“Josh are you alright, are you hurt?” The soldier felt over Joshua’s body, checking for broken bones. All around, people were running in panic. Another explosion ripped through a nearby restaurant sending people scattering once more. Lance covered Joshua’s body with his, using himself as a shield.
“We have to get you out of here” Lance got to his feet and helped Josh do the same. Both foot soldiers that had accompanied them to the fair were unhurt, so the lieutenant barked his orders.
“Commandeer a vehicle, the breeder must be protected at all costs.” He grabbed the frightened teen and began pulling him along behind him roughly. Cries alerted them to the new danger, Union soldiers abseiling down from a helicopter. As soon as they grounded they began firing into the crowd. Lance pulled his gun and shot dead the nearest enemy to him. They were fighting now for their lives. Joshua screamed as a man fell dead at his feet. His life had been totally sheltered and although he knew a war raged on he had been spared the macabre images of the dead or dying that screened each hour on the hour. A young boy, no more than sixteen cried out and fell forward a bullet in his back cutting his young life short. Joshua watched in horror as he fell. When he tore his eyes from the corpse he found himself looking into the eyes of a Union soldier, a rifle levelled at his chest. Frantically he looked around for his protector, but his guard were fighting hard just to stay alive. Joshua backed up.
“Don’t move, I don’t want to kill you,” The Union soldier waved his gun sending a clear message to the terrified teen that he meant business. Dressed all in khaki with his helmet pulled low on his head, he waved for Joshua to precede him.
Joshua shook his head and looked around wildly for Lance. “MOVE, or I will kill you.” The soldiers tone left no doubt that he was willing to carry out his threat. Joshua risked a look over his shoulder and saw Lance go down. He choked back a sob and took a step towards the Union soldier.
The man grabbed him by his arm and dragged him to where the helicopter had landed and was now waiting patiently for the men to return. He stumbled over his robe almost falling and would have done if the soldier hadn’t had such a tight grip of him.
Soon other hands were grabbing at him, tugging him into the chopper. He was pushed into a seat and strapped in. His hands were tied tightly before him, and then suddenly they were airborne. Around him the enemy soldiers were laughing and congratulating each other on a job well done. The appalling loss of life meant nothing to them. A tall beaded man stood up and walked over, slapping his captor on the back.
“Well done Timberlake, how the hell did you manage to find the breeder in the middle of all that chaos?”
The soldier pulled off his helmet revealing a shock of dark blonde curls that made him look years younger than he actually was. He shot his commanding officer a beaming grin.
“I would have missed him if the Rebs didn’t make so easy by dressing them all in black and making them stand out like a lighted Christmas tree on a dark night.”
“Well I’m glad you approve of the south’s dress sense. He’s a nice little bonus on this raid.” The bearded man thrust himself in between two of his men. “It’s a nice way to end your military career, they’ll probably give you a commendation.”
“And what will you get Captain Fatone?” a soldier asked.
A soldier sitting opposite Joshua took off his hardhat and ran his fingers over his Mohawk, his brown eyes gleaming wickedly. “I’ll tell you what Joe gets out of this. He gets first dibs on the breeder’s special talents. Who‘s going to be daddy you or James?”
The captain gave his man the finger. “Shut it Kirkpatrick, no one touches him till we find out who he is.”
Behind his veil Joshua sighed with relief.
The good-natured teasing continued for the remainder of the long helicopter ride. Joshua was left alone, ignored except for the curious glances. So far no one had attempted to remove his veil and this afforded the slim teen a small feeling of safety, unfortunately it also gave him time to think. Stories of sadistic Union soldiers filled his thoughts. The visions of being forced into the northern breeding camps tortured him. The Union gave their breeders no comforts and no choice. They were little more than human chattel. Joshua winced as he tested the strength of the nylon band that secured his wrists together.
“Is it too tight?” The soldier that had captured him asked.
Joshua’s eyes blazed in defiance and he tossed his head and stared out of the window, ignoring the man.
“Have it your own way breeder.”
Immediately Joshua regretted his actions. The blonde soldier had offered kindness and he had slapped it away. The nylon band cut into his skin and he had been hiding the pain. The soldier stood up and crouched before him pulling his hands forward. “I know you are frightened, but we won’t hurt you.” The soldier pulled out his pocket-knife. “If I cut the strap will you behave?”
Joshua nodded; it really wasn’t like he had a choice, after all where could he go? Short of throwing himself to the earth below them and he wasn’t prepared to be a martyr.
The soldier cut the strap. “ Do you have a name?”
Joshua chewed his lip and looked into the man’s eyes. Seeing no malice he whispered, “Joshua.”
The blonde smiled kindly. “I heard that the south didn’t name their breeders, that you were nothing more than breeding cows, a unnamed number in a pen.”
The southern teen lifted his chin high. “We are very highly regarded, cherished and loved.”
The soldier grunted. “I stand corrected sir.” He smiled again. “My name is Justin.”
“What’s going to happen to me?” Joshua asked nervously.
“You will be taken north and given the choice of imprisonment or taking a husband.”
“I . . .I won’t be put in a breeding camp will I?”
Justin looked genuinely confused. “The only breeding camps I have ever seen were in the south. Breeders are highly valued in the north, they are not enslaved and forced to conceive and carry child after child until they die.”
“The south doesn’t do that. We serve for fifteen years then we are free to take husbands. We have freedom of choice when it comes to our mates.”
The man, Kirkpatrick, was listening to the conversation. “If that’s the case breeder, how come I liberated a camp of 20 breeders just two days ago, five of them in their late forties early fifties? I’ve seen the southern breeding camps Sunshine, and they are evil. Breeders that are scared from the constant beatings, their bodies swollen from the never-ending pregnancies and the tiny cages they are penned in.”
“Liar! Liar!” Joshua screamed. “It’s propaganda you speak. It’s lies. My father would never give me to such a place. He loves me. He promised me a good husband after my service. He told me just yesterday that if my bearer hadn’t died giving birth to me he would have married him. I will not listen to your foul lies.” Joshua turned his face away shaking with anger. The south cherished their breeders; it was the north that was evil. They were the ones that started the hundred-year war. It was the north that released the disease that wiped out womankind and gave need to breeders in the first place. Joshua closed his eyes and willed away the tears that gathered there.
Kirkpatrick leaned his mouth close to the teen’s ear. “Don’t take my word for it boy, believe what you will, but you will find out the truth when you are reunited with the breeders from the camps. Let them open your closed eyes.”
“Leave him Chris,” Justin stopped the mohawked soldier from saying more. “He’ll only believe his own eyes. These boys are sheltered you know that. If they knew the truth then they would rebel and then where would the south be?”
“Timberlake, get that boys hands tied and strap yourself in. We are about to land.” Captain Fatone barked. “Kirkpatrick, stop taunting the kid.
The dark haired soldier laughed and winked at Joshua. “I’m not lying boy,” he whispered.
Justin took a nylon tie from his pocket. “Your hands Josh.”
Joshua held out his hands and Justin fastened them together. “You’ll be fine. Just do as you are told,” he muttered before he returned to his seat.