When you go to the trouble of legitimately buying a ship for your illegitimate smuggling operation, and that ship turns out to be stolen from a powerful weapons dealer… well, you might figure the universe hates you. But not Jack Tressler, an aspiring smuggler; he's used to taking misfortune in stride.
Given the choice to die—or get an ill-fitting cybernetic eye and join a crew of thieves on a crazy heist—he opts for the unpleasant modification. After all, it's just another day in the life.
With rabid pirates, ruthless corporations, and a scorned former employer all vying for the same bounty, Jack and his new friends will need all their wits and snark to survive until their next meal in this farcical space opera adventure.
Amy has honored us with a true treat, launching her new novel with our StoryBundle. I went inblind expecting a plucky smuggler story but as the absurdities built I realized we'd gone from space opera to Spaceballs. Warning, this one may cause giggling as the absurdities pile up. – Daniel Potter
"A hilarious tale of one man's misfortune in a crew full of women who certainly do not have his best interests at heart. I bust a gut more than once on this one, and loved the irony."– M. D. Cooper, NYT Bestselling Author
"Really fun book"– James Caplan, reader
"In Troubled Space, SF Author Amy Duboff offers up a fun space opera with likable characters on a fast-paced adventure that will appeal to fans of Lois McMaster Bujold or John Scalzi's comedic side."– James S. Aaron, author
Shooting himself in the foot with another business-deal-gone-wrong took on new meaning for Jack Tressler as he stared down the barrel of a real gun pointed toward his actual foot.
"Really, this is all a terrible misunderstanding," Jack tried to explain.
"Misunderstanding or not, you're a dead man." Svetlana Korinov charged her laser pistol while a handful of women in her crew looked on with amusement around him in the freighter's cargo bay. Her reputation for being the most powerful weapons smuggler in the sector showed in her pistol choice—sleek, shiny, and with pink accents on the barrel that made it clear she would be judged by no one. "I'll incinerate you piece by piece, and I'll enjoy every second."
Jack held up his hands and plastered on the most charming smile his mediocre looks allowed. "While I'm sure killing me would bring you great short-term satisfaction—I mean, who doesn't like to start out Monday morning with a revenge killing—what else would it really accomplish? Wouldn't you rather find out who stole your ship in the first place?"
Svetlana's violet eyes narrowed to slits beneath her exaggerated eyeliner. "Yes, but how could you possibly be of any use to me?"
"Me? Useful?" Jack forced a smug chuckle and smoothed back his blond hair with one hand. "Do you have any idea who I am?"
The weapons dealer activated Jack's holopin she was holding in her free hand, displaying his credentials. "Jack Tressler, age thirty-four. Outstanding warrants on five planets and banned from a sixth for… inappropriate yodeling?" She raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"Hey, it was very appropriate at the time. The authorities and I just didn't see eye-to-eye."
"Of course. And what about the forty-eight thousand credits in unpaid debts?"
Jack made a dismissive flip of his wrist. "Petty cash. That'll all be settled up after my next job."
"The one you intended to complete with my ship?" Svetlana asked.
"Well, yeah…" Granted, Jack hadn't known that it was stolen at the time when he'd purchased it from the third-party seller. In retrospect, he should have realized the terms of sale were too good to be true. Misfortune often came his way, especially when he tried to accomplish anything through proper channels. The fact that he had legitimately purchased the ship with the intention to use it for smuggling was beside the point; the ship's title was supposed to be free and clear. Unfortunately, it was looking like this misstep may be his last.
Svetlana scoffed. "You're a small-time criminal incapable of following through with his promises. I'd be doing everyone a favor if I end you." She altered the handgun's aim from Jack's foot to his head.
"Whoa, whoa!" Jack raised his hands again with renewed urgency. "You stopped reading too soon. You didn't get to the part about me being a legendary detective."
"You mean your one-time role as Sherlock in a primary school play?"
Jack lowered his hands. "Wow, you really did read my file."
"Your acting career won't help uncover who stole my ship, which confirms that you're utterly useless to me."
"Did you watch a recording of the play? You have to admit that an eight-year-old detective is adorable."
"Enough!" Svetlana took a step forward.
"Actually," a woman in her late-twenties standing in the throng behind Svetlana cut in, "we could use someone to modify for our next venture."
Svetlana lowered her weapon partway, which Jack hardly found to be an improvement since that meant it was pointing directly at his groin. Nonetheless, 'modify' sounded like a status upgrade from 'dead'.
"If I can be of service…" Jack began tentatively.
"I don't know if he's worth the trouble, Alyssa," Svetlana stated.
Alyssa looked Jack over, her tawny eyes partially obscured by dark, side-swept bangs. "I can handle him."
Svetlana sighed and deactivated her laser pistol. "Fine. If he assists and is successful, his debt to me will be forgiven."
Jack perked up. "You won't regret this!"
"I already do," Svetlana muttered as she holstered her handgun. "Prep him for surgery." She headed for the cargo bay door leading to the rest of the freighter.
Two women hung back with Alyssa, and the other dozen followed Svetlana toward the exit.
"Oh, right… the 'modifications'," Jack gulped. "What exactly—"
"We need to replace your eye," Alyssa stated with the matter-of-factness of a tax auditor.
She nodded. "Your left eye. You will be fitted with a multispectral camera that will feed directly into your brain."
"It's minor brain surgery, don't worry," Alyssa said. "Morine has done it at least once before."
Jack crossed his arms. "Yeah, about that…"
"It's the implant or an execution. Take your pick."
"No Option C?"
Alyssa groaned and turned back toward her boss. "Svetl—!"
"Wait, I'll do it!" Jack interrupted.
"Great. You'll hardly notice a difference."