The spread of a mysterious illness has made any contact with unfiltered air near-instantly fatal, forcing humanity to survive within specially constructed bubbles. Sex - or indeed any other form of skin-to-skin contact - has ceased to exist. That doesn't stop former full-body-pool player and accidental matricide Colin Hinchcliff from wanting it, though, or from lusting after the alluring stripper known as Siren.
Meanwhile, a Serial Killer called Kill Ball is on the loose. Wearing a pitch-black bubble with an extendable knife, he specialises in killing strippers by puncturing their bubbles. And as Colin tries to impress Siren, he ends up right in Kill Ball's path.
This novella contains examples of:
- Ambiguous Disorder: Colin's thought process is decidedly off, especially where Siren is concerned (he never seems to consider that her dancer persona is probably not the same as her real self, or even that "Siren" probably isn't what her mother named her), but it's hard to tell just how stupid / insane he actually is and in what way. Especially since the entire world he lives in is also decidedly off.
- Artistic License Biology: Humans turn out to be evolving into two different new species. Not humanity, mind you - individual humans, within a single lifetime, are transforming into new species. It's stated outright that this is nowhere close to how evolution works, but it's still what's happening in the story.
- Bubble Boy: Every single person on the planet is walking around in a plastic bubble, and any contact with the air is fatal.
- Clear My Name: Colin ends up suspected of being Kill Ball, due to a combination of having a well-known Dark and Troubled Past, being known to frequent strip clubs, and having a similar-looking type of bubble (most people's bubbles are painted to look like faces, but Colin's is painted to look like an eight-ball - black with a white circle with a black eight in it - while Kill Ball's is plain black).
- Collective Identity: Kill Ball is actually a pair of conjoined twins within a weaponised bubble.
- Cool Loser: Colin is presented as a hapless loser pining for a girl who barely knows he exists and with a quickly depleting bank account, and his emotions do seem to be oddly stunted. However, he's also a former professional athlete and in exceptional physical shape.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Kill Ball targets strippers. Because they're in the process of evolving into a new species that's immune to the disease, and Kill Ball's masters want to keep people confined to their bubbles and thus easier to control.
- I'm Melting!: The result of being exposed to unfiltered air.
- Intangibility: The energy bodies of blues can move through solid matter at will, though they're still hampered by having to remain in contact with their regular human bodies, which can't. Once they reach the end of their evolution, they can leave their human bodies behind completely.
- One-Man Army: Kill Ball's bubble is effectively a miniature tank, capable of mowing down hordes of even other battle-adapted bubbles with ease.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: "Siren" is explicitly a stage name, but we never find out her real name - mostly since it never occurs to Colin that it's not her real name, so he doesn't ask.
- Rule of Cool: The author admits in the foreword that it makes no sense for humans to hide from contaminated air by walking around in giant bubbles, but the idea was just so wonderfully stupid that it needed to be written.
- Self-Made Orphan: Colin killed his mother at age four. He just wanted to hug her, so he cut open her bubble, not realising that contact with the air would kill her. This caused his father to turn abusive, so as a teenager Colin ended up killing him in self-defense.
- Stalking Is Love: Zigzaged. Colin thinks he loves Siren, and his attentions turn out to not be entirely unwelcome, but she still flatly tells him at one point that they don't actually know each other or owe each other anything. The ending sees them alive and on friendly terms, but it's not stated definitely whether they end up together or not.
- Synthetic Plague: The disease forcing people into bubbles is claimed to be one of those, engineered by a conspiracy of sex-hating conservatives.