NOTE: The following story is a work of fan-fiction. It was originally written for a competition ran by 2000AD under the title Dredd Lines. Judge Dredd and everything associated with the character are Copyright of Rebellion Publishing. There is no connection between myself and Rebellion or 2000AD, and none should be inferred. Judge Dredd is the creation of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.

 

***

 

“No!”

Cripps flinched, as much from the roar of his Lawgiver as he did from Dredd’s voice. He knew he shouldn’t be intimidated, he was a Judge, well would be soon as long as he got through today. He shot a glance sideways at his assessor. Judge Dredd himself, up until two hours ago he’d been confident of finishing the day with his eagles; then Dredd had walked into the mess and called out his name.

Dredd stood stony still not speaking, but from the stories he’d heard he was like that most of the time. Cripps watched the perp slide down the wall leaving a bloody trail, his Lawgiver hung loose at his side. Dredd walked over to the body and looked down his hands placed on his hips.

“You never read him the charge sheet. Charges have to be read before carrying out the sentence.”

“He went for a weapon…”

Dredd rounded and in a second they were stood nose to nose. Cripps flinched again, if he was going to survive as a Judge he’d have to get that under control. He wasn’t a nervous man; they’d have picked that up in his psych evaluations and never passed selection.

“Weapon? You’re supposed to be a Judge, even if he had a weapon we have to follow procedures.”

He stormed passed Cripps leaving him standing there looking at the body. He heard the roar of a Lawmaster and turned towards his.

“What are you doing?”

Cripps was half on his ride uncertain what to do.

“Carrying on with the patrol sir?”

Dredd motioned towards the body.

“Call that in it’s your perp.” He revved the engine. “Procedure Cripps it’s the first rule of wearing the badge.”

He sped away up the on-ramp heading for the downtown overpass. Cripps settled into his seat looking at the body then triggered his comm.

***

The Obama Concourse was in flames, the remains of two hover transports scattered across a dozen lanes. The west side of Montgomery Scott Plaza was gone, taken out as they’d come in, the air was full of the roar of burning fuel and sirens.

Cripps stood next to Dredd listening to the report from a street Judge. Cripps tried to gauge the reaction Dredd had to what they saw, but there was none, he stood impassively as he was told of over a hundred fatalities; you’d think he was being told his dinner was late for what little emotion he showed. He knew what Dredd was, they all did, the stories were legends, his exploits; his cold heartedness. But up close, as they had been the past few hours, Cripps was having difficulty accepting anyone could be this detached from the world around him.

“There’s nothing we can do here cadet, simple case of droid malfunction.” Dredd turned to go then looked back at the other Judge. “Best have the owner questioned though, and pull his service records; there could be a case for maintenance negligence, culpable homicide.” The other Judge nodded and returned to his cleanup team, Dredd went back to the Lawmaster’s.

“If the company owner is found to be negligent what’s the punishment cadet?”

“Failing for proper droid maintenance carries a mandatory ten year sentence.”

“Why?”

“On your recommendation, after the robot wars, every company that operates droids has to ensure they were properly maintained and serviced.” Dredd looked at him, he wanted more. “To ensure there was no repeat of what went on before the war.” Dredd nodded but still showed no sign the question had been answered to his satisfaction.

“Alongside the negligence charge, if there are fatalities due to the poor maintenance then the sentence is life.”

Dredd started his Lawmaster and pulled away, Cripps watched him glide between the traffic: guess I passed that one then?

***

Billabongs was a popular entertainment franchise, they’d been popping up all over the city for a couple of years. Cheap synthol and high end holoprogs meant citizens could chill out and escape the daily drudge. The entrance faced onto Marcus Collins Drive, three ground cars showed extensive munitions damage, the second level windows blown out.

Dredd stood looking up, Cripps stood beside him watching the Justice Department drone cross the street towards the entrance. As it mounted the curb it was hit, an exhaust trail led up to the east side window.

“There.” Cripps pointed; Dredd looked at him managing to look even more unimpressed than normal.

“Thank you cadet I think I managed to ascertain the trajectory.”

Cripps dropped his arm quickly looking back at the window hopping his embarrassment didn’t show.

“Rocket launcher?” Judge Mitchells looked questioningly at Dredd.

“Exhaust all wrong that came from an inbuilt weapon. We have an ABC up there.”

ABC- Cripps looked from Dredd to the window. He’d never seen one of the old warrior droids, but knew all about them. Their history was required reading at the academy; if it was an ABC they had problems.

“What’s the procedure cadet?”

“Full tactical assault squad recommended, ABC’s have extensive…”

Dredd was already halfway across the street his Lawgiver in his hand.

“Sir?”

“No time.”

Dredd raised his weapon and let off two rounds at the window the rocket had come from. High explosive shells took most of the wall along the second floor out, as rubble fell towards the street Dredd ran up the steps and in through the front door.

“Drokk.” Cripps set off after Dredd his weapon out watching for any movement from above, and then was up the steps and inside.

Dredd was by the elevator, the doors open, as Cripps approached he tossed an anti personal mine in and hit the button, the doors closed and the elevator went up. Dredd headed for the stairs, Cripps ran to keep up; they’d not gone a dozen steps when the building shook with an explosion. Dredd didn’t break his stride and reached the door to the second floor seconds after the blast, without stopping he barged through his Lawgiver raised scanning the room beyond.

The room was a mess, several bodies lay just inside the door, heads split open, limbs missing. Cripps gasped involuntarily, he’d never been squeamish; you couldn’t be if you wanted to wear the badge, but it was a shock seeing them lain out like that. Dredd didn’t break his stride advancing into the room, stepping around the bodies; paying them no heed. To their left the outer wall was gone, blown out by Dredd’s high explosives, to the right another hole where the elevator doors had been. Some of the bodies closer to the elevator still moved, they’d obviously been caught in the blast, Cripps moved towards them and Dredd held up his hand and shook his head. He pointed forwards, touching two fingers to his visor then pointing at a pile of rubble against the far wall.

A metal leg poked out of the top, the ankle rotated with a sickening grating sound of mashed gears, Cripps moved to the other side of Dredd and came towards the pile from a different angle. A sound behind them made them both stop, Dredd was quick but the ABC was quicker, it came down out of the ceiling, one massive arm scythed through the air catching Dredd in the chest hurtling him across the room, he landed perilously close to the exposed elevator shaft. The rest of the ceiling gave way and the droid landed on its one remaining leg facing Cripps.

It towered ten feet high and had three bodies strapped to its barrel shaped chest section. Cripps looked on in horror as one moved, a young woman, she looked at him blood and tears streaming down her face.

“Please…”

He looked towards Dredd’s prone form but he’d get no help there. The droid took a hop towards him bringing one arm up as the launcher folded out from the surface. Cripps scrambled across the floor as the spot where he’d been erupted in a shower of stone and dust.

“Desist and disengage weapons systems droid.”

Cripps tried to put the sort of authority in his voice he’d heard Dredd use, but it didn’t sound the same. He was afraid, he may be a senior cadet and undergoing his final assessment but there was nothing he’d learnt at the Academy that prepared him to face off against an ABC.

The droid fired again, Cripps just managed to get away as what was left of the outer wall exploded sending debris crashing down. He knew he had to end this quick, there was only so long he could evade the shots. Making his way through the smoke and dust he found he was close to the elevator shaft, looking down he saw it was clear all the way down to the sub basements, a good 100 meters or more. Looking back towards the hopping shadow he formed a plan, all he had to do was figure out how to get the citizens off it.

Moving round the outside of the room he managed to get behind the droid, he tried to remember everything he’d read about the ABCs audio range, he hoped the falling masonry and electrical discharges would mask his movements. The body strapped to the droids back was a young boy, it wasn’t moving and as Cripps crept near he saw the ragged hole in the throat. Cursing under his breath he moved to the right where a man was strapped, he couldn’t see any visible wounds but could see he was unconscious.

That meant two were possibly alive, looking at the strapping it appeared to be industrial, setting his Lawgiver to needle laser he took aim and severed the strips holding the man’s upper body in place. Too late he realized his mistake, as the body tipped forward Cripps saw the strips holding his legs in place; the man’s head smacked against the floor, landing under the descending foot of the droid. There was a sickening crunch as the man’s head ruptured like a melon.

The droid stopped and looked down then its whole top section swiveled round and faced Cripps. The arm came up as the next shell cycled in the launchers chamber, Cripps looked at the woman; she appeared to have lapsed into unconsciousness again, toggling the selector on his weapon he fired two high explosive rounds at the droids leg before it had time to level its arm.

The leg gave out as the knee joint disintegrated sending the droids heavy top section backwards; it crushed the body on its back then skidded on the gore straight through the hole into the shaft and was gone. Cripps stood in amazement looking at the dark hole; he couldn’t believe what he’d just done, a loud crash from below followed by a rush of hot air told him it was finally over.

***

Cripps watched the medics giving Dredd the once over, he was sitting on his Lawmaster looking none too happy that they wouldn’t let him go until they were finished. Cripps half smiled and realized Dredd never looked happy. A shadow fell over him as Dredd pulled up alongside.

“Find something funny Cripps?”

“No sir, nothing, nothing at all.”

“Let’s head back; you need to write this one up rookie.”

Cripps nodded and hit the starter then stopped when he realized what Dredd had called him, Dredd leaned in close.

“You did well, it was a tough call; you can’t always save everyone.” Dredd clicked the gear selector then sat waiting. “Lead off Judge Cripps.”

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