The Slave Life
As the Orions began their civilization in slavery, it should hardly be suprising that they continued the practice into modern times. Orion slavery is a subtle and complex thing, filled with rights and duties incumbent on both master and slave, and not as absolute as some Federation writers have made it seem. For example, the term for "slave" in Orion (dubi), is only a diminutive form of the word for "contractor" (dubyal ). To the Orions, slaves are only a kind of contracted labor-not wholesale ownership of one living being by another. In practice however, the difference is not appreciable.
Only Green Orions are slaves among Orions. By custom stronger than law, Ruddy Orions never lapse into slavery, either voluntarily or enforced. Men as well as women may be enslavedy-or may enslave themselves. Most Greens experience slavery at least once. Slavery may last a lifetime, a slave may be given his freedom, or he may actuallybuy himself-and turn around, and re-enslave himself again! Of all Orion institutions, slavery is the most complex, mystifying, and important. The Federation has in the past tried to eradicate the practice with only limited success. It took the Orions to eradicate it themselves.
Orion slaves comprised a large portion of the total Orion labor pool. They worked the fields, operated the basic industrial machines, handled domestic chores, and performed an astonishing amount of hand-done work, whether in fine machinery or tending animals. In exchange for their labor, they received food, shelter, a modicum of clothing, and some of them even collect an allowance. Except for the very lowest and unskilled of laborers, discipline was light-there were no whips, chains, or any other signs of their low status. To the Orions, slavery was not oppressive, but a rational and even honorable way of life.
Although there was no such thing as a typical Orion slave, an average unskilled and uneducated Green Orion michg enter slavery as early as age ten or twelve. His parents made the arrangements for the sale, which is, suprisingly enough, completely voluntary on their part. In fact, shopping for the right master was considered very important to the future slave's parents, as their child's education and eventual livelihood depend on that critical first owner. The larger and finer estates were swamped by a continuous stream of petitions begging the family to take a child into their service. In any year, only a few could be accepted, and the rest were turned away to accept lesser houses and names. The entire process greatly resembled that of a school entrance.
Once accepted into service, a slave was given a place in the household and a simple job (often more than one), and was tested and questioned to find any aptitude. He then entered training to develop this aptitude and to become valuable and disciplined. The range of slave education was quite wide, running from simple bookkeeping to sophisticated technical training and even, for a few, the skills needed to become a starship crewman. Once a slave was trained and demonstrated some degree of competency at his intended job, he was often resold at a substantial markup to an owner with a need for his skills. Most large Ruddy Orion households made a tiny amount by taking, training, and reselling bright and promising Green youngsters. Some seemed to be veritable slave factories, with a yearly output in the thousands of people.
Once trained, a slave was pretty much set for life in his or her job. Depending on his specialty, he might have worked for one master or many, a handful of years or a lifetime. An individual would have gained his freedom in one of three ways: preselected contractual date, self-purchase, or manumission.
By predetermined contract with his master, a Green Orion slave might have been set free after a number of years in service. Such agreements were usually specific to a particular master. If the slave was sold before the term expired, the slave could have appealed to a tribunal for his freedom. In most instances, it seemed that the slave-holder had to compel his charge into accepting freedom on the given date.
Self-purchase was the usual and respected means of ending slavery. Over the course of his career, a slave could have accumulated a respectable sum of money from allowances, favors, and transactions on the side. Eventually, a slave acquired enough to purchase himself from the master. A startling proportion of slaves, well over a third, sold themselves into slavery again-typically to get into a better line of work and receive the free training. Some resold themselves as many as five or six times over a normal lifetime.
Manumission had two faces. A slave could be legally released at any time, but it was often a mark of disgrace. Unsatisfactory performance, overt criminality, or any other disreputable charge, usually prompted the slaveowner to discharge the wrongdoer. On the other hand, meritorious service or some extraordinary feat could free a slave, who retained all his money and bore away this prestigious honor. There was no middle ground; Orion slaves were given their freedom gratis only for having been exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.
An Orion slave, for their own part, often considered their life comfortable and secure . Training, housing, and food were all free. There is the company of fellow slaves, male and female, a lack of worry about the future (but not always), constant employment, and a small if irregular and untaxed bankroll for the prudent and the careful. Forged over the millennia, Orion slave law granted slaves rights and avenues of legal redress against unjust or harsh masters and permitted them to hold certain kinds of property (excluding land), to marry, to have children (who were always born free; parents could keep the proceeds from selling the child), and to inherit and pass down their goods. All in all, it sounded ideal, and for thousands of years, was considered so by Green Orions.
Nevertheless, it was still slavery. Bound Orions were not property, but were definitely not free men or women. Their work had to conform to particular standards, during set hours, at certain locations, and even when they were not working, they could expect to be under someone's eye-actual or remote. They were not the social equals of free Orions, or even other Greens. On top of that, Orions slaves could be denied the security of lifelong work; blackballed as an unsatisfactory worker, or simply kicked out on their own. They could grow old enough to draw a termination date in their contract without enough money to retire on or years left to take up a new and more desirable skill. Orion slavery was not an admirable condition.
Fortunately, only Orions were enslaved by other Orions, all scandal-vids and rumors to the contrary, and they were never exported to other races, again by ancient custom.