A.R. Yngve brings the first full-fledged serial (part 1 of 8) to SpaceWesterns.com with A Man Called Mister Brown. — ed, N.E. Lilly
A Man Called Mister Brown
by A.R. Yngve ©2008
Prologue: The Continuum
During the Second Solar War new and old human varieties learned an uneasy co-existence: The First Martians, NeoMartians, Moonies, Old Terrans, Venusians, Jovians, Stroiders, Cybes, and others. They were also called “Hairies,” “Greenies,” “Stickmen,” “Pinks,” “Stinkers,” “Mini-Men,” “Cripples,” “Dummies,” and worse names. And in this violent era, three humans — a Terran, a NeoMartian, and a Cybe — played their parts in waging the war and ending it. They were not heroic — but they were human.
Chapter 1: Mister Brown
The leather-skinned, hard-faced man entered the brothel, carrying a shoulder-mounted gun. He resembled an Afroid Old Terran and wore a long pseudoskin overcoat. Unlike other Terran visitors, he didn’t wear a transparent facial membrane against the toxic moondust — or even the customary goggles that even native Moonies used. This might have caused damage to his brown eyes, but they seemed only slightly bloodshot.
Two bouncer bots, walking gorilla-like on their knuckles, blocked his entrance in the hallway.
“Weapon-free zone, sir,” said one bouncer in an aggressive basstone. “Deposit all weaponry in the cashier’s booth, sir. If you have weapon implants, they must be neutralized with ParaGel before you can enter.”
The other robot added, in a lighter tone: “Best little whorehouse on the Moon, sir. Caters to all tastes. Except the illegal ones. Illegal by lunar law, if you know what I mean.”
Chewing on a toothpick, the leather-skinned man slowly reached for his shoulder-gun and removed it. Carefully, he placed the gun on the cashier’s front desk. Behind the desk, a bald woman with faded military tattoos on her forehead put the weapon away. She pointed a scanner at the man’s legs.
“And the boots,” she said. “I see you’ve got a concealed blade.”
The man let out a theatrical, weary sigh and leaned his back against a wall to pull off his high snakeskin boots. His toothpick moved in and out between his lips, rolled from one corner of his mouth to the other.
He made a show of how much effort it took to pick the boots up. When he finally put them down on the desk, a stiletto blade flicked out of one heel.
“The spring’s broken,” he said. “I forgot my other boots down the well.”
“Of course you did,” said the cashier. “You’re clean. Do you want to hang up your coat, have some refreshments in the bar?”
The man with skin like brown leather gave her a scowl. “Is this a whorehouse or a bar?”
She shrugged. “Very well. Enter the door of your choice. Enjoy your stay, Mr. ...?”
She nodded to the bouncers, and they let him pass.
Barefoot, Brown walked across the main foyer, where guests and personnel lounged in the bar and on gently vibrating couches. A row of doors lined the other end of the foyer, labeled by preferences. He entered the doorway marked MALE CUSTOMERS (HETERO), and it performed a quick body scan.
“Gender confirmed, no known diseases found,” the doorway said softly and opened for him. “Welcome to the House of Hormones!”
An elevator took him down one level, and he walked out into a hallway lined with more doors. Each door displayed a hologram of the female on duty inside, and her status. Most doors were tagged “BUSY.”
The interior seemed new and expensive on the surface, but it might have been a cheap projection on a run-down basement. Something about the recycled air smelled off.
Chewing on his toothpick, he arrived at a door in BUSY mode that holo-showed a voluptuous green-skinned NeoMartian. The tag above the display read: “Martian Martha, Mistress of the RedDesert. Let her teach you erotic secrets unheard of on other planets!”
He glanced at her face for a moment, to make sure he had got the right person, and pounded on the metal door with his fist.
“Fark off!” cried a muffled male voice from the other side.
Brown took out his toothpick and twisted it with his fingers. Out of the wooden splinter slid a black blade, two millimeters wide, made of the same fiber as an orbital elevator-cable.
He shoved the miniature blade into the upper part of the door, and pulled down in a single movement. The sheet of cheap lunar aluminum split like paper, and Brown stepped in through the gash.
On a heart-shaped bed, wrapped in sheets, the air thick with pheromone aerosols, lay two green-skinned NeoMartians. The male one, his face deep-green with fury, fluttered bushy eyelashes as he stared at the intruder.
“Who the fark you think you are, pink?”
“I came for the lady. Get out.”
The customer had not finished talking, before Brown grabbed and thrown him out the broken door.
To the lady on the bed, Brown said: “Citizen’s arrest. Get dressed. I’m taking you down the well.”
Martha reached for a bedside drawer, but he rushed it and kicked the drawer shut. She snapped back her green fingers and bared her teeth.
“Any second now, the bouncers will come in and fry your Pink ass.” She dressed quickly, glancing at the doorway for the rescue that wouldn’t arrive. “You can’t leave this place with me. You’re crazy.”
He grabbed her wrist hard, and slipped a ribbon of his pseudoskin coat across it. The living tissue of the ribbon locked around her wrist like a handcuff.
“I’ll bring you back alive. The other guy won’t. He likes to hurt his marks.”
“What other guy?”
A loud crash sent vibrations through the entire corridor floor. He glanced down at his bare feet, and his scowl turned into a look of bewilderment.
“Got spare shoes?”
Seconds later, Brown ran away through the corridor with Martian Martha in tow. In the lunar gravity they had to skip like gazelles — and the glittering high heels on his feet did not make him look any less ridiculous.
They reached a fire door. Brown sliced it open with the toothpick blade, and dragged Martha through the opening. Behind them came the noise of an approaching, heavy figure.
The fire door led to an airshaft with a winding stairwell. Brown hoisted the girl over one shoulder, ignoring her shrieks and beating fists, and ran up the stairs. A furious growl sounded from the fire door, and something smashed right through it. Brown did not stop to look at the pursuer.
He emerged from the stairwell and into a back alley behind the brothel’s entrance. A trash-bot stood along a wall, chomping and sorting garbage with a stomping, grinding noise.
Brown pressed a switch on a trash container, and a section of it fell open. Inside in a hidden compartment lay a motorbike; he picked it up.
“Hop on,” he told Martha, and loosened the ribbon from her wrist. “That’s Toe-Eater who’s coming for the same bounty, and he’s still mad about last time I beat him to it.” She hesitated; Brown pulled her onto the seat behind him and closed the bike shell. A transparent bubble folded out around them, and he drove off. As the bike speeded out of the alley and into the street, a giant hairy figure ran after them and waved his fists.
Brown turned on the cruise control and checked the rearview screen: Toe-Eater had stopped following them. All around them, neon lights and holoprojections created the glamorous New Paris skyline that covered the drab, colorless buildings of the domed city.
“You okay?” he asked. Only now did he notice that even the whites of Martha’s eyes had a green tint. Her eyelashes, made to shield the eyeballs from getting sandblasted by Martian gales, were two inches long and dark-green. Her long hair fluttered like seaweed in the air. Rumor had it a NeoMartian could live on sunlight and water for up to six months.
“I’m not okay,” she said. “Earth gravity is gonna kill me! But you don’t care, do you?”
“You’ll live. I hear the Terran weather does wonders for the chloroplasts. Maybe you’ll sprout flowers down there.” He paused. “On Earth.”
Martha clung to his body, more than she had to.
“So how much does the Agency pay you to bring me in?” Her voice softened. “Maybe I can give you a better offer.”
Brown was silent for a moment. “I’ve got this aching stiffness in the back of my neck...”
Her hand went to work on his neck; its muscles were like ropes. Her other hand reached down below his belt buckle.
“Tell me about ‘Green’ Fingers,” he said.
“What do you want to know?” She leaned forward and licked his ear.
Brown pressed the opacity setting, and the bike’s shell turned dark. The cruise control took them to the spaceport.
A.R. Yngve started out as a cartoonist, but soon turned to writing. Published works include the Swedish TERRA HEXA book trilogy and short stories in Swedish, British and Chinese magazines. He has recently written a script for Scandinavian radio. Dislikes: Cats, fan fiction. Likes: Philip K. Dick, MST3K.