Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 10
Jun 2011 03

Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 10

Posted In Blog,Books,Entertainment,Fiction,Geek,Internuts

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the tenth installment of our Fiction Friday sci-fi series, Marco and the Red Granny, which is brought to you by SG columnist Mighty Mur a.k.a. cyber commentator Mur Lafferty.

Marco and the Red Granny is set in a not-so-distant future where an alien species, the Li-Jun, has transformed the moon into the new artistic center of the universe, where the Sally Ride Lunar Base soon gains the nickname “Mollywood.” These aliens can do amazing things with art and the senses, allowing a painting, for example, to stimulate senses other than sight.

In the previous installments, Marco, a writer whose career has long been in the doldrums, gets a surprise call from an agent he thought he no longer had, informing him that he had received an offer from Mollywood for a much coveted Li-Jun patronage.

Keen to catch up career-wise with his ex-GF Penelope, who’d unceremoniously dumped him after being recruited by the Li-Jun two years earlier, Marco jumps on the next shuttle to the moon. Once aboard, he finds himself sitting next to a seemingly unassuming old lady called Heather, who turns out to be The Red Granny, a legend in Li-Jun’s reality show world for being a three-time champion of The Most Dangerous Game (which requires contestants to sign away the rights to their life).

After settling into his new accommodations at House Blue, Marco has a brief meeting with his new patron, a Li-Jun called Thirteen. It’s only then that Marco realizes he’s never been shown the terms of his employment, and a sense of unease sets in. That evening, Marco is taken on a trip to see The Red Granny in action in The Most Dangerous Game. After a bloody battle, the senior reality TV star is again victorious. The viciousness of the game however, leaves The Red Granny unconscious, and Marco shocked, disturbed, and in need of a stiff drink.

Unfortunately stiff drinks are frowned upon by the Li-Jun, so at the 2Two2, a bar specifically created for humans, Marco has to console himself with a fisheye – a drink that tastes of oranges and spice, and contains the story A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As soon as he finishes it, a second drink appears in front of him. When he asks who bought it, the barkeep points to a woman across the room who looks suspiciously like Penelope. Deciding to call it a night, Marco is escorted home to House Blue.

The next day, Marco learns first hand about the process that enables the Li-Jun to put taste into paintings, music into pie, and stories into (nonalcoholic) beverages. Having had his deepest and most depraved memories dredged and thoroughly probed by the aliens so they can be monitored and recorded, Marco finally sees the terms of his contract. Having accepted the Li-Jun’s too-good-to-refuse offer, Marco feels that though he’s been handed everything he ever wanted, somehow the reality of it is hollow…

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 10
Two weeks later, Marco was in his office in an artist colony. His prominence at House Blue had given him a top floor office with a window looking out over the city, with a specific angle on Plait Park. To the south of the park was Burns Studios where House Verdant produced movies, and Pamela’s Peak, a music studio built into a hill with natural moon rock walls providing perfect noise dampening.

Twenty thousand words into his new graphic novel script and he was stuck.

He ran his hand through his hair, noting the need for another haircut. “Fuck. I need a drink,” he muttered. Heather had shown him the best Li-Jun restaurants, and he’d discovered some new Earth cuisines he hadn’t had a chance to try at home, but he hadn’t actually had a drink at a bar, something so simple.

Time spent with her, when she wasn’t training, was odd. He found himself more agitated, but more grounded at the same time. He was both happier and more likely to question his patronage, even though he had experienced no problems since the initial mapping. Heather always made him tea and listened intently.

He knew the Li-Jun frowned on alcohol, but it wasn’t completely forbidden. He was allowed to go anywhere on Ride Base. He was an adult, right? He got up from his sparse desk, locked down his computer, and left his office.

He’d become pretty familiar with the Li-Jun section of the city, and had even gotten to know some of the other authors in his colony. He was surprised to see his office was beside one of his favorite authors, Kay Ng, and he was much too shy to talk to her for the first few weeks. But he finally introduced himself and found her friendly and welcoming, but distracted.

None of the artists would talk about their mapping experiences.

It still invaded his dreams, sometimes. His memories, his senses, overwhelming and drowning him, making him frightened and delighted and horny and angry all at once. He’d developed a bad habit of chewing on his lip, worrying the sore skin there whenever he remembered the experience.

He went back to his room and changed from his House Blue outfit to his old clothes. He carried his satchel with his tablet with him, putting on the House Blue light jacket from his wardrobe. Seven saw him and he waved, saying he was going to a coffee house to write. He still hadn’t warmed to the brusque alien, but he found if he did his work, Seven left him alone.

He and Heather were still the only humans in House Blue.

Marco made his way to the monorail and when he got on the shuttle, he took off the jacket and stuffed it in the satchel. He sat down near a human family and watched the city flow by.

He had learned depressingly little about the lunar colony since joining House Blue. Six and Seven were always willing to take him out, but only to Two2Two or to watch The Most Dangerous Game from their box. But the games weren’t as exciting without the Red Granny to root for, and the blood sports disgusted him.

He’d visited some shops to modify his wardrobe, always with escort, but he had his own credit card and it was never said that he wasn’t permitted to go into the city.

The train emerged from a tunnel into a market area that swarmed with people. With a “daytime” that lasted fifteen earth days, and people from all around the world residing in the colony, many areas were open all the time. There wasn’t much of a slow time on the moon; when the Americans were hitting the bars, the Filipinos were hitting the breakfast joints.

“So many people,” Marco muttered. He’d known Mollywood had about three million residents, but he never really thought about how many that was when you didn’t allow for suburbs. There would be no expanding (unless the Li-Jun facilitated it, of course), no suburban sprawl to get away from the city. The high rises and, he later found, the tunnel residences, were all they had.

Only needing two earth hours to rest a day, the Li-Jun kept to the GMT time zone, and most of their artists did too. So the people he encountered while out were either western European, or artists of all nationalities with alien patrons.

“Restaurant district, world cuisine, and pubs,” the robotic voice said over their heads in English, then Spanish, then Mandarin, then Cantonese, then Hindi, then in a couple of dialects Marco didn’t recognize. He rose to his feet and exited the monorail.

In the Li-Jun section of the city, his clothing was immediately recognized as being of Li-Jun quality, and he was assumed to be a very wealthy man with alien tastes or an artist with patronage. In other parts of the moon it was easier to blend in. Here, the humans noticed Li-Jun clothes only when the aliens themselves wore them, which was on rare or special occasions. The aliens also rarely went to the human areas, so spotting one (or being spotted by one) was unlikely.

Marco considered a Chinese restaurant, then a Japanese, then Mexican, and nearly entered an Indian doorway when he noticed stairs down from the street with an old-fashioned shingle hanging from the doorway. “PROPULSION” it said, and underneath it was a wooden carving of an astronaut opening a beer in space and being blown back by the force of the carbonation.

Gin. That’s what he needed. He’d get food after.

He went down the sticky steps and entered the bar.

A strong sickly odor of beer hit his nostrils and he winced. It had been a while since he’d had a drink, but he didn’t expect it to be this overpowering. Three people slumped at the bar, two women and a man, and the barkeep eyed him over a pint glass, his bushy eyebrows knitting together as if he pegged Marco as a stranger.

A man slumped in the corner, overcoat pulled around him, and snored quietly. Two men argued in a booth, trying to keep their slurred voices down, clearly failing. It sounded like a lover’s quarrel.

Marco approached the bar. “Can I get a gin and tonic?” he asked.

The barkeep looked him up and down. “Aren’t you a little far from home?” he asked, his British accent thick.

Marco knew what he meant, but he said, “We all are. About 240,000 miles, right?”

“You’re a pet of those aliens. You sure you should be here?”

Marco shrugged uncomfortably. “Are you saying you won’t serve me? My money is as good elsewhere.”

The barkeep’s bushy brown eyebrows rose slightly. Marco wondered if he was supposed to be shamed or embarrassed for working with the Li-Jun. The barkeep began pouring well gin into a glass. “Not saying that at all. Just figured you would know the aliens don’t like drunks.”

“One drink does not a drunk make,” Marco said, sitting down on a stool and passing his credit card to the bartender.

“It’s not where you start, mate, it’s where you finish.” The bartender put his drink down. “Call me when you need another one.”

Marco nodded and sipped at his drink, wincing at the cheap, flowery taste. This was not a night for fine cocktails.

The bartender returned and slid something across the bar. It looked like a pack of gum. “There. On the house. You’ll need them for your return.”

“Look, they never said I couldn’t drink,” Marco argued, shoving the pack back. “What’s the big deal?”

One of the men slumped at the bar spoke up, looking at his empty pint glass. With an American accent, he said, “You want to find out the big deal, then you go back tonight with gin on your breath and a stagger to your step.”

Marco looked around, uncomfortable heat rising to his face. He looked at the exposed neck of the bartender, and of the American man. The bartender had a 6 tattooed on the side of his neck. The American man had a 9. The other people at the bar, whose necks he could see, anyway, were adorned with a 1, another 9, and 2.

Alcoholic’s Guild, he thought. Just my luck. Oddly, he knew more about the protocol of dealing with guild members than he knew about the Li-Jun when he reached Mollywood, and when the bartender offered him another drink, he did not turn it down.

Marco indicated the tattoo on the bartender’s neck. “If the Li-Jun don’t like alcohol, then why don’t they kick you guys out of the colony?”

“You mean besides the fact that Earth won’t have us?”

Marco shrugged. “Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“The press love us. The poor drunken slobs who celebrate their sickness and can never go home so long as we got these on our necks.” He pointed to his 6. “If the Li-Jun kicked us out, it would not be a quiet thing. And the press might ask why they don’t want alcohol or bars anywhere, and the Li-Jun don’t want to answer that direct question. So they regulate it. Heavily. They try to keep their pets out of bars. So that’s why we’re trying to keep you safe, puppy.”

Marco swallowed his gin, deliberately not rising to the barb. He turned to the American man to ask him a question, but the man had focused on the door to their right. Opposite the door to the street, it looked to be the door that opened to the tunnels. Everyone in the bar, including the man slumped on the floor, straightened a little when two people came through.

One was a little man, no more than five and a half feet, with black, slicked back hair and a nice suit. In one hand was a golden flask. Around his neck was a crucifix and tattooed on his neck was a 12. The bar focused on the man, but it was the woman beside him whom Marco couldn’t stop staring at.

Her black hair was longer, but she no longer wore the turtleneck. She proudly displayed the black 11 on her neck as her bloodshot eyes focused on him.

“Penelope?”

***
Excerpt from the Marco and the Red Granny, published by Restless Brain Media at Smashwords. Copyright 2010 Mur Lafferty.

Mur Lafferty is an author and podcast producer. She has released several works via audio podcast, including her novel Playing For Keeps, the novellas in the Heaven series, the audio drama The Takeover, and many others. She’s won the Parsec Award and the Podcast Peer award. Her published works include Playing For Keeps (Swarm), Nanovor: Hacked (Running Press Kids), and Tricks of the Podcasting Masters (Que), not to mention several short stories. She is the host of I Should Be Writing and the Angry Robot podcasts, as well as the editor of Escape Pod, the sci-fi audio magazine. Marco and the Red Granny was originally published as the premier podcast serial at Hub Magazine, and is available for Kindle via Amazon.

Mur lives in Durham, NC with her husband, Jim Van Verth, their daughter, and two dogs. You can find her in the Murverse, at Smashwords and on Twitter.

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