Blade Runner meets The Fifth Element in this eccentric cyber-noir thriller series about a bleak world ravaged by corrupt leaders, mega-corporations, and crime lords… and the washed-up cyborg detective who might be the only one crazy enough to take them on.
#1 - Tropical Punch - The adventure begins when Bubbles Marlowe uncovers a disturbing secret that reveals the truth behind the cold-case death of an old colleague, a secret that someone will kill to keep...
#2 - Chew 'Em Up - Bubbles is being stalked by an army of unhinged fans and her best friend is on the run from deadly corporate head-hunters. The good news is, there is a cure for their unwanted fame. The bad news is, it might be fatal...
#3 - Pop 'Em One - High-tech, low-life? Bubbles must delve deep into the gritty underbelly of the city's meanest streets to save her ex-partner from the cruel hands of a mad megacorp scientist. But the corrupt heart of HoloCity's black market might be the cruelest discovery of all...
#4 - Spit 'Em Out - Revenge tears Bubbles from the only home she's known as she hunts down the killer she let get away. With the blood of his victims on her hands, she won't rest until she brings the monster to justice...
#5 - Cherry Bomb - An old enemy has left Bubbles a gift from beyond the grave. And it's a real killer...
Bubbles Marlowe, cyborg detective, struts her stuff in five thrilling back-to-back adventures in Bubbles in Space, the COMPLETE SERIES! Delve into the secrets of this gritty future world, and buckle up for a roller-coaster ride packed full of unusual characters, dark humour, and non-stop action.
•Sometimes, a title is enough to reel me in…and this is one of those times. The title of the Bubbles in Space series promises light-hearted, out-there adventure…and when you start reading the actual books, you realize they feature so much more. This series perfectly blends cyber-noir, space opera, and old-school hard-boiled detective tales into an utterly unique concoction that is quite unlike anything else I've read. Once you race through the five books in this box set, you will want to read more of Bubbles' adventures, and in fact anything written by this dazzling author with such a unique voice. – Robert Jeschonek
"Bubbles is a fantastic character that fills the role of a 1930s film noir private eye while also being a pink-haired sarcastic screw-up that is just trying to keep her head above water. Given the water in the future is radioactive, this is probably futile."– Amazon review
"Bubbles in Space is like a candied apple; with the apple of a noir PI story dipped in a pink bubble gum coating and sprinkled liberally with cyberpunk tech, themes, and 1930s-ish slang."– Amazon review
"A rollicking mashup of cyberpunk thrillers, private eye mysteries, and a whole lotta fun. And throw in a dash of Fifth Element just to keep things spicy."– Amazon review
"[Bubbles in Space] is a fast-moving, slick-talking, cyber-punking love letter to the hard-boiled detective novels of old. The story immediately grabs you with a pink cybernetic fist and doesn't let you go."– Amazon review
I wove my way through the writhing dancers on the floor of techRose with my eyes on the girl. My skin pinched beneath the cybernetic prosthetic on my left shoulder. It was time for a refit. Should have thought of that before heading out on the job, but I didn't expect it to be a problem.
Find the girl, deliver the message. Easy enough.
The girl's hair didn't match, not black enough, but hair didn't cost much to change. She was about the right shape and size to be the one my client was looking for. Petite and dark-skinned, with a silver dress that left only modesty to the imagination. The hair—purple now, not black at all—bounced hypnotically with her hips and faded to pink.
I reached out to touch her shoulder with my real arm, and she spun slowly like a display mannequin in an all-night sex shop. A skim of sweat shimmered on her forehead and the wig pulsed yellow and green with the bass rumbling through the floor. Swollen black pupils stared out from beneath metallic-white paint, the frosted lashes so thick she could hardly keep her eyes open.
The air, greasy with sweat and glitter, stuck to my throat. She wasn't my girl, but I might still get some answers out of her. "You look like you could use a drink."
Closer to the stage, music ground my eardrums with more passion than the boys up in the go-go boxes. The girls on stage gave their poles the juice, though, and HoloCity credit chips flew through the air like confetti.
She blinked up at me and licked her black painted lips. "You buying?"
She didn't mean drinks, but I led her out of the crowd toward the bar anyway. This time I used my other arm, the metal one, to part the swath of writhing bodies. It earned me some dirty looks, but no one wanted to pick a fight with a chick with a robotic fist.
Sheets of corrugated metal had been welded together and painted with cheap pink holographic paint to make up the bar. The paint had chipped off in rusty scabs and it crumpled in on the side nearest the entrance, probably where the bouncers had gotten a little too excited about their jobs. Class joint, techRose.
I hailed the barkeep with my cybernetic arm just to show him I had money. I didn't, not much, but tech prosthetics don't come cheap—even ugly ones like mine, with all the metal bones and tendons exposed like a silver skeleton, that pinch when you move. Anyway, it wouldn't hurt him to make some assumptions. I said, "Get her something to sober her up."
"You're not buying," she said. Disappointment tugged her lips into a pout, pretty if you like them slack-jawed and bleary-eyed.
The bartender, a skinny faced weasel with the sallow complexion of a man who sampled too much of his own wares after hours, swung a glass of noxious green liquid toward the girl. He turned his carefully bored expression on me. "And you?"
"Give me a shot of the pure stuff." I held out my chipped hand to pay for the transaction. "Tall glass."
His eyes had all the colour and life of a wrung-out dishrag, but this got his attention. "How pure?"
"The purest." I snapped my fingers. "I have the credits."
He narrowed his eyes and scanned my wrist. The till screen lit up green and he slunk off to the back room where they hid all the stuff that doesn't kill you. At the sunken end of the bar, he tipped his nose at someone and jerked his head a bit, just before he swung open the tetanus-riddled door to the back room.
"You're Bubbles Marlowe." The girl's eyes were a little less dead now that the drink had hit her, but as the glow-up left her cheeks a hollow, soulless look replaced it. "I'm not supposed to talk to you."
"You don't have to talk." I flashed her a 'gram from the tattler embedded in my metal arm. "Just nod your head. You know this girl?"
"You're not supposed to be here," she said, just loudly enough for anyone else who might be listening. She ducked her chin faintly and finished her drink.
The barkeep sidled back up to us and dropped a dirty glass filled with scuzzy-looking tap water in front of me. Best of the best. It probably cost me a week's wages.
He looked from the girl to the glass and to me again and grinned with pink gums and long teeth. "Expensive taste."
"She's not buying, Sy." The girl slid off her stool and almost crumpled. I caught her arm. Nothing like sobering up to realize how pinched you are. She steadied herself and pulled away from me. "I'm going up for a bit. Gotta fix my head."
Sy leered at her as she swayed toward the stairs to the dressing rooms. Then he turned to serve a big guy grunting into the seat next to me. The girl looked over her shoulder once and twitched her eyes toward the stairs before slipping back into the writhing crowd. Sober or not, she had a job to do. I tossed back the last of my water and started to slide off my stool to hit the stairs.
"What's the smoke, Bubbles?" a well-gravelled voice rumbled beside me.
I winced and turned to face the lump of flesh beside me. Grey eyes—eyes I once found irresistible—appraised me. He smirked. I resisted the urge to poke him with my metal fingers. I said, "Detective Weiland. You slumming it with the pinches tonight?"
"You used to call me Tom." He had the wide, easy mouth of an orator. A politician's smile. He wouldn't be a detective for long with a face like that. "When we were partners."
Weiland's rounded shoulders and barrel chest stretched out the shiny black button-down shirt he always wore undercover. His imitation-denim pants looked like he'd just paid a mint for them and forgotten to take off the tags. Probably it was the only outfit in his closet that wasn't the stark-grey HoloCity PD uniform.
"Things change." I spun towards him and rested my flesh-and-blood elbow on the bar. "Plasma rifles explode, arms burn off, partners get canned."
Weiland took a punch of his drink and bunched up the skin around his grey eyes like he was smiling. He spoke through his glass. "Ex-cops on disability buy cybernetic prostheses and forget to file their licence with government services."
"That why you're on me?" I hit the tattler again and flashed him my numbers. "I've got a ticket."
"You've probably got more tickets than you need." He set his glass on the bar between us and leaned back on his stool until the metal screamed its protest. "That's not why I'm here."
"If you're going to throw me a retirement party, you're about a year too late."
Weiland waved the bartender over and pushed his glass over the counter's chipped paint. The pink holographic surface looked sludgy in his shadow. The bartender flashed his weasel teeth and topped up Weiland's glass.
Weiland tipped his glass towards mine and clinked the rims. "You still hitting the hard stuff?"
The bartender sneered, and I covered my glass with my hand. "H2O."
Weiland whistled. "Too rich for my blood."
"C2H6O doesn't roll off the tongue like it used to." I slid a hand into the breast pocket of my white, synth-leather vest and took out a piece of bright-pink chewing gum.
"Where'd you get the cush, Bubbles?" Weiland's eyes hardened. "I hope you're not overstepping your line."
I raised my eyebrows. "Gum's not that expensive, Detective. Even for us skids."
"The arm, Bubbles. An enhancement like that is worth a lot of dough. If you're taking dirty money from the wrong kind of people, Chief Swain's not going to be happy. I hope your business license is legit at least."
"Sure. Swain only likes dirty money when it's in his own pockets." I folded the gum against my tongue and pulled it into my mouth, biting hard. I chewed for a few seconds and then let him scan my P.I. ticket. "It's sweet that you're concerned. But I keep my nose clean."
The music thumped hard enough to ripple the amber surface of Weiland's drink. He spun the glass on the surface of the bar and gave me his cop stare. "By whose standards?"
I slid off my stool and stepped back out of the reach of his meat hooks. "It's not a drug case."
"Who's the pro skirt?" Weiland tipped his head toward the stairs.
I gnawed on the gum and shrugged. "Not who I hoped she was."
"You're pretty clammed up for someone with a clean nose." Weiland dropped to his feet and stepped a little closer. His pores oozed sweat and he reeked of cologne. Designer stuff applied with the delicate touch of a sledgehammer. "You sure there's nothing you want to tell me?"
"My clients have a right to their privacy."
Weiland held out his chip, but the bartender waved him away. His dishrag gaze had a practiced, saggy look, but his big ears twitched. "On the house, Detective."
Weiland dropped his arm without acknowledging the weasel-faced man beside him. He stared into my eyes and bent his bull-thick neck toward me and grinned. I didn't flinch.
"I'd like to believe you, Bubbles." He reached for my shoulder with a hand that could swallow my face and picked a piece of glitter off my vest. My hands balled into fists, and a nerve twinged in my left shoulder, but I stood still. He wiped the glitter on the end of my nose and tugged a strand of my chin-length, pink hair. "You look good. I don't want to have to mess you up."
"I made a promise, and I've kept it."
"Let's hope your word is as good as your dye job." Weiland stepped out of my airspace, and I breathed in a refreshing lungful of sweaty pheromones. "We're watching you."
He made his way for the exit like a shiny black iceberg, slow and insistent. The drunks and pinches stumbled and fell out of his way in a wave of technicoloured confusion. When I was sure he had left the building, I went for the stairs.
The bartender's nasal voice cut through the throbbing bassline. "What about my tip?"
I flipped him a metallic finger and pushed my way into the crush of bodies. The back stairs were a narrow tunnel of dirty black paint and suggestive graffiti that glowed under the club lights like holographic PornoPop ads. I had no burning desire to see what kind of sleazy digs the techRose pros were working, but if my girl was up there, I'd plug my nose and like it just fine.
A couple of glam boys were sucking on each other's faces on the staircase. I grabbed the top one and hauled them out of my way with my upgrade. They stuck together like mollusks and didn't miss a beat when I shoved them back into the crowd. An androgynous person with a shaved head and a long pink robe peered at me from the shadows of the tunnel. A puddle of questionable liquid pooled at the base of the stairs. I wrapped my metal fingers around the rail and hoisted myself over it and onto the third step.
Something caught my vest and yanked me backwards. I twisted just far enough to land on both feet in the ooze. Perfectly good pair of treads, ruined. A mug that was all jaw glowered down at me with piggy little eyes squinting out of folds of pasty pink flesh. The bouncer let go of my vest and grabbed the front of my shirt.
"That's her, Bug." A greasy little man peeked out from behind the thug's elbow. "Show her the street."
The bouncer blinked his eyes at me and seemed like he was thinking about it. I put my hands up. "C'mon, LeRoy. Call off your goon. I've got a job to do."
"You've got a hell of a lot of nerve, Marlowe." LeRoy Lemieux was five feet of fury wrapped up in an orange suit that screamed louder than techRose's sound system. He bounced on his toes like Terra Firma's tiniest prizefighter and bulged his pumped-up amphetamine eyes at me. "I seen you chatting up that slick dick detective. I seen it with my own eyes."
The thug twisted his fingers into my shirt, making it hard to breathe.
"I'm not working with the PD, LeRoy." I tugged at the bouncer's hand with my soft fingers and let the prosthesis hang limply at my side. No need to flash my goods if I didn't have to. LeRoy couldn't afford security goons with all their neural pistons firing, let alone with cybernetic upgrades. I didn't want to hurt the idiot. "Even if I wanted to, they wouldn't have me."
"I don't need your kinda trouble in my club, sister." An oily black curl broke free of LeRoy's coif and dangled between his jumpy black eyes. "I seen you, and I don't like what I seen. Show the lady the pavement, Bug. Let her feel it."
The bouncer blinked again and grunted. The command finally hit the lump of flesh inside his cranium, and he heaved me off the ground. My boots dangled above the puddle, dripping electric green bile. The goon turned slowly, like he wasn't quite sure where he was supposed to be going with his load. LeRoy spun on his heels and twitched his way toward the exit, his suit glowing like a pylon.
A shriek like tearing metal ricocheted down the stairwell toward us, and the bouncer paused. LeRoy whipped his greasy head around and hit me with a beady-eyed glare. His eyes twitched to the top of the stairs and then back to me. LeRoy vibrated on the spot, torn between competing urges. The lunk couldn't be trusted to find the door on his own, but that scream had come from his merchandise.
I swung my prosthesis into the bouncer's kidney and gave him a little extra hydraulic kick for fun. His maw opened like the gates of hell, and a burst of air like the off-gas from an outhouse hit me in the face. The piggy eyes disappeared into slimy pink folds of flesh, and the bouncer dropped like a lump of putty onto the grimy floor. I hit the ground running. LeRoy reacted fast, but when he tried to cut past me, I let him kiss the wall. The phantom arm beneath the cybernetic one screamed in protest. I ignored it, dodging glow-ups and dazed dancers like a pinball pro.
Another shriek tore through the techno pounding from the dance floor. Clubbers near the stairwell glanced vaguely at the corridor and shuffled their way into the crowd and away from the action. An orange blur slipped by on my left, and I reached for him with metal fingers. Missed. But LeRoy's heels slid in the puddle at the bottom of the stairwell, and I hit him hard from behind. I launched myself over his prone body with a boot on his narrow shoulder, plastering him into the steps.
A pale-skinned girl with white hair and barely enough clothes to dress a doll scrambled down the stairs toward us. Mascara-black tears streaked down her face like claw marks, and she grabbed onto my vest with long, silver fingernails, screaming.
"She's dead!" The girl dropped onto the stairs, dragging at my collar with her painted talons. "Somebody killed her. She's dead."
I picked the girl up and pushed her into LeRoy where he was peeling himself off the stairs. He went down in the slime again, shouting, "Stop her. Bug, you idiot, what am I paying you for? Stop her!"
But I was way ahead of them. I flew through the glowing, black tunnel toward the dressing rooms with a sick feeling in my chest.
It was my girl, I knew it.
It was my girl and I was too late.