The good thing about being a slave is that sometimes you’re practically invisible. No one notices you. You’re part of the furniture. If you go somewhere you’re not supposed to be, everyone assumes that you’re just there on an errand for one of the masters. Well, within reason, of course. There are places I could go that would get me instantly killed if I was caught.
But most of the time, being a slave means that you get completely overlooked. No one thinks I can read. They don’t even know I understand their language. I don’t think, I don’t make decisions, I don’t do anything but follow orders and look forward to the rapturous day when the true masters will arrive.
It makes me the perfect spy.
The masters are getting worried about something. I could tell this morning when I helped my master with his breakfast. He kept looking over his slates, dipping his chin the way a slave would shake his head. I tried to sound innocent when I asked him what was wrong. Did I mention that I’m also a very good actor? It used to be, before the masters came, that some people made a living at pretending they were someone else. It was called acting. I think I would have liked that job.
My master dipped his chin again. “We’re behind schedule. The true masters will be here sooner than expected, and we will not be ready for them. They will be very angry.” He spoke slowly, using my language, the way I would talk to a child.
“When are they coming?” I asked, pretending to be happy and excited. Instead, dread gripped me. The masters were using us for now, to help get the world ready for the arrival of their masters. We weren’t sure what was going to happen when the true masters arrived, but some of us suspected there wouldn’t be much use for us anymore. Others thought we’d all be taken away to serve as slaves on some other planet with too little gravity and too high temperatures for the masters’ comfort. At any rate, we hated these masters enough to know that when the true masters came, we’d like it even less.
My master pretended he hadn’t heard the question. I decided not to push it. They’re not extremely clever, at least not most of them, not the way that we can be clever, but they’re not completely stupid either. And they’re very, very strong. I once saw one reach out and snap the leg bone of a slave who had irritated him, like I would break a blade of grass.
It would have been great if I could have an actual arrival date for the true masters to report to the resistance, but knowing they were coming sooner than expected was reason enough to go out on an errand. I waited impatiently while my master finished his bowl. It took him forever because he was reading his slates. I tried to make out if there was a date of arrival for the true masters, but it was hard because he kept switching the readouts from one to another. I’ve learned to read their language, in secret, but I’m still not very fast at it. The colors and shapes of it don’t instantly jump into meaning, like the letters of my own language. All it looked like to me was data about my master’s factory.
I’m lucky that my master is a powerful one, with many slaves. He has a whole factory of us, building machines to transform our world for the true masters. It gives him a lot to think about, and less time to notice that his personal servant is one of the resistances’ top agents.