Blackjack Wayward (The Blackjack Series)

BOOK: Blackjack Wayward (The Blackjack Series)
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Praise for Blackjack Villain

“Starts off with a good story, then slowly slips into stupidity.” -
Jason Morrison

“Not that poorly written, but the plot / concept was quite derivative” -
Dr. Awkward

“Huh? I haven’t read that piece of shit either.” -
R. A. Salvatore

“My mom likes it.” -
Ben Bequer

“I’ve never heard of this guy.” -
George Takei

“...by the time I quit the characters were doing things for no reason other than it added tension and presumably helped the author tick off the plot points he wanted to hit. And that drives me nuts.” -
Ian Beck’s Book Log

“Isn’t Blackjack the cousin of Spongebob Squarepants?” -
Author’s daughter

Blackjack Wayward

Ben Bequer

Contents

Praise for Blackjack Villain

Blackjack Wayward

For Jules

Blackjack Wayward, Copyright © 2013 by Ben Bequer

Prologue

Part One

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Part Two

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Part Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Part Four

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Epilogue

Author’s Notes

Acknowledgements

Cast of Characters

Selected Excerpts

Selected Artwork for Blackjack Wayward

For Jules

Blackjack Wayward, Copyright © 2013 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.

Blackjack Press

blackjackslair.blogspot.com

[email protected]

Cover and interior art by Erik Von Lehman

http://erikvonlehmann.deviantart.com/

email: [email protected]

Editing Services

Ashley Daoust

http://www.adeditorial.com

[email protected]

Ordering Information:

Quantity sales. Special discounts are available on quantity purchases by corporations, associations, and others. For details, use the contact information above.

Revision 1.1, 4/26/13

Printed in the United States of America

The most common form of dispair is not being who you are

Søren Kierkegaard

-0-

When a man does not know what harbor he is making for

no wind is the right wind

Seneca

Prologue

Back to Shard World

An egg-salad sandwich.

That’s how long it took the jury to find me guilty on all charges.

After both closing arguments, the judges gave the jury a series of instructions, and with that, the case was over. A dozen armored guards with shock staves escorted my attorney and me into a holding cell, where I ordered an egg-salad sandwich and an iced tea for lunch. As soon as I had taken the final bite of my meal, a bailiff entered the room and informed us that the jury returned a verdict. My lawyer’s reply was classic:

“Fuck them,” he said, knowing that such a fast verdict, based on over 1,300 charges, could only mean one thing: Guilty on all counts.

The jury found me guilty for everything I had done, and for a few of the crimes my former companions Cool Hand Luke and Influx had committed in the weeks leading up to our ordeal, days and weeks before we had met. The jury found me complicit to conspiracy charges for crimes I hadn’t even known were occurring. They were thorough like that.

I was also found guilty of murdering Influx, Cool Hand Luke, Dr. Retcon and his daughter, Dr. Evelyn Walsh; and of killing the real bad guy of the whole affair, Dr. Zundergrub – who I knew was still alive. The jury even convicted me of killing Mr. Haha, who was a robot and not alive to begin with. They also got me for first degree murder charges for two dozen heroes that died on Hashima, including those that Baron Blitzkrieg and his bunch killed; for hundreds of oil rig workers – even though their blood fell squarely on Zundergrub’s hands; a dozen German anti-villain commando; and even Gentleman Shivvers, who was a cold-blooded bastard in his own right.

It didn’t matter to them that I was the actual hero of Hashima, that I had saved the world from Dr. Retcon’s insanity. No one cared. They had me sit for their circus trial and take the blame for everything.

The whole thing was stacked against me. When they read the charges at the start of the trial, the judge insisted the court reporter read them all. It took three days, despite my attorney’s protestations and willingness to stipulate to them all. When it came time to read the verdicts, once they were finished humiliating me, the judge allowed the charges to be divided into six categories, to speed up the proceedings. They read the guilty verdicts, set a date for sentencing six months in the future, and sent me on my way.

I wanted to rip out of my manacles, to throw a few bodies around, and say my goodbyes by redecorating the courtroom with entrails, but they had anticipated such a move and had almost fifty armored guards in court that day. I was surrounded by a forest of gunmen, in case I got any funny ideas.

But I did say one thing.

My attorney didn’t want me to take the stand and I took his advice. In his words, there was nothing to be gained; this was a done deal. I just had to assume the position and take it. I wasn’t allowed a final statement, written nor verbal, so I figured I’d do my own. I spent all night thinking up of some nasty villain shit to say.

“You haven’t seen the last of me,” I said, firing off the most menacing glare I could manage, but the judge chuckled and stole the last word from me.

“I most certainly think so,” he said, strolling off with a satisfied grin stapled on his face.

After that, things went faster.

They took me to a small room, crowded by a dozen guards, where I was told to strip out of my pinstripe Brooks Brothers – I had wanted to look my most “Al Capone” for the final day – and then forced to don an orange prison jumpsuit.

Once I was in criminal garb, a young woman came into the room and walked right up to me. My hands were still free, so she was taking a huge risk, but there wasn’t an ounce of trepidation on her face. She was rather plain-looking, despite the sharp suit and the killer pumps, but her eyes were the oddest shade of violet I had ever seen. She smiled, trying to put me at ease, and I realized I was cringing, pressing away from her against the heavy armor of the guard behind me. There was something about her face, perhaps the lack of emotion, that made me feel like I was about to be assaulted by a force more powerful than mine.

“No need to be afraid, Mr. McKeown,” she said, the first person to use my actual name in the whole proceeding.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m just here to calm you,” the woman said, not realizing that her odd appearance was doing the complete opposite. “It’s a long trip to where you’re going, and this will make it much easier.”

She pulled a small, non-descript case out of her jacket pocket and opened it to reveal an inhaler, like an asthmatic might use.

“Ready?” she said.

I looked around, “For what?”

“No need to be afraid,” she said, raising an eyebrow as if she found my squeamishness comical.

“What the hell is in that?”

She shrugged, “It’s a muscle relaxant.”

“Fuck you,” I said. “You take it.”

“Mr. McKeown,” she said, “You’ve been remanded to the custody of the Utopia Prison staff. I am the deputy administrator, Carla Dressler. This is all part of the protocol.”

Ms. Dressler looked at the guards and sighed.

“I do this five times a month,” she said, cocking her head aside to get a good look up at me. “Now please, we’re wasting time here.”

I shot a glance at one of the guards behind me, but the plexi-steel canopy over their armored helmets didn’t allow me a look to his face.

“I have a feeling I’m going to regret this,” I said, opening my mouth and leaning down.

Dressler stuck the inhaler into my mouth and pressed the release valve, filling my lungs with a cold mist that tickled and made me cough.

“Just a relaxant, huh?” I said, but already the chemicals were coursing through my veins, pounding through my body, and I was hit by a sudden wave of euphoria and dizziness that made me fall to my knees.

“Fucking bitch,” I said, slipping into a deep sleep.

 

 

I woke aboard a prop-driven plane with a rear-boarding ramp, most likely a C-130 or C-141, surrounded by guards sitting along the walls of the craft. I was lying prone on a cold metal trolley, hog-tied by power-dampening manacles. I needed to go to the bathroom, but none of the guards responded, until my pleas became louder, and one of the guards laughed.

“Why don’t you just shit yourself?” he said, drawing a few tired chuckles from his companions.

I ripped the manacles from my hands and feet and stood, listening to their distressed gasps beneath their masks after witnessing a feat they couldn’t believe.

“What if I ran right through the cockpit, and knocked this bird out of the sky?” I said. “Any of you guys have parachutes?”

One guard stood, his knees were literally shaking.

“I need to use the head,” I said, flexing my shoulders and cracking my neck. “Or this plane is going down.”

“Sure,” he said, leading me to the back of the plane.

After I was done, they threw a hood over my head and put the manacles back on, this time treating me with a little more care and respect. Between the dark and the motion of the plane, I felt tired again and drifted off to sleep.

I could have fought them, torn the guards out of their cute power suits and made the pilot fly me wherever I wanted. But then what? I had come to realize that I wasn’t a villain. It wasn’t in my nature. Apogee had captured my essence in one sentence, “you haven’t had to grow up yet.” Well, Hashima snapped me out of a thirty-odd-year funk.

The plane’s rough touchdown woke me, and after a short taxi, they rolled my trolly down the back ramp. It stopped at the base to get me to my feet, letting me walk the rest of the way. We had arrived somewhere hotter and far more humid than where we’d left. My undershirt was sticky with sweat and the jumper was clinging to my skin before I had taken the last step off the rear ramp. Someone ripped the hood off my head, then they led me across the steaming tarmac into a large warehouse or hangar. I was standing in front of a massive metal device that reminded me of the interior of an oil rig, with coiled wires jutting from everywhere, leading to a control center manned by a trio of men wearing lab coats. The machine was like a mini refinery, abuzz with electrical power and readout meters, with heavy wiring leading to a series of thrumming generators. The device had more in common with something you would find dominating a mad scientist’s lab from a low-budget 1940s movie, loud and sparking with excess power.

I had no idea what it was at first, but one thing drew my attention: a sealed cockpit at the epicenter of the metal contraption.

I was so amazed by the device, possibilities running rampant through my head, that I let them lead me to the enclosed chair without argument. Besides, I was on a ship that had sailed, its course set, and I was the lone passenger. With little ceremony, they threw me inside what was, in essence, a cockpit. The guards strapped me to the chair and slammed the cowling closed as they fired up the machine.

A dozen technicians huddled around the control center fiddling with the dials, and one of them came to a large knob, spinning it clock-wise as the power surged. One of the armored guards, I think the one that had laughed at me, waved, and in a flash, I was gone. The memory was familiar, and only at that moment did I realize what they had done to me.

When the blinding lights faded, I found myself atop a small strip of rock, maybe a quarter mile long and half again as wide, floating in that inky burnt orange sky, surrounded by other mini-islands. Torn from their host planets, these shards of earth were satellites to a central foundering planet, a cataclysmic orb that had failed upon itself and now was a dripping mass of lava and rock. Hovering above the ruined world was the citadel of crystal and silver, home of the Lightbringers.

The bastards had sent me back to Shard World. 

BOOK: Blackjack Wayward (The Blackjack Series)
8.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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