Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 13
Jun 2011 24

Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 13

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

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the thirteenth 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. However, humans remain suspicious of the Li-Jun’s emotion-imbued goods, so while their entertainment can be beamed back to earth, a trade embargo prevents anything from being physically imported to the planet.

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 has 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 hastily 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 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 Marco settles for an early night

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. He ultimately accepts the Li-Jun’s too-good-to-refuse offer, and embarks on his new life at House Blue. However, though he’s been handed everything he ever wanted, somehow the reality of it is hollow.

Twenty thousand words into his new graphic novel, with his first deadline looming, Marco suffers from a severe case of writers block, and searches for inspiration in the bottom of a glass that’s actually had something worth drinking in it. To this end, he stumbles across an illicit drinking establishment on the seedier side of the moon which turns out to be run by a collective of folks who are strictly persona non grata as far as the Li-Jun are concerned – The Alcoholic’s Guild. There Marco has an uneasy encounter with a glass or three of gin, his ex-GF Penelope, who is now going by the name Knowledge, and her AG sponsor, Defect. After downing one too many drinks, Marco begins to get a sense of exactly how severe of an infraction the Li-Jun consider the consumption of alcohol to be.

While attempting to conceal his inebriation as he sneaks back into House Blue, Marco is caught red handed by his Li-Jun keeper Seven (it was probably his spontaneous vomiting that gave him away). The punishment is a second bout of mind raping/mapping. Afterwards, with his patronage in jeopardy, Heather gives him a special necklace to calm his nerves and promises to plead his case with Thirteen.

The following morning, Heather takes Marco on a behind-the-scenes tour of the secret areas of House Blue where the Li-Jun infuse emotion into art. The Red Granny also reveals that everything created in Mollywood will soon be permitted to be legally imported back to earth. Duly inspired and placated, Marco is allowed to resume his patronage.

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 13
The next week, Marco was kidnapped twice, both in the same day.

He’d spent the time writing and illustrating, mostly in his room, but he remembered he liked his office, too. Heather had shown him more of the Li-Jun imbuing process, fascinating stuff. What had really interested him was when the Li-Jun would imbue emotions within weaponry.

“Once we realized we could imbue emotions into sculpture, we wondered what happened if we put despair into a knife blade,” Thirteen had said.

Something had clicked within Marco’s head. “The Most Dangerous Game. That’s how Heather got that last guy! She didn’t kill him, she just made him not want to live, and so he was easy to finish off!”

“Exactly. This can make wars a thing of the past, the ultimate disarm.”

Again Marco felt that niggling feeling that something was wrong about this, but he couldn’t place it.

The next day went to his office, where Knowledge was waiting for him.

He’d nearly forgotten about her. No, he had forgotten about her. How was that possible? He opened his mouth to greet her, but a bag was thrown over his head and he felt himself lifted. He struggled and flailed, but strong arms threw him into a chair and bound him with rope.

“So it’s true then,” Knowledge’s voice said. “We suspected but we weren’t sure.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? Let me go, Penelope.”

“It’s Knowledge now, Marco. And we’ve suspected for months that they were developing mind control. You proved it.”

“What? Mind control? Are you insane?” He struggled in his chair again, and then went limp. “What do you want from me?”

The bag was lifted and he recognized the bartender, Defects, from the other evening. The other man was the one with the 12 on his neck; Spiritual Awakenings, the Guild leader.

Marco took a deep breath, letting the calm take over. “Listen, I don’t know what you’re talking about. They’re not controlling my mind, I’m in full control.”

Knowledge crossed her arms. “Oh yeah? Why did you never come back to the bar?”

“I- ” Marco stopped. He had promised to return, why hadn’t he? He just hadn’t thought about it. There’d been no urgency to do so.

He felt fingers at his neck, and he looked up at Spiritual Awakenings, who traced the leather ties of his necklace. “Ah, the necklace. Deceptive; it’s not as fancy as their usual stuff.”

“Hey, Heather gave that to me,” he protested as Spiritual Awakenings took out a knife. Marco winced as the cold knife slid down his neck, but the man sliced through his necklace and removed it, dropping it to the floor as if it were a tapeworm.

Adrenaline flooded Marco and he reeled from the shock of it. “Holy shit, what’s going on?”

“Check him for other things,” Spiritual Awakening said, handing the knife to Defects. Spiritual Awakenings stepped around to where he faced Marco.

“The Li-Jun started mixing the arts when they encountered humans, and it was amazing,” the small man said. “But at some point they discovered we had nostalgia attached to these senses, and more importantly, they could tap into them as easily as they manipulate our senses. Whereas before they could weave a story into a dress or a song into a cake, now they can put the emotions and memories tied to those senses into things. They can make a song that gives you murderous rage, or a bottle of wine that makes you fall in love. For their own pet humans, they can create a necklace to make you calm and docile like a sheep, never thinking to turn against them.”

“But why are they doing this? It’s everyone’s dream to get a patronage, why would they need us docile?”

Knowledge grinned without humor. “Marco, honey, you know that the patronage isn’t what you hoped it would be. It starts with the artist mapping, and continues with them marking your every movement, denying you alcohol, and other controlling things. You’re making a ton of money, but are you doing anything with it?”

Marco frowned. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“This is why we are worried about the mind control,” Spiritual Awakenings said. “They have some plan for the Earth, as the embargo against imported Li-Jun clothing and food was just lifted. Who knows what they’re shipping home?”

Marco stared at him. He felt an almost audible click. “They’re a peaceful race with no army. This is how they take over.”

Spiritual Awakenings nodded. “It’s how they enslave.”

“So what do we do about it?” Marco asked.

“That’s what the Guild is for,” Spiritual Awakenings said. “The Li-Jun hate alcohol because it dampens the effects of their influence. If you had a couple of shots, and then put that collar back on, you wouldn’t feel its effects.”

Marco looked down at the necklace with distaste. Then he looked at Knowledge in a panic. “What do I do now? I won’t put it back on, but I can’t go back without it.”

“We’ll make one for you. They may not be able to tell the difference, since they can’t feel our nostalgia the same way we do,” Spiritual Awakening answered. “Just stay here and work, we’ll be back in an hour or so.”

“Yeah? And then what?” Marco said, panic flooding him again. He couldn’t go back, not now. Did Heather know? Was she in compliance with all this?

“We’ll come back with a plan to help you keep your cover. We need you on the inside. Will you work with the Guild?”

Marco nodded. “Looks like I don’t have a choice. Although I would likely trust you more if you untied me.”

***
The second kidnapping came soon after the Guild had left, with Marco still ruminating on what he had learned, and the kiss on the cheek Knowledge had left him. Marco sat at his desk, peering out over the bright city and didn’t hear his office door open. He did feel the strong tentacles planted over his face, holding a rag to his mouth. He struggled, but he knew immediately he’d be no match for Seven of House Blue.

***
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.

Catch Up With Marco and the Red Granny:
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 1
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 2
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 3
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 4
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 5
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 6
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 7
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 8
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 9
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 10
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 11
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 12

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