But Cadnan, he knew, was only a small name: it was not a great name. He knew now that he had a great name, and it made him proud because he was no longer only small Cadnan: he was a slave.
It was good, he knew, to be a slave. A slave worked and got food and shelter from the masters, and the masters told him what he could know without even the need of asking a question. The elders were only elders, but the masters were masters, and Cadnan was a slave. It made him feel great and wise when he thought of it.
That night he could hardly wait to tell his news to Marvor—but Marvor acted as if he knew it already and was even made angry by the idea. “What is a slave?” he asked, in a flat, bad tone.
Cadnan told him of the work, the food, the shelter...
“And what is a master?” Marvor asked.
“A master is a master,” Cadnan said. “A master is the one who knows.”
“A master tells you what to do,” Marvor said. “I am training and there is more training to come and then work. This is because of the masters.”
“It is good,” Cadnan said. “It is important.”
Marvor shook his head, looking very much like a master himself. “What is important?” he said.
Cadnan thought for a minute. “Important is what a master needs for life,” he said at last. “The masters need a slave for life, because a slave must push the buttons. Without this work the masters do not live.”
“Then why do the masters not push the buttons?” Marvor said.
“It is good they do not,” Cadnan said stubbornly. “A slave is a big thing, and Cadnan is only a little thing. It is better to be big than little.”
“It is better to be master than slave,” Marvor said sullenly.
“But we are not masters,” Cadnan said, with the air of a person trying to bring reason back to the discussion. “We do not look like masters, and we do not know what they know.”
“You want to learn,” Marvor said. “Then learn what they know.”
“They teach me,” Cadnan said. “But I am still a slave, because they teach me. I do not teach them.”
Marvor hissed and at the same time shook his head like a master. The effect was not so much frightening as puzzling: he was a creature, suddenly, who belonged to both worlds, and to neither. “A master is one who does what he wants,” he said. “If I do what I want, am I a master?”
“That is silliness,” Cadnan said. Marvor seemed about to reply, but both were surprised instead by the opening of the door.
A master stood in the lighted entrance, holding to the sides with both hands.
Anyone with a thorough knowledge of men could have told that he was drunk. Any being with a sense of smell could have detected the odors of that drunkenness. But the Alberts knew only that a master had come to them during the time for eating and sleeping. They stirred, murmuring restlessly.
“It’s all right,” the master said, slurring his words only very slightly. “I wanted to come and talk. I wanted to talk to one of you.”
Before anyone else could move, Cadnan was upright. “I will talk,” he said in a loud voice. The others stared at him, including Marvor. Even Cadnan himself was a little surprised at his own speed and audacity.
“Come on over,” the master said from the doorway. “Come on over.” He made a beckoning motion.
Cadnan picked his way across the room over wakeful Alberts.
When he had reached the master, the master said: “Sit down.” He looked strange, Cadnan realized, though he could not tell exactly how.
Cadnan sat and the master, closing the door, sat with his back against it. There was a second of silence, which the master broke abruptly.
“My name’s Dodd,” he said.
“I am called Cadnan,” Cadnan said. He couldn’t resist bringing out his latest bit of knowledge for display. “I am a slave.”
“Sure,” Dodd said dully. “I know. The rest of them say I shouldn’t, but I think about you a lot. About all of you.”
Cadnan, not knowing if this were good or bad, said nothing at all, but waited. Dodd sighed, shook his head and closed his eyes. After a second he went on.
“They tell me, let the slaves have their own life,” he said. “But I don’t see it that way. Do you see it that way? After all, you’re people, aren’t you? Just like us.”
Cadnan tried to untangle the questions, and finally settled for a simple answer. “We are slaves,” he said. “You are masters.”
“Sure,” Dodd said. “But I mean people. And you want the same things we do. You want a little comfort out of life, a little security—some food, say, and enough food for tomorrow. Right?”
“It is good to have,” Cadnan said. He was determined to keep his end of the odd conversation up, even if it seemed to be leading nowhere.
“It isn’t as if we’ve been here forever,” Dodd said. “Only—well, a hundred or so of your years. Three generations, counting me. And here we are lording it over you, just because of an accident. We happen to be farther advanced than you, that’s all.”
“You are masters,” Cadnan said. “You know everything.”
“Not quite,” Dodd said. “For instance, we don’t know about you. You have—well, you have got mates, haven’t you? Hell, of course you do. Male or female. Same as us. More or less.”
“We have mates, when we are ready for mates,” Cadnan said.
Dodd nodded precariously. “Uh-huh,” he said. “Mates. They tell me I need mates, but I tried it and I got into trouble. Mates aren’t the answer, kid. Cadnan. They simply aren’t the answer.”
Cadnan thought, suddenly, of Dara. He had not spoken to her again, but he was able to think of her. When the time of mating came, it was possible that she would be his mate...
But that was forbidden, he told himself. They came from the same tree in the same time. The rule forbade such matings.
“What we ought to do,” Dodd said abruptly, “is we ought to do a thorough anthropological—anthropological study on you people. A really big job. But that’s uneconomic, see? Because we know what we have to know. Where to find you, what to feed you, how to get you to work. They don’t care about the rest.”
“The masters are good,” Cadnan said stolidly into the silence. “They let me work.”
“Sure,” Dodd said, and shrugged, nearly losing his balance. He recovered, and went on as if nothing at all had happened. “They let you work for them,” he said. “And what do you get out of it? Food and shelter and security, I guess. But how would you like to work for yourself instead?”