Are you ready to find out what new trouble Jason Joval gets himself into in chapter two of Stars Beckon Call? But first, here are a couple more early reviews of the rough draft.
(Missed the first chapter? Find it HERE.)
Stars Beckon Call
This book is set in a dystopian future where all is not what it seems. Jason lives in a world where the length of your life is chosen by a game of chance. Jason’s luck leads him to a successful life as a gambler, but that leaves him unfulfilled. One night he loses his way, but what he finds may change his world’s future. This is a complex story filled with unexpected twists. I hope this isn’t the end of their story. Teresa Eick
The Plot Thickens
I loved the book! The storyline was great. The characters believable. I really liked the characters of Jason, Seattle, and Tinker. Mu-monk was absolutely the best character to me! Can’t wait till the next book. I really hope this is the start of a great series. Rhonda Stroud
Be sure to leave a comment at the end of the chapter. Let me know what you think.
The squad of security guards dressed in gray uniforms with navy blue piping formed a wedge with Scarface at the head. They pushed their way through the crowd of mostly admiring teenagers, exited LC, crossing the street to Casey’s. The building reportedly was the oldest standing structure in the Gambling Zone, but recent innovations overseen by Casey himself had managed to keep its original charm while bringing it more in alignment with the surrounding buildings.
While the casinos were among the few places you could go to avoid the constant drone of the vid-viewers and holo screens, Casey had interrupted play at the hundred-plus gaming tables to announce Jason’s win at the Number Wall. As Jason and his entourage of hangers-on reached Casey’s front door, the officials of LC announced that Jason Joval had picked the highest number of lifetime credits in the Lottery’s history. By the time Jason entered the luxurious decor of the casino’s main gambling parlor, the red carpet awaited.
The debonair man waiting for Jason at the end of the carpet was the fifth person to manage the establishment. No one knew if Casey was the owner’s first name or last, but each man who’d come before him had also been known as Casey, so it was more of a title than a name. Like those before him, this Casey wore the signature burgundy sports coat over a black silk shirt and black pants with sharply pressed creases. In his right hand, he held a glass filled with ice and a light blue liquid, another trademark of the establishment. Everyone knew that as long as you were gambling at one of Casey’s tables, the drinks were on the house.
Casey stepped forward as Jason approached. “Welcome to my humble abode and congratulations on your recent good fortune across the street. Perhaps you’ve heard about our signature Ambrosia. Many of our most successful players swear by its ability to bestow good luck on those who partake.” He held the drink out to Jason.
Jason studied the man’s smooth face for a moment, surprised how young the successful entrepreneur looked. Of course, it was hard to tell most people’s ages these days, especially those who hung out in the Gambling Zone where vanity was an acceptable, even desirable trait. Jason had heard that owners could take part of their salaries as life-chips along with the accompanying medical care to help maintain the body. While this was all conjecture and rumor, nothing Jason observed about the man standing before him led him to believe otherwise.
Even though Jason had heard about Ambrosia for years and looked forward to trying it, he felt an inner alarm go off. At the last moment, he withdrew his hand and shook his head.
“Thank you, but can I have a raincheck on that? I’d like to take a shot at one of your games, and I have a cardinal rule to never drink while gambling. Perhaps another day.”
Casey looked confused for a moment, then nodded and shrugged. “No doubt a wise rule, but please don’t share it with others.” He leaned in closer. “It could be devastating to my business,” he whispered.
He looked at the drink for a moment. “Well, it’s a shame for it to go to waste, so bottoms up.” He lifted the glass to his lips and drained its contents before passing the glass to one of the attractive women servers standing on either side of him. Casey’s Girls, as they were affectionately called, also wore burgundy coats cut much shorter. Also, their black silk blouses were cut low in the front, and their tight fitting shorts covered little more than the essentials.
His hand now free of the glass, Casey pirouetted around, one arm waving in the air. “What’s your pleasure, Mr. Joval?”
“Please, Jason is fine. I suspect, if all goes well this morning, we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.” He gazed around at the plush interior with the dark burgundy carpet that matched the coats of the employees’ outfits.
“I think you will find that, although we aren’t the largest casino in the Zone, we offer one of the finest selections of games of chance, and we make every effort to go beyond the norm when it comes to service to our clients. If there’s anything you need that you don’t find here, please do not hesitate to call on me.”
Jason nodded as he continued to study his surroundings, his gaze finally focusing on the line of flashing lights that circled around the outer perimeter of the casino. Unlike the Wall, only one number was lit at any given time. The object of the game was simple. Place your bet on the number you believe would remain lit once a lever was pulled to activate the spin. The general public called it the Wheel of Fortune, but those who frequented the Gambling Zone knew it for what it was–the Sucker’s Wheel, for the simple reason that the odds of winning were so weighted against the players.
“Today’s visit will be brief, Mr. Casey,” Jason said as he pointed to the line of numbers. “I’d like to try my luck with the Wheel.”
“Please, just Casey. Right this way and may Lady Luck continue to shine her blessings on you.” He guided Jason in the direction of the Wheel’s betting table where a small group had already gathered.
At the mention of the Wheel, the crowd which had already more than doubled in size, murmured:
“He’s playing the Wheel…the fool…impossible…that’s crazy…pushing his luck…someone tell him the odds…he’s going to blow it if he’s not careful….”
Jason strolled towards the betting table where the numbers of the Wheel were replicated for gamblers to place their bets. A few bets had already been placed on various numbers, most of them small value-chip wagers of people trying to leverage their meager monthly earnings so they could provide more than the customary subsistence lifestyle. Most of them would lose, but at least they wouldn’t have shortened their lives, just their household budget.
Nodding to the croupier as he approached the table, Jason relaxed his facial expression once again. He realized that maintaining a poker face would make no more difference in playing the Wheel than it had with the Number Wall, but he figured it was all good practice for the future. The dozen or so other players at the Wheel started to step aside as Jason approached, but he stopped them. “No, please, play along with me.”
Several more placed their bets, a few digging into their pockets for life-chips, apparently inspired by Jason’s presence. These chips were in low denominations, mostly in the form of a few weeks or a couple of months. No real professional life-chip gamblers here this early in the morning, Jason thought as he turned to the croupier.
“I’d like to convert my life-credits into chips, please,” Jason said, holding out the holo-disc he’d been given at LC.
“Certainly, sir, and how many would you care to convert?”
“All of them,” Jason replied. A hush fell over the gathering crowd.
“What did he say?” one man asked the woman standing next to him.
As the croupier hesitated, Jason repeated, “All forty-seven of them, please, and place them all on…” He looked over the board. “…on number forty-seven.”
The man standing behind Jason turned to the woman. “Is he frigging crazy?”
She nodded. “Yes, I think he must be,” she whispered back, but as she did so, she stepped forward and placed a small wager on her own lucky number.
The croupier flashed a quick glance to Casey, who nodded.
“To verify, sir, you are placing forty-seven life-credits on the number forty-seven. Is that correct?”
Jason nodded, then remembered the croupier needed a verbal reply for bets over ten credits, which would be recorded as his acceptance of the bet. “Yes, that’s correct.”
The croupier entered the bet then turned his attention to the crowd. “Any further bets?” At first, no one responded, then at the last moment as the croupier was about to close the betting, a young woman dressed in an emerald green dress that highlighted her brilliantly green eyes stepped forward.
“I’d like to bet seven life-credits, please.” She turned and flashed Jason a smile. “If I may…on forty-seven also–for good luck.”
Jason returned the smile, feeling a warm sensation growing in his chest. He nodded his approval.
“Okay, bets are now closed,” the croupier said as he flipped a switch that activated the acceleration of the Wheel’s numbers. He turned back to Jason. As was customary for larger bets, he offered Jason the opportunity to step forward to a large lever that would start the deceleration of the numbers upon being pulled.
Without hesitation, Jason stepped up to the lever and once more began to clear his mind. Another game of pure randomness. No real skill involved although plenty had been written through the years on how to increase one’s chances at the Wheel. None of the systems or strategies made much sense to Jason.
As the illuminated numbers continued to pick up speed, Jason closed his eyes and waited. The seconds ticked by as the lights continued around the room. Soon, they were flashing by too fast to keep up with. A few of the people who’d been drinking from the night before found themselves dizzy from the attempt to keep up with the numbers. A man began to retch from the effort and was quickly escorted away by one of the waitresses.
Still, Jason waited, his left hand resting lightly on the switch. There was no hurry. These might be the last seconds of his life. Why not immerse himself in them? Then, with a flick of his wrist so quick that only the people standing closest to him noticed, Jason pulled the lever and the lights began to decelerate, imperceptibly at first, then slower and slower. Almost a minute had passed before it became apparent to the crowd that Jason had pulled the lever. That’s when they began to chant.
As the lights continued to slow, the chanting picked up speed. Jason continued to stand with his hand now resting beside the lever, his eyes still closed, breathing slowly in and out. He could feel a slight, almost imperceptible twitching of his left eyelid. Got to work on that, he thought.
He finally opened his eyes and looked around. Most everyone in the crowd had their attention focused either on the circulating lights of the Wheel or on the unlit number forty-seven. Everyone but Casey and the young lady who’d placed her bet with Jason. They both stared intently at him. He smiled and shrugged. It wouldn’t be long now.
In the final thirty seconds, the crowd stopped chanting and began to voice their opinions. “It’ll never make it…he’s a goner…it’s almost there…oh no, it’s going to go by…no, it’s too slow….”
Pandemonium threatened to erupt as the slowly changing numbers crept across the right wall about a quarter of the way from the number forty-seven. Jason closed his eyes again, his mind now focused on only one thing: number forty-seven.
The light was now only three numbers away but had slowed to a crawl. Was it still moving? The crowd gasped as the light flicked to the next number. Only two numbers to go. Would it make it? Or would it continue by forty-seven? As though on cue, the crowd of over two thousand people suddenly grew quiet, everyone unconsciously holding their breath…waiting…and waiting.
Forty-seven lit up.
Would it last or would it taunt the crowd before moving on? Time passed. People began to shout, “It’s stopped…by damn, he’s done it again…could it be?”
As more and more people became convinced the light had stopped, they joined in the shouting until one of the experienced gamblers shouted, “It still needs to turn red.” Then and only then would the results be final. The crowd grew silent again and waited.
Forty-seven turned red.
The crowd flew into a frenzy, shouting and screaming wildly. People laughed while others cried for no apparent reason other than having been caught up in the moment. Everyone pressed towards Jason, who finally opened his eyes and smiled a sheepish grin.
Almost magically, the team of security guards was once more by Jason’s side, this time with their stunwands out to help push the crowd away from the newly crowned celebrity. Scarface, standing once more by Jason’s side, let only one person through–the lady with the emerald eyes who’d placed her bet with Jason. She flung her arms around Jason’s neck and planted a wet kiss, first on each cheek, then full on the mouth. Jason’s face reddened but despite his embarrassment, he found the sensation pleasant. He reached one arm around her waist and gave her a hug.
As they made their way slowly through the crowd, he began to calculate his winnings. Looks like I’m going to grow to be a very old man, he thought. He turned to the crowd and waved, immediately sending a shockwave of cheers through the casino.
Jason waved again and tightened his grip around Emerald Eyes’ waist. He had definitely found his new home.
More to come. Stay Tuned.