A few days passed and she began to get used to his routines. Food was the centerpiece of his day and the anchor to which all else was tied. Breakfast was a time to discuss the news. Mike did his damnedest to be well informed and subscribed to various news services from across all of New Eden. He was as likely to be discussing null sec politics as he was to be discussing the latest fashion trends in Rens or some obscure theological debate in Amarr. He did not seem to find them jarring but, rather, he treated them as pieces of some larger puzzle and was always looking for connections.
Lunch was shopping and design. He might go to a market or spend time arguing with merchants or he might be setting contracts for purchase or sale. He would be looking at a holographic model of a ship and comparing it to notes he had on the side while something baked in the oven. She watched from the side while when he exclaimed ‘SALE!?’ and spent the next half hour negotiating with another pilot for a pair of Slicers.
“He was cleaning house and wanted to unload a few tings. I chose not to be too greedy but he did let me have them at below the lowest market value I could see.”
“Cleaning house? You make it sound like ships collect like old magazines.”
“Well, they do, for some pilots.” Mike had the grace to look slightly embarrassed.
“Oh they do do they? I suppose you own more than one or two?” She watched him chop some vegetables into the soup silently.
“I am very bad at keeping things, other than the kitchen, neat and tidy. I just get busy or I lay it aside having every intention of coming back to it . . . ”
“How many ships?”
“I honestly don’t know.” He tapped his comm and called up a program “Merde . . . I didn’t think it was that bad.”
“How many ships?”
He tapped the comm a few more times. “Nine.”
“Well that isn’t too bad.”
“That is the battleships. They were easy to count because I don’t fly them very often. Two of them are special. One of them is mine because you arranged for me to get it and the other never will be mine. I am just holding it for someone. You don’t want to know how many other ships I have.” Mike closed the comm down and continued cooking but he had a thoughtful look on his face.
“You have ships you don’t even remember? How can you do that?”
He shrugged and added some more pepper after tasting the soup. “Some are out in specific areas so if there is a need I will have something close to hand. Others were replaced but I did not try to sell the ship I arrived in. Some I have made, others I bought and occasionally people donate ships to me to give back out to others. The GBA has me occasionally contact new Gallente Pilots to welcome to their new path. IF they answer back politely then I send them a ship. Most of them are too wary to talk to strangers and ignore me.” His shrug was very expressive. “They get nothing.”
“you just . . .send them a ship . . . ” She put a hand to her head trying to understand him. “not loan, just give it to them?”
“If they want it. The organization I work for is quite charitable. One of the slicers I bought will also be given away, most likely. All we ask for is basic manners and communication skills. Amazingly, that is a fairly high requirement by the looks of it.”
“So you buy ships and give them away. How else do you use your isk?”
Mike ticked a list off on his fingers as he thought about it. “Education . . . . last course I took cost more than a most ships I fly. Legal expenses. Ship refits. Industrial research.”
Mike sighed. “Do you know what one of the hidden shames of Gallente space is?”
“I thought shame was a foreign concept to your people, along with decency and morals.” She smiled to take the edge out of the jibe.
“Slavery. Every other empire is willing to make laws about it but we just said NO and dropped the subject.”
“So? That is how it should be.” This was something that Free lived and she was confused that Mike just shook his head.
“No, it isn’t. Because we just say ‘no’ what happens to slaves in Gallente space. We do not have manumission laws. We do not allow transport of slaves. So you cannot free them, you cannot take them to where they can be freed.”
She had never heard of this problem before. “How do slaves get into Gallente space? Never mind, any route to avoid the taxes, petty raids on low level worlds . . . yes I know how. So what happens to slaves . . . legal fees?”
He nodded. “On every damn planet I hire lawyers to make cases, set precedents and try to make a ground roots campaign to change the laws.”
“But for there to be a case there needs to be slaves don’t there?”
His voice dropped almost to a whisper. ‘Nobody wants them, you cannot hire a slave, you cannot free them. They wind up at the bottom of the social ladder, working under the table and for all we speak of freedom, they would be better treated if they were back in Amarr space. So I take them and start the cases.”
“What do you mean, take them?”
He raised his eyes to meet hers. “Dammit, you want to hear me say it don’t you. I buy them. No other way to put it. Me. Slave owner. Me. You ran to hide with a chainer.” Tears of shame were filling his eyes. “I don’t know what else to do. It was the only way I could get the cases into the courts so we could change the laws. but it takes so damn long.”
Emotions raged behind her eyes but years of training meant nothing showed. In a voice as quiet as his she asked. “How many have you freed?”
“Eight hundred sixty five as of yesterday.”
Her eyes went wide as she processed the number. “You have bought and freed almost a thousand people?”
“I know, I know . . . . not enough. The cases outstanding will help but . . . ”
Her hand came up and stopped him. “OK, ‘chainer’. How many slaves do you own currently?”
“Right now? Including families it is somewhere over 30 . . . . thousand.”
She staggered back into a chair, not taking her eyes off of his face. “How the hell did you get thirty thousand slaves.?”
“Some are rescued from Amarr convoys. Others I found in small systems and just . . . bought them so I could start the cases.”
“Thirty thousand.” She asid to herself more than to him. “Where are they?”
“All over the place . . .each planet . . .”
“I get that. I mean you don’t have factories, plantations, bordellos do you? What are they doing? Where do they live?”
“Ah, well most times I buy property in a community and fund local schools and shelters to support the influx of people. I pay for skills training if they have none. Very few of the ones that have been freed have moved far away from where they were living before hand. Bordellos? Really?” He ladled the soup int bowls and slid one across to her.
“How much does this cost you?”
“Less than the inability to sleep nights would cost me. I am not broke and saving isk for isks sake is a fools game. If the isk is not working then it is not worth having. This is how I choose to let mine work.” He looked at her closely. “I am trying to do what is right but it does mean I own slaves.”
She snorted and blew on the spoonful of soup. “I read once that surgeons could not be considered doctors because of the damage they did to their patients. Eventually people were able to understand that there is a difference between the means and the ends. Have you ever been tempted to keep one, someone skilled? Or Cute?”
“Pfft. I have a beautiful woman who puts up with me. Why would I want to keep someone who did not? One or two of the freed ones now work on my ships, I think. I know I paid for ships training institutes. My crews work for me and with me. It would be stupid to have someone who was there under threat of death. No. I own the slaves so I can legally free them.” He crumbled crackers into his own soup and dusted his hands off as if dismissing the notion. “Sooner or later the courts will get tired of dragging it out and the Amarr will stop throwing up roadblocks.”
“Whoa whoa. How do the Amarr figure in?”
“Last thing they want is this dragged into the limelight. So they fund their lawyers to slow things down. Lobby for the status quo so that the Gallente courts keep from making sweeping changes. Stay and delays are their tactics. They try to bury it in minutia.”
Her eyes turned flinty. “Shakespeare was right.”
“Nothing. The soup is good. Are there any cases ongoing in this system?” Her voice was a feigned strained casual.
“Could you lend me some isk to make a shopping trip to the planet?”
Mike chuckled low. “No loans, what you need you get. I’ll set you up with a corp card, again, so you leave no personal data track.”
Slicer up for grabs, comment to enter.
How much change could a capsuleer do to mortal laws? Are we the pan galactic elite? How many care to try? Please CCP, send me an isk bill and convert the slaves I have to freed. I’ll pay it.
Oh, any donations of slaves to my ‘free’ cause will be gratefully accepted.
Ever run a program to look at how much stuff you have lying about? Can be possitively scary. If you decide to have a garage sale, let me know or toss me the stuff that would go in a bin at the end of the driveway after the sale is over.
Yes, I send evemails to new pilots who are Gallente and get mentioned on the ‘screen in CQ’ ONE person has answered back politely. One. I understand paranoia of scams . . . really I do. But this is a bit extreme.
The one BS? You’ll get a chance for it in post 200 . . . I think this one is 197
fly it like you won it.