Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Kathy Kane, Martha Kent, Alfred
Series Notes: In the 23rd century, Earth is a technologically-advanced society that practices the ancient institution of slavery. The wealthy freeman Bruce Wayne acquires a highly-prized pleasure slave whom has fallen in love with him…but can the Prince of Gotham ever return that love? And will it all be moot as a weak abolitionist movement slowly gathers strength while the Galactic Empire remains in a perpetual state of Cold War? The entire series can be found here.
Categories: Drama, AU
Rating: (this chapter): R
Summary: Bruce attends the National Abolitionist Society Convention in Gotham City.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): June 15, 2007
Date Of Posting: August 15, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2764
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
“Slavery is inherently unfair.
Why should some of us go through this life
literally unfettered while others among us
are born to the manacle and chain?”
“The Moral Case For Abolitionism”
Lecture given by Martha Clark Kent,
The National Abolitionist Society,
June 18, 2246 C.E.
The Gotham Conference Center was bustling with activity. Convention members arrived from the nearby hotels and a ring of placard-carrying protesters marched outside the entrance in a circle. The signs read, Abos Go Home!, Slavery Forever!, and Slavery = Freedom!
Bruce slipped by the protesters, his glasses and dark-red hair helping to disguise him. It wouldn’t do for Bruce Wayne to be seen at a conference of the National Abolitionist Society. He picked up his badge (that read Sean Kennedy) at a registration table in the lobby. A radio softly played, an announcer saying, “Congress will begin debate of the Branding Bill this afternoon. The President is also sending a new tax bill to the Hill…”
He leafed through the three-day agenda, certain lecture and workshop topics standing out. He perused today’s agenda: the opening remarks by Cousin Kathy at 9:00, then:
10:00 The Origins Of Modern Slavery
11:00 The Moral Case For Abolitionism
1:00 A Report On The Future Compulsory Branding Law
2:00 An Overview Of Slavery Across The Empire
3:00 The Code of Honor: How The Ruling Classes Abide By It In Relation To Slavery
9:00 A Report By The Chapters On Current Progress
10:00-12:00 A Workshop On Political Activism
1:00 The Economic Foundations Of Slavery
2:00 What We Can Learn From Past Abolitionist Movements
3:00 How To Legally Intervene In Cases Of Slave Abuse
There was a special evening lecture:
8:00-10:00 The Pleasure Slave’s Unique Status In The Slave World
9:00 Depiction Of Slavery In Popular Culture
10:00 How To Cultivate Freemen Contacts
11:00 The Responsibilities Of Ownership
1:00-3:00 The Psychological Underpinnings Of The Master/Slave Dynamic
It was a full and interesting schedule. Bruce marked the lectures of special interest, and he intended to at least partially attend the rest.
Bruce took a seat in the back of the main auditorium. While no event was compulsory, most attendees made sure to show up at the opening session. People filed in, chatting in pairs and groups or quiet singles such as himself.
Everyone settled down as 9:00 hit on the clock. Kathy came out to the podium, looking radiant in a bright yellow dress with a shimmering scarlet scarf dashingly tossed around her neck. A scarlet maple leaf pin glittered as it held one end of the scarf in place. Long, blue-black hair cascaded to her shoulders as hazel eyes surveyed the audience.
“Welcome, fellow crusaders!” Applause. “Gotham City, home of the rebel and iconoclast, welcomes you with open arms.” More applause. “We are fighting the good fight, my friends. Once scorned as a fringe movement of wackos and granola-crunchers, we have been quietly gaining mainstream acceptance and adherents.”
Bruce wondered if that was 100% true. The abolitionist movement was still considered by many to be on the fringes, but his cousin was correct in that the movement had grown stronger. They were fighting for complete abolition as the ultimate goal, but in the meantime were pushing for laws for slave health and welfare.
While Kathy ran down the many themes of the conference, Bruce was grateful that she has procured his false badge. She understood the need for secrecy but had been thrilled that he wanted to attend at all.
She had also arranged a meeting with one of the most prominent speakers.
The welcome speech ended at 9:40 and refreshments were served, and the exhibition hall was opened. Bruce sipped Earl Grey tea and wandered into the hall.
Each chapter had its own booth, some more elaborate than others. There were booths representing the international societies as well. Bruce picked up brochures and came upon displays that offered practical advice on political activism. There were also items for sale to fund the movement: buttons, pins, mugs, keychains, jewelry, T-shirts and other goods to entice the faithful.
Bruce also knew that the major source of funding were rich supporters of the cause. Cultivating the wealthy willing to break ranks with their class and support a cause that was anathema to it, skilled crusaders were able to keep a flow of money coming from people deemed to be eccentrics, but it was a constant battle.
Bruce paused as he saw a tall, thin gentleman of about fifty talking to a woman in her booth. He was dressed in expensive but casual clothes, his silver hair thick and slightly unruly.
Bruce hoped his disguise worked. In addition to his glasses and red hair, he had used make-up to alter his features just enough to hide Bruce Wayne, he hoped.
He recognized the man: Andrew Carver, descended from a family with nearly as much prestige as his own.
Now he was disgraced.
Bruce watched as Andrew continued his conversation. Little surprise that he was comfortable here. He openly supported abolition, also no surprise as he didn’t hide the fact the he was in love with his pleasure slave.
Bruce always felt unease around Andrew but never shunned him. He walked to the empty booth next to the one where Andrew was standing and pretended interest in its literature.
“So glad to see you here, Mr. Carver.”
“You know the Cause is near and dear to my heart.”
The woman smiled. “You’re a brave man, sir.”
Andrew waved his hand negligently. “Oh, when you love someone, it’s easy.”
Bruce doubted that but remained silent.
“So, I hear that Kathy Kane considers you a pioneer.”
“Why, I suppose I am.” Andrew beamed. “I’m proud to be part of this movement.”
The woman assigned to the booth arrived and Bruce got into a short conversation with her. By the time he finished, Andrew had moved on to another aisle.
Bruce knew that Society had cut Andrew Carver dead. He was no longer invited to any of the social events of the season and was referred to in mocking terms by his peers, and those who were not. The stock of his family’s company had plummeted, forcing his ouster from the Board of Directors, and now the only income he had was from the trust fund his parents had set up for him at birth.
All for the crime of falling in love with a slave.
Bruce tried not to ponder too deeply about Andrew’s situation, slipping into the first lecture, which had already started.
He let his mind drift, knowing quite a bit already about the origins of modern slavery. He was more interested in the second lecture for several reasons.
Bruce moved to the next room, which was quickly filling up. Three different conference rooms had been designated for lectures. Each one had equipment for visual and aural presentations. Changing rooms had been proposed to give subsequent lecturers time to set up, and to give people a change of scenery as all the lectures owned their timeslots without competing talks.
Bruce settled in the middle of the room on the end of the aisle. As people still came in, he called home, refraining from using names and was satisfied that all was well.
The lecturer stepped to the podium under the lights, a peaches-and-cream complexion and warm smile endearing Martha Clark Kent to the crowd. Green eyes sparkled behind gold-rimmed glasses, and if Bruce hadn’t known she was already in her mid-fifties, he would have thought her to be about fifteen years younger.
“Welcome, my friends. Today we will be discussing ‘The Moral Case For Abolitionism’, and so to begin…”
Martha launched into a passionate argument for the abolition of slavery, the power of her words making Bruce increasingly uncomfortable.
“Why should one group of people be subjected to the horror and indignities of slavery on a daily basis simply because they were born to it? Why should they be sold like furniture, their families torn apart, their lives changed on the whims of freemen?
“Slaves must endure humiliation, abuse, and rape as the norm. And let us not kid ourselves! Despite the legal term of ‘violation’, when a freeman takes a slave sexually, it’s rape.”
Murmurs went up in the crowd. Bruce surmised that it was mostly supportive.
A hand shot up. “Ms. Kent, are you talking about when a freeman assaults a slave without the Master’s permission, or whenever a Master takes a slave he owns to bed?”
Bruce felt a coldness creep along his bones as he waited for the answer.
“Good question.” Martha rested her elbows on the lectern. “I don’t want to go into the particulars of legitimate owners and their slaves, as that can be covered better in the pleasure slave lecture. However, let’s look at our current legality: a slave who is sexually assaulted by a freeman not the owner is not classified as a rape victim under the law. Instead, they are property whom have been ‘violated’, an affront to their owners.”
Bruce thought of Clark and his vulnerability and resolved to keep a closer eye on him off the estate.
“The moral question here is should we be treating fellow human beings worse than we would treat a cat or a dog? Should we be buying and selling them like inanimate objects simply because it’s what we do? How can we sleep at night knowing certain people are condemned to lives of perpetual bondage simply as an accident of birth?”
Another hand went up and Martha acknowledged its owner.
“Ms. Kent, what about the religious underpinnings of the slavery question?”
“Well, many mainstream religions firmly believe in slavery. They say it’s ordained by God.”
“Ah, yes, the Bible argument.” Martha straightened up and gripped the lectern. “Well, we don’t stone adulterers anymore, luckily for us (laughter). A lot of religionists like the certainty of the places they set up for people: women be submissive, people remain virgins until marriage, gays be scorned and hated, slaves be slaves and freemen be freemen.” Martha looked slightly amused. “Believe me, Kansas has its share of fundamentalists. It always has. We, sad to say, contain the headquarters of the Church of the Word, that estimable organization that pickets gay and slave funerals, calling both groups abominations.”
“I thought that fundamentalists supported slavery?”
“Most do. This particular sect hates gay sex so much that they hate the slaves who provide those services.” Martha’s tone grew wry. “Of course they don’t blame the freemen. They consider slaves to be ‘tools of the devil’ and because our society condones the art of the pleasure slave, we’re all going to burn in hell.” Once more wry, she said, “Trust me, if we as a society burn in hell, it won’t be because some freeman wants to bed his pleasure slave for a night.” Laughter rippled through the audience. “But wacko sects aside, the mainstream religions do back the practice of slavery. It’s up to us to prove them wrong.”
The conversation continued, lively and stimulating, and after the lecture Bruce approached Martha.
“Yes?” Martha turned.
“My name is Sean Kennedy.” Bruce held out his hand. “I’d like to discuss some of the issues you brought up over lunch.”
“Mr. Kennedy!” Martha’s eyes lit up. “Kathy Kane spoke to me about you.” She shook his hand. “And I’d love to have lunch with you, but today I must attend a luncheon for the chapter heads.” Her green eyes sparkled. “Could you meet me in the lobby tomorrow at 11:45? I’m not the 10:00 lecturer so I can slip out easily.”
“I’d be delighted.”
“Excellent. I’ll see you then.”
Bruce watched her leave, then walked a few blocks to a pizza joint he liked to frequent when he was in town, confident that his disguise was suiting him well.
He sat by the window, watching the good citizens of Gotham City go about their business, reviewing what he had learned today. He checked the schedule. He definitely wanted to attend the lecture that was scheduled right after lunch.
After lunch he went to his rental car in the conference center parking garage and took out a cloth bag. He walked into the center via a side door, down a maintenance corridor and into a little-used closet after picking the lock. He artfully hid the bag and slipped out.
One never knew when help would be needed.
& & & & & &
The 1:00 lecture was filling up fast. Bruce noticed Andrew sitting a few rows in front of him.
The lecturer was Kathy. She opened the talk with, “Well, leave it to Congress to eff things up.” Laughter erupted in the crowd. “We want laws to be enacted to protect slaves from cruel and capricious Masters until the day we can abolish the institution, but now a bill is coming up that will make it compulsory to brand slaves.” A murmur of disgust went up, and Bruce felt queasy. “As you know, it has always been left up to the Masters whether to brand or not. Most Masters don’t employ this archaic practice for a myriad of reasons. Some don’t do it for humane reasons, but most simply dislike scarring property.”
Bruce briefly closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see Clark’s perfect flesh scarred...for both reasons.
“We have entered into an unholy alliance with several prominent slaveowners to stop this bill. Unfortunately, that puts us in an ironic position of campaigning against the control of slaveowners. A bad precedent, but one I and many others are willing to risk.” Kathy signaled for the lights to be dimmed. “Branding is a barbaric practice. Every time a slave is sold, a new brand can be applied. Slaves who aren’t classified as bedwarmers can end up pretty scarred, though under the new law pleasure slaves will be branded as well.”
A screen lit up behind Kathy and she moved off the podium to the side.
“Not only can a slave be scarred, but the process is cruel. The usual spot for branding is the left inner thigh, and when too many brands make that a mess, move on to other parts of the body.”
The video started. Gloved hands grabbed a naked slave’s leg, pulling it so that the inner thigh was exposed. Bruce noticed how pretty the young man was, dark-haired and blue-eyed…
A red-hot poker entered camera range, glowing with its heat. Another gloved freeman held the slave as the poker was pressed to his thigh, a scream of pain piercing the audience. He writhed as smoke began to rise from smooth flesh.
Bruce clutched his datapad with white-knuckled fingers. He had heard about brandings, of course, and knew what the procedure was, but he had never witnessed one before.
The brand was pulled away, bits of flesh coming with it, and the black/red marking was angry on pale flesh. The slave’s moans were loud in the silence of the room.
“The brand is cleaned but sometimes still gets infected, leading to the loss of limb and sometimes life.”
The video faded and the lights came up, Kathy returning to the podium. She looked out over the solemn audience.
“This, my friends, is what all slaveowners will be forced to do if this bill passes. Here is what we are doing to prevent that…”
Bruce tried to take notes, his hand trembling. He felt slightly nauseous. The thought of marring Clark’s perfect skin and the pain it would cause him…
…oh, god, and Alfred! Bruce’s hand shook harder. Alfred wasn’t a young man anymore. What if the shock was too much for his heart? Maybe he could get a medical exception, and one for Clark, too, because of his chronic illness.
Bruce stopped his panicked ramblings. The bill hadn’t been passed yet. He immediately decided to donate money to those fighting this law.
& & & & & &
Bruce arrived at the Manor and found Clark and Alfred in the kitchen preparing dinner. He hadn’t told either one of his planned activities at the convention and had removed his make-up. He had simply explained the red highlights in his hair as a test run, Alfred understanding it was for future undercover work and Clark accepting it as well.
Bruce sat at the table and watched them work smoothly together, teasing each other with genuine affection.
No matter what, he would protect them with everything in his power.