The southern officer looked up from his paper work at Ben his clerk who was standing on the other side of his desk, shifting nervously from foot to foot.
“Yes,” he scowled. “Has there been any word of my son.”
“Nothing since Lieutenant Richardson reported that he had liberated a young untouched breeder resembling Lord Joshua's description sir.” The younger man wrung his hands together with worry, the general was well known for shooting the messenger, so to speak.
“What about Lieutenant Bass?”
The clerk cleared his throat. “The last time he was seen he had been shot and was captured by the enemy sir.”
The general pushed his chair back and stood up. He walked over to the window and stared out at the empty porch swing where so often he would watch Joshua reading in the secluded garden’s sunshine. “You think that I only want Joshua back because he is a breeder?”
The clerk kept his mouth shut knowing that the general wasn’t waiting for an answer.
“I want him back because I love him. Out of all of my son’s I loved Joshua the best. Maybe it was because he was kept isolated. He never even knew he had brothers, if he had he would have wanted to meet them, play with them, grow up like them. But he wasn’t like them. He was special, a breeder.” The general sighed at stared out at the empty swing again. “His father was special too. I spent two weeks with Trystum, he thought he was going to be retired after Joshua was born, but I knew the truth. I did ask for him but I was told that the south still needed his services. He still had at least twenty more years of childbearing for the state inside of him. Do you know what they do on a breeding farm?”
The clerk shook his head. “No sir.”
“The first thing they do is shave their heads. Hair that they have been forced to grow since infancy. They make them kneel on the floor and shave their heads. Then they are penned, they don’t have clothes. They don’t have things to keep them occupied. They have nothing, are nothing but brood mares. They are beaten, raped, half-starved, pathetic creatures.”
“You know this yet you were going to let Joshua be taken to one,” Ben kept his voice low, not knowing if he had over stepped his boundaries.
“Joshua was never going to go to a farm; I couldn’t do that to him. I had it all planned. I was going to shave his head myself, so that I could keep his hair as a reminder of him, and then he was going to commit suicide. A small pill in his bedtime drink, he would have passed painlessly in his sleep.”
The clerk edged closer to his commanding officer. “You had discussed his killing himself?”
The general looked at the clerk with disgust. “Of course not! Joshua would never kill himself; he was too well brought up. He believed completely in the fallacy of the honour of serving one’s country by baring children. He would have gone to do his duty. No I was going to slip the poison into his drink, watch him drink it and then kiss him goodnight and goodbye.”
“Sir, you shouldn’t be telling me this. The murder of a breeder is treason.”
The general chuckled ironically. “Yes it is isn’t it? But Joshua wasn’t murdered he was abducted. His final treat was his saving grace. I wanted him to have a little excitement for the first time in his life. I wanted to see him smile a real smile before I lost him.”
The general wiped a tear from his cheek. “Where ever he is I hope he is being well looked after. I pray the union treats their breeders better than we do in the south.”
The sound of the clerk’s phone ringing broke the mood and the younger man excused himself, seconds later the generals intercom went off.
“Sir I have Captain Marshal on the telephone.”
The general put down the photograph of Joshua that he had been staring at. “Put him through Ben.” He waited to be connected. “Captain Marshal, what can I do for you?”
The man on the end of the phone relayed his message then hung up. Ben came back into his superior’s office. “Bad news sir?” he asked.
“You could say that. Lieutenant Richardson and his platoon were massacred, and the captive breeder taken.”
Ben bit his lip. “It may not have been Joshua general, the north have raided many breeding farms and stolen many untouched boys from their homes.”
“They described him, even down to the pendant that I gave him for his thirteenth birthday.” The general stared back out at the empty swing. “Ben mobilise G unit for me.”
“I’m going looking for my son and I’m not coming back without him.”
Joshua crept barefooted up the long staircase, back to the world above him. He had been underground for weeks and longed to see the sun again. Justin had left him alone again and warned him to stay in the bunker before he had left, but boredom had encouraged him to venture into the sunshine to look for his elusive husband.
Ten men moved widely spread and silently through the trees, rifles at the ready. The swarthy dark haired officer in charge held up his hand, calling his men to a halt. The soldiers dropped down into a crouch, their fatigues blending in to the surrounding area making them almost invisible to the untrained eye.
They watched as the hidden door swung open and a dark curly head popped out, looking around nervously before coming out completely. They watched as the thin, long limbed half naked boy stretched in the sunshine turning his face to the sun and basking in its warmth before spreading himself out on the grassy ground. The officer silently indicated for his men to circle around, surrounding the boy. They stayed low to the ground and waited until the boy relaxed back to enjoy the good weather then they pounced.
Joshua was thrown on to his belly and his hands were pulled behind his back and cuffed tightly then he was then dragged to his feet and a rope tied around his throat.
The officer in charge stepped up to him, pushing his face into the terrified boys.
“Keep your mouth shut and heel. Try to resist and you will be punished.”
A sharp tug of his leash made Joshua take a stumbled step forward, forcing him to follow his captors. He looked miserably back at the trap door and stumbled, falling hard onto his knees. His captors took no notice and continued to drag him choking along the ground until he could regain his footing. Joshua sobbed silently as he was dragged barefooted through the trees until they reached the road and a waiting truck. Two soldiers hauled him up into the back not saying a word and forced him to kneel on the floor between them.
The truck started and Joshua cried out and scrambled forward to reach the tailgate only to be thrown back to the trucks floor. One of the soldiers pushed his booted foot into the small of his back holding him in place as they drove to who knew where leaving Justin behind.
It had begun to get dark when Justin arrived back at the bunker. He stopped dead at the sight of the open trapdoor. He took his rifle off his shoulder and stealthily he descended the stairs. Joshua was gone. Crying out and dropping his gun he ran from room to room looking for his husband, calling out his name until finally grief stricken he fell to his knees and wept uncontrollably.