Authors: Ben Bequer
Praise for Blackjack Villain
“I practically wrote half of it. If you see something that’s good, I came up with it. Anything that really sucks, I tried to talk him out of.” -
Joshua Hoade, editor/friend
“Eerily similar to something I wrote back in 1984. My attorneys will be in touch.” -
“possibly the most contentious person on Earth”
“What? Who?” -
R. A. Salvatore
“The most groundbreaking work of fiction since Tolkien.” -
“Seriously, get the hell away from me.” -
at a book signing
“We’re not in the business of reviewing such filth.” -
Blackjack Villain, Copyright © 2012 by Ben Bequer
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to us using the contact information below.
Cover and interior art by Erik Von Lehman
email: [email protected]
Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, use the contact information above.
Printed in the United States of America
He was not the Model Boy of the village.
He knew the model boy very well though--and loathed him.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of victories
FAIR IS FOUL, FOUL IS FAIR
I sensed him well before I could see him. A man in my line of business learns to respect every random anxious feeling, or he doesn’t last long.
This guy had the subtlety of a category 5 hurricane. He also had powers and an ego to match. No sooner had I come out onto the balcony of my Malibu home to take in the sunset and down a cold beer than the entire landscape changed. It transformed from the warm purple and orange, to darkness, swept through by shadows, as a whole storm front moved in too fast to be a natural occurrence. The slight breeze turned into a gale, and the clouds above coalesced into the outline of a cruel smiling face, eyes illuminated with white-yellow lightning.
I dropped my beer and threw myself through the sliding glass door as the first crackle of lighting tore into the balcony, exploding inward along with a cloud of wood and glass. I flew through the air like a rag doll flung by an angry child, spearing through a wall into the kitchen and coming to a rest atop the shattered remains of the center island.
The air crackled electrostatically, and my lungs burned as every breath felt like a surge of wafting energy. I came to my feet and glanced over my shoulders through the wrecked wall at the wide chasm that lay beyond the smoldering balcony. I shook the glass and dust out of my face, and noticed the hairs of my arms standing on end as he entered, carried aloft by his god-like powers and after looking around his stern gaze settled upon me.
I blinked my vision clear, but the world still had a bright white tinge. It illuminated him like an angel as he touched down into the remains of my living room. He was tall and powerful, wearing ridiculous blue and yellow tights. He called himself Atmosphero. Yes, Atmosphero. My real name is Dale McKeown, but I’m known as...
“Blackjack,” he said “fancy meeting you here.”
I should have jumped out of the way, or maybe I did but he was faster, lancing his horrible powers at me through the hole in the wall, raw lightning crackling through my body. I screamed, overcome with rage, impotence and pain, as I watched him destroy the remnants of the wall in front of me and shatter the entire kitchen around me. Light exploded in the back of my mind, and I thought bitterly of the sunset I enjoyed a minute before.
A gust of wind lifted me off the ground, like an overgrown marionette, as lightning racked my body like a thousand pulled muscles and tendons all at once. He cackled, reveling in his power and tossed me across the room. I careened into the dual steel refrigerators, destroying them and bathing their contents as I fell to the floor. Caked in milk, juice and egg, I was momentarily out of sight, and that was the only chance I needed.
Because Atmosphero wasn’t the only one in the room with super powers.
He was hidden by what remained of the wall between my living room and kitchen but I could feel where he was, and imagined him strolling forward casually to finish me off.
I buried my dislike for the peacock and flung a massive piece of marble through the wall. It was effortless, like throwing a Frisbee. The huge shard of countertop tore through drywall and studs, like a tank rolling downhill and I laughed, thinking I had him.
Hopping through the wide hole, I saw him standing there, unharmed, the marble countertop floating in the air a few feet from him. His mocking smile dripped with disgust, as if he expected more of a challenge from me.
He flung the countertop back at me but I intercepted it with a punch, detonating it into a hailstorm of marble fragments. I rushed forward, but he took to the air to avoid me and my hairs stood on end as he charged up again.
“Come down here, asshole,” I roared. “And let me give you a proper welcome.”
I was bigger than him, bigger than most people, and a lot stronger. I usually depended on my bow and trick arrows, but in a straight up fight I could crush him.
“Aw, are you mad I beat you so easily last time?” I taunted, hoping he’d get reckless and rush me, but despite our growing grudge, he was a pro. Atmosphero was going to fight me on his terms.
“Damn man, that’s rough,” he chuckled, glancing around my shattered house. “I guess no subletting this one. But don’t worry; the walls in San Quentin are a bit sturdier.”
I rushed him, but he was quicker. My fingertips almost latched onto his cape as he flipped over me and flung a powerful charge of wind that heaved me out of the house through the damaged balcony, and down the rocky Malibu hill. I crashed down the cliff through rock, brush and dirt, bouncing a half dozen times until I came to rest on the soft sands of the beach two hundred feet below my home.
Bruised and battered, I came to my unsteady feet and looked up, half-expecting the next bolt of lightning from Atmosphero, but he hovered over my home looking down at me. Maybe he was surprised I was still on my feet, or perhaps he was unsure what to do next, but he got an idea fast.
Atmosphero summoned up his storm powers with a wide cast of his hands, a tornado formed beneath and around my house, a great howl of wind and sand that ripped the structure from its foundation, piping and wooden struts and lifted the whole thing into the air.
Then he hurled it at me.
It came so fast, a whole house hurling headlong at me, that I had no way to avoid it, nowhere to go. I could only chortle before the house crushed me. The sheer weight of the tons of concrete and masonry forced me down, collapsing atop me and burying me deep in the sand. The crashing sound was deafening, a disharmonious mix of exploding wood, shattering glass and twisting metal. But I lived, and started to dig myself out.
Atmosphero helped, noticing the movement in the wreckage and wanting to finish me once and for all. He lifted a whole wall section off me, casting it aside. Still stuck under some of the structure, I could see him floating above; feel the rush of his wind powers lifting whole pieces of the devastated house.
Above me lay the bent and twisted remains of the garage door, and when he flung it away, I struck, hurling one of the destroyed refrigerators at him (though how the fridge ended up in what was essentially my garage, I’ll never know).