Prog 7 : Loosened Ends
Anderson kept one hand firmly on the gang-queen's shoulder and her mind wrapped around hers as she marched her down the stairs of the mopad to the tarmac of the road. After the brutal shoot-out, incongruous in the luxury of the Royale, the peaceful dirt of the street felt like coming home. Dredd met her at the door. "Got your 10-26," he growled. He barely glanced at her prisoner but ran his eyes carefully over his former-Rookie. "What happened in there?"
"Smuggling bust," she said shortly.
"Looks like you've been through it," Dredd remarked.
She didn't quite smile. "Perps were . . . uncooperative," she said.
Dredd nodded and looked at the gang-queen as if seeing her for the first time. "Kim Calitri," he realized.
She sneered at him and curtseyed as best as she could in the restraints. "You want an autograph?" she asked acidly. She pouted her lips. "Or maybe a duckface selfie? I think hashtag sexyperps is still trending."
Dredd's frown didn't twitch. "Might impress the boys in the squad room, but I'll pass," he said. "Oh," he added, as if it were an afterthought. "Attempting to bribe a Judge – six-months." He turned to the psi. "What'd she do, Anderson?"
Now Anderson grinned. "Psi-crimes and misdemeanors," she quipped. Been waiting for an age to use that! she thought to herself. She wasn't disappointed in the result.
Dredd's permafrown twitched. "Heh," he said. He looked past Kim at the Judge limping down the stairs. "Daz," he acknowledged. "How's my Rookie?"
Daz shrugged. "They're each other's problem now, Dredd," she said with a smile.
It was physically impossible to read Dredd's mood behind his visor, but Anderson could tell he was impressed. "That so?" he asked. He nodded. "Good assignment," he said shortly. It wasn't clear exactly who he was talking about, if indeed there was a single answer. He flicked his chin up at the mopad. "Anything special in there?" he asked.
"Dropped bronze on level two," said Daz shortly. "If you could take care of that?" Dredd nodded.
"For Forest or the forge?" he asked.
"Trip-six," she answered grimly. "Sunder it."
He cocked his head. "You call that in?" he asked. She nodded. He glanced around, scanning the roads and the surrounding buildings. "SJS should be here pretty soon, then," he said. He looked back at Anderson and Daz, seeing their wounds and weariness. "You want me to take charge of the scene?" he asked. "You both look like you could use a medic – surgeon can see you at the sector house." Daz shook her head.
"Med-wagon'll hold me until I get back to one-nineteen," she said, "and Anderson'll want to take Kim to . . ." She realized she didn't know. "Wherever PsiDiv keeps its prisoners," she finished.
"HOJ," Anderson said shortly. "We've got secured facilities under the medical wing. Any grabs in the mopad are mine too, Dredd," she said. "My Teks and I need to take a look under the hood – see what Little-Miss Brain-Drain here did to them." She shoved Kim, none-too-gently. "Alright, cutie," she said. "Hashtag doingtime."
Kim didn't struggle, but neither did she move. She turned to face Dredd and Anderson. "Listen," she said urgently, "you have no idea what's going on here. You've got to cut me a deal."
Anderson actually laughed. "A deal?" she mocked. "You flipped some horn-dog pig trip-six and he kills one Judge and wounds another, Daz and I get beat up, down and every which way and you think you can cut a deal?" She shook her head. "No dice, hotsauce," she said. "You must really think blondes are dumb if you expect me to buy that."
Kim hissed in frustration. "Not on my sentence!" she snapped. "You've got to protect me – I'll roll on these people," she promised, "but you've got to get me into protective custody. Like, right now," she added urgently.
Something about her voice at least partially-convinced Dredd. Almost casually, he snapped his holster's thumb-break open. "Protection from who, creep? There's three lawgivers here – how much more protection do you want?" Anderson coughed and held up two fingers. Dredd's gaze fell to her ripped-open holster. "Again?" he asked with a very faint smile. "Should I tie it to your wrist with a bit of string?"
"Wouldn't hurt," admitted Anderson. "But, while we're on the subject of getting tied up . . ."
She got no further before Kim's head simply exploded, splattering the Judges with a glutinous rain of blood, bone fragments and brain-matter. Dredd was in motion before her body had even started to topple, grabbing Anderson and dragging her into the cover of his lawmaster. A split-second later, the crack of the rifle reached their ears. "Sniper," she muttered. "Idiot! Stupid, drokking idiot!" she chided herself.
On the megaboulevard slidewalks, citizens screamed and scattered, some of them running across the multiple lanes of the wide road in their panic. Horns honked and brakes squealed, a pedestrian or two getting clipped by speeding vehicles and a car rear-ending another with a crash of tortured metal. Dredd ignored it all – he had bigger problems. "Can it, Anderson," he growled. He swept his head, searching the surrounding buildings for the tell-tale glint of light on the lens of a scope. It was fruitless – it was a bright, sunny day in late August, lots of windows on the buildings, the glitter of glass everywhere. "Daz!" he called. "You got anything?"
From where she was crouched in the stairwell of the mopad, Daz shook her head. "Nope," she said tightly. She glanced at the gang-queen's body lying supine on the slidewalk, the gorgeous limbs artlessly strewn. Were it not for the missing head, splattered gore and pool of blood leaking from the neck, it could have been a piece of pin-up street-theater. As it was, it still might have not looked out of place in some crazy art-installation. "Judging from the way she fell, I'm guessing the shot came from the south-west." Dredd squinted as he turned that way, photochromic visor darkening.
"Makes sense," he grunted. "We're looking into the sun." His wrist computer bleeped and he glanced down at it. "Audio analysis suggests a nine-mil rifle, range about four-hundred yards." He pointed. "That parking deck?" he suggested.
Anderson peered cautiously over the seat of the bike – it was alright for Dredd, she reflected; he was wearing a helmet. She had no desire to take a cranial shot twice in her career. She grit her teeth and put her hand to her head. Spikes of pain shot through it – her temples felt like storm clouds joined by crackling chains of lightning, and about that fuzzy. Her migraine was going to get worse before it got better. She ignored it all and pushed through. "North-east corner," she said. "Floor . . . eighteen. He's rabbiting!" she cried, jumping up.
Dredd leaped onto his bike, Anderson behind him and clinging to his waist. "Daz!" he yelled. "You've got the scene!" He didn't wait for a response, instead opening the throttle of his lawmaster and roaring towards the parking deck, weaving through the lanes of traffic and over the median, dodging speeding cars by inches. "Where's he going?" he shouted. Anderson shook her head.
"Too much psionic noise!" she yelled back. "And it's been a long day – my head's been used like a punching bag. Just get there and hope we're lucky!" Dredd grunted affirmatively and sped through the barrier, the robotic parking attendant thrusting a ticket at him as he went by. Hitting the blues-and-twos, he raced up the spiraling ramp to level eighteen, weaving through the cars to the north-east corner. He lay thick lines of black rubber as he screeched to a halt.
There was no-one there, but there was line-of-sight to the mopad and Kim's corpse. It would have been an easy shot for a sniper – less than five-hundred yards. There were too-many cars to hide behind, too-many ways to get away, too-many exits – the shooter was long-gone. Dredd dismounted and scoured the area, but it was Anderson who noticed the shell casing. "Expended brass," she said, pointing. Dredd pulled the CSI kit from his belt and picked it up with the long tweezers.
"Seven sixty-two," he grunted. "Audio sig said nine." Anderson shrugged.
"At that distance, and with the echoes, it's not an exact science," she pointed out.
"Hmm." Dredd was non-committal. "A sniper would police the brass," he said. "You think he just forgot?" He held the metal steady in front of his visor, letting the thermal imaging do its work. "Cold, too," he said. "This wasn't fired recently."
Anderson swung herself off the bike, reaching for the canteen. Dredd watched impassively as she swallowed two pills with a grimace. She wiped the mouth of the bottle before putting it back – she hadn't wiped it before she drank. "Planted?" she asked. She walked towards the low wall, standing where the sniper would have stood, her eyes closed and her hand hovering over the rough, pitted concrete. She dropped to one knee, her arms coming up without conscious effort to handle an invisible rifle. "He knelt here," she said. "His wrist pressed here, the bipod on the wall . . ." She sank deeper into her trance. "The sight's got digital overlay, can't feel the scope on my eye . . ." she murmured. "The butt's locking against . . . against the eagle," she realized. She started and came back to herself, standing smoothly upright. "Nine-mil 'lawrod' DMR," she said. "Scope slaved to a helmet processor and HUD."
Dredd nodded – although he never had, and likely never would, she still felt a rush of warmth when he didn't ask if she were sure. "Another trip-six," he said with disgust. He looked at the cartridge carefully and then dropped it into an evidence bag. "Probably a frangible dum-dum round," he grunted. "Likely won't find enough for forensics – lab can't prove it wasn't a seven sixty-two. Clever."
Anderson leaned on the wall and looked down at the mopad – the SJS were there now, finally, along with catch- and medi-wagons, a small bustle of citizen forensic-auxiliaries handling the after-action with a justice-blue clad Tek-Judge supervising. Bumblebee tape had been stretched around bollards, automated warnings to keep back playing from the wagons' speakers. Daz was sitting in the open rear door of an ambulance, her jacket stripped off so her wounds could be tended to. She looked minute in her black spandex-cotton sports-bra, her pale skin bright in the sunlight, but she was holding her lawgiver in her lap, her forgotten-wintergreen eyes still sweeping the street. "Designated marksmen rifles don't ID check," she muttered. "Best we could hope for would be a ballistic match with the weapon, not a shooter."
"Like I said," growled Dredd, "clever."
Anderson turned and leaned against the wall, rolling her head to ease the kinks out of her neck, letting the painkillers work. "The Rawne investigation was classified," she said. "But – off the record – Chief Judge told me it was closed with six badges in the smelter. What'd you hear about it?"
Dredd demurred. "You know I like to stay out of politics," he grunted.
Anderson wasn't having it. "Yeah, and I know you never manage to. Wha'd'ya hear?"
He gave a little twist of his neck and looked away from her. "Hershey's got an in with the heavy-bronze – CJ and sector command of CapZone. She's moving up. Good Judge."
"I've heard that," said Anderson dismissively. "What'd she tell you?"
"The unofficial-official word is like you said," Dredd said slowly. "Investigation closed, six for Aspen. But SJS are still poking around, and the word is they're looking at themselves. Chief Judge doesn't want the investigation to hit the powdervine – bad for department morale."
"Makes DCJ look bad, too," Anderson said. Dredd shook his head.
"You'd think that," he said, "but Cal and Goodman went toe-to-toe on it, screaming match in her office. Hershey got it from a civ auxiliary – nearly went down to daysticks and bootknives, apparently. DCJ wanted to go public – said he needed to clear SJS' name, let the department know they could be trusted. Wasn't happy when Goodman overruled him."
"Could be reverse psychology," said Anderson. "What do you think?"
"I think headgames are your department, Anderson," Dredd grunted. "Benefits to both approaches. Cal's a good man. Chief Judge trusts him, perhaps more than she trusts herself." He shrugged. "That . . . comforts me."
The spell was broken. Anderson actually laughed. "Comforts?" she asked, incredulous. "Joe Dredd is . . . comforted?"
The crag-like contours of his mouth and chin stiffened. "I'm only human, Anderson," he reminded her. She chuckled and looked over her shoulder at the scene below, and then started and spun around.
"What the drokk . . . ?" she exclaimed. "SJS are taking my perps! Hey!" she yelled. "Hey! My grabs, you skull-faced spugs! My grabs!" She turned and jumped on Dredd's bike. "Either drive me or gimme the keys!" she snapped.
Dredd put his forearm across her shoulder and shoved her back on the seat, mounting up in front of her and speeding down the ramps and out of the parking deck, cutting across the megaboulevard in a scream of sirens. He skidded to a halt alongside the black SJS catch-wagon just as the last of the perps was being loaded in. His lawgiver bleeped and cycled down as the override kicked in. Anderson was incensed.
"You're disabling sidearms?" she screamed, leaping from the bike. "On the street? With conscious grabs and a sniper about?" She strode threateningly towards the senior SJS man – Slocum; of course it would be Slocum with his eyes like the sheen of spit on asphalt and the clammy mind. "Are you insane?"
She might have actually throttled Slocum – squeezing his scrawny, wattled neck until the grinning skull-faced helmet popped off his balding head – but another SJS Judge interposed himself, grabbing her hand and going for the arm-lock. She rolled with it, flipping him over her shoulder to land on the pavement. "Touch me there again and you'll have to marry me," she said archly, her boot on the back of his neck.
Dredd interposed himself between her and Slocum, half his attention warily on the taser in the SJS Judge's hand. "Let him up, Anderson," he growled. The psi let out the breath she'd been holding and stepped back. As her victim got sheepishly to his feet, Dredd faced Slocum. "Since when do SJS involve themselves in criminal matters?" he asked.
Slocum's tongue came out and licked his lips – it was pale and pointed, and Anderson could feel the slimy weight of his gaze on her. It slithered off her and over to Daz, dwelling on the older woman's naked torso. The SectComm very deliberately crossed her arms over her chest. His attention slid, finally, to Dredd. "Since they're implicated in a triple-six," he said simply. "Special Judicial Service needs to interview them." He turned to the psi. "I'm sure you understand, Judge Anderson," he said with a mirthless smile. "Inappropriate conduct among Judges must be our highest priority. But, don't worry – you'll have full access to them once we're done." The smile widened but became no more sincere. "If you come 'round to see us, bring pizza and beer, will you?"
Anderson started for him, her beautiful face a snarl, but Dredd caught her by the shoulders and shook his head. "Let it go, Cassandra," he whispered in her ear. She didn't listen, actually struggled. "Let. It. Go."
She relaxed in his grasp, shaking his hands off and nodding her head in thanks. She brushed her uniform down, suddenly very aware of the scuffs and the scratches, the pool-water still sloshing in her boots and making her underwear chaffe, the sweat and bruises and blood, not to mention the brutal headache. Slocum's uniform was clean and polished, the bronze gleaming, barely scuffed. "Sniper took out the principal," she said tightly. "Floor eighteen, north-east corner of that parking deck. I think he was a Judge – used a lawrod. She was going to sing canary – another trip-six shut her up for good." Slocum shrugged easily.
"Think?" he asked. "Little psyker games, Anderson?" He shook his head. "Might be good enough for Street, but SJS have to a mite more discerning. Got proof?" he asked. Dredd shook his head. Slocum showed him the helpless empty-handed gesture which said there was nothing more to be done. "Maybe forensics will turn up something on the stiff," he offered. He gathered the other SJS Judge up by eye and slammed the rear door of the catch-wagon, mounting up in the passenger seat. Dredd and Anderson watched it drive away, he impassive, she fuming.
"What're the odds those perps die in SJS custody?" she asked bitterly. "'Shot while trying to escape is popular', I hear." Dredd shrugged.
"Gambling's illegal, Anderson," he growled, "but even if it weren't, I ain't taking that bet. It's understandable, though," he admitted. "Sentence for their crimes is death, they'd see it as tidying up for you." She rounded on him, her jaw and fists clenched.
"I need to see inside their heads!" she hissed. "I've got precious little data on psi-crimes, and someone just put a bullet through one brain and carted the rest off! I need to know what they know!"
"That's what they're afraid of," said Dredd. "SJS keep investigations sealed tight – don't want Street involved."
Anderson couldn't believe her ears. "You're defending them?" she cried. "Of all the spugging . . . !"
"I'm explaining." Dredd's voice was a sharp growl. "You've got the bronze, Anderson, and you earned it – but sometimes you need an old hand's advice. Slocum'll find the sniper – he's just blowing smoke saying he doesn't trust your intel. You forget he put the bug in Cal's ear about getting you in SJS?" He shook his head. "He's a jerk, but he's a robohound for dirty Judges. And he can make your life Hell – even with your bronze. Let it go," he advised.
She nodded. He'd said that minutes before – let it go – and now she remembered something she hadn't noticed at the time. "You called me Cassandra," she said.
It was impossible of course, but Dredd looked embarrassed. "Trying to get you to listen to me, Anderson," he muttered. She smiled and, greatly daring, laid a hand on his arm.
"I always listen to you," she said softly. "If I didn't, I wouldn't be where I am today." She drew back, unprepared for the sudden flush of emotion and ashamed she'd prodded that from him. "Come on," she said as brightly as she could manage. "I'll take you up on that offer of the sector 13 infirmary – I haven't seen the old place in a year and a half. Is Kildare still surgeon? He always liked me."
Dredd didn't respond, instead looking over her shoulder as Daz came up, zipping her jacket. "You good?" he asked, glancing at her arm in its sling. She nodded.
"I'll keep 'till I get back to one-nineteen," she said with a smile. "Good to see you again, Dredd. Stay safe."
Dredd shook her hand. "You too, Daz."
Daz turned the psi. "Good working with you, Anderson," she said with feeling. "Wish it had ended differently for you. Cornelius is in good hands."
Anderson smiled. "Likewise, it's Cassandra, me too, and thank you," she said smoothly. Daz chuckled.
"Flash the bronze, Cassandra," she said without irony. She and Anderson linked hands and pulled towards each other, clinking their chest eagles together.
"Flash the bronze, Estelle," said Anderson, the name barely-whispered. The two women pulled apart, Daz eying Anderson warily with the unmistakable look that asked what else do you know? but the psi's face was neutral as saline. The SectCom raised her hand in a brief salute to Dredd and swung herself into the passenger seat of the medi-wagon. As it drove away the Tek-Judge in charge of the CSI team approached them.
"'Fraid I can't get anything on the bullet that iced the broad," he said apologetically, "but I've ID her with a biometrics match. Kimberly Noelle Calitri. She's famous or something," he said blithely.
Anderson just looked at him blankly. "Really?" she asked archly. "You use fingerprints or her vital statistics?" The tech blushed. "I know who she was – I arrested her before she lost her face."
"Well, now you have confirmation, Ma'am," he said stiffly. "For the record," he added, "fingerprints. Her measurements, while distinctive, are not unique. She is also wearing a foundation garment which would make obtaining accurate biometrics difficult without stripping her."
Anderson fixed him with a gimlet stare. "There are some secrets women should get to keep," she told him darkly.
"Fingerprints," growled Dredd as something occurred to him. "Can you lift a print here?" The Tek-Judge nodded. Dredd handed him the evidence bag. "Outside chance," he admitted to Anderson, "but you've gotta try."
The tech flipped a set of long-lensed goggles down over his eyes and lifted the brass from the bag. "It's been fired," he said as the goggles focused, gears and rings whirring and spinning. "Standard seven sixty-two centerfire, nothing remarkable about it. You think it's from the sniper?" he asked.
Dredd shook his head. "From the sniper, but not the shot that killed her; it was cold when I found it." The tech nodded, understanding.
"Planted it to throw you off," he said. "A seven sixty-two could have killed her, but so could any number of other calibers." He turned the cartridge slowly in front of the unblinking lenses of his goggles. "Gotcha," he said with a smile.
"Fingerprint?" asked Anderson. She looked at Dredd. "Surely he'd wear gloves?"
"He did," said the Tek-Judge. "Glove print." He turned it and showed her. "See?"
Without the enhancement and filtering of the goggles she could see nothing, of course. She didn't even bother looking. "Can you match it?" she asked.
"No," he said. "It's too even for that – which might actually help you." He dropped it back in the evidence bag and handed it back to Dredd, flipping the goggles up. He blinked once or twice as his eyes adjusted. "It's a uniform glove – but not Street. Those are vat-grown leather – the material's better than the synthetic stuff. They've got a natural grain – you can match those like a fingerprint. But this is completely regular, purely synthetic. I'd have to check with the databases, but it looks like it's insulated flexiceramic cloth."
"Who uses those?" asked Dredd. The tech shrugged.
"Judges who handle a lot of high-voltage gear," he said. "Some of the boys in R&D."
"Or SJS with their tasers," realized Anderson.
"Now I never said that, Ma'am." He looked nervous, standing very stiff and straight-backed. "I merely report my findings. Now, that was an informal field assessment of evidence – you have logged nothing with me and no report will be filed until you do." He reached for a datapad, suddenly formal. "Do either of you have any evidence you wish to log from the crime scene?" he asked meaningfully.
"Nope," said Dredd, crumpling the evidence bag into his fist. "Thanks."
"No skin off my nose," said the Tek-Judge. "After all," he added pointedly, "I didn't do anything except ID a slab." He touched the first two fingers of his hand to his eyebrow and flashed a quick quasi-salute. "Well, we should bounce," he said brightly. "Stiffs don't walk to resyk, you know."
"Take care," said Anderson as he walked back to the meat-wagon, slamming the rear door on the last of the slabs and driving away. She turned and looked up at Dredd. "Not good," was all she said.
"Is it ever?" he asked. He glanced around – the crime-scene was deserted now, slabs and grabs and J-Dept personnel gone. Crews would come to collect the mopad later, taking it to the impound for Kim's heirs to collect or – more likely – to be seized and auctioned off, the profits going into Justice Department coffers. There'd be a fight over which section got it – 119 because the grabs were Daz's, 13 because it happened here, 24 because it was registered there. Maybe even PsiDiv would get in on the action – but Dredd doubted Anderson would bother. Let the SectComs argue it out. Dredd shook his head slightly – just another reason to never allow them to promote him to heavy-bronze. "I hate politics," he said.
"But you love justice," countered Anderson. She looked right through his visor into his eyes. "I need you, Joe – this is serious," she said. "This isn't just just ambition, Rawne wanting Aegis and psis for SJS. IA are in bed with perps, and someone with a lot of bronze is covering it up. Cal wanted a full, public investigation – who's got the in with the Chief Judge to block that?"
"Almost anyone," explained Dredd. "It would make sense to her. Open investigations aren't SJS's style. It'd be bad for morale, and imagine if the screamsheets got hold of it." He shook his head. "All someone would have to do is suggest it and the Chief Judge would go right along. If they painted Cal as over-zealous, or even ambitious, wanting to use this to advance himself, that would seal the deal."
Anderson folded her arms and kicked the tire of his bike in frustration. "I drokking hate politics," she spat.
"Heh." Dredd made the nearest noise he ever did to a laugh, "but you love justice, right? Glad to see I taught you something. Come on," he said, mounting up and beckoning her to sit behind him. "Let's get you to the med bay and then get some food inside you. Khayr's is open for lunch in thirty – I'll spring for curry."
She laughed. "You hate curry," she said.
"Yeah," he admitted, "but . . ." His voice trailed off. "But you like it," he finished, lamely.
A/n : The end of another story! What did you think?
This last chapter really ties this story into the larger narrative I am creating of J-Dept corruption and mystery, so there might be references here you don't get if you haven't read the other stories. I think it stands on its own, however – but the "full experience" is got with the wider narrative.
A few minor references which are familiar to comic & fanfic readers, but might be unfamiliar to those only engaged with the movie;
"For Forest or the forge?" is inspired by two things – firstly, the character of Forest from Giraffe on the Moon's story "Boundaries". She is the badge-maker, and receives the badges from the honored dead to be placed on the wall of remembrance. Secondly, the idea I invented (which is discussed in more detail in "Shakedown the Dream", the next story I am working on) whereby the badges of traitor Judges are sundered in an atomic furnace so the very metal itself is destroyed.
Anderson's quip about getting tied up is NOT flirting – but I'm sure someone will read it that way! Rather, it is meant to be a tongue-in-check reference to the tendency for Dredd to get captured in the comics. It seemed to happen every other episode – a necessary thing to build some drama, I suppose, but a little unrealistic for a movie or non-episodic story!
Anderson's head injury – the reason she is taking all those pills – occurs in Dredd 2 by aaron.92 (which is canonical for my stories).
The 'lawrod' DMR is – like the 'blockrocker' LSW – an invented weapon (although the 'lawrod' was the name used in the comics for the predecessor to the widowmaker). The Designated Marksman Rifle is a common feature in many armies – it is designed to provide precise, accurate fire against specific targets – a sort of "squad-level sniper". For logistics chains, it usually chambers the same round as the main squad weapon – hence it being 9mm like the lawgiver. Of course, a pistol and rifle can't chamber the same round easily – but I think we can fudge that here!
Hershey is mentioned – her name appears in the background in the movie, but she is a major comics character. A solid, dedicated Judge, rising high in the ranks quickly. She will be making more appearances in my stories (and is mentioned again in "Highway Don't Care").
I finally broke down and gave the Chief Judge a name – Goodman, which seems to be the fanon-approved name here! Goodman was the first Chief Judge of the comics – although his personality wasn't clearly developed and he looked nothing like the Chief Judge in the movie, I like the name.
Slocum is a character from "The Day The Law Died" - he is Cal's right-hand man. Much of his slimy personality here is inspired not only by the necessity to have the male characters in this piece demonstrate some kind of chauvinism, but also Giraffe on the Moon's portrayal of him in the opening chapters of "Souls and Circuits".
"Doctor Kildare" was a famous fictional doctor, with books, movies, TV series and even comic books. The name also appears in the Dredd comics as belonging to a Medi-Tek (likely inspired by that source).
Daz's first name of "Estelle" is given because, simply enough, it means "Star" and she was based on Starsurfer108.
The noddle-shop "Khayr's" is named after the fanfic author of the same name (very active in the fandom) & Anderson's love of curry comes from her stories.
Phew! Lots of little in-universe references, there – hope it wasn't too impenetrable! Why not tell me what you think? The review box is just below here – I see lots of hits, but not many reviews. Tell me what you like, and – who knows – I might write it? Tell me what you don't like and I won't write it!