Durham Red

In 2150 the Great War broke out. Somehow the Earth survived but the ecosystem had been heavily contaminated with Strontium 90 and mutation became common. Unlike the traditional mutants of comics the radiation didn't confer superpowers, rather it resulted in millions of babies with physical deformations and millions more miscarrages and stillbirths. Only the strongest mutants survived infancy. Despised by the "norms" the mutants became a downtrodden underclass hated and feared for their appearances. Barred from most employment and doomed to poverty striken lives in mutant ghettos all dreamed of escape no matter what the cost. For some that was a life of crime but for others there was the opposite route. Serving the law as a bounty hunter for the Galactic Crime Commission. The life of a Search/Destroy agent meant travel offworld and could be very lucrative but it was often very short. To quote the official briefing for new recruits ... "Men, if I can call you that, the galaxy is full of criminals hiding from justice. Your job is to find them and, if necessary, destroy them!. A Search/Destroy Agent's work will be dangerous. Many of you will die. Looking at you, perhaps that is a good thing." - Starlord 1 & 2000AD Prog 86 Not too inviting which is why so few norms signed up but for the mutants it could only be an improvment so almost everyone who wore the SD badge was a mutant. Which is why the norms twisted the initials and took to calling the the bounty hunters Strontium Dogs. A name the mutants adopted as their own but only accepted if a fellow Strontium Dog used it. The greatest of the Strontium Dogs was Johnny Alpha, the lead character of the "Strontium Dog" series. Following the death of his partner Wulf he took to working alone but he sometimes teamed up with other mutants. Which was how Durham Red made her debut. While the majority of SD Agents were male there were some women among them. They also called themselves Strontium Dogs but Red preferred to be known as the Strontium Bitch. Red was unusual in another way. Like Johnny "Creepy Eyes" Alpha she had only one visible sign of mutation, a pair of fangs. They were more than decorative, they were functional. Her mutant metabolism required regularly ingesting human blood. This vampirism made most of the other Strontium Dogs shun her. With the exception of Johnny Alpha who avoided her for the sensible reason that she had had tried to doublecrossed him and stunned him one one occasion so she could feed on one of his bounties. On the latter occasion Red had pointed it that it was a Dead or Alive warrant and she wasn't claiming the body so Johnny would get his money anyway but she didn't apologise for shooting him. Which wasn't to say there wasn't a mutual attraction between them despite her sanguinary habits. At any rate Red was a bounty hunter for both blood money and blood and very good at it. She never let things got personal except once and it got her into a real hot spot.

A fellow mutant Red referred to as her sister (though the flashbacks made in the same story made it clear she was an only child so their exact relationship remains unexplained) died from an overdose of the ultra addictive drug Psyke-o. Vowing revenge she went after The Gothlord, the source of Earth's Psyke-o trade. She underestimated the Gothlord and collapsed after being exposed to a massive dose of Psyke-o. Red survived the overdose and the Gothlord decreed she should pay for her attack on him by helping boost his trade. Which lead to her being taken to a large biosphere containing a desolate island surrounded by killer fish infested waters. While she was still unconscious the Gothlord's men took her to the island and made doubly sure she wouldn't be going anywhere.

Still tripping wildly Red awoke to see the island's population of madmen and women as monsters. Which since she was unarmed lead to a very sensible urge to be elsewhere.

Les turned out to be one of those childlike strongmen who have been showing up in fiction since "Of Mice and Men" and thanks to him and his marginally sane buddy Doc Red found herself with the allies she'd need to escape. But not before she discovered that the island's harsh conditions were intended to break the wills of everyone confined upon it for a more important reason than the Gothlord's sadism. The crucial element of Psyke-o was distilled from the trace chemicals released in the sweat of the insane which was why an artificial sun was used to broil them regularly. To sum up Red escaped and made the Gothlord pay which lead to some problems with his relatives a few years later. But that's as another story. As is "The Scarlet Cantos", the next Durham Red serial of interest. Sick of the galaxy and the mess she had made of her life Red entered cryogenic suspension but slept longer than she had intended to awaken over a thousand years later. Upon awakening she discovered had become a legend and was revered as a saint by mutantkind. Worse, that her revival had shattered the fragile peace that existed between human (formerly "norm") and mutant and precipitated a galaxywide war with the mutants lead by an imposter claiming to be her out to commit genocide. Red set out to unmask the imposter and de-mystify herself but her attempt to infiltrate the imposter's headquarters didn't quite work out as planned.

Red discovered that the imposter was human and the slaughter of innocents was intended to make all the mutant forces mass in a single place so that the human fleet could destroy them. The millions killed by the mutants to aid the deception being acceptable losses in the minds of the human commanders. Red exposed the imposter, told the assembled mutants what she thought about being turned into a saint and how sickened she was by the atrocities they had committed before revealing the human's intentions. The mutant forces dispersed and Red and her companions headed off to build a new life for themselves. In the sequel "The Vermin Stars" she attempted to free the most powerful mutant ever born and use its psychic powers to neutralise the battle fleets of both sides only to discover it had been manipulating her all along and had been sealed away by humanity because they couldn't kill it only contain it. During its centuries of imprisonment while its powers grew it had planned vengeance and took it by sterilizing humankind so in a century only the mutants would remain. Betrayed, fatally wounded and with both the men she loved killed in the struggle she lay down to die among the ruins and the story ended. Another Durham Red series has appeared but it runs in the Judge Dredd Megazine which I don't get so I don't know if it continues the story or like the revival of Strontium Dog is set before her death and treats the earlier stories as distorted accounts written decades after the fact.

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