“Miss Bulletproof Comes Out of Retirement” by Louis Evans (5042 words)
No Spoilers: Miss Bulletproof is out of the game. What is the game? Dealing with dime store deities who sometimes need to be put in their place hard. Most impervious, Miss Bulletproof has retired, has two kids a wife who you do not want to wake up. But in her prime she did a lot of work, and it seems that one of those jobs has come back, as a god shows up in her kitchen with an offer to reconnect with another fixer who she worked with a long time ago. And it’s not like she can’t use the money. For the kids. Except that, of course, it doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to. Not that Miss Bulletproof is without resources, but that being out of the game for so long means that she might be a little rusty, and in the game, that can often be fatal. The piece is fun, well built, and has some wonderful character work. It’s gritty without being super grim, efficient and deep enough to be satisfying while leaving room where I’d be very willing to revisit the setting and characters.
Keywords: Gods, Marriage, Family, Bargains, Queer MC
Review: I really like the way the story engages with its tropes, the tough who has exited the game and started a family, pulled back in for one last job. Miss Bulletproof comments on this herself, the way that it feels good, the way its tempting, seductive. In part because those kids are starting to get to an age where they need less supervision, where maybe Miss Bulletproof will have some time, some freedom that she hasn’t had in a while. Not that she doesn’t love her kids, but that there’s a part of her that liked her job, and a part of her that misses it. And that’s used against her so well, twisting her desire to prove that she still has what it takes to make her vulnerable, to make her make a series of mistakes. At the same time, the voice of the story really pops, brash and confident and powerful. Miss Bulletproof has been through a lot, and is helped by being largely indestructible. She’s not intimidated by gods who are full of threats and teeth, and I like that the story doesn’t exactly punish her for it. Those gods are dangerous, yes, but at the same time it’s them who underestimate her, even as she does underestimate them to some degree as well. It’s an interesting dynamic, and makes for some tense action.
And perhaps it’s fitting that given the story is full of gods, the resolution comes with the help of a Deus Ex Machina. Miss Bulletproof is saved. And yes, there’s a sense that maybe that’s too easy. But at the same time, I think it underscores so much that the story sets up. That for all that Mis Bulletproof is rusty, for all that she’s been out of the game, she’s not weaker. Not really. Just because she’s not used to taking care of business on her own doesn’t mean that she’s worse off. Indeed, having a wife means that she is more taken care of. Means that she doesn’t have to take everything on herself. It speaks to the ways that she changed, grown, come to care about more than just herself. It’s reflected in the way she doesn’t run when she could have, when she stays because she’s unwilling to leave someone to be tortured and killed. Even when it risks herself. The important thing is that she has changed. She’s not the same person as she was when she was working. And maybe it means she’s not as good at the game. But that’s just because the game is brutal, corrupt, unfair. She’s started playing a different game, and it’s woe to whoever tries to break the rules of the new game she’s playing. She might be betrayed, but at risk, but she’s never wrong. She never sacrifices anyone or betrays anyone. And she wins. Not alone, maybe, but she didn’t have to. It still makes for a fun and bracing story, and a fantastic read!