Pairing: Liam Neeson/Orlando Bloom, minor Liam/Johnny Depp, plus a few other pair-ups among the supporting characters.
Rating: NC-17 overall
Summary: Slave Orlando's been taken and the kidnappers aren't interested in ransom. And of course Master Liam's thundering rage is only at the personal insult, that someone would disrespect him by daring to touch his property.
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone you recognize. I know nothing about their social lives or sexual activities, more's the pity. This is fiction, period. It is done as a labor of love and I make no money from it.
Notes: 1) Set in poisontaster's Kept Boy universe -- FAQ here. See Chapter 1 for more notes.
Previous Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve
Ben had always known it'd happen. No matter what Master Marton had promised, Ben had always known that some day it'd be his turn to take the ride down to the Commerce office -- the real one -- and try his luck with the system one more time. So when Marton told him that it was time, he'd just nodded and asked what his new name was going to be.
Kevin Martinez wasn't a bad name; he'd seen slaves processed through with a lot worse. Not that it mattered, since an owner could call their slaves whatever they wanted, and he remembered thinking that the new "Cyril Shimmelpennick's" owner had probably swapped that name out for something else before the toner had cooled on his ownership papers.
Ben was dark enough to pass for Hispanic, or part, so that worked. And he paid close attention when Master Marton had reeled off his new birthday, his home town, and how much his debt had been for.
Master Marton gave him a pleased nod at all his eager cooperation, and said that they were going to make a detour on the way to Commerce. Ben -- or Kevin now, he'd have to remember that -- even got to ride in front, instead of chained in the back like most of the outgoing slaves.
They pulled into the parking lot and he recognized the fake Commerce office; he'd been there a few times, pretending he was going too, to make it look better for some of the twitchier targets. None of the Plan B slaves remembered him from the Plan A attempts -- the drugs made sure of that -- so he could play fellow captive and be one more person the stubborn slaves could try to "convince" that they were really Bobby Jones or whoever. One more person to disbelieve them, to report them for lying or being crazy and get them punished.
It was all about conditioning, Master Marton had said, like smacking a dog when it shit in the house and giving it a cookie when it shit outside. People were no different and eventually they could be trained too, if you could control their environment and all their interactions.
Master Marton had done his psych rotation at a government reeducation hospital near the Quebec border, he'd said once, and the experience had come in handy.
Whatever. All Ben/Kevin knew was he didn't want any of that shit pulled on him, so he smiled and nodded and made sure he looked happy to be moving on.
He'd get him later.
Because the Master had made promises. He'd said that if Ben helped him, if he cooperated and helped turn the other slaves cooperative, he'd let Ben go when it was all done. He said he'd give him his new identity and send him out with no chip and no brand and a set of cards and papers and a chance to try again on his own, to make a free life for himself.
Ben hadn't really believed him, but he was angry at the betrayal anyway. It was the principle of the thing. So he walked along behind Master Marton, through the door and into the faked-up office all quiet and dutiful like a good slave boy, and bided his time.
They went straight through to the office, where Mr. Anderson was watching one of the monitors.
"Good timing," he called over his shoulder. "I just sent Oren in there doing the janitor thing."
"Still stubborn?" asked Master Marton. He crossed the room and pulled over a chair next to Mr. Anderson's. Kevin followed and stood behind them, a pace back but still close enough to see and hear.
"Like trying to pry off a pit bull," Mr. Anderson said.
He sounded disgusted, and no wonder. Usually enough beatings for "lying" would get slaves to cooperate. Kevin had only seen a couple get this far.
"He's been trying to convince me he's changed his tune the last couple of days," Mr. Anderson continued. "His routine's so fake it creaks. This'll flush him out, though, and give him a good smack."
David was curled up on the floor in a training room, breathing in short, shallow gasps like it hurt. He held himself like everything hurt, and Kevin was pretty sure it did. He was chained to the cinderblock wall and his wrists were dark with old blood.
Then the door opened and Orem plodded in, pushing a big plastic barrel on wheels. He ignored David and went over to a plastic-lined bin in one corner, then used a set of steel tongs to pull bloody rags out of it and toss them into his barrel.
David watched him through blackened eyes that were swollen almost closed. He glanced at the door, which was still propped open, but must've had enough brains left to know that making a dash while you were chained by both wrists, and beaten so you could hardly move anyway, would be pretty stupid. Instead he called out in a low, raspy voice, "Hey."
Orem ignored him and went on with his work, leaning over the bin to fish around in the bottom with his tongs.
"Hey," David called again, a little louder this time.
"Not interested, bud," said Orem, still without looking around. "Even if I were into guys, you're pretty trashed."
"No, that's not--" David stopped and coughed, then groaned and wrapped his arms around his ribs. Orem put his tongs away and started back for the door.
"No, wait! I mean, want to make some money?"
Orem kept going. "If you had any money you wouldn't be here," he said.
"My master does!" David babbled, obviously talking as fast as he could, desperate to get through to the "janitor" before he left. "This is a huge mistake! I'm already a slave and someone grabbed me off the street and my master'll pay a lot of money to get me back! Please, if you help he'll pay you, I swear!"
That made Orem pause. He stared at David for a moment, then poked his head out the cell door and peered up and down the hall. He came back in and shut the door, then approached David, just out of reach of the chains.
"Supposing I even believe you, am I supposed to go knock on this guy's door or what? And how much money are we talking about?"
"I don't know, lots," David promised. "My name is Orlando and my master is Lord Neeson. He's really rich! He owns a bunch of companies and a huge estate and eighteen slaves and he'll want me back! Do you have something to write on, I'll give you his phone number."
"All right, all right, fine. No phone number, though -- if you're bullshitting me and he has an ID display then he could come after me and give me grief. Give me his e-mail and I'll send him a note and see what he says."
"Yes! Yes, fine, yes, thank you!" Kevin thought David was going to faint with relief. He babbled the e-mail address at least five times while Orem patted his pockets and dug out an old work order and then found a pen that worked. David repeated the e-mail another half dozen times while Orem wrote it down carefully, drawing each letter with his tongue between his teeth, then wrote down "Orlando's" name.
"Okay, I'll write this lordship here and we'll see what he says." He glared down at David while stashing the paper and pen back into his pockets. "If you're shittin' me, though, I'm gonna tell Mr. Anderson you're playing games and he'll kick the crap outa you. More than he has already, even."
"No, I swear it's true, thank you! Thank you so much! I can't believe finally--"
"Right, right, whatever." Orem waved David to silence and added, "We'll see," before he opened the door and vanished through it with his barrel.
David collapsed back against the wall, a euphoric smile on his face.
Mr. Anderson grinned. "There. That should have him floating six feet off the ground for the next few days."
Master Marton nodded. "And the higher he goes, the harder he'll hit when he falls. That should do it." He stood up and said, "Orem does good work. I'm glad you found him."
Kevin hoped David enjoyed his happy little secret while it lasted.
When Thewlis had been in college, he'd majored in sociology with an emphasis on modern slavery. He'd thrown in the minor in administration of justice on a whim, because a couple of the classes had looked interesting and it'd been easier to justify taking a few more with a formally registered minor. The major had seemed like a good choice, though; Berkeley had always been a hotbed of political activism and social consciousness, and he'd had to fight with hundreds of other students to get into some of the more interesting classes on slavery.
Once he'd graduated, however, he found that there was much less interest in the subject out in the real world. Unless he wanted to actually work for Commerce -- which he most emphatically did not -- there were few paying jobs available for a bright-eyed young idealist with a shiny new Master's degree and a repertoire of canned speeches on the evils of slavery and the abuses inherent in the system.
The admin justice, ironically, turned out to be all that stood between him and Commerce himself when his student loans came due. He knew enough about the law and the justice system not to get arrested (although it'd been a close thing a few times) and his Masters research had taught him how to dig up information. Some unoffical investigations with payment under the table had kept a collar from around his throat until he'd taken enough supplementary classes to sit for his PI's exam, and it'd been an essentially straight road from there.
A private investigator's life was nothing like television. Most of it was boring -- hours spent searching through various archives and public records, more hours spent making lists and checking items off one at a time, and still more hours of trying to talk to people who didn't want to talk to him and weren't overly polite in how they said so.
He was good at it, though, and experience had made him better. It paid the bills, which was the important part.
And every now and then, he was handed a puzzle which was actually interesting.
Thewlis still had occasional contact with old college friends, and he was starting to suspect that whoever'd grabbed Lord Neeson's Orlando hadn't had a personal grudge or goal. He'd spent considerable time investigating Neeson's primary business rivals -- taking his Lordship's word, of course, for who probably might or likely wouldn't have a current grudge or goal worthy of such a radical tactic -- and nothing had made his investigative nose twitch.
There was always the possibility that the scheme had been hatched through half a dozen layers of flunkies. Actually, that was much more likely than that the top man or woman had gotten personally involved. Crossing off those options, however, would likely take months of painstaking investigation, tracing every contact through however many branches resulted. Even discounting sub rosa communications which would be extremely difficult and perhaps impossible to detect for anyone with fewer reources than the Imperial government, he was still looking at months if not years of work; the trail would've gone corpse-cold long before he had any hope of stumbling across a clue, even assuming the business angle was the correct one.
Much easier and more productive for Lord Neeson to keep an eye on his competitors and see if any of them suddenly popped up with a packet of devastatingly useful information. The brute force method Thewlis filed under last ditch efforts, to be attempted only when all else failed.
Thewlis had another idea he was following up.
The fact that Orlando hadn't turned up at all yet -- hadn't been found wandering, hadn't been taken to a hospital, hadn't even been found, used and discarded, at a morgue -- was pointing him in one of two directions. One he could investigate on his own. The other he'd need help with.
He got on the phone and dialed a fairly important man's personal number.
"Nick? This is Thewlis. We need to talk and it's fairly sensitive. Where can we meet?"
Next Chapter: Chapter Fourteen