Jul 2011 08

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the fifteenth 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…However, that was before he got kidnapped twice in one day. The first time by Penelope/Knowledge and Defect of The Alcoholic’s Guild, who made him realize the Li-Jun had brainwashed him into compliance, and the second time by the Li-Jun, who were rather upset about the fact he’d just been fraternizing with said Alcoholic’s Guild – albeit initially unwillingly. Marco’s punishment for this infraction was laid out by his ‘friend’ Heather; He was to be a contestant in The Most Dangerous Game…

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 15
Marco had never been a strong debater. Standing up to Heather had perhaps been the bravest thing he’d ever done. The problem was, he was out of courage, and now met with the knowledge that he could die in two hours.

Oh sure, he had a chance, he could win this thing, but who was he fooling? He hadn’t been in a fight since sixth grade when he bumped into Peter Garrison in gym and the bully had decked him, and he’d gone down in a pile of confused, sobbing, elbows and knees. He had no idea how to strategize, or how to fight with a weapon, or how to fight with a weapon in one-sixth of Earth’s gravity.

He wondered about the possibility of getting Heather back to apologize and tell her that he was wrong, to say anything to get out of this.

A cold voice inside him reminded that even if he did get out of it, would that force him underground to join the Guild? Or would it make him a faithful Li-Jun lapdog, determined not to piss them off again? Did he want to work for a group that tossed you in the pit when you made them angry? The xenophobes on Earth were right — the aliens were about to take over, and there was nothing they could do about it.

He wondered where Knowledge and Spiritual Awakening and the others were. Had they gone back underground? Had they been caught? Did they know he had been caught? He realized he didn’t know how much time had passed since Seven had abducted him.

He swallowed. He was quite alone, and about to die. There was no getting around it. He walked numbly to the suits on the wall, each in a different state of environmental protection. One looked like an Earth-type suit that was essentially a suit of armor and a big bubble helmet, the others were lighter versions of the Li-Jun-created suits that were tighter fitting with more subtle features. Marco shied away from the alien-clothes, though, since he didn’t know what emotions or stories they’d been imbued with.

That left him with the bulky Earth-suit. He didn’t want that either; it didn’t allow for a wide range of movement, but he had to choose the lesser of all evils. Not like the suit would make much of a difference out there.

After struggling into the suit and figuring out the different controls, Marco looked around for a weapon. There was none. Great, make the weak artist-boy learn low gravity kung fu during a fight to the death. That ought to cause a good amount of laughter back home.

He sighed in frustration as the door opened, and Heather entered the room again. She carried two things – a long staff and a short knife. What interested him more was that she was in the same suit he’d seen when he watched her fight in weeks ago.

“Staff. Knife. These are your weapons.”

“So this is how it’s really going to go, huh?” Marco said, his throat dry. “Did the Li-Jun make that knife?”

She focused on him, quickly, her face inscrutable. “When you hold an Li-Jun weapon, it’s your opponent who must worry, not you.”

Marco took the knife and peered at it. It was a plain, straight knife in a sheath designed to strap around his massively padded thigh. “What does it do?”

“I don’t know. That’s your handicap. It could cause the opponent to become despondent, or aroused, or lose the will to live. Or it could enrage them and turn them into a killing machine.”

“Oh, that’s great,” Marco said. “And the stick?”

She frowned. “It’s a staff, Marco, and one of my personal collection. It’s rattan, bendable, and very durable. Like a big pencil.”

He collapsed into a chair. “I don’t know why you’re telling me this, you know I’m going to die out there. Horribly. And like you said, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“And does that make you change your mind?”

Marco smiled ruefully. “If you’d asked me that an hour ago, I might have said yes. But life can’t be much better than death in this case. Where would I go from here? Best that it ends right now.”

She looked at him for a moment, a small smile creasing her face. “It’s just as you say, Marco. Good luck out there. I’ve always admired you, you know. I’ve been a gladiator among artists. I never was any good at drawing.”

“Heather?” She paused at the door. “Am I going to have to fight you?”

She laughed. “Oh no, Marco. I’m someone else’s handicap entirely.”

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
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 13
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 14


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