Read the first chapter of Michael Carroll’s first novella in a new series – JUDGES – for free!
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
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. 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.”