Guy Herbert knew he was tired when the lights failed to come on. He glared at the switch panel, deliberately sending a second mental probe. The lights still failed to come on. Then the room lit as Jane entered. Women almost always have stronger psychic abilities than men, even when they are mere house slaves.
Guy sighed and sank into the loveseat, letting the familiar smell of leather rise around him. He was home early from work, after working 'only' from six to four. The past two weeks had been even worse, but that's the way his job went. He was a supervisor on the special line in Rockland Chemical's Plant Four, and sometimes that meant days of twelve hours plus, and sometimes a scant half-day before the boss told him to go home already.
"I have a martini for you, master." Jane knelt before him, barefoot, dressed in a square of colorful rayon gauze. The pattern she wore had come into style in 1957 and remained in the mode a year later.
Guy took the glass. "Thank you dear." He spoke in a mild tone, as his father had taught him. Slaves deserved slave-politeness, according to the elder Herbert, and only vulgar men spoke cruelly to the females they owned. Guy was not vulgar. He had an engineering degree and an engineer's salary.
But what Guy really wanted was a mug of Brew. He considered Jane, thinking about ordering her to fetch him some. She was pretty enough in a straightforward sort of way, with blue eyes and light brown hair. In addition to her translucent covering, she wore a plain slave-mark tattooed on her left hand, and a plain steel collar inscribed with her master's name. That collar marked her as a typical American woman. A house slave, rather than a bond witch.
Guy had purchased Jane a few years after the War. A mistake, he admitted to himself, and one he had been too embarrassed to correct. He'd been twenty-two then, having spent a year fighting the Nazi war machine, and then a couple of years as part of the Japanese Occupation. Freshly discharged from the Army, he had the bright idea of buying a fresh eighteen year old and training her himself.
The training had been a success. Jane might not be physically stunning, and she might not be a bond witch, but she could enchant any man without half trying. Except for Guy himself. As the years went by, he found her more and more cloying, and she in turn had become frustrated and unhappy. But just as Guy was too embarrassed to admit to his mistake in buying her, Jane was too stubborn to claim her Right of Sale from him.
Jane would never be the woman Guy really wanted. He should go ahead and sell her on his own initiative, and then buy a different woman for himself. He really should.
Guy set down his untasted drink. "Go hobble yourself, Jane. We're going out."
* * *
Susanna wiggled on the display platform, frightened and excited. She was being sold! She was twenty-two now the tattoo on her hand read '31May1936' below the Mark of Sheba and she was being sold! She would be sold to a man, a master, and not another training estate. She stretched and wiggled as men walked by, beyond the Plexiglas. She pulled enticingly at the restraints that bound her to the platform. Thick rubber cuffs grasped her wrists and ankles, with steel chains running from them to the anchor point before her. She shivered. She'd been restrained before, many times, in a dozen different ways, but her new master would go beyond simply restraining her. He would do things to her, after making her deliciously helpless with ropes or leather or chains of steel. She was being sold!
An older man, gray at the temples, stopped to give her a look. Susanna smiled at him. Except for the dealer's collar she wore, she was nude, with brown skin from her Negro father, large eyes from her Jewish mother, and dark curly hair from both of them. If her shackles had allowed her to stand, she would be an inch or two under average height for an American woman. Which she was, even if her mother hadn't been. Her mother had been one of the early ones sent to America as part of the Devil's Bargain with the Nazis. Three million women had escaped that way, while the men stayed behind and died.
The American government had given Susanna's mother to the Buffalo Soldiers for training, along with all the other women in that refugee ship. A few of those Negro soldiers had received permission to make private purchases, before the authorities realized just who was making the request, and Susanna was one of the results.
The gray-templed man moved on, but there were others. Another man, a younger one in a rumpled suit was looking at her now. Sooner or later, someone would buy her. Susanna wiggled once more. She was being sold!
* * *
Guy kept his eyes away from the display platforms as he made his way out of Forrest's Finest Females. He had the check from Jane's sale tucked safely away, and he intended to deposit it and then wait a couple of days before shopping for a new house slave. So he kept his eyes on the walls, looking at the historical prints displayed there.
The prints portrayed the antebellum uprising of Jane Brown, and the assassination of Abe Lincoln by Jane Wilma Booth. Then Mad Mary Lincoln's attempted coup, after her husband's death. The preaching of Brother Samson, the former slave who had done so much to improve the relations between white men and black. The Undermarket of New York, where women and psychic-enhancing Brew were sold, despite both being technically illegal at the time. The decision in Missie vs Montgomery, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment applied to black men and white women, but not to black females. The Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting Brew nationwide, and the Twenty-First Amendment that repealed it. And the Nineteenth Amendment, advancing the cause of racial equality by confirming that all women in the United States, regardless of color, were the chattel slaves of their menfolk.
There the historical series ended, and Guy glanced out over the checker-tiled floor of the showroom, looking for the exit. That's when he saw the half-Negro cutie.
She was one of two non-white women on the floor, the other being a Japanese girl. Neither had price tags displayed, but no doubt they'd be overpriced. Certainly the Japanese woman would cost too much, compared to the cheap prices Guy had seen during the Occupation. A number of his buddies had brought Japanese purchases home with them, and more power to them. Some masters were just plain good with exotics. But Guy didn't consider himself one of them.
On the other hand, a Negress wasn't really an exotic. In fact, her darkness could be an advantage if he ever had to travel. The southern States still resisted the Nineteenth Amendment, almost forty years after its passage. They got sticky about white women being treated as chattels, despite the clear language of the Amendment and of the various Supreme Court cases confirming that Demancipation really did apply to females of all races.
A salesman materialized just as Guy started to turn away. "Good evening sir. Would you like to examine her more closely? She's a good one."
"I'll bet you say that about all the women here," Guy told him.
"Of course sir," the salesman answered smoothly, professional smile in place. "Only the good ones are offered for sale here at Forrest's Finest Females. Now I can raise the enclosure, if you'd like."
Guy was about to refuse when he caught sight of the rack of mugs and the Brew pot. He really did want a mug of Brew. Besides, maybe this was a real premonition, even if premonitions normally came after drinking Brew, rather than before.
"Actually I'd like to start by looking over her papers." Guy smiled back at the salesman, the smile he used at work. Slave women, new autos, or tanker-cars of ammonium hydroxide, whatever they sold, salesmen were all the same.
A few minutes later they were sharing mugs of Brew, sitting on opposite sides of a desk cluttered with folders, loose paper, and a little Samson-icon. Guy looked over the paperwork. "Hmm, 'Susanna, S-number such-and-such, born 31-May-1936; father Alexander Brown, race Negro; mother Hanna, S-number so-and-so, race Jewish' she must have come over as part of the Bargain." Guy paused, then continued reading aloud. " 'Height 62.5 inches, weight 115 pounds, collar 13, bra 32B' I think she's a bit bigger than that, now 'wrists 5.5, waist 25, ankles 8.0 (6) ' What's the parentheses?"
"Sandal-size for hobbles," the salesman answered.
"OK, that's a new one on me." Guy took another swallow. "This is good Brew."
"Not as good as my grandpa used to make. Of course that was moonshine Brew, back during Prohibition." The salesman, Guy noticed, was no longer pushing hard. He thought he had his fish hooked, and was playing out the line, nice and easy. Well, Guy thought, maybe he was hooked. Or maybe the Brew really was giving him a premonition. It's what Brew was for, after all enhancing psychic abilities.
Guy returned to the papers. " 'Cleveland schooling crèche 1943-47, Ohio State Plantation (Mansfield) 1947-54, Mansfield Finishing Estate 1954-57, IQ 126' that's another new one on me 'Rhine score 23 with a star. Telescribe WPM dash dash' what does that mean? Hasn't she been tested?"
"Let me look " The salesman set aside his mug and thumbed through the folder. "Here it is: Her Rhine score is for potential only. They tested her on a telescribe back in '53 and found that she couldn't work it. She's got a block. It won't matter if you're shopping for just a house slave, but I'll tell you what: I'll knock a little off her price for that."
"Thanks. I'll remember that when we start haggling." Guy finished skimming the papers. "OK, just one more question for you: Is she ticklish?"
The salesman's professional smile returned. "Let's find out."
* * *
Susanna watched the man in the rumpled suit as he approached her platform again, following behind the salesman. The salesman flipped a switch and the Plexiglas rose. Susanna knelt very straight, smiling. She noticed the man's fingers twitch. He would feel her and then, if she pleased him, he would buy her. Her breath came more quickly and she suppressed a wiggle, holding her head high. She tried to project desire and desirability, and once again found her projection contained frustratingly within her skin.
The salesman unlocked Susanna's manacle-chain from the anchor before her and stepped up onto the platform, holding the chain so that she was forced to raise her arms above her head. Her potential buyer stepped forward, and the blunt fingers of his masculine hands stroked her breasts, her sides, and her thighs. He leaned closer, to whisper in her ear. "I am going to tickle you, now," and true to his word, his stroking fingers began to tickle.
Susanna squirmed, giggling, in an attempt to shift away. She couldn't. Kneeling, her ankles and wrists imprisoned, her arms above her head, she could not escape. She couldn't avoid the fingers tickling her belly and her sides, her upper arms and her shoulder blades. She couldn't stand it, but neither could she avoid it. She could only suffer, squirming and laughing, as her tormentor sent tickle-sensations into her skin wherever and however he pleased.
Then Susanna's perceptions changed, with the suddenness of a card being flipped over. Just as she was about to beg for the tickling to stop, it turned into pleasure. Unbearable pleasure, as those masculine fingers danced down her spine, just as it had been unbearable agony moments before.
Susanna still laughed, unable to make herself stop, and she still squirmed, unable to keep herself from trying to twist away, but now she was desperate for her struggles to fail. She felt those fingers raking her soles, first on her right foot, and then her left, and spikes of pleasure ran up her legs as the tickle-sensations poured into her. She was glad of the strong chains holding her to the platform, and the strong arms of the salesman that held her in place for that desperately desirable tickle-torment that her new master was inflicting upon her.
The tickling stopped. Susanna sobbed, once, twice, and shivered. A cold fear blew through her. Maybe she wasn't good enough. Maybe her new master didn't want her. Maybe he wouldn't buy her after all. Maybe
"I guess she is ticklish, after all," master said, a huge grin on his face.
The salesman kept his own smile professional. "I guess she is."
"What's her asking price?" master raised his hand. "And don't tell me what a bargain I'm getting.
The salesman opened his mouth, and closed it again. His smile grew a shade more genuine. "$2,000," he said at last.
"You said you'd knock some off her price," master answered, and the haggling began. Haggling over her! Back and forth the salesman went with master, and then master said, "$1,700 and you pay the registration, along with all the other nickle-and-dime fees."
"Done!" the salesman said. He flipped the switch lowering the Plexiglas, and hung a red 'SOLD' sign on it. The two men then shook hands.
Susanna ignored the envious looks that the other slaves at shot her from their own platforms. She had been sold!
* * *
Guy carried Susanna into his house the traditional way: Over his shoulder, feet first. She was still wrapped in the dealer's tissue, of course, and properly restrained. Hard rubber slave bracelets secured her wrists behind her back, and a matching pair of tight hobbles were locked on her ankles. A traditionalist would have used metal cuffs on wrists and ankles, but Guy actually preferred the modern design. Metal he reserved for the collar around Susanna's neck a plain collar, one that marked Susanna as a house slave. It lacked the cheap glass gems that would adorn the collar of a bond witch.
"First things first, my dear," Guy said as he lay Susanna on the couch. He rummaged around and eventually found the light fiberglass switch. For some things, Guy did prefer to follow custom. It was good psychology. Even so, he'd keep things short and simple; it was too late in the evening to start anything fancy. He sat down at the end of the couch, taking his new slave's feet in his lap. "I'm sure you already know your place, Susanna, but I'm giving you thirty-nine strokes anyway, just as a reminder."
"Yes master," Susanna said, and then, "No man will ever tame me!"
Guy's lips twitched. There were traditions, and there were traditions. He began to switch Susanna's soles, lightly, with blows intended to tease, rather than sting. Susanna remained silent. She even relaxed after his first stroke, a sign that he was calibrating things correctly.
Another master would have aimed to sting her soles, or would have switched his slave's back, or her ass. But Guy liked feet. Susanna had a pretty pair, Guy thought, creamy soles wrinkling as he counted off each stroke. He looked forward to ticking them later. Now, however, was a time for business and custom, rather than pleasure.
After finishing his strokes, Guy rubbed the feet he had just symbolically punished, and unlocked the ankle-cuffs. He yawned, provoking a yawn from Susanna as well. "Bedtime," he announced. "It's late, and I can give you your list of rules and duties tomorrow. Tonight you're just my snuggle-bunny, understand?"
Susanna twisted around to smile at Guy. "I understand, master. I can do that."
"Good." Guy tore away the tissue-paper wrapping his slave and helped her to stand. "Now, kiss me, Susanna."
Susanna kissed enthusiastically. Guy found himself filled with smugness when she grinned at him, afterwards. "The bedroom is this way," he told his new purchase.