"Dad, no," I said. "You can't make me go."
"We don't have much of a choice, Ciara," my father said shaking his head.
"Why can't someone from the Plains go? You're telling me that not one of the 14 of the leaders of the Plains Nation has a single daughter?" I asked him skeptically.
"Relations with the Plains are shaky, you know that. Our alliance is new; I don't want to do anything to jeopardize our relations. I wouldn't be sending you to the Republic unless I thought it was absolutely necessary."
"So instead of risking making the Plains mad, you thought it would be a great idea to send your only daughter off to the Republic to marry some guy she's never met in the hopes of establishing peace? Because that plan sounds so much safer."
"Contrary to popular belief we don't want a war with General Monroe's territory but at the rate things are going that's where it's going to end up."
"Then make an alliance with Texas. Nobody messes with Texas."
"I have it on good authority that the boy is an upstanding citizen and he's the son of one of Monroe's most trusted majors, I'm sure you'll like him," he tried to reassure me.
"In the Republic upstanding citizen probably means he murders kittens for fun," I said.
"Ciara Jackson," he paused. "You know the story of General John Jackson don't you?"
I rolled my eyes. "You've told me a million times."
"Then I'll spare you the details, you know he fought for these states. He fought for them to be a confederate country and now they are. I am the president of the Georgia Federation because of him, it's in my blood and it's in yours."
"If he wanted us to be our own state then why on Earth are we trying to work with the Republic." I was about tired of this argument and he could see I was wearing down.
"Because it is what's best for this country. You leave tomorrow morning, pack your things."
When I got up the next morning I left without saying a word to my father. He had arranged for a small group of Federation soldiers to accompany me all the way to Philadelphia and stay with me there.
The trip to Philadelphia would take 10 days at full speed; I was estimating maybe 13 or 14 days if we stopped for supplies in Richmond, maybe more depending on how quickly we traveled. I was wondering how long I could draw it out, maybe they'd just forget about me if it took me too long to arrive.
We left Savannah early that morning and began the trek across South Carolina. I complained just as much as I could about everything, I was sure my soldiers were fed up with me a day and a half later when we reached Charleston. I climbed out of the cart and followed Garrett, the youngest of the three soldiers in to the Charleston town hall. Each state in the Federation had one major city where that state's government was housed. Unlike in the Monroe Republic, boats and ships were huge parts of our economy, it was the way we sent mail or traded goods among the states. Because of this each state's capital was situated beside a river or the ocean for easy shipping access.
"Miss Jackson," I was greeted at the door by an old friend of my fathers.
"Good to see you again, Governor Braxton," I replied.
"I'm sure you're tired, I'll have someone show you to your rooms and we can talk more tomorrow before you depart."
"Thank you," I said. A maid showed me and my guards upstairs to our rooms. I said goodnight and then retreated. I was happy to have a bed again; trying to nap in the cart had been dreadful. Just as I began to get comfortable there was a knock at my door. When I opened it Sarah Braxton, the governor's 10 year old daughter was standing outside. "Sarah!"
"Ciara!" She said happily. I hugged her, it had been almost a year since she and her family had come down to Savannah for business and I hadn't seen her since. She plopped down on my bed. "Are you so excited?" She asked.
"About what?" I asked.
"About going to the Republic!" She said shaking her head. "Did you know that Philadelphia was the capital of the United States before Washington DC was? I bet it's really pretty, they have a bell too don't they?"
"Yeah, they do. Maybe I'll see it while I'm there. Are you learning American history now?"
"Yeah, it's so cool! You're going to send me lots of letters from Philadelphia aren't you? You have to describe everything."
"I'll try." I didn't want to lie to her but I really doubted that Monroe would let me send any kind of letter out of the Republic.
"Tell me about the guy you're going to marry," she said bouncing on the bed.
"I don't know much about him, there aren't pictures or anything. Dad told me some stuff but I mostly slept through that. I think he's a lieutenant or something."
"Do you at least know his name?" She prodded.
"I bet he's nice. What's the Republic like?"
"I don't know I've never been," I said shrugging.
"Do they have schools and ships?"
"I don't think so, not real schools at least. They don't teach American history there either."
Her eyes widened. "Why don't they teach history?"
"Monroe doesn't want anyone to get any ideas. He doesn't want to teach them about revolutions or wars or anything that might give them the push they need to rebel."
"What about the ships?"
"They don't trade as far as I know. They burn people's boats if they think they're trying to ship things without paying taxes." They burn people, I finished in my head. Sarah looked scared enough as it was though and I tried to smile at her reassuringly. "I'll be fine, I'm tough. You should get some rest; I'll see you in the morning before I leave."
We left Charleston the next day and then traveled for two days straight to Wilmington, where we stopped for the night. From there it was straight on to Richmond, a three day trip. "I feel like each leg to this gets longer and longer," I mumbled in the cart.
"Because it does," Garrett said.
"I wasn't talking to you," I said.
"Talking to yourself then? That sounds healthy."
"I really didn't ask for your opinion."
"But you spoke out loud, that was practically inviting me to make a comment."
"Fine, I'll keep my mouth shut from now on."
He laughed. "I'm kidding. You political types are so sensitive."
"I'm not," I said. He raised an eyebrow. "Oh shut up."
He was quiet for a while and I thought I'd won. "What do think about this? Being sent to the Republic, I mean."
"I think it's a horrible idea. It isn't going to work. The only thing that will get through to Monroe is all out war. He's scared, he wouldn't have agreed to this if he wasn't scared, now's our time to strike."
"So you're for the war?" He asked.
"You don't know what war is like."
"And you do? You're what a couple of years older than me? It's not like you remember the world before the blackout either."
"I might not remember but I've heard the stories of people who do. Innocent people are sent to kill other innocent people for a country that can easily replace them with more innocent people. Thousands of people die every day while the average citizen sits at home and does nothing. You don't understand because you and everyone you care about will be sitting at home hoping that the war turns out in your favor so you can sit at home a little longer."
"And you don't understand what it's like having mothers and fathers and children come to you in tears because another militia patrol crossed the border and killed an entire town just because they could. Those people are innocent too."
"That's why you didn't fight this more isn't it? You want to protect your people, all of them."
I looked down. "Yeah, but I don't think I can."
A few days later we arrived in Richmond. The most disputed border city, fortunately for them they had a large army of their own and they had mangled to defend themselves from militia attacks. "Ready to cross the border?" Garrett asked me.
"Not particularly, but I don't have a choice do I?" I asked. We stopped and bought more food and refilled our bottles with river water. "I want a gun," I told Garrett.
"The three of us have guns," he told me as he paid a woman for two apples.
"I want one of my own."
"Not going to happen. Want an apple?" He asked. I waved him away and he shrugged biting into it.
"We're about to cross the border, last time I checked these people aren't known for welcoming visitors with fruit baskets and smiles."
"We have an official order from General Monroe that states who you are and what your business is in the Republic. They'll let you pass," he told me, taking another bite out of his apple.
"I still want a gun."
"You should really learn to stop arguing with me, you're never going to win."
Hours later we were in the Monroe Republic and we had yet to see a single person. "Maybe someone blew up the entire country and we can just turn back," I said.
"Do you hear that?" Garrett asked. I listened and heard a few trees rustling. "Get down."
"Stop where you are!" I heard a voice shout. I tried to look up but Garrett put his foot on my shoulder and pushed me back down. "Do you men have a permit for those guns you're carrying?" The voice asked.
"We are soldiers from the Georgia Federation; I have an official notice from General Monroe to secure us passage to Philadelphia." Garrett placed his gun in the cart next to my head and I reached out and touched it. For a second I contemplated grabbing it and shooting the militia soldiers. I knew I'd be able to hit them; I'd been doing target practice for years. But I didn't know how many soldiers were out there and the last thing I wanted to do was get Garrett and the other two Federation soldiers killed. There was silence and the ruffling of paper.
"Miss Jackson?" The voice asked, closer this time. I stood up; since he was on the ground I was considerably taller than him. "Welcome to the Monroe Republic." He didn't smile or offer me a fruit basket but he also didn't shoot me on the spot, which was always a win in my book.
"If you'll excuse us then, we're expected in Philadelphia within a few days and we need to get moving," Garrett told the man.
"Well I can't let you go without offering one of my men to travel with you. The more the merrier right?" The man asked smiling; as soon as he did I wished he didn't. The smile looked forced and creepy, like it had been carved into his face. I glanced at Garrett and tried to shake my head without being too noticeable.
"That would be great," Garrett told the man.
"We'll send Sergeant Mason with you," the man said motioning to one of the men in his group. I was glad I hadn't done anything stupid; there were too many militia soldiers here. I sat down as Garrett and my other soldiers talked to the militia for a few minutes and then before I knew it we were moving again.
"Philly is only a few more days ride from here," Mason said. "We can stop in Baltimore tonight and rest at the base there before moving on." I nodded and sank back against the side of the cart.
The next day as we were nearing Baltimore there was movement in the trees. I got down without even being told. Mason got out of the cart, expecting a militia patrol to immerge from the trees. "Sergeant Mason of the Monroe Militia," he stated. It was only a few seconds before he was shot down with an arrow.
"It's the rebels!" One of my soldiers shouted. The Republic had rebels? Like the kind that were fighting for The United States? My heart leapt; maybe I had a safe place to go. More arrows were fired and just like that two of my soldiers were dead. Garrett fell down next to me.
"What's going on?" I asked. "Don't they know we're from Georgia?"
He shook his head. "All they know is that we were with someone from the militia and we have guns."
"What do we do?"
"When I say run, you take off for the trees as fast as you can and don't stop running until you can't breathe anymore. I'll shoot as many as I can, buy you some time."
"What? No. Come with me."
"If we both run neither of us will get away. Promise me you'll run. If you die, their deaths will be for nothing."
"Do I still go to Philly?" I asked.
He nodded. "You'll be safe there." He reached for my pack and slid it to me; he put General Monroe's order in the front pouch and the grabbed something by his leg. "Take this, you might need it." He pressed a gun into my hand and I looked at him. "Ready?" I shook my head but he was already crouched and ready to go. "Run!" He yelled. I leapt out of the cart and into the woods. A few arrows flew past my head but I couldn't stop. I heard gun shots, one right after another. I wondered how many rebels were there. Suddenly the shots stopped, not enough had been fired to empty his gun. I kept running as fast as I could and tried not to think about what the silence behind me meant.