Slave Marci tried not to look around too much, just as the other passengers tried to avoid staring too obviously at her. She was the only human on the shuttle bus, and therefore the only slave woman, here on the bisnik world of Ustan. So she sat quietly, with her wrists and ankles secured, and exchanged peeks with the other passengers.
What those others saw was a human woman with mousy brown hair, chained and collared, but with soft strips inserted between the metal cuffs and her skin to prevent chaffing. In addition to her chains and collar, she wore a sleeveless pink dress of thin fabric, and the sandals her master had temporarily granted her.
Marci appreciated the thinness of her dress, given the heat. Bisnik put more stock into ventilation than cooling, when it came to air conditioning. Especially here, in the desert city of Lop-Lop. Like Classic Las Vegas on Earth, Lop-Lop was a city of celebration, full of shameless glitter. Its chief difference from its Earthly counterpart was that Lop-Lop featured less gambling and more luxury shopping.
Next to Marci sat the one bisnik who didn’t need to avoid staring at her: Her owner, Master Tiim. He was of average height for a bisnik male – a few centimeters taller than the average human male –with blue fur and short masculine horns that lay flat against his forehead. His clothes paralleled Earthly ‘business casual’: Polished low boots, slacks of a light-colored and lightweight material, and a cream-colored shirt with short sleeves and an open collar.
The other men in the shuttle were dressed more or less like Master. The women wore a mix of clothing; half of them in slacks and half in dresses, with the dresses giving an indefinable impression of being more stylish than Marci’s. Some of the women wore charm necklaces or charm bracelets, and one wore a charm anklet. Jewelry among them was otherwise sparse. One of the women wore gold glitter on her left ear, and another had a necklace of thin stone plaques, but Marci didn’t see any earrings or finger-rings.
Of course, none of the bisnik women wore fetters or a slave collar.
When the shuttle stopped, Master Tiim signed for Marci to wait for the others to leave. She obeyed, making her way to the door only after her master waved her forward. The thirty-five centimeters of chain hobbling her ankles slowed her, but Master Tiim took that into account, following her, watching over her and, Marci sensed, appreciating the sight of her relative helplessness.
On the vitracrete outside, Master Tiim said, “Continue to look exotic and ornamental, my Marci-slave.”
“Yes, Master.” And so Marci did, standing there in her chains and collar. She collected the occasional curious – and appreciative – look, as Master Tiim loaded his luggage onto a rover.
Nearly all of the people here were bisnik, of course, but Marci did see two or three other humans. All were slave women, members of the Hostage Corps, just as Marci was. The Long War between Ustan and Earth had that name for a reason, and under the ‘New’ Conventions (which Earth had ratified many years before Marci’s birth), prisoners-of-war were not directly exchanged when two planets fought. Instead, the captured spacers and marines of each side were exchanged for female slaves. Thus Earth had a small but significant population of bisnik slave women, just as Ustan hosted a good number of human slave women. The toughness of interstellar ships meant that there were lots of POWs at the end of a space battle, and while a draft hadn’t yet become necessary, the numbers required for each side’s Hostage Corps kept the recruiters busy.
Marci had enlisted in Earth’s Hostage Corps some months ago and had undergone slave training during the voyage here to Ustan. On her arrival here, she’d been sold to Master Tiim – no thanks to her interfering sister Jane, who had tried to ‘rescue’ her with the aid of a local anti-slavery group. Their legal maneuver had been shot down, however, and she’d spend four lazy, happy weeks with Master Tiim in his quiet suburban house. (Bisnik didn’t use months, in their calendar, but by a happy coincidence they did use seven-day weeks.)
After that, Master Tiim had decided to take a celebratory trip to Lop-Lop. Which meant, of course, that his human slave woman would accompany him.
Master Tiim suddenly picked up Marci from behind, setting her to perch on the bisnik equivalent of a suitcase.
“Sandals, please,” Master Tiim said, holding out a hand. Marci meekly removed the footwear and handed them over. Master Tiim smirked as he pointedly locked them in a case. His expression melted to something gentler as he took a moment to stroke Marci’s mouse-brown hair, before tapping a command into his cell-thing. He led the way into Hotel Coruscant, the rover following obediently behind with Slave Marci and the rest of his luggage.
The interior of Hotel Coruscant was cooler than the exterior – bisnik did believe in applying some air conditioning. It was also gaudier inside, at least during the day. When night fell, the white walls outside would blaze with lights of many colors, making up for their current blandness. The interior would remain the same, with the carpet, the walls, and the ornaments and illuminants hanging from the ceiling continuing to show off their deliberately garish patterns.
Master Tiim helped Marci down and sent the rover on with the rest of his luggage. He then looked around, gathering his bearings.
Marci stood still, trying to make her own curiosity less obvious. The green, gold, and purple carpet was soft under her bare feet. Alien music filled the air, under the high ceiling. Marci caught another glimpse of one of the human slavegirls she’d seen outside, but again, most of the people here were bisnik. As usual, they gave her curious and mostly appreciative looks. They seemed to approve of Master Tiim for his slave woman purchase, and, by extension, to approve of Marci for being that purchase.
Various signs, both solid and holographic, displayed messages in the most-common bisnik script. Marci might have deciphered them, given time and effort – she had learned the spoken language well enough, during her slave training, but her reading skills still needed work. At the moment, however, Master Tiim was in too much of a hurry to let her practice. With an “Ah!” of satisfaction, he clipped the end of a leash to the chain between Marci’s wrists, and began to lead her away.
They hadn’t gotten three steps before a female voice called out Master Tiim’s name. The woman was as tall as Marci, which made her of average height for a female bisnik – a few centimeters shorter than the height of the average human female. Her orange dress fell to her calves, leaving a charm anklet visible on her left ankle. Below the anklet, she wore low and sensible shoes, like most bisnik women. It was only a small minority who wore human-style high heels, and they were matched by a minority who followed the older bisnik tradition of going barefoot, at least when indoors.
Higher up, another set of charms circled the woman’s left wrist, and the short sleeves and low cut of her top revealed blue fur that was longer, fluffier, and therefore more feminine than Master Tiim’s. She lacked horns, of course, since horns on a female bisnik would be just as out of place as a goatee on a human woman.
“Tiim,” the woman repeated. “I did manage to find you here.” She stepped forward for a one-armed embrace from Master Tiim, with his other hand keeping hold of Marci’s leash.
“So you have,” Master Tiim said as the woman stepped back again. A twitch on the leash signaled Marci to step forward. “Edanna, this is Human Woman Marci Gotz, who is now my Slave Marci.” Marci offered the bisnik woman a chained curtsey, just as she’d been taught in training. “Slave Marci,” Master Tiim addressed her with her new ‘formal’ title. “This is my half-sister, Edanna Saafo Nuneez, who you should speak of as ‘Mistress Edanna.’”
Mistress Edanna offered Marci an acknowledging nod and a brief smile, human-style. “Welcome,” she said. “I wish you a long stay.” Then the smile turned into a long bisnik frown as she looked Marci over. “I do not approve,” she told Master Tiim. “That dress is a disaster. It might be adequate for wearing around the house, but not in public. It’s… it’s dowdy. Not your fault, Marci,” she added with a quick aside. “Tiim, here, once had some aesthetic sense. When he was three. Then he poured it down a drain.”
“I am merely practical,” Master Tiim said. “Until recently I had no need for your ‘aesthetic sense.’ Then, when the practical need arose, I purchased some. Just four weeks ago.” A twitch of the wrist-leash urged Marci closer, and she pressed herself against him.
“Yes,” Edanna said. “I’m sure Marci will do fine, once she’s had a chance to absorb the native styles. But until then, she needs a native guide. Someone other than you. You just provide the credit-chip for her wardrobe, and I’ll take her shopping tomorrow morning.”
Edanna’s cell-thing warbled, and she gave it a look. “Oh. Drat. Gotta run!” Hurrying away, she called back over her shoulder. “I’ll catch up with you tomorrow morning!”
Now Master Tiim’s one-armed embrace took in Marci. “So you have now met Edanna. She has her own mind, as you saw. Does she frighten you?”
Marci considered this. “No, Master.”
“Good. I will be turning you over to her, tomorrow morning. It would never do to admit weakness to my slave woman, but Edanna might have a point about native guides. That is for tomorrow, however. Now we will go to our room. And after that, to dinner.” Master Tiim released Marci and led her on again.
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