Flash: Market Day Purchase

Photo by Jonny Clow on Unsplash

“Come on Delly,” Avon pulled on my arm. “You can bid on me.”

“Or better yet,” Justinian said from my other side, “Join us on the block.”

I rolled my eyes, trying to extract myself from their well-meaning exuberance. I fell between the cracks like normal. This time too poor to be a contract buyer and too old to interest anyone on the breeding platform. At twenty-three, I was positively ancient for an unbound female. I shook them off and wished them well.

Avon was finally old enough to qualify for a full contract, and Justinian only put himself in for a weekend indentureness, not wanting to be saddled with a share of the birth expenses. I would miss Avon. Someone would be sure to cough up the money to cover the minimum year support plus temporary abatement of her work contact. As beautiful and young as she was, they might even buy out her work contract altogether. It wasn’t like it needed deep pockets. She was never the strongest, apparent from the first spring day on the block, and she complained about the annual renewal clause Limer added to her branding ink.

No one ever gets out from the education indentureness with an annual.

Hell, no one gets out of education indentureness. The first-comers got that sewn up.

I pushed aside the negative thoughts and let the crowd draw me in its wake, except to the auction area. That would be too depressing.

I went up those steps the required three times and no one came close to covering the annual minimum. Closest was an offer for a weekend breeding attempt, if I agreed to pay for the implant removal myself.

My wild coins picked up a crystal-salt caramel apple, and I found some ribbons to wrap my dreads at a reasonable price for a fair day. Since I couldn’t get into town any other day, I parted with more of the temporary coins and pocketed gayly colored cloth. Determined to have a good time, ignoring the lack of friends on my arms, I floated from entertainer to entertainer. The fire-dancer hoops flared bright, giving the hoverbot above her a challenge in advertising the night show for her troupe. I would need to be back on the plantation by then. Pity.

The trio sounded hoarse, one looked sick. Being dragged from town-to-town on market day couldn’t be an easy contract. I sat cross-legged through three songs at the harpsi-drums, wrapping a few of my new ribbons around my twists, and dropped the last of my wild coin into his pot which his hoverbot scooped up. It’s not like I could deposit the wild coin against my contract or Edebt.

Two more hours to sunset, enough time to meander to the feast area which the large contract employers stocked for community largess on the three market days, per the community levies. After stuffing myself on someone else’s contract, I still would have time to easily catch the plantation haycarts back to the hill country.

Bumping into someone at the corner, I apologize before I realized he was a bot. Specifically a sex bot a little too far outside the marked lines of the vendors stall. I nudged him back, dusted him off, well, all the parts that wouldn’t get me accused of shoplifting, and stepped back. “Now, aren’t you a handsome one.”

I could hear the humming of an activated bot, but he didn’t move his eyes or verbally respond.

The stall owner was watching me closely. No surprise there.

I clearly wasn’t a first-comer, between my skin, height, and clothes, everything screamed I was descended from the last arrivals, the refugees from Earth’s environmental collapse. A token few made it out of indentureness. But with the burden of our parents and our grandparents on us, the chances of success are minimal. Avon would be free of debt before my grandchildren would be. If I decided to burden anyone else with this.

Which I hadn’t.

But a girl got needs too.

“How much for him?” I waved at the male sex bot. The owner named an outrageous price. I looked at him and then the bot.

“It isn’t even steady on its feet.” I tapped the bot lightly on its chest. “Look, each passing wind is rocking him out of your stall. Do you want to get fined?” I then named an equally outrageous price in the opposite direction, half of what was in my earnings account, set aside to cover monthly education interest if I am too injured to work contracts.

To my surprise, since I offered a twentieth of his initial asking price, the salesman said, “Sold.”

I sputtered, sure that I was just haggling to have one last bit of fun for the day. But, a verbal contract is still a contract.

“You, stay here.” I said to the machine, and, strangely, he stopped rocking.

Walking over to the register, I laid down my arm and my contract ink and related income came up above it. A few swipes, verification of sale, transfer of title, double-checking the title was assigned to me, not my employer, and I was the proud owner of a sex bot, male variety.

Not the normal way I bent, but it could do.

He should fit in my cot area, I think. Not only was he was handsome, he was big all over. Broad shoulders, long legs, strong arms, braids to kill for falling to his waist, and, well, the selling package. He had four inches on me in height, and I was over six foot.

No annual contract for me. Limer had me tied up into my mid-fifties, with two extensions of a score of years each at his option, not mine. But, if I took it to the very end with the luck of good health and no injuries, I would die debt-free instead of the balance transferring between my nearest ten relatives if I had no offspring.

Someone with the contracted potential to be debt-fee had certain clauses required by law hanging out from the very first-comers and the indentured on those ships. I could own my own things, and my contracted employer could not sell them from under me if I was unable to perform to contract. Even if I got sick and Limer paid the fine to break the contract, my ribbons, my cot, my blankets, and, now, my bot were mine to take with me.

I looked up at the bot whose eyes gleamed red for the title transference. “I am your owner.”

“You are my owner. Designation.”

“My designation is ShipClotilda Level Two Berth Two Hundred Forty-Six Bunk Delta, generation four maternal-paternal-paternal-maternal.” I was once again grateful I was an oldest child of an oldest child going back to the ship. Third or fourth born cadet lines got really complicated in their designations.

He opened his mouth, showing a perfect pink tongue, which rolled into a circle, then flattened, then rolled again. Watching his downloading of my ink gave me way too many ideas of how I would be using him tonight while the barracks were sparsely inhabited. Eventually, his mouth popped shut. An almost living sparkle touched his eyes and a gentle smile pressed those wide lips. “I see your common use name is Delly, may I call you that?”

“Of course.” I put my hand on his arm. “Are you okay to walk and talk?”

“Whatever is your pleasure, my sweet Delly.” His voice dropped and roughened while talking to me, until it sent a shiver down my spine when he said my name.

“Whoa, what is that?” I managed as we walked slowly away from the bot stall.

He responded softly, his voice like velvet against my ears. “Protocol adjustment to personalize behavior.”

“Well,” I panted a little, gripping his arm tightly, “tone it back in public areas.”

The bot nodded, smiling a private smile at me. “Noted, my sweet Delly.”

“Good.” I smiled politely back, missing the roughness, but thankful for the one step up from panty-dropping bass he had pinged me with as a personalization. Damn, it had been everything I never knew I needed.

A few heads turned as we made our way through the crowd, his blue-black iridescent gleam catching the eye until his mechanical purpose became clear and people frowned and looked away. Sex-bots were to be owned, not seen. Especially not seen with someone as far down on the cultural pole as I. But they had to be transported home, and today is the day people bought them for reasons ranging from amusing gag gifts to enhancement of breeding contract. If my hand wasn’t on his arm, the crowd wouldn’t be so judgy. They would assume I was assigned by my employer to bring home the new equipment.

Well, suck it world. This one is mine.

(words 1,478; first published 9/30/2022)

Market Day Series

  1. Market (8/27/2019)
  2. Armfield (5/30/2020)Not canon. Sometimes you start down a path and the story is just wrong. I kept at it and it didn’t get better. Going to try again though.
  3. Market Day Purchase (11/1/2020)This one worked MUCH better, expanding the original.