Here’s another excerpt from SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING, now available in print and for Kindle. In this excerpt, Tosun offers himself for sale. Connie, the first-person narrator, has refused to buy him in spite of his pursuit of her as owner.
SIDESHOW IN THE CENTER RING — excerpt
by Marian Allen
Tosun turned to me. “I don’t want to be released from my service to you, but I’ll accept my liberty if you force it on me.” When I didn’t say anything, he went to his chestpack and pulled something out of it. Something that crackled as he unfolded it. He brought it back to where Darryl and Marissa and I stood and handed it to me.
It was pink. The seller’s name was Tosun; the space for the buyer’s name was blank.
I remembered Tosun telling me that some Marneri, ones who renounce their worldly goods (like Religious, I had said), cancel their papers. That meant they were anybody’s who took them. Tosun was one.
“Budhi could have claimed you as well as me.”
Tosun nodded. “If he’d wanted to, although goliards–” he grinned wickedly, “–are in less demand than Terrans. But I wouldn’t have stopped him. The Yol–”
“When you’re quite through,” said Darryl. “Let me see that paper.”
“What’s to stop me from selling you to somebody else, if I accepted you, just like any other slave?”
“What’s to stop me from buying you and giving you to yourself?”
“My vows. Yolan can’t own slaves.”
“I have vows of my own. Don’t they matter?”
“Only you can say what matters to you. As for me: it’s you or them.”
Darryl snatched at Tosun’s paper. “Let me see that.”
“Just a minute. Don’t be so grabby.”
Where did principles and backbone come into this? Was it principled to own another person?
Was it principled to let Darryl own him? But what was I going to do–run around after Darryl all Season, and dash out with a fistful of credits every time he looked like buying somebody?
Tosun watched me, waiting for my decision. He didn’t understand. He didn’t care. He wasn’t afraid.
He wasn’t asking me to be afraid for him, either. Why should I–
Darryl grabbed for the paper again.
I whipped out a pen and put my scrawl on the dotted line. To the glee of everyone who’d yawned in my face when I’d moralized on the evils of slavery, I bought a man, and paid for him with a token credit.
Probably worth about thirty pieces of silver.