The Macedonian Hazard – Snippet 05
“A contract made under duress is invalid. And anyone signing a contract while a slave is, by definition, under duress. But you do bring up an interesting point, Dag. There were contracts of indenture. They were outlawed by the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, at least as the Supreme Court has interpreted it. And the UN also had rules against it. But there are still binding employment contracts. It could be done. A person could, as part of the deal to gain their freedom, sign an employment contract, with some part of their wages garnished to pay off the debt they incurred in borrowing the money to buy their freedom. But I guarantee it’s going to end up in front of New America’s Supreme Court, all three of the judges. And I can’t guarantee that it will pass their muster.”
“I doubt it will pass mine,” Lars Floden said.
“I hate to say it,” Eleanor Kinney said, “but you may have to reconsider if you want Fort Plymouth to survive, and even more if you want us to have any real role in the emancipation of slaves. Absent at least some acceptance–” She paused, clearly trying to find words that didn’t make her feel like Nathan Bedford Forrest. “–of a right to recompense, there is no motive for the people in New America to buy the freedom of slaves. It’s wrong. I know it’s wrong. But is it as wrong as just leaving them in slavery?”
Over the next few weeks, the radio was full of back and forth discussions, some public and some private, between the Queen of the Sea, the Reliance, and Fort Plymouth It also included the personnel at the newly placed radio stations that the Queen was installing from Carthage to Babylon. And so, indirectly, involved the governments of the lands around the Med.
Fort Plymouth, New America
June 20, 320 BCE
Another bad batch. Stella Matthews was getting closer, though. The broken glass shards she had added to the mix lowered the heat needed and got her something that was almost glass. It was gray and cloudy, but almost translucent. It was even smooth on one surface. But it was also full of bubbles. Just knowing the theory wasn’t cutting it. She needed a professional, and so far as she knew the only real glassmaking professionals in the world were in Europe and North Africa. She put her stuff away and dressed in her clothes from the cruise that were by now approaching the status of rags, and headed for the Community Center.
Stella plugged in her computer and logged on to the email server. She had responses to her ad, but they weren’t applicants. They were slaves–slave owners, rather–offering to sell her qualified craftsman for Queen of the Sea dollars. For now, Queen of the Sea dollars and New American dollars were effectively the same thing. They were worth exactly the same amount of silver. There were several offers. Two Carthaginians, three Egyptians, and a Phoenician from Tyre. For just a moment she wanted to get ready to stage a march on Al Wiley’s office, and not a Martin Luther King Junior-style peaceful protest. No. She was going to start the revolution.
It wasn’t news exactly. The New America congress had passed a law saying that for the next twenty years contracts of employment made with the express purpose of buying a slave out of bondage would be enforceable. And the three Justices of the New America Supreme Court had approved the law by a two to one majority, and one of the guys voting yes was black, Justice Keith Robertsson. The practice of buying and freeing slaves with “Advance on Wages Contracts” was legal.
The advance on wages weren’t paid to the slave, but the slave owner. The Advance on Wages contracts were way too close to a contract of indenture to survive any American court back in the world. That type of deal was all over the news last week, including the fact that the slave had to agree for the sale to take place. Surprisingly, not all of them did. The thing she hadn’t known about–or at least hadn’t realized–was that the radio stations being installed all around the Mediterranean were used by the locals to buy and sell in advance. Everything from linen to slaves, back and forth between city states and nations, whether the trades involved ship people or not.
There were also Advance on Wages contracts where the “contract employee” was just getting the transport cost to Trinidad paid.
Transportees could become citizens just like any other immigrant, if the person lived here for the two years needed and could recite the Bill of Rights in English and showed a basic knowledge of how the government worked through a standardized test.
What Stella didn’t understand was why anyone would want to come live in a town that was mostly a housing project, where the plumbing was nonexistent and the only roads that were paved even with just tar-sand were 7th Street and Garnet Avenue. And that had been done only after two people died because the ambulance carts got stuck in the mud.
She went back to the ads. One of the Carthaginians had agreed to a contract for a ten year period. The cost was high: 5,000 New American dollars, plus transport costs. The only way she would be able to afford it was to sell her laptop. She had already sold her cell phone to the Queen of the Sea. Donald Carnegie’s book reader was now owned by the community center and Stella’s mortgage on both townhouses was paid for the next year, along with the community dues that paid for her meals and the use of the community center.
Stella was a decisive woman when she had to be, and now she had to be. The truth was that the chickens hadn’t come home to roost yet, but they would if she didn’t do something. She checked the prices being offered by the Queen of the Sea, the government, and individuals for laptops, and pulled up the specs on her laptop to compare. She should be able to get around $11,300.00 for her computer.
She unplugged her computer and headed up to the counter. Here in the computer center was a lock room, constantly manned, where items from back in the world and very expensive local items were stored for resale after being examined. Among the items was a two foot tall solid gold wall hanging in the shape of the sun. It weighed twenty-two pounds. And was worth rather less than any of the hundred fifty plus computers stored there.
It took them two hours to check out her laptop and do the paperwork, but by the end of the day her account in the Bank of New America had an available balance of $10,200.98. That would change once the computer was put up for auction and actually sold.
Then, using one of the publicly available computers, she bought the contract of indenture for Carthalo, a man owned by the Barca clan. The Reliance would pick him up on their way back. Carthalo was the cheapest on offer.
Radio Room, Carthage
June 20, 320 BCE
Tina Johnson read the notice off the computer screen and shook her head in disgust. Part of the deal was that she had to transmit and receive messages.
Even messages that involved human trafficking. It was disgusting enough when the locals did it, but ship people ought to know better. Even as she thought it, she knew that she wasn’t being completely fair, but she didn’t care. Sure, she walked the streets of Carthage every day among slaves and slave owners. She had dinner prepared by slaves at least three days a week, but that didn’t matter. She didn’t own slaves.
Put whatever face you wanted on Stella’s advance on wages contract, it was buying a slave. And as agent for the station, Tina was going to have to go pay the present owner and pick up the slave.
Carthalo woke up when the bucket of water was thrown onto him. No, not water. It was piss. He came up ready to fight and the overseer laughed. It wasn’t like he could reach the man. He was chained to the wall. The iron chain went from a bolt in the wall to a manacle around his ankle. He couldn’t go after the bastard anyway, because his ankle was rubbed raw and was infected, and none of it was his fault.
What happened was an accident, pure and simple. Carthalo didn’t push his owner’s nephew into the furnace. The nephew bumped him. Carthalo was just trying to keep his balance.
“You are a lucky bastard, Carthalo. You’ve been sold.”
Ten minutes later, sluiced down, but still wet and limping, Carthalo was led into one of the master’s rooms. Not any slave quarters this. And a woman was seated on a chair at a table. There was another chair, and Carthalo was motioned to it. He sat cautiously, and the woman began to talk. She would say a few words, then the little box she carried would speak. It was not like anything he had ever heard of. He was to get his freedom, but not until he had worked for ten years. There was a provision for him to buy himself free early by paying back the money she was paying for him.