He was too slow. Her knee cracked into his chin and sent his head crashing backwards, then two sharp punches to the solar plexus and a final jab to the throat stole his breath.

Clutching his neck as he gasped and shuddered, Blake stared up at Quon, eyes wide from shock more than pain.

She straightened up. “My advice… Lie there for another two minutes, fifty seconds and then beg for mercy.” Quon stepped back, and looked towards Judge Leverett.

He was silent for a moment, then turned to the captain. “All right. Point made. Carry on.”

The graduation ceremony took place indoors, in what was once Deitch’s office. Instead of a crowd, the only onlookers were Quon’s parents and two contractors who agreed to cease hammering for five minutes.

Captain Deitch shook Quon’s hand. “Congratulations. The only graduate of the class of 2039. I am… very proud of you, Officer Quon.”

Quon’s mother began to applaud, and was quickly joined by her father and one of the contractors. The other one cheered and tossed his hard-hat into the air. It clunked loudly off the freshly-plastered ceiling before hitting the floor and rolling away.

As they watched the contractor chase after his hat, Captain Deitch said, “I’m sorry there’s no certificate or… well, anything else.” He lifted an envelope from his desk, handed it to her. “Your assignment.”

Quon opened the envelope. “Golgotha, Alabama.”

Deitch nodded. “Best I can do. No other force is taking on anyone else. And even this one had closed its ranks, but Captain Bonacki owed me a favour. The Judges are making it very clear that the old ways are gone.” He shrugged. “You realise what this means, Officer Quon?”


“You have graduated so now this place…” He glanced around the room. “As of now, this academy is officially defunct. The last police academy in the country has just passed out its last officer. That’s you, Quon. You are the last person to become a police officer in the United States of America.”

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Keep boredom at bay – Judge Dredd & Judge Anderson ebooks for just 99p!

Keep boredom at bay with a slice of prime future cop prose – grab ’em while they’re still legal!

The Rebellion Publishing fiction eBook sale is now live and you can bag yourself FOUR thrilling Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson omnibuses for just 99p each. The sale lasts until Sunday 12 April so get in quick before they go!

Buy now >>

Written by Matt Smith, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, Cavan Scott, Alec Worley, Danie Ware, Laurel Sills, and Zina Hutton, these omnibuses take you beyond the comic book pages of 2000 AD and into a whole new world of prose as we follow Dredd and Anderson on their first years on the mean streets of Mega-City One.

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OUT NOW: Rico: The Titan Years

“Judge Dredd … but filtered through the gritty misery of Oz; a sci-fi Shawshank Redemption minus the redemption.” – Starburst

“One of the series’ most enduring villains and until now, one of the most misunderstood.”- Pop Culture Bandit

Every fan knows the cautionary tale of Rico Dredd, the Judge who went bad – but his story didn’t end when he was consigned to Titan by his own brother!

The Rico Dredd: The Titan Years omnibus is out now in print and digital!

Veteran Dredd writer Michael Carroll delves into the history of Judge Dredd’s corrupt brother in three novella-length stories, and gives voice to this haunting presence in Dredd’s life.

“I’m the clone that went bad, that brought shame on Judge Fargo’s legacy. I was a Judge, the best the Academy of Law ever turned out. The very best. But after less than a year on the streets of Mega-City One, I was brought down, taken in. It was Little Joe who caught me; second-best Judge there’s been. Broken, sentenced, stripped of office, I was shipped out to the brutal moon Titan, to do my twenty years’ hard labour. Yeah, you know about Rico Dredd.

“But do you know what really happened? Why I did it? What it was like, out there on the edge of space, doing time in the Bronze? Truth is, mister, you know stomm about me…”

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Laurel Sills on Judge Anderson: Devourer

Judge Anderson: Devourer is the latest thrilling slice of novella action from Abaddon Books and 2000 AD to focus on the early life and adventures of Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson.

Written by Laurel Sills, Devourer sees MC-1’s premier Psi-Judge before her greatest cases, just a year into her life as a full-eagle Psi-Judge. Here, something’s hunting the Psi-Judges, with the victims landing in the infirmary with the same phrase repeating across their minds… ‘I am not worthy’. Partnered with seasoned Judge Mei Yin, Anderson soon finds herself right in the heart of this madness that could take down Psi-Div and destroy her mind!

Order a limited print edition of Judge Anderson: Devourer >>

Laurel Sills is a writer and editor working out of London, whose writing includes stories in the Sharkpunk and Game Over anthologies, published by Snowbooks. From 2013-2017, she co-edited the award-winning Holdfast magazine, a celebration of speculative fiction, with eight online issues and two print anthologies. You can find the issues archived over at and find Laurel online at @laurelsills.

Richard Bruton asked Laurel a few questions about all things Anderson…

Laurel, I suppose the first thing we should do here is ask the old favourite… can you tell us a little about yourself?

Laurel Sills: I live in London with my partner, baby daughter and two cats. For my day job I am a senior commissioning editor of commercial fiction. Before my daughter was born I also spent a lot of time in bands, writing and recording music and playing shows, which is paused until I can get more than three hours of sleep in a row!

Your new Judge Anderson novella, Devourer, is out later in the month. Exactly what can we expect?

LS: A crazed psychic cult is targeting psi judges and driving them mad and the whole of Psi Div is called in to hunt the perps down. Anderson is paired with Mei Yin, a tough as nails Judge who doesn’t do partners. Devourer is essentially a buddy cop story, except the cops are psychic Judges and the crime boss is a demon god from another dimension who wants to eat the souls of everyone in Mega-City One.

What do you think it is about Anderson that makes her such a popular character? Is it her iconic status, the depth of stories that have been told about her? Or is it something to do with the contrast between her and Dredd?

LS: For me it’s her complexity. Her psychic abilities give her a connection to people that makes empathising with them unavoidable, but at the same time she sees into the darkness of the human mind. This gives her both a vulnerability and a strength that make her really interesting. She has a certain fragility that Dredd doesn’t have, but it’s not necessarily a weakness. Despite this she is really hard! She isn’t afraid to use deadly force when it’s needed and she certainly knows how to handle herself in a tough spot. She also has a rebellious side which gets her in and out of trouble that I love about her.

There’s already a rich history of Anderson from many years of appearances. What affect does this have on you when going so far back into her history?

LS: Writing such an established character comes with a great responsibility. While needing to stay true to who she is and who she will become, you also have to try not to be frozen by a fear of getting her wrong. While I certainly kept her future self in mind, for Year Two I was writing her as a young Judge at the beginning of her career. The Year One novellas by Alec Worley were of course a huge focus and where I took my lead from – my aim was to carry on the youthful and tenacious Anderson that Alec set up so brilliantly.

Seeing as you’re exploring Anderson’s past, is there a sense of constraint upon what you can do? With the “War of the Devourers” you’re creating a pretty serious part of Psi-Div history, a moment the entire Psi-Div could have been destroyed before really getting started.

LS: It is so important to respect the world you are writing in, and when I wrote the history of the Devourer War I did struggle with the weight of that. However, just by writing a Year Two novella I am creating a new part of Anderson’s and Psi Div’s history, so it didn’t feel like too much of a stretch to go back in time from Year Two to create a history for Mei Yin and the Psi Div veterans too. It’s a really daunting thing to do, but I also wanted to be able to write a rounded, fully formed story, and the Devourer War was an important part of it! 

There are many intriguing little touches throughout Devourer, especially in the earlier chapters when you’re setting up the world, the environment. Moments such as when Anderson turns her nose up at the idea of bovine milk, or the food that she’s eating… Bombay-locust pie, spiced mealworm fritters. It struck me as strange at first, until I reasoned that we’re still, relatively, primitive here. So perhaps the range of food stuffs that can be synthesised or produced just isn’t there. Am I anywhere near the ideas process you had for developing your own Anderson and MC-1 history here?

LS: That is a really good point in terms of us being quite far back in time, but it was also just me taking a bit of an artistic license! I wanted the market where Anderson meets Maya to be a gritty, smelly, vibrant place that is chaotic and loud that readers can imagine themselves in. Having half recognisable food made from bugs was just a fun addition to that atmosphere. I also wanted to link to old world and lost cultures as a tip of the hat to the ancestors of all of the people in Mega-City One, but in a confused way – like the people there are trying to recreate something of the past but getting it a bit wrong, like with the Bombay locust pie. In terms of the judges having access to better synthesised food, the scene I think you are referring to is where Anderson goes to get something to eat with another Judge after something pretty awful has happened at Psi-Div. They both want to reboot somewhere far away from what is going on there – so they end up eating out in a civilian restaurant – and I imagined that the civilians could have a bit of variety in terms of quality and what is available to them compared to what the Justice System would have.

Devourer has a wonderfully striking cover by Christian Ward, what did you think when you first saw it, the very first cover just for your work?

LS: I was over the moon when I saw the cover. It’s so vibrant and represents a really strong version of Anderson that feels totally perfect.

This is your first work for 2000 AD, what does this book mean to you?

LS: I was beyond excited to write for Rebellion and 2000 AD, it’s a crazy honour and not one I saw coming. Judge Anderson actually opened up Judge Dredd for me. Although I must admit my introduction to her was via the 2012 film Dredd. That’s what made me seek her out in the comics. I really love how her character has developed over the years. It’s really cool to see the different interpretations that artists have had of her, and in a way it feels like Year Two – three novellas by three different writers – is carrying on that tradition! That’s the exciting (and scary) thing about stepping into an existing world, you get to put your own spin on it. But it’s also nerve wracking as you have so much history and a really established personality to work with, and most importantly, do justice to!

Thus far, you’re a prose writer only. But, after this first step into the world of 2000 AD, could you see yourself working up some ideas for comics, 2000 AD or elsewhere? After all, there’s always the possibilities of “The Adventures of Maya, Psi-Judge Cadet”?

LS: I have always wanted to write comics! It’s something I did as a kid a lot and I have half a dozen dodgy scripts lingering in a drawer somewhere – so yes – it’s very much something I would love to do. ‘The Adventures of Maya’ sounds pretty brilliant! Anyone want to put in a good word for me?

Judge Anderson: Devourer is out this week in ebook from Amazon,, and other ebook providers, and in a limited print edition available from

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Read the first chapter of Judge Anderson: Devourer

Read the first chapter and grab a limited edition print copy of the new Judge Anderson novella by Laurel Sills!

Judge Anderson: Devourer is the latest fiction novella from 2000 AD and Rebellion Publishing – and there only 200 copies of this special edition paperback for sale, each one signed by the author!

Pre-order the print edition now >>

In 2101 AD it’s Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson’s second year on the streets as a full-Eagle Judge, and something’s taking down Psi-Judges. More and more are turning up in the infirmary with only one phrase in their minds: I am not worthy.

Pulled off a hunt for a missing child, Anderson finds herself partnered with seasoned Judge Mei Yin on the trail of the cult behind the madness.

But Mei Yin doesn’t do partners.  And she’s more closely connected with the case than she’s willing to admit to…

Judge Anderson: Devourer will be available for Amazon Kindle, Kobo and other e-readers on 14th March.

Read the first chapter below…

Psi-Judge Turner froze, his pulse thudding loudly in his ears, his eyes scanning the deserted street. He held his breath as he waited to hear the child’s voice again, straining his psi-sense for that tiny, panicked, chirping call.

This was a Shine district, towering blocks of GlamCo living where the 0.01 percent of the Mega-City One population lived out their lives in shimmering force-field-protected security. Turner craned his head to gaze up at the tiny sparks caused by floating debris hitting the shields. He had a fleeting moment wondering what it would be like to breathe that filtered air before he shook himself and focused.

He closed his eyes and opened his thoughts to the night. The roar of consciousness threatened to overwhelm him, the teeming, collective mass of tumultuous thoughts from the concentration of humanity above whirling him into a state of vertigo. He had to try and sift through it if he wanted to pick up the kidnapper’s trail, but he’d never been good at wide-scale processing.

A scream stabbed into him, savaging his open mind. Stupid. He slammed up his barriers, braced himself and zeroed in on the echoes of terror.

A hand pressed over his mouth, rope biting into his wrists, pain as his small body is dropped onto the ground, gravel crunching as it bites into his back, a bag pulled off his head to reveal a leafy manicured garden, the shimmering wall of the tower in the background.

He ran.

A wide ramp traversed the side of the tower, narrowing as it wove through a holo-leaf-lined arch towards the pleasure garden, ending in a tall reinforced metal gate, sparkling with the filter-field. His helmet projected a Justice Department code and the door swung open on soundless auto-hinges.

Pulling out his Lawgiver, he stepped in, senses reaching to identify the child and her abductors. He paused as he emerged into the garden of his vision, white gravel paths snaking into lines of ornamental hedges and lush flowerbeds. A feeling of quiet awe washed over him as he realised that most of the plants were real, only bulked out in places by swatches of holo-plants.

A crunch of gravel sounded from the depths of the garden, with no thoughts to accompany it. He frowned, concentrating as he trained his Lawgiver on the sound.

“Identify yourself,” he barked, his footsteps sounding unnaturally loud as he moved towards a bend in the path. “That’s a Judicial order; the sentence for disobeying is three weeks in the cubes.”

“Judge Turner.”

An immaculately suited man was seated on a stone bench in a clearing, the high hedgerow encircling him like a cage. He sat with his hands clasped loosely on his lap, a calm silence emanating from him, lapping at Turner with a bullying insistence.

Turner shook himself. How did this man know his name?

“Where is the girl?” he demanded, feeling instantly stupid. He could sense it now, an absence of fear, of tension; the distress call he had followed snuffed out like a light. “What have you done to her?”

The man smiled, his teeth perfectly white, his pale blue eyes stark and cold beneath the silver hair swept artfully back from his weathered brow. “I wanted to speak with you, Judge Turner. The call was designed specifically for you. You felt her panic, did you not? You yearned to help her.”

Turner felt sluggish, and realised with rising alarm that he could not read the man.

“You should be mindful of your weaknesses, boy. They can be used against you.” The stranger gestured to the bench beside him. “Sit, please.”

Turner sat.

“Weakness?” Turner pushed the word through numb lips. “I am protecting the weak.”

“Noble sentiment, Psi-Judge Turner.” The man sneered as he spoke the syllable, and shook his head. “But it is a falsehood, to think that you are what you are because of your own wishes. You are a tool, Turner. Your gift has been taken and controlled by the Judiciary, twisted and warped to use for their own ends. This gift of mind we have, Turner, do you really think it was meant for such tawdry use as this?”

We have. It made sense now, why he couldn’t read him, and this feeling, this haze that had suddenly come over him. This man had psi abilities, strong ones, blocking Turner from using his own power. Turner fought it, sending out feelers into the psi-fog pouring off him.

“Tawdry use?” Turner murmured, exaggerating the dull edge of his voice. Keep him talking; make him think he had control.

“It is abhorrent.” The older man stood, his shadow looming larger as it fell across Turner. His casual tone belied a raw, barely contained rage. “It is sacrilege.”

The tendrils of mind Turner had been carefully working into the miasma of control were suddenly gripped in an iron vice, and the white-haired psi smiled. Turner fell forward from the bench onto his knees as agony exploded within his skull.

“Oh, Turner, no. You cannot refuse us.”

Two figures stepped out from the shadows, dressed in grey robes remnant of the vestments of long-dead religions. They had deep hoods that hid their features, and from the darkness beneath came a flood of psi-power. He could almost see it as it streamed towards the white-haired man, where it refracted like light in a crystal.

“This gift is sacred, Judge,” the white-haired man said, stepping forward, “a gift only to be used in the service of Karlul.”

Turner was paralyzed in the onslaught of psi-energy cascading from the man’s lips.

“And you are not worthy, Turner, not worthy at all.”

The two figures stepped in to hover behind the smiling man.

The Psi-Judge began to tremble as he realised he was too weak to resist them.

“Say it with me, Turner. I. Am. Unworthy.”

Turner opened his mouth, shut it, bit his tongue, hard.

“SAY IT.” Spittle flew with the force of his words.

“I am unworthy,” Turner whispered.

The words echoed, bouncing against the walls of his mind.

“I am unworthy,” he said with more force, looking up at the figures, squinting into the glare of their power.

“I am unworthy.” His tongue had found the shape of it now, rolled and repeated it without effort. And he knew, then, that he was unworthy. “I am unworthy, I am unworthy, I am unworthy.”

As he felt himself begin to dissolve. There was only one, uniting force that held the pieces of him together, the threads of him thrumming on the brink of snapping. A certainty, an all encompassing conviction, a whole and final truth, penetrating the whole of his being.