Even though the slave market was busy, underneath the hustle and bustle one could smell the stench of fear overlaid with the sharp-edged excitement of those looking to turn a profit. The flesh emporium was always a place of commerce and contrasts, but today it was positively frenetic. Only this morning, a ship had arrived at the market asteroid’s spaceport from one of the client worlds bringing nearly a thousand head of fresh meat to market. These unfortunates had already been sorted on the journey and were displayed for sale according to their physical attributes and their monetary value.
The lowest in status were herded into iron cages from which they were dragged at the behest of hard-eyed buyers in search of bargain basement labourers. Most of those slaves would be lucky, or unlucky if you looked at it from their point of view, to last more than a season in off-planet mines and manufacturing facilities.
The next level were still caged but the cages were rather less crowded as they held those the slavers felt should fetch a few credits more. Those worthy of training as house servants, or shop assistants perhaps. These were less marked by the lash than their lower status brethren, and the market guard treated them less roughly.
Further in and moving towards the centre of the market hall, those thought suitable as fighters stood uncaged, but watched over by scowling guards armed with nerve whips and scourges. These had been individually bathed, and oiled by the flesh traders’ bath slaves so their muscles were accentuated for all to see, but it was noticeable that few dared touch.
Right under the copper dome of the market was the inner sanctum, screened from the eyes of the less than fabulously wealthy by high wooden walls, this was where the fancy slaves were displayed. Fancy slaves, those whom the slavers considered to be the cream of the crop, brought to this place where the elite of society came to obtain its bath slaves, and bed slaves, and the ornaments of exalted households. It was here that milky-skinned children with huge terrified eyes were shown alongside women of transcendent loveliness and the very prettiest from among the young men. It was also here that veiled women walked with their treasurers at their heels, and hard-paunched hard-eyed merchants fingered the merchandise with their hard hands.
A small group of ebony-skinned heavily armed warriors from the planet Rayisha progressed along the swept sand walkways in perfect step, with each woman alert and hair-trigger ready. Their leader was the High Lady Rayisha Zenaida and it took great effort to hide her contempt for the skin traders around her.