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Author Topic: Squaxx Telling Stories  (Read 8971 times)

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Squaxx Telling Stories
« Reply #30 on: 24 December, 2021, 03:04:03 AM »


\...CONT

***

Precinct cars getting jacked wasn't unheard of, in fact it was common enough to be irritating. Juves stole cop cars on crazy dares, jackers stole them to order, gangs for revenge and jokers because they thought it was funny. The cars were all either recovered within 24 hours or never seen again. What we should have done was call it in and request a pick up, but we couldn't do that because our stolen car had an undisclosed bag of money hidden in the wheel well. The best possible outcome would be for us to find the car, and the bag, ourselves. If the judges got to it first, or other NYPD officers, or blackmailers, or the Mob, things would get sticky for us. So we called Precinct Control and logged off for an hour to follow up on an 'investigation of opportunity' while we hunted for our car.

Six p.m. on Christmas Eve and we were trudging around Base rousting hobos and low-lifes for names. It was dark but the power was still on, though not up to full strength. An icy acidic wind scythed through the city from the North Black Atlantic, chilling our bones and burning our eyes. New York was still a place back then. The old one was covered over but a new one sprang up right on top of it. The buildings were originally temporary structures printed on site and put up to house the workers employed to build the mega-blocks. The intention was to knock them down but more and more people came, claiming to be native New Yorkers reclaiming their city. It had become a city again, but a city within a megalopolis, a fungus growing around the feet of the mega structures.

On the ground, it was a maze of outdated hab-blocks, utility units, malls, alleys, waste ground, slums, and dumps. We turned the place upside down for three hours, chasing down shadows and phantoms and shimmering mirages. We rousted chop shops and pow stations, car parks and breakers' yards, hire companies and repo outfits. We rousted mechanics and accountants, jobsworths and grouches, desperadoes and junkies. Nada.

At nine p.m., it started snowing. Sol buttoned up his jacket and hitched up the collar. "Just great," he said. "Happy God damned Christmas from Weather Control, with the benevolent permission of the Justice Department." He spat onto the litter-strewn side walk and sighed. "I'm sorry I got you into this," he said.

"You got us into it," I said. "I followed you on my own."

"We could lose our badges."

I nodded. "Do time, even."

He swore. "I'll say it was all me, that I didn't tell you about the bag."

"Adding perjury won't help," I said. "I'm a good cop. I got a good record, maybe not spotless but solid. Same for you. We saw this opportunity, this unique circumstance, and we hesitated. We stumbled. But we're good cops, so we got back up and came clean. That's how we should play it. The Captain's a fair guy."

He pinched his lips between his thumb and forefinger and gave a resigned nod. "I'll call it in." He reached to turn his collar mic back on but I put my hand on his arm.

"Let's just follow up this last lead first, okay? If we don't it'll just nag at us."

He shrugged. "Sure, why not? Follow up the fantasy spun by a junkie with the scent of your two credits in his burned out nostrils that our car is simply parked in an alley because that would be a miracle, which is okay because it's Christmas, and miracles always happen at..." He paused, shining his torch into the depths of this desolate alley between desolate factories. "Detective Nördrokk, given your familiarity with said vehicle, would you say that was our car?"

"I would indeed, Detective Chance." I dabbed a finger at the graffiti and the paint was still tacky. "Not a fan of the new paint job, though. They spelled 'penis' wrong, and no way is this illustration even possible."

Sol opened the trunk and pulled the spare grav-unit out of the wheel well. The bag was still there. "Hallelujah!" He danced a jig. "We're still on!"

"No," I said. "We still have to explain why we took nearly four hours off-watch on Christmas Eve, with a department hover-car assigned to us during that time which is now a mobile obscenity charge. I know you're short of cash right now but so are we all. If we set even one foot on this path, for whatever reason, we're going to get lost, partner. So we end it. Now."

***

The Captain looked down at the bag Sol plonked on his desk. He had one arm into his overcoat. The clock on his desk said 11:17. He shook his head. "You bozos."

"Anyway, Sir," Sol said, running a hand through his thick black hair to no apparent effect, "we didn't book it in yet."

The Captain sighed and pulled his overcoat off, tossing it over the back of his chair. "So, you brought it straight to me, without even checking it in at the desk?"

Sol nodded. "It was Detective Nördrokk's idea. We've had the conversation, we've seen the uniqueness of this situation. The invisibility of this money. The Vice Squad might find some tactical advantage in that."

"You idiots have involved me in a direct violation of chain-of-evidence protocols. You've confessed to at least three counts of conspiracy and now you stand here like juves caught with your sticky fingerprints all over the cookie jar." He thumped the desk, the veins in his temples throbbed like grumbling snakes. "What is it you want? My sticky fingerprints on there too?"

"No Sir," Sol said. "We had the choice and we made it. Perhaps if we'd found the bag off duty the choices would've been different but we weren't. We were on the City's dime. So it's only fair we make it the City's choice by passing it on to you." The Captain massaged his eyes, finding himself speechless. "Anyway," Sol continued, "merry Christmas."

"Merry...?" The Captain almost exploded, then. I've never seen him come so close to losing it. "Get out," he said, and his voice was the hidden part of icebergs, "turn in your guns and badges at the front desk and stay home until I call you."

We nodded and retreated but Sol hesitates at the door. "Sir, if I can say one more thing?"

The Captain was almost quivering with rage but he'd always been a good man, and a fair cop. He licked his lips to steady them. "Go on."

"Old Nördrokk, Sir, his wife... Well, bluntly, she's losing it. It's the fear. My dad was a cop, and my mom knew that fear. Knew it every hour of every day, that the man she loved did a job that got him shot at. Every day, any day, could be the day. It grinds, Sir, that kind of fear, and I know you know it. Cilla Nördrokk has lived with that fear for nigh on four decades, Captain, and it's taking a toll. If me and Aerlig had decided other, he'd have used his half for this. To help her through it. Therapy, a holiday. Nothing sinister. Nothing frivolous. Nothing embarrassing to the PD."

"Yeah, sure. The guy's a saint. It doesn't change a damned thing and you know it."

"I don't expect it to. With me, it would've been my boy. He was on the Streetside Flyers aeroball team up until it was closed down last month. The Precinct used to fund it before the budget cuts got too tight, then the guys and the families put in for a while but there's only so much spare cash floating around out there so it folded. What are you going to do, right? Mine would've gone there. Oh, I would've used gloves and sterilising agents and untraceable stationary and anonymous donation, there would have been no link to myself or the NYPD. Crime of the century, it would have been. Would've bought the Flyers maybe half a season."

The Captain shook his head. "Look, I understand you fellas might believe you were proceeding with the best of intentions but that's beside the point. You broke protocol."

"We're not judges, Captain," Sol said. "We're cops. NYPD. We're not in charge of this neighbourhood, we're a part of it. Maybe we consider this as a windfall for the community, not just the PD. Give the notebooks to Vice, dump the cash into a good cause. Do some good. Spread a little Christmas cheer."

"Unbelievable," said the Captain. "You guys live in a dream world. Go on. Get out of my sight."

***

"That's it?" She shakes her head. "I tell you the SJS is investigating me and you tell me a story about deciding to not steal something. Why?"

"I like telling stories," he says, "it's an old man's prerogative."

"What did the Captain do with the bag?"

The old man shrugs, rubbing at his new leg again. "He never told us. Me and Sol were back at work on Boxing Day. The Captain called us up at noon, bellowing at us for being late. Vice made some serious inroads to the local Mob and an anonymous donation to a local community youth programme got the Streetside Flyers almost another two seasons, almost to a sector play-off, even winning a cup or two along the way."

She turns her j-pad back on with a grunt. "Very inspiring."

He stands out of the non-regulation armchair and picks up his empty teacup. He takes a moment to experiment with his new leg before jogging to the compact-o-kitch. The leg beeps in protest. "Ow, ow, ow," he says and curses as he props himself up against the sink.

"Let it bed in," she calls. "48 hours."

He sticks his tongue out at her and makes another cup of tea. He doesn't offer her anything. "You have to trust the people in the system," he says. "It's the one thing Sol was right about, the one thing that meant a damn about the whole NYPD, the whole Justice Department. The people in them. If the SJS are poking around, they're vetting you for a sensitive mission. If they were after you, you'd never see them coming. They want you to see them, watch how you react. It's all pretty standard."

"I guess," she says, "but it was the psis that got me thinking."

"Psi Division?"

"Yeah. Six shifts out of the last ten I've been partnered or liasoned with a psi judge. My average is two a month, maximum."

He returns to his chair, walking a little stiffly, and settles back down. "There have been some really weird rumours coming out of Psi Division lately," he takes a sip of tea. "But then what's new, right? That freakshow is just prime rumour food on a continuous basis. There was something about a giant goat last month, I seem to recall. Or was it a ram? Whatever, the usual nonsense. Lately, though, something seems to have caught their attention."

"Some of the psis mentioned a prophecy, tried to pass it off as no big thing when I overheard."

"They say it's about some super-judge, some great future leader, at the moment still a child."

"Judge Child," she says, her voice a whisper. "That's what Judge Dredd said. He was talking to the Sector Chief, said those words when I walked in then changed the subject real fast. Dredd asked me a routine question, about deployment, I answered and he left. But he looked at me for a long time before he went."

"Well," the old Instructor says, blowing the steam off his mug, "the conclusion seems logical enough. Judge Dredd is leading a team to find this Judge Child that's got Psi Division so wound up..."

Her hand flies to her mouth. "And he thinks I'm this Judge Child? This great future leader?"

He stares at her, his mouth hanging open. He shakes his head. "No," he says. "No, I don't think anybody thinks that, Judge." He laughs, then, and she frowns and demands to know what's so funny as her street comportment bubbles up. "It's that, after all these years, sometimes you are the same naive cadet I ran into under Una Stubbs all those years ago, the one who thought the robots wouldn't find her. No. I was going to say, you're being vetted for Dredd's team."

"Yes," a brief chain of chuckles escapes her control before she can adjust her grip. "That's the more likely interpretation, of course."

"I like that your first instinct was Future Queen, though," he says with a big grin, "I think that's classy."

+++

~~~^~~~~~~~


Never Forget.

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Squaxx Telling Stories
« Reply #31 on: 23 February, 2022, 11:21:56 PM »
A Three Page Future Shock

In Forty Eight Parts
(With a Detailed Index)

by Gerry Destine

~~~^~~~


PAGE ONE

PAGE ONE: FRAME ONE: The near future, twenty or thirty years from now. A dismal and sombre place. Muddy, swampy, cold, beset by a constant late afternoon December rainstorm. A tired and gloomy cityscape hunches beneath the withering, lowering sky. It's gloomy but there aren't many lights on yet, and few are very bright. The brightest, like a star, is coming from a group of cowering residential tower blocks, mostly dwarfed by towering architecture and swathed in glooms and rain.

CAP:    Sheffield. In a bit, anyway.

CAP:    Not nah.

CAP:    Sorry. I should say, not now. Not at present.


PAGE ONE: FRAME TWO: One of the smaller dismal high-rises, all drab held together with shadows, but with one window near the top shining like a star. It is dwarfed by larger, equally gloomy corporate towers bearing a few names like ROTHFELLA and ROCKERCHILD, TRANS-HYPER-GLOBAL and HYPER-TRANS-GLOBAL and GLOBAL-HYPER-TRANS and suchlike homogeneities and meaningless logos.

CAP:    But soon.


PAGE ONE: FRAME THREE: In one window, near the top of the small dismal high-rise, Gerry Destine sits at his desk typing into a laptop. The light from his window shines a little more golden, a little brighter than the rest.

CAP:    Right soon.

CAP:    Shite. Promised me'sen Ah wouldn't seh that.



PAGE ONE: FRAME FOUR: Gerry's apartment is small, Spartan. Warm but not quite warm enough. Damp. The place is rife with books of all sorts. Gerry looks up from the laptop, annoyed at the interruption of someone hammering at his door.

CAP:    Gerry wouldn't have said that.

SFX (KNOCK AT DOOR):    RATTA-RATTA-RATTA  BOK-BOK-BOK

GERRY:  Damn this rabble of bloody... rrrr... What!?


END OF PAGE ONE.



PAGE TWO.

PAGE TWO: FRAME ONE: Gerry flings open the door to reveal Bob and Bill, big, out of shape guys dressed in old hoodies and jeans, with matching bandanas and surgical masks. Gangsta types, but drab gangstas.

CAP:    Gerry's got more class.

GERRY:  Somebody better be actually on Christballing fire or melting, man! I shit you the fuck not!

GERRY (LONG JOIN):  What do you want?


PAGE TWO: FRAME TWO: Bob and Bill are feeling awkward. They have horrible news and don't quite know how to break it.

BOB:    Christ, Gerry, I've been knocking for half a f...

BILL (CUTS BOB OFF):    Will you... Jesus.

BILL (JOIN):    It's Lorrey, Gerry.       She's, dead, mate.


PAGE TWO: FRAME THREE: Gerry isn't phased at all by this news.

GERRY:  First off, Bob, I heard. I ignored.

GERRY:  And second off, Bill, I know. I killed her.

CAP:    Like I said. Class.


PAGE TWO: FRAME FOUR: Bob and Bill exchange sideways glances as Gerry gestures towards his laptop, a look of concern on his haggard face.

GERRY:  In my Future Shock. In my story. It's perfect. The perfect twist. The key. The way to the Last Page.

CAP:    He never quits, this one.

CAP:    Thinks he can write his way out. Against me!



PAGE TWO, FRAME FIVE: Bob and Bill are shot through the heads simultaneously. From nowhere. The writer done it. T'was me, was I, for these paper lives are mine to fry. They are killed instantly. Gerry is so wrapped up explaining his own genius that he does not notice.

GERRY:  It all starts in frame one, where an impoverished writer cruelly shunned by the most...

SFX (BULLET IMPACTS):   THWAP THWEP

GERRY:  Anyway, that's all... The point is, he goes to this remote Ilkley crossroads at midnight on the thirteenth day before Hallowe'en to...

CAP:    But then, I got class, an' all.


PAGE TWO: FRAME SIX: Gerry finally notices as Bob and Bill fall to the floor, lifeless, spurting blood from their fatal head wounds.

GERRY:  Guys? Oh.

CAP:    I love this bit. When they realise.




END OF PAGE TWO


PAGE THREE

PAGE THREE: FRAME ONE: Gerry points directly out of frame at me, the reader. He is angry. He is real. His desk-lamp makes him shine a little brighter than his drab surroundings.

GERRY:  This is you, isn't it?

GERRY:  You knew that killing her would lead to the perfect twist... but killing these two would ruin it. Damn. This is not what I meant, damn you.

GERRY:  Now I'll have to expand it into a series... yes... multiple parts... time travel... resurrection... bring her back... escape...(TRAILING OFF.)



PAGE THREE: FRAME TWO: Behind the windows of the apartments surrounding Gerry's, people are having their own, quieter personal experiences. But Gerry's window is still the brightest, still the most golden.

CAP:    Suspect you reckon you've rumbled me by now.

CAP:    The old Threadbare Metaphor himself. Or not. I'd shake hands but, tha' knows.


PAGE THREE: FRAME THREE: The dreary block in which Gerry lives, and countless like it, are dwarfed by the dreary blocks around them. Each block contains a thousand desperate souls. Each window shines like a star, mostly dim with a few brighter ones scattered about, but Gerry's is the brightest of all.

CAP:    Or I might say that not all devils are red and may inhabit a more... pleasingly unripened wavelength of the spectrum.

CAP:    Anyway. That's Sheffield for tha'. For you, sorry. Gerry's version, anyway.

CAP:    A bit too grim for my tastes but he seems to enjoy it.


PAGE THREE: FRAME FOUR: Sheffield, miserable and grim, huddles beneath a howling winter storm. It's going dark. But lights are on all over the city. One or two shine bright, but Gerry's still shines brightest of all - the Pole Star of hopes and dreams.

CAP:    Odd how sommat so drab shines so bright.

CAP:    There's nowt like getting it right, is there?

GERRY (UNSEEN, FROM HIS MINISCULE WINDOW):  This is my narrative! Get away! Get away! I write you in as a voice in my head I must vanq...(FADING TO INCOHERENCE.)

THE END
~~~^~~~~~~~


Never Forget.

The Legendary Shark

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Re: Squaxx Telling Stories
« Reply #32 on: 25 November, 2022, 02:40:17 AM »
Guts
20~~~^~~~22
PART I
Mandatory Incident Report, Saturday September 17th 2118
Ordered by: Judge Dredd

Appellant to: Street Assessment #2118/09/17/306-9b, Cadet Judge Bond, Colin - SN 144871-12 [cs29C, cg4.5]

Report begins:

On the day of the incident in question, I was assigned 9b level street assessment under Judge Dredd, one of the final challenges before my graduation in three weeks. If I graduate. I guess this whole situation puts that option into a garbage grinder.

Our patrol began at 18:00. Judge Dredd was waiting in the Academy jump bay with two Lawmasters when I arrived. Although I was five minutes early, I believe Judge Dredd was irritated. He growled something about "dedication" and then zoomed off, leaving me to catch up using a cold Academy Lawmaster - and you know how hard they are to start.

Yeah, yeah - I know. Keep to the facts. No personal comments or undue embellishments. Well, drokk that. Judge Dredd's already flunked me, I've disobeyed orders and I went off-grid for over two hours. I'm pretty much done and I always hated writing dry, soulless reports so I might as well go out with a bang. So, bridges burned, on with the report.

In the first hour we dealt with a traffic wreck, a hab fire, and a malfunctioning robot [separate reports attached, see Support File]. Judge Dredd was unimpressed by my performance, speaking only to criticise. But he's Judge Dredd, man, you know? He's blown entire cities up. He's done it all. How the Hell do you impress a judge like that? He ought to be banned from carrying out assessments. Just keep him pointed at the bad guys. For my part, I think his criticisms were unjustified. I pulled three citizens from a burning hab, six from a burning mo-pad, and lured the robot into exactly the right spot for Judge Dredd to shoot it. Which he took his time doing, I might add. The thing almost had me before he got it. And it fell on me. He didn't even help me up; just re-charged his Lawgiver, called Tek Division for a pick-up and then zoomed off again, covering me in dust and gravel.

The sun set just after 19:00 and we were called to several more challenging situations: a robbery at a branch of Bling Me, Sunshine! Jewellers, a mob shoot-out at Happy & Golucky's Bar 'n' Mill, a kidnapping in Billy Connolly Block, three suicide attempts, nine murder scenes, and the hi-jacking of a municipal drudge-crawler [separate reports attached, see Support File]. After the mob shoot-out, Judge Dredd was definitely displeased with my performance. I took the lead into the building and paused to make a tactical assessment. Judge Dredd steamed past me and went in shooting, going all "Surrender or die, creeps!" on their asses. I immediately backed him up and between us we killed all fifteen perps; eleven were eliminated in the initial firefight and the final four executed under standing warrants upon their surrender. It was a perfectly efficient and professional operation, but all Judge Dredd could do was criticise my initial decision to gather tactical data. "A judge needs guts, Bond," he said. Cheeky spugger. I got your guts. I got your guts right here.

I defend my decision to pause on entering Happy & Golucky's Bar 'n' Mill to gather tactical data because - THAT IS WHAT WE ARE TAUGHT. We already had the element of surprise and a fairly rough idea where the perps were, but pinpointing them precisely before going in would have been tactically sound. Judge Dredd, though, has done a gazillion of these things. He knows in his gut where everyone is. It's instinct with him. I don't got that yet. So I have to rely on my training, no matter what Old Stoneface says. Yeah, I wrote that. Bridges burned, remember?

At around 01:30 there's a lull and we take the opportunity to eat hotties from a street vendor and watch the Saturday night revellers trying not to get noticed. He doesn't speak to me, not a word. He eats his hottie quickly and mechanically, his concentration always on the citizens meandering from bar to bar. Sometimes he'd catch the eye of somebody being too loud or point his daystick at a citizen thinking about urinating in a shop doorway and they'd put their heads down and scamper along their ways. If I'm honest, and I assure you I am, it was a masterclass in street presence.

At 01:33:17, Judge Dredd received a call on the frequency we were both locked to [helm-rec data attached, see Support File], which said, "Dredd? Manners. The Sub-Committee's meeting now, they brought it forward."

Dredd glanced at me and then took the conversation to a private channel. "Who's chair?" He nodded, listening, still watching the crowd. He scowled and the nearest passing citizens dropped their eyes a little lower. "She deserves better," he said. "Dredd out."

"Dredd to Control," he said after barely a pause. Control answered and he said, "I'm going off patrol to tie up a few things. Might be a while." Control confirmed his message and advised him to check in every hour. "Roger and out." He turned his comms off, ate the last of his hottie and threw the wrapper in a garbage chute. He held his hand out for my empty wrapper too, which surprised me, and tossed that into the chute after his own. Then he turned to me and said, "Cadet Bond, this assessment is suspended. Return to the Academy and await further instructions."

I was shocked.

"Sir," I protested. "I'm shocked! I protest! This is a twenty-four hour assessment, we're not even halfway through!"

"Follow your orders, Cadet," he said, growling like a Heavy Metal Kid on a cold morning, "and don't forget that the assessment isn't actually over until you're out of my sight, understand?"

I could do nothing but comply. Just as his manner and the sheer granite reality of his presence cowed the citizens, so it cowed me. But only for a moment - I am, or was almost a judge, after all, and judges are not so easily cowed. I would play along, but something was wrong. I could feel it in my gut. "Yes, Sir," I said, and started my Lawmaster, thinking to ride out of sight and then follow him.

He placed a restraining hand on my forearm. "Leave the bike," he said. "Slave it to mine then call in for a pick-up. Academy's about three kay away if you decide to walk it, but if you do just remember that you may be dressed like a judge, but you ain't a judge yet. Pick-up's safer, walking's quicker. Your choice."

As I was slaving my Lawmaster to Judge Dredd's, he opened up his comms again. "Dredd to Cursed Earth Monitoring Network," a pause, "any activity out there?" He listened for a long moment, periodically giving a slight shake of the head, until finally saying, "That'll do. Send the co-ordinates to my Lawmaster." Then he zoomed off, my own riderless Lawmaster zooming off after him. Leaving me alone. In Mega City One. At the ragged end of a Saturday night. I might say Judge Dredd was showing faith in my ability to not get killed trying to cross three kilometres of the City, or I might say it's a dereliction of care and put a complaint in. I know. Too late. Bridges burned.

With two mystery communications and the unexplained suspension of my 9b, not to mention his theft of my bike, I felt that something was deeply wrong. Was Judge Dredd under the influence of some malign extra-dimensional xenophage, like the ones we learn about in xenosuppression class? Was he being blackmailed, in one of the forms we learn about in judicial weaknesses class? Or was the unthinkable happening? Like some sad case history in SJS studies class, was Judge Dredd himself selling Justice Department Lawmasters to the underworld? Whatever the case might turn out to be, I resolved to follow him and flagged down a taxi. Using my helmet display to monitor his personal transponder, and the transponders of the two Lawmasters, I followed him to the Geek Street Euthanasium. I halted the taxi out of sight and sent it away, keeping watch on the two empty Lawmasters parked at the foot of the drab building's drab front steps.

I waited for what seemed like hours until, at 02:49, Judge Dredd emerged from the building supporting a frail old woman in a judge's uniform. With the zoom in my visor, I easily identified her. That's what you want me to keep quiet about, isn't it? Another dirty little Justice Department secret. But don't worry, I won't spill the beans. I may not be graduating any more but I still have my honour at least.

Of course, Judge Dredd found me out instantly because I'd rushed dampening my own transponder. He put you-know-who on my Lawmaster then marched directly over to my hiding place and shoved me up against a wall. "What the Hell are you doing here, Cadet?"

I put up my hands. "I thought you might be in some kind of trouble, Sir!" I said, in my best Academy smart-speak.

Okay, of all that has gone before and all that follows, this is the one bit you won't believe. But I swear, with my right hand on Fargo's toe and my lips on the Eagle's beak, it's true. He smiled. I know, I know, everyone says he never smiles. Probably genetically incapable of it, some kind of early clone thing. But he did it. It admittedly wasn't a very big smile, or a particularly encouraging one, being in its nature more of a reverse scowl, if you can picture such a thing. The corners of his mouth twitched up like tortured insects for a mere fraction of a moment, but it was definitely a smile.

"So you came to rescue me," the smile was gone but he released his grip. "Commendable."

"Sir, I've obviously stumbled onto something..."

"No, Cadet," he said, "you haven't. You will return to the Academy immediately, turn in your gun and badge, and have a full Mandatory Incident Report in my stack by 05:00."

I sighed. "Yes, Judge Dredd." I couldn't even muster up the courage to apologise as he barked into his comm.

"Academy Faculty, Dredd." A pause. "Cadet Bond needs a pick up, Code 0. He's dampened his transponder so get the co-ordinates from mine until he fixes his own." He shot me a glance and I removed my helmet to re-tune the transponder.

Then he strode back to you-know-who, who was wandering back up the steps. He took her, more gently than one might think possible, and steered her back to my Lawmaster. An Academy flivver piloted by a sour Judge Tutor MacKrae arrived just as the two Lawmasters hurtled off into the night, towards the deeply shadowed West Wall.

MacKrae brought me back to the Academy, berating me for the whole, mercifully short flight. All my equipment has been taken from me as, under Code 0, my status as a Justice Department cadet has been suspended and my chances of graduation reduced to whatever word describes something less likely than inconceivable. So that's street judge out. Maybe I'll get to be a cube guard or even end up in a cube myself. If I'm really lucky, I might get sent to Traffic or PSU. All because of that damned old dinosaur. All because I don't match up to a legend.

So, that's my report, Judge Dredd. My last official duty as a Street Judge cadet.

And I do have guts. You're reading them.

Drokk you and goodnight.

The information I have recorded in this report is, to the best of my knowledge and ability, a true and accurate account.
Cadet Judge Colin Bond (suspended).

+++
+++

Cont.../
~~~^~~~~~~~


Never Forget.

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Re: Squaxx Telling Stories
« Reply #33 on: 25 November, 2022, 02:41:13 AM »
/...cont.

PART II
Voluntary After Action Report, Wednesday September 21st 2118
Ordered by: Judge Tutor MacKrae

Appellant to: Street Assessment #2118/09/17/306-9b(ext_A), Ex Cadet Judge Bond, Colin - SN 144871-12 [cs29C, cg4.5](Disc.)

Report begins:

I know I have to write this report and that if I don't you'll squeeze it out of me anyway, and so write it I will - because I shouldn't be here, in this cube, and you need to hear my side of it. But first, I have a few things to say.

Firstly, I object most strenuously to being held in a common cube when simple confinement to my quarters at the Academy would have sufficed. The food in here is worse than dehydrated sand, the guards single me out for punishments and the rest of the inmates periodically take it in turns to try and kill me. The last one came at me with a toilet brush he'd chewed to a point. The cheeky drokker very nearly had my kidney out. It's not good enough and, I believe, a violation of Section Nine, paragraphs six through eighteen of the Penal Code - 'no Justice Department perp will be placed in the general population.'

Secondly, I feel compelled to point out that the holovizors inside the cubes are presenting misleading information. As a final year cadet at the Academy of Law, I know what the law is - and all this bullstom on the holos? That's not it. It misleads inmates into thinking they have no rights at all. Fundamentally, the information is all correct but is presented in a deeply deceptive way. This not what I was taught in incarceration and execution class. I believe at least some of the aforesaid presentations breach the Simple Lawful Applications and Representations Act of 2097.

Finally, and most importantly, I have heard rumours that clones who wash out of the Academy are broken down into their constituent nutrients and fed into the new clone vats. Also that failed cadets risk lobotomies to remove our more destructive training or knowledge. I would like you to scotch these rumours. I don't want to be liquidized or lobotomized. I want to do my time, whatever it's going to be (and it can't be much, because I didn't do much), and then set up in private security or something. Maybe private eye work. Bodyguarding. Something where I can still use my skills to do good. Within the law, of course.

Right, my report:

I'd just finished typing my Mandatory Incident Report [attached, see Support File] into my j-Pad with ten minutes to spare before Judge Dredd's 05:00 deadline, when you, Judge Tutor MacKrae, burst into my quarters. "Hup, hup," you said - you always say that, and nobody knows why. "Hup, hup, Bond. Draw your gear and report to airpad three, now! Come on, lad - hup, hup!"

"I thought I was suspended?" I said.

"You were, now you ain't. Hup, hup - Dredd's waiting."

I gaped. "Judge Dredd? But... Oh... I'd better just..." I reached for my j-Pad but he pulled me away.

"Yes, yes. Hup, hup," you said, bustling me out of the room at the double, steering me towards this level's quartermaster's office. "Dredd said you deserved to finish your assessment and wants you on a transport, urgent."

"Where am I going?"

"The Cursed Earth," you said. "Just remember your hotdogs and you'll be fine. Draw your stuff, hup, hup now, transport's inbound, five out."

Six minutes later I found myself aboard a Justice Department long-range pat-wagon, still fastening my pads, lancing away from the brightly lit City and out into the night-infested wilderness of the Cursed Earth. Also aboard were three seasoned street judges, Parle, Cooper, and Croton, a surly med judge named Crowe, a smart-ass tek judge named Gordon who wanted us to call him Flash, and a couple of pilots, whose names I never caught because they were killed on impact when a missile blew the pat-wagon out of the purpling sky.

The wagon came to rest on its belly, a little over a hundred yards from Judge Dredd. We were all momentarily stunned but the sound of Lawgiver fire from outside brought us round. Parle flung open the door and leaped out, Cooper and Croton followed her and I followed them. The situation soon became clear. Judge Dredd was holding a tribe of mutant cannibals at bay, the body of Chief Judge McGruder at his feet, his Lawgiver firing like a slow jack-hammer, every shot a lethal one. Our training took over and we charged the tribe, overwhelming them with superior tactics and firepower. Those who stood and fought died, the rest ran away. I was every bit a part of the action, but when I glanced back Judge Dredd wasn't even looking. He was handing McGruder's body over to the surly Crowe and Judge Cooper, who sustained a broken wrist in the crash, to carry into the wagon.

"What's the damage?" Dredd gestured towards the downed pat-wagon.

"Engine two's scrap," said Gordon, "engine one's damaged but not over bad. Flight deck controls are pretty banged up, pilots' airbags failed and they hit the consoles pretty hard. Hull's twisted but seems sound. She'll be a pig to fly with two and a half engines and a bent spine but I reckon we can get her home."

"How long?"

Gordon rubbed his chin. "Two or three hours, maybe more depending on what crops up. We can have another ship out here in forty-five minutes if you prefer."

Judge Dredd shook his head and checked his Lawgiver. "Negative. You, Crowe and Cooper stay here and fix the ship. Parle, Croton, Bond, with me. Somewhere out there is a creep with surface-to-air missiles. We need to take that creep out." He then strode over to what looked like a patch of bare earth and reached down to pull a chain, which in turn pulled open a rusty old trap door which gaped out of the ground with a grating yawn. "You can come out now," he shouted into the gaping hole in the ground.

Presently, a dozen dazed Helltrekkers emerged into the brightening pre-dawn chill. They could have asked us to take them back to the City. After everything they'd been through, watching three of their number tortured, cooked, and eaten and facing the same fate themselves before Judge Dredd showed up, nobody would have blamed them. But they elected instead to fix their tractor and make speed to catch back up with the rest of their trek. Citizens. They're all insane.

Judge Dredd called me to him. "Assessment, Cadet?"

"Tracks are scattered but tend towards the north-west. However, local tribal tactics tend towards initially fleeing away from the rally point and so I suggest we strike out to the north-east and ambush them when they circle back," I said.

He grunted. "You think these cannibals have a rocket launcher? They were using home-made shotguns and crossbows."

"They could've picked one up, Sir, there's still plenty of dangerous junk lying around out here. Besides, they seem to be our only suspects."

"Is that so?" Judge Dredd mounted his Lawmaster while Parle and Croton retrieved their own Lawmasters from the wagon. "What about the creep with the scanner on the ridge, three o'clock?"

I made the rookie mistake of turning my head to look and was just in time to see a distant figure duck out of sight. Judge Dredd growled out a sigh. "Sorry, Sir," I said.

He started his Lawmaster. "Parle, Croton, follow the cannibals, teach 'em some table manners. Bond, with me."

Parle and Croton gunned their Lawmasters after the fleeing cannibals, beacons flashing and sirens blaring, headlamps on maximum illumination in the pre-dawn gloom, being all very shock and awe. Judge Dredd, me following on my recovered Lawmaster, which was now covered in cold sticky blood, sped towards the ridge in stealth mode. By the time we crested the ridge, the sun was rising at our backs. The ridge was the lip of an old crater, about a mile wide, cut out of a shattered and twisted landscape befouled with the dessicated bones of a dead city. The rising sun turned the tallest ruins to gold, splashing a skein of beauty over the malignant panorama.

Judge Dredd gunned his lawmaster down the other side of the ridge, into the still benighted crater, following footprints through the infra-red scanners in his helmet. If he noticed the extraordinary resplendence of the scene, he certainly never said anything. The base of the crater, still in gloom, was covered with a layer of rippled and fractured glass that crunched and splintered under the tyres of our Lawmasters and glistened and glowed in our infra-reds. Short, tough grasses and dense, thorny bushes grew sporadically between the older cracks in the glass. Above us, in the distance, around the still dark edges of the crater, the tallest ruins shone gold so that it seemed we were venturing towards the middle of some Narcissistic god's discarded crown.

He braked his Lawmaster to a halt and I parked alongside him. He pointed. "Structure."

I couldn't see it for a moment, so well did it blend in with the undulating crater floor. "I see it," I said. "Bike cannon?" He might have smiled again at that point, but it was dark and probably not.

"Standard pincer," he said. "You go left, I go right. Keep this kinda' distance, set your Lawmaster to level two back-up and proceed on foot. Look for ways in." He rode off, without waiting for a reply.

The structure turned out to be little more than a synthi-tin shack hidden by piles of rocks and a convincing paint job. There were security cameras and trip-lasers, but these were easy for our Lawmasters to detect and hack before we moved in to discover no windows and only one door. Judge Dredd gestured for me to kick it in, which I did. The door fell away easily with my first kick, which is always sweet. There's nothing worse than when one hinge clings on or the door breaks in two so that it needs another kick out of the way. Judge Tutor Hale said those kinds of things were dead seconds, precious wasted seconds that could get you killed. Anyway, I made sure to kick hard and sharp, just like old Hale See-Sir taught us, and the door just fell perfectly.

We were inside in a flash, Lawgivers at the ready, to find the shack had only two bearded occupants. They were wearing scruffy overalls and both had their hands up. I forced them to their knees and cuffed them while Judge Dredd scanned the shack. "Rocket launcher," he said once the two prisoners were secure. I looked around and saw the launcher, on a rack with a range of other munitions from mines to pistols. The rest of the shack was a fight for space between spartan comforts and a confusion of scientific scanners and recording devices.

"Names," Judge Dredd barked.

"A... Abel Brockman, Sir, that's me. Professor of anthropology at MCU. Tenured," he added in a significant tone, as if it might make a difference.

"Doctor Delby Dane, Judge Dredd Sir," the other kneeling scientist gulped, making his unkempt black beard wobble. "I'm just the assistant," he said, beginning to babble. "I just pilot the drones and organise the data, I don't do any of the shooting or..."

Brockman, his wild red beard bristling, nudged Dane with his shoulder. "Be quiet, you idiot! I'll deal with this..."

But Dane's babble had only just begun and Judge Dredd let it continue, looking down at the man like a looming thunderhead at the edge of town. "It was all his idea. He set it up, and it was all great, then they tried to eat us and so Abe..."

Brockman lunged at Dane, intent on biting his ear off, but I stunned him into submission with a hefty crack from the back of my hand.

"Abe decided to provide for them, to keep them away from us."

"The cannibals?"

"Yes," Dane said. "They're called the Nosh-Monstas tribe. They have a fascinating..." Dredd growled and gestured for more pertinent information. "Yes, of course. Abe, Professor Brockman, he started by shooting animals and leaving the carcasses for the tribe's scavengers to find. But it soon became clear that eating human flesh isn't a necessity for the Nosh-Monstas but a holy ritual, so we were back on the menu again.

"What he did next, he did without my knowledge, I swear. He killed a man, a lone prospector, and left the body for the tribe. They left us alone after that, but only for three months, so Abe did it again. An itinerant dentist and his daughter, this time. I tried to talk him out of it, I swear." Dane began to cry.

Judge Dredd grabbed Dane's hair and pulled his head back to snarl into his face. "The helltrekkers?"

Dane sobbed. "He took out their tractor's drive train with a mine, the tribe did the rest."

"And the pat-wagon?"

Dane nodded. "That too. It was him. It was all him. Please, you have to believe me."

"An' you just sat on your butt and watched, huh?" Judge Dredd's gravel-grinder of a voice said. "How long you two been out here? How many poor saps have you fed to these ghouls?"

"Three..." Dane sobbed, his beard wet with tears and snail trails of silvery snot, "three years... Scores of people, scores. Maybe a hundred. Grud help me. He said he'd kill me in my sleep if I didn't..."

Judge Dredd let go of the sobbing man's hair and looked at me. "Sentencing?"

"Gross misuse of official City academic funding, ten years. Use of a non-regulation research structure and unlicensed establishment and erection of said structure, nine months. Multiple premeditated homicides carried out over a period of three years, death."

Judge Dredd nodded. "Have you anything to say before I carry out your sentences?"

Dane had lots to say but was crying so hard he couldn't get anything out before a double-tap ended his sobbing forever. Professor Brockman called us stupid and short-sighted, said that science would remember him and that our brains were too feeble to grasp the importance of his research, but his presumably superior brain was soon all over the floor and his important research on fire as we tossed a couple of incendiary rounds in after we left.

"Might have been a mistake to torch all that data, Sir," I hazarded. "Information on the culture and, I mean, tactics of this tribe could help us learn."

He definitely didn't smile this time but, looking into the gloomy crater under the rising sun and seeing Parle and Croton riding towards us said, "I don't think that's gonna be a problem, Cadet."

The two rode to a halt in front of us and Parle took off her helmet. "Saw the smoke," she said, "figured you might need support."

"Nope," said Judge Dredd. "Bond and I got it all squared away. You?"

Parle picked a loose strand of windblown hair from her mouth. "I think we've spoiled their appetite. They won't be lickin' their lips at the next helltrek they see, at any rate, they'll be away like singed jackrabbits."

Judge Dredd called his bike to him and ordered a return to the pat-wagon, which objective was achieved without incident.

I could have described the journey back to the downed pat-wagon, there, but instead I want to touch upon a clerical matter. Cadets at the Academy are very busy, and have very many essays and reports to write. Missing a deadline for an essay or especially a report is worse than submitting an incomplete document. And why am I telling you this, Judge Tutor MacKrae, when you are well aware of the rules? I'll tell you for why - because what happened next was entirely your fault. You see, there's an app on the Academy server that autosubmits essays and reports automatically on the deadline, whether it's complete or not.

I didn't have time to switch off autosubmit on that damned report I wrote. The one where I just let rip because I thought Judge Dredd had failed me and that I wasn't going to be a judge any more. The one where I was petulant and angry. But then you come in telling me that Judge Dredd's asked for me and I think that maybe I've been a bit rash, so I try to delete the report but you pull me away before I can do it. But I think it's fine, I'll delete it later and take the demerit for submitting late. But I forgot about the autosubmit.

He read my report on the pat-wagon as it shuddered home at less than half speed. He never said a word.

And that's why I'm here in this cube, isn't it? Because Old High and Mighty can't take a joke. And if you want to know where McGruder's body is, I don't know. Last I saw she was laid out on a bunk in the pat-wagon. As soon as it landed I was arrested and brought to this drokking cube.

So, there's your report. We're all caught up. This is not how I saw my last three weeks going.

The information I have recorded in this report is, to the best of my knowledge and ability, a true and accurate account.
Ex Cadet Judge Colin Bond.

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Never Forget.