Jul 2011 29

by Mur Lafferty

SuicdeGirls presents the final 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.

Since it’s Marco’s last stand, we’re not going to give you a recap as we have in weeks past. If you’ve missed any chapters, you’ll find links to them all after the jump. If you’ve not been reading, you really should. It’s an action-packed sci-fi adventure that’ll blow your mind, and leave you pondering the ramifications of corporate and/or government controlled media, entertainment, and art long after you’ve hit the last line. For those who’ve kept up, we hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. Keep fighting for freedom of expression, and trust that ultimately the pen (and the programmer) will always prevail against the sword.

Marco and the Red Granny – Part 18
The Alcoholics Guild was pretty efficient, for an underground group run by drunks. The bartender, Defects, was among the people who fetched him, sobbing, from the arena. He’d marked over his tattoo with make-up and wore his messy brown hair back in a tight ponytail. Marco was to have gone straight for a physician’s checkup and then to the Li-Jun for an official pardon, but in the chaos, the British man had managed to disguise Marco as a Most Dangerous Game groupie and they slipped away.

“They’re going to want to know about that little picture you drew,” Defects said as they hit the Ride Base tunnels. What Marco thought would be claustrophobic turned out to be comforting and close.

“Did it come out all right?” Marco asked.

Defects stopped in the tunnel in front of a door and pulled out some keys. “It was beautiful. Conveyed everything you needed, I think. I’ll be interested to watch what happens to their exports.” He opened the door into a small, windowless apartment filled with grow lights and plants. “Home sweet home, for now. You can take the couch.”

Marco went and collapsed, unsure his legs could hold him anymore. Defects flicked on the vidscreen and caught the color commentary. Every station was covering the game, including the mystery new champion, his disappearance, The Red Granny’s death, and the drawing in the moon dust.

Marco saw it from the sky, and became impressed with his own work despite the raw exhaustion that overwhelmed him. A human-headed sheep was wrapped in the tentacle of a Li-Jun, which tried to force it into clothing. The sheep was bleating “free will” while the Li-Jun shouted, “conform for peace.”

“Do you think they got it?” Marco asked. “If they didn’t get it, she’ll have died for nothing. They both will have.”

“I think so,” Defects said, fetching a first aid kit. “You’re a former patron of Li-Jun, everyone knows you’ll have inside knowledge.”

“Even with my pardon, do you think they’ll come after me?”

Defects began bandaging his cut hand. “I don’t know. This is unprecedented. The Li-Jun don’t fight like we do, you’ve figured that much out. They may come at you through your agent, or try to control you by getting clothing, or food, or even books, into your hands. You may have saved Earth from their control, but Ride Base is going to be even more dangerous now.”

Marco rubbed his face and sighed. “I’m sorry about Knowledge. I tried to stop her.”

Defects shrugged slightly. “We knew it was going to happen. They were caught soon after you. I got away and had to keep the plan going. Once the Li-Jun got them into those rage suits, they were lost. The Red Granny came to me with the instructions on what to do after you won the battle.”

Defects put away the first aid supplies and opened a bottle of red wine.

“Why didn’t she just do all this herself? She’s the most famous woman on the Moon. Or she was.” Marco swallowed the wine, trying to forget the feeling of sinking the knife into his friend.

“That’s just it. She was too public. She was with Li-Jun nearly all the time. She also wasn’t an artist. She needed someone to make a visual statement when the whole world was watching. Also, Marco, she was old. She couldn’t fight much longer. She needed an heir of sorts.”

“And why didn’t she just tell me?”

“You have to come about your understanding of the Li-Jun yourself. Even people who know about the artist mapping, for example, think that when they experience it, it’ll be different. You can explain away anything. We needed you to fully understand, to be angry enough to fight with your only ally.”

“How long had you been working with her?”

“Only a couple of months. She approached us after the aliens got their embargo lifted, but we usually only talked via notes, no electronic or human contact.”

“I didn’t give her enough credit. She was amazingly strong.” Marco shook his head. “God I need sleep.”

“Take it. You should be safe here for a few days, anyway. The Guild will do what we can to protect you.”

“Thank you, Defects.”

“Thank you, Marco. You’ve dealt the first blow in the strangest war Earth has ever fought. There’s more to do. I’ve got the final message from the Red Granny to publish. The Guild needs a new leader now that Knowledge and Spiritual Awakenings are dead. We can look into smuggling you off the moon in a week or two, but we could use you in the battle in the coming months. What do you think? Want to throw in with terrorists?”

Marco knew his answer, but he was too tired to say it. He closed his eyes and thought of Heather, the Red Granny, who had fought in her early life for freedom, and then again in her later life. Braver than he had ever been.

It would be difficult to avoid the Li-Jun; attempts at spiking his food with compliance or wrapping a scarf of dedication around his neck were sure to come soon. It would also be difficult to get the positive effects of the Li-Jun items, as they had proven ironically necessary in his arena battle. His agent would be frantic to find him, her little cash cow, especially as his books and art would now likely sell back home, both the Li-Jun-enchanted work and his earlier work. While that provided him a rueful smile, he thought about the more important consideration: liberating Ride Lunar Base and making sure Heather and Knowledge hadn’t died for a self-absorbed artist.

I am a peacekeeper; I will do what needs to be done to make the world a better place.

As the world discussed the mark he had left on the moon, even as Li-Jun groundskeepers erased it like the tide, Marco allowed himself to drift off to sleep. Tomorrow he’d have a lot of work to do.

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
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 15
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 16
Fiction Friday: Marco and the Red Granny – Part 17