by Nathan Moore
Civilization is near collapse. Do you fight the losing battle, or help the world burn?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This campfire takes place in the world of the "Judge Dredd" comic books and films. In no way do I claim ownership over this established universe.|
The year is 2095. Pollution and war have ravaged the planet. On the continent of North America, with a population of 400 million citizens, Mega-City One hugs the putrid Black Atlantic while the irradiated Cursed Earth surrounds it on every side. Inside the walls, there are shortages of all necessities and the citizens of the Mega-City live crammed together in squalor. The foul conditions and limited resources have caused many to turn to lives of crime. Gangs control vast swathes of territory, violent crimes are daily occurrences, and somehow it seems to only get worse. The only thing standing between the Mega-City and complete anarchy are the Judges.
Granted virtually complete judicial powers, Judges police, arrest, sentence, and even execute, provided they do so within the strict confines of the law. Judges work constantly to combat the violence and crime of the Mega-City. Often trained from childhood, always armed with cutting edge weaponry, and ever-clad in nearly impregnable armor, they are the final waning line of defense that keeps society from collapsing entirely.
CHOOSE YOUR SIDE:
You are a Judge, meaning you are also jury and executioner. It is your sworn duty to uphold the law of Mega-City One District 10 by any and all means. Some days you will sentence drug dealers to the iso-cubes, others you will execute a murderer, and occasionally you will be jumped by gang members too stupid, or too desperate, to realize their mistake. Sometimes you will work with multiple Judges in order to topple a particularly entrenched gang or criminal organization, but most of the time you will be alone on the streets, dispensing justice one crime at a time.
You have recently formed a small gang (the name is up to you) within the Jericho Mega-Blok. Decide who your leader is, or if you will even have one, and what line of business you will be in. Just remember: you are not the only gang in the Mega-Blok. There will be competition, and the more you expand your market, the more eyes will turn toward you. One day, should your business flourish, it is entirely likely that your activities will even draw the ire of the Judges. Prepare accordingly.
Judges, to begin, you will go about your business, arresting criminals, shutting down drug rings, executing murderers, etc.
Criminals, to start, you are merely a group of street rats who have formed a gang, whether that is because you are protecting what is yours or because you enjoy violence, etc, that is up to you. Recruit others from the Mega-Blok, cut deals, do business, deal with interlopers and rival gangs in your Mega-Blok.
Judges, eventually, the Criminals will commit an act that draws your attention. In all likelihood, it will be limited and only one responder will be necessary. It is also likely that everyone will make it out of the engagement alive; I would be rather surprised if the engagement is even direct. However, the fact that Judge was unsuccessful in making an arrest would mean that Mega-Blok Jericho’s threat assessment made within the Halls of Justice will become greater. More eyes will turn there and as Criminal activities continue, more and more patrols will begin to pass by.
How quickly, or slowly, things escalate is up to you.
Hopefully everyone will have had the opportunity to make approximately four additions or more before the excrement impacts the rotating blade. But eventually it will. And that is the point. The hoped for endgame of this campfire is that the Criminals end up running the Jericho Mega-Blok Scarface-style and the Judges are called in to purge it. Things will go sideways, then FUBAR, and I have no clue who will win or even if anyone will make it out alive. Again, the intent is for a massacre at the end, so do not join if you aren't ok with your character (Judge or Criminal) being brutally dispatched in the end.
JUDGES, YOU HAVE THE TRAINING, THE BADGE, AND THE AUTHORITY, NOW CLAIM YOUR INSTRUMENTS OF ENFORCEMENT:
-one (1) standard-issue Lawgiver mk II
-handgun designed to employ multiple ammunitions types
three modes of fire (single-shot, semi-auto, full auto)
-has palm-print scanner for identification of individual holding the weapon
(detonates when held by unauthorized individual)
-one (1) standard-issue Lawmaster
-used as transportation and limited command center for carrying extra ammunition, downloading data, and communicating with the Grand Hall of Justice
REGARDING THE CRIMINALS’ WEAPONS:
When you begin, you will likely have no weapons apart from a few knives. You can then work your way up to a pistol or two, likely by the end of the first round of additions. Submachine guns once your cash flow increases and the other gangs actually begin to see you as a threat. When you start to get assault rifles, then you’re probably ready to make a hostile takeover of the Mega-Blok, level by level. Anything larger (RPGs, Heavy Machine Guns) and you are going to be fending off Judges before the week is out.
Your weapons will be equivalent to those of our era. Gunpowder accelerated projectiles that require to be reloaded with other clips. (Again, watch “Dredd” for ideas.) You do not have access to Judge-level hardware and what body armor you can find will be extremely limited in nature. (Bullet-proof vests and the like; no battle suits or Judge armors.)
-When looking for visual inspiration, or any variety of inspiration really, take your cues from the recent movie “Dredd” with Karl Urban rather than Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” or the comics; the latter two are a little too ‘80s for me. The hyper-stylization is cool and all, but for a campfire, I prefer the realism-leaning approach of “Dredd.” Plus, in the comics, they start putting brains in their motorcycles and there are aliens I think and just a bunch of weird stuff. So yeah, we’re going with the more recent “Dredd” incarnation rather than the somewhat tacky old school variety.
-I would recommend watching “Dredd” to get a feel for the setting so long as you are not opposed to lots of violence. (I mean, if you’re in this, I’m going to assume you’re fine with ultra-violence.)
-Add within seven (7) days. If you do not, you will be skipped without warning. If you know you are not going to make the deadline, please e-mail me in advance and explain why, in which case I will (likely) give you some more time.
-The idea is to create a massive, Mega-Blok spanning war of the Judges against the Criminals in the end. If that is to happen, you can’t pick each other off one by one along the way, so please do not go out of your way to do so.
On that vein, Criminals: Judges are more Wild West sheriff than good ol’ boy cop. If you are hiding behind a hostage, they will just shoot you because they are that good, so do not write yourself into a corner like that. (Not immediately anyway.) Conversely, Judges: you are kind of over-powered, so be careful not to write one of your Criminal counterparts into a corner like that either.
-If you have watched “Dredd” then you know there is a girl in there with psychic abilities. None of our character will have such abilities, nor will any of the non-author characters within the Criminal gang.
-Dredd’s world is a violent one. There will be blood. A lot of it. Think of it like a movie that has definitely earned an R-rating based on violence and blood alone. (Again, “Dredd” will be the standard for this reference). On that vein, swearing is ok, just keep it reasonable (I consider telling someone to fuck off while being tortured to be reasonable), and if there is sex, imply it, don’t write a scene. We’re here for the ultra-violence, not the good ol’ in-out in-out.
-(this is sort of an encouragement, but it still falls under rules) If you have an idea for a twist in the narrative, make sure to e-mail the individuals directly involved and check with them first. From my experience, people enjoy this kind of interaction and it usually makes for pretty good ideas, so I like to put it out there as a good thing. Also, unless your twist involves killing off a character or something which affects the entire group, you do not need to run it by me. Surprises are a part of campfires and I welcome them.
WELCOME TO THE END OF THE WORLD. WE HOPE YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY.
Name: Sean Wolf
Weight: 185 lbs.
-lanky, but deceptively powerful
-plain, brown hair worn short (he cuts it himself, so it has an uneven, jagged look)
-cold, predatory, grey eyes
-wears black combat boots, dark blue jeans, a simple, black leather belt, and a black tank-top
-RIGHT ARM/HAND: a tattoo in large, stylized, vertical kanji that begins on the shoulder and ends above the elbow that translates “god is dead,” knuckles are tattooed with “BORN”
-LEFT ARM/HAND: a very long, very detailed skull whose crown covers his entire shoulder, while the upper jaw ends halfway down his bicep (it looks like the Punisher emblem), his knuckles are tattooed with “DEAD”
-BACK: reads “IRREDEMABLE” from shoulder to shoulder, while under that is a simple series of black tally marks about the size of a woman’s pinkie (each one denotes a kill; there are seven to start, there will be more as the campfire goes on)
An amoral pragmatist with what would be called a god-complex. He does not believe in morals, but rather he thinks people do what they do because they are forced to do so, whether through acculturation or direct force. Therefore, he does what he does because he wants to. Other people are nothing but resources and obstacles. His core philosophies are: “might makes right,” “it’s better to burn out than fade away,” and “‘tis better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” (And remember: he is not evil or wicked, he is amoral.)
Sean Wolf was born in the slum Mega-Blok of Jericho, located in District 10. He never knew his father and while his mother did the best she could to raise him right, the human filth surrounding them taught him well that being good only made you an easy mark. But he kept himself mostly in check out of respect for his mother. She was killed by a stray bullet when he was twenty-two. His first action, after she was incinerated, was to kill those responsible for her death. Since then, he has kept his level generally clear of gang activity by way of vigilante justice, but recently the memory of his mother is growing more and more dim, while the voice in his head telling him that the Blok would be better off with him in charge gets louder and louder.
Name: Vita “Vi” Park
Appearance: Vita is a striking beauty, her usual stoic expression providing a strange contrast to her large and feminine features. Ice blue eyes are expressive and focused, lined with thick dark lashes. Her jet black hair cut at her jawline; her thin face framed with sweeping bangs that hang above one eye. Her feminine figure is deceptively strong, curved hips and a tiny waist built with long, lean muscle. She is graceful and fluid in her movements, which adds a haunting quality to her effectiveness as a judge. Her uniform flatters her frame despite it's bulk, and when she is off duty she tends to lean toward clothing not unlike it; mostly black and fitted and made with ease of movement in mind.
Personality: Vita is best described as a challenger. Constantly pushing, though subtle in her aggression. Vi is honest without being brash, forward without being arrogant. She does not withhold a threat when the opportunity arises, but chooses her words carefully. She is, in most ways, what one would expect from a woman raised surrounded by men; easily one of the boys though still manipulative where it suits her. She is incredibly smart and highly analytical, not given to rash behavior or a quick temper (though both live tucked away beneath her calm exterior). She is moral but not to the point of inaction; she won't hesitate to do what needs to be done for the greater good. By choice she is a closed book, subtle hints to her personality revealing themselves through dark, dry humor.
Background: Vita is the daughter of a judge and was raised to follow in his footsteps. At 18 she rejected the idea, instead studying technology and weaponry development. Though it remains a passion for her, the ease of the lab grew tedious and irritating and she revisited the idea of working in the field. She passed the tests with flying colors, quickly becoming a favorite among her father's peers who continued to push her into the career. Despite this she found the adrenaline and challenge suited her, and has been completely wrapped up in the job ever since, finding little identity outside of it.
|Affiliation: Judge |
Name: Tyler "Tye" O'Connell
Weight: 260 lbs
Physical Appearance: Towering above most men, Tye is a mound of muscle and attitude, never letting anyone doubt that there is an ounce of care or compassion to be found in this Judge. Close cropped, dark hair, piercing dark brown, almost black eyes and a scowl that would make even the most hardened criminal blanch, all match a face that appears chiseled from granite. Pronounced cheek bones and a strong jawline that terminates in a cleft chin are almost always covered in a stubble that never seems to get longer or be shaved smooth. A tight-lipped mouth set in permanent frown mode is almost always accompanied by a smoldering cigar mashed into the corner. Seeing Tye smile is a privilege only a few criminals have lived to tell about, and those few try not to remember it. A smooth, thin scar travels from just under his left eye diagonally down to the middle of his top lip. From his thick neck down, muscle bulges in every possible way. Mooring ropes for arms, a wide, muscular torso and tree trunks for legs that have kept Tye on his feet when most men would have fallen. Gigantic hands that have crushed not more than a few men's bones and snapped necks as easy as breaking twigs. Big is the first word out of someone's mouth if they were asked to describe him; that is, if they are still breathing after an encounter with him.
Personality: As rough as they come, Tye is in it for the fighting and self gratification more than anything else. At least, that's how he portrays it. It isn't so much as fighting for Justice, but fighting for those who cannot protect themselves using any means necessary. Street smart and tactical, his efficiency and ruthlessness have helped keep him on the force and alive, and having grown up in one of the roughest districts in Mega-City One, he understands the tactics that most gangs use and can identify gang affiliation by how a banger acts, any tattoo's or markings and other details that some of the other Judge's don't always catch. Mostly a loner, the majority of partners that are assigned to him either end up dead or have requested a transfer after only a few weeks with him. O'Connell doesn't open up to anyone except his brothers, and none of the other Judges really want him to. If he's not on Duty, he's either in the gym, wrestling with his brothers or at some of the local dives enjoying the company of a fine bottle of synth-whiskey. He is extremely proficient with his standard issue Lawgiver mk II, more often than not using explosive rounds for added dramatic effect. However, his favorite weapon is a knife, preferring to see his opponent face to face, and being a master at hand-to-hand with his size advantage, he is extremely good at taking down criminals both at range and in close quarters.
Background: Tyler O'Connell grew up as the middle child of nine boys in the slums of District 7, a large producer of the steel and construction materials used in the ever expanding/repairing/rising Mega-City One. His father died in the Steel Mills when he was eight, and the burden of raising nine boys was too much for his mother, who died two years later from an overdose of a then experimental hallucinogen. The eldest brother, Michael, took over caring for the family, getting a job in the same Steel Mill their father had died in, and from that point on, every O'Connell that reached work-legal age of 16 got hired on at the Mill. Known as the "toughest sons of bitches in District 7," the O'Connell's survived when other orphaned families would have failed or fallen prey to the rampant drugs and crime that exists within Mega-City, due in part to their intense family loyalty, exclusivity from mingling with other members of their community and, in large part, due to their intimidating size and strength, not one O'Connell weighing in at less than 220 when they came of age. Tyler was always getting into trouble, being the most adventurous of the family, acting as a semi-vigilante enforcer of his block. Thugs, gangs, and drug runners/pushers steered clear of 22nd through 32nd levels of the Pitysburg building in sector 7, knowing that messing with the O'Connell's meant pain and injury, regardless of the instigator. Using the money and medical supplies scavenged from his enforcing, Tyler helped provide for his other brother's, although Michael and the other older brothers didn't always agree with his sometimes brutal methods. After only working in the Mill for a few years, he left to join up with an underground fight promoter, Simon DeSoto, who took Tyler from a unrefined brawler who relied more on his strength and turned him in to a fighting machine, proficient in multiple fighting styles and techniques. Having both strength and training, Tye quickly moved up the ranks of the underground fighting clubs becoming a crowd favorite due to his often brutal methods of dealing with an opponent. Coming home from another fight with several hundred credits in prize money, a gang of fifteen Tu'nitz'Cor members jumped him in an alley. By the time a Judge arrived on scene, all fifteen 'Cor were dead or dying and Tyler stood among the corpses, blood pouring from cuts on his face and arms. After being treated in a nearby hospital block, Tyler was visited by the Judge who had responded to the scene and offered a shot in the academy. Seeing it as a way to help support his family, help the less fortunate and make some good money at the same time, Tye took the offer and started his life as a Judge.
|“Let me tell you a story.|
“A man sees a woman. She is beautiful. His body tells him to copulate with her. Hers does not tell her to copulate with him. He is stronger than her. His actions, deemed intrusive, are reported. A Judge comes and sentences him. The man dies.
“Another man sees another woman. She is beautiful. He copulates with her against her will, kills her, and incinerates the body. These events are neither recorded nor reported. The man walks free, able, and encouraged by lack of consequence, to do the same again.
“What is my point?”
Sean Wolf stabbed out his cigarette with precise jabs into the half full ash tray, the dying smoke snaking around his tattooed fingers like airborne oil. He blew out the calming poison in his lungs with equal precision, looking first to his left than his right at his two companions.
“Seems a waste to kill her so quick,” the one on his left mumbled in a rolling bass like distant thunder.
“Come now, Mr. Vandemar,” Sean chided idly. “After all the intellectual stimulus that is my conversations with Mr. Croup, surely something has rubbed off on you.”
“Don’t call me ‘Shirley.’”
Wolf just chuckled. Ever since he had known Vandemar, the giant of a man had neither inclination nor desire for higher learning. Not even really for higher thought. What he wanted, he took, what he hated, he crushed. And with a frame scraping the borders of seven feet and a herculean frame to match, no one was about to question otherwise, let alone ask why he wore his black hair in a perfectly sculpted pompadour.
While he was generally a quiet, dull individual, he did have tastes and a drive, both of which could be summarized in one, simple concept: hurt. He liked to hurt people. Preferably a lot, ideally slowly. And Wolf had seen his massive frame be oh, so delicate when he exercised that drive. Despite his massive frame, he could move with startling swiftness and turn on a dime; had the massive man been born a few centuries earlier, he would have likely made an excellent athlete in contact sports, provided he could keep a handle on his… impulses.
“I think your question itself is a trap,” pointed out the one called Mr. Croup.
“Do tell,” smirked Sean, another cigarette already in his lips, lit lighter poised.
Mr. Croup smiled a broad, wicked smile through the black, oily tresses that snaked down around his face and eyes. Wolf did not take the smile personally; Mr. Croup’s smile was always wicked. He was, in fact, the antithesis of Mr. Vandemar. Where one was giant, the other was lean and of average height. Where Vandemar disliked moving rapidly, Croup could cover a distance faster than anyone Wolf had seen. And where the large man disliked cerebral exercise, Croup reveled in it. In truth, he was even more intelligent than Sean, but where Sean had the drive to be a criminal mastermind, Croup was very satisfied with his own little bloody niche and did not seem inclined to expand beyond it.
But what Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup did share was that simple drive, that simple taste, and they were both young masters of making people hurt. How they had found each other and how long they had been companions, Sean did not know. All he did know was that they were inseparable, were obsessed with violence and death, preferably violent deaths, and they were more or less his age. Truly, the world was an awful place when it began spewing forth pairs of such heinous individuals, and furthermore that it was damned when such individuals were allowed to work for a man like him.
“Your question,” Mr. Croup reiterated, teeth still wickedly bared, “is a trap because your point is the same point you have been making for four years: there is no point.”
“Have I really become so predictable?” Sean looked forlornly to the concrete ceiling, hand with cigarette posed, giving him an air of intellectual musing and self-examination.
“Your philosophy is tired because it is accurate, as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Croup smiled fiercely. “After all, if something is right and everyone knows it, why keep talking about how right it is? It’s boring because everyone knows it’s right.”
“Hm,” mused Sean mildly, cigarette in mouth, flicking sweat from his forehead with his thumbnail. “I blame my waxing eloquent on watching you and Mr. Vandemar work.”
“And I should think so,” Mr. Croup decided firmly, his smile gone, replaced by the look of an artist who knows his work should be praised. He stood, gesturing with one hand to the painstakingly flayed body on the red-soaked table before them. “I ask you, who else could do work like this? And look! As an added bonus,” he flicked the tortured individual’s face and the individual’s remaining eye jerked in its socket, “he’s even still alive. These,” he help up his pale hands, showing fingers long and slim, “are magic.”
Mr. Vandemar grunted in something that was a half growl, half word.
“And yes, I couldn’t have done it without you, I was getting to that part.” Mr. Vandemar’s eyes scowled, clearly not believing Mr. Croup’s protest, but he did not continue his accusation and simply returned to watching the skinned man’s eye dance.
“Gentlemen,” Sean began significantly, standing and putting out the remaining portion of his cigarette on the man’s skinless arm. The muscles spasmed. “I want to take this moment to offer my sincere thanks for your services. I understand that there are likely other parties who would pay better for your services-”
“Fuck money,” Mr. Vandemar grunted.
“Not completely,” Mr. Croup cut in.
“You let us do our work,” Mr. Vandemar continued, as though there had been no interruption. “Everyone else...” He wrapped the massive fingers of his right hand around the art piece’s dislocated jaw and, in a single motion, crushed the bone in his fist without apparent effort. The eye rolled back in its lidless socket. There was no more movement. “…has limits.”
“Well said, Mr. Vandemar,” Mr. Croup nodded with almost devout approval.
“Now,” Sean pressed on, “seeing as this,” he pointed briefly to the now very dead corpse, “was the spineless oaf who ran the upper level gang, I’m actually going to start running a proper criminal organization. So, the question is, do you two want authority within it, or would you rather be… contractors.”
“Oh, what is the legal term?” Mr. Croup wondered in a voice that clearly indicated he knew precisely which words he was looking for. “We will be ‘on retainer.’ As long as we get the money-”
“And the jollies,” added the stone-faced Mr. Vandemar.
“- then we’re with you to the bitter end.”
Sean smiled appreciatively and left the room.
As he walked into the hallway outside the butcher shop, another cigarette already burning, two sets of footsteps fell in, flanking him, though they were so in sync that to the unobservant, only one pair of feet would be heard.
“How’d it go?” asked the sultry voice on his right as they walked leisurely down the empty corridor.
“Well I hope,” added the more reserved tone to his left.
“Those two are like a force of nature,” Sean agreed to the implied statement. “And yes, it went well. Their joint reputation for loyalty is beyond reproach so our people can sleep at night.”
“Good luck,” snipped sultry. “I caught a glimpse of an ‘art project’ once and I didn’t sleep right for a week.”
“We mere mortals will still be ill at ease, but it won’t be an issue,” reserved added.
Sean stopped and turned, coolly regarding the two women who had become his personal bodyguard in recent months and had, before then, been the only ones he considered friends. Or as close to friends as a person like him could have. “Sultry” preferred to be called Scarlett, and she was a slim, viridian-eyed redhead who was actually two inches taller than Wolf, and based on what he had seen her do to people, the fact that Vandemar and Croup could turn her stomach was a mean feat. "Reserved" was Scarlett’s twin, Cerise, and where Scarlett was warm, Cerise was cold, where Scarlett dove in laughing, Cerise calmly, concisely cut her way through with surgical precision. But despite their differing methods, both were lethal with fists, knives, and guns, perhaps even more so than Sean. Still, his strength was his mind and, perhaps to a greater extent, his lack of conscience.
Where Vandemar and Croup adored inflicting pain, he neither liked nor disliked bringing harm to others. Where Scarlett and Cerise held loyalty, friendship, and perhaps even love for each other and for him, he knew he would not shed a tear or feel a prick of sorrow if the time came when their bodies lay shattered before him. And that is why they all followed him. That is why they believed in his vision. He was impartial. He was could see clearly amidst all the pain and torment in the world, his eyes unhindered by loss or hope or grief.
In the slums of the Mega-City, where emotion means weakness and weakness means death, the man with no soul is King.
|Vita lean her head against the cracked concrete support; the metallic clink of her helmetlost in the thunder of gunfire that echoed around her. The pursuit had begun with nine men from one small, but particular violent group. Nowseven remained standing; filling the air with poorly made bullets fired from crudely constructed firearms. If their previous crimes had not been enough to deem execution,their current actions certainly would be. After watching the innocents destroyed as they fled, shewas happy to take care of fulfilling their earned sentencing. |
And she was happy;even as the led that chipped away at her cover; raining bits of concrete down around her. This was her life in it's purest form; this adrenaline, this brutal form of justice, is what Vi lived for. She had always been a beautiful girl; even with her stoic, calculating demeanor and a posture that suggested she would rather choke the life from from her fellow beingsthan to fall into passionate embrace. But at this moment, and all those like it that had come before,her beauty shifted to something altogether more haunting. A radiant smile crossed her full lips. Her blue eyes dancing at the sport. Her strong, curved figure poised with a graceful, predatory precision. This was where Vi was truly, beautifully, Vi.
"You enjoy it too much, Vita."Her father had scolded her once; inspiring that ping of guilt that only those who truly matter can inspire. She had dwelt on it, deciding that if she was truly a monster it was one that lay deep, only called forth with violent justice. It was a trait she could live with.
Vi tapped a thick-soled boot against the ground, directing her energy and centering her focus. With pistol wrapped in her stone steady grip, as she waited for the barrage to end. The moment came more quickly than she expected.
"Is she dead?"A young man whispered, the overwhelming adrenaline in his system cracking his voice. A good sign.
"Shut up."Another hissed with claimed authority, the silence following his order hinting that he was one tobe obeyed. Scuffling and heavy footfallsinformed her of their intentions to attack from her flank; encouraging a wider grin. Though they were far too obvious in their intent, it would no doubt lead to a more exciting conclusion.
Two appeared at her right and she dropped them with as many rounds; her exceptional skill apparent in the spray of matter where a skull had once been. If she did not dehumanize so successfully, perhaps it would have disturbed her. Probably not.
A third appeared at her left, personified in a sub-machine gun held blindly and firing wildly. Whether it was wisdom of cowardice that inspired him to stay hidden, it would not matter; both had their limits.She took aim and waited as the sparks danced around her boots. When an eye presented itself,she fired. Now only four remained.
"If you choose to surrender now."Vita said finally, her tone as steady as her hand, "I can offer you life in the Iso-cubes. If not, you will find you end violent and you will meet it now."
"No deal, Bitch."One answered for the group, ignorant confidence in his tone. Poor animal didn't even know when to be afraid.
"So I have one 'no'..."She answered, "Anyone else want to cast their vote?"
Vi was met with more profanities, the chorus of ignorant killers drown out by their second barrage.
Her thin fingers found the egg-sizedgas grenade and lifted it from her pocket.A swipe across the panel on her arm set it's timer and again she waited. When reloading interrupted the second assault, she would not miss her opportunity.
The grenade was tossedto her right, and she moved left; finding the momentary distraction enough to place her final four rounds. With heads shattered and deaths confirmed, shelifted her communicator to her mouth, "Judge Park to Control. I need a meat wagon at my GPS location. Seven down. Threat eliminated and I'll be clear."
Disarming the tiny grenade she returned it to her pocket.
"Copy. Clean up en-route."
With her usual precise, determined steps and cold demeanor she returned to her bike, searching the small display for the next red ping that would mark the nearest call.
|This is bloody terrible elevator music, and I’ve heard lot of elevator music. Who the hell thinks of this crap? Rolling his eyes, Judge Tyler “Tye” O’Connell continued with his equipment check as the metal box shot up to the 65th floor of the Jerzee Turnpike building. Being on rounds and receiving a notification about a domestic disturbance meant making sure whatever he was walking into, he wanted to be coming out of alive. It didn’t always mean someone else would be walking out of course, but that was all part of being a Judge: Mete out the punishment for the crime on-site. Judge, Jury and, in many cases, Executioner.|
Drawing on the large cigar clamped in his teeth, he checked to make sure his Lawgiver mk II, customized with a larger grip and longer barrel for his huge hands, was clear of the holster. Reaching to his lower back, he pulled on the handle of his twelve inch, non-standard issue Bowie knife, making sure it was clear of it’s scabbard tucked in under the back piece of his bulletproof vest. A collectors piece from a time long before the construction of MegaCity One, the Bowie knife, along with the cigar, was outdated and frowned upon by the Brass in the Hall of Justice. Yet with his record of arrests and convictions, coupled with his imposing figure, no one really wanted to stop Judge O’Connell from doing what he did best.
Standing at 6’4” and over 260 pounds, Tyler was one of the largest men in the Hall, towering over most of the the other Judges by at least a handful of inches and had the physical definition of a bodybuilder. Many opponents had thought that his size meant he would be slow and cumbersome. Years of extensive hand-to-hand training and fighting in undergrounds clubs before becoming a Judge surfaced quickly during those brief encounters, often ending with a trip to the MedClinic at the Hall before being incarcerated in the Iso-Cubes. If they made it to the Clinic.
The elevator made a grinding sound as it stopped, a metallic semi-female voice announcing, “65th floor. Residential dwellings. If you are in need of medical services, a Med-Clinic is located on the South Hallway.”
Good, it’s on the same Walk as the dom-dis. Through the visor of his Judges helmet, Tye scanned the small lobby in front of the elevator. Set in a little ways from the main walk, it was a common location for gangs to wait for unsuspecting residents or to broker drug deals. Having walked in on, and out of, a few such jumps, it was always better to be the one doing the jumping. Seeing no one, Tye stepped out and moved towards the West Walk, the South elevator having been busted from the 33rd floor up and he was in no mood for hoofing it over thirty floors to a call.
As he approached the corner to the South Walk, he looked out across the open center of the Jerzee building, marveling again at the open space that filled the middle of the 200 story building. Most of the larger residentials were closed buildings, like the one he had grown up in, with full floors to take advantage of every space available for both businesses and homes. A few of the older buildings had been able to be more “luxurious” and have an open center, with halls built around a central atrium. As the wars had finished though and the Wall had gone up around MegaCity One, buildings were built to house the millions of survivors and had a lot less luxury.
Not that I would even count this as luxury. Or surviving.
Moving down into the darker hallway of the South walk, and looking at the door numbers, he counted down to #7012, where the complaint had been filed from. Glancing down at his wrist display, Tye checked the name, a Ms. Rainey, was registered to this unit. Tapping the call button next to the frame, he moved to stand in front of the door camera so the resident could see who he was clearly.
“Yes? Who’s there?” A creaky voice scratched through the speaker by the call button. Cam must be broken. Surprise, surprise.
“Judge O’Connell,” he replied, tapping his Judges badge by habit and shifting his cigar to the corner of his mouth, “you called about a disturbance Ms. Rainey?” Standing with his legs spread, he crossed his arms in front of him at his waist, continuing to look up and down the walk as he waited for a response. The hallway remained silent and deserted for now; the nearby plants being midway through the afternoon shift.
“Oh yes, it’s a few doors down, 7018, sounds like things are being broken, dishes cracking, I heard a few screams. I was passing by after my shift. There’s a nice girl that lives there. Poor thing. Please check on her, she’s a very nice girl.” The speaker went silent with a soft click.
“Thank you Ms. Rainey. Do you know if there is anyone else in there with her? Does she usually have visitors?” Knowing who might be in there would be better than walking into a whole gang unawares, something he did not want today, not after the mess he heard about this morning in the Alley’s.
“No. Yes. I’m not sure Judge, she’s such a nice girl, she doesn’t have many visitors. I’ve seen one young man come a few times. Always has a red band on his arm. No, it’s blue. I’m sure it’s blue. She’s so nice Judge, I hope she’s ok.” Click.
“Thank you, Ms. Rainey. I’ll go check on her. Please, for your own safety, remain inside and do not open your door for the next several minutes. I will deal with this, you have my word as a Judge.” Silence came back from the speaker, but the shuffling and the sound of something heavy scuffing the floor was answer enough. Probably ducking into the back room as fast as she can move, might even be hiding behind the couch. Smart. It won’t help, but at least it’s somethin’.
Moving down the hall a few steps, lifted his wrist up and activated his comm. “Control, this is Judge O’Connell. I’m on site at the dom-dis, may be gang related. Witness thinks it’s a Cobra or Theo according to possible arm band marking. Can you check any cameras that might be functional on level 65 of this building for confirmation?”
“Confirmed. One of the door camera’s on your level saw a Cobra exiting the West elevator and approaching the room in question approximately two hours ago. Advise caution due to recent Cobra activity in your location.”
“Copy Control. No noise at this ti…” A loud crash interrupted his response, the sound of something wooden splintering against the wall ahead bringing his head up and his hand to his gun. “Control, I’m moving in.”
Moving up to the edge of the doorway and putting his right shoulder against the wall, Tye pulled his Lawmaker and let the DNA scanner verify before making sure it was set at “single shot, standard” on the display. Feeling the click of the rounds loading into the chamber, he reached over with his left armored fist and banged on the door. The sounds of scuffling that had been apparent a few moments before stopped and after a few moments of silence a male voice called out,
“Who’s there? Show yourself, mate!” The voice was strained, low pitch and gravelly with the hint of some kind of old Euro accent, coming from directly behind the door.
Of course THIS camera works.
“This is a Judge. I want you to come out with your hands up and stand against the far wall. You have 10 seconds to comply. Failure results in the conviction of resisting arrest. Will you comply?” Reaching down to a small pouch on the armor of his thigh, Tye grabbed out a small patch and slapped it on the lens of the camera. Feeling more than hearing the body of Male Perp #1 slam into the same side of the door as himself, Judge Tyler O’Connell closed his eyes, inhaled a long, slow draw on his cigar, opened his eyes and grinned with closed teeth.
“You can go fuck yourself Judge! There ain’t nothin’ here you need to worry about!” The distinct sound of a round being cocked into the chamber of a shotgun was all Tye needed. Looking down at the wall by his hip, he put the muzzle against the pitted concrete.
“The crime of resisting arrest just got upgraded to attempted murder of a Judge. Congratulations. Sentence is death. Any last words?”
“Fuck you Judge! You got nothin’! You wouldn’t dare!” The voice had risen a few octaves, fear and anger laced through the words..
Should be right about here. No, here. Shifting the barrel along the wall towards the door a few more inches, he muttered, “Armor piercing,” waited a second for the appropriate round to load, and pulled the trigger. A scream ripped through the air, much the same as the bullet had ripped through the layer of ‘crete, flesh and bone. Quickly bending down, Tye looked through the fist sized hole in the wall and saw everything he needed in that instance.
The young man was down, one hand holding his left thigh that now ended in a messy, bloody stump, life squirting and oozing out in a red river. He was just now propping himself up, the perp’s sawed off shotgun making a slow, agonizing sweep towards the hole in the wall that Tye was staring through. No one else was in the room, but every piece of furniture was destroyed, drawers dumped on the floor and what was left of an end table lay against the far wall in splinters. With armor rounds still loaded, Tyler aimed through the hole and fired before the shotgun could complete it’s turn. The bullet, intended to penetrate everything from light body armor to heavy steel walls, barely deformed as it passed through the center of the forehead and exploded out the back, spraying the wall, couch and yellow, shredded curtains with blood and brain matter before embedding itself most of the way through the three foot thick concrete and steel wall of the Jerzee building.
Standing up and jumping to the other side of the door, Tye waited and listened to see if there was any other noises coming from the apartment. A few doors cracked open at the sound of the gunfire, but a quick glance at the smoke framing the huge figure of a Judge closed them again. After a few moments and hearing nothing but the sound of someone crying and struggling against a gag, Tye stood up, bit down on his cigar and heaved himself against the door. It splintered in one blow from his armored shoulder and he stepped in, gun leveled and swiveling in every direction. Seeing nothing but the carnage of the body and the furniture, he stepped quietly through the mess, only looking down briefly to place a foot as softly as a cat.
The kitchen cubby, a little 8x8 section of the apartment, was as destroyed as the rest of place. Counters were buried under broken dishes and glasses. Food was littered across the floor, the door to the small refrigeration unit hanging crookedly by its bottom hinge. Nothing, not even an antique toaster, had been spared, lying on its side by the sink with a few forks stabbed into it.
Turning to the doorway into the bedroom, Tye moved to the frame and looked in. Clothes hung from every corner that caught them, the mattress had been slashed open and the blankets torn. Strips of the blanket had been used to tie someone to the only unbroken piece of furniture, a small metal chair, whose occupant was now staring wide eyed at the Judge.
Long, black hair, now matted with blood and sweat, framed a thin face. Blue eyes, made even more apparent by the red rimmed eye lids and tear streaked face, looked up through long eye lashes. Blood trickled slowly down her temple and across the gag that was tied over her mouth. Her clothes were ripped, and only one shoe was still on.
As he stepped forward, she screamed against the gag and the door crashed into him as someone threw their weight against it. Tyler’s gun flew out of his hand, as the door, which was no longer held on by hinges toppled over and the figure jumped on him. Landing on top of Tyler, the man, dressed in a white sleeveless t and dirty blue jeans pulled back his fist and let fly. Tye turned his head and the blow glanced harmlessly off his helmet, only earning the assailant a four broken knuckles.
With a mighty heave, Tye shoved the man and door up and back onto the bed. Before Perp #2 could kick the door off himself, Tyler was already on his feet. Pulling the Bowie knife free, he jumped on top of the door, pinning the man under himself. The second man screamed in pain as the now exposed springs pierced his back, but didn’t kill him. One had under the door, the man tried to reach down to the pocket of his blue jeans, but Tyler grabbed his wrist before he could get whatever he was reaching for. Slapping the arm against the door, Tyler drove the blade down through wrist between the two bones in the forearm, earning another shrill of pain as both the blade and the springs dug into him.
Gripping the man’s long, greasy hair in one big fist, Tye pulled the head out sideways from under the door, while the other twisted the handle of the big knife a little, sending a squirt of blood up the off white door.
“We can do this the hard way or my way. The hard way is I drag your bloody, sorry ass to the Hall and let some pent up, bored Judge interrogate you for a few hours until we know what we need to know. Attempted murder of an innocent and attempted murder of a Judge, that could get you life in the Iso-Cubes, but you’d at least still be breathing. Or we do it my way, where the only way you leave here is either you tell me what I need to know and I will personally take you to a MedClinic, or you in a body bag, but with considerably less blood in you than you have now. Your choice.”
|Sean looked down the sights of the 9mm in his right hand. His mouth twisted unconsciously as he tried to determine how the gun felt in his hand. Fired a few rounds, carefully picking each location, and hitting each one with impeccable precision. Not terrible. He emptied the clip in two seconds. Twenty five feet to the target, clustering radius of an inch and a half. He bobbed his head almost imperceptibly from side to side; the 9mm did the job against flesh and blood, and the ammo was easy enough to get one's hands on, but if it came to a fight with concrete cover, it wouldn't be punching through anything anytime soon.|
"It's a back-up weapon," Cerise noted, her voice low so as not to be overheard, clearly having noticed his hesitation. "A handgun isn't supposed to be used in a firefight."
"Not if you can help it," Scarlett agreed, drawing one of her own handguns from a shoulder holster that was concealed by her oxblood, floor-length trench coat. "I love my girls, but they are for cutting motherfuckers down who don't see me coming."
"I like the mobility," Sean decided in a mildly resigned fashion, sliding a new clip into the weapon and holstering it, "I like how it handles, but I just don't see me doing much with it if I'm outnumbered."
"If you're ever outnumbered, then you have much bigger problems, honey," Scarlett replied with black humor.
"Because that means we're dead," Cerise added with blunt precision. Then more mildly, "We'll teach you. Don't worry about it."
"Besides," Scarlett cut in again, "remember that this is just the start; the more of the Blok you take, the better gear Cerise and I can start bringing in."
"You really ought to start delegating that," Sean decided, grabbing a few spare clips of 9mm ammunition. "In fact, consider that my charge to you: find me a gunrunner. I need someone on the payroll who can get munitions. The bigger, the better. The better, the better," he added, looking down at the homemade rounds in the final clip before he put it on his belt.
"We know a few guys," Scarlett smiled radiantly.
"She knows a few guys," Cerise corrected coolly, then more positively: "I'll see if I can't track down someone who can make better ammo. There are a couple names I can check. No guarantees that they wont come with baggage though."
"You," Sean pointed to Scarlett, "are they freelance or will they work only for me?"
"If you keep 'em busy and pay the bills, they'll do salary work," Scarlett nodded, all business.
"You," finger shifted to Cerise, "put some feelers out for ammunition manufacturers. Best case scenario: find me a team that can produce en mass, and a specialist that can make armor-piercing. If you get resistance, let me know and I'll have Croup and Vandemar make a more direct offer."
"What off- Oh, for the love of..."
Sean turned to see Croup storming down the hallway toward him, Vandemar in tow.
"Gentlemen," he greeted mildly, uncertain as to Mr. Croup's irate behavior.
"What is this?" Mr. Croup fairly shrieked. "What - is - THIS?!"
Sean looked around at the bodies that littered the hallway, then back at Mr. Croup. "Target practice."
Mr. Croup pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, clearly too angry to think straight.
"I hadn't planned to take this level already," Sean explained, finally realizing why his hitman-on-retainer was upset, "that's why you didn't get a message. Isn't your butchers bill already packed as it is?"
"Yes, I suppose," Mr. Croup allowed the point and his anger seemed to melt slightly into bitter disappointment, like a child finding out that they can't go to the amusement park. Mr. Vandemar simply began to wade into the carnage, as though looking for something. "I just like watching other professionals at work, is all," Croup finally admitted, hands on hips as he looked from corpse to corpse. "Well," he finally decided, "guess I'll look for survivors. Might be some fun I can salvage from this."
Sean nodded knowingly as Mr. Croup began to trail after Mr. Vandemar, then called after, remembering, "Oh, and start asking if any of them know of any gunrunners or munitions manufacturers. I'm in the market."
"Will do," Croup noted, professionally perusing the dead. He stopped and examined one. "Was this one special?" He pointed to a body that was tied up, had a hole in its forehead, both eyes shot out, and a three-inch hole punched through it with 9mm rounds.
"Firearm testing," Sean called back. Mr. Croup's mouth formed a silent "Ah!" accompanied by a single nod of understand, then he pressed on.
Cerise and Scarlett appeared. Had they left? As keen as he was, and as well as he knew them, they always seemed to be doing work in the background when his attention was elsewhere. They were hard workers, these sisters.
"Touched bases with a few of the newly minted lieutenants," Scarlett said. "This level is secure. A few of them are actually half-decent at combat leadership."
"Word is spreading," Cerise confirmed. "I think we might get a whole-sale surrender of what's left of the Dead Men."
"We got lucky catching Flint and his core group the other day," Sean agreed. "Saved us a lot of hassle."
"Rumor is Croup and Vandemar aren't done with him yet," Scarlett shuttered. Sean didn't tell her it wasn't rumor.
"I still don't like the clan name you chose," he changed the subject, addressing both sisters as he turned from the hallway and began working his way toward the elevator.
"Wolfpack is rather generic," Scarlett admitted, "but it fits with your name, so it's easy for the enemy grunts to remember."
"And the imagery is solid," Cerise agreed. "Alpha in the lead, the pack running together, taking down large prey to feed the whole. It's good stuff."
"And it's a little late to change it," Scarlett shrugged. "Might as well embrace it."
Sean scratched his nose and looked over the waist-high wall of the concrete walkway he was on and down nearly seventy stories to the ground floor. "Just about halfway down," he mused.
"Nice that we got to start at the top," Scarlett noted. "More defensible."
"Harder for Judges to get reports about the bodies," Cerise agreed. "Probably won't have to worry about the law for some time."
Sean shot a hard look at Cerise. "You had to jinx it, didn't you?" He turned his attention to the lieutenant running up to him, and noticed the man was jogging instead. Important, but not dire. Not the law then. Or maybe the law, but not an immediate threat?
"What is it, Josh?"
"Those guys I sent for the thing? They got it." It was not unspecific; Sean knew precisely what Josh was talking about, but he waited, letting a little impatience creep into his eyes. The guy had run up to him and while this information was good news, it could have waited. He was waiting for the other shoe to drop and he did not like that sensation.
"They just called," he continued swiftly enough that Sean did not start to feel truly annoyed. "They have a Judge on their tail." Sean looked at Josh's hands; the left held a bloodied, beat-up rifle, likely procured from the recent fight, while his left clutched a cell phone.
"They're on the line?"
Josh nodded. Sean grabbed it. Immediately his ear was full of an engine and punctuated pops, clearly from pistols. He resisted the urge to shake his head; he really needed bigger, better guns to arm his people.
"This is Wolf."
The voice on the other end of the line shouted something and the pistols silence for a moment.
"Here's the play: get some distance. Find a place to pull over and split on foot; there are four of you, the Judge can only chase one. Keep shooting so the Judge can't just run you down." He motioned to Scarlett, Cerise, and Josh to follow him and he ran for the elevator. "Now listen close because here is the most important thing..."
|The street was busy, and the bullets whizzing past her helmet were not only thing threatening to throw her off the bike. Cars swerved back and forth between lanes, veering wildly to avoid the moving battle field that so quickly overtook the roadway. |
Vi pressed lightly against the handlebars, weaving between cars and dodging others in attempts to close the gap between her and the small black sedan. “Drop the weapons and pull over.” She ordered, the loudspeaker on the bike muffling her voice in a way that she never appreciated. As expected, they did not comply.
In an instant the driver swerved from the main road, pulling into the open courtyard of The Blue Ox Mega-Blok. The vehicle slid to a stop, tires squealing against the old tile floor. The four men scattered in as many directions, still firing, still missing.
Vi drew her pistol and fired, bringing down the diver with a single round that shattered his hip. He landed with enough force to break his wrists, the pistol jumping from his grip and sliding out of reach. He was, for the moment, neutralized. She positioned the bike behind the car, quickly finding her feet and beginning after the nearest suspect.
“Bike, Crowd control.” She commanded as she ran, leaving the machine to secure the scene and keep any bystanders away from the driver. The last thing she needed was for him to take a hostage.
The suspect continued to fire over his shoulder, not taking the time to aim. It was a ploy to keep her at a distance, but with such a small caliber round, it only strengthened her resolve to overtake him. He wouldn't kill her with that thing, be he could certainly kill an innocent, and she wouldn't risk that.
She quickened her pace and in half a dozen strides she had him by the hood, pulling him to his back with a single, violent tug. He gagged as his weight lurched backward, his momentum frozen over just a few inches of fabric that caught him by the neck. His head slammed against the concrete as he hit, sending him into persistent, but temporary darkness.
Vi flipped him to his belly and cuffed him, collecting a small handful of knives, an extra clip and a small bag of powdered amphetamine the color of tar. “Control I need a meatwagon to Blue Ox Mega-Blok.” She called, still knelt over him, her blue eyes drawn to a mark on his neck. A new tattoo was still raised and flaking, it's image somewhat distorted in the healing process. Large and black it cast the silhouette of what Vi assumed was a wolf, teeth barred and fur raised. It had the look and placement of a gang mark, but it wasn't one she recognized. Perhaps an up and comer. She took her captive by the hood and began to drag; finding her adrenaline enough to spur her forward at a quicker pace than one would guess possible with a suspect of his size in tow.
The screen on his wrist chirped; the bikes proximity alarm having been tripped. She frowned her brow, there was no way the driver could have moved; someone must have circled back. She let the suspect's limp body fall, rounding the corner with pistol in hand.
She sucked in an irritated breath, finding the vehicle gone, the bike moved and the driver laying dead where she had left him breathing. She mumbled a few well chosen words, anger beginning to tighten around her. “Bike, Alarm off.” She ordered, the siren ceasing there and springing up elsewhere; alerting her to the rapid approach of the meat wagon.
“Control, be advised we have two armed suspects in the area, location unknown. Requesting drone support.”
“Copy that, drones in route.”
She left her captive by the bike and moved toward the driver. He had a single round in his head; certainly not an addition she had provided. The hole was small, perhaps from the pistol he had dropped; the pistol that was missing. More interesting than the wound, however, was the matching mark on his neck. The same new tattoo.
“Control to Judge Park. Suspects were seen exiting the blok but are no longer within visual range of the building security. They have been marked for further contact.”
Vi cursed, “Copy that.”
The meat wagon approached and Vi gave her orders: clean up and ID the body, turn the other over to interrogation. She had other issues to take care of.
Still livid she took her seat behind an empty screen in the Hall of Justice, logging in and bringing up the security feed from the Blue Ox. It wasn't often her prey had the upper hand, and she needed to know why. After all, she wasn't one to repeat mistakes.
She lean back in her chair, watching the grainy image of herself bolt off screen and waiting for the suspects to return. Instead another vehicle appeared, pulling into the courtyard and coming to a gentle stop beside the motorcycle.
A young man of maybe twenty emerged from the driver's seat; his typical anglo-saxon features bent beneath a knit brow, his hand running absentmindedly over his shaved head. He seemed calm and rational for a man his age, the only clue to his anxiety coming in the quickness of his movements. He turned and addressed the man in the passenger side, his posture respectful.
The passenger was a few years older, darker, and held no hint of the nervous energy the kid worked so hard to stifle. No, this one was confident and coldly studious as he looked over the scene. The man bleeding out before him didn't seem a point of concern. If anything, Vi would have argued, he seemed to think of him as a problem that needed solving more than a brother in arms. The passenger turned and spoke and the young man obeyed, moving toward the trunk and beginning to dig.
As the boy rummaged, two women slipped from the backseat. They were tall, taller than either of the men, and identical. Bright red hair was cut short; one side left to fall to the chin while the other side, from the temple to nape, was shaved to the skin. Long ox-blood trench-coats fell to their feet; their eyes, though the color was indistinguishable on camera, were lined with dark make up. They were a strange pair; distinguishable only by the slightest differences in movements that would be lost completely if they were not standing next to the other. They too took their orders from the man at the passenger door and obeyed without question.
The first slipped behind the wheel of the black sedan. The second recovered the weapon that had fallen from the wounded driver's hand and lifting it without pause, put a bullet in his head. She slid the weapon into her pocket and took her place beside her sister, waiting for the men to finish their part.
A tow rope had been retrieved from the trunk and was slid behind the bike's front tire, providing enough leverage and enough distance to move it safely out of the way without triggering any of it's lock down or defense systems. The alarm that instantly sounded seemed to be expected, and was ultimately ignored.
The women pulled around the bike and paused, waiting with engine running for the men to finish their task and join them. The two cars left together, the total time of their stop less than two minutes. It was impressive, organized, and made Vita uneasy.
Pausing the feed she started with the passenger, zooming in to the image and pulling up the suspect ID. “Sean Wolf.” she said aloud, beginning over his record and suddenly finding new meaning to the matching tattoos. If he was indeed the one who inspired the ink, he had done so without drawing much unwanted attention. His record was short and uneventful; a few assaults, a minor arson, all against other gang members. Nothing that would have warranted calling out a Judge. Curious.
She moved to the next screen, finding the image of the twins. Amanda and Rachel Watson, working for the previous several years under the alias's Scarlett and Cerise. Now these girls had a more colorful history. They were no strangers to violence it seemed, having served time in the Isocubes, only to expand upon the creativity of their crime after their release. Though they were only ever convicted once, they were suspected in more than a dozen other cases, always slipping away with skill so promising it was almost easier to call it luck. They're records, however, spoke more to Sean Wolf than it did to themselves. His record said small time, but theirs did not. If they followed him, they saw something worth following and that was, at the very least, an interesting consideration. She wondered how much he truly controlled.
Vi once again returned to the recording, this time finding the feed from drone that hovered over when their pursuit began. She watched the pursuit again, this time her eyes trained on the driver. His pattern was consistent before he had broken off, a single call having seemed to be the motivation to pull over and make a run for the Blok. Another element that suggested he was acting under orders.
Vi crossed her arms over her chest, drumming her fingers on her bicep and frowning her brow. It was a curious puzzle, to say the least. If they were following orders clearly their leader, most likely Wolf, hadn't wanted to risk a direct confrontation with a Judge. An attempted firefight would have no doubt ended quickly and unsuccessfully. He could have chosen to ambush her, but again, there was a risk. The limited firearms they had used did not suggest the means to overwhelm her, even in greater numbers. No, the gang had to be small and in that case running was by far the best option. Running, as he had demonstrated with infuriating success, had also left her with very little to work with. She would need to dig.
Returning to the twins she scrolled through the file, her eyes searching for a name. It would be a while before the results of the interrogation were known, giving her a window to question someone of her own. Marked in florescent green was the name of the arresting Judge, the one who had sent the girls to the Isocubes in the first place. She needed to start somewhere, and he would know where.
| The thick smoke of the hookah spiraled lazily from Sean’s nostrils, cascading down his chest, caressing his mind. It was a luxury he had never been able to afford and already he wondered how he had ever done without. He had heard that there were, or rather at one time had been, dens dedicated to communal use of hashish, oriented rather like a café for individuals to imbibe and interact together. He wondered if perhaps he should arrange for such an establishment to be sorted for his lieutenants; as a gesture of appreciation. His mind chuckled though his features remained stoic, eyes fixed on the winding, twisting, arching bodies on the stage.|
Appreciation. That was definitely the pipe talking. Reward for deeds done and incentive for future endeavors, that was more accurate. He expelled the remaining narcotic from his lungs, then gestured subtly with the pipe to indicate he was about to speak.
“Power is an interesting thing,” he began, the drug in his system loosening his muscles and mannerisms slightly, dropping his speaking voice an octave and giving it a pleasant resonance. “You can see it applied around you, experience its effects, but until you hold it in your hand, until you cultivate it, you cannot truly comprehend it.” He leaned forward in the smoky near-darkness, eyes mildly glassed but sharp. “These women,” he gestured to the dancers under the single, washed-out light that blanketed the naked bodies and the elevated floor behind him in stark white, “are not here because I am paying them. They do not stay here for a salary. They do not wait upon and service me for financial gain.” He held the pipe erect before his face. “They are here because they like power. They are attracted to it. Moths to a flame, and all.
“These women do not belong to me. They can leave. They can leave and none of my men will lay a finger on them. Neither they nor their families will endure repercussions. But they stay. They dance. They wait on me. They do whatever I tell them. Because that is power.
“I want and it happens. I point, they go. I beckon, they come. And if an obstacle comes forth, I crush it.”
“And,” there was a gentle hiccup to his left “, a right honor it is to do your crushing,” Mr. Croup nodded from the adjacent divan, saluting with his pipe; where Sean liked to enhanced or highlight an experience with the hookah, Mr. Croup seemed to relish drowning in its smoke. “Honestly, Mr. Vandemar and I have not had such fun in ages. Possibly in forever.”
Mr. Vandemar, sitting in a normal chair next to Croup, simply blinked in response; Sean was quite certain the hookah was not remotely affecting the massive man, and he vaguely wondered exactly how much of a medical-grade tranquilizer it would take to put that big body down. Then, returning to Mr. Croup’s elated statement:
“My pleasure to oblidge.”
“I can honestly say,” Mr. Croup paused momentarily as his next breath decided to try and happen before he’d even fully inhaled the previous one, “that in the past two weeks, I have exercised levels of creativity that I did not even know I possessed. As an artist,” he sat abruptly forward, hand placed meaningfully over his heart, a genuine expression of sincerity, “I would not have been able to accomplish what I have without your support. Truly, you are not merely my employer; you are my patron.”
Sean simply took the compliment, contented, as well as amused by watching Mr. Vandermar as he studied his fingernails, trying to decide whether the drug was finally beginning to affect him.
“So,” Mr. Croup lazily changed subject, well-hazed eyes fixed as well as they could be on the dancers before Sean, “do your redheads mind the candy?”
“We tried to throw ourselves at him before he was famous,” Scarlett sniffed, appearing from the darkness over Sean’s right shoulder.
“The scent of power was on him since before he was an adult,” Cerise agreed with more aggression showing through her mental restraints than was usual for her.
“Now we just have to settle for being bodyguards. And having our own harems of oiled man-toys,” Scarlett shrugged, nonchalant.
“Not terrible, as consolation prizes go,” Cerise agreed, nodding sagely.
“I preferred personal safety and respected companionship to sex,” Sean shrugged, explaining more for Croup’s benefit; this was a subject he had covered with the twins long ago, and did not particularly appreciate bringing up again. They were sexually attractive, of course, but for him, sex could never be more than a primal release, whereas, while they may not admit it, he knew the act for Scarlett and Cerise at least had the potential for emotional attachment. And with emotional attachment came a greater likelihood for error, which was not an aspect he found desirable in bodyguards.
“Ah, pleasure or business. I can relate,” Mr. Croup nodded knowingly.
“Sex or work…?” Mr. Vandemar rumbled, then minutely waved the fingers of his right hand dismissively. “I just do both at the same time.”
“I don’t know how he can do it,” Mr. Croup shook his head. “When I’ve tried, my two passions divide my attention and the experience just falls flat. The results have usually been interesting though; ever tried to vivisect a woman while copulating with her? The thrashing is… invigorating.”
“What is it?” Sean turned to his bodyguard, deciding he had heard enough of Mr. Croup’s exploits, though the thin, weasel of a man continued discussing the similarities of sex and knifing a person with Mr. Vandemar, unaware that Sean was no longer involved in the conversation.
“We’ve noticed drone fly-overs have increased during the past week,” Scarlett reported.
“Guy we have on tech used recorded footage from the roofs and processed the number of drones and the duration of time they spend within an estimated sightline,” Cerise explained.
Sean took a long draw from his hookah and held it for some time, his mind casually mulling over the implications. The scrape with the Judge had been an interesting learning experience, but he got the idea that swiping his cargo and wounded man from under the Judge’s nose had been taken somewhat personally. At least, he imagined any Judge worth his or her salt would have.
“Hopefully, they’re just documenting gang activity,” Sean said, not believing it any more than Scarlett and Cerise did. He turned back around and stared sullenly at the hookah. “Rotten luck that the man the Judge snagged had a wolf tattoo. I should have stomped that movement out long ago.”
“Tattooing to show fidelity to a clan is literally timeless,” Cerise shrugged. “I doubt it’s ever occurred to ninety-five percent of gang members that it just makes them easier for the law to keep an eye on.”
“And it allows for a sense of unity among the troops,” Scarlett agreed knowingly.
“At least we kept the lieutenants from doing it,” Sean muttered resentfully. “I’d hate for one of them to be picked up just because he had some stupid wolf on his neck.” He looked back over his shoulder at Cerise. “How’s the ammo search going?”
“I’ve got a name and a place,” Cerise allowed. “The source is solid, but the location…” She rocked a palm back and forth.
“Is the place far?” Sean asked.
“Not unreasonably so.”
“Where and who?”
“Guy’s name is Eli. He’s in the Persephone Mega-Blok,” Cerise informed him. She did not need to tell him the rest; Sean’s lip naturally curled in disgust.
“The Plague Clan,” he snarled, turning back around and scowling at nothing in particular. “Which of the others are they are war with? The Maw?”
“Both the Maw and the Blades,” confirmed Cerise. Sean’s snarl morphed into look of mild disgust. Persephone was a Mega-blok a handful of kilometers north. All around it were more traditional tenement structures, completely overrun with drug manufacturing, weapons dealing, and wet-behind-the-ears killers. But Persephone was where the real action was: high end drug trade, military grade weapons, and the kind of men that couldn’t join a clan without five kills to their name. The current occupants were the Plague Clan. Vicious, unpredictable, but very effective. And as the biggest target, two of the larger gangs from the surrounding tenements had decided to attempt a takeover.
“Two on one doesn’t matter,” Sean shook his head. “The Plague’ll stomp both those fires out before the week’s end.” He stood, surprisingly steady, though his head felt mildly over-sized and light. “We’re going to need to move on this.” He left his darkened sanctuary.
“Now?” Scarlett was actually aghast.
Sean, pulled up in front of the twins, nearly causing them to bump into either of his shoulders. He turned and looked back through the door.
The big man turned to look at him, his eyes unfazed.
“Scoop up Croup and head back to your shop; I don’t want him to decide the meat on my stage looks ripe for the cutting.” Mr. Vandemar simply nodded and threw the apparently very unconscious Mr. Croup over his shoulder like a father with a small child, then made to depart. Sean resumed walking.
“Apart from a confirmed ammunition manufacturer,” Sean started, “the Plague also has a massive stockpile of heavy weapons and arms. I want that too.”
“Simultaneous raids?” Cerise wondered. She was as astonished as her sister, she just hid it better.
“Cerise, you will hit the ammunition manufacturer. Take a small, light party of five; I want them to be prepared to make off with heavy equipment in case the man has some irreplaceable equipment he needs. Guy as good as he must be is in demand so odds are he’s been through this kind of thing before and will be a help rather than a hindrance.
“Scarlett, you take a team of ten, five armed to the teeth, five with only pistols. Find and hit their cache as hard as you can, get away with as much as you can, then blow up what you can’t take. Odds are we’re going to have to go to war with them someday; I’d rather it not be tomorrow.”
“And you?” Scarlett asked.
“I’m going to take Josh, Zeke, and twenty others. Odds are the Plague will be fighting on one of their fronts; we’re going to incite the other to the do the same. Once everyone is shooting, we’re going to pave the way for your teams. With a little luck, we’ll secure the Blok’s first floor, cutting off members of the Plague from one another and hurting them from the inside on both flanks. Once both teams are done, we retreat out behind you.”
They reached their weapons storeroom which had finally begun to acquire some heavier hardware.
“It’ll have to be done blindingly fast,” Sean continued. “The Plague is better armed, armored, and equipped, even when already fighting a two-front war. No matter what happens, this will be messy.”
“I’d rather not take anyone good if there are guaranteed casualties, but it sounds like we have no choice,” Cerise grimaced as they walked up a short flight of stairs to Sean’s now decently stocked armory.
“No, your teams should be relatively fine,” Sean postulated. “I’ll have the team of grunts.” He pushed a button on the intercom by the door as Scarlett and Cerise began to stock on SMGs and ammo. “Josh.”
“You and Zeke get a group of twenty together. And tell the rest the Twins are coming through to put together a few other groups.” He paused for a moment, considered, then added: “This is going to be big, Josh. Let the clan know there is going to be some serious shit, so prepare accordingly.”
“Yes, sir.” The comm clicked off.
Sean turned slowly and regarded Scarlett and Cerise. They looked ready for fierce, fast fighting, but despite what Scarlett’s gunrunners had begun to bring in, he knew it still wasn’t enough. For a quick and run like he had planned, certainly, but…
“You’re not worried about the Plague, are you?” Scarlett cut into his thoughts with precisely what was already going through his mind.
“If we are successful, and I have every reason to believe we will be,” Cerise added, “then the Plague’s days may be numbered if the Maw and the Blades press their advantage. That leaves only one source of worry.”
“Bloodshed on this scale brings out the sharks,” Sean nodded slowly, the very thought of his insinuation going a long way to sobering him up. “There will be Judges, and they will arrive quickly.”
“We can’t get in and out before they show,” Cerise pointed out.
“They wont expect us there, so we might be able to keep under their radar for a handful of minutes,” Scarlett noted.
“The worry is if they come in force,” said Sean, grabbing one of the only assault rifles and ammunition to spare. “We need a way to get the clans to fight each other without really endangering civilians. We do that, and only a few Judges will show up, rather than a whole RIOT team.”
Cerise grimaced. “Can’t think of a time that kind of thing ever went well.”
“Or,” Scarlett put in, “we could just start a few fires away from the action. Pull attention and resources away from the Persephone Blok.”
“Don’t diminish, just redirect,” nodded Sean, suddenly feeling much more positive about the outcome. “I like that.”
|The chair leaned precariously on it's back legs, the judge's weight balanced perfectly and held in place with the toe of her boot. It was the second time she listened to the recorded interrogation of the wolf she had brought in, this time with the typed transcript in hand to help decipher the syllables lost in the screams. It was important to know what was said, but Vi's curiosity also pressed her to investigate how it was said. Tone often played a role, even in torture, and every detail was vital. |
“Jericho...” He coughed, the unmistakable gurgle of blood still identifiable over the recording, “We work out of Jericho. Under the charge of a guy named Sean Wolf...” More coughing, more groaning. By this point he had been in interrogation over an hour. It didn't seem like much, but with the interrogators as ruthlessly skilled as they were, it was more than the average citizen could handle.
“Continue,” The interrogator pressed, both in word and action. She could hear the suspect crying now. It was surprising how many of them cried. “Who works for Wolf? Any names I might know?” The interrogator asked.
“The twins are closest to him, I think. Scarlett and Cerise. I don't know what they do, I'm not high enough in the ranks to know. But he commands and they answer. If they aren't with him they are doing something for him.” He was finished now, no more fight left in him.
“Croup and Vandemar. They are a bit more independent I think, but trusted. The things they do...”
“I don't know exactly. I've only heard the screams, the plea's. I had no trouble killing, but what they do is more than that. It's....inhuman.” His voice betrayed a subtle mix of fear and disgust. Vita paused the audio file, setting her feet on the ground and bringing up the files for Croup and Vandemar. No images, no real names. The men, if they were in fact men, had never been described in any detail. In fact, they were so enigmatic the files were most commonly dedicated to them both; no one crime associated with one or another. The tiny details they had received stated one was big, the other small, and to who each description belonged was never fully understood.
They, however, settled even more into her mind the need to find Wolf. If he slipped from crime to crime with the twins under one arm and these ghosts under another then clearly he was worth watching.
She lifted her helmet off the desk, tucking it under her arm and beginning toward the barracks. She had arranged a meeting with another Judge, some brute of a man she had never met who had been responsible for the arrest of Sean's twins. If she had any luck he would remember them, maybe even provide some details the files lacked. She would take anything she could get.
Vita jogged the four flights up to level seven, scanning the brass name plates beside each door. She stopped at the end of the hall, “Judge Tyler O'Connell” was printed beside the bell. She raised a hand to knock and the door opened, revealing a rather imposing figure. “Judge O'Connell, I'm Vita Park.”
He allowed his almost black eyes to scan her before gesturing for her to enter. She stepped through the door and waited for him to secure the locks behind her. He had added a few of his own, a surprising addition considering they were literally at the heart of the Hall of Justice.
“Not the trusting sort?” She asked, her eyes as trained on him as his had been on her. His expression, or more appropriately his frown, remained unchanging.
“You can say that.” He replied through his teeth, which were better occupied pinning a half mangled cigar in place. “Now what was it that you needed, Judge Park?”
“I am here to inquire about the twins, Scarlett and Cerise. You might know them as Amanda and Rachel Watson. You arrested them a few years back for burglary.”
“I remember the twins.” He answered, is expression hardening beyond it's already stony state.
“What can you tell me about them?”
“Why do you want to know?” came the expected answer.
“They are associating themselves with an up and comer I'd like to get my hands on, and you are the only one that's managed to find and arrest them. I thought you might provide some insight.”
“You want some insight, but a bullet in them the moment you get a chance.”
Apparently he had been following their careers. “Why do you say that?”
“They are smart, dangerous, and know well how to manipulate. I should have done it myself for the burglary, but they were kids. I thought they had a chance.”
“A merciful move.” She replied, her tone neither praising nor condemning the choice.
“A mistake. Now get out, I have work to do.”
Vi wouldn't argue, instead she turned on her heel, beginning again toward the door. It certainly hadn't been the informative visit she had hoped, leaving her one last attempt to gather information in a less conventional way. “I guess I'll return to my wolf hunt then,” She answered with a respectful nod, “thanks for the recommendation, Judge.”
She was a few steps down the hall when he stopped her, “Wolf hunt?” He asked.
“Yeah, the lower ranking mark themselves with a black wolf.”
“So the twins are tied to the Wolf Pack.” O'Connell answered, his enormous frame still in the doorway, massive arms folded over his chest. Apparently she was not the only one to keep an eye on tattoos. Vita turned, “They are who I'm after.”
“You said you were after an up and comer. One particular wolf you have your eye on?” Tye probed.
Vita waited a moment, running fingers through her black hair. She wasn't sure how much she wanted to reveal. It was rare for a Judge to be corrupt, but he had a history with the girls, and as he admitted, he chose a more lenient route than she would have. On the other hand, as good as she was, back up could always be helpful, and the man was a tank.
The radio clicked on, “Control to Judges, we have a spike of activity between the Persephone and Titan Mega Blocks, all units in the area are to report immediately.”
Vita stepped to a control panel in the hall, bringing up a map of the area. The pings of red began to flare up to the East, creating a fan of fire that seemed to be spreading away from Persephone. Titan wasn't at war with the Plague Clan, the particularly ugly group that controlled Persephone Mega Blok, so their movements out weren't logical. They always had at least one gang moving in on them, they weren't one to move out in such numbers and leaved their prized Persephone undermanned.
“Judge Park enroute.” Vita answered, starting down the stairs. “Judge O'Connell to Control, any calls from Persephone?” Vita glanced over her shoulder as the brute followed, curious that his mind had gone a similar direction.
“Nothing more than normal, Judge.” Came the answer. Tye did not seem convinced.
“Give it five minutes.” Vi answered.
As they neared Persephone, heading to a small firefight at it's opposite side, the unmistakable sound of automatic gunfire drew their attention. “Park to Control, we have a problem at Persephone. Requesting a team.”
“Copy that Judge, negative on the team. Units are unavailable.”
“Send them as soon as you have them. I'll be out at Persephone.” Vi answered, turning to approach the Mega Blok. She stepped off her bike, finding O'Connell once again bringing up the rear. The two quickly dawned their riot gear and began toward the North entrance.
“Here's hoping you're at least half as tough as you look.” Vita remarked.
“and that you are twice as tough as you look.” Tye answered, allowing the hint of a grin. She smiled, waiting for the moment to slip into the chaos and assess the damage. “I'll try not to disappoint.”
They entered unnoticed, finding the majority of the occupants already dead, the war zone inside brutal, even for wars like this one. A least two hundred lay dead, the fifty still on their feet tripping over their fallen brothers to eliminate the men across the courtyard. Tye lifted his com to his lips, giving the necessary options over the loudspeaker, “This is the Law, you are surrounded. Put down your weapons or you will be eliminated.”
Though a few heads turned, none complied. It was enough to be sure there were no innocents among them, if the fact they were in Persephone was not enough to prove that. Most importantly it allowed the Judges to do what needed to be done.
Vita lifted two gas grenades from her pocket, setting each on remote and tossing them into the fray. With guns cocked and respirators in place the charges were released, filling the open courtyard with plumes of choking yellow smoke.
With O'Connell at her shoulder the two moved out. These men, though certainly not the highest trained she had encountered, were among the most well armed. They had military grade weaponry and body armor that required a head shot in order to finish them without multiple rounds. It led for a messy, but invigorating interaction. By her third magazine the game was done and both Judges were standing, not so much as a scratch on their armor.
When the upper floors were locked down, the threats contained if not eliminated, the two began their search. Surveying the bodies was an ugly, but necessary next step. Most of the men had belonged to the Plague clan, a good few from the Blades, even more from the Maw. But what claimed her curiosity was why it happened now. They had been at war, but what had driven them, at this moment, to converge and destroy one another was a puzzle. Persephone was important territory, but this was a bold move.
“I got one breathing.” Tye called over, lifting the mangled man from the pile. Vi approached as O'Connell began his questioning, the man still held in his iron grip. She took the wounded man by his chin, turning him away to wipe the blood from his neck. “Look at this, O'Connell. You caught yourself a wolf.”
|Sean did not like momentous occasions. They were loud and often brought disappointment. So when he picked up the first military grade bullet as produced by his new arms manufacturer, Eli, the realization that now was one of those moments disturbed him on an instinctual level, even though he intellectually understood that this was a step in the right direction. He slid the round into a rifle, took aim, and fired. The van he pointed at could not resist the round, and with a quick ping-ping the bullet passed completely through, before burying itself in the live target on the other side, who fell stiffly, a hole in his left temple.|
"No exit wound," Sean remarked mildly.
"It's the caliber of the rifle," Eli stated easily, his level of comfort in his new surroundings suggesting that he was quite accustomed to changes in scenery. A man of his skill was always in demand. "The stuff I'll make for your assault rifles will go through the van and get you an exit wound. The rounds for your high-powered rifles will go through that van, through five guys, and still dig into the concrete a good six inches." Sean already approved of Eli; the bald, bearded man was professional and pragmatic. He did want to apprentice one or two of his lieutenants to Eli though for the sake of increased production volume; if business continued to go like this, they'd need the power military-grade ammunition brought in order to hold on to the territory into which they had expanded. And the difference between this ammunition and what they'd been using before was like comparing spitwads to, well, bullets.
"How does your ammunition do against a Judge?" Sean asked, straightforward.
"High powered rifle will rip through a concrete pillar, through one of their bikes, and still tear a Judge in half," Eli shrugged, his confidence seeming to come from experience. "Your assault rifles will have some issues with their riot gear, but should do the job against their standard patrol armor, though the shoulder pads and chest guard can hold up decently enough."
"What about the ammo for submachine guns?" Scarlett spoke up.
"If you wing 'em, it wont do much," Eli allowed, "but if you're able to get a clean shot, preferably followed by some sustained fire, that'll do the trick. Pistols," he gestured to Scarlett's shoulder holsters, "can work, but I'd have to make you some pretty special stuff. I mean, how much you want is your call, but I'd recommend you only take two clips for each handgun you want to use." He looked to Sean now. "The material is expensive and the process time-consuming; making that kind of ammo for pistols just isn't cost or time effective, especially when you already have high powered rifles and assault weapons."
Sean nodded, calculating. "We've got a decent stockpile from the Persephone raid for the time being. How quickly can you crank out eight clips of Judge-killer rounds for pistols? I want to make sure Scarlett and Cerise have some decent firepower if they get caught out somewhere without rifles."
"It'll be a few days," Eli admitted, "plus I'll need some specialized materials; the Plague never got me any because they just wanted the steady stream of assault rifle ammunition."
"Give a list of what you need to Scarlett and Cerise," Sean tilted his head toward the redheads. "Between the two of them, they'll come up with the goods."
"Especially if can give our guns lethal power against Judges," Cerise nodded slowly, clearly liking the idea.
"I'll get to work," Eli said, shaking Sean's hand once, solidly.
"How long do you think we have until we start to pull some heat?" Scarlett asked when all three were back in Sean's suite. Even since his complete domination of the Jericho Mega-Blok, the place had stayed relatively like a home. He kept his own cache of weapons within, of course, but he lived here, held meetings with only the twins here, and that was it. His base of operations was down the hall, his harem was another hall over. In short, this was his sanctuary.
"Won’t be long," Sean decided. "We've managed to steer clear until this point, but with the kind of firepower we've got now, and add on that our next logical evolution is to expand to another Mega-Blok... We're at a turning point."
“Our tech has been saying drone flyovers increased again after the Persephone run,” Cerise noted coldly. “I think someone has an eye on us.”
“I’m sure we’ve moved up their charts,” Sean shrugged, taking a seat on the edge of his bed, one hand resting over the other which was held in a loose fist before his face. Then more acutely, “All we can do now is continue business as usual and try to stay on the down-low. With a little luck, we’ll have a Judge flash a badge, bust one of the smaller dealerships on the bottom level, and then we wont hear from them for a while.”
“We could always try and instigate a visit,” Cerise suggested. “Get Croup and Vandemar to toss a few of their art projects onto the ground floor court, draw an investigation, hang a few newbies out to dry,” she shrugged, “might be enough to take their attention off us for a while.”
“Make it seem like we’ve just had a couple sickos running around rather than anything that organized,” Sean nodded, the idea burgeoning. “I like it. Let’s give them two people; just a couple our guys who are fuck-ups, you know, ones who are more trouble than help.”
“With how big the Pack is now, I have a dozen names that fit the bill,” Scarlett snorted derisively.
"The herd could use some casual culling," Scarlett agreed.
“Ok, here’s the plan. We’ll have Croup and Vandemar set up an art project on the group floor tonight; I’ll give them the go ahead to take their time. Hell, maybe I’ll have them make one from scratch right there so the screams will make sure no one watches. We have some of our guys sew the names of our fuck-ups into the general residence, who are more than happy to point them out to whoever shows up. We have the Pack make themselves scarce, let the Judge do his thing, and that should be that for a good couple of months.”
Sean looked at the eviscerated body hanging from the very center of the first floor food court with the appraising eye of a patron of the arts. Apart from Croup and Vandemar, the floor was empty, not an usual occurrence considering it was about an hour after midnight, but seeing as the body had been screaming up until a few moments ago, he figured that had more to do with it.
“Hung by his wrists with his own innards,” Sean shook his head.
“High praise to the man,” Croup nodded in agreement. “He endured much before expiring. Almost makes me wish I could have made this a real project.”
“A shame,” Vandemar growled. “No elegance.”
“Too true, chum,” Croup nodded again, this time to his massive companion. “All blood and gore, no finesse. No art.”
“Takes a real master to screw up intentionally though,” Sean shrugged, “and still make it look convincing.”
“It was an interesting exercise, granted,” Croup continued to nod. Sean decided the man’s nods were actually a nervous tick, brought on by the likely fact that he saw so many ways to improve the project but was not allowed to.
“How about you and Vandemar head back up and polish off one of your pet projects,” he suggested. “Might make you feel better.”
“No… no,” Croup sighed heavily. “I feel distinctly uninspired looking at this mess. This mess I created. How contemptible. How amateur. How absolutely Philistine. No, I will not be feeling better tonight; I’m far too distressed. I’ll go hit the hookah, then head to bed. Tomorrow,” he turned back to Vandemar, “we will awake refreshed and begin anew. Hopefully, I will not be reminded of this travesty for a long time to come.” The odd, twisted pair left, leaving Sean alone in the near darkness with the body, the last remaining drops of blood hitting the rotting tile floor, making soft splashes.
Sean watched via remote camera as the pair of Judges hunted down the two fuck ups that had been pointed out to them. It was like watching wolves hunt deer; even though they had a pair of pistols, they never had a chance. Within twenty minutes of arrival, the Judges secured the scene and secured the suspects. Or rather, killed them and let the meatwagon secure what was left.
“There,” he gestured with an open palm to the monitor, Scarlett and Cerise looking over his shoulder. “And now we shouldn’t be hearing from them again until we’re dug in too deep to be rooted out. Good job.”