Thrace S’ver was in the dark place. The black place. The place where no light could shine. Behind him he heard the slaver shouting out his wares, offering his goods to the highest bidder.
Me. I’m the fucking goods, Thrace thought grimly. Just like I was back when—
No. Don’t think about it. Don’t let it in.
The internal voice sounded like his Sire—the male who had raised him from the ages of six to sixteen cycles. He had been in turns strict and compassionate, loving and stern and he had tried to train Thrace in the honorable and forthright ways of the Havoc. He had been Thrace’s whole world. Until…
Until he fucking died in a place like this.
He tried to clamp down on the thought and the memory that came with it but it was hard…so fucking hard. Especially with the shouts of the slaver ringing in his ears.
“Slaves for sale! Fresh from the Carnal Houses—slaves trained to fulfill your every wish and desire—your every fantasy.”
The slavers had injected his voice box with a paralytic which made it impossible to speak—nonetheless, Thrace gave a silent grunt of derision. Unless whoever bought him desired to die and had fantasies of being ripped apart limb-from-limb that particular claim was going to prove false.
He took a deep breath and then another. Calm. He had to remain calm.
No one looking at Thrace would have known about his homicidal plans. After a grim and completely silent struggle with the armed slavers who had beaten and stunned him into submission, he had retreated into himself. Outwardly he was calm to the point of catatonia—his eyes closed behind the blindfold and his breathing controlled—but inside his mind churned.
Never should have docked on Padge. Never should have taken a drink at that sleazy portside bar. Shouldn’t even be in this part of the galaxy!
None of it mattered. All that mattered now as getting out of here—getting his freedom back. After that he could return to get his ship, The Empress, out of dry dock and mount a hunt for his First Mate, Solar. And then he could spend some time taking the bartender who had spiked his drink and the slavers who had captured him apart piece by leisurely piece.
But none of that would be possible until he got free—and with the pain collar around his neck and the manacles that held his arms behind his back, that was impossible here. Better by far to wait until he was sold. And then…
Then I’ll kill the son-of-a-bitch who buys me and get the Seven Hells out of here, he thought grimly. Just like I did before.
* * * * *
Captain Lonarra Trin stopped in front of the platform where a huge male knelt, bound and blindfolded. His sheer size was what caught her eye at first—he had to be six foot eight if he was an inch and his massive bare chest and broad shoulders were ripped with muscle. He had jet black hair, just long enough to run your fingers through, if that was what you were after, with deep blue highlights that only showed if the light shone on it a certain way. His muscular arms were bound behind his back and his eyes were covered with a black blindfold.
Kindred maybe. Or something akin to one. Really quite gorgeous, she thought in a detached way. But not for me. I need something a little smaller—not so ostentatious. Still, she lingered beside the raised round platform where the massive slave knelt, not quite ready to go on for some reason.
She was looking for a body-slave but not for the usual reasons of the rich and indolent Mistresses of Yonnie Six. Trin was from Zetta Prime—a colony that had broken off from the main planet of Yonnie Six years ago. But though they were some light years away, the daughters of Zetta Prime, as they called themselves, still considered the Yonnie Empress their ruler and kept to their ways. Well—mostly.
Zetta Prime, like Yonnie Six, was a matrilineal society with little to no use for male input. It was ruled and peopled exclusively by females who passed on their wealth and privilege to their daughters.
But the daughters of Zetta Prime didn’t hold with the Yonnie practice of keeping a pet male around—a personal body-slave who would act as an errand boy, body guard, and means of sexual gratification. Not that the Yonnites ever allowed a male to penetrate them in any kind of sexual act. A true Yonnie Six mistress much preferred to do the penetrating herself with a strap-on rod which was inserted into the unfortunate male for punishment or pleasure, depending on how you looked at it.
The females of Zetta Prime didn’t practice male slavery or penetration. They simply believed in keeping their distance from males altogether and indeed, most Zettites were lesbians, preferring to love only other females.
Trin wasn’t interested in her own sex and never had been. But neither did she crave a male to scratch her itch. She had her own two hands and a more than adequate clitoral stimulator if that need arose. Unfortunately, as a merchant and a diplomat for the Zetta Prime ruling body, she had to deal with the haughty Yonnie Six society often. And when she showed up to one of the ruling body’s meetings without a body-slave to back her up, she was looked down upon and often as not, completely ignored.
That was the reason she was trolling the rows of slave for sale at the Flesh Bazaar located on Dominus Two—also known as the Hub. It had come to her, after Lady Malroth had snubbed her by refusing to even show up for a diplomatic trade agreement, that she could simply buy a male and train him to do as she wished. Which was mainly to look imposing and pretend to kowtow to her every wish whenever she was on Yonnie Six.
If he did a good job, she would teach him some useful skills—astral navigation perhaps if he was intelligent enough to learn it—and grant him his freedom after a year or two. She hated to condone the practice of slavery but it wasn’t like she actually knew any males she could offer the job of pretend body-slave to. There simply weren’t any on Zetta Prime.
It had seemed like a sound plan, lying in the sleeping chamber in her quarters aboard her ship, The Alacrity. But now, walking up and down the rows and seeing the misery and shame on so many faces, Trin wasn’t so sure. She wanted a willing slave—one who had been raised to it from childhood and had known no other life. Which was one reason the slaver’s cry of “Slavers fresh from the Carnal Houses” had gotten her attention. She’d thought that such a male would be more tractable and easier to train for her purposes.
Well this one doesn’t look a bit tractable, she admitted to herself, still staring at the huge, gorgeous male displayed like a dangerous beast in a menagerie. Like a beast, he was bound and wearing a collar—a pain collar, she saw with some distaste. Such devices connected to the pain centers of the wearer’s brain and forced them to feel agonizing shocks if the remote was pressed or a certain punishment word was spoken. Trin swore to herself never to use such a thing on whatever male she bought. But just the fact that the slaver had decided this particular male needed a collar to keep him in line let her know he wasn’t the one for her.
She started to walk on when the slaver in question sidled up to her. He was Xethian with the scaly green reptilian skin and a long, blunt snout rather than a nose. He wore ridiculously rich clothing as was the custom of his kind, showing off his wealth as a sign of success. To Trin it just looked like a sign of bad taste.
“I sssee you are admiring my wares, Mistress.” He bowed respectfully, a long, oily fringe of seaweed-like hair flopping over his narrow shoulders as he did.
“Ah…yes. Yes, I was.” Trin could barely hide her distaste. It took all her diplomatic training to keep from backing up, away from the unctuous, fawning slaver. “Kindred, is he?” she asked, to make conversation and take her mind off the swampy stench that was coming from under his ridiculously rich golden robes.
“Havoc, actually,” the slaver replied. “A distant genetic cousin to the Kindred with a few sssignificant differences. The most important being, Havocs do not form sssoul bonds with their females—which eliminates the concern of permanent ownership. If you don’t like him, you can sssimply get rid of him.”
“Well, that is a selling point,” Trin admitted. The idea of buying a male for use as a pretend body-slave and then winding up permanently bonded to him hadn’t even occurred to her. If it had, she probably would have run screaming in the other direction.
“They do have the sssame ssstrength, ssstamina, and courage as their genetic cousins,” the slaver continued. “With the added bonus of longevity. As long as a Havoc remains unbonded and unattached to any female, he will live hundreds of cycles in perfect health.”
“Wait.” Trin held up her hand. “I thought you said they couldn’t bond.”
“No, I sssaid they do not bond. The reason being that the moment they tie themselves to a female, they reduce their own lifespan to that of hers. Most are not willing to give up hundreds of cycles of life simply for the sssake of love.”
“Can’t say I blame them there,” Trin murmured. “Well, thank you for the interesting facts but I don’t think this male is for me. I just need a common body-slave to stand by me when I go on diplomatic missions. But I’m looking for something a little less…dangerous.”
“Oh, but this male is not dangerous—not a bit,” the slaver exclaimed quickly.
“Is that right?” Trin put a hand on her hip. Xethians weren’t exactly known for being the most truthful species in the universe. “Then why the blindfold and pain collar?”
“For show—most of my customers are from Yonnie Sssix. While I perceive you are…not?”
“What gave it away?” Trin said dryly. “The clothes or the color of my skin?”
“Both,” the slaver said. “Most females who come here from Yonnie Sssix looking for a body-ssslave are dressed much more…richly. And I have never seen one with brown skin before.”
“I’m from Zetta Prime—we have no use for overly fancy clothing,” Trin said motioning down at her plain black flight suit. “And my mother decided to use exotic sperm from a small, little known planet in the Milky Way galaxy when she conceived me at the Conception center. She was never sorry she did—nor am I.”
She had never been ashamed of her creamy light brown skin or her long, black hair. It wasn’t the Zetta Prime norm but Trin was proud of her exotic heritage and it showed in the way she spoke and carried herself.
“Of course, of course,” the slaver said quickly. “Which is why this male would be the perfect body-slave for you.”
“How do you figure that?” Trin raised an eyebrow at him. She couldn’t wait to hear this spin.
“Think of it, my lady—you are already most…unusual yourself. Different I should sssay. That in itself can be a problem when trying to deal with the denizens of Yonnie Sssix.”
“True, but how would having such a huge, ostentatious body-slave help me blend in?”
“Ahh, but you do not wish to blend in.” The slaver raised one scaly finger for emphasis. “If you are going to ssstand out anyway, you should make a ssstatement. And nothing commands respect on Yonnie Sssix like a huge, imposing male who is obviously broken to your will.”
“Hmm.” Though Trin hated to admit it, the slaver made sense. How many times had she seen the Mistresses of Yonnie Six parading around the assembly halls with the biggest, baddest, most dangerous-looking male they could find trailing on a leash behind them? And the Havoc male on the platform was huge and imposing enough to put any other body-slave to shame.
I’d like to see Lady Malroth snub me with him standing behind me, guarding my back, she thought eyeing the massive Havoc again.
Still, it would do no good to get such a large male unless he truly was tractable. And no matter how much the slaver reassured her, she couldn’t make herself believe this Havoc was the innocent, malleable slave he was promised to be.
“I don’t know,” she said, frowning. “I don’t know how I could control such a large male.”
“Easily,” the slaver said eagerly. “Observe.” He walked over to the platform and tapped the massive male on one arm. “Slave—get down from the display platform. This Mistress wishes to see you.”
The Havoc male didn’t twitch so much as a muscle. He wasn’t just unmoving—he appeared to have turned to stone, kneeling there on the round display platform.
“Do you hear?” The slaver raised the black blindfold, uncovering the most gorgeous eyes Trin had ever seen. They were a pale silver-blue that was almost white with a thin band of black around the irises.
Beast’s eyes, she thought, and shivered for some reason. But the slaver was still trying to get the Havoc’s attention.
“I sssaid get down!” he bawled and slapped the muscular arm more forcefully.
Again there was nothing. Not so much as a flicker of movement.
“This is your last chance.” There was an ugly look on the slaver’s reptilian face now—his snout was wrinkled in anger, his yellow eyes were enraged slits. “Ssstand now or taste the pain of your collar.”
The huge slave simply looked at him—or glared might be a better word. The extraordinary eyes narrowed and for a moment Trin thought he looked like a wild animal set to pounce. But he gave no other response and didn’t move so much as a muscle.
“You will move if I sssay ssso!” Clearly infuriated, the Xethian slaver pulled out a small black remote and pointed at the Havoc.
“No, wait!” Trin exclaimed. “I don’t want—”
But her protest came too late. The slaver pressed the button and the big body on the platform went suddenly rigid with agony. Trin watched in horror as the Havoc’s back arched and his head snapped back in pain. Every muscle on his big frame stood out as hard as a rock and the cords in the powerful column of his throat were rigidly defined.
The eerie thing was that he suffered in silence. Though it was clear he was in horrible pain, the Havoc never made so much as a whimper, let alone a plea for mercy. He just took it.
“Stop! Stop it!” Trin exclaimed. “Look, his face is getting red and he can barely breathe. Stop it now, you’re hurting him! That’s too much pain!”
“Pain is the point, my lady,” the slaver hissed malevolently. “And this ssslave needs to learn to do as I tell him if he does not want more pain than he can bear.”
“You’re giving him more than he can bear right now!” Trin protested. “Look, he’s about to faint! He—”
Before she could finish her words, the intractable Havoc male toppled off the platform, his entire long body going rigid, as though he was having some kind of a seizure.
“Stop!” Trin ordered again. “You’re killing him!”
“Why ssshould I not kill him? I will not have a ssslave who does not obey,” the slaver hissed petulantly.
“That’s enough—I’m through asking you.” Trin doubled her fist and gave the slaver a shot to his scaly jaw. She didn’t like to resort to physical violence but she couldn’t just stand by and watch the Havoc killed on a whim. The slaver’s long, boney jawbone sent a jolt of pain through her fingers as she connected, making her wonder briefly if she might have broken one or several, but the blow had the desired effect.
“Ssslurlesh!” It was obviously a curse in the slaver’s native tongue. He dropped the remote in surprise and it skittered across the floor. Trin ran after it. The slave’s broad back was still bowed in agony and she was afraid if she didn’t shut off the collar soon he might have permanent damage.
The little black remote was kicked by several feet but at last she got her hands on it and hurried back to the display—only to see the slaver standing there with one three fingered hand to his scaly jaw and a couple of security Crangs flanking him.
“This isss the one,” he said, pointing at her. “Ssshe ssstruck me with no provocation whatsoever!”
“I had plenty of provocation,” Trin said angrily. “He’s killing his slave. Just look!” She turned with the remote ready, hoping she was pressing the right button to stop the painful pulses.
The slave, whose entire body had been a rigid statue of pain, suddenly went limp and lay still on the metal floor. Trin ran over to him and checked his pulse. It was there—slow but steady—but he was completely out. Well, at least he’s still alive. She breathed a sigh of relief and turned back to the huge, lumpish security Crangs who looked like they were made of cooled lava deposits.
“See?” she demanded.
“It does not matter what the slaver, who is the one who is the owner of this slave, was doing to his slave which he owns,” one of the Crangs pronounced laboriously. “He is the owner of the one who is called the slave, not you.”
“Therefore, you must be the one who shall be arrested and tried in the Hub court that is called the place of law for the crimes you have committed,” the other Crang droned. “This is what is called justice.”
“Justice?” Trin exclaimed. “Have you been smoking mindbliss weed? You can’t arrest me for keeping this scaly bastard from killing someone.”
“He is not a someone who is having what are known as rights,” the first Crang said. “He is what is known as a slave and you are the one who is being in the wrong.”
“Therefore, come with us,” the second one said, reaching for her.
“Hold on a minute!” Trin knew what this meant. Those taken into custody at the Flesh Bazaar as often as not found themselves on the wrong side of the auction block when the hasty “trial” in the Hub Court was over. All proceeds of such sales went to line the pockets of the corrupt officials who presided over the court so they were quick to hand down a guilty verdict. Trin had no intention of being sold to the highest bidder just because the scaly son-of-a-bitch slaver was angry that she’d taken a shot at him.
She took a hasty step backwards and nearly stumbled over the body of the huge Havoc who was still out like a light. It gave her an idea. “I may have overreacted,” she said, though she could barely force the words out. “But it was only because I didn’t want the slave I was intending to buy to be damaged.”
“Buy, you sssay?” The wounded slaver perked up considerably.
“Yes, buy,” Trin emphasized. “I’ve decided he’s the perfect slave for me. So…how much?”
The slaver’s eyes narrowed, rendering them nothing more than yellow slits.
“Fifty thousand credits,” he announced. “And not a sssentine less.”
“Fifty thousand?” Trin could scarcely believe her ears. “But that’s crazy. It’s ten times what even the best, most perfectly trained slave is worth and—”
“And you will pay or these fine Crangsss will take you to the court.” The slaver smirked at her.
“I—” Trin began, meaning to tell him to go procreate with himself. But the Crangs were coming towards her, their lumpish, rock-like hands outstretched, ready to drag her before the “court” where she would be declared guilty at once, stripped of her clothing and all her goods, and sent to the auction block. Fifty thousand credits was her entire savings and then some but there wasn’t much she could do—she was stuck.
“Yesss?” the slaver inquired. “You were sssaying?”
“I was saying wrap him up.” Trin sighed. “I’ll take him.”