The Breeders

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IX

“Are you okay? What happened?” Mars asked Venus as soon as she was safely back in the pod. He threw his arms around her, “I was scared I was never going to see you again.”

Usually, when a Curator took someone away you didn’t see them ever again.

Venus wanted the comfort of her friend but pushed off his embrace.

“I’m fine, it wasn’t anything important.”

“Where did he take you?” Mars asked.

“It doesn’t matter. It wasn’t important,” she lied. Venus walked over to the cabinet to grab the test. When she opened it she noticed that the usual bright white cabinet had a thin black line along three connected sides.

She gently pushed on it and a small door swung open. The other side of the cabinet was dark, compared to their room, except for the low glow of monitors.

“I can’t believe you reported them,” Venus heard a woman grumble.

Two Medics sat with their backs toward the cabinet not paying any attention to the monitors.

“I had to, Pepa, it’s part of our job,” the male replied.

“You could have let it slide.”

“I would much rather have one of those things in trouble than have my ass on the line,” he told her.

“Those things! Their human, Felix, and human children,” the woman’s voice grew more and more aggravated with each syllable.

“I think human is an awfully broad term. They were grown by computers and lab equipment. They probably don’t even have a soul.”

The woman jumped up cause her desk chair to go flying across the room, “They probably have more of a soul than any normal person that works in this hell hole.”

The little light filtering in through caught the woman’s attention. Anger was replaced by shock. She quickly rushed over and slammed the small door closed. Venus could hear the click of a lock on the other side.

Even though she was sure it wouldn’t open Venus pushed on the small door. It didn’t budge as she expected. She grabbed the test and turned toward Mars.

They were two thin cylinder tubes that she held up to her arm. When the pressure was applied, a needle quickly pricked her and tested the blood for certain levels of hormones. On the fertility test, different lights would glow on the top of the cylinder. Red meant not fertile and it went from orange, yellow, green as the Breeder neared her most fertile point. The light on the stick was as green as the light could go when Venus took her test. She knew that fertilization would happen soon if it hadn’t happened already.

The pregnancy test worked sort of the same way, except if she wasn’t pregnant then the stick wouldn’t glow. If she was the light would blink blue. The light didn’t turn on when she took it and as usual, it was a mixture of relief and disappointment. She hated being in the breeding tanks and her only way out was if she was fertilized but at the same time, she didn’t want to go through what she had to the next forty weeks.

She set them back in the cabinet and turned toward Mars. A scowl was on his face and was still glaring toward the cabinet.

“Did you hear what the man said about us?” He quietly whispered as she walked by.

“It doesn’t matter, Mars. I never thought they really saw us as one of them anyway. People don’t do horrible things to other people they consider their equals.”

“I have a soul,” he argued. “If I didn’t I wouldn’t l-”

Venus cut him off before he could even finish, “Can we just get our day over with, please. I’d really like to spend some time in the quad.”

“Sure,” he quietly replied.

Mars, at first tried to be as intimate as they had the night before but Venus blocked any advance making the fertilization as rigid and awkward as her first time in the breeding tank. It crushed her to see the confusion and pain on Mars’s face, but she was doing it for him. She needed her friend, as selfish as it was, and needed to protect him.

She would have told him what happened in the office with Danielson, but she knew Mars. It would have only enraged him and it could have put him at risk of termination. What happened in the office had to stay between her and Danielson. Whatever happened to their friendship after that wouldn’t matter as long as she knew Mars was safe. Safe from Danielson, safe from her, and safe from his own feelings.

Once they were released to spend some time out time outside Venus took a deep breath of fresh air. She wasn’t sure if she was imagining it or if the breeze was blowing in the right direction but for the first time, she could smell the pine trees that grew just on the other side of the wall.

Oh, one more thing, no Breeder leaves this facility alive." Danielson’s words rang in her mind. All hope deflated in her. The concrete walls around her seemed taller and the blue sky a little greyer.

There would be no more ‘Tomorrow I’ll be free’ for her without the echo of his ‘no Breeder leaves this facility alive.’ She realized death would be her only escape and she couldn’t even break a rule purposely to bring it quicker. Danielson was never going to let her go. Was that why other Breeders tried to escape when they knew they were going to get caught. Did they ever intend to get past the walls that entrapped them or where they looking for an eternal escape?

Danielson had her so enslaved now she couldn’t even choose to die. Rage built up inside her. She was tired of being his prize. She was going to get out with Mars and Cas and they were going to do it without getting caught. She just had to figure out how and she had to figure it out before her and Mars’s baby was born. She wasn’t going to lose another child to the Cube.

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