Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 7
May 2011 13

Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 7

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

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the seventh 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.

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 7
“I think that went better than expected,” Seven said, but looked to Thirteen for confirmation.

She nodded slowly.

Marco’s mouth hung open. “What are you talking about? What about Heather? Is no one going to get her? Hell, I’ll get her! Where’s the door?”

Seven glanced at him. “You’d die before you’d reach her. Paramedics always go get the winner and administer to her. It’s their job.” As he spoke, Marco caught the odor of a large holiday meal, comforting in its ham and sheer predictability.

Even as Seven said this, two willowy, suited Li-Jun drove a small rover toward Heather, loaded her on the back, and then headed toward an airlock. Other rovers came out of doors to clean up the bodies on the field, and the audience began filing out of the stands.

Marco had changed his mind about drinking. “Where can a human go for a drink around here?” he asked the Li-Jun as they rose to their tentacles.

“We recommend our artists do not drink during their patronage,” Seven said, and Marco got the distinct feeling that the “recommendation” was really a hard and fast rule. An image of a tall, unmovable statue flashed in his mind.

“You don’t want to meet anyone from the Alcoholics Guild,” Thirteen said. “They do not look highly on our patronage and do not treat our artists with respect. The Li-Jun eating establishments are quite good, so I’ll have Seven escort you to 2Two2.”

Marco tried not to show his dismay. “Two-two-two?”

“Numeral 2, the word two, then numeral two again. A Two from House Magenta has opened a bar for humans. It is where the Red Granny supporters usually go. You will enjoy it.”

With one more glance at the monitors where an excited announcer was talking over replays of the bloodshed they’d seen during the evening, Marco followed Seven out of the skybox and onto a walkway.

Again, Marco wished he’d learned more about Li-Jun patronage before heading to Mollywood. He hadn’t realized his connection with The Red Granny would make him a celebrity by association. Once he and Seven entered 2Two2, they were greeted with cheers and back slaps, and two drinks were put into Marco’s hands. They took a seat by the bar where a Li-Jun bartender, a male Nine of House Magenta, informed them that their drinks had been paid for by several cheering fans, all wishing to celebrate Heather’s continued domination of the playing field.

Although the human revelers did shout at Marco and buy him drinks, the presence of Seven seemed to cause them to keep a respectful distance. Marco kept getting a visual of that sleek panther, quiet and calm, but ready to attack if needed.

“Is Heather going to be okay?” Marco persisted as Seven ordered a clear, bubbly drink for himself.

“Our physicians are very advanced compared to yours,” Seven replied. “She has been patched up from much more serious injuries than this. We had to regrow a leg once.”

Marco choked on his fruity drink. “Regrow a leg? She had a leg cut off?”

“Only below the knee. It was a simple procedure.”

Marco shook his head. He was beginning to fully understand the force of The Red Granny and the power she had over her fans.

“So when will she fight again?”

“Not for weeks. The Most Dangerous Game has fifteen first rounds, and then the winning fifteen players will fight in groups of three. The final five will then face off in the championship game.

Marco shuddered. “And people love these games?”

Seven stretched out a tentacle to indicate the boisterous bar. “You have eyes. You tell me.”

Marco eyed the drinks in front of him. “So what am I drinking here?”

Seven pointed a tentacle at one, a mug of steaming orange-brown liquid. “That’s a fisheye. Tastes of oranges and spice, contains the story “A Study in Scarlet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” The tentacle went to the highball glass with three lumps of ice. “That would be a Snellings Three, a powerful blend of sculpture and ice water.”

Marco sipped at the Fisheye and unexpectedly the plot of the Sherlock Holmes classic seeped into his brain. “I can see why the educational system of Earth doesn’t want you around.”

Seven waved a tentacle. “We are no threat. The effects wear off as soon as you’re done with the drink. You remember the experience, but not the details unless you’re already familiar with the art.”

The experience was something Marco hadn’t felt before, and he savored it. Seven was content to sit beside him, and Marco decided the alien had one thing going for him; although he wasn’t friendly, he wasn’t chatty, either.

Another drink was set before him, a glass of red fruit juice. He asked the bartender from where it had come, and the Li-Jun pointed a tentacle.

Marco looked to where the bartender pointed. The woman was perhaps thirty, with black, short hair and bright blue eyes. She waved shyly at him.

Marco’s stomach clenched and he pushed the drink away, untasted. “I think I’ve had enough. Thanks for the drinks,” he said, and stood.

Seven rose smoothly and wrapped two tentacles around Marco’s arms. He tried not to flinch away, but the touch brought with it a sense of dry, warm, kitten paws with tufts of fur tickling him. “Should we go home?” Seven asked.

“Home,” Marco said, thinking of his flat on Earth. “Yes, I’d like to go home.”

***
It couldn’t have been Penelope. She’d had short hair to avoid the horror of shedding one of her long black strands in a pastry. Penelope wore light tops no matter the weather, always being warm, but this woman wore a turtleneck from Earth. It hadn’t been her.

Marco woke up from a dream where he’d been making love to the girl in the bar, undressing her and finding Penelope hiding under the turtleneck, telling him to be quiet and come inside where it was safe.

His mouth tasted like he’d licked a movie theater floor.

He moved a hand over the bed in a furtive attempt to see if he really did have her in his bed, but he was alone.

Alone, that is, until the voice spoke.

“I hear you were worried about me,” she said, her voice amused.

“Gah! Who- Heather? Is that you?”

“It sure is,” she said. “I can turn on a light if you like.”

Without his affirmation, a reading lamp next to a chair flicked on, revealing Heather, again in a simple outfit of slacks and blouse.

“What time is it?” Marco asked, trying to clear his head.

“Five in the morning, GMT,” she said. “Three hundred thirty-five lunar time.”

“Three hundred… never mind. So is this how you haze the new guy. Put me to bed at two and wake me at five?”

She sighed and crossed her legs primly. “I just got released from the hospital. I didn’t feel a need for sleep, and Thirteen told me that you were very concerned about me. I figured I’d let you know that I was all right.”

Marco rubbed his face. “Sure, whatever. Do you have any water? Coffee, maybe?”

Wrapped in his sheets, he couldn’t get the mild feeling of arousal off his mind, and he carefully arranged the sheets to hide this fact as Heather approached. She passed him a glass filled with a slightly orange liquid. “I have something better. This is what the Alcoholics Guild sells. They’re not allowed to sell it on earth.”

“Are you allowed to have it here?” he asked. She smiled at him. He downed it and relaxed, waking up in some ways, calming down in others. He sighed and settled himself against the headboard. “That’s impressive. Thanks.” But as the words “Alcoholics Guild” sank in, he remembered the events of the evening. “Oh, wait, shit, are you all right?”

She smiled. “I’m fine, honey. That’s what I came to tell you.”

“Good,” he said. He studied her, thin arms, tiny body, short legs, all looking as if they break if she fell the wrong way. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”

“I wanted to see how you were holding up. They threw you deep into the lake of House Blue patronage.”

“But that’s just it.” He closed his eyes. “Heather, what am I doing here? I’m not a gladiator warrior like you. And if House Blue doesn’t have any other artists or writers in their house, this is sounding an awful lot like mistake?”

“I’m sure I could not tell you why you are here. It’s true you don’t seem to have the necessary background for the Games,” she said mildly, smiling at the understatement. “Since no one else filled you in, House Blue is a diplomatic house. Perhaps not involved with the ruling houses, but definitely on the front lines of human relations.”

“Then why do they have just two humans in their house?”

She shrugged, not answering. “I do know what they have planned for you tomorrow. Or,” she checked her watch. “Later today. Around three hundred thirty-eight. Do you know anything about how they manage to put taste into paintings, or music into pie?”

He shook his head. “I thought nobody did.”

She waved her hand, dismissing him. “Oh, humans can’t reproduce it, but we know the concept behind it. At least, some of us have been able to piece it together. All humans under Li-Jun patronage go through this. First, you have electrodes placed on your head, and then they put you in a sensory deprivation chamber, immersing you into a special liquid to deny you of all senses. They will rob you of everything, they even manage to remove the taste from your mouth.”

“I’d pay money for that now,” Marco said, grimacing.

She smiled slightly and refilled his glass. “Then they pump hormones into the liquid designed to stimulate your brain into thinking it’s seeing, feeling, smelling, you know, all the senses. Then they record. Later, they take what they record and put it into their art.”

Marco shifted in bed. “So they’re recording my thoughts?”

She shook her head. “Not exactly. They want to record your response to things. Here’s what we’ve learned: the Li-Jun do not feel the way we do. They have emotions, love, fear, hatred, but they don’t attach any emotions to their senses.”

“What does that mean? I’m not in love with my nose either.”

“If you smell your favorite dish from childhood, how do you feel? If you hear a song that you listened to with an old lover, how do you feel? If I tell you that your favorite movie is terrible, will you respect my opinion, or will your attachment to the movie make you angry with me? Our emotions are directly tied to our senses, what we see and smell and hear and taste and feel, as well as the stories we get out of those senses, like a movie or a novel or art.

“It’s hard to tell how they experience things. Clearly they show preferences, but things like nostalgia don’t play into those preferences.”

“Passion,” said Marco. “They don’t have passion.”

Heather snapped her fingers. “Exactly. They have no passion. They find it fascinating that humans will judge one another on a deep level just by learning that they listen to a certain kind of music or eat a certain kind of food. Bread is simply bread to them. To me, it’s love, as my mother would cook fresh bread for us, but I no longer eat olives, as that’s what I was eating the night the Chinese invasion took Malaga and we had to fight our way out. The Li-Jun feel none of this.”

“I thought they just put odd art pairings together,” Marco said. “When did they start putting straight emotions into things? Isn’t that dangerous?”

“It’s experimental technology they’re just now working on,” Heather said. “But they’ve been recording every human they patronize.”

“If they don’t feel this, then why are they going through so much trouble putting passion into art?”

“They want to understand what drives us. They are fascinated by humans and our ability to create and destroy.”

Marco drank more of the orange drink. “None of this is turning out to be like I thought it would be.”

“Things never do, honey. They’ll be by to get you at seven. Don’t eat or shower. You’ll have plenty of time and desire to do so after you spend time with them.”

She was gone before Marco could ask why.

***
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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