Posted on

OUT NOW – the Judge Dredd: Year Three omnibus

These are Judge Dredd’s earliest cases – and Mega-City One has never been this dangerous! The omnibus prose collection of Judge Dredd: Year Three is OUT NOW!

Available on 2 February and collecting prose novellas by Michael Carroll, Matthew Smith and Laurel Sills, in two short years Judge Joseph Dredd has made a name for himself on the mean streets of the Big Meg. He’s tackled hardened killers and would-be revolutionaries; he’s taken beat-downs and bounced back; and he’s even arrested his own brother!

But there’s no such thing as a “normal year” in the Big Meg. In his third year on the sked, he’ll become embroiled in the growing anti-robot movement; he’ll head back out to the Cursed Earth; and he’ll fall afoul of the secretive SJS – and not for the last time…

BUY EBOOK EDITION >>

BUY FROM BOOKSHOP.ORG (UK) >>

BUY FROM BOOKSHOP.ORG (US) >>

BUY FROM HIVE.CO.UK >>

BUY FOR KINDLE >>

Fallen Angel by Michael Carroll

In 2081, SJS Judge Marion Gillen staked her reputation on proving that Joseph Dredd was as corrupt as his brother Rico—and lost. A year later, Gillen is on the run from her own division, and must navigate a world of secrets and lies. She approaches the stolid, inflexible young Judge she once tried to bust — two years out of the Academy and already making a name for himself — and finds he may be the only person in the city she can really trust…

Machineries of Hate by Matt Smith

Droids! They’re everywhere; they clean for you, cook for you, grow your food. But don’t they deserve rights like everyone else? Following up on rumours of an unlicensed robo-surgeon, Judge Joseph Dredd uncovers a growing robot revolution… and the mek-hating humans who want to stop them at all costs.

Bitter Earth by Laurel Sills

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…

Posted on

PRE-ORDER the Judge Dredd: Year Three omnibus!

These are Judge Dredd’s earliest cases – and Mega-City One has never been this dangerous! The omnibus collection of Judge Dredd: Year Three is available to pre-order!

Available on 2 February and collecting prose novellas by Michael Carroll, Matthew Smith and Laurel Sills, in two short years Judge Joseph Dredd has made a name for himself on the mean streets of the Big Meg. He’s tackled hardened killers and would-be revolutionaries; he’s taken beat-downs and bounced back; and he’s even arrested his own brother!

But there’s no such thing as a “normal year” in the Big Meg. In his third year on the sked, he’ll become embroiled in the growing anti-robot movement; he’ll head back out to the Cursed Earth; and he’ll fall afoul of the secretive SJS – and not for the last time…

PRE-ORDER EBOOK EDITION >>

PRE-ORDER FROM BOOKSHOP.ORG (UK) >>

PRE-ORDER FROM BOOKSHOP.ORG (US) >>

PRE-ORDER FROM HIVE.CO.UK >>

PRE-ORDER FOR KINDLE >>

Fallen Angel by Michael Carroll

In 2081, SJS Judge Marion Gillen staked her reputation on proving that Joseph Dredd was as corrupt as his brother Rico—and lost. A year later, Gillen is on the run from her own division, and must navigate a world of secrets and lies. She approaches the stolid, inflexible young Judge she once tried to bust — two years out of the Academy and already making a name for himself — and finds he may be the only person in the city she can really trust…

Machineries of Hate by Matt Smith

Droids! They’re everywhere; they clean for you, cook for you, grow your food. But don’t they deserve rights like everyone else? Following up on rumours of an unlicensed robo-surgeon, Judge Joseph Dredd uncovers a growing robot revolution… and the mek-hating humans who want to stop them at all costs.

Bitter Earth by Laurel Sills

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…

Posted on

The Chimera Code – new comic book tie-in lands with Megazine #422

Everything’s for hire – even magic!

The Judge Dredd Megazine has teamed up with Rebellion Publishing to present a brand new and exclusive tie-in comic book to the new SF novel – The Chimera Code!

With art by Sygnin, the comic book ties into the debut novel by Wayne Santos and comes in a separate bagged collection with Judge Dredd Megazine #422, which is out now.

This brand new comic book story features Manga stylings and a fast-paced story, making it an ideal primer for plunging into Santos’ fresh cyberpunk world!

Judge Dredd Megazine #422, which is out now from all good newsagents and comic book stores, as well as digitally from 2000 AD’s webshop and apps.

The Chimera Code novel is out from Rebellion Publishing in eBook format on 23 July, and available in paperback from November 2020.

If you need something done, Cloke’s one of the best; a mercenary with some unusual talents and an attitude to match. But when she’s hired by a virtual construct to destroy the other copies of himself, and the down payment for the job is a new magical skill, she knows this job is going to be a league harder than anything she’s ever done.

Dharma’s dead, disembodied and recreated in virtual reality. He doesn’t remember the last six months, but Cloke went to his funeral; and now they’ve got to navigate how exactly this is all going to work.

And Zee’s been snatched out of danger and installed in luxury as a hot-shot console jockey. They aren’t sure who created them or why, and they can’t trust anyone – but that doesn’t matter, because they’re only in this for the money. Aren’t they?

Assisted by a virtual reality superstar, a magic sword, a combat cyborg, weather mages and the backing of the largest corporation in the world, the Chimera Team has to find and destroy a resource that their enemies will go to any lengths to protect…

Posted on

The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast: Judge Anderson in prose with Laurel Sills & Maura McHugh

For the past few years, the Abaddon Books imprint of Rebellion Publishing has been exploring the early years of Judge Dredd, Judge Anderson, and even Justice Department itself in a series of novels and novellas.

The latest is Judge Anderson: Devourer by new author Laurel Sills and the 2000 AD podcast welcomed Laurel along with fellow Anderson writer Maura McHugh and Abaddon editor David Moore to chat about everyone’s favourite psychic future cop, how you tackle 40+ years of back story, bridging the divide between comics and prose, and what’s in store for Anderson as she moves towards one of the defining moments of her life.

The 2000 AD Thrill-Cast is the award-winning podcast that takes you behind-the-scenes at the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic! As well as interviewing top creators and famous fans, we bring you announcements, competitions, and much more! You can subscribe to the Thrill-Cast on your favourite podcast app, or you can listen now at 2000AD.com/podcast

Posted on

OUT NOW: Judges Volume One

“Tense, engaging and full of twists and turns” – Pop Culture Bandit

“fast-paced and uncompromising, keeping true to the essence of the Judges.” – British Fantasy Society

“essential reading for fans of Judge Dredd and the Big Meg” – Starburst

The first collected volume of Judges is out now!

This collection of prose novellas from Rebellion Publishing explores the very beginnings of the Judges, years before the Atomic Wars and the construction of Mega-City One, with stories by award-winning writer Michael Carroll (Judge Dredd: Every Empre Falls), George Mann (Doctor Who), and Charles J Eskew (Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark).

In the USA of 2036, Eustace Fargo’s Judges have been on the beat for three years. Crime is down but tensions are high between police and Judges, and millions rail against the radical new laws. A summary execution sparks a crisis: only the killer knew where his last, still-living victim was hidden.

With the largest storm in decades brewing off the East Coast and a city about to erupt into violence, can Judges Ramos and O’Shea find him in time?

Launched by series editor, author Michael Carroll, Judges explores the origins of Justice Department long before Judge Dredd, bringing to light its difficult formation amondst the dark days of the end of the United States of America.

Posted on

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.

“I AM UNWORTHY.”

Posted on

Buy a print copy of Judge Anderson: Bigger Than Biggs novella

It’s Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson’s second year on the streets as a full-Eagle Judge and trouble is never far away in Judge Anderson: Bigger Than Biggs!

In the latest novella from Rebellion Publishing and 2000 AD, author Danie Ware tells a story of Anderson is on secondment to another division and struggling to deal with the overwhelming nature of her psi-abilities. She finds herself drawn into the mystery of Eee-Zee Rest, where there’s trouble on the rise in a charity housing block, and something deep down in the basement. Something bad..

Bigger Than Biggs is available as an ebook from Amazon and Rebellion Publishing or special, limited edition print novella, only available from the 2000 AD webshop.

Ware splits her time between writing, working for Forbidden Planet in London co-ordinating their events and all things social media, and taking care of Cadet Judge Ware. Her work include, the Ecko series (out now from Titan Books), the urban fairy story, Children of Artifice (Fox Spirit Books), and Sisters of Battle for the Black Library. She talked to the 2000 AD blog about her new novella…

Danie, tell us about Bigger Than Biggs

Danie Ware: In this story, we see Anderson out on secondment, where she and her assigned partner are chasing down perps for the local Sector Chief – just a clean-up. But Anderson soon comes across flickers of post-traumatic stress in the thoughts of some of the gangs, hints of something going down in the charity blocks called Eee-Zee Rest. Allied with the local bikers, she goes after the Eee-Zee rest Boss, a man called Reginald Biggs, an ex-sportsman and someone the publicused to know very well.

But Biggs has changed. And there’s something in the darkness of Eee-Zee Rest that’s definitely not a charity…

Over the years, Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson has become not just a fan-favourite, but an icon as well. What do you think it is that makes Anderson so special?

DW: Anderson is human and fallible, in a way that Dredd is not. Don’t get me wrong, we all love Joe Dredd – but you can’t relate to him, it’s like trying to relate to a wall. Exploring Anderson’s character meant understanding that she still has touches of compassion and humanity; she cares about people, she has friends. She messes up occasionally. And, as well as all that, she has a truly fearsome skill – being able to read minds, haven’t we all wanted to do that at some point? To know what someone is thinking? It makes her hard to write for (she’s got Kryptonite syndrome, you have to disable or curtail her major ability before you can construct a narrative, or there’s no tension) – but it also makes her absolutely fascinating. Plus, she’s gorgeous and she kicks butt. What’s not to like?

When it comes to Anderson, she’s a character with a huge amount of history, so going back to her second year on the streets of MC-1 was, presumably, both daunting and involved a huge amount of familiarising yourself with her history?

DW: Fortunately, she’s a familiar and iconic figure – if you’re involved in British comics culture in any way, you know 2000 AD, you know Dredd, you know Anderson, and you have a pretty good idea of where to start. I have Bolland’s original Debbie Harry image over my desk, dug out as part of FP’s archive. So it was more a case of working out where the story fit in her timeline, and then doing the reading. Alec Worley’s Year One novellas were obviously critical, and it also made sense to read onwards – the classic Death stories and Shamballa, for example, just so I could get the character right.

You’re already a published author, but this is you’re first (as far as I’m aware) work for the worlds of 2000 AD. Are you already a fan? What does it mean to you to get that first 2000 AD work out there?

DW: Honestly, I hadn’t read 2000 AD in years, though it’s around me all the time – but it’s one of those moments that would leave the younger me suitably breathless. It’s feeling of finally getting to play with the Big Toys!

What’s your story? Just how did you make your way into both writing and into 2000 AD writing?

DW: I’ve always written – from as young as I can remember. During my twenties, I wrote – most of it dreadful – and then I stopped when I moved to London in 2000 as my life just took a different turn. I started writing again in 2007/2008, going back to the old stuff, and it sort of took off from there. The 2000 AD opportunity came about thanks to a recommendation by a friend – and I feel very fortunate to have had my name put forwards!

Any plans for submitting to work in comics, for 2000 AD or elsewhere, or are you sticking with the prose right now?

DW: I’m a prose writer, and writing comics is a subtly different skill. In a comic, everything is implication – the panels are statements, and the story happens between them, if you like. Getting that right is (to me anyway) a lot harder than just spieling words. The only other format I’ve considered is the audio drama (as I have more of background/education that fits), but that’s a way off yet!

I had to smile, when diving into the novella, about the obvious enjoyment you had name-dropping, as many have before, when coming up with names for the Blocks and areas of MC-1. With you, it was the Jim Bob Morrison Expressway… I’d be guessing you’re a little bit of a Carter USM/ Jim Bob fan then? (Excellent band and solo artist dear readers – go look them/him up).

DW: Big BIG Carter fan! The two albums ’30 Something’ and ‘101 Damnations’ were the soundtrack to all the CyberPunk that we played in our younger years, and the story is very much my homage to those old days – the technology, the weapons, the characters, the feel, the background. The Biggs character himself was a part of that early gaming – and originally based on 2000 AD, funny how these things go in circles.

Specifically, the story is my take on, and love of, the track ‘Sheriff Fatman’, Biggs’s signature tune. Were such things not so heinously complicated, I would have loved to have the lyrics in the front of the book, but navigating that stuff’s a minefield… so I settled for some of the themes from the song, and for a few choice phrases in the story itself.

If you know the track, you may spot them…

We’ve already touched upon your 2000 AD experiences, but if you haven’t already – when did you first come across the comic?

DW: I wasn’t allowed to read 2000 AD as a kid – I had to settle for Whizzer and Chips and (sigh) Bunty. As I got older, I pinched graphic novels from my brother-from-another-mother Alan Oliver, which was where I finally encountered Dredd, and Joe Pineapples, and Sláine, and the ABC Warriors, and fell in love with all the glorious, brightly violent wonder that is 2000 AD. In the office, faintly obviously, it’s around us all time!

Finally, what have we to look forward to after Bigger Than Biggs? Any plans to write more of the deep and interesting history of MC-1’s premier Psi-Judge?

DW: At the moment, I’m writing Sisters of Battle for the Black Library, but who knows… there may yet be more Anderson in the future!

Posted on

OUT NOW: Rico Dredd: The Titan Years Book Two

The next chapter in the back story of Judge Dredd’s corrupt clone brother, Rico, is out now!

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 Process of Elimination is the latest prose novella from veteran Dredd writer Michael Carroll that delves into Rico’s history and gives voice to this haunting presence in Judge Dredd’s life.

The Process of Elimination is available to buy in paperback and ebook from Amazon now!

Buy the paperback from Amazon now >>

Buy the ebook for Amazon Kindle now >>

Buy the ebook from the 2000 AD webstore now >>

“Everyone breaks, that’s what they say about Titan. Everyone breaks. But not me. Not Rico Dredd. Not even when they cut out my lungs, injected every inch of my skin with cold-resistant polymers, plastic-coated my eyes and sealed up my mouth and nose.

“You don’t get to become Mega-City One’s top Judge without learning how to adapt, how to survive. I know the score. The prison is an unforgiving hell, but do your time, keep your head down, and you just might make it out alive.

“Then I was chosen for a rescue mission out on the surface, and everything changed. A dark secret was uncovered, and suddenly even I was pushed to breaking point.”

Rico Dredd: The Titan Years

Titan
2084 AD

Chapter One

It’s said that even the toughest prisoner is no match for Titan. Everyone breaks, they say.

The cold, the storms, the darkness, the endless labour, the sporadic nocturnal screaming sessions, the ever-present danger from the guards and the other prisoners, the days that last three hundred and eighty-two hours, the constant risk of suffocation in Titan’s toxic air, the food so utterly bland that sometimes you’d happily murder everyone on the whole drokkin’ moon just for the chance to lick the pot a potato had been boiled in.

Most prisoners broke, eventually; a few didn’t. I didn’t. Never broke down, never once allowed myself to roll over and expose that emotional underbelly. Displaying a weakness like that in such a hostile environment is the equivalent of handing the other guy a gun and showing him where on your chest you wanted him to aim.

Cadmus Robert Holland—male, Caucasian, fifty-something—finally crumbled, more than a year into his sentence. We’d long since exhausted the pool on him and just taken it as solid that he wasn’t going to crack.

We all knew why Holland was there, of course, known that from the start. He’d murdered his brother. Bludgeoned him to death with his fists in a frenzy of pure rage. For someone not trained in hand-to-hand combat, that’s a pretty impressive feat. Sure, anyone can knock someone over so they hit their head and that kills them, but to actually cave in a human skull using only your knuckles? That takes a special kind of fury.

Otherwise, the only remarkable thing about Cadmus Holland was that he was one of the final batch of Mega-City One citizens sentenced to Titan. Other cities kept sending civilians for the next few years, but someone in the Big Meg had decided that the mining colony on Titan was too harsh a punishment for cits, and fit only for wayward Judges.

It was late November, 2084. A bunch of us had been assigned to cable-duty on J-shaft. Assignments were usually fixed, and most of the time I was outside the prison compound, but sometimes a dig would be picked clean and we’d have to wait until another one was found; or sometimes, the weather was just too bad. That was when they put us on J. It wasn’t the worst duty—that would be waste management, and believe me, you do not want to know the details—but it was hard work, especially pulley duty.

The shaft was inside the prison compound, and was the primary reason the prison had been built just there. A rich, almost vertical seam of iridium ore that even after all these years still hadn’t been exhausted. The yield was about a kilogramme of iridium for every two tonnes we dug out. That might not sound like much, but it gave the average astrogeologist palpitations.

The shaft was a narrow cone, fifty metres across at the surface and three hundred metres deep, with a few small side-tunnels that snaked away, following smaller deposits. It was covered by a sturdy, three-storey-high framework, housing thirty or so mechanical pulley blocks.

That day, former Sov Judge Zera Kurya and I joined eighteen other prisoners hauling on the pulley cables, two prisoners to a cable. We nodded the usual greetings to the teams on either side of us—Cadmus Holland and Artherus Schiller were on our right—and then untied our cables and started to pull.

Arm over arm, steadily hoisting up huge steel buckets of ore. When they reached the pulley block we switched to a second cable that pulled the bucket forward until it was clear of the pit, then tipped it into the back of a waiting truck.

The trucks took the ore to the smelter, which refined the metal, depositing bars of iridium in neat stacks. Back on Earth, any one of those bars could set someone up for life. Here on Titan, they were just piled up, waiting for the next ship to collect them.

It took an average of four hundred arm-pulls to get a bucket up from the lowest level of the pit. I know: I’d counted. It was exhausting, tedious, backbreaking work and everyone hated it. Most jobs in the prison you’d find someone who didn’t mind it, but not this.

New fish always think that they’ll be okay with it, and for the first few hours it’s not so bad. The buckets weigh about half a tonne fully laden; but with two people lifting, that’s only two-hundred and fifty kilogrammes each. And the pulley block has a ten-to-one ratio—for every metre you pull, the bucket is raised ten centimetres—so you’re really only lifting twenty-five kilograms. In Titan’s low gravity, that’s hardly any work at all.

Until you have to do it over and over, a twelve-hour shift, in your bulky, uncomfortable environment suit, on your feet the whole time. You get three twenty-minute breaks per shift, and no talking if certain guards are supervising.

I had it a little easier because mods only do ten-hour shifts when we’re working outside: after that, we have to purge our sinus filters, and no one wants to see that.

Six hours into the shift our supervising guard, Delaney, called second break. Delaney was a barrel-chested man with rosy cheeks and white bushy eyebrows. Donny Guildford had once whispered to me that he looked like Santa Claus had gone into witness protection, and it’d stuck with me ever since. We liked him; he was one of those guards who wasn’t paranoid enough to equate casual conversation with sedition.

As we all gratefully tied off our cables and sat down on the frozen ground, Cadmus Holland said, “I’m done.”

Artherus Schiller asked, “You’ve done what?”

Inside his helmet, Holland slowly shook his head. “I can’t go on. This drokkin’ place… The air is poison, nothing grows in the frozen dirt, the storms wind can tear you apart. And for what? For this.” He picked up a small chunk of rock and bounced it in the palm of his hand. “Iridium.” He pointed straight up. “There are whole asteroids made of the stuff up there. Much closer to home than we are.” To Kurya, he said, “I heard your people are talking about setting up a mass-driver in the asteroid belt. Shoot the damn things at Earth, let them burn up in the atmosphere, save the cost of smelting them to get the ore out. That’s the way it should be done.”

“Probably wasn’t their idea,” Schiller said. “The Sovs don’t invent. They just take other people’s ideas. You know? Communism. Even the ideas belong to the state. No offence, Kurya.”

“Die in pain,” she responded, calmly.

I said, “Schiller, shut that down right now. And you can drop the ‘I can’t take it any more’ attitude, too, Holland. You can and you will. Your first week, you thought you weren’t going to survive, am I right?”

He nodded. “Yeah, but—”

“You were wrong then. Never thought you’d make it through your first month, either, or your first year. Same as the rest of us. But you were wrong then, too. You did make it. Now you think you can’t make it to the end of your sentence. What makes you right about that when you were wrong before?”

Schiller gave a half-laugh, half-snort. “Dredd’s right. You’ll get back to Earth. Start your life over.”

Then Holland said, “Without my brother.”

“Yeah, well you’re the one who caved in his skull. You crack an egg, you can’t go complaining that the yolk is leaking out, right?”

Normally, Holland would have either completely ignored that, or responded with a brisk head-butt. This time, he just nodded.

Schiller flashed me a look that said, That’s interesting… Then he asked, “Why’d you do it, Holland? You spent eighteen years taking care of your brother, and then one day you just snapped.”

Holland sighed long and deep, and the strength and life just seemed to slip out of him like a punctured airbed.

I knew from previous conversations that Holland had grown up believing in Mega-City One, in the Justice Department. He’d lost friends and family in the war—on both sides—but had never lost his faith in humanity. In the end, no matter what the odds, the good in people will triumph.

That’s what he believed. That was at the core of Cadmus Robert Holland’s being: the notion that people are inherently good. There are some who stray from time to time, but there is always a nucleus of goodness deep inside even the most hardened, most bloodthirsty criminal.

I guess he was right about that. Back in the Meg I got to know a lot of people who have one foot firmly in the gutter. The department classifies them as criminals, but ignores the good that they do. A woman can spend her entire life and all her pay making clothes for the homeless, but she shoplifts one can of lettuce-freshener and she’s labelled a thief.

I’ve already mentioned my friend Evan Quasarano. Grew up in the ghetto, joined a gang, became a small-time crook. Why’d he do that? Because he knew nothing else. His mother struggled to keep the family fed and clothed, his father was long gone and his grandfathers constantly bickered. They’d been on different sides during the war and every family get-together was destined to go down the ‘What the drokk did you just say?’ route. More than once I’d had to pry the two old guys apart, stop them from killing each other over the dinner table.

Evan was a thief, a thug, a low-life numbers-runner and occasional bodyguard. All before his eighteenth birthday. Did that make him a bad person? No, just misguided. I’d spent a lot of time with him, listening to his barely-formed opinions and regurgitations of other people’s ideas, and I could tell that Evan was just ignorant, and maybe a bit dumb. But I once saw him give half a bag of crawbies to a kid who’d had his own stash stolen before he could sell it, all because he knew that kid’s mother would have beaten him if he’d come home empty-handed. You can’t tell me that’s something a bad person would do.

People are a little selfish, maybe, but when they take the time to step outside their own lives and see things from other perspectives, they generally do realise that we’re all in this together. I’m not saying that it’s altruism, doing good for no reward or recognition, but that’s not the point. Every good thing we do helps make the world a better place—and who doesn’t want to live in a better world?

That had always been Cadmus Holland’s stance. Broderick—his younger brother—had apparently been a nice guy, doing pretty well at school, had some good friends. He’d been well-adjusted and well-liked by most people.

Holland said, “Something happened to him the day after a bunch of us went to the Festival of Wheels.”

Schiller said, “I remember that. We couldn’t go—Papa said it was too expensive to get to Mega-City One.”

Holland nodded slowly for a moment, then calmly said, “You’ve been begging me forever to tell you, so shut the drokk up and listen.”

Schiller grinned. He was never the sort to take offence easily.

“Broderick was thirteen years old,” Holland said. “We’d had a good time at the festival but the next morning he didn’t respond when I woke him up for school. I mean, he got up, but he didn’t say anything. Went off to school still not talking to me. I figured he was angry with me for something, but you know kids—you can’t read their minds. That night I got a call from his school. Broderick hadn’t spoken to anyone all day, not even when his teachers asked him directly.

 “So I went into his room and said, ‘The hell’s the matter with you?’ Nothing. ‘You’re not talking to me?’ Still nothing. I figured it would blow over in a few days, but I was wrong. I could see it in his eyes sometimes that he wanted to speak, but he just couldn’t. I gave him a pencil and a pad, but he just threw them aside. Same with the datapad. After the second week I brought him to the doctor. Those first brain-scans alone cost me a month’s salary, but they didn’t show up anything wrong. No damage, no lesions, no parasites. Broderick had just lost the ability, or the will, to speak.

“We did have some medical insurance, but the drokkers refused to pay up without an official diagnosis, so I had to pay for everything. Sold the car. Sold the house to cover a four-week stint in the Tremaine Clinic, but still they couldn’t find anything wrong. Had to move into a crappy one-bedroom stomm-hole on the west side after that. And then…” Holland looked up. “That day. Broderick was thirty. We’d been living with his condition for seventeen years. We were out, scouring the market down under the flyovers… I thought that maybe I could get him a job somewhere that it didn’t matter that he couldn’t speak. At that stage we were so broke I was dealing zizz to juves. So we saw this market stand where an old guy was selling dead-shirts. He—”

Kurya interrupted. “Dead-shirts?”

I answered for him. “Clothing taken from bodies at Resyk. Used to be that the Resyk centres just incinerated the stiffs’ shoes and clothing, but then they started using it as landfill. Some people steal the clothes from the landfills and sell them. It was actually quite the fashion for a while. I remember—” I caught the look in Holland’s eye. “Sorry. Go on.”

Holland said, “I asked the old guy if he needed help getting the stuff, and he said, ‘Yeah, maybe. Not easy work, though. You strong?’ I said, ‘I am, but it’s not me looking for the job. It’s my brother Broderick here.’

“And then Broderick said, ‘It’s about drokkin’ time!’”

Kurya said, “So he had not lost the ability to speak?”

“No. No, he hadn’t. I asked him what the hell was going on, and he told me that seventeen years earlier, the night before that first morning, just before he went to bed… We’d been joking about someone we knew. He didn’t even remember who it was, but that’s not important. What is important is that we both said, ‘Yeah, that guy’s insane!’ at the same time. And… and then I said, ‘Jinx.’”

We all stared at Holland.

Schiller muttered, “Stomm…”

I said, “No way. No way he kept that up for seventeen years!”

Holland said, “He did. Stubborn little drokker. That was the rule, see. Two of you say the same thing at the same time, then if one of you says ‘jinx’ before either of you say anything else, then the other one can’t speak until the first one says their name.”

Schiller asked, “In all that time you never said his name? Not even when you were speaking to a doctor about him?”

“Sure I did, but apparently not when he was around to hear me use it. He said I’d just referred to him as ‘my brother.’” Holland stared down at his hands. “I’d put my entire life aside and spent every credit we had trying to find out what was wrong with him and he could have put a stop to it at any time with a note on a scrap of paper. So I hit him. And I couldn’t stop. He was long dead by the time the Judges came, and even then they had to shoot me to get me away from him.”

No one could think of anything to say after that.

Posted on

OUT NOW: Judges: Lone Wolf

The latest prose novella in the new JUDGES series – Lone Wolf – is out now!

Written by George Mann (Doctor WhoSolaris Book of New Science Fiction), Lone Wolf is now available as an ebook and as a special signed limited print edition of just 250 copies.

In the USA of 2036, Eustace Fargo’s Judges have been on the beat for three years. Crime is down but tensions are high between police and Judges, and millions rail against the radical new laws.

A summary execution sparks a crisis: only the killer knew where his last, still-living victim was hidden.

With the largest storm in decades brewing off the East Coast and a city about to erupt into violence, can Judges Ramos and O’Shea find him in time?

Launched by series editor, author Michael Carroll, Judges explores the origins of Justice Department before Judge Dredd, bringing to light its difficult formation amondst the dark days of the end of the United States of America.

Buy limited print edition >>
Buy digital EPUB/MOBI edition >>
Buy for Amazon Kindle >>

Posted on

New novella explores genesis of Dredd’s world – READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

You can now pre-order the ebook of a brand new novella series that explores the origins of Justice Department and the world of Judge Dredd!

Judges is a collection of stories from Abaddon Books exploring the very beginnings of the Judges, years before the Atomic Wars and the construction of Mega-City One!

In a time of widespread poverty, inequality and political unrest, Eustace Fargo’s controversial new justice laws have come into effect. Protests and violence meet the first judges as they hit the street to enforce the Law; the cure, it’s clear is far worse than the disease. Is this a sign of things to come?

In an utterly familiar world, just a few years away from our own, the series will interrogate due process, race, class, the militarization of the police and surveillance culture as it asks us: What sort of world will eventually give rise to the totalitarian Judge Dredd?

The series will begin with series editor Michael Carroll’s novella The Avalanche, due out in May 2018 and now available to pre-order as an ebook.

Over the past few years Carroll has been stamping his own mark on Judge Dredd for 2000 AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine, as well as penning a series of e-novellas for Abaddon Books.

The Avalanche will be followed by When the Light Lay Still by newcomer Charles J Eskew in August 2018. A third, as-yet-unannounced novella will be released along with a collected Judges volume in January 2019.

Read the first chapter of The Avalanche below and pre-order at Abaddon’s webstore

Monday, 3 January, 2033

8:47pm

The uniformed officer was busy transcribing a hand-written statement and didn’t look up from his keyboard. “With you in a second.”

Charlotte-Jane Leandros looked around the open-plan office. Aside from the now-limp Christmas tree in the corner, the top half of a paper Santa Claus pinned to the wall, and an Elf-on-a-Shelf that had what was very clearly a bullet-hole in the middle of its forehead, the police station of St. Christopher, Connecticut, didn’t appear to have changed in the two years since she’d last visited. The officer behind the desk, however, had changed quite a lot. He’d put on weight, and his hair was now very grey, as was the thick moustache he sported.

She reached across the officer’s desk and poked a pencil at his Schnauzer-a-day calendar. “So… Happy birthday, Benny.”

His typing paused for the briefest moment as he said, “Knew it was you, CJ.”

“No, you didn’t.”

He still hadn’t looked up from the screen, but he was suppressing a smile. “Sure I did. You’re still wearing the same deodorant, and you cleared your throat on the way in. You think I don’t know my own baby sister’s voice, even if she’s just clearing her throat? I’m a cop. I’ve been trained to notice stuff like that.” Benny Leandros finally stopped typing and glanced up at his sister. “So, does Mom know you’re back or is this a surprise vis—”

He jumped to his feet, and his chair skidded back across the room. “CJ, what are you wearing?”

CJ Leandros placed her dark-visored helmet onto her brother’s desk and took a step back, giving him a better view of her uniform. Matt-black Kevlar-and-titanium-fibre tunic and pants, dark grey gloves and boots, reinforced grey pads protecting her shoulders, elbows and knees. She turned in a slow circle, ignoring the officers who had been staring at her from the moment she’d entered the station. “So what do you think?”

Benny walked around to the front of his desk, stopped in front of his sister and stared down at her. “I think Mom’s gonna have an aneurysm. You… You told us you’d quit the police academy, not that you’d signed up to be a Judge! What was all that about working in a hardware store?”

“Cover story. We’re not encouraged to talk about it, even with family.” She shrugged. “Lot of people are still very hostile to the idea of Judges.”

“Can you blame them?” He shook his head slowly as he looked her up and down. “Body-armour. It’s a bad sign when cops need body armour. And you don’t have a body-camera!”

“What would I need one for? I don’t answer to anyone. Look, Benny, more than everyone else—even more than Dad—you were always telling me that I should go into law-enforcement.”

“Yeah, but I meant be a cop. That was before there were Judges! I mean, Judges like you. I thought you and me and Stav could be like a team, working the same beat, watch each other’s backs. That’s what Dad always wanted for us. Not… this.” He took a step back and again looked her up and down. “Not this, CJ. He’d have hated Fargo’s Footsoldiers and everything they represent.”

A voice behind CJ said, “He’s not alone in that.”

She’d known that he was there. Unlike Benny, Charlotte-Jane actually had been trained to be aware of what was around her at all times, and she was good at it. It was one of the reasons Judge Deacon had selected her for his team.

Her oldest brother, Sergeant Stavros Leandros, had entered the room right after Benny had walked around to the front of his desk. Stav had been watching her from the doorway, and CJ had in turn been watching his reflection in her helmet’s visor. On her way into the police station, she’d seen his car parked in the lot outside, and as sergeant he would have already been informed that a Judge had been seen riding through town.

He shook his head slowly. “If I’d known you were going to do this, I’d have stopped it.”

“How? It’s my life, my decision.”

Stavros nodded toward his office. “Let’s talk. Right now.” To Benny he said, “Not you. Get that report done and go home. You’re back on at oh-nine-hundred.”

As Stavros stomped away Benny said, “Better do what he says, CJ. You know what he’s like when he’s under pressure. Until yesterday we had half the town without power because the Settlers knocked out the grid again, and we’ve got like ten guys down with the flu. So…” Benny shrugged. “I figure the last thing he needs is a bunch of Judges showing up and throwing their weight around.”

He paused in the middle of dragging his chair back to his desk. “That’s not what’s happening, is it? Tell me that you’re here on your own and you just came back ’cos it’s my birthday and you wanted to surprise me.”

“I came early because it’s your birthday. There are six of us, working under Senior Judge Francesco Deacon. The others will be arriving tomorrow.”

Benny dropped into his chair. “Oh, Stav is not going to like that. And the captain is gonna have a fit.”

CJ Leandros smiled and shrugged at the same time. “Happy birthday, Benny. I’ll see you tomorrow back at Mom’s, yeah? And don’t tell her I’m here—I want to surprise her.”

“I won’t say a word… You know, I can’t decide whether she’s gonna be madder that you became a Judge or that you cut your hair. You always had great hair. Everyone said so.”

She was already backing away from his desk. “Judges can’t have long hair. Regs.”

She recognised some of the other officers and staff—there were a few she’d known her entire life—but right now they were pulling off that awkward trick of staring at her without looking her in the eye.

From the day she’d been hand-picked from the police academy, she’d known that this was going to happen. Ordinary cops didn’t like the new Department of Justice, and not just because it signalled the end of their careers.

As she passed the open doorway to Stavros’s office, he yelled, “CJ! Get in here!”

She stopped, and looked in through the doorway to see her brother standing next to Captain Virginia Witcombe, a cold-looking fifty-year-old woman with grey hair so tightly pulled back that CJ was surprised she could still blink.

“So,” Captain Witcombe said. “Welcome home, Charlotte-Jane.” CJ had the impression the Captain was just barely keeping a lid on her emotions.

“Thank you, Captain. It’s nice to be back. I honestly never expected to be posted here.”

Stavros said, “Yeah, about that. So out of the blue this afternoon we get an official e-mail telling us six Judges have been assigned to St. Christopher. We’ve got forty-three beat cops to manage twenty-eight thousand people, and now we’re babysitting half a dozen Judges too? And my own sister turns out to be one of them? Hell with that.”

“Yeah… I don’t like this either,” Captain Witcombe said. “Not one bit. You people want to make a difference, you should set up station in one of those towns in the Midwest that’re being overrun by gangs. Not here. It’s bad enough that I’ve got to put up with Judges at home in Colton, but I’ve worked too long and too damn hard to get where I am to throw it all away now. St. Christopher might not be the picture-postcard small town, but it’s a damn sight better than most, and I’m not going to stand by and watch while you Judges clear the path for the handcart this country is going to Hell in. You get what I’m saying?”

“You think that the Judges are a symptom of the problems, not the cure. I understand that, Captain, but I don’t agree.”

Stavros nodded. “Well, I agree with the captain. You remember what Dad always said, CJ. I remember Pappous saying it too, before you were even born. The single most important right any American citizen has is due process. The right to unbiased judgement when accused. You Judges have taken that right and flushed it down the crapper.” Stavros looked away from her, shaking his head. “It’s unconstitutional.”

Captain Witcombe said, “No, it’s not, Sergeant Leandros. Not since Eustace Fargo got the constitution changed.”

CJ said, “Captain, when you spoke at my dad’s funeral, you said that we need tougher laws to clamp down on drunk-drivers so that sort of thing would never happen again. Afterwards, at the reception, I found you crying in the corridor, and your husband… Harvey, right? He was trying to console you. But you didn’t want that. You didn’t want to be consoled, and you were furious with him because you said he was trying to pretend it had never happened. Then you saw me, and you took my hands and told me that it wasn’t fair, that my dad was a great man, and to have his life snatched away by some drunken loser was the worst possible crime. You remember that, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. And that’s not all I remember.” The captain stepped closer to CJ, arms folded. “I remember an incident about a year earlier. You were fifteen years old, and I caught you and Tenna LeFevour stealing beer from the One-Stop.”

Stavros said, “What?” but both CJ and Witcombe ignored him.

The captain continued, “And now you’re a Judge. I heard you all had to be squeaky-clean. Can’t see how that’s possible if you were a shoplifter.”

“I wasn’t charged,” CJ said. “Remember? Dad asked you to take care of it.”

Witcombe pursed her lips. “Hmm. So if I hadn’t done that, maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.”

“Possibly not. But you broke the law when you persuaded the store’s owner to drop the charges. That’s a bad mark on your record sheet, Captain, not mine.”

Captain Virginia Witcombe remained perfectly still, and her voice was almost a whisper as she said, “You don’t talk to me like that. I don’t care who your father was or what happened to him. You never talk to me like that. Sergeant? Throw this smart-ass little punk out of my station in the next ten seconds or someone will have to arrest me for assaulting a Judge.”

Stavros took a step towards CJ. “Captain’s right. Get out, CJ. You and your new friends are not welcome in this town. The system we’ve got might not be perfect, but it’s fair and it works.”

CJ stood her ground. “Recorded crime in St. Christopher is up one hundred and sixty per cent from five years ago. In the same period, conviction rates have dropped twenty-nine per cent.” She sighed. “Stav, I drove by Mom’s place on the way into town. You know what I saw? Bars on the windows. They weren’t there when I left two years ago. Four houses down the street, the Johnstone place? Used to be a nice house. Now it’s just a pile of rubble and burnt timber.”

Stavros began, “That’s not—”

“I’m not done. Six weeks ago Cain Bluett stabbed Kirby Decosta twice in the chest on Main Street. Three sober, reliable eyewitnesses, plus CCTV footage from two angles. Where’s Cain Bluett right now? Drinking in Whelan’s bar. Why? Because he’s rich enough to hire the slickest law firm in the county, and his family has the political strength to bury the case. Dad might not have approved of Judges, but you know the drunk that ran him over was awaiting trial for DUI at the time, and wasn’t in jail because of overcrowding.

“You want me to go on? No, you don’t, because you both know that the system is not fair, and that it doesn’t work.” CJ turned from her brother to Captain Witcombe. “Judge Deacon and the others will be here early tomorrow morning. During this period of transition, we will work alongside you and your officers, but Judge Deacon has seniority. His word is final.”

Stavros looked away in disgust. “Jesus, CJ! Don’t—”

“Judge Leandros.”

“What?”

“Judge Leandros. Or just ‘Judge,’ if that’s simpler. That’s how you’ll address me, Sergeant.”

“Right. And does that apply when you’re off-duty? Because I can think of a few other names that might apply.”

CJ took a step back towards the door. “We’re never off-duty. Remember that.”

Captain Witcombe glanced at Stavros. “Looks like your baby sister outranks you, Sergeant.”

“Matter of fact, I outrank both of you,” CJ said.

 

*     *     *

Judge Francesco Deacon slowed his Lawranger and pulled in towards the sidewalk on Main Street. The four Judges following pulled in behind him.

Deacon climbed off the bulky motorcycle and trudged back through the refrozen slush, glad of his helmet’s auto-tint visor that cut off most of the glare from the morning sun. As he passed his fellow Judges he held out his left hand, palm-down.

Judge Lela Rowain asked, “Sir…?”

“Stay put, Rowain. They’re cops.”

Judge Kurzweil said, “Cop car. Doesn’t mean there’s real cops inside it, sir.”

Deacon ignored that. In the academy, Kurzweil had always been a touch paranoid about police officers and lawyers. She’d always believed that they were going to cause the Judges more trouble than the citizens would.

The police car had signalled them to pull over when they’d turned onto Main Street. Ordinarily, Deacon would have ignored it, but this was their first day in St. Christopher. Ruffled feathers weren’t conducive to a smooth transition.

As Deacon passed Hayden Santana, the last Judge in line, the police car’s door opened and a fifty-year-old woman climbed out. She stepped towards him, breath misting as she shrugged herself into a padded jacket and zipped it up. “Cold one. Again.”

“We were on the way to see you, Captain Witcombe.”

“You know who I am?”

“I’ve been briefed.” Deacon extended his hand to her. “Francesco Deacon.”

As she shook his hand she asked, “So is that Frank, or Fran? Or…?”

“‘Judge Deacon’ is fine.” He glanced around.

A couple of locals had stopped to stare at the Judges. They were passed by a teenaged boy dragging a large gasoline canister on a battered sled. The teenager glanced at the locals, then looked across the street to see what had snagged their attention. He said, “Oh, great. Judges.” Then spotted Deacon glaring at him, forced a smile and added, “I mean, ‘Oh, great! Judges!’” before turning away and increasing his pace.

On the street, an old red pick-up truck was crawling past, its white-bearded driver pointedly staring straight ahead and very definitely not looking at either the police captain or the Judges.

“Suspicious,” Deacon said, nodding towards the pick-up. “You want to pull him over, Captain, or should I?”

Captain Witcombe stepped closer to Deacon. “Leave him be. That’s not guilt on his face. He’s in shock. His name’s Henderson Rotzler, seventy-one, lives on the west edge of town. Loud-mouth when he’s drunk, but aside from that he’s all right. And he’s the reason I’ve stopped you…

“Rotzler’s just brought his dogs to his brother’s place, now he’s heading back home. I’m going to meet him there, and I expect you’ll want to, too.”

Deacon turned back to face the captain. “So what’s happened?”

Witcombe hesitated. “Way I understand things, you’re here to work with us, yeah? You Judges are gonna replace the entire judicial system, but that can’t happen overnight, because there just aren’t enough of you. So for now, you work alongside us ordinary cops and lawyers. Tell me I’m right.”

Deacon nodded. “That’s right.” Before the team had left Boston, Judge Fargo had called him in. “Go easy on them,” he’d said. “Let them have their last moments in the sun before the Justice Department takes everything away from them.” Deacon had fully intended to comply with that suggestion, but now, with the captain looking haggard and more than a little worried, diplomacy seemed like a luxury. He told her, “Do us both a favour and skip to the end.”

Captain Witcombe slowly shook her head. “It’s not that simple, Judge. I spent a few hours last night reading through the new directives. I was hoping to find something that tells me you’re not allowed to do anything until I sign you in, something like that.”

“We’re Judges,” Deacon said. “We’re already signed in. Doesn’t matter where we are—we’ve already got all the authority and approval we need. So get to the point, Captain.”

She glanced behind her, towards the back of the red pick-up truck, then said, “Rotzler’s dogs woke him up last night. He said they went crazy, barking like there was an intruder. He went out to check it out… There was a body in the back yard of his home. Someone had dumped her over the wall. Female, mid-twenties. Stripped naked. Shot at least once, in the head. According to Rotzler, she was still warm when he found her.”

Deacon stared at the captain for a moment, unmoving, and suppressed a shiver that he knew wasn’t down to the cold.

Witcombe continued, “Judge Deacon, we haven’t formally identified the deceased, but we have every reason to believe that she is Charlotte-Jane Leandros.”