MEGA-CITY LAW: MEGA-RACKETS (COMPLETE CASE FILES VOLUME 5: PROGS 208-212)
Judge Dredd Complete Case Files Volume 5 opens with some of the various criminal ‘mega-rackets’ that, well, rack Mega-City One. However, for crimes that occur in 2103, they’re not particularly futuristic or technologically sophisticated – mostly parallels or counterparts to contemporary crimes, with one or two exceptions or futuristic spins.
First, however, we have a short interlude in prog 208 with “The Problem with Sonny Bono Block” – poor Sonny Bono Block is the result of the city’s department of housing deciding to put all its problems into one block. While the Justice Department reigns as the supreme executive, legislative and of course judicial authority within Mega-City One, it apparently does delegate or leave some administrative functions – typically involved with housing or welfare – with the city council and its democratically elected Mayor of Mega-City. The result is predictable – the delinquent residents soon trash the shiny new block into a slum, much to the disdain of neighboring blocks. What was less predictable was Sonny Bono Block’s (incompetent) attempt at revolution and declaring independence from Mega-City One. That attempt is thwarted by a single Judge, albeit that Judge is Judge Dredd – who also deduces that the residents’ (latest) irrational behavior as well as much of the block’s (latest) structural decrepitude actually came from a sonic wave generator operated by the Citi-Def unit of the neighboring Patsy Ann Noble Block because of the aforementioned disdain. Ah, Mega-City Citi-Def doing what it does best – attacking other blocks. So they’re the ones who end up arrested – with the residents of the now condemned Sony Bono Block moving into vacated units of Patsy Ann Noble Block.
In progs 209-210, we have the first of the Mega-City Rackets – body sharks. Essentially, they’re the same as contemporary loan sharks, complete with savagely usurious interest – except whereas contemporary loan sharks enforce payment through bodily harm, body sharks do so through actual bodies as security. Typically not the borrower themselves of course, but some cooperative relative as security.
As the opening narration explains, body sharking – or the illegal dealings in the bodies of living humans – is one of the most prevalent crimes in Mega-City One, as “one citizen in every four will have dealings with a body shark in his (or her) lifetime”. Although I find that statistic a little questionable, given that a substantial proportion of Mega-City One’s population would end up on ice (particularly with the extortionate practices of the body sharks in these episodes). Of course, that statistic may also include those citizens who find themselves put up as collateral – or the citizens that then trade in the bodies for whatever shady purpose, presumably mostly organ transplantation (as we see in later episodes dealing with organ-leggers).
The mechanism for body-sharking is of course something we’ve seen in an earlier episode – the suspended animation that can prolong life indefinitely, such as that used in the homes of the semi-dead for those citizens dying of terminal diseases, to spin out their last days over years of family visits. The more cut-price ones also are fronts for literal body shops – or more precisely body banks – for body sharks.
A recurring theme in these mega-rackets episodes is that the Judges rarely get the mob bosses themselves, despite knowing their role in the mega-rackets, as the bosses keep themselves clean – and more fundamentally, lawyered up. Which of course goes to Dredd’s origin as a futuristic Dirty Harry, but rather belies the nature of Mega-City One (and Judge Dredd) as fascist, or at least consistently fascist. I mean, what self-respecting fascist police state is thwarted by lawyers – or the law for that matter rather than resorting to arbitrary arrest?
Anyway, Dredd gets a lead into the body sharks from the citizen who offered up his wife as collateral and then has to resort to (botched) theft to avoid defaulting on the loan. Although once again, Judge Dredd only apprehends the “small fry” operating the individual body bank rather than the big fish behind the body-sharking.
In progs 211-212, we encounter perp-runners and chump-dumpers, two sides of the same criminal coin – which we know in contemporary times as people-smuggling. Perp-running is smuggling Mega-City criminals fleeing Justice Department off-planet. Naturally, the perp-runners make even more profit by reneging on their end of the deal and selling the perps into alien slavery. They then use the empty spaceships for chump-dumping – people-smuggling or more precisely alien-smuggling would-be alien immigrants back to Earth, except of course only to dump them into space. Even if they do look like dolphins.
Of course, Dredd having come on board impersonating a perp through the usual face-change (but having been detected and captured), foils the plans to dump him and the usual alien chumps.
TO BE CONTINUED – MEGA-RACKETS 2