Reading about Quinn’s operation was a strange experience. As someone who had long specialized in investigation, Elspeth Cornish had learned to ably interpret the reality behind much of the doublespeak that ended up in print, but as she flipped through various old documents outlining how the Captain’s camp had been established – and indeed, how the entire rescue system had been created – she found it difficult to remain unaffected.
Like every Champion other than Alex and Caralynne, the browncoat had been born on the grasslands of the new world, and had begun her life as a child amongst the Hubrin’s savages. Then, in 1920, some soldiers had found the building where she’d been kept by the blue men, and had killed all the savages present so that they could bring her back to civilization.
Those men who’d rescued Elspeth, given her a number and delivered her to the arms of the British Empire, had been soldiers – fighting men from one of the many regiments that had been deployed alongside the Saa to finish off the Hubrin. But once that war ended, and the troops had been recalled, some men had remained behind to privately hunt the remaining savages, and rescue any children they could locate.
Funded by the immense rewards offered for savage children who were rescued and delivered to British and American hands, those outfits had gradually started to disappear along with the hordes on the new world’s mainland. Only Quinn had commanded the resources and the political contacts to find his way to the far continent, and build a base there to continue the hunt… which meant that, for as long as Elspeth had been amongst civilization,
Quinn had been butchering savage hordes in order to save their children. It was an aspect of Champion life that was easily forgotten by a public that adored Lords and Ladies in coats… and a reality that was purposely ignored by every Champion the browncoat had ever known.
The next generation – those born to Champion parents – would never have to anxiously read about soldiers prying them out from under the bodies of dead beasts. They’d never have to wonder what their lives might have been like, had they never been rescued.
But Elspeth could wonder about all those things, if she let herself – wonder whether the parents who’d conceived her could have possessed the ability to love her, despite the Hubrin telepathy which had crippled their minds. She could wonder how much longer it would have been before the blue men started reaching into her thoughts, and tearing away her ability to reason – for she’d seemed older than most of the girls and boys rescued that year.
So many grim questions about Elspeth’s origins, and she’d have no choice but to think more about them when she arrived amongst Quinn’s men. She would just have to steel herself against any memories, and use her understanding to help discern what was occurring in the place…