This damn story emerged from the more demented depths of my imagination and then, in the manner of all plot bunnies, made a damn nuisance of itself. It's based on an OC that should have died in the early history of Mega-City One, one that does not exist during the Necropolis storyline of the comics.
The air is tainted in the control room. There's smoke, there's the smell of death from the bodies and there's something else. Something nastier, something fouler. Betrayal. Treachery. Madness. And then there was the other thing. The reason why he couldn't look through the viewscreen behind him.
Darkness had fallen on the heart of Mega-City One, but it was barely noon. Black clouds were spiralling out of a knot of… something.
The Sisters of Death were there. Them and the other Dark Judges. And they were doing something that the city's weather control system couldn't cope with, because the temperature was dropping hour by hour.
He looked at the screens that still worked and then grunted a little as the wound at his side flared with agony. Damn it, the painkillers were wearing off again. Grant had only been able to get one shot off before he'd blown his head off, but he'd still been able to wing him. That had been a nasty moment. Grant had been off, snappish, shaking his head – and then he had turned in an instant, face blank, posture lazy, hands going for his Lawgiver.
It had been the Sisters of Death. They were the reason behind the other Judges going crazy, they were the reason why so many of the gates on the Wall had been closed in the face of the desperate crowds of refugees, why the H-Wagons were firing on H-Wagons, why the madness and bloodshed had flashed across the city. Some had fought. Brannigan at Gate 60. Lam at Gate 10. But far too many had succumbed.
And now there was just Gate 42.
He looked at the radar screen, noted that the dots on the far Western part of the screen had stopped moving, with the exception of the one that was hurrying back and then he sighed and activated the microphone and repeated the words that he'd said so many times now.
"This is Judge Todd Braxton on the Wall at Tower 42. Braxton on the Wall at Tower 42 to all remaining loyal Judges, CitiDef forces and citizens. The Hall of Justice has fallen. Do not obey orders from Dispatch. The Dark Judges control both. The Gate of Tower 42 on the Wall is still open. I repeat: the Gate at Tower 42 on the Wall is still open. Citizens have been using it to escape, along with loyal forces. The other Gates have been closed. Get out, if you can. Make your way to Tower 42, or down to the Undercity, or anywhere else, but get out. The Dark Judges have taken over."
He took a deep breath and then started again: "This is Judge Todd Braxton on the Wall at Tower 42. Braxton on the Wall at Tower 42 to all remaining loyal Judges…"
He repeated the words five times more and then cut the feed and leant back and looked at the screen as he heard screams go up from the stream of desperate people fleeing the Big Meg. Damn it. There was a Pat-Wagon advancing down the street, firing at the refugees. He strode to a console, selected a missile, over-rode the friendly fire warning and then sent it howling off. The missile struck dead-on, exploding the vehicle and then watched as a body pinwheeled away from the middle of the explosion, shedding limbs as it went.
He had just killed another Judge. He'd add it to the list of the others, the others who had been turned by the Sisters.
Shuddering a little he moved his thoughts away from them. They were in the minds of every Judge, slithering about like maggoty fingers in the brain. He had no idea why he and the others had resisted them for so long. Perhaps the position of Tower 42? It was the most Westerly of the Wall towers. Perhaps it was just because the location was the place where the more annoying Judges were posted, those who kept filing reports about the true spirit of the law. He and the others could be, in the words of one of his Brit-Cit cousins, 'contrary'.
Not that they had all been able to resist. He looked over at Grant's body again. Poor kid. He'd only had his full eagle for a year.
He sighed again. Hell, he'd only had his full eagle for 12 years. He'd been the Old Man's rookie, 12 long years ago. He'd just missed Cal's madness. But he'd been through the Apocalypse War, which had been as bad as he'd thought that anything could get, until this lunacy. Had a few close calls on the mean streets of Mega-City One, some closer than others. Years of enforcing the rules, of watching and waiting and feeling increasingly cynical about just what was done in the name of justice. He frowned. This was bad. He was woolgathering again. Heh. Odd phrase.
No, he had to snap out of this. He couldn't afford to lose focus, not now. He looked at the radar screen again. That trio of H-Wagons that had been loitering to the South had been joined by another two. He pulled a face and activated the main las-screen defences, before putting them onto local autonomous control. If they tried anything from the direction of the city then they'd be carved to raw munce fairly quickly.
As for the blip to the West, he watched as a H-Wagon settled about a klick away from the Gate. There was a pause and then a hatch opened and a solitary figure on a Lawmaster rode out, heading at full speed for the Gate. He nodded, looked about the room sadly – and then he strode to the door and pulled out his Lawgiver. "High-ex," he ground out. The gun acknowledged the command and then he fired a high explosive shell into each of the remaining command consoles. They exploded with a shower of sparks and he grimaced at the damage to the place that he'd commanded for so long. And then he was off, thundering down the stairs, trying to ignore the pain of the gunshot at his side as the lights flickered furiously and then went red as the backup generator kicked in.
As he reached the gate and looked at the frantic trickle of refugees leaving the city he winced. Many of them were eyeing him as if he was a rabid animal, only relaxing when they saw his name on his eagle. "It's Braxton, Braxton of Tower 42," one woman called out. "The Judge who kept the gate open."
"Keep moving," he called out to them and they hurried on. "We're setting up refugee camps in the Cursed Earth. But keep moving!"
As he reached his Lawmaster and the two guns that were leaning up against it the other Judge drew up. Strangways parked her bike and removed her helmet, before looking at him critically. She was almost as stubborn as he was and it had been difficult to send the square-jawed Judge away.
"You look like hell," she grunted, before looking through the gate into the darkening city behind it. "It's getting worse isn't it?"
"We need to get moving. I can feel them in my head."
He nodded tersely. "Control room's full of burning consoles. But they can override the gate controls. Unless of course the gates are mechanically wrecked as well." He hefted the two stub guns. They were dangerous if they overheated but they could cut through anything.
They took half the gate each, cutting through the hinges with the stub gun beams. Sparks flew and hydraulic fluid gushed in places, but the gates would never move again without some hefty repairs and he had a feeling that Judge Death and his minions would not bother with repairing a single damn thing. No, Gate 42 was open and hopefully people could use it to escape.
As they rode for the H-Wagon he made the mistake of looking back. The darkness was growing faster near the gate and for a moment he could see the face of one of the Sisters in the clouds. Oh yes, they'd attracted some attention and he sped up a little. The refugees were running for it, heading for the nearest hill.
As they hit the ramp, which started to close, he felt something seem to brush against his mind, something fetid and rotten. He twisted his face and hardened his mind. I am a Judge of Mega-City One! Get out of my brain! He felt a vague sense of surprise and then all of a sudden it was gone, leaving a lingering feeling of shuddering unease.
The H-Wagon shuddered slightly and then it rose in the air and set off to the West and it was only then that he let the hovering MedJudge at his wound. "Not as bad as it might have been," was the terse verdict from the watching Strangways. "Lucky." She almost seemed to sniff the air and then she relaxed a hair. "Sister's touch is lessening."
"Yeah," he said tiredly. Grud, when was the last time he'd slept? "Good. How many more made it in?"
"Counting us? 532. A combination of Judges and Techs. We're still combing through the refugees for CityDef units."
He nodded, his heart sinking. Five hundred men and thirty-two and women and who knew how many CityDef personnel against the suborned Judges of an entire Mega-City. But then he set his jaw and nodded again. "Alright then. Let's go to work."