Pairings/Characters: (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Martha Kent
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
Summary: Bruce and Martha discuss their views over lunch.
Date Of Completion (First Draft): June 21, 2007
Date Of Posting: August 16, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1417
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Slavery is the moral question
of our times.
If you can find it within you
to donate time or money or both,
rest assured that you will join
a Great Crusade
that History will judge
in a Shining Light.
The National Abolitionist Society,
OVER THE ANTIPASTO
Martha appeared precisely at 11:45, looking very smart in a forest-green suit, her red hair gleaming and hanging loosely to her shoulders. Her color was more of a strawberry red while Bruce’s was dark. He hadn’t spotted any reporters and no one seemed to pointing cellphones or vidcomms at them, so he was happy.
“I know a place only a few blocks away. Do you like Italian?” Bruce asked.
They stepped out into the crisp October air, walking briskly to Rossetti’s. The small family restaurant was just starting to get busy with the lunchtime crowd and they secured a table in the corner by the front window. Both decided to share an antipasto, which Bruce assured Martha was a meal in itself, and a basket of warm, crusty bread was delivered to their table along with a small bowl of dipping oil.
Martha’s green eyes sparkled. “So, Mr. Kennedy, Kathy told me you were interested in this private talk.”
Bruce smiled. He knew that his cousin had told Martha Kent his true identity. She was willing to go along, probably hopeful of converting him to the Cause.
“Yes, Ms. Kent.”
“Call me Martha, please.”
“Then it’s Sean.”
Amusement curved Martha’s lips. “So, Sean, what is it that you wish to discuss?”
“Oh, naturally, your movement.” Genuine curiosity shone from Bruce’s eyes. “Do you think you have a chance to change such a bedrock foundation of society?”
Martha dipped her bread in the olive oil. “We’re certainly trying. It will never change if we don’t try.”
“True.” Bruce copied her and enjoyed the flavor of the oil-soaked bread. “But no abolition movement has ever been successful in this country. The closest it ever came was during the Civil War.”
“Yes.” Martha took a sip of her Diet Sunpunch. “Yet the abolitionist movement has remained in some form in the nearly four hundred years since then.”
“I know you sell items to raise funds, but your primary backers are among the elite.”
Martha nodded. “There are people who believe that slavery is wrong, some of your class included.”
“I know.” Bruce’s expression was calm.
“Your family sold off your household slaves years ago, except for your butler Alfred.” Bruce nodded. “I know you employ mostly freemen in your company.”
“All in the core company, actually. When we acquire holdings, then we sometimes acquire slaves.”
“Yes. Except for your butler, you had little personal contact with slaves.” Bruce was impressed by her research on him. “Until you purchased your pleasure slave.”
Bruce felt a blush creep up his face. “Um, yes.”
Martha laughed. “No need for embarrassment, Sean. I’m well aware of a man’s needs. I am married, you know.”
Bruce said nothing. His relationship with Clark was private, and more than just sex. Clark was companionship, sweet and gentle and someone he could talk to about books and other intellectual pursuits.
“So, you decided to take on a pleasure slave after years of not having one.”
“Well, this slave is special.”
There was no judgment in Martha’s voice, for which Bruce was grateful. He was feeling some discomfort as a slaveowner in the presence of this crusader against slavery.
“Yes, my family has a history of involvement in abolitionism.” He grinned. “Cousin Kathy is a passionate advocate.”
Martha smiled. “For which we are grateful.” She finished her bread.
The antipasto arrived, resplendent with provolone cheese, prosciutto, salami, cherry tomatoes, black olives, and olive oil.
“It has a really light flavor, and the olive oil is homemade.”
“Mmm.” Martha was pleased with the taste.
“So have you always been an abolitionist?”
“I’ve always had sympathy for the Cause, but beyond a donation now and then, never really got involved until about four years ago.”
“Things changed for you?”
“I just thought it was time to dedicate myself to a just cause.”
Bruce thought that there was more to it but he refrained from probing further. Everyone had a right to their secrets.
Martha took a bite of salami. “Are you aware of my state’s history as Bleeding Kansas?”
“Yes, I’ve read about it.”
She cut a strip of prosciutto. “In the 1850s, the battleground was joined in Kansas. Northerners, the Free-Staters, who were usually of the abolitionist variety, settled in the state while Southerners, the Border Ruffians, who were of the opposite ilk, settled in the state, too.
“Kansas did bleed, as the drama played out as a precursor to the conflagration to come. Farms were burned, livestock stolen, and settlers murdered. Quantrill and men like him got their guerrilla experience in Kansas.”
“Pretty terrible days.” Bruce speared an olive. “It was an awful, chaotic period.”
“Passions usually evoke chaos.” Martha cocked her head. “Are you one of those who subscribe to the theory that slavery promotes stability?”
Bruce toyed with a slice of provolone. “It does seem to have worked for us in recent centuries. The foundation of slavery is the basis of our economic prosperity. Nations here on Earth share in the wealth, and wars between countries have virtually disappeared.”
“But is that because of slavery?”
“Slavery has allowed freemen to amass great wealth. Poverty is still with us, but not as bad as in centuries past.”
They ate in silence for a few minutes, then Bruce asked, “Your father is a famous ACLU lawyer?”
Martha smiled. “Yes, Dad took on a lot of high-profile cases. Still does, on occasion. So you see, I come by my activism honestly.”
Bruce grinned. “Some people consider the ACLU to be pests.”
“And un-American.” Martha ate a fat cherry tomato. “My father needed protection while he worked certain cases. My family got used to being under siege. My husband is handy with a shotgun, which is a good thing.”
Bruce said in a concerned tone, “Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me.”
“Yes, abolitionism is not as accepted as it was even in the 19th century.”
“I trust there’s plenty of security for this convention?”
Martha nodded. “Commissioner Gordon has been most cooperative.”
“He’s a good man.”
“Yes, Kathy says he’s increased security at the Knickerbocker Hall slave pens.”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
Martha frowned. “Yes, the abuse is quite disgusting. Why owners allow their property to be so manhandled is beyond me, especially when their value could be lessened by damage.”
“I…don’t allow my slaves to be abused.”
“Admirable.” Martha lifted her glass. “Have you ever considered the case for better treatment?”
“Absolutely.” Bruce tore off a piece of bread and dipped it in the oil. “Some of the practices allowed are archaic, not to mention barbaric.”
“We’re working to pass laws to limit Masters’ complete domination over their slaves.” She shrugged. “Until we have complete abolition, we have to work to protect the enslaved as best we can.”
“This new law…”
“…is unfortunate, as I said in the lecture.” Martha sighed. “Congress is poised to pass the law giving them a modicum of control over slaveowners. Sadly, it means more pain for slaves.”
Bruce’s jaw clenched. “I don’t believe in slave mutilation.”
Respect shone in Martha’s eyes. “Good. It’s an abominable practice, and again, reduces value. Unmarked slaves always bring more money.”
Bruce took out his checkbook. “I’d like to make a donation to your organization to fight this.” He wrote a figure and handed her the check. Electronic checks were the norm but paper ones were still honored, especially for such gestures.
Martha took the check, her eyebrow rising as she scanned the amount, a touch of astonishment creeping across her features. She coughed. “Thank you.” She tucked the check into her purse. “Would you consider making a public statement in opposition to the bill?”
Bruce pushed the food around his plate. “If you think it would help if the vote becomes tight, but I prefer to stay in the background.”
“As you wish.” Martha speared a slice of prosciutto. “Will you be attending the lecture tonight?”
“I warn you, it may be uncomfortable for you as the owner of a pleasure slave.”
“Well, I could say that the entire conference has been, at times, uncomfortable.” He smiled ruefully.
“I look forward to seeing you tonight, then.”
Tonight should prove…interesting.