Garrett wasn't happy with my decision to go back to the Republic and we hardly talked on the way back. It seemed like a very long time ago that I had made this trip with Garrett the first time. "Ever been to Philadelphia?" I asked. He shook his head. "Well, we're here."
When we got into town, I explained who Garrett was. Thankfully I'd convinced him to wear something besides his Georgia uniform; otherwise he'd probably have been shot on the spot. Someone escorted me to Bass's office, despite my protests that I remembered where everything was.
"So this is where you lived all this time," he said. He looked curious, but he was obviously trying to look uninterested.
"Yeah, its not so bad, right?"
He shrugged but I could tell he thought it was pretty. While in my opinion it was no Savannah, I had to admit Philly had grown on me. We arrived at Monroe's office and Garrett started to go in ahead of me. "Oh no, I'm going up there alone."
"No, you aren't."
"I don't trust you enough to refrain from killing him."
"And I don't trust him enough to not kill you," he said.
"If either of us thought Monroe was going to kill me I wouldn't be here right now," I told him. "I will be fine." I went inside and upstairs. I didn't bother knocking. He was sitting at his desk with his head in his hands. I had planned to dramatically burst in and yell at him for almost killing me a third time but he looked so defeated it stopped the words in my throat. "What happened?"
"I had Jeremy killed."
I took me a second to place the name. "He was your friend, wasn't he?" I sat down in the chair in front of his desk.
"I thought he was part of the assassination attempt, but it was someone from Georgia." He looked up at me finally. "Why did you come back?"
"Well, I was almost killed by one of your bombs. That's the third time I've gotten in the way of your problems, I thought it would be safer for me here. But maybe not."
"No one is safe anymore." He stood up and walked towards the window.
"Clearly," I mumbled. I was beginning to rethink my decision not to go to England. If Bass could kill one his last remaining friend then who's to say he wouldn't kill me if I made him mad.
"I don't know who I'm supposed to trust anymore."
"You can trust me," I told him. "My body guard I'm not so sure about."
"Tell him you're under my protection and he doesn't have to worry about you here."
"Are you going to make me tell you what Georgia is planning? I don't know much and-"
"And you don't want to tell me, I understand. I won't ask if you don't ask me about my plans."
I nodded. I knew Garrett would want me to spy for Georgia but I wanted to stay out of it. It seemed naïve, even to me, but I wanted to just pretend that the war didn't exist for as long as possible. Maybe if I closed my eyes and pretended, it would just vanish. "Alright."
"I don't trust him."
"But I do, he won't lie to me."
"He also won't tell you what he plans on doing to Georgia. He could be planning to send an assassin after President Jackson tomorrow, for all you know!"
"But he won't."
"But he could. Isn't that just as bad? That's just like saying, "oh my government could have me killed at any moment just for thinking something they disagree with, but they won't because they're nice." That happened before the blackout, Ciara. You like to think that America was some perfect, happy place but it wasn't. Georgia is a hell of a lot better than it was back then."
"Who said I planned on adopting the same practices from before? You're right, Georgia does work, that's the ground plan we'll use."
"We? Who's we? You and me, you and Bass?"
"I don't know, Garrett!"
He laughed at me. "You want to be in charge, you'll put yourself there if you have to. You claim to want democracy and freedom but you're going to just throw yourself at this country and try to fix it by yourself."
"They need someone, we all do. Who says it can't be me?" I asked.
"Your dad was elected president, he worked with his fellow governors to plan out how Georgia was going to work and then the people elected him."
"I don't have the luxury of planning things out! I need people to follow me, it's not like I'm going to force them to do that. I'm not a dictator."
"You sound just as crazy as Monroe."
"Do not compare me to him."
"There it is. You hate him. You try to pretend you don't but deep down inside you can't stand him. Julius had his Brutus and Monroe has you."
I stepped back, appalled by the thought. "I wouldn't- I'm not-"
"You know what you want, and you know how to get it but you won't because you're a coward." He shook his head. "You'll burn this world before you build it back up. Just make sure you don't burn yourself with it." He turned and walked out leaving me alone in the Neville's house once again.
I didn't talk to Garrett for the next two weeks and I only saw him a few times. If he wanted to be upset with me for refusing to spy for Georgia or worse, then I was going to let him work out his own issues with that. Maybe he thought putting the ideas in my head would make them happen but I was determined to find another way without all of the violence.
I spent a lot of time in Bass's office, whether he was there or not. I knew this would be the last place Garrett would come. Bass had tons of books, books I'd never even heard of before. He had a library behind his office that he'd locked up to prevent the books from reaching the masses. He gave me the key on day three of me sitting cross-legged in the chair facing the window.
When I wasn't reading I was drawing. I had tried six times to sketch a picture of the Liberty Bell to mail back to Sarah. I wasn't the greatest artist and so far none of the pictures had turned out. I groaned and tossed drawing number seven on the floor with the others. "Going that well, I see."
"Who knew that crack would be so hard to draw?"
"You are trying to draw something that is on the other side of the lawn," he noted. "You could go over there and get a closer look."
"And risk Garrett wanting to talk? I don't think so."
"From what I understand, this is the soldier you were mourning when you arrived here, the one who saved you from the Rebels. What did he say to make you so upset?"
I sighed. "I'm not upset with him, he lectured me a lot and some of it did make sense. It's just that he isn't thrilled I'm not using my connections to benefit Georgia."
"You're playing it safe."
"That's just it, he thinks I'm being a coward. If there was something that I could do to change things without killing anyone, I'd do it."
"You've killed people before, three of my best men."
"Yeah, well I don't want to kill anyone I don't have to. And I do not want to kill you."
He motioned me over. "Look at this." He handed me a folder. "Randall gave it to me."
I flipped through it. It was mostly diagrams and maps and technobabble. "I don't get it."
"He says that's the center of all of this, where the power can be turned back on."
"And you believe him?" I asked.
"What reason would he have to lie?"
"Maybe he's just misinformed," I suggested.
"The least we can do is try," Bass said.
He looked at me skeptically. "Are you saying you don't want to be a part of this?"
"Oh, of course I do. I just didn't know if I was invited," I said. "I am the enemy after all."
"Your body guard, maybe. But I don't think I have anything to worry about from you."
"I'll leave Garrett here, he doesn't even have to know I'm leaving," I told him. I realized I could end up regretting those words but this was how I gained Bass's trust. I needed to put as much distance between Georgia and me as I could.
"We'll leave early tomorrow morning."
The same time the next day I was in a helicopter to the Plains Nation. I'd never been before, despite Georgia's alliance with them. We passed over mountains on our way to the tower in Colorado. I pressed my nose to the window to get a better look. When I looked back over my shoulder, Bass was smiling at me. I pressed the mic button on my headset. "What?" I asked.
"You've never seen real mountains before?" He asked.
I shook my head. "I mean, not ones with snow on them." I turned back to the window. "Its so pretty."
"So are-" I turned back around as he spoke but he was interrupted by the pilot.
"Preparing for landing."
"We're here," I said excitedly. No one else said anything until we landed and the doors opened. I could see the tower from the picture in Randall's folder at the other end of the clearing. "What's inside that could really turn the power back on?" I mumbled to myself as I got out.
"Who knows," Bass said stepping down beside me.
"Are we going in now?" I asked. The other helicopters were landing around us and militia soldiers were dutifully unloading supplies and beginning to set up camp.
"We can try."
As we walked towards the tower Randall joined us. He and Monroe discussed the tower and future plans for the power, neither of them seemed to mind that I could hear everything they were saying. I realized I could always turn all of this information in to Georgia at any moment. I could, but would I? I didn't even know what I wanted to do anymore.
I wasn't surprised to see a light on the building, if this place really was the key to turning the power back on it must have its own source. When we reached the doors Randall stepped forwards to type a code into the keypad. There was a buzz but the doors didn't budge. Randall tried again, and once more the same thing happened. "Why isn't it working?" I asked.
Randall laughed uncomfortably. "Must be broken after all this time."
"You should hope that's all it is," Bass said, he was calm but Randall and I both recognized his words as a threat.
"Its late, we can figure this out in the morning," I told them both. I steered Bass away from the building and we walked back to camp. His tent was closest to the tower and mine was right beside it. He motioned for me to follow him inside.
"I can criticize a lot of things about your soldiers but efficiency is not one of them," I told him. The tent was fully set up and full of all the things Bass had deemed important enough to bring with him.
"Want a drink?" He asked. I nodded and he poured me a glass. I leaned against the table and after a moment he spoke again. "We don't know what we're going to find in there."
"Hopefully a light switch," I mumbled. "What's going to happen once the lights come back on?"
"I don't know," he said. "There are a lot of people who want me dead, not just Georgia. Some of my own men would turn on me if given a chance." I wasn't going to argue with that; I knew how some of his soldier's felt about him. He took a step towards me. "I want you to take over, after I'm killed. You're the one with the vision."
"I don't have a vision, I'm a deranged little girl who can't do anything right," I said backing into the table.
"You're letting Garrett get to you," Bass noted. He touched my arm. "If you were in charge of the Republic you would make it better, people would listen to you. You already have Georgia, and the Plains Nation comes with that. You've reunited half the country just by being in charge of this one."
"I don't know how to run a country."
"You would figure it out."
"I guess we'll never know, because you aren't going to die any time soon," I told him. I stood up straight trying to look sure of my words. He ran his hand from my arm to my neck and slid his fingers into my hair. I took a tiny step towards him.
"You're naïve if you really think that," he said quietly. He kissed me and I put my hand on his back.
"Would you blame me for hoping?" I whispered.
"I don't know why you care."
I laughed and put my other hand on his neck. "Neither do I." I kissed him and pushed his jacket off his shoulder. He shook it off both his arms. I slid my hands under his shirt and he pulled it over his head and tossed it to the ground, only breaking contact with me for a moment. With my feet I wiggled the laces on my boots loose and kicked them off. He put his hands on my hips under my top. "Easy tiger, let me take my jacket off first or I'm going to end up tangled in my sweater."
I crossed the tent tossing my jacket and sweater to the floor as I walked. Bass followed and I smirked at him over my shoulder. He pushed me back onto the pop up cot. "I didn't think anything could be less comfortable than your couch," I mumbled.
"I'm sorry I forgot to pack the memory foam mattress, your highness." He kissed my neck and I laughed quietly. "Spoiled southern girls."