Summary: Dredd. Justice is faceless. Other things are, too. OneShot- Cassandra Anderson.
Set: No set time line.
Disclaimer: Standards apply.
A/N: I know neither the movie "Judge Dredd" nor the graphic novels. But the 3D movie was amazing.
A/N2: Christmas 2012. Have a wonderful time!
The world is a blur of colors.
The building is a map in her mind, glowing with life where dots represent human beings. There is an alcove to her right, a small indentation in the wall probably used as an emergency exit once upon a time. The exit is closed off now, allows no escape. Not that it matters. Two guys are waiting for her there, their weapons ready. Her right hand levels her weapon while her left reaches for tear gas.
The two are amateurs, not realizing what has hit them. They hold on to their weapons, at least. In their hands they take on a blue hue as fear flows into them, tries to pull the trigger. She propels herself around the corner, relying on her senses of hearing and sensing entirely, takes out the first one with a blow to the throat. The second one tries to come at her, still coughing and yelling, and her weapon connects with his skull solidly.
Two of two.
"Control, Anderson. Two part-time criminals out and ready for transport."
"Affirmation," the faceless voice answers. "ETA 0734."
While she waits, she concentrates on her surroundings. A girl walks by, her head in the clouds. An old man skittles past, somewhat proud because she reminds him of his grandson. A few teenagers, glowing with suppressed anger but too clever to show. She can feel them all, all around her: a world in inverted colors.
It is the only thing she asks as Judge Bailey hands her her badge. The dark-skinned woman smiles enigmatically.
"Ask him yourself."
She cannot help the huff escaping her lips. As if Dredd would ever explain something. And to her, of everyone.
Behind the visor, the world is a net made of red lines and tactical information. People become heat sources or moving shadows, buildings become salvation or death traps. Cassandra hates the helmet. It interferes with her PSI abilities, gives her headaches as soon as she tries to read her environment. Perhaps it is because of the material. Perhaps it is because she just cannot stand it. It is ironic, she sometimes thinks, that the tactical instrument that helps Judges keep an eye on their surroundings also calls up such strong associations. Justice is a faceless figure, neither male nor female, black or white, and it does not hesitate.
Most Judges use their helmets as trademark symbol.
She is pretty sure Dredd uses his as a shield.
"Run, run, run!"
The people chant and the people scream. The voices blend together into white noise that grinds against her ears, drums against her mind. Like finger nails against a chalk board. Voices scream in her head, sharp like breaking glass. Her skull feels like it will explode any second, the pain tingeing her vision red.
Sharp stones underneath her bare feet.
Chanting people, faces that blur into a bloody red, hands and fists and stones. Words can't hurt me. Hate-filled expressions and masks of anger and disgust. She stumbles down the path towards the big iron gates. A stone hits her forehead, leaves a deep gouge above her right eye. As coppery liquid starts to run down her face, she stumbles and falls face-down, too exhausted to even lift her hands. They are small and bloody, she can't protect anyone with those hands. Can't even protect herself.
The hate-filled chanting of the crowd escalates.
"Theft and illegal distribution of government-issued pharmaceuticals in more than twenty known and countless unknown cases. Verdict: Five years of Iso-Cube."
"Please! I have a mother and two little children to take care of, their mother was killed by drug addicts last year! Don't take me, please let me go, my family needs me!"
This, she gathers, is why Dredd stopped speaking almost entirely.
"Stay out of my head."
He glares at her so hard she can feel the burning glance even through the visor of his. Shocked, and thoroughly ashamed of herself, she averts her glance.
"I didn't want to pry. I'm sorry."
"Don't do it again."
The ice in his voice is so clear she imagines the windows crackling in the cold.
He still glares at her when she turns her back on him. She really didn't want to read him but he is emitting emotion so openly she is shaking from head to toe. As if he realizes just that, Dredd gets up in one fluid motion, turns on the heel and stalks away into the darkness of their surroundings.
"Peach Trees, this is Ma-Ma."
The voice is dark, unmistakably female, and carries something she does not like at all.
"Somewhere in this block are two Judges."
And she has a very, very bad feeling about this.
"I want them dead."
"This is bad."
Years later she will think that Dredd never managed to nail down a situation as well as he did right then.
"You will die today, Judge."
She shouldn't be thinking that he will avenge her. There is only a thin line between sanity and madness, between justice and injustice. There is only a thin line between love and hate, too. She's never seen his face before but somehow she thinks his eyes are blue.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
She thinks she never saw him angrier than this. Not even when someone abducted and raped a young woman multiple times. Not even when someone tried to steal his gun. Not even when… Well.
"I'm your backup."
He radiates anger like heat. It scares her, a tiny little bit, because she never saw him lose control like this before. She grips her weapon tighter.
"Let's get out of here."
He slams down the barrel of his gun again, levels it at their attackers. She can feel his anger all the way through the building, all the way along the street. Only when they've reached the central districts again he loosens up, puts away his gun the same second he whirls around, grabs her arm and slams her against the next wall.
"I told you not to come."
"I am following orders."
"The Hell you are."
"Go to Hell, Dredd."
"Attempted murder in two cases, murder in four other cases. Verdict: Death for the accused."
Years of work and still it doesn't get easier. It probably shouldn't, either. By now she has learned to school her face into the same faceless expression the helmet permits the others.
"Run, Judge, run!"
The voice is mocking her, high and child-like, and she has no choice but to comply. There is no way out from this hell than by running. Her weapons, her trusted gun? Useless. Her PSI powers? Useless. This isn't about her or about someone else, it's a raw display of power and she is already severely handicapped here. The light is so blinding it hurts her eyes, hurts her head, it feels like it will explode any second. The walls are soft, the tunnel endless.
And laughter trails behind her, follows her wherever she goes. She's been running for so long she is panting. Damn. There has to be an exit somewhere. There has to.
The images in her mind attack her from nowhere. She falls, her hands scraping across the stony floor. For a second, she stares at the blood that seeps from her gloves like she doesn't know what it is. Pain registers only slowly.
Run, run, run!
The voice in her head screams. The voice all around her laughs. Cassandra curls up into a ball and tries to block out the head-splitting noise.
"You're going nowhere, Judge!"
The wall caves in with a terrible sound.
"Stay with me, Recruit."
The whisper is barely audible, she might have imagined it. Pain radiates through her entire body. Whatever has hit her has done a great deal of damage, she can't feel her right arm, her entire side is on fire. Her lungs don't seem to work properly, breathing is an explosion of pain.
Hands lift her, gently, turn her around.
A sharp noise. Someone has sucked in his breath. Concentrating, she tries to read the person's mind and is stone-walled by an explosion of pain. Maybe her brain isn't working properly, she thinks distantly.
"This will hurt."
The dark whisper again. A voice she knows, scratchy and gruff. The gentle hands that remove her armor don't fit the image of a face she sees in her mind. Neither do they fit the voice. Something touches her side, light as a feather. Something works out a piece of steel from her side in a swift, practiced motion. In a firework of colors, pain explodes in front of her eyes.
She thinks she will die here, in this building full of death. Ma-ma has won.
"You are charged with attempted murder of a Judge. Verdict: immediate death."
Exactly one shot rings. Dredd's voice is far, far away. For once in her life, she does not want to hear it. Does not want to see him.
Instead, he comes closer.
He can't call her Rookie anymore, that much has changed. Dredd looks the same: tall, lean, muscular. Faceless. She bows her head a fraction.
He passes her without a second glance. His thoughts are a swirling mist of thorns, even if she tried she would get nothing. The iron control of his is like a stone wall in his mind. The only thing she can do is run against it again and again but there is no hope of ever running it down.
Repetition of the same old song.
She knows he is looking at her because she can feel his gaze. Still, his eyes remain invisible for her. She wonders what color they are.
"You already asked."
"You said I had earned it."
"That not enough for you?"
She does not say she still asks because there is something she is missing. An undertone, or an overtone, perhaps, something she cannot grasp even though it is so close. It moves away every time she tries to grab it, hovers out of reach. It bothers her, she doesn't like things she cannot puzzle out completely. Like something is itching and she cannot scratch it. She just hasn't been able to decide whether this is about her or about him.
With that, he turns around and leaves. She stands frozen, too surprised to think of a possible answer. Too stunned to even try to puzzle out what he means.
"You bunch of bloody losers, heap of shits! Move your sorry asses before I move them for you!"
Sweat and grime covers her face, her hands and her entire body. Her breathing is labored, the weight of uniform and pack leaden on her shoulders. Today they carry double weight because one recruit went down early yesterday, collapsing under the weight of his pack. If she has learned something from the last years it is that failure is not an option.
"Run, you bastards!"
She clenches her teeth and continues on.
Average grades, average skills – her comrades never ask but she reads their questions in their mind. She has no obvious reason for going through the hell that is the training a future Judge receives, no obligations. Still, she is there.
Rain and mud soak her heavy boots, slosh up her legs.
She is so tired she barely can see straight. She continues on. Physical training, on most of the days, is even better than her lessons in PSI control. Average, average, the teacher's thoughts scream at her. Word- and soundlessly, she screams back.
The surface of the lake splinters, shatters into a million pieces like a breaking mirror. Gasping, she breaks through the veil, her entire body convulsing with the aftershock of the reading. For a second as fleeting as happiness she is terrified she won't be able to return, then she is back to reality. Her heart still races, hard, painful beats drumming against her chest cavity.
"Yes," she forces out between her teeth. Her body is strung so tightly she cannot even feel it. Loosening the groups of muscles again brings an interesting amount of pain. Her hands are clenched in fists – she opens them carefully.
The verdict leaves her cold lips like pebbles that fall into clear, calm water. The faceless Judge in front of her leads away the perpetrator. She would very much like to be alone right now, but she knows she isn't.
"What was that?" Dredd demands in his raspy voice.
She shakes her head to clear away the last waves of what she hoped she'd never have to feel again.
"Nothing that concerns you."
Dredd crosses his arms in front of his chest, presses his lips into a tight line. Cassandra turns around and leaves him standing in the middle of the room.
Eight million people live in the ruins of the old world.
She never thought of it as empty before, but it is just that. Eight million people vegetating in various states of disarray, eight million people slowly dying of various things. Empty like an abandoned apartment, or perhaps a simple box, weary and old and unused. Empty like a book without pages, like a story without words. Like love without touch. There are droplets of kindness to be found here and there, but overall people just wait for the others to die and to die themselves.
Justice is a concept as old as she feels.
Eight million years, perhaps, and more. Judge, jury, executioner – and just like the city and its inhabitants, she is dying a little bit more every day.
Oh, but how she prays it makes a difference.
He is still as a statue.
Just when she resigns herself to the shame of having asked a question knowingly that wouldn't be answered, he moves. It is a tiny shift of his entire body that could go by unnoticed had she not watched him so desperately. His voice is scratchier than usual.
"I am not a nice person."
She has to swallow past the lump in her throat, past all the things she wants to scream at him, past the tears she feels coming. She forces them back with every ounce of strength she has trained on herself the past few years.
"Is that your reason or your excuse?"
This time, he really does not answer. And she walks away again and again and again.
God help her. She is falling in love with a faceless man.
"You shouldn't come near me."
"It's a bit late for this, don't you think?"
There is a bridge between them, one of the last remnants of the old world. It must have been beautiful once, steel and stone and glass expanding over the abyss between two buildings. It's not safe to walk on but miraculously it has survived war and decay until now. How symbolic, she thinks, that she is unable to cross the only thing that stands between them. Ironic, too, the way he looks at her with desperation obvious in his shoulders and hands, how his body tells her exact the opposite of what his words do.
Cassandra scrambles to her feet, makes a step. The wind catches her hair and she pushes it away from her face again, not breaking the eye contact between them. The red X on his visor gleams like blood.
"What are you doing?"
She has nothing but her gun and her uniform. The sun appears for a second as the clouds shift. For a moment she is blinded by the light.
"Are you insane?"
But really, who cares? She steps onto the bridge.
In the future, a time yet to come, people will tell their children of the time when the only thing that stood between Justice and Hell were the Judges.
They were our saviors, they will say. They saved mankind.
Nobody talks about the price of salvation.
She can't breathe.
There is no air, no light, just darkness and the feeling of suffocation. This has never happened before, she'd always find a way in at some point. People could try to hurt her, there had been things that had caused her nightmares before. The one guy who imagined raping her, in colors so vivid she had felt utterly sick, or the woman who had murdered and eaten her own children, or or or.
This is different.
There are no colors and no lights, just utter darkness, and she can't breathe can't see can't hear. Her lungs constrict, she tries to take a breath but darkness fills her lungs and her mind and dances at the edge of her senses. She never imagined it to be like this. Terror fills her completely and she tries to back out of the man as quick as possible but something loops around her throat and keeps her there, wraps around her hands and arms and legs and renders her unable to even move. And she cannot breathe-
The punch throws her back into reality. Cassandra finds herself on the cold ground, her hand on her weapon, and it is only when she recognizes him that she lowers it. And then she understands.
The tears are completely unexpected.
Perhaps a reaction of her tired and exhausted brain, perhaps due to the rush of adrenaline she can feel fading slowly. Perhaps because she finally understands what it is she felt when she tried for the first time. But this is also the reason why she never was able to completely read him before, and perhaps even why he never wanted her to do so. She can't say for sure but she knows she didn't probe forcefully enough to gain entrance into his mind, so he must have opened a window for her… And the memory of the darkness and utter hopelessness make her cringe in pain. The first tear rolls down her cheek and drops onto the dry and dusty ground. The second lingers at her lips. The third is stopped by a finger far bigger than her own.
Dredd looks at the drop of liquid on his finger for a second that seems longer than eternity.
He does not ask why she is crying or for whom.
Justice is blind.
"Cassandra Anderson, you are herewith named a Judge of the City. Will you…"
She swears her loyalty in a haze of disbelief. She passed? No, that is impossible, Dredd told her she'd lose the second she lost her primary weapon. She messed up badly, made a call that wasn't hers to make, was surprised, defeated and taken by the enemy. Still, she had passed the evaluation.
She had passed.
She is halfway out of the door of the headquarters when she realizes what has just changed. Just about everything. She wonders what he would have to say about this.
She already noticed it before, the day when they walked out of Peach Tree's: Dredd with a bullet wound in his side, her with a similar one. The only difference was that he had taken care of his wound himself while she had gone down and almost blackened out.
This time he carefully cleans the bloody mess that once was her face, his touch infinitely careful and still the pain is unbearable. The darkness in front of her eyes is red and burning.
Should have worn a helmet.
But she always knew she would pay for her arrogance one day and besides, she doesn't need her eyes to read people. She just… Gods above, can she even stay a Judge without her sight? The thought is so terrible she starts shaking. It is not the pain but the realization that this one act of justice could have been the one too much.
"Sssshhhh," a dark voice whispers. She associates it with Dredd's, but it is far too soft to be his usual growl.
She can't stop shaking.
But his hands are gentle.