He looked down at the script in front of him and curled his lip in contempt. Feh. A five minute segment on how well the city was doing in the wake of the Chaos Bug. Well that was a load of rubbish. The city was still on its knees and would be for some time to come.
The numbers still staggered him. 87%. Almost 90% of the population of Mega-City One were dead. Resyk was swamped and mass graves were being dug out in the Cursed Earth. He hoped that there wasn't another necromancer like Sabbat out there, or they'd be swarmed over in a day.
Reaching into his jacket he pulled out the piece of paper. Not that he really needed it – he'd memorised what he was going to say. Using a computer had been too dangerous – the words that he was planning to say were not ones that the Justice Department would ever want him to say.
He knew that people didn't trust him anymore. The face of Newsroom At Six for many years, he was now that asshole who had believed in the Judges, who had been a good little lapdog and who had regurgitated their bullshit on cue. And he had trusted them. He wouldn't have sat there and said so if he hadn't trusted them to do the right thing.
Of course that trust was now dead, along with 350 million citizens in the greatest disaster to hit the city since the Atomic Wars.
A low chime sounded from the computer to indicate that he would be live on air in ten minutes. He looked at the words on the paper to burn them even further into his brain and then he put it away and walked over to the door. Showtime.
"And the new entertainment complex is scheduled for completion in two months' time," Krista beamed with a smile that was almost as fake as her cleavage. "And now over to Bart Garrison for his closing thoughts. Bart."
The green light blinked on at the top of the camera and he smiled slightly, puzzling everyone standing in front of him, who were used to his big smile and wink at the viewers.
"Good evening everyone," he said sombrely. "I've been reading the news and providing commentary for 30 years now. This might well be my last broadcast. My closing thoughts tonight: The rule of the Judges must come to an end. They have failed us."
The room in front of him froze in terror, leavened with sheer disbelief that such words had just come out of his mouth. Well, too bad. It was long past time for this city to hear a few home truths.
"It wasn't their fault. They took over on one of the darkest days in our history. We had a mad President who had committed us to a war that we were pathetically ill-prepared to fight. Half of the country had been reduced to radioactive ash. Most of Congress was gone and much of what was left was corrupt. The suspension of the Constitution was necessary to depose President Booth. It had to be done.
"I can imagine that many of you are now looking confused. 'What's the Constitution' I can hear you saying. Well, it was the law of the land. It was a set of documents and laws that dictated how we were ruled, that set out how we were governed. An elected President. An elected Congress. A Supreme Court.
"Only the last remains, in a mutated form. The Judges' Council of Five is a direct descendent of the Supreme Court. Everything else is gone – suspended."
He shifted slightly in his seat and stared intently at the camera. "We were told at the time that the suspension of the Constitution would be temporary. Then we were told that it was being revised. And then… all references to it vanished. We were told to forget about it. And we did. Admittedly we had a lot to do at the time, such as rebuilding the City. But it's worth reflecting that Justice Department started out trying to correct with a mistake with a mistake. When they suspended the Constitution they destroyed the links that kept this country together.
"And we were a country. Mega City One was just the Easternmost of the great Mega-Cities of America. But because our defences protected us from the worst of the Atomic Wars, along with Texas City and Mega-City Two, we forgot about the rest of the country. We forgot that we were a country. The other Mega Cities split away, ruled by their own judges. And the rest of America was written off. Discarded. Forgotten about. It was labelled The Cursed Earth and we were told that it was forbidden to go there. Despite the fact that many of us originally come from the Cursed Earth, or know people whose families came from there. We forget that many of our forefathers were evacuated from the Cursed Earth. We have forgotten that many of those we so carelessly label 'mutants' and 'abnormal' were – are - our cousins. Our relations. Americans.
"But the Judges had power and what the Judges said went. They controlled the walls of the City. The streets of our City. And eventually the minds of the City. Yes, they protected us from crime, but at a terrible, hidden cost – we lost freedoms that our forefathers had taken for granted. The Judges watch us – but who, apart from other Judges, watches them?
"And what have they given us? Yes, they protected us from the horrors of occupation by East-Meg One, but they failed to spot their preparations for that invasion as well as the arrival of the Block War virus. They failed to stop the City from falling under the control of Chief Judge Cal, who was utterly insane.
"And under the control of Chief Judge Silver they broke the law – they destroyed the reputation of anyone involved in the Democracy movement, they arrest and beat protestors and they did it all whilst telling us, piously, that it was all for our own good. It's taken years for the truth to come out, but now it's out there.
"There's a story that the Grand Halls of Justice are haunted by the ghost of Silver. A pathetic presence, I've been told, trying to put things right. Well, he can never find peace, because it was on his watch that Necropolis happened. His mistakes led to what was until recently the greatest catastrophe to hit this city since the Atomic Wars.
"Until now. The Chaos Bug and the huge number of chickens that in coming home to roost made such a mess of the response by Justice Department have left this City at its lowest ebb ever. 87% of our families, our friends and our neighbours are dead. The smell of death hangs over this City, as does the stench of failure. Justice Department has failed us. The Judges have failed us. It's time to start thinking about what happens next.
"Am I calling for Democracy now? No, not just yet. The Judges have seen to it that the very thought of elections is strange. We are not ready for Democracy. We are not yet prepared for it. Look at the candidates for the post of Mayor before the Chaos Bug hit. Some were very worthy. Some were in it for the fame. One dressed like a vegetable and only ever said the word 'Clump' in interviews. And she was leading in some of the polls.
"No, we are not ready yet. We need to restart political discourse in this City. We need to start thinking for ourselves again, instead of looking at the nearest Judge. We need to exercise our brains again. We need to work towards a common purpose, a common goal. Democracy. Rule of law.
"We need a new Constitution. We need to find the old one, wherever the Judges have buried it, and study it and then work on a new one. We need to start to hope again, to dream again. We need to stand on our own feet and think again. And to tell the Judges how badly they have failed us.
"This is Bart Garrison signing off."
The light on the camera clicked off and he sighed in his seat. As he removed the earbug from his ear he could see that Krista was grey-faced and trembling. "What…" she mumbled at him. "What have you done!?"
"Told the truth," he said quietly. "Long past time that I did."
"The Judges will come and they will arrest everyone and-"
"If they come I'll tell them the truth again – oh don't flinch. I'll tell that it was all my idea. Which it was." He stood up and walked to the doors of the Newsroom. Beyond it were a sea of numb, silent men and women, who stared at him as if he was insane. "Good evening everyone."
He was half-expecting a couple of grim-faced Judges, all ready to arrest him for… well for what? Treason? He'd just opened his mouth and told some hard truths. But no. No Judges. He wondered how Judge Ellison, the stations liaison with Justice Department, was reacting. He'd known her for years and quite liked her. She'd lost a hand during the Apocalypse War and she had a quiet, understated sense of humour. Actually he quite liked her. Hopefully she wouldn't be the one to arrest him, if that was indeed to be his fate.
He sighed and took the lift to the parking bays. He'd drive home, pour himself a big glass of wine and see what would happen next. He was so tired. So tired of… everything really.
As the lift chimed and the doors opened he started to walk over to his vehicle – and then he stopped. He could see a Lawmaster parked not too far away and the looming shape of a tall, well-built man in the uniform of a Judge. Who… was looking out of the window at the dark shapes of the burnt-out blocks and who wasn't looking at him at all.
He plucked up the courage to continue to walk towards his vehicle. As he approached it the Judge turned slightly and he almost swallowed his tongue in terror as he was the word "DREDD" on the eagle on his chest. Crud. Dredd himself.
The Judge looked him, almost studying him. And then he nodded slightly. "Good speech," he said in a low, deep voice. And then he stomped off towards his Lawmaster, leaving the astounded Garrison staring after him.
Well. Perhaps there was hope for Mega City One.