Conditions of a Slave

« November 2008 »

"I'm just surprised, that's all," said David.

"Why? It's foolish to make a hurried judgment without knowing the entire situation. We haven't even been here three weeks yet."

"Exactly, but you have always been so harsh on the government back home and I guess that I had expected the same here."

"There is always somebody arguing that the government has a legitimate purpose for what it does so that I don't need to. Government does serve a real purpose and it will always anger somebody. The question is over why a government is able to do what it does. That these rebels are willing to take up arms says a lot and yet there is bound to be a second side to this story -- maybe more." Mark grinned. "Thought you had me nailed down, didn't you?"

"It seems that I didn't. This is why artificial intelligence will never take over the world."

"Or even our world."

"Uh... yeah. You knew what I meant."

"It's this shop on the right with the boar on the sign."

David couldn't read the writing but the design was rough and it gave the impression that the store was of the no-nonsense sort. The door of the shop was like all of the others and it reminded him of medieval Europe, or what he had heard of it anyway. In place of a knob there was an iron ring, and a gentle pull caused the door to swing outward. Surprisingly, it didn't squeak. He followed Mark inside.

The room was lit by windows in a raised portion of the ceiling and the room smelled like some putrid substance had been left to decay in a corner. Mark said it was similar to chewing tobacco and that it was probably the owner's.

A woman across the room greeted Mark by name and he introduced David. He explained that the woman was Sañi. David was more than ready to hear Mark's part of the story but he knew Mark wasn't ready to tell it yet. He took a turn around the store while Mark caught up with Sañi.

The store was clean but the transparency of the windows above them made it obvious that the work was a recent endeavor. Somehow he doubted that the store was kept in this condition under normal circumstances, but then again, whoever had been cleaning was obviously a very driven individual.

He understood most of the conversation, but there were words used by both Mark and Sañi that David didn't know. Some of the talk centered on different ways to free Sañi. She also talked a little about Mark's situation, but it wasn't enough for David to learn what was going on.

Just as he was starting to get tired of all the strange and random knickknacks that filled the store, a man came out of the back. He looked like he had drunk a little too much corn beer and he told Mark in a slurred voice that he had better not be scaring away his customers. When he spotted David, he looked him up and down suspiciously before asking, "¿Is this idiot bothering you?"

"No," said David before returning his faked interest to the pipes on the shelf in front of him. He guessed it was the owner of the Sañi girl that had just warned Mark off. He would give his friend a hard time later but for now he would cover for him.

The guy stood where he was for a couple minutes and then stumbled out of sight again into the back rooms. David noticed that Mark and Sañi had changed topics while he was in the room, but now that he was gone Mark suggested he needed to leave also.

Sañi's next statement caused David to rethink his plan to give Mark a hard time. She said something along the lines of, "You're very kind, but I don't expect my luck to change. If you get a chance, go."

Mark replied, "But this is not right. I have to try to do something."

"Not everything is right." A slight quiver had entered Sañi's voice. "You need to get back. Go. I'll be alright."

Mark motioned David toward the door and the two of them left. The sun was nearing the horizon and they still had three miles or more to walk by David's reckoning. He wasn't too far off in that estimate.

David was the first to speak. "He assumed I was a legitimate customer."

"Yeah, he hadn't ever seen you before." Mark was obviously deep in thought.

"That isn't the whole reason. What don't I know?"

Mark broke from his thoughts with a slight smile playing the edges of his lips. "My, you're observant today. Slavery is wide-spread here."

"And...? What does that have to do with this?"

A grave look returned to Mark's face. "Most people anywhere close to our age are either in the army or are slaves -- possibly both."

"Which would make him think I was a slave."

"Normally, yes. The difference is that very few slaves are allowed to carry a sword."

"But you aren't carrying a sword...?"

Mark sighed. "I had wanted to wait before explaining this part to you. The reason that I wasn't in that clearing when you got back was because several slave traders had grabbed me."

David stopped in the middle of the now empty street. "Nobody's watching you now. Let's go."

Mark continued walking and forced his friend to catch up. "I can't do that in good conscience. Unlike Auk'a -- he's the guy who bought Sañi -- my purchaser is a pretty good guy. Ch'uya is an entrepreneur of sorts. He isn't very active politically but is buying slaves as he can afford them."

"How very kind of him, I'm sure. To give them a good home."

"It really is."

David paused mid-stride then had to hurry forward again. "Really?"

"Yeah. He has it in his head that he'll take care of us and save away the money he would have paid to hire someone. When each person reaches the amount he has paid for them, they are free to stick around and earn their pay or to leave. So far most of them have stuck around. He really is a good guy."

"Wouldn't buying slaves make him an accomplice to the guys who sold you? I mean, if nobody bought slaves there wouldn't be a market. You of all people should know that."

"Yeah, I know. He's considered it but isn't willing to be more active. This is the course he has chosen, regardless of whether it is the right one or not. Is it better to try to help in some small way now or to aim for an ideal?"

"A lot of disagreements come down to that."

Mark smiled weakly. "What else would make the world fun?"

"Wow. I'm sorry I had your bush thinner. You probably could have saved yourself this whole mess."

Mark laughed. "What's done is done. Don't worry about it. Guess I can tell my story on the way home, since the worst of it is already in the open."

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