I only saw Ciara for a moment before she was whisked onto the helicopter. She had been kicking and screaming. Her aunt had just been killed and she was being abducted, of course she was unwilling to go. I had been thinking about her all week since it had happened. I had appealed to Miles to go after her but he had shot down the idea. Getting in and out of Philly would be extremely dangerous and anyways Ciara could fend for herself, he'd told me. Even President Jackson, her own father, took Miles's side.
I sat outside with several other soldiers, both Federation, like myself, and rebel. I drank down another shot and the rebel soldier sitting next to me laughed. "You might want to slow down, you're going to have a bad hangover tomorrow," he cautioned.
"I don't care," I said.
"What's got you so upset?" He asked.
"The militia abducted a friend of mine in that confrontation up in Indiana, I wasn't able to stop them from taking her."
"Your girlfriend?" He asked.
I shook my head. "No, just a friend. I had just gotten her back from the Republic once and now she's gone again. Something tells me they won't let her go so easily this time."
"She escaped once already? That girl clearly has luck on her side."
"I'm not sure I would say that. She's not had the easiest life, easier than some maybe but still. Her mom died before she turned 18 and her fiancé died a few months ago." I shook my head. "You'd never hear her complain though. I swear she thought she was on some divine mission to rebuild the United States."
The rebel laughed. "I knew a girl like that once."
"Knew?" I asked, happy to change the subject to his life.
"I met a girl in the woods, she was running from rebels and I helped her. I never thought I would see her again but she turned out to not be who I thought she was. I was in Monroe's militia, my father was important enough to warrant a political marriage for his only son. Lucky for me she turned out to be the girl I saved in the woods."
"If anyone around here has luck on their side it appears to be you," I said patting him on the shoulder. "What happened to her?"
"I was forced to leave the militia and her. She could be dead for all I know. I have no idea of knowing what she thinks of me now, I don't know the story they told her. Maybe they told her I abandoned her, who knows if she'd even take me back."
I handed him the bottle I was drinking. "I think you could use a drink too." He laughed quietly and took a swig. "What was she like?"
"Besides having crazy dreams about rebuilding the country? She was nice to everyone, even people she didn't particularly like. She was smarter than most people. There wasn't ever a moment when she wasn't holding a book or spouting random facts." He stopped and laughed. "Or she was eating pie and drinking lemonade, I think she had a bit of an addiction."
I laughed. "That reminds me of Ciara, when I was escorting her to Philadelphia we passed some kids selling lemonade. She made us stop and get her a glass; it was so good she bought the entire pitcher."
His head snapped up quickly. "What did you say?"
"She bought a lot of lemonade?"
"No her name, what was it?" He asked urgently.
"Ciara Jackson, the president's daughter."
"That's the girl who was just abducted?" He asked. I nodded not sure where he was going with this. "I was supposed to marry her."
"You're Jason?" I asked.
He nodded. "I can't believe she got out of the Republic."
"She helped your parents escape, almost got Atlanta blown up because of it. She thought you were dead."
"So that's the story they told her. I was forced to leave; if I came back they would kill me. I thought my best bet was to come to Georgia and hopefully get her back."
"I've been looking for reinforcements to go to Philly with me," I told him. "I'm Garrett Davidson."
He looked surprised. "You're the friend that got killed by rebels, who had just been shot when I found her running through the woods like a crazy person."
"Turns out I'm alive. People in Ciara's life don't seem to stay dead."
"Maybe I was right, maybe she is the one with all the luck."
I sat in Monroe's office where I had been all night. His gunshot wound had been bandaged and despite the doctors request that we both get rest we hadn't. Bass had yet to say a word to anyone since we'd arrived and the only person I'd spoken to was Molly when she came by to ask if I needed anything. Bass stood up and began pacing, it was making me nervous. Pacing meant thinking and thinking meant he might be deciding what to do with me. He finally glanced at me, looking a bit surprised that I was sitting on the couch. "You can leave," he said simply.
"What?" I asked, standing quickly, positive I had heard him incorrectly.
"You can go back. I'm letting you go."
"Why?" I asked cautiously.
"Because I don't want to hurt you. I'll tell my men to let you leave and not to hurt you if we ever run into you again."
"You can't be serious."
"I thought you'd be happy," he said frowning.
I frowned as well as I realized I didn't know exactly what I felt. "I don't know. I should be. You've almost killed me twice now, without even meaning too. But it wasn't you who killed Emma, it was them." Saying them felt odd, they were my people from my army. But trying to think of them as mine didn't fit either.
"It was my fault," he said. It was the first time I had heard the emotion slip out. He was as upset as I was about Emma's death, maybe even more so.
"You didn't mean for her to die. I don't think you would have pulled the trigger if it came down to it. There are some lines even you wouldn't cross. I saw how you looked at her, when she told you about your son."
"You knew about him?"
"Of course I did, he's my family. I haven't seen him since I was nine and I had no idea he was your son, I didn't even know you knew Emma. But you love her and I was her replacement. You wanted her but you got me instead."
There was a moment where he just looked at me. "I wanted you for you." I didn't know what to say so instead I just sat back down. "Are you going back?" He asked after it was clear I wasn't going to respond.
"I don't know. Yes, probably. I should." I nodded and then shook my head changing my mind, and then I leaned back against the couch and sighed. "I don't think that I can choose sides. My goal isn't something that is confined to the Federation or the Republic. I want to unite this country again, The United States of America. I have to focus on that, regardless of who wins this war."
"I admire your will to stay devoted your cause, no matter what," Bass said.
"It's the only choice I have now. It's a better cause than either side of this war, the bigger picture over the smaller one, you know," I told him. "I'm on the side of my country and everyone I love."
"Is it possible to choose both? You came here for your country the first time, you left your family and everything you knew behind because you were doing the right thing."
"I don't know if I can have both but I can try."
"I'll drink to that," he said. He grabbed a bottle and poured himself a drink. He held the glass towards me and I took it. To his surprise I knocked back the drink quickly.
"You said everyone reaches a point where they need a drink. I guess I got there."
"Did you hear?" Jason asked, sitting by me at dinner. "Miles is getting a boat together to go up to Philadelphia."
"For Ciara?" I asked.
"No, they're kidnapping a scientist. But if we volunteer we'll be right there. We can go in and get her ourselves," he explained.
I nodded. "That doesn't sound like a bad plan."
He frowned. "My father is going to be there too."
"On the boat?"
He nodded. "President Jackson recruited him to join the army."
"Why would he come to Georgia?"
"He lives off revenge, I'm sure he just jumped to help the first people who want to take down Monroe. Plus Ciara helped him, he probably thinks he owes her something by fighting for her people."
"Do you think he'll help rescue Ciara?" I asked.
"There's no way we're getting him back in Philly."
"Some way of paying back her help," I said. Jason nodded.
The next day we were on a boat going up towards Philly. We were posing as a group of fishermen just out doing our job. Charlie, Miles's niece who Ciara hadn't been too fond of, had expressed her dislike of having Tom Neville on board but Miles had been adamant that he was coming with us. I didn't trust him either but I did see Miles's side of things. Neville knew the Republic better than any of us, except maybe Miles himself.
"Stay on deck, watch for militia patrols in the area. They'll recognize me," Miles told me. I headed out; I would rather be in the open air anyways. While Georgia did have a formidable navy, I had always been more comfortable on dry land.
I made a round on deck and when I came to the front of the ship I saw Tom and Jason talking. The conversation looked intense and I stayed out of sight, both to not interrupt and to listen in.
"You don't care what side you're on," Jason said. "You're only here because for the time being they're kissing your ass."
"I am here because you are a traitor. Your mother and I did not have a choice. She almost died because of you. Atlanta was almost bombed because Ciara helped us escape. She stayed behind to protect, you think Monroe is treating her like a guest anymore? She didn't ask for any of this but she helped us anyways. If your former fiancée can do that, I should think you would be able to deal with me being here."
They stared each other down before Jason gave in. He turned down my side of the boat and brushed right past me without even noticing me.
"I'm going back to Georgia," I told Bass.
"Chose your side?"
"No, but I thought I could talk to them, maybe work something out. This war is just going to cause even bigger rifts in this country."
"Miles isn't going to let Emma's death go."
"Neither will I, but its as much Georgia's fault as it is yours," I said. "But this isn't about Georgia, this is about Miles. How many more people are you both going to let die before you get over each other?"
"I was on the verge of war with Georgia before Miles joined their side."
"And now all your problems are in one place."
"If you can convince Georgia to come to an agreement that will end this, then do it."
"That's all I needed to hear," I said with a nod.
"I can change," he said quietly looking down. I wasn't sure if he even meant for me to hear it.
"Miles doesn't think you can," I told him. He looked up. "Luckily, I'm not Miles."
Miles wouldn't let Jason or I off the boat. He knew we were planning on trying to get to the middle of the city to look for Ciara. We were stuck watching a boat for a mission we hadn't even wanted to be on. "You think she's ok?" Jason asked.
"Yeah, Ciara's tough, she'll be alright," I said, though I wasn't sure if I believed it.
"She helped my parents escape, Monroe might have killed her already."
I shook my head, not wanting to hear that. "I don't think he'd do it, she's too important."
"Important to what? Georgia already declared war, there's nothing she can do anymore."
"She's important to him," I clarified. "After you died she agreed to marry him."
I shrugged. "She probably didn't have much of a choice. She was pretty quiet about the whole thing after she escaped to Georgia. Though she did say…" I trailed off thinking about our conversation the first night after she got back.
"What did she say?" Jason asked.
"She said she regretted leaving him. I chalked it up to Stockholm Syndrome or grief over your death or something. But…" I shook my head. "It had to be that, she couldn't honestly want to stay there."
"Yeah, you're probably right."
When everyone got back Dr. Camp was locked up below deck. Neville told us he and his men had captured Camp's family. They threatened the man, saying if he didn't start working for Georgia they would kill his family. "Did you know about this?" I asked Jason.
"No, of course not."
"That sounds like something Monroe would do, not us." I glanced out over the water. "Is that a militia ship?" I asked pointing behind us. Jason nodded that it was. I didn't waste a second getting everyone prepared for them to stop us. We slowed to let them catch up with us; we didn't want to seem suspicious.
"Can we see your fishing license?" One of the soldiers said. I nodded and pulled the forged license from my pocket. They nodded and handed it back. "We're going to need to search your ship."
"You saw our license, we're good," I said.
"We've had a few fishermen come through here smuggling goods. Its procedure," the soldier. I nodded for Jason to go below deck and warn the others.
I took them around the ship; we passed a few of Neville's men and Nora. Miles stepped out on deck. "What's this about men?"
"Just a routine check," one of the soldiers said. I tried to shoo Miles away before any of the soldiers had the chance to recognize him but he shook his head. What was the point of telling me they'd recognize him if he didn't seem to care anyways. We took them below deck, where we only found Jason. I didn't know how he'd hidden the others but it worked. The soldiers returned to their boat and left us alone.
Jason and I returned above deck. "Where did you hide Camp?"
"He, Charlie and Tom found a secret compartment."
Charlie came upstairs. "This has gone too far," she said to us. "We have to stop this. I'll talk to Miles about getting rid of Neville, but if he says no we have to take control of this operation. Threatening a man's family is not us."
Jason and I both nodded. "Alright."
"Be ready," Charlie said. She went below deck to find Miles.
"He'll say no. I'll take out Tom, you tie up Captain Lucas. Lucas knows where Camp's family is."
It took two days to return to Georgia. As soon as I reached the Rebel-GA base I went looking for Garrett, because I knew he'd be worried. I opened the flap on his tent and peeked in. "Garrett?" I called. No answer. I sighed and turned around figuring he might be at dinner. I ran right into him.
"Ciara?" He said surprised. He was carrying a backpack and his gun.
"Been somewhere?" I asked.
"Up in the Republic, we wanted to look for you but Miles wouldn't let us," he told me. "How did you escape again?"
"That's the thing, I didn't escape. He let me leave."
"General Monroe of the Monroe Republic let you walk right out of town?" He asked skeptically.
"He told his men that if they laid a hand on me, ever, he'd kill them."
"Why would he do that? You aren't useful anymore," he reminded me.
"I might be. I want to work out a treaty, negotiate, I don't know, do something to end this before more people get hurt," I told him. "But that's not why he let me go. He told me I could leave before I told him all of that."
"Are you sure we're talking about the same person?" He asked.
I sighed. "Forget it, I'm back. That's all that matters right?"
"Yeah." He hugged me and ruffled my hair. I laughed and pushed him away. "Oh! I almost forgot. There's something I need to tell you."
The tent flap opened and I turned. The light outside blinded me for a moment but as soon as it closed I could see the person standing in front of me. "Oh my god, Jason, you're alive."