This story is set ‘after the change’, whatever that might be. There’s plenty of energy, plenty of food, etc. No one particularly needs to work for anything, but it gets boring to not work. There are diﬀerent reactions to this, and there are probably thrill-seekers and even death-seekers of all sorts, as well as explorers and inventors, etc. We aren’t really going to be following any of those: The main character has decided to seek risk and interest by ﬂirting with illegality.
With no real reason not to have consensual slavery be legal, it’s been legalized. It’s basically considered a form of entertainment, and a contract like any other. Like any other contract law, only some things are actually permissible, though anything can be tried. The law has created several divisions that can roughly apply to most cases:
The standard, and assumed position. A self-aware person (of any type of being…) is assumed to be free and able to make their own choices, and to be responsible for their own acts.
The general consensual slavery catch all, there are a few standard categories below. Term can be limited or unlimited, and in either case random checks can be performed to make sure they still agree to the ‘property’ state. They still have rights to be treated humanely, and nothing can be done without their permission (regardless of the contract) that is permanent or near-so. Other than that, just about any right can be traded away for the term, and within those rights set forth in the contract the contract-holder can have absolute power over the individual. On the other hand, as long as they are acting within their contract, the contract-holder is responsible for any and all actions taken by the property.
Note that in general, short limited terms are ‘stronger’: Someone who’s signed a two-month contract may be forced to fulﬁll the entire term even if they change their mind, as long as nothing abusive is going on. ‘Unlimited’ terms generally mean ‘until the sub changes their mind’, and usually have a ﬁxed cycle for how often they check up on that.
… For Fixed Purpose
Property for ﬁxed purpose is the most common type of contract: It speciﬁes what purpose the sentient property has agreed to serve as, and only actions taken towards that purpose fall under the contract. Anything else is outside, and the person can act freely as long as they are not constrained by that purpose.
Limited Sentient Property is generally more open than Fixed purpose, but can be less so. Instead of specifying what can be done with the property, it speciﬁes what can’t. Usually expect a long list of what isn’t allowable, but that the property is expected to act with good faith at all times. Note that it only lists what can’t be required by the contract holder: If no objection is made, there’s no reason they have to stop. (Usually.)
Sentient Property, Unlimited is just what the name says: No limits in the contract. There are limits as set by law, but nothing else. Somewhat common with starting subs with romantic ideals, which means these get checked up on more than other types, as people haven’t always thought things through.
This is the general position of anyone who can’t pass some standard mental competence tests, but still is aware enough of themselves to get around. Wild animals, severe retardation, low-level AIs all fall into this.
Property that can’t pass the mental competence tests - pets are the most common example. Have rather more rights under the law than Sentient Property, as they can’t be considered to have consciously decided on their fate, generally. They also can have personal responsibility for some of their actions, as they can’t be expected to follow training under all circumstances.
Nannite-pads are a general-purpose do-anything device, speciﬁcally for the human body. The pad it self is a just a swatch of cotton fabric, but they are coated with pre-programmed nannites (and possibly other resources), that are able to go out and apply speciﬁc eﬀects once they have been placed on the skin. One side of the pad is ‘active’, and will stick to the skin until the nannites have completed their programming. The other usually has a temporary design on it, that will fade as the process completes. Once the pad has been used, it can either be disposed of or it can go back into a programmer to be used again.
The pads themselves can therefore be any shape and size, though generally a small white square is normal. The location they are placed on the body may or may not matter, depending on their programming, but in general the closer to where they are going to work the better. Some pads can be safely used together, some can’t, and some are incompatible, meaning that if you apply one the other cannot be applied without damaging the person they are applied to.
Nannite-pads are programmed using templates purchased and downloaded from the ‘net, or an individual can create their own programs within certain parameters. (Depending on their license, see below.) Legal n-pads are divided into two categories: Restoration pads, which work to restore the body to it’s normal functioning and/or appearance, and recreational pads, which alter the above. Recreational pads (if legal) are required to leave a marker of sorts that explains what they have done, and when they were applied. (Restoration pads are not, as they are supposed to just ﬁxing problems.) Note that those can be misleading terms: A hip replacement pad may be categorized as a recreational pad, as it makes a permanent change to the body’s ‘normal’ functioning, depending on exactly what it does.
N-pads programs also classiﬁed into numbered levels; civilian levels are 1-20, the military and government have some extended classes above that. The levels are based on what the program does: Levels 1-4 are considered ‘cosmetic’ and can be freely applied by anyone. Common in those levels are ﬁrst aid pads (that don’t have any speciﬁc programming, besides ‘repair where you are placed’), changing hair color/length, changing skin color, etc. (Most people would use n-pads instead of nail polish, for instance: It’s cheaper, and the result is more durable.) The most complex thing in those levels is eye color; a full eye-mod would be over a class-10.