Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions by Christine Haggerty

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The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions
Christine Haggerty

Print Length: 229 pages

Publisher: Fox Hollow Publications


Book Description:

Half a century after the world was decimated by a bio-engineered plague, military scouts are acquisitioning a new supply of exports—slaves.

With his family dead, sixteen-year-old Cameron Landry is a reluctant survivor, haunted by nightmares and bound by promises. When he and his worst enemy, Devon, are both selected for shipment to a civilization called Salvation, Cam suddenly has nowhere to run. Devon is a mutant, stronger and faster, and his hatred for Cam grows with each passing day. As Cam makes friends, and finds a surprising ally in Devon’s twin sister, Tara, he learns a secret that could change everything.

But Devon is on the hunt, and Cam is running out of places to hide.

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Chapter 1: The Stalls

“Put him down, Devon!” Cam spit out dirt.

“Or what, Pig Boy?” Devon sneered and shook Cam’s new stallmate like a rag doll. A small boy, Peter hung by his coat, his collar riding up against his throat as he kicked his legs in the air. With his eyes pinched shut and his hands balled into fists, Peter twisted and swung his arms, trying to reach the blond mutant who held him at least three feet off the ground.

Cam’s stomach clenched as Peter’s face turned colors. Why didn’t he just run? I told him to run. He’s small. He could’ve hid with the pigs and this idiot would’ve walked on by.

“He’s just a little kid, Devon,” Cam tried reasoning with the mutant. “You’re choking him.”

Devon grinned wickedly and shook Peter again. “Whatcha gonna do about it?”

Grinding his teeth, Cam reached behind him, searching for a rock or stick. The ground was cold, not fully thawed, and Cam’s fingertips found only a few small rocks through the thin layer of topsoil. I’m gonna smash in your empty mutant head. But Cam didn’t say it out loud. Devon had a mutant-strength temper to match his mutant-strength arms.

Peter squeaked and clutched at his throat, freckles speckling the tops of his cheeks like pepper flakes as his face turned white and then red.

A few feet away, a blond girl shifted her weight and rubbed her arm nervously. “Devon, I think you’re actually hurting him.”

“Good, then maybe the Pig Boy will do something about it,” he shook Peter again and looked at Cam. “You gonna tell the Regulators? You gonna tell them to bring their tasers and stop the big mean mutant so he don’t hurt the little boy?”

Cam’s fingers curled around a rock half the size of his fist and he glared at Devon.

Devon laughed. “No, you aren’t gonna tell the Regulators. You’re gonna tell Mama Lucy, aren’t you? You’re gonna run and tell her poor little Peter’s in trouble.” He smirked, “I bet she don’t even know his name. I bet she tells me to chop him up and throw him in the soup. She hates the little ones cuz they ain’t worth feeding. Not when she’s got mutants like me.”

“Devon, just let him go,” the blond girl pleaded.

“Shut up, Tara,” Devon growled at her, keeping his eyes on Cam. The muscles in Devon’s bare arm bunched and flexed with the weight of the boy in his hand, but Cam had too much experience to hope that Devon was getting tired. He also had too much experience to think that he could make Devon let go by getting up and fighting him. “So what’s it gonna be, Cam? You gonna save your little friend?”

“Let him go,” Cam warned again.

“Piggy boy, piggy boy, piggy boy,” Devon danced while Peter’s face went dark purple and his eyes rolled up in his head.

“Let him go!” Jumping to his feet, Cam stepped to charge Devon, but Tara pushed between them. She pulled Peter’s coat out of Devon’s grip and the small boy flopped onto the ground next to Cam, his breath coming in a rush as he rolled onto his back and coughed.

A look of pure hatred twisted through Devon’s face as he wrapped his fingers around Tara’s slender neck and pushed her up against the weathered wall of the horse stalls. “Why are you interfering?”

She clutched at his fingers and met his eyes in silence.

Cam’s breath rushed in and pressed against his ribs as he watched Devon squeeze the girl’s throat. The strawberry colored mark that identified her as a mutant was mirrored in the face of her brother, along with her hazel eyes and blond hair.


Lifting her up, Devon stretched Tara’s chin so far it looked like her neck would snap, then let out a growl and snatched his hand back. “Stay out of my way.”

She rubbed her throat and watched Devon stalk off to the pavilion where Mama Lucy was calling the orphans in for dinner.

“Tara,” Cam reached for her to ask if she was okay, but she just glanced at him with pain and sadness and followed her brother to the tables.

On the ground next to Cam’s feet, Peter wheezed on all fours. Cam pulled the boy back to a sitting position and unzipped his coat. A dark purple line had formed where the blood rushed to the surface of his throat, but he was breathing.

“I told you to hide!” Cam grabbed Peter’s shoulders and made the boy look him in the eyes. “Why didn’t you run? You can’t win if he catches you, but if you hide with the pigs, he’ll never go in there for you. Devon hates the pigs.”

“Sorry,” Peter croaked out in a small voice. “Sorry, I wanted to warn you.” He curled up and coughed into his knees, a faint scar on the back of his neck peeking above his shirt collar. “I heard Devon saying that he was going to find you with the horses,” he looked up with tears in his eyes. “I didn’t want him to hurt you again.”

Relieved to see Peter’s freckles return to their normal shade of brown, Cam pulled him up by the arm. 
“C’mon, let’s go get you some dinner before it’s all gone,” he tucked a pair of silver tags inside the boy’s shirt, “and next time, at least unzip your coat so that he has to pick you up by your overall straps. That will keep him from choking you with your own clothes.”

Peter nodded and sniffed, wiping a tear from his cheek as he jogged to keep up. They walked around the south run of horse stalls and passed by the pig yard that sat on the east end.

The pigs were out sniffing at the sun, three big ones and five sucklings, shuffling around their pit of half-frozen mud. It had been a litter of twelve; the squealing mess born only a month ago, but the orphanage was so desperate for food this time of year that seven of the piglets had already been chopped up for stew.

A mixture of girls and boys swarmed under the pavilion, half of them slopping sludge into their mouths and the other half jostling for a place in line. Devon already sat at a table near the orchard with his bowl and a withered apple, his feet bare on the cold, packed dirt.

While he’s loading up on sludge, maybe he could also load up on some brains. Cam glared at the mutant for a moment as he and Peter tacked themselves on to the end of the line. Peter zipped up his coat and winced.
“Hey, little man, don’t do that if it hurts.” Cam tugged down the zipper to ease the pressure on the bruised flesh and crouched down to meet Peter’s big, brown eyes. “Mama Lucy won’t care if you have a few bruises, won’t even wonder why, so don’t suffer for her sake.”

Peter frowned. “I don’t care about Mama Lucy.” He nodded up at the ragged orphans bent over their bowls. “But they call me names when they see what Devon does.”

“What kind of names?” Cam swallowed. Devon only picks on Peter because he shares a stall with me.

Peter tugged on his ear and looked down at his sloppy boots. “‘Stew Meat,’ ‘Sty Fly,’ ‘Sludge Face,’ stuff like that.”

Cam shot a warning look at the grungy smattering of kids even though all of them hovered over their bowls, eating as quickly as they could. They reminded him of the wild dogs who sniffed around the pavilion at night, looking for scraps of food.

He patted Peter on the back. “Stick by me, little man, and they’ll leave you alone.”

“I know,” Peter shrugged, “but then I never get to play with anybody.”

“I’ll fix it,” Cam promised. “I have a plan.”

Peter smiled at him. “You do?”

“You bet,” Cam’s stomach tightened, “but you can’t say anything to anybody, okay?”

Peter nodded, serious.

The Stalls had just fewer than thirty orphans, ages spanning from seven, like Peter, to sixteen, like Cam and the mutant twins. Peter’s group had arrived from a daycare somewhere on the other side of the mountains three days ago. Many of them were undersized and underfed, soulless children who cried for their dead parents as they dug themselves into the straw at night.

He reached the pot, last in line with Peter behind him. The girl serving looked at him with hollow brown eyes, her hair a rat’s nest with straw sticking out of it. Cam watched her hands, which were at least cleaner than her face, as she handed him a bowl and scooped the bottom of the pot with a bent ladle.

“Almost gone,” she wheezed out as she turned the ladle over. His dinner oozed into the bowl in clumps of oat sludge, making a sucking sound as it separated from the spoon. “That’s all you get. Next!”

Cam shuffled forward and waited for Peter, whose bowl was only half full when the girl handed it to him. The small boy pouted and followed Cam to a table on the far side of the pavilion from Devon. A skinny boy with spiky black hair and narrow eyes looked up when they sat down by him.

“Hey, Cam,” Jake smiled and scraped up the last of his mush. “Wondered where you were, then I saw Devon come across the field. What’s he been up to this afternoon? Tormenting your horses?”

“What he’s always up to,” Cam sat down and winced, his butt tender from landing on the packed dirt behind the old horse stalls where Devon had shoved him.

“You mean skinning live rodents, wringing chickens’ necks, threatening small children? Or just generally making our life the hell it is today?”

Cam didn’t answer as he helped Peter climb onto the tall bench that ran the length of the table.

Jake’s eyebrows shot up. “None of those?” His eyes narrowed. “Has he expanded his repertoire?”

Shaking his head, Cam glanced over at Devon, hoping the blond boy would leave before Jake said something stupid and loud enough for the mutant to hear, which happened often enough. Jake had the bruises to prove it. “Shut up!” Cam elbowed Jake’s arm. “When will you learn to control the things that come out of your mouth? Do you have any sense of self-preservation?”

Twirling his spoon, Jake answered in a low voice. “He’s a mutant, Cam, he can hear everything. He’s like the official Emperor of Evil. There’s no getting away.”

Unless you run away. Cam dropped his eyes to his bowl and scooped a bite of tasteless oats as Devon looked over at them. Peter’s dinner was already nearly gone, the small boy swinging his feet as he chewed.
Jake pushed his bowl away and leaned his elbows on the table, his hands squishing his cheeks up into narrow black eyes as he rested his chin on his palms. “I swear sometimes he can hear what I’m thinking. He’s even worse than Mama Lucy.”

Once a mutant slave across the ocean in Salvation, Mama Lucy was now the domineering matron of the Stalls. She watched her orphans from a rocking chair only a few yards away from the pavilion, swinging herself back and forth as her boots dangled in the air. She was a round woman who looked like she was made of dough, with a House mark branded on the right half of her face. The two concentric circles puckered in the fat of her cheek, like someone had punched a permanent dent in her face.

Both short and short tempered, Mama Lucy had beady eyes that stared straight ahead. Cam couldn’t tell if she was looking at them because her eyes never seemed to move, but he figured she knew what they were saying. He had the feeling she could see and hear everything as she sat tearing the meat off a greasy chicken leg with her teeth and smacking a broken porch spindle against the leg of the rocking chair.

She had a mean swing with that spindle, and she never missed.

Devon dropped his empty bowl on one of the tables and snatched a spoon out of another kid’s hand. The boy, probably about ten or eleven, wrapped his body around his bowl of sludge and tried to escape under the table. Devon caught the boy’s coat and hung him on an old iron hook that bent up out of a pavilion post.

“I’m still hungry,” Devon grabbed the sludge, leaving the boy to hang, and snatched another bowl from a girl at the same table.

We’re all still hungry you mutant bastard, a mouthful of food caught in Cam's throat and he fought it down. Beside him, Peter circled his arms around his own bowl.

The boy hanging from the post whimpered and squirmed out of his coat, and the girl cried quietly at the table, her long hair caught under the chain of her tags.

“Shut up!” Mama Lucy waddled between the tables and smacked the girl on the knuckles. “Quit your whining!”

The boy scooted back and hid behind the post as the girl sniffled in an effort to smother her sobs.

The grease on Mama Lucy’s chin caught the light as she shook her spindle at the orphans’ haggard faces. “All of you, quit your complaining! I hear you cry for your mamas at night, you bunch of babies. Don’t you know that the dead can’t hear you?”

Nobody dared meet her beady eyes except Cam. She was the authority, the gateway to their meager food and supplies, and her temper left many of them out in the cold or without meals as punishment for no more reason than that she hated them.

Her smile hung crooked in her sagging cheeks. “You look like you got something to say, Mr. Landry,” she stretched the spindle across the table and dug the broken end into Cam’s shoulder. “Well, spit it out, boy, or would you rather I beat it out of you?”

Why does someone as stupid as you get to be in charge? Cam glanced behind Mama Lucy to where Devon grinned through a mouthful of stolen sludge and answered her. “I don’t think Devon should take food from the little ones. It’s not fair.”

Mama Lucy licked the grease from her lips, then shoved him back with her spindle and laughed. “You want things to be fair, huh? Stupid boy, nothing’s fair, nothing’s equal. Devon’s a mutant. When the Scouts come, I’m gonna trade the boy and his sister for something good, something fat. They’ll be here soon, in their fancy uniforms, and I might even get enough for the blondies to get me out of this pig pit. You immunes,” she spun and waved the stick at the kids cowering at the tables, “you ain’t worth the slop in them bowls. Worthless, squealing rats. Salvation only wants the strong ones for the arena, the fighters, the mutants. 

Their entertainment.” she emphasized the last word, a drop of spittle clinging to the corner of her mouth.

“We deserve just as much as the mutants,” Cam ignored Jake, who was pulling on his sleeve, and instead gave Mama Lucy a stern glare. “We’re worth something, too.”

The black eyes twitched and Mama Lucy dug the end of the spindle deeper into the center of Cam’s chest with each word, “No. You. Ain’t,” she leaned over the table. “You’re a worthless stray, and I know you’ve been stealing out of my cellar, boy. I could kill you for it, and nobody would come looking.”

Cam held her eyes, determined not to even flinch, but Peter climbed off the bench and hugged Cam’s knees, hiding, Mama Lucy grinned, showing gaps in her yellow teeth as her eyes shot a glance down at Peter. “Got yourself a little rat to protect now, huh? Knew I was smart when I stuck him with you and those pigs.” She backed away slowly, the grin like a scarecrow’s in the early spring twilight. “Didn’t learn your lesson when your brother burned, did you? Still stupid enough to go on and care.”

The pavilion was silent as Mama Lucy waddled up the porch steps and into the house, chuckling to herself. When the door banged shut behind her, the orphans quietly left the tables and dropped their bowls in a tub next to the sludge pot. The girl with the hollow eyes watched the dishes pile up.

“Hey little man,” Cam untangled Peter’s arms from his legs. “You alright?”

Peter nodded. “She scares me.”

Jake huffed at Cam. “And you scold me for saying stupid things? It’s one thing to piss Devon off, but Mama Lucy’s on a whole other level. What were you thinking?”

“I’m not scared of her. Besides,” Cam shrugged as he watched Devon throw his bowl in the dish tub and walk off toward the horse stalls where the orphans slept, “it’s our job to stand up for the smaller ones.”
“Says who?” Jake asked.

“I don’t know,” Cam handed his bowl of sludge to Peter. “We’re all they got. They’re so small they don’t have a chance, Jake.”

Jake pressed his fingers to the sides of his head. “There is so much wrong with what you’re saying right now, I don’t even know where to begin. First, you should be afraid of Mama Lucy. That one should be self-explanatory. Second, protecting the little ones is pretty much suicide since it just gets you the attention of the aforementioned Mama Lucy, and even worse, Devon. Third—“

“I get it, Jake,” Cam put his hands on Jake’s shoulders and held the boy still, “I get that mutants are stronger and faster. I get that we aren’t worth as much to Salvation because we can still get hurt and die while the mutants can nearly get cut in half and still swing a sword. I get all that. What I don’t get is who decides that it has to be that way? Who’s making the rules?”

“Right here, right now, it’s Mama Lucy who gets to make the rules. And mutants like Devon. And the Regulators who’ve hauled you back here both times you’ve run away. That’s who gets to make the rules.” 
Jake pushed Cam’s hands off of his shoulders.

“Yeah, well, I’m getting smarter. I’m making plans this time,” Cam looked around at the empty pavilion, then sat down next to Peter while the small boy scraped the last of the sludge from the bowl Cam had given him.

Jake huffed. “If you were smart, you’d stay out of their way, be invisible like you say your brother always told you. What was it Devon did to you yesterday after you called him a cow’s butt? Um, let me see if I can remember…” Jake rolled his eyes up at the pavilion rafters, then pinned Cam with a hard look. “Oh, yeah, he tried to drown you in the river.”

“Mama Lucy wouldn’t have let him go that far,” Cam said, but he wasn’t sure. “Besides,” he shrugged, “I got away.”

“No, Tara saved your freezing ass. You couldn’t hear what she said because your head was under water, but she’s the only reason her psycho brother pulled you out.” Jake nodded toward the far corner of the main house, where Tara sat alone on the cold ground.

“Maybe I should go and thank her,” Cam watched the blond girl dig a toe into a patch of dead grass.

“You’re going to just walk up and talk to her? Do you want her brother to have more reason to hurt you? If he saw you talking to her, he’d do more than just try to drown you.” Jake pushed past Cam and Peter, then paused a few steps away. He turned around and pointed at Cam, “You’re the one who seriously lacks a sense of self-preservation.”

Now you’ve gone and started to care. Cam thought of Mama Lucy’s taunt as he let Jake go and looked at Tara. She hugged her knees, her arms long and golden out of the short sleeves of her thin, white tee shirt. The deepening twilight made her blond braid turn copper over her shoulder, long lashes touching her mismatched cheeks.

Beautiful. Cam remembered what he had thought the first time he saw her seven months ago when the Regulators first dragged him to the Stalls. Beautiful and unpredictable. Cam wondered what she would do if he did talk to her. Probably tell me I’m just an immune, tell me to go away, punch me like her brother. Or worse, a thin shudder snaked along his spine,tell her brother.

Peter tugged on Cam’s sleeve. “I’m tired.”

“Full?” Cam picked up the bowls, both of them licked clean.

Shrugging, Peter picked at the tabletop. “Sort of.”

“Enough to sleep?”

Peter nodded, the bruise like a dark red noose on his throat.

“Alright then, little man, let’s get you to bed. It’s getting dark. Stay by me.” Cam wound his way to the dirty dish tub. Bowls leaned in a haphazard tower, spoon handles sticking out of the apocalyptic sculpture like branches of a dead tree. The girl who had served the sludge was gone, along with the cooking pot. He dumped the bowls in the corner of the tub and reached down to steer Peter toward the pigsty.

He was gone.

Dammit. Heart pounding, Cam scanned the garden and the yard, then caught a glimpse of Peter’s head peeking out from behind the house, his reddish hair sticking up in chunks.

Peter. Cam headed toward him, then stopped.

Tara walked out from behind the house, watching her bare feet trace a path on the frozen ground until she reached the dish tub. Looking up, she caught Cam’s eyes and scowled. “What did you see?” She closed the distance and grabbed his arm.

“Nothing,” Cam said, pulling away.

Her grip tightened. “What did you see?”

“Nothing!” Cam wrenched his arm away.

Tara couldn’t get a good grip on him through the fabric of his sleeve, so she curled her fingers around the skin of his wrist and pulled him toward her.

“I was looking for Peter,” Cam stammered, his breathing shallow. “Did you do anything to him?”

“Let’s stick with the ‘nothing,’ shall we? You saw nothing, I did nothing. Got it?” Her breath was hot on his neck, and she smelled like frost and sweat and girl.

Cam met her eyes. “Got it.”

Tara nodded and dropped his wrist, pushing past him toward the horse stalls. Cam watched her go, then caught up to Peter coming around the corner of the house.

“Are you okay?” Cam asked.

Peter nodded but hung his head.

Taking the small boy’s thin wrist, Cam tugged him toward the lean-to where they slept with the pigs. He was mad, mad that Peter had gotten hurt, mad that Tara had acted even a little bit like Devon, mad that his brother had died and left him alone.

Mad that he had let Peter out of his sight again. Mad that he cared.

The sty smelled like moldy straw and frost, the cold seeping up through the frozen ground now that the sun was gone. The pigs curled up in one heap, the bigger ones snoring over the soft squeals of the nursing piglets. Cam lay with his hands behind his head, watching what stars he could through the open front of the makeshift shelter. One bright spot peeked out and then disappeared behind a cloud.

Peter squirmed restlessly, trying to wrap himself up in the wool blanket that Cam let him use, but he couldn’t seem to get both elbows inside it at the same time.

“Here,” Cam tightened the blanket around the small boy like a cocoon, then pulled him up farther on the straw and built a nest around him. “That should be better. Can you go to sleep now?”

He heard the straw rustle, then Peter murmured, “Uh-huh.”

Lying on his back again, Cam shifted around until he caught a glimpse of the star as the cloud passed.

“Hey, Peter?”

“Yeah?” The boy yawned.

“What was Tara doing to you behind the house?”

“Oh,” more rustling, “I’m not supposed to tell.”

Cam swallowed. “Did she hurt you?”


“Peter,” Cam bit his lip, not sure how to convince the boy that he had to tell or whatever it was could get worse. “You can tell me. Tara already knows I saw something.”

“She does?”

“Yeah. But I couldn’t see you very well, and she wouldn’t tell me.” Cam swore he heard Peter thinking, the boy’s breath speeding up in the darkness. “Did she hurt you?”

“Well,” Peter stalled. “Do you promise not to tell her I said anything? Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Pinky promise?”

Cam rolled his eyes. Little kids. “Pinky promise.”

“You know if you break a pinky promise you’ll die, right?”

“Peter, I pinky promise. What did she do?”

The cloud passed over the star again.

“She gave me her apple.”

Swallowing, Cam stared as the star winked on. She wasn’t angry, he realized as he recalled her scowl, the darkness in her eyes, she was afraid.

About the Author:

Christine Nielson Haggerty grew up in rural Utah with three brothers, a sister, several chickens, a goat, and an outhouse. She always loved the escape of science fiction and fantasy and the art of writing, and her passion is to craft stories of strength and survival.

Christine taught high school language arts for several years, encouraging perfection of the language in her young adult students. Now she appreciates her background in classic literature and history as she draws on the past to write about the present and the future.

Her favorite genres to write are young adult dystopian fiction and young adult urban fantasy.

You can follow her news and mental wanderings at

Twitter: @chaggerty99

Grand Prize: (1) $50 Amazon gift card, The Plague Legacy soft cover, and The Plague Legacy ebook.

First Prize:  (4)  The Plague Legacy soft cover, The Plague Legacy ebook

Second Prize (8)  The Plague Legacy ebook

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