The main drag of the spaceport town flashed and jittered with bright lights, blinking signs and sharp sounds that sprang from nowhere. Walking side by side to Arekan, Obon gawked at the women and boys standing or sitting seductively behind their plasglass windows. One young boy licked his lips salaciously as the men of the Rogan walked by.
“We should grab that one,” said Obon. “He’d be fun.”
“So you like boys?” said Egren who stood on Arekan’s left.
Obon shrugged. “I like them all. A touch of skin, whiff of their hair, tasting them.”
The Rogan’s crewmember ran his tongue across his lips and Arekan shivered. Unlike many of his shipmates, Obon was a pirate born into the trade. That he crewed on the shitehole of the Rogan was a testament to his degenerate nature.
“He’s a discount skin ticket,” said Egren derisively. “Wouldn’t last a week. A waste of our time.”
“And why should you care if he makes the entire run, eh? You so eager to share profits? And we haven’t had a boy toy for months.”
“We’ll check the slave market,” said Egrin decisively. “We need bodies that can work, not play.” He smiled nastily at Obon who stuck his tongue out at him.
“What?” said Arekan. “I can’t imagine that our beloved captain would pay for crew.”
“Aye, you’re right there, boy,” said Egrin. “Etharin is a cheap bastard, and wouldn’t buy his own mother out of slavery.”
“I more imagine he was hatched rather than birthed,” snarked Arekan.
Obon sniggered. The only thing that united the Rogan crew was their mutual hatred of their captain and his first mate, Grokin.
“Aye, you’re a cocky git,” said Egren, “if you don’t want another beating, you keep that smart trap of yours shut.”
Just the mention of his recent punishment made the healing skin of his back prickle. Arekan got more than a beating. He was whipped with a leather thong with metal tips that flayed his skin, all because Arekan ignored the captain’s orders and saved Obon’s life.
“Aye, aye, sir,” said Arekan. “I wasn’t aware you were promoted to officer.”
“I’m just telling ‘ya for your own good, boy. The only thing you got going for you is your skill with that blade hanging at your side. The rest of you is plain useless. Worse things can happen on the Rogan and we need our blade too much for them to happen to you.”
“Gee, thanks. Love you too.”
Egren scoffed but they all stopped talking as they entered the ring of the slave market and stared at the naked merchandize on display. Sad looking men and women stood shackled in a line across a raised wood platform.
“Discount skin tickets,” snorted Egrin. “Let’s check the back.”
“Why?” said Arekan.
“Cause they save the best for last,” said Obon too eagerly.
“Aye,” agreed Egrin. “Come. While they are busy selling this lot they won’t be watching the merchandise in back.”
Arekan felt sick at Obon’s glee in staring at the barred metal that held unclothed men and women, boys and girls. They returned blank gazes or none at all, totally hopeless in their plight. It was too much. If it wasn’t for his father’s blade at his side and his skill with it, he could be one of these sad creatures.
He rounded a corner of the crazy maze of cages, and glancing over his shoulder noticed that his companions weren’t with him. This was the first time since he signed on that he was alone and off the ship. A desire to run overcame him, to get away from his shipmates and his cursed ship.
“Where would that leave you, eh?” he told himself. Alone on a strange planet, without legal papers and with a price on his head, he was in a bad position. One good DNA scan and he’d be shipped to Kyn to meet his death.
Many of the cages were empty here and he thought he should turn back. But everything looked the same and he realized he lost his bearings. He turned down on lane and came to a cul-de-sac. There, sitting in the furthest cell was a young man about Arekan’s age. Long, dark,layered hair hung in his eyes, as if he’d forgotten to get his hair cut. But he sat, with one arm resting over his knee as he stared defiantly at Arekan.
“Who the hells are you?” he snapped in Fed-Eng. “I don’t recognize you.”
Arekan looked over the young man’s body mass. He was skinny, but his muscles were well formed. Apparently he was raised on a planet, because spacers tended not to have much muscle. This guy could work if needed.
“You want to get out of here?” asked Arekan.
The slave cocked his head.
“What do you care where?” said Arekan. “You about to be sold, probably as someone’s boy toy. Chained to a bed until they whip the fight out of you. Or maybe caned for the fun of it. At least where you are going you won’t have to do that.”
“Don’t you make that sound appealing,” snorted the captive.
Arekan shrugged his shoulders and turned away from boy. “If you want to be a sex slave–”
Arekan turned and leveled a stern look at him. “Yes.”
“What do I have to do?”
“I’ll be back.”
Arekan tore through the narrow alleyways looking for his shipmates. Finally he found Egren and Obon in front of one cage bickering with its occupant staring at them with wide eyes.
“Forgot that one,” said Arekan. “I found what we are looking for.”
Even Obon agreed when he laid eyes on the youth.
“He’s pretty,” he said in Oshijian.
“What did he say?” said the slave.
“Shut it,” hissed Arekan to Obon in Oshijian. “That’s not what he’s for.”
“He’ll do,” said Egrin in Fed-Eng and the boy looked relieved. Arekan suffered a pang of guilt. Life on the Rogan was barely a step up from sex slave and it was hard and cruel.
Egrin slung his pack off his back and yanked out a bundle of clothes. “Obon, you get that door open.”
Oben slid a wallet from inside his jacket to his hands and took out a metal instrument to pick the lock.
“Are you sure?” said Arekan. When had he become so eager to haul someone into his miserable existence?
“You’ve got an eye for this, boy. This ain’t no discount skin ticket.”
“Aye,” agreed Arekan as the young man hastily dressed in the clothes Egrin brought. He wasn’t warmed by Egrin’s praise.
Arekan thought about the depths he sunk to since walking onto the Rogan. “Discount skin ticket,” he muttered. It was one more burden he bore.
Image by Starry Night Graphix