If you’re interested in cyberware, sci-fi trans-humanism, and an incredible amount of sassy characters, then you’re going to want to sit down for this book. From Rebellion Publishing, Aubrey Wood’s debut novel Bang Bang Bodhisattva gets an exclusive cover reveal and excerpt on io9.
Bang Bang Bodhisattva follows a trans woman hacker-for-hire who, in an attempt to make rent, teams up with a luddite P.I. to solve a murder she’s been falsely accused of. A unique hard-boiled detective / science fiction mash-up story unfolds, with a vibrant and diverse cast of characters.’
Combine the attitude of Gideon the Ninth with the noir pastiche of Archer Dreamland, and you have a pretty good idea about what this book is going to deliver. Here’s the full cover, making its first media showing on io9, followed by the pulse-pounding first chapter.
The big idiot’s robot fist plowed into Kiera’s face like a bullet train splattering a little baby bunny. As evenings go, this was a net loss.
Kiera spun out and hit carpet. A moment later Herrera dropped down next to her. Their eyes met. Herrera brushed his perfect nose with his fingertips.
“Hey, kid, you’ve got a little’…”
Kiera touched her face. Nose blood poured down her front. She gurgled, “Th-thanks.”
The goon grabbed her by the collar—this was the big Black goon in the black suit, the other one was a white guy and wore a white suit; they looked like opposing chess pieces or ice cream bars—and she had a moment to blearily admire his hands. Slick black shells with leafy gold filigree and soft rubber fingertips. Nice prosthetics, Kiera thought in a fog. They look expensive.
The lummox with the nice hands hurled Kiera through a doorway, and she tumbled across a tacky rug into a room with some outdated monitors and a big safe. Herrera, courtesy of the white goon, followed promptly.
“Mr. Carson says you’re not allowed in his clubs anymore, Herrera,” said the white one. The Black one shut the door.
“Hey, stupid,” Herrera wheezed, rolling to face Kiera. “Remember that thing I gave you?”
She groaned, “Uhh. Uh-huh.”
“Take it out and push the red button.”
The white goon knelt down and, with cyber-hands the color of fine white chocolate, started punching the shit out of poor Herrera, who grunted and howled like—Kiera hated that she was reminded of this—someone bottoming for the first time. The other big boy was coming for her.
Kiera dug into the front of her underwear, where she’d stashed the little gray device so it would just look like her dick bulge when the bouncers checked her for weapons. She pulled it out, thrust it up in the air, and pushed a perfectly thumb-sized red button on the side.
The world burned to white. Something shrieked in Kiera’s ears and she yelped, surprised and horrified.
She dropped the little thing. She blinked floaters out of her vision, and her smart-ear buzzed like old-school dial-up. When she could make things out again, the Black goon was rotating his fingers in his ears. The white one had flipped out his dark lenses and was furiously massaging his eyes.
Herrera, the only one who’d been prepared for the flashbang, was already up and snatching a good ol’ aluminum baseball bat, handily stashed on top of a file cabinet—if Kiera hadn’t just pushed that button, the big boys had probably been getting ready to swipe right on her kneecaps with that thing. Herrera beaned the white guy on the dome like he was going for a goddamn carnival prize, and then the Black one straight across the face, shattering his lenses. Both gorillas hit the floor like sacks of human concrete.
In the dystopian future, the simple solutions are still sometimes the most effective, thought Kiera. Lol.
Herrera brushed his nose again and motioned at the Black goon with his fingers. He chuckled hoarsely.
“Hey-y-y, look, kid. Now he’s got a little’…”
“Yeah, funny a-ha-ha-ha-ha.” Kiera tried to blow her nose and it hurt and sprayed blood all over her hands.
“My goddamn nose.” She tried to inhale, and it made a loud stubborn snuck. “It’s broken, I think. I don’t have health insurance, you dick. Why didn’t you warn me what that little thingy did?”
The processes in Herrera’s head visibly churned, overclocking whatever burnt-out bent bottlecap passed for his brain. “I thought you knew!”
“How would I—ugh. Okay. Can we go?”
Herrera slipped out the door into the hallway. He kept the bat. Kiera followed.
He led her down a hallway filled with lights that turned everything pink. After the punch in the face and the flashbang, she was developing an express migraine. The music from the club downstairs pounded through the floor and walls and seeped into her head, the way radiation gets into groundwater. She had tight, throbbing fists of blood in her nose and lobes.
“I better be getting five stars,” Kiera insisted.
Herrera didn’t turn around. “Of course, kid, of course.”
“And a review?”
“And a tip for breaking my fucking nose.”
“Kid, I am two seconds from rolling you up in a carpet.”
They found a stairwell and climbed up a floor. A bald guy with mirror-eyes got half of “Hey—” out before Herrera clocked him for a home run and he went down.
Kiera squatted and fished around in mirror-eyes’ jacket and holsters. He had a gun, a collapsible baton, and—
“Gotcha gotcha.” Kiera had seen the bouncers outside wearing the blue and yellow stun pistols on their hips. She took it.
A masculine voice from down the hall: “What the fuck are you doing!”
More trouble had found them. While Herrera put his hands up and tried to think of a line, Kiera whirled left and fired the stun gun—all reflex, no hesitation. A white pin stuck in the suit’s chest, and he convulsed and pissed himself before dropping.
“Mechanical-automatical,” Kiera murmured, cool enough to say it aloud but not so cool that she wanted anyone to hear her. She wished she could slip the stunner into a hip holster but settled for holding the tip near her lips.
Herrera put his hands down. “Why’d you go for the stunner and not the real gun?”
“I don’t want to fucking kill anyone,” Kiera said, as if his question was idiotic, because it was. “You’re in enough trouble with Carson anyway, aren’t you?”
“That’s my smart girl.”
Herrera took her to a door at the end of the hall. It was locked—but just by an old metal lock, with a great big keyhole.
“Oh, I can do this one.” Kiera began to reach into her messenger bag.
Herrera swung the bat down like a katana and smashed the handle clean off. Kiera rolled her eyes.
“Or that, I guess? Why did you even bring me?”
Herrera did not answer her. He kicked the door open. In the room there was a big four-poster bed and really tacky fluoro blue and pink lighting. A doughy man lay on the bed with three—strippers? Prostitutes? Both? All in varying states of undress, and with assorted mechanized limbs. The man saw Herrera and Kiera, and scrambled to cover himself, hollering hysterically. The women were
nonplussed, if Kiera had ever seen a situation suited for such a word.
“Wh-what! What the hell! What the shit!”
Herrera’s left eye made a flash-burst of white light, then another, throwing sex worker shadow-puppets on the far wall.
“Your husband says hello.”
Herrera wagged his eyebrows, grabbed Kiera’s wrist, and yanked her back out into the hall.
A gunshot blammed and a chunk of the wooden doorframe exploded into splinters behind her. Kiera’s heart kicked up and acid fear spider-fingered out across her ribs, as the evening suddenly plunged from shitty but probably a good story to oh my god I’m going to fucking die.
“Jesus Jesus Jesus ohhh, I’m getting shot at,” Kiera blathered. “I’m getting shot at! I am done with you after this, I’m done. Do you hear me, I’m done!”
“Not the time, not the time, not the time.”
“For god’s sake,” Mr. Cheater back there screamed in a panic, “someone stop them! Shoot them!”
They stepped over the incapacitated guard and Kiera tripped down the stairs, almost wiping out. When they got to the pink hallway, the black and white big fellas were stumbling around getting their sea legs back. And they were blocking the way out.
“Stun gun still good?” Herrera asked hurriedly.
“Get the right.”
Kiera popped off her second shot and hit the Black goon in the pec. He convulsed like someone was shaking a giant baby and slumped all the way down. Herrera reached the white one before he could get a gun out and clop-thok, first the knee then the back of the head with the bat. Smooth
sailing all the way to the stairs. Kiera followed Herrera down the next stairwell to the club level.
“You know two hits to the head like that can kill him,” Kiera warned, maybe even admonished. “Shit, just one could.”
“Are you being cranky because you have an iron deficiency or something?”
“I am being shot at!”
They hit the main floor and stumbled into the illicit casino-slash-strip club-slash-absolutely a mobster hangout. This place is trying to do too much at once, thought Kiera, numbly, as Herrera dragged her by the wrist past the game tables and then through the dancefloor full of bright-haired freaks (her people). It was dark, choked with vape smoke, noisier than hell and full of bodies in here. They should be able to get lost in the shuffle and escape—
Blam blam—unless the guys with the guns had better vision than Herrera, of course, which wasn’t surprising since his false eye was an ancient piece of shit. Blam blam. People screamed and scattered. They probably thought it was another fucking mass shooting.
“Stop, you fucking morons!” yelled someone. “You’re gonna hit customers!”
It was a fucking miracle they hadn’t already. Had they? Kiera kept running. The door was close—in the way that a stage with your favorite band on it was close when there were layers and layers of moshers between it and you. People were starting to shove their way out. The rap music was still playing, thudding in Kiera’s ears and contributing to her headache.
“My pussy taste better than your girl’s. My titties pop-poppin’, they better than your girl’s.”
Kiera knew this song; her girlfriend loved it. She hoped she would live to see her girlfriend again. She was done after this shit. Doneskis. Outtie five thousand.
Kiera and Herrera hit the gray streets without getting holes in their heads. A cold drizzle kissed Kiera’s cheeks. Her smart-ear jingled. She hissed, “Shut the fuck up!” but of course that wasn’t a valid command. “End call, end call, decline!”
The ringing stopped in time for her to hear two more gunshots and feel the air at her shoulder whip. Someone in front of her with a shaved head took both shots in the back and dropped. Kiera’s heart did a flip and her stomach lurched. No. She threw a look behind her. That guy from the room with the strippers, he was out here on the sidewalk in a blazer and his goddamn underwear waving a gun, and there were two more armed dipshits with him.
Herrera and Kiera moved half a block with the crowd, past a clothing store and a kiosk selling eye-and-ear accessories. Herrera cut left into an alley. He had his phone out—that janky old thing, that brick.
“What are you doing?” Kiera demanded.
“Looking for a car.” He paused. “I’m not logged in. For fuck’s sake, why am I not logged in?”
“Mimi, nearest U-Ride please, nearest U-Ride please, nearest—” Kiera ducked behind a dumpster just before a bullet bit the metal corner and flung sparks.
“Sure, let me get that for you,” the AI assistant answered with an infuriating lilt in Kiera’s left ear. Herrera got up, made a big wide swing, and threw the bat. Kiera heard it clatter into something, and a deep male grunt. Herrera grabbed her and they kept running.
“Anything yet, kid?”
A pixelated blue arrow popped into Kiera’s vision, pointing up and right. “It says three hundred and forty meters, that-a-way.”
“How’s your cardio?”
“I mean, I don’t own a car?”
“Good. I mean, not good, but.”
“Whatever! Fuck! Run! I hate you!”
They sprinted out the other side of the alley and tried to disappear in the crowd, but Herrera’s ridiculous trench coat and Kiera’s Statue of Liberty torch-flame of magenta hair were going to be easy to pick out. “Which way?” asked Herrera. Kiera pointed. Herrera cut straight across the road, almost getting hit; the black car screeched to a stop, blasted its horn, and Herrera hopped and skidded right across the hood. Kiera went for no such theatrics, happy to go around. One of the guns behind them went bang bangand the windshield spiderwebbed and the car chunked forward, speeding off like a scared, overweight cat.
One of those police dog-robots was patrolling on the sidewalk. (They always looked to Kiera more like small, weird giraffes or dumbass brontosauruses.) It turned to face the gunshots, and LEDs along its body lit up red.
“ROOF ROOF ROOF. STOP. CEASE. ROOF. CEASE FIRE. ROOF ROOF. BY ORDER OF THE NEW CARSON POLICE DEPARTMENT. YOU WILL CEASE. ROOF ROOF ROOF.”
Herrera hauled the thing off the ground like he was going to give it the Heimlich. Kiera ducked behind him.
“ROOF ROOF. UNHAND ME. RELEASE ME, CITIZEN ROOF ROOF ROOF.”
“Yeah, yeah, shoot back already, you fuckin’ waste of tax dollars.” The dog’s mounted gun fired a teeth-chatter burst across the street, while Herrera wrestled with the flailing robot to keep it pointed in the right direction.
“CITIZEN, RELEASE ME. ROOF ROOF ROOF, CEASE FIRE.”
Three bullets hit the windows behind Kiera. She yanked on Herrera’s coat collar.
“Okay, enough Die Hard shit, maybe?”
Herrera threw the machine-gun-dog aside. It released staccato bursts of random gunfire like it was farting and struggled in vain to right itself.
Herrera pulled Kiera by her fingers. “You’ve seen Die Hard?”
“I’m thirty, not fifteen.”
They cut through another alley, ran past one of Kiera’s favorite donut shops—would she ever be able to come by here again?—and there was the promised car parked on the opposite corner, an ugly little lime green box. They crossed during a merciful break in traffic and sprinted to the car,
Herrera climbing in the driver’s side and Kiera shotgun.
Kiera scrambled for the keys in the glove compartment and tossed them to Herrera. In just a second the car roared, dashboard and radio lighting up neon green. The first thing Herrera did was back straight into the car behind them, crunch.
Kiera winced. “Nice.”
“Shut up, did you see this parking job? This thing was packed in tighter than your skinny little ass.”
“Don’t talk about my ass like that.”
Herrera pulled the car out and it looked like a straight shot to the next light. Then for a second she was blind. On top of urgent message prompts taking up the sides of her vision, climbing in the U-Ride brought up a full-splash, both-eyes ad for Mamma Mia, which was somehow, yes, to this day, still a thing. Kiera angrily flapped her hands to get rid of it all. When she could see again, the car had
made it halfway to the light. She prepared to relax.
She heard the pepper of gunfire, and the driver-side window shattered. The dashboard chinked and the green lights went out, and Herrera howled.
“Aaah, son of a bitch!”
He let go of the wheel, and the car curved into the wrong lane.
“Whoa!” Kiera grabbed the wheel and wrenched them back just in time to avoid a head-on collision. Herrera clutched his right hand. Kiera saw blood.
“They get you?”
“They got me. Steer. Go left.”
Herrera kept the gas down right into a red light. Kiera clenched everything for, like, the five millionth time that evening. She swung their fugly, ruined lime-green U-Ride around the corner like a shopping cart, almost getting into another accident and making people honk at them, and then held the course steady as they tore off down the next street.
A whole ten seconds passed where they didn’t hear any gunshots. Then fifteen, then twenty.
Herrera stuck his shot hand in his jacket, looked at Kiera, and let out a long snort that rolled into a big laugh.
Kiera blew her broken nose at him, hard. Blood and snot spattered his pretty face. Herrera cringed like he’d sucked a lemon.
Kiera scrunched up her lips, glared at him, and put her eyes back on the road.
Excerpt from Aubrey Wood’s Bang Bang Bodhisattva reprinted by permission of Rebellion Publishing.
Bang Bang Bodhisattva will release in 2023. Preorders will be available on the Rebellion Publishing site soon.
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