Read Sins of the Father Online
Authors: Mitchel Scanlon
Tags: #Science Fiction
To Matt Ralphs - read contract you must, young Jedi.
A 2000 AD PUBLICATION
1098 7 65 4321
Judge Anderson created by
John Wagner & Brian Bolland
Cover illustration by Vincent Chong.
Copyright © 2007 Rebellion A/S. All rights reserved.
All 2000 AD characters and logos © and TM Rebellion A/S."Judge Anderson" is a trademark in the United States and other jurisdictions."2000 AD" is a registered trademark in certain jurisdictions. All rights reserved. Used under licence.
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
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ANDERSON PSI DIVISION
It is the year 2126. Atomic war has decimated humanity, and the world is a bleak wasteland, inhabited by mutants and freaks. Most people live in vast, walled cities that keep the lethal winds and foul inhabitants outside at bay; after all, the cities have enough problems of their own to deal with. Boredom is endemic, unemployment is sky high and so is the crime rate, as the cramped Meg citizens strive to survive any way they can. As the population booms and tensions rise, the authorities know that they must use an iron fist to keep the teeming millions in check.
In Mega-City One, home to four hundred million, the Law is king. Justice is upheld by the implacable Judges - empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner - and intent on sending criminals to jail or an early grave. But a new threat is emerging. Radioactivity slowly works its insidious voodoo on the population, warping not just flesh, but also minds. People with dangerous talents stalk the shadows: telekinetics, pyromaniacs, telepaths and psychos. Some seek to use their talents for criminal ends and others try to hide them, fearful of recrimination. Whatever the case, in the eyes of the Law, they are all criminals, and they need bringing in!
It is Psi Division's task to do what the regular Judges cannot: deal with supernatural phenomena and hunt mutant psychics down! Its ranks are comprised of powerful telepaths and psychics, able to scan minds and psychometrically "read" bodies and crime scenes. Foremost in this elite cadrÈ is Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson: sassy, dedicated and hard as nails. Psi-flashes enable her to sense danger and near-future events and she can even read the minds of the recently deceased. In the fractious, urban nightmare of the future, she'll need all her talent and tenacity not just to uphold the Law, but to stay alive!
ANDERSON PSI DIVISION
SINS OF THE FATHER
THE EVIL THAT MEN DO
Brandy. At first he could hardly believe it. The old man had real brandy.
Lifting the decanter from inside the open drinks cabinet, Dr Richard Langstock poured another generous measure. A tingling mellow warmth spread through his chest as he sipped from his glass. When he had arrived at the penthouse apartment in the Charles Foster Kane building the butler had led him to a comfortable sitting room and asked him to wait, adding as an afterthought that the doctor should feel free to help himself to a drink. Anxious about his impending meeting with the old man, Langstock had duly obliged. The brandy's fire helped soothe his nerves. The meeting tonight was important. If things went well, long-cherished dreams and ambitions lay within his grasp. If things went poorly however...
Brandy. Real brandy. Langstock had never experienced the genuine article before, but the taste was unmistakeable. Distracted, his thoughts strayed briefly to the implications inherent in the glass he held before him. As one of the most sought-after specialists in his field, his talents highly regarded across his profession, he had become accustomed to a certain quality of living. Yet the contents of the glass in his hand spoke of so much more. The mere fact the old man was wealthy enough to be able to offer real brandy to his guests suggested a level of prosperity so far above Langstock's own it almost made him dizzy. There was nothing on the decanter to identify the brandy's origin, but Langstock knew no one had manufactured the real thing since before the Great Atom War over fifty years ago. Like almost everything else in the modern world, the wines and spirits of the past had been replaced by synthetic alternatives. The brandy he was drinking could well date from the Twentieth century or earlier: each rare and exquisite mouthful worth more than his entire salary for the year. Even half-full, the decanter might still contain enough to fund a new endowment at the hospital; an additional research grant perhaps, or some brand-new equipment for his department.
Savouring the thought with a quiet smile, Langstock took another drink.
The room around him spoke as eloquently of wealth and power as the old man's stock of spirits. Though no expert, Langstock could see the sitting room's furnishings and fixtures were all antique. Oak panelling covered every surface of the walls, three sumptuously upholstered armchairs stood around a small inlaid table, boldly patterned rugs and a thickly piled carpet decorated the floor: all in real woods, silks and velvets, without a trace of the cheap mass-produced synthetics with which most of the citizens of Mega-City One were forced to make do. Inspecting the gilt-framed portraits which hung from the walls, he saw a series of mawkishly sentimental studies of wide-eyed children dressed in urchin rags - each apparently an actual museum piece painted in oils rather than the digitally recreated facsimiles he would have expected. No matter his opinion of the old man's taste in art, it was clear the paintings were likely worth millions of credits. The only nod to modernity in the room was a holo-fire that sat in the hearth beneath an imposing marble mantelpiece, its flickering flames and recorded sound effects simulating the illusion of a real log fire.
The entire room had about it the feeling of the past. It was as though Langstock had stepped into another world: a genteel and timeless haven, far from the mean ugly streets of the city where he lived. Glancing a moment at the window at the end of the room he could see the night-time landscape of Mega-City One, its skyline crowded with towering stratoscrapers and neon-lit housing blocks. The world outside seemed distant. Standing in the sanctum of the old man's apartment, he might as well have been transported to another century.
A sanctum, Langstock thought, taking another sip from the glass. That's exactly the word for it. This must be how people lived a hundred years ago. After further consideration, he corrected himself. At least, it was how they lived if they had enough money.
His eyes returned to the view through the window. From this far-off vantage the city seemed almost peaceful. He knew it was an illusion. As a lifelong resident of Mega-City One, Langstock had lived through every one of the city's many disasters. Wars, riots, terrorist atrocities, robot rebellions, attempted coups: at times it felt as though the city simply lurched from one crisis to the next without respite. Even during periods of supposed peace the streets of the Big Meg were far from safe - not with four hundred million people crammed together inside its walls. Crime was rampant, while the pressures of overcrowding and the strains of Twenty-second century life meant outbreaks of mass hysteria and individual psychosis had become commonplace.
Twenty years ago, during his medical training, Langstock had worked an eight-week rotation in the busy Emergency Room of a hospital in Sector 49. It had afforded him much more of a glimpse into the dark side of modern living than he would have ever wanted to see. Working double shifts, he had treated an endless stream of gunshots, knife wounds, malicious poisonings, sexual assaults. The experience had opened his eyes. The city was a powder keg, often requiring little more than the spark of a few crossed words before its people exploded into violence. Husbands killed wives, wives killed husbands, parents killed their children, neighbour killed neighbour and strangers killed strangers. Murders, rapes, serial killings, suicides, block wars: in Mega-City One, horror was never far from the surface. Now, as he looked out the window of the old man's apartment at the city streets below him, Langstock realised those same streets could be seething with open bloodshed, with riot and disorder, and the old man would never know it. The Charles Foster Kane building was two hundred and thirty storeys tall, the penthouse apartment at its apex situated more than a full kilometre above ground level. Warm and safe in an ivory tower, the old man lived a life far from the restless noisy streets and pedways of the mega-city. Here, in his apartment, there was no fear of crime or violence. Here, there was only smug tranquillity, contented days of moneyed ease, and the fake crackle and hiss of a holographic fire.
Abruptly, as Langstock's eyes moved from the window once more to consider his surroundings, a new understanding dawned on him. Like most people, he had long believed the chief value of wealth was that it afforded a man the opportunity to buy more and better examples of the same things other men might buy. A rich man wore a more expensive watch, drove a faster car, lived in a more luxurious home. Now though, he realised the true advantage of great wealth was to be able to buy the things that other men could not. In this case, it had allowed the old man to set himself apart from the rest of the world, creating a quiet sanctuary away from the city's never-ending woes. Wealth, it seemed, was a universal panacea, inoculating its owner against the pains and harms that so often blighted the lives of others. With enough money, a man was given the power to avoid tragedy and elude suffering. Given time, his thoughts might even turn to the possibility of cheating death.
After all, what was the summons that had brought Langstock to this meeting at the old man's apartment, if not proof of that?
He heard footsteps behind him, and the unnatural rasp of an electronic larynx trying to approximate the sound of a human throat clearing itself of phlegm. Turning, Langstock saw the old man's robotic butler standing in the room's open doorway. The machine was perhaps one-and-a-quarter metres in height, its slim humanoid body dressed in full footman's costume: a curled and powdered wig, ruffled shirt, brocaded waistcoat, velvet jacket, knee-length breeches with ankle hose and a pair of buckled patent leather shoes. Incongruously, its appearance brought to mind a metallic child playing guilelessly at make-believe. The robot bowed obsequiously towards him at the waist and gestured behind it to the hallway beyond.
"Thank you for your patience, Doctor Langstock," it said. "If you would be so kind as to step this way? The master will see you now."
First, before he could be taken to meet with the old man, there was a decontamination process to be gone through. Following the robot, Langstock was led to a small anteroom and asked to disrobe. Then, as it took his clothes and hung them neatly on the wire hangers of a nearby closet, the robot directed him towards a white plasti-steel door opposite the one by which they had entered.
"An ultrasonic decontamination chamber," it explained as the door slid open to reveal a bare metal cell about the size of a shower cubicle. "All visitors are required to be thoroughly disinfected before meeting Mr Lowe. The ultrasonic process lasts one minute and thirty seconds precisely. Once it is over you will find fresh clothing waiting for you in the clean room on the other side." For a fraction of a second the robot fell silent, the gleam of its electronic eyes briefly dimming while it consulted silently with some remote third party for further instructions. "Your records do not indicate a history of claustrophobia, doctor. However, if you wish, I can arrange for a course of anti-anxiety medication to be delivered here for your use."