The Rise of Handsome Jack – Preview

Here is a preview snippet from the upcoming unofficial Borderlands book chronicling the beginnings of the tyrant of Pandora, Handsome Jack.

Arrival

“This planet stinks. It smells like…I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s like the putrid bastard offspring of…I dunno, ass and rotten broccoli.”

This statement was met with a disapproving stare. The one she gave me when her eyebrow had a burning desire to raise independent of the other.

“What?”

“Language, John.” She patted her slightly protruding belly, indicating that somehow our unborn child could hear and absorb my foulness. Whatever. Not worth it. I put my hand over hers and plastered a convincing smile onto my face.

“Sorry pumpkin. Sorry kiddo. Let’s go see our new home.” Temporary home. Please, PLEASE let it be a quick visit.

I took a deep breath of the broccoli ass air and stepped out of the train.

“Greetings, traveler! Welcome to Tartarus Station!” A familiar, high-pitched, cheerful voice that made me want to stick my head in a garbage disposal cried out from just below my line of sight. I refused to acknowledge its presence. When confronted with a CL4P-TP, the very worst thing you can do is make eye contact. Or, lens contact? Whatever!

I turned my head to my traveling companion. “Honey, let’s-uh, honey?“ She’s gone.Thanks Claptrap, you nerve-grating garbage can

    I wondered, who’s the assclown that pioneered this miscarriage of technology? My internal query quickly turned to resignation. Claptraps were manufactured by Hyperion, so all credit will always go to The Company. Hell, even my “Mandatory Employee Assessments” were addressed to Employee #24518169. I resolved to uncover this mysterious inventor’s identity, and correct their mistakes. With prejudice.

I surveyed the station from left to right. It wasn’t as offensive to the eye as the industrial Dahl landing pad, but that’s Hyperion for you. High-class innovation and style; everything is so shiny! Of course Tartarus Station was very much under construction, There were a few completed buildings, like what looked like a shop across from the tracks. As I turned my gaze again I noticed something was missing.

The Claptrap had stopped waving its stupid little clamp hands in front of my face. Oh thank god, it left. I breathed a sigh of relief and started walking forward, but suddenly I was facedown on the ground. I’d tripped on something. That’s what I get for not looking. “What the hell?!”

“You ok there, traveler?” I turned my neck before I realized who I was turning to look at, but it was too late. The damage was done. I had looked the Claptrap in its stupid face. It was your standard model with the yellow paint job. That’s as detailed a description as you’re gonna get, because if you don’t know about the abortion of machinery that is the Claptrap line, you’re a lucky son of a bitch.

I stood up. Still couldn’t see my wife. With great reluctance, I spoke. “Hey, dummy.” The worker bot was visibly excited by my acknowledgement. This is gonna suck. This is really, really gonna suck. I thought.

“Greetings! I think your tumble might have you a little confused, my name’s actually CL4P-TP Hyperion Tourism Class Model Pandora 90, but my friends call me CL4P-TP-HTC-MP90 for short.” I gritted my teeth and addressed it.

“I’m looking for the woman who arrived with me. While you were flailing your clamps like an idiot, did you see where she went?” It’s a good thing Claptrap units couldn’t register tone of voice. Mine was laden with disdain.

“There’s no need to be rude, good sir! I have feelings too, and I’m only here to help!” I stood corrected. The AI department must have rolled out some new update designed to fix the personality quirks that caused Claptraps to be anything but mindless drones. We needed mindless drones. The update obviously made them little pansies capable of getting offended, but I needed its help so I decided to change tactics. Temporarily.

“Listen, Claptrap. I-“

“I’m all ears, traveler! Still waiting for that apology though!” I gritted my teeth. Did it think it had actual ears? Maybe that was a good thing. If it realized it picked up sounds through a microphone, it might decide to start beatboxing. Or worse, dubstep.

“My wife, she got off the train with me and-“

“Claptrap? I like it! Thank you for my awesome new name! So what was it you needed?” 

I wonder if there’s a way to stick a robot in a garbage disposal. “Listen to me, CRAP trap. Listen real close.”

“Wait, which one is it? I prefer the first name you called me but maybe I heard you wrong. I heard, ‘clap.’ But then you said a different thing!” Goddammit, this is too much. I’ve got it! Trash compactor would work. Isn’t there one up the hill?

“Are you sure you haven’t suffered brain damage from that time you tripped over your own feet at the train station?” it concluded.

I kicked the thing as hard as I could. It didn’t go very far and the blow hurt my foot a lot more than I expected, but I did manage to knock it off its feet. Wheel. WHATEVER.

“I’m fine. Better now.”

The robot righted itself and faced me, uncharacteristically motionless. The lens in the center of its ‘face’ glowed as it scanned me. Oh crap.
“Employee #24518169.” It spoke in a monotone version of its shrill voice. I didn’t think there was anything worse than the rage-inducing screech of a happy Claptrap, but as a simple mouthpiece for Corporate it had an intimidation that was both ridiculous and unnerving. “You have been documented damaging Hyperion property. Your file has been updated and you are subject to a fine, which can be paid now in full or deducted from your pay with interest should you so choose.”

I heard most of this from a distance; I’d already started walking toward the shop. I figured it’d be as good a place as any to start searching. Christ, what a crap way to start a trip.This special assignment better be worth it.

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