“Put him in with the other breeders for now,” Fatone ordered.
“Sir, with due respect the breeders are all from breeding farms. Joshua is untouched; his robes depict him as such. It seems wrong to subject him to that,” Justin said his voice full of concern.
“He may as well know the truth now rather than later. Leave his hands tied, he could try to run.”
Justin sighed, “Yes sir.” He tugged Joshua over to a brick building in the middle of the camp. Much to Joshua’s surprise there was no guard on the door and no lock.
“In you go sweetheart. Stay inside, if you come out you could get hurt. Promise me Josh.”
Joshua peered in through the door. “I’ll do what you ask,” he said sadly.
Justin smiled, “good boy.”
Taking a deep breath he walked into the hut, recoiling as the door closed behind him.
“Welcome to the North boy.” The man that had spoken was about forty years old. His blonde hair was shorn close to his scalp. He was bare foot and his belly was swollen with child.
Joshua stared in awe; he had never seen a pregnant man before. “You are with child! Did the Union take you from your lover?”
The breeders all laughed at their new members innocence.
“What’s a lover, boy? I have only ever been mated by force.” The man stood nose to nose with Joshua. “ How old are you? You still wear the robes, what pens were you in?”
Joshua backed up, fear creeping into his soul. “ I am seventeen, I won’t be eighteen for another two weeks.”
“He’s an innocent, leave him alone Chuck. He doesn’t know, how could he? Did any of us know before we were thrust into the pens?” Another man with golden brown hair and steel blue eyes said as he stepped around the first. He took Joshua by his hands and led him to a couch. “My name is Trystum, what is your name? Do you have a family name? I had a child that would be your age.” Trystum gently unpinned Joshua’s veil and brushed back his hood, not giving the teen time to answer.
“Joshua.” The teen gasped at the audacity of the man face stripping him. He shifted humiliated and uncomfortably being the centre of attention. I cannot be your child. My bearer died when he gave birth to me. My father told me this just yesterday.”
The man, Trystum stroked his finger down Joshua’s cheek. “Everyone’s bearer dies in child birth darling. That is what all of us are told. The truth is we are breed until we die. There is no honourable retirement. No chance that we will ever be loved. No chance to hold a child that we have given birth to.” The older man placed a long lingering kiss on Joshua’s forehead. “That is life for our kind in the South. The Union has promised us freedom. I believe them.”
Joshua shook his head, tears rolling down his face. He pushed Trystum out of the way and bolted for the door. Patient hands held him, holding him tight to an unknown body.
“Why,” he sobbed. “Why do you lie to me?”
“It’s no lie darling child. In your heart you know I speak the truth, but if you wish it I will swear on the life of the unborn babe that grows inside me.” The pregnant man pressed Joshua’s hand to his belly and the teen inhaled quickly feeling movement within.
“I am fifty one years old Joshua, and yet I was liberated just two months ago.”
“It cannot be true. We retire at thirty-three, my father told me. He wouldn’t do that to me, he loves me.” Joshua was becoming more and more distraught.
“As my father told me? As Chuck’s father told him? I’m sure they loved us too, but the fact is when we reached our eighteenth year they drove us to our allocated residence, they walked us inside and they kissed us goodbye. Then they left and never came back.”
More than one of the breeders was now crying as they remembered how they had been abandoned to the brutality of the farms.
Trystum wiped away his own tears as he continued. “They lied to us Joshua. We were nothing, we spent eighteen years being brain washed into believing that we were honoured, privileged to be able to give birth to new life. Our innocent heads filled with words such as duty and privilege. What we got was slavery, beatings and heartbreak when our children were taken from our wombs, we were not even allowed to look upon their faces.”
Chuck sat down on his right hand side and took his hand in his. “I had only given birth two hours when I was given again. I cried and pleaded, but all it did was get me beaten into unconsciousness, then raped over and over again as punishment until I was pregnant again. Then I was put back into the birthing pens, a cage not even big enough to stand in.”
“Embrace the Union darling, they have given you back your life.” Trystum hugged Joshua to him, stroking his hair lovingly. “The North has promised to look after us, so long as we promise to take husbands, even those of us that are nearing the end of our lives. You are still young and beautiful, untainted by the horrors that we have all seen.”
The teenaged boy wept bitterly, knowing that the men sitting around him spoke the truth. “There, there, sweet child. It hurts I know to find out that everything you have been taught is a lie. Come child let us disrobe you and give you your liberty.
One of the younger breeders cut the strap that still held his wrists together and Trystum unbuttoned his coat, sliding it off his shoulders. Joshua weakly allowed the men to take off his street robes, unable to find the strength to protest.
A couple of the breeders reached out and began to fondle his hair enviously straightening the curls and then releasing them so they sprung back into the loose ringlets that surrounded his face.
“Such pretty hair,” one of them muttered before he ran his hand over his own shaved scalp. “ I had hair like yours till they forced me to kneel and be shaved. I miss my hair.” The man walked away and curled into a large armchair weeping softly to himself.
“Archie is nineteen, the pain of betrayal is still fresh in his mind.You’ve had a hard day darling. You should sleep.” The broken teen was encouraged to lie down and a hot drink was pressed to his lips. “It will help you sleep darling. Tomorrow things will look brighter.” Each of the men present took turns to kiss Joshua’s forehead and welcome him to their number. Within minutes the drug in the warm milk had taken effect and Joshua sank into a deep slumber.
Trystum ran his thumb over the sleeping teens soft lips. “You are home my precious boy and I love you.”
As soon as Joshua was sleeping Trystum slipped out of the hut and made his way to the officers quarters. He knocked on the door and waited to be acknowledged.
Captain Fatone looked up from his paper work. “Trystum is there a problem?”
“No, I just wanted to thank you.”
“He is your child then?” the bearded captain asked as he poured himself and his pregnant guest a scotch.
“He is my son I’m sure of it. Thank you for saving him from the farms.”
Fatone beckoned the pregnant man nearer. “As payment I can have this child you carry?”
Trystum gulped at his drink. “It was our bargain. I feel nothing for this child of rape. Joshua is the only one of my born that I truly loved. His father treated me like I was precious. He promised to marry me. They told me that he tried to claim me after Josh was born, but they told him I had died in childbirth. You see even he didn’t know what went on in the camps, not really.” Trystum drained his glass. “What will happed to my son captain?” he asked.
“I’ll send you North. James my lover will take you to my home, but he is on assignment at the moment so I have arranged for you to stay with Timberlake’s family till he can reach you. The others will be taken further north and given a choice of men that qualify for breeders rights.”
“But what of Josh? He is still a child?”
“I have chosen him a husband. I’m giving him to Timberlake. He found him and the lad is desperate to start a family. He will look after him.”
The pregnant man put his glass on Fatone’s desk. “This Timberlake, he is a good man? “
“Thank you again Joe. Maybe the stories we were told about Union men were lies after all.”
Joe laughed, “no they are true, but we cherish our breeders. But I promise you none of you will be mistreated again.”