The exciting series charting the collapse of America and the rise of the Judges continues – read the exclusive extract below and pre-order the special edition paperback now!

JUDGES: (In)famous by Zina Hutton is the latest in the JUDGES novella series exploring the origins of Judge Dredd’s world.

United States of America, 2057 A.D. Judge Kiera Clayton’s young, idealistic… and bored, watching videos to kill the time. Amara Dawson’s bid for internet fame isn’t paying off—until she attracts the attention of a group of viral pranksters.

But Amara’s not prepared for how far the gang are prepared to take things, and she’s going to need help. What’s wrong with wanting to be famous?

The (In)famous ebook will be available from shop.2000AD.com, the 2000 AD app and Amazon’s Kindle store on 1 December. Or you can pre-order one of 150 copies of the special edition paperback from the 2000 AD webshop now!

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CHAPTER ONE

Timm Block
Monday, January 22, 2057
15:12

My first video gets fifty views on my ViewTube channel, Amaramaramara, in the first week.

I wasn’t expecting a million—of course not, nothing that high—but only fifty? That’s messed up. Counting my extremely extended family, the people I hang out with when I’m forced to drop into meatspace interactions, and the people who I’m friends with thanks to the online school session I (thankfully) finished last year—

That’s not a lot.

And it’s not fair.

If it were just the views, I don’t think I’d mind so much. After all, this is my first attempt at being somebody online. Ultimately, I know I’m a nobody and it’s not as if I expected instafame or fortune. But only fifty views after everything? After all the work I’d put into the video—the editing software I’d splurged on with my allowance, the cool mystery script I’d written, having to bribe all of my annoying little siblings into rehearsing and performing—

No one cares, but they should’ve. 

I worked so hard on getting everything together: hours of research on ViewTube, making sure that my video fit the ones trending, and had linked to everyone I could, urging anyone with the slightest amount of clout to share the video. It was the perfect video and yet, no bites. Barely any views.

In fact, the only comment on the video after the first few days is from one of my cousins on the other side of the city where we used to live.

So, pretty much nobody and no one.

I stare down at the comment from my cousin, a simple line of text that says Yo Amara, you’re killing it, and consider deleting it. It’s obviously not a bad comment and I guess I like my cousin, but— 

This isn’t what I want.

Before I can click the little X next to the comment, I hear the sudden sound of chaos from the world outside of my tiny cube of a bedroom. First a loud clatter, and then the sound of shouting. It’s a familiar noise in our home once my younger siblings disengage from their school sessions and turn on each other for offline entertainment. I hate that I can figure out what time it is based on how loud the rest of the apartment gets every day.

As much as I love my siblings—most of the time—I also wish I wasn’t in charge of them all the time these days. Four children, four energetic personalities too big for a single teenager like me to handle. Before we’d moved into the family suite in the massive in-progress complex that our parents would be responsible for managing, I didn’t have to spend all my time with my siblings. We’d lived in a smaller building, one with an in-person school for them. Just a few months ago, my siblings—the twins Ria and Darren, Minnie stuck in the middle, and baby Tracey—had friends. They had more than each other. Most importantly? They had other, older people in charge of them.

People that weren’t me.

But moving to the new building where our parents have Responsibilities, as thousands of residents file in to fill the apartments as they’re finished and furnished, has changed things. Instead of teachers watching my siblings, I have to spend time with them so they don’t short-circuit our section of the apartment or set the building on fire. With thousands of people in the building so far, even the parks on the upper floors are off limits for them. So, I’m stuck in here with them more often than not because our parents have to do things like ‘work’ and ‘manage the move-in for all the residents’ and a ton of other boring things that I don’t exactly keep track of, but that keeps our parents away for most of the day. 

And I hate it.

The door to my tiny bedroom slides open with a muted hiss that’s quickly overshadowed by the sound of every single one of my siblings rushing in and shouting over one another. It’s just loud and a lot all at once.

I wince, resisting the urge to cover my ears with my hands. I know I should be used to this by now because it’s an everyday occurrence, but I feel like my head is about to crack open. All of my siblings that can talk do. I catch snatches of the complaints, but none of the word spill makes sense.

Not at first.

I minimise the window on my screen and then turn around so that I can look at my siblings with a stern look straight up stolen from our busy mother. “One at a time or else I kick you all out and put a lock code on my door.”

It’s a threat that only works because they’re all so desperate to speak to someone with some kind of parental power. If our parents weren’t out of the suite from dawn until dinner time, this wouldn’t work. But I’m the only person that can deliver any judgements about the dozens of petty little problems they have across the day, and so they fall in line.

Silence reigns for a moment before Darren, with Tracey on his hip, pushes forward past his sisters and says, “Can you please tell Minnie to leave my game alone?” That sets off the other two, and their volume ratchets up another nearly deafening level until I wince and reach for the headset dangling over the edge of my monitor. The headset is a pricey VR one someone got me as a gift for graduating. It’s the kind that blocks out everything, and the kids clock the threat for what it is. If the headset goes on, I won’t surface from the VR communities I have been haunting until it’s past all of their bedtimes.

I thrust the headset out at my scowling siblings, brandishing it almost like I would a weapon, and say, “If you’re going to be loud like this…”

Silence follows the dangling end of my warning as the sullen quartet in front of me tries to show that they’re capable of being quiet.

I sigh loudly and let the headset drop down to my lap. Here’s the thing: I know that my siblings won’t simply go quietly into the rest of the apartment. If I don’t go out with them, they’ll be back within the hour and louder than before. “I’m only doing this because I want you all to stop arguing,” I say, directing a sharp and scathing look at the kids in front of me. “Give me ten minutes to check my messages and shut down, and I’ll be right out,” I say. When Ria opens her mouth wide to complain, I snap my fingers and then point sharply at the door to their bedroom. “Ten minutes of quiet out there or I put the headset on and pretend you goblins don’t exist until it’s time for us to eat. Choose wisely.”

The kids nearly trample each other on the way out, returning me to the dark silence from before. It should feel good to be respected, but it doesn’t.

That’s the thing, though: I only feel seen and surrounded by my siblings. And even then, they’re seeing me as a parent replacement, not as Amara-as-a-person.

At every other point—even more so with this ViewTube thing—it feels as though I’m trying to be seen in a crowd and no one’s looking in my direction.

With that on my mind, I’m prepared for more of the same when I glance back at my monitor and then prepare myself to delete my cousin’s comment on ViewTube page. But then I notice a bright blue notification at the top of the page.

“A message?” I lean in close to the page as if the proximity will reveal that it’s a fake notification or a glitch on the site. But no, it’s a real message from someone that I really don’t know.

The message is short, but life-changing even in its brevity.

ChannelDel: Your video was good. You should’ve gotten more views. If you’re looking for a way to get a bigger audience, hmu. I recognised the view from the balcony at 5:39. You’re in Timm Block, same as me. If you’re free around 2pm tomorrow, let’s link up at the park on the twentyfifth floor. I’ll be the guy with the pink ponytail and pet rock.—Del

I know, as I read the message, that I should pause to question… all of that. From the fact that the person, this ‘Del,’ figured out where I live from the view outside a balcony, to the whole… pet rock thing, this should be a whole bunch of red flags, and the flags are set on fire.

If not for the fact that I do want fame and fortune and more than fifty-freaking-views, I’d delete the message outright. Because I know better. I’ve seen the crime shows my parents watch when they think we’re all asleep. Even now, things are bad. I know this isn’t smart.

However, desperate times call for desperate measures. And besides, I don’t have that much time before my siblings decide to break down my door and return to chaos.

I reply to the message with a simple OK and then close everything down before I can overthink things and delete my entire account. 

Hopefully, I won’t regret this.