The Cursed Earth 25 episodes (Progs 61 to 85) 164 pages
Red, a space pilot and Dredd's old friend had returned from Mega City 2 after an unsuccessful mission to deliver the antidote to the 2T(FRU)T virus. This warped humans into savage cannibals and they had taken over the airports making it impossible to reach the city by air due to the death belts above the city. Red himself succumbed to the virus and killed Judge Fodder before Dredd could stop him. In order to save Mega City 2, a team of crack judges, Jack (who fought with Dredd in the robot rebellion), Patton and Gradgrind were assembled. Criminal biker Spikes Harvey Rotten, who Dredd had arrested for competing in the Mega City 5000 race, completed the crew. Their backup included a detachment of war droids and the Modular Fighting Unit (which comprised the K2001 Land Raider and Killdozer). Their mission was to take the vaccine to Mega City 2 and cross over a thousand miles of hostile radioactive desert, the Cursed Earth.
The first stop was a small town called Redemption, run by the Lawgiver, who sentenced wrongdoers to be consumed by the devils lapdogs, cursed earth rats, whose ravenous appetites had left the town starving. The rats, the bite of which is fatal, sailed the currents of the Death Belt, a mile high belt of garbage thrown up during the Atomic Wars. Dredd and Spikes worked together to save two townsfolk from being devoured. Dredd realised the towns warning sirens were attracting the rats and while he and Spikes lead the rats away, the Lawgiver was consumed by a horde of rats. Dredd and his team left Redemption a little more civilised while Spike had picked up a fetching 20th C hand grenade earring.
Mount Rushmore had been moved from its original site in South Dakota nearer to Mega City 1, so that tourists would find it easier to visit. Here Dredd encountered the Brotherhood of Darkness and when the MFU was forced to separate by a giant flying las-saw, the land raider was captured. Dredd secured their freedom and escaped by threatening to destroy the image of the leader of the Brotherhood, Brother Morgar, which now sat beside the faces of presidents Carter, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.
Pursued by the Brotherhood, the MFU came to a mysterious halt by an old house where stood a strange metal tree. Here they met the young Novar, a mutant gifted with psionic powers. As the Brotherhood struck, a massive battle ensued in which Judge Gradgrind was killed. Novar used his mind force to turn Morgar's knife away from Dredd and strike the leader in the chest. His powers then caused the metal tree to shed its leaves of spikes and the brotherhood was driven off. Despite Dredd's request that he join them, Nova remained with his mother in the Cursed Earth.
In Kentucky, Dredd and his team were enjoying the hospitality of the poor local folk, when news arrived that the vampire had claimed another victim. Enraged, the people, followed by the judges, headed off to the old ruined castle to finish the vampire once and for all. When Dredd found the ruined remains of Fort Knox and a trio of aggressive medical droids, he realised what had happened. It was here that Robert Booth, last president of the United States, was sentenced to a hundred years suspended animation for starting the Atomic Wars. When Fort Knox was partially destroyed, the droids began to 'drink' blood from the victims to keep Booth alive and so the vampire myth started. Booth pleaded not to be returned to suspended animation and Dredd accepted his appeal and sentenced him to life, working on the farm, bringing life back to the Cursed Earth.
As they crossed the Mississippi river, constantly ablaze from pollutants as a result of the Great Atomic War, Dredd encountered alien slavers. Dredd saw intelligence in the eyes of one of these supposedly dumb aliens, but due to his urgent mission to save Mega-City 2, decided to carry on. However when the Alien Finder General was pursuing the escaped slave 'Tweak', Dredd decide to intervene and saved him from a cruel death, however Judge Patton was killed by the Slay Riders. It was soon revealed that Tweak had escaped to visit the grave of his family, killed by the humans. With a store of Tweaks favourite food, granite and quartz onboard, Dredd set off once more.
They were forced to stop when their Land Raider's air filtration system became clogged due to the harsh conditions of the Kentucky Nuclear Dustbowl. Dredd and Spikes visited the local town of 'Inbetween' where a battle broke out between rival burger barons. With the old government destroyed, the burger barons had taken control and were worshipped with religious zeal. Dredd and Spikes were captured in the battle and forced to consume burgers and shakes. They escaped the fat and lazy guards (who had eaten too much fast food) only to find themselves in the clutches of a rival baron and placed on trial for eating the wrong kind of burger. Fortunately Judge Jack arrived with the repaired Land Raider in time before they were lynched.
The Land Raider itself was damaged when a herd of Styracosaurs were startled into its path and in the hope of getting the track repaired they made for the nearby town of Redemption, where they received a friendly reception. The dinosaurs had been genetically recreated for the Dinosaur National Park, but had escaped during the Atomic Wars. Satanus himself was the son of Old One Eye, the greatest monster of all time. It was she who had killed Satanus when he had challenged her rule over 65 million years ago. The judges were given as offerings to the tyrant lizards, which the inhabitants believed to be a divine judgement on mankind. As Redemption's bell tolled, Satanus and his pack came for Dredd and Spikes. They escaped and the tyrannosaurs followed their scent to Redemption and soon the whole town was being devoured. Judge Jack had a lucky escape from the jaws of a tyrannosaur and Tweak came to the rescue in the Land Raider. Satanus was left for dead in the ruined church and the townsfolk fled Redemption under warning from Dredd never to return.
On their way through the Great Utah Dustbowl Dredd was confronted by a sea of giant grass as well as a giant green man. The giant was merely one of many strange creations of Dr Gribbons, a scientist who offered Dredd his hospitality. He revealed his true nature however, when he drugged Dredd and the others in order to remove fluid from their nervous systems to keep his creations alive. When the perverted genius created his strange aberrations of life from vegetable material, he broke not only numerous ethical laws but also the law of copyright, his inspiration coming from old pre-atomic war magazine advertisements. He cruelly treated the intelligent beings but it was they who finally helped defeat Gribbons. Dredd and the others left as the old agricultural research station burned to the ground.
As Dredd entered Las Vegas he was horrified to discover that the Judges had become corrupted by the mafia and had even turned the Grand Hall of Justice into a casino. Everything was a game in Las Vegas and even suicide was something the outcome could be gambled upon. Dredd soon ran foul of God Judge Lucky Mutiano and his number two, Judge Fingers. Making contact with the League of Gambling (L.O.G.), Dredd is told that his coming was prophesised and he entered the contest to become the next God Judge. Even though he and Spike win, Dredd conferred the honour upon Rudy from the L.O.G. and set off on his mission once more, thereby denying the prophecy that he should rule as God Judge for one score year and four.
As Mega City 2's para-medic storm troopers hold out against the crazed victims of the 2T(FRU)T virus. Dredd and his team stood on the edge of Death Valley as they tried to repair the cooling system for the Vaccine. Tweak chose to reveal his intelligence to Dredd and told of how he and his family were taken from their planet and experimented on before they were sold to slavery. All the time they hid their intelligence for fear of the ruin it would bring to their world, which was rich in valuable ores. His wife and children were sold as pets and killed when they proved unsuitable. Tweak told all of this to Dredd, as his instincts told him that he could be trusted. Tweak signed half of his planets wealth over to Spikes Harvey Rotten, as his precognitive abilities had told him that Spikes would not make it across the next leg of their journey, across Death Valley and finally to Mega City 2.
With the lights of Mega City 2 in sight, Judge Dredd stopped to pay his respects to those that fell in the Battle of Armageddon in 2071AD where over two hundred thousand judges and mega-troopers lost their lives. Judge Jack's will was already beginning to crack when they were attacked by the Legion of the Damned, old war droids buried in the desert, programmed to fight for all of eternity and lead by General Blood N' Nuts. Judge Jack finally snapped and he separated the Killdozer from the others in the hope of surrendering. As Jack was shot down, Dredd, Spikes and Tweak made their way to an old Spanish fort, where Spike was killed in an explosion. Knowing they could never win a fight, Dredd fooled the droids into believing he was dead.
Dredd and Tweak then began their final part of the journey across 60 miles of the sand swept Mojave Desert, with only three days before the vaccine would become contaminated. Tweak was lost to a sandstorm and Dredd carried on alone, assaulted by the ghosts of those he had met on his journey. A shot from his lawgiver proved they were merely phantoms. Dredd was forced to blast his own leg when grabbed by ruined War Droids. Finally, Dredd crawled the last stages to Mega City 2, but insisted that he walk unaided across the entrance before he collapsed. Dredd recovered to find that Tweak had also made it with the vaccine and the city was slowly recovering. Tweak was returned to his home planet and Dredd himself boarded a Strat-Bat and returned to Mega City 1, unaware of what would soon follow.