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'The white papers were supposed to be sources of news, but the process for getting material approved was so laborious and tedious that it was sometimes tendays after events before they could go to press, losing all of the 'new' in 'news.' Author's Notes
When Ressa wanted to know something current, or had news to share, she went to the courtyard of the next block down. It was the latter that took her down the block that day.
"Good morning, Grandma Monster!" Ressa greeted one of the oldsters. It was a familiar name, one that the old woman didn't mind, or Ressa would never have used it. Grandma Monster was a Duurludirj woman, but a giant of their blood, so at one point she had stood as tall as Ressa did. She was old now, and curled over with her years, but still liked to smile broadly (with increasing gaps in her teeth) and tell bloody stories of sea monsters and her days as a warsailor. She was often found on this bench in the shade of the entrance to her housing courtyard, and many in the neighborhood came to find her there and share the latest chin-wagging.
"Ressa!" Grandma Monster greeted cheerfully. "Have you heard the news from the licensing office?"
Ressa felt a moment of disappointment; there was little that she liked more than bringing someone good news as a surprise. "You heard! Was it Thrassa from Travel Licensing that told you?"
"Travel Licensing?" Grandma Monster scowled. "This has got nothing to do with travel licenses."
"Tell me, then," Ressa encouraged, sitting beside the old woman. She maintained polite distance on the bench, but gave her a brief, familiar squeeze on the shoulder. Her news would wait -- Grandma Monster looked fit to burst with her own gossip.
"The handsome license manager is getting married!"
Ressa stared. For a brief, surreal moment, she wondered why anyone would categorize License Master Baison as handsome, then realized the woman was speaking of Lalya, the striking part-Mayaloi manager of property and buildings who worked under Bai.
"But he's... is Dini applying for a gender change?" Affamarg, not as libertine as many of the southern cities, still required that married couples be one woman, one man, though Empire-wide law allowed that anyone could apply for a gender change. "What will that do for his career?" Dini was a female-role actor in a males-only troupe, and he and Lalya had been a tight, adorable couple for several years now.
"Tisn't Dini who will be getting the change!" Grandma Monster cackled with delight.
"Lalya's being licensed as a woman?" Ressa laughed in delight at the idea. Though Lalya was flamboyant, and obvious in his sexual preference, he was terribly masculine. "That will take some getting used to."
In Affarmarg, to license as a gender not natural to your flesh, you had to provide some manner of proof that you were serious about the gender; the easiest way was to dress as the gender you were assuming, and picturing Lalya in traditional women's clothing was a stretch to Ressa's imagination.
"Ru* will be lovely," Grandma Monster said with an approving nod. "And I hear it will be quite the wedding."
Weddings were optional to marriages, in modern times, but many people still observed their original cultural practices, and the theater troupes in particular liked to take such events to their impractical, extravagant extreme when one of their own chose a lifetime commitment.
"How did you hear about it?" Ressa demanded. "I work with the man... er... with ru, you'd think I would beat you to this gossip, at least!"
Grandma Monster giggled, a strangely delicate sound from her hulking, wizened body. "Lalya proposed in the middle of the park across from the Licensing Office, in front of a dozen shocked witnesses. Quite the scene, I take it."
Ressa sighed in mock defeat. "I miss all the best entertainment," she moaned with a sideways smile. "You probably won't even want to know my news now..."
The old woman leveled her with a narrow look. "Don't be coy, woman. It doesn't suit you." Nothing made Grandma Monster grumpy like withheld gossip.
Ressa only smiled, and handed Grandma Monster the card she was carrying. "We got advance copies for the incoming travel licenses today," she said gently. "I had one of the scribes make a memory card for you." In perfect, teeny print, the card was a miniature copy of the travel license, right down to the itty bitty red seal stamped over it. The standard text of the travel license was printed, almost too tiny to read, but the details were carefully handwritten, and large enough to make out.
Grandma Monster's mouth went slack with shock. "My grandbaby!"
Ressa smiled, a slow, delighted smile. "She's coming up for Dlujan's presentation to the school of physics on that Exploder device he's designed. I thought you'd want to meet her at the station."
There was a hint of tears in the woman's eyes, quickly masked with a sniff and a haughty look; she was a warsailor, after all, and warsailors didn't cry. "That is good news," she agreed with a nod. "But my news is better. More sensational!"
A sly sideways look told Ressa she was teasing, so she laughed, and gave Grandma Monster's hand a squeeze. "You always win," she agreed. "Now I'm off to congratulate Lalya, while that news is still new!"
She laughed as she left, but a quick glance back showed Grandma Monster grinning happily over the memory card, and Ressa thought that maybe she'd won that one after all.
*The Torn Tongue personal pronoun is gender neutral, they don't have a separate 'her' or 'him'.'
Written to Amy Waller's prompt in the May, 2011 Muse Fusion asking how news and rumor spread, and Deirdre M. Murphy's prompt "Grandma Monster."