“Try to relax Mr. Timberlake the journey will take approximately four hours.”
Joshua shuddered as he heard the lock click and he tried the door handle. Johnson’s voice filtered through the metal. “Yes Mr. Timberlake it is locked. It’s for your safety.
Joshua slumped down on the mattress and hugged his belly, feeling his child moving inside him. “I’m frightened,” he confided in the unborn child. “I can’t protect you, I’ll try but I don’t think I can.”
He lay down and stared up at the small windows that allowed light to filter in from the truck’s roof, his tears gathering in his eyes. His baby kicked him sharply in his ribs and it gave him the excuse he needed to start to cry. He began to cry harder as the truck started and pulled away taking him away from his daddy, away from his home and away from Justin.
He slipped in and out of sleep, boredom being his enemy. Twice the truck stopped and the door was opened so that he could stretch his legs and empty his bladder. At the second stop Johnson had a small table set up and invited Joshua to sit and have lunch with him. Joshua hesitated but the delicious smell of bacon prompted him to sit.
“I am sorry about this Mr. Timberlake. If I could I would take you back. I don’t like taking you so close to the border but orders are orders.”
“My father won’t take the bait sir. He is a general and he didn’t get where he is now by caring about anyone but himself.”
Johnson chuckled. “That’s not quite the information we have sir. We have it on good authority that General Chasez will risk anything to see you.”
Joshua took a bite of his sandwich, savouring the flavour of the smoked meat. He swallowed then said. “Your good authority is wrong Private. I’m just a breeder, cattle in the eyes of the south. My father won’t risk anything for me.”
“He already has.”
Joshua's mouth dropped open. “I don’t understand.”
“How is it you were brought north?”
“I was captured by your forces during a raid.”
Johnson smiled at the breeder’s naivety. “And you never wondered why you were allowed to go to the fair in the first place?”
“I know why I was allowed to go. It was a treat before I went to the breeding farm and Lieutenant Bass was there to look after me.” I hesitated realising what he had just said. “Lieutenant Bass was looking after me. The last thing my father said to me was that he could deny me nothing. He knew I didn’t want to go to the farm. He gave me to I. He knew the attack was going to happen and he gave me to the north to save me.”
Johnson patted II hand. “He loved you very much. He must have done to betray his country for you.”
Tears filled II eyes once more. “He wasn’t sending me to the farm. He loved me.”
“I. I we have to leave now. Time is getting short and you need your rest. If you would please go back in the truck.”
I sighed, wiped his eyes and stood up. He waddled over to the truck and accepted the help offered to get inside. His stomach tightened and he gasped bending almost double until the pain passed.
“Sir,” Johnson asked concerned. “Are you alright?”
I nodded and preceded to get into the truck. “It was just a twinge Private. I have been getting them lately. It has passed now.”
Johnson handed the pregnant man a radio. “In case you need me,” he explained before he locked the door once more.
Trystum and Ben watched helplessly as the truck drove away taking Joshua with it.
“What are we going to do?” Ben asked his voice cracking.
“I don’t know.” Trystum held in his hand the official letter that instructed Joshua to accompany the union soldiers.
“Maybe we should go to Madison and try to find Justin.” Ben suggested.
“We have no transportation Ben and you couldn’t walk that far. All we can do is wait and pray.”
The two men went back into the house. The supplies that the soldiers had delivered still sat untouched on the kitchen table. Ben bit his lip as he picked up a bar of mint chocolate.
“Joshua didn’t get his candy bar,” he said quietly.
“You have it,” Trystum insisted. “It’s a pity to waste it.”
Ben put the candy back into the supplies. It was Joshua's and he would want it when he returned.
Four men sat in the back of a truck dressed in full combat gear. Three of them seasoned fighters, one of them a mere boy. Chris lit up a cigarette and took a long drag, inhaling the smoke deep into his lungs. He passed the smoke to Lance who shook his head so he passed it on to Justin. Justin took a long drag and savoured the flavour before taking another drag and passed it on to PrivateJonathan Giggs.
The teen shook his head. “I don’t smoke sir,” he said his voice shaking slightly with nerves, apprehension and excitement.
“Now’s probably a good time to start kid,” Chris joked.
Jonathan put the cigarette to his lips and inhaled tentatively, choking on the acrid smoke.
Chris, Justin and Lance all burst out laughing and Lance banged on the boys back till he could catch his breath again. “Smoking,” he informed Jonathan, taking the stub from between the teen’s fingers, “is an art that not everyone can master.” He took a long drag and then blew the smoke out through his nostrils. He sighed and took another puff this time releasing a smoke ring from pursed lips.
“I thought you were giving up now you have a kid,” Chris teased.
Lance inhaled again deeply and passed the cigarette back to the sergeant. “I’ll quit tomorrow,” he joked back.
“That’s if we have a tomorrow,” Justin said softly.
“At least we’re not the cannon fodder JT. Those poor lads in delta division are going in first and while the south are busy obliterating them we will be sneaking in the back door.” Chris dropped the spent butt on the floor of the truck and ground it out with his heel.
“Chris is right Justin. We may be the ones that are sneaking around and going for the kill but delta will suffer the casualties.” Lance gave the young teenager that was sitting chewing his lip a small grin. “Pay Justin no mind Giggsy. He’s always like this. He likes to play the drama queen.”
“Hey, I resent that!” Justin exclaimed and immediately the mood was lifted as the three comrades joked with the youngest member of their team.
Joshua sat up and blinked against the sudden influx of light.
“Mr. Timberlake we have arrived sir. Can I be of assistance to you?” Johnson held out his hand and helped Joshua out of the back of the truck.
Joshua stared at the sight that faced him. Row after row of small white tents were stretched as far as the eye could see and thousands of blue coated soldiers milled around cleaning rifles and reading, in fact doing anything they could to keep their minds off the coming battle.
As Joshua passed by, men stopped to stare at him. Pregnant breeders were rarely seen in the cities, to see one on the edge of a coming battlefield was unheard of.
“Mr. Timberlake if you would like to follow me I’ll take you to the field commander.” Obediently Joshua followed Private Johnson towards one of two large tents.
Johnson lifted back the flap and ushered Joshua inside. “Captain Fatone, I have brought the breeder sir.”
Joe Fatone lifted his head from the map he was studying and grinned. “Hello Josh, betcha didn’t expect to see me.”
Relief flooded through Joshua as he recognised the man that had given him to his husband and he rushed towards him, hugging him as tightly as his swollen belly would let him.
“I want to go home Joe, I don’t want to be here.”
Joey waved Private Johnson away and waited till they were alone before he spoke again. “You must be tired and frightened Josh. Sit down.” Joe pulled out a soft backed chair for his guest to sit on. “Sweet tea will do you some good I think.”
“Joe why am I here?”
“We need you as bait,” Joe said bluntly.
“But I’m pregnant!”
“Joshua how can I explain this to you? You were always a major consideration in our plans. Sweet heart you are the son of the most powerful man in the south. He risked everything to make sure you were saved from the farms, but he is still our enemy and if we get him the war will be over.”
“You want me to betray my father?”
“No Josh, you won’t be betraying him. If he takes the bait he will betray himself. You are just a helpless pawn in the games of powerful nations.”
Joey gave a sharp shout and the tent flap swung back and a young boy no more that 16 entered.
“Yes sir?” he snapped.
“Boris take Mr. Chasez-Timberlake to his quarters and stay with him. Get him anything he needs and make sure he is comfortable.” Joey addressed Joshua again. “I’ll be sending the field doctor over to see you. James tells me you haven’t been seen by a doctor since you first arrived in Madison.”
Joshua nodded. “I was meant to have a scan but the bombing started and I was evacuated.”
Joey smiled pleasantly and hugged Joshua around his shoulders. “I’ll see what we can do. But I want you to do something for me. I want you to take long walks around the camp. I need you to be seen. You will never be in any danger I promise you but I guarantee that we are being watched and I want those watchers to see you.”
Joshua agreed quietly to Joe’s request and dismissed he followed the boy soldier called Boris back to the second big tent that was to be his new home.