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Slow Train to Arcturus: Chapter Sixteen

       Last updated: Friday, July 25, 2008 19:44 EDT



    "A societal structure based on group dominance has an intrinsic problem: it needs an underclass. Without them it has no reason to exist. It needs to keep them down, and this provides cohesiveness and also usually structures the society. For instance, if the discrimination is on the basis of color, then the skin color of the upper echelon will be as far from the color of the repressed as possible. If it is based on religion, leaders will be high priests and the repressed or despised will be apostates, etc."


From: Elementary Societal Psychodynamics. 2089. James R. Grey (ed). New Harvard Library (Pub.)



    Alone in the cage, Howard prayed, hard, for redemption, for his companion, for guidance, and for a pair of shorts.

    All he got, in the short term, was a prod with a shockstick to chase him into the courtroom. And without the insulation of his suit that really hurt. He was herded like a sheep into a box with railings on the top edge. For a blessing the solid part of that box was just over waist high.

    The room was full. A woman stood up and said. "The pretrial hearing of the male found in the beta-airlock in the presence of the alien is now in session. All rise for Judge Garanet."

    A courtroom full of painted bare breasts did. He was the only male in the place. The paint was as varied as the breasts, a part of Howard's mind noted, dispassionately. The rest of him was too shocked, and frightened.

    A middle-aged woman came in and took her seat behind a desk—a desk embossed with a woman—naked—holding a bow in pursuit of what looked rather like a badly drawn sheep, with upright horns.

    "Sit down," she said, in a pre-occupied tone. She looked at the papers in front of her. And then at Howard. And then again at Howard, with more interest. "What is your name and which woman is responsible for you?" She asked. "I've got you down as male, unaccompanied."

    Perhaps at last he'd get the opportunity to set things straight. She looked to be a woman of some authority. "My name Howard Dansson, Ma'am," he said respectfully.

    Her expression warmed a little. "And which woman are you bound to, Howard? She needs to be brought before the court, as you know," she explained, as if she was being nice to a small and perhaps slightly mentally deficient child.

    "I am not married, Ma'am," replied Howard.

    She blinked. "Married?"

    "Bound to woman in matrimony, Ma'am."

    The Judge shook her head incredulously. "Where did you get that from? The last time I came across that word I was reading some ancient history. So, you are still in the custody of your mother, Howard."

    "My mother is dead, Ma'am," said Howard stiffly.

    She peered thoughtfully at him. Or at his physique. "So, who assumed responsibility for you then, Howard?"

    "I was an adult, Ma'am," said Howard wishing that she wouldn't stare so. "I have responsibility for myself, Ma'am. As my companion might have said to you, we have come from another Habitat. Our customs are a bit different from yours." He remembered that he was supposed to be talking their way out of this mess. "I do apologize for any offence we've caused. We're just passing through. If you could take us to far airlock and put us out we'd be very grateful. It would be a charitable thing to do."

    She seemed to have ignored most of his statements and focused on the first part. "A place he claimed you called New Helen."

    "New Eden, Ma'am. The Society of Brethren live there." Remembering Kretz's story of the first bead, he added. "We're a peaceful people. I was simply sent to try to help Brother Kretz to get home."

    "I have it here," she tapped the paper, "That you assaulted Captain LaGarda. Did you?"

    "No ma'am," he said. "The Society of Brethren do not condone violence. She struck me. When she tried to attack us with her black stick I held onto it to prevent her doing so."

    "I find that hard to believe. That you could hold her off without striking back."

    Howard's patience was getting a little thin. "Ma'am. I can show you, if you like."

    "I do like," said the judge. "Captain LaGarda has something of a reputation. Is she in the court?"



    The painted Jezebel stood up from the front row. The judge had plainly known that she was there. "Ma'am Judge."

    "Captain, take your nightstick and show us how the prisoner attacked you."

    She looked distinctly sulky. "He stole my nightstick, ma'am."

    "So you said," said the Judge, dryly. There was plainly no love lost between the two of them. "Borrow one from one of your fellow officers, and come and show us." So she did, amid the buzz from the crowded room.

    "You'll have to come out of the dock, Howard," said the Judge.

    Blushing furiously, Howard realized that he'd set himself up to leave the comforting shield of wood and walk naked in front of all these women. Well, there was no help for it. Nervously he walked out. "I think you'll have to un-cuff him sergeant," said the Judge, looking him up and down. "It seems a bit unreasonable to expect him to assault anyone with his hands behind his back. Or even to defend himself."

    So one of the women freed his hands. Instinct took over and he immediately put them in front of his privates, and then had to duck to avoid a vicious blow from the Jezebel. She swung again, and this time he caught the black stick, using his superior height to grab it before it had time to begin its acceleration. The stick still smacked audibly against his flesh. And—just as he had the last time, Howard lifted her off her feet. He felt his muscles stand out with the effort.

    "Nice body," said the Judge. "Stop trying to kick him, Captain. He's only doing what I told him to do."

    "Put me down!" yelled the Captain.

    So once again Howard did—just a little more gently than last time. She wasn't a quick learner—this Jezebel—or maybe the idea was just too alien for her to grasp. She landed on her derriere again on the courtroom floor. Howard didn't know if it was the landing or the laughter that hurt her most. She was gritting her teeth and looked ready to kill him. "That's what I did, Ma'am. Can I let go of this stick now?"

    "I think you've made your point," said the Judge. "You can go back to the stand now."

    Howard did, gratefully. Yes, it wasn't the same as being naked before the brethren. He was almost able to switch it out, pretend that they weren't real women. Almost. But being sheltered behind the wood made it easier.

    "Not you, Captain," said the judge, as the painted Jezebel stood up, rubbing one cheek unselfconsciously. "Now. You've claimed in your statement you were assaulted. Will you show me the injuries you sustained?

    "There aren't any," said the young woman, looking as surly as a Jersey bull-calf.

    "Oh?" said the Judge. "In the violent assault on an officer, known for her combat skills, the male who has just proved he is capable of lifting your considerable bulk, inflicted not one bruise? The idea behind pre-trails is to stop the court wasting its time on the mendacious and malicious rubbish. I think that it has just proved its worth as a process, don't you?"

    You don't tease Jersey bulls, thought Howard.

    The Captain stood her ground, chin lifted. "There is still the matter of the indecent public appearance. Being out without a woman. And the theft of a weapon."

    "Which was conspicuous by absence when Howie here was taken into custody. Like the assault, more petty malice, eh, Howard," The Judge said, archly.

    Howard flushed. Even coming from the sheltered environment of New Eden there was no mistaking that look. "No… uh Ma'am. I did take it away from her. I dropped it in some bushes a little distance away."


    Howard shrugged. "I didn't want Kretz and I to be attacked again, I suppose."    "That does seem a fair probability. I must tell you, Captain LaGarda, that I have listened to the recording of your Mayday call." She gave a little snort. "It was apparent even then that these two came from outside the Matriarchal Republic of Diana. Of course we expect them to comply with our rules here, but you hardly helped to explain the law to them by assaulting them. I consider to be un-worthwhile to pursue these charges in a formal court, as extenuating circumstances, mostly caused by you, would have any penalties set at such a level to be not worthwhile. The alien comes from a Matriarchy too, and is deserving of better treatment."

    She stood up. "These charges are dismissed. Out of here all of you." She pointed to Howard. "Except you. We have to sort out your future."

    So a few minutes later, Howard found himself alone with a woman. He tried not to look at her nakedness. Maybe jail would have been a better option. She looked hungrily at him. "You're very big and muscular, aren't you," said the Judge.

    "We do a lot of physical work, farming," said Howard. "I don't understand why your men are all so small?"

    "A little genetic engineering after the oh-33 revolt," said the Judge. "History. Some crazy men decided to start a revolution, claiming that they were stronger. So we made sure that future generations would not have the problem again. I suspect that I'll get several petitions to sterilize you."

    Desperate to move the conversation elsewhere—preferably toward getting the two of out of this Gomorrah. "And clothes? I don't wish to offend, but we… I am very uncomfortable without clothes."

    "They're a source of vanity," said the judge, stretching and displaying a complex pattern of flames and leaves painted on her body. They were banned by our original charter. Besides they're a place to conceal weapons. And, for you men in particular, to hide your intentions."



    Howard decided not to even venture onto the vanity of the body-paint. Or the fact more clothes could only improve some people's physical attractiveness. Instead he tried another tack. "My companion. The alien Kretz," asked Howard. "What are you going to do with him? He needs to get back to his own kind, Ma'am Judge."

    "Ah." She scowled. "He's a problem. As a male he can't just be allowed to wonder around. There are a few women with exotic tastes in what they choose to add to their harems. But it would be very awkward for someone to enter into such a contract, as he says that soon he will become female. Anyway, as a male, the disposition of another male is not your problem."

    "But I need to know, Ma'am," persisted Howard. "I promised to look after him."

    "Well, as a male in the Matriarchy of Diana, your promises to another male have no standing. If whichever woman wins the bidding for you wants you to know, then she can make enquiries," said the judge firmly.

    "You are going to sell me into slavery?" said Howard in horror.

    "It's not slavery, dear. Like a child, a man has to belong to somebody," the judge said kindly. "You men can't help yourselves. You're creatures of base and uncontrolled instincts, weaker in mind and body than women. You instinctively turn to women for wiser counsel. It's all that testosterone. It interferes with your thinking. You need a woman to take care of the rational side. It is the natural human pattern, you know. Matriarchal Societies predated patriarchal societies, and humankind moved from bestiality to civilization. Then along came patriarchal societies and patriarchal rule, and it was all downhill from there. It led to conflict and psychological trauma, especially for men. Men are much happier when they have women to tell them what to do. To take responsibility for their actions for them and see they don't get into trouble."

    "The Society of Brethren believe that all men are created equal in the eyes of God," said Howard, stiffly.

    "My dear young man," she smiled patronizingly at him, her eyes roaming over his body a lot more than was comfortable, "of course all men are, if not…physically. It's women who have the edge, mentally." She looked at her desk. "Now. I have a number of bids for you. Normally this would be arranged by your mother, but as you've so eloquently pointed out—your mother is not here. It's been agreed that, as in the case of orphans, the court will stand in loco parentis for you. And I must say," she beamed. "You've attracted some very good bids, in spite of being so big. Some of these are women of power, wealth and influence, with wonderful harems. I'll arrange for the meetings this afternoon, shall I?" she said. She got up from her desk and sat down next to him. "We've got an hour or two to spend together in the meanwhile. I need to be able to give a testimony as your… ability," she said, putting her hand on his inner thigh.

    Howard backed away uneasily. "Uh. Please don't," he said nervously. "We… don't believe in relations before… or," he said hastily, a horrible thought occurring to him, "outside of marriage."

    "I wish that not believing in my relations would make them go away, honey," said the judge, throatily.

    "I mean, uh, physical relations. Sex," he said desperately as she advanced on him.

    That stopped her. She put her head on one side. Shook her head in amazement. "You mean you've never… Oh honey, you need me. I can teach you all sorts of things you need to know. Give you the pleasure that only comes with experience." She was advancing again.

    Howard hastily turned his back and pressed against the wooden edge of the box. "No." he said firmly. "I am keeping myself pure for my marriage."

    "You'd better not take that attitude with me," she said sharply. "I can make things very difficult for you, young man."

    "I'm sorry, but no." Howard looked resolutely at the wall, and pressed himself into the security—poor security—of the corner.

    "If that's the way you feel, so be it. You're going to regret this." She walked away back to her desk. Leafed through a pile of papers and pulled one out. "This'll teach you lesson," she said grimly. She flicked a switch on her desk. "Find Captain Lani LaGarda. Tell her that her bid has been accepted."

    Howard looked at her.

    She smiled at him with an unpleasant satisfaction at Howard. "You'll have the joy of living with a non-entity with no status, who can't even afford a place in the city, instead of a good catch with age and experience on her side. LaGarda will beat you too. She has a reputation for aggression."

    Miserably, Howard had to believe her about the last part anyway. He'd experienced it firsthand.

    The speaker on the judge's desk crackled. "Have located Captain LaGarda, Ma'am. Shall I send her to your chambers?"

    "No. Send her to the clerk of the court, to have her deed of acceptance written up. And send someone to escort this male from my chambers, to his new mistress."

    So it was that Howard found himself marched off to the Painted Jezebel who had got him into this situation in the first place. Now he had an extra problem, as well as being indecent and having somehow to find and rescue Kretz, and get on with Kretz's mission. Life out here was anything but pleasant and simple. Even being shot at might be easier to cope with.

    She was waiting in the foyer—a large room with more of the hunting scenes with the naked woman and her bow. And the sheep with branched horns. They must have a lot of these wild mutant sheep here.

    He felt a bit like lamb to the slaughter himself.

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