Tuesday 22 January 2013

Tie-in Tuesday: Psimple Psimon - The Director's Cut

Just before Christmas I had my first Judge Dredd story published in the Judge Dredd Megazine. However, the story that was published was not quite the story that was written. That was in the present tense, whereas  what finally saw print was written in the past tense, as that fitted the style of the other stories that had gone before.

So here, for your delectation, is Psimple Psimon as it was originally intended to be read.

Judge Dredd: Psimple Psimon

by Jonathan Green

‘Control to all units vicinity of Charley Rogers Block,’ a voice crackles over his helmet comm. ‘We have multiple leapers. Repeat, mass suicide attempt at Charley Rogers. Judges Hardy and Roach at the scene request assistance. Meat wagons already en route.’

The grim expression etched on his granite features doesn’t alter as he swings the Lawmaster off the skedway and onto the intersked, heading for City Bottom.
‘Dredd responding.’

The body hitting the rockrete in front of him forces Dredd to slam on the brakes, the bike skidding to a halt.
            He peers up at the cyclopean city block, its designation picked out in letters three storeys high. And there, half a kilometre above him, he sees…
             It’s little more than a speck to beginning with. Then he hears the scream of terror, sees the flailing arms, his eyes zooming in on the plummeting figure. And now he sees the uniform, the helmet, the badge.
He swears again.
The Judge hits the pedway nine seconds later, travelling at a speed of more than fifty metres per second.
                ‘Control, Dredd,’ he barks into the comm, revving the Lawmaster’s engine into life again. ‘Have arrived at Charley Rogers Block. Tell those meat wagons they’re going to need to break out their buckets and spades.’
He can’t help running over the mess of blood and impact traumatised tissue covering the pedway as he steers the bike towards the block entrance. Behind him another cit makes landfall with a sound like breaking eggs.
                It never rains, he thinks and heads for the lifts.

Dredd makes it to the top of the block.
‘Psi-Judge Mesmer is on his way,’ the voice of Control buzzes in his ear again.
                A psi-judge? Of course. When Judges start jumping Grand Hall is bound to get jumpy too, especially considering how their numbers have been so drastically depleted since Chaos Day.
He kicks open the door to the roof, his lawgiver already in his hand. He takes in the scene that greets him at a practised glance.
Lined up on the edge of the roof are a dozen cits or more. At the head of the line is the other Judge already attending the Charley Rogers Block leaping frenzy.
Lined up like that they look like an iso-cube execution detail. Only the expressions on their faces betray them, and they all have exactly the same expression; one of abject terror.
There’s only one person on the roof who doesn’t look terrified and that’s the juve ten paces away to Dredd’s right. He can’t be more than eighteen. A look of sheer delight twinkles in the boy’s eyes, as he utters the words, ‘Simon says, jump!’
With a scream of rage and fear, the Judge hurls herself into the yawning gulf beyond the top of the tower to join her partner as a gory puddle on the pedway below.
                Dredd has the juve in his sights in an instant.
‘Freeze, creep!’
The boy turns then, acknowledging the Senior Street Judge for the first time. ‘You didn’t say, “Simon says”.’
                He’s given the creep a chance. Hershey’s No-Kill Policy doesn’t apply here. The juve’s already killed two judges now, and Grud alone knows how many others. Zero tolerance. It’s the only answer in this situation. It’s his judgement call.
                ‘Standard execution,’ Dredd growls, passing sentence.
                Pulling the trigger is like instinct; he doesn’t even have to think about it. It’s automatic.
                ‘Don’t you want to know why?’
                But the perp’s still alive. And he’s still talking. Dredd’s lawgiver remains undischarged.
The simple action of pulling the trigger suddenly feels like trying to push a Fattie uphill without a belly-wheel. Sweat beads on his brow.
                ‘Aren’t you even just a little bit curious?’
                ‘Your confession, creep,’ Dredd mutters through gritted teeth. He can feel the perp inside his head now, taunting him, mocking his inability to execute his duty, to see justice carried out.
                The rezzies lined up along the edge of the roof remain where they are, whimpering, the wind tugging at their clothes and hair. Not one of them moves a muscle. Not one of them is capable of doing so.
                ‘I used to be the block idiot, you know. Butt of everyone’s jokes. You wouldn’t believe it now, would you?’
                Looking at him, Dredd can detect the hint of mental retardation in the high forehead and the spacing of the eyes.
                ‘Oh, I don’t know. I’d call what you’re doing here pretty stupid.’
                The boy gives a bark of mirthless laughter. ‘Do you know what they called me? Simple Simon! They made my life a misery – my family’s too – with their constant jibes and the regularly beatings they dished out.’
                ‘So what changed?’ Dredd can feel his finger slowly tightening on the trigger. If he keeps the creep talking he might weaken the boy’s focus enough to break his concentration.
                ‘Chaos Day,’ Simple Simon replies. ‘Charley Rogers was locked down, but it was too late for us; my family and me. My father was already infected. My whole family succumbed to the bug. I had to watch them all bleed out through their eyes and die.’
                ‘But not you.’ Dredd feels the trigger ease back a fraction more.
                ‘Turns out I’m one of the lucky two per cent. No, I didn’t die. Instead, I went to bed an imbecile and woke up the following morning a drokking genius. Chaos Day changed me.’
                ‘Changed us all.’ Another millimetre.
                ‘Ah, but can you do this?’
                The juve turns his attention from Dredd to the queue of waiting victims again. ‘Simon says, jump.’
                With a shrill scream of hopeless terror a woman – the next in line – throws herself from the top of the block. And there’s nothing Dredd can do to save her.
                ‘Not one of them ever had a kind word for me. Not ever!’
                ‘You think you’re so special?’ Dredd growls, the sweat pouring down inside his helmet now.
                ‘I know I am,’ the juve snaps. It’s a bitter, desperate sound, like that made by a cornered animal fully expecting to be put down. ‘Otherwise how else could I do this?’
                He turns eyes blazing with the fires of injustice on Dredd, who meets the creep’s gaze with a flint hard stare of his own.
                ‘Shoot yourself in the head.’
                The Judge has faced down everything from zombies, to alien oppressors, to extra-dimensional super-fiends. Some upstart psi isn’t going to get the better of him. Not today.
Gritting his teeth, Dredd continues to resist.
                Simple Simon’s mad stare bores into him, the juve focusing all his rage and hatred upon the Judge. But Dredd sees something else there in those wild eyes now.
                The creep’s never met anyone capable of resisting his powers before. Judge Roach certainly hadn’t been able to, nor Judge Hardy, and the ennui-addled residents of Charley Rogers hadn’t had a hope.
                ‘What?’ the boy gasps, unwittingly giving voice to his surprise, his once indomitable will weakening still further. ‘Shoot yourself in the head!’
                Still Dredd resists.
                ‘How can this be happening? Why won’t you do as you’re told?’
                He hears the crunch of boots on the gravel of the rooftop behind him, and something distracts the boy for a moment.
In that instant Dredd feels the force of the juve’s willpower loses focus. The tension in his finger fades. He pulls the trigger, even as the new arrival gasps in horror.
                A single round explodes from the barrel of the gun and hits the boy square in the centre of his forehead. As it punches out again through the top of his skull, Simple Simon falls to the ground.
Dredd regards the limp body, looking so like a marionette with its strings cut.
                ‘You didn’t say “Simon says”.’

‘You didn’t have to shoot him in the head, you know?’ Judge Mesmer says as the stretcher bearing the boy is lifted into the med wagon. The clean-up crews have almost finished hosing down the pedway outside Charley Rogers Block.
                ‘Didn’t I?’ Dredd growls, the stony expression on his face unchanging.
                ‘Medics say he’ll live,’ Mesmer goes on, one hand stroking the excessively groomed greying goatee on his chin, ‘but that shot of yours took out most of his prefrontal cortex. He’s even more of a gibbering idiot now than he was before the Chaos Bug unlocked his latent psi-talents and gave him a genius level IQ.’
                ‘Aim must’ve been off for some reason.’
                Psi-Judge Mesmer gives a weary sigh as Dredd mounts his Lawmaster once again. ‘It’s a shame you had to lobotomise the lad. Psi-Division could doubtless have learnt a lot from him.’
The Senior Street Judge fixes the other with a stare so cold it could freeze magma.
‘Haven’t you heard, Mesmer?’ he says, revving the bike’s idling engine into life. ‘Ignorance is bliss.’

The End

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