I woke up in the middle of the night to a crash. "Ciara, get down!" Bass yelled. I sat up quickly causing me to tumble to the ground. Bass grabbed me and pushed me behind him protectively. I finally woke up enough to notice Rachel Matheson was standing in the entryway with a live grenade. Militia soldiers grabbed her and were pulling her away, they took the grenade from her and threw it outside. The explosion still made my ears ring.
"Ciara, are you ok?" Bass asked grabbing my shoulders.
It took me a second to respond but I nodded. "Just surprised." He helped me up and kept the blanket wrapped around my shoulders.
"I need to talk to Rachel. You should get dressed and breath before you hyperventilate."
I hadn't even realized I was greedily sucking in air to the point where I wasn't actually getting any oxygen. I held my breath to try to calm down. Bass handed me my sweater and nodded, as if assuring himself I was going to be ok before he headed out. I got dressed and started to leave the tent. Last minute I turned around and took a swig out of the bottle of bourbon Bass had sitting out, I still wasn't used to the taste and I cringed as I swallowed it. I hoped that would help calm my nerves, though I didn't put much stock in it.
When I found Bass, he was with Randall and Rachel on their way to the tower. He must have been convinced that Rachel somehow would be able to let us in because he was walking very purposefully and Rachel was being practically dragged by two soldiers. I jogged to catch up with them and met them at the door. "You think she's our ticket in?" I asked.
"That's what we hope," Randall answered. I frowned at him; something about him rubbed me the wrong way and I preferred to pretend he wasn't there.
Rachel was messing with the control panel, while the soldiers looked over her shoulder. I walked up to her and waved the men away. "How's it coming?"
"The old passcodes aren't working," she informed me.
"You've been here before?" I asked.
She nodded. "This is where I used to work." She pressed more numbers and groaned. "Ciara, I'm sorry about what happened back there. I didn't know you were in there."
"Would it have stopped you if you had?" She looked at me regretfully for a moment before shaking her head. "Just collateral damage, right?"
"I like you, Ciara. I think you have potential to be a good leader, like you father. I would have regretted killing you."
"But killing Monroe is more important than saving me, I get it."
She shrugged. "No promises that you'll be safe if you stick with him."
"There's no guarantee I'll be safe anywhere."
The door slid open and Rachel and I both turned surprised. "I guess it worked after all."
"Follow me," Randall told us. I felt like a kid on a field trip as I weaved around to get in the front, I wanted to be the first person to see everything. Randall explained things as we passed them but most of it was tech speak that I didn't understand. "Ciara, I think this next room will be your favorite." He opened a door to an observation room. Through the glass there were lots of computer screens showing familiar places I'd only ever seen in books.
"Are those live?" I asked.
Randall nodded. "The US Government has cameras all around the world."
"There are millions of people out there," I said staring at the live feeds. "Can you imagine what it'll be like after the power comes back on? We'll be able to reconnect with these people, we can rebuild airplanes and skyscrapers and-"
"Don't get too ahead of yourself," Randall said cutting me off. "We need to reach Level 12 first."
"What's on Level 12?" I asked.
"The light switch."
As we rode in silence up the elevator I thought about where I would travel first. Back in Savannah I'd read a book about Japanese art, it said when vases had broken they would fill the crack with gold and put it back together. The finished product would be even shinier and more beautiful than the original. Much like those vases, the world had been damaged and had a long history but that would only make it more beautiful in the end.
The elevator prematurely stopping on the 11th floor interrupted my thoughts. We stepped out of the elevator cautiously and glanced around. Rachel grabbed my arm and pulled me down another hallway just as the first shot was fired. She pushed me into a room in front of her and I stumbled forwards. When I turned she was quickly closing the door behind us. "Rachel, wait!" The moment it took for Rachel to look at me gave Bass enough time to catch up. Rachel tried to close the door on him but I shoved her out of the way. As soon as Bass was in the room I slammed the door closed and sank to the ground.
In Rachel's fall her knife had fallen out of her pocket and landed in the middle of the room. She and I noticed it at the same time and we lunged for it. My fingers clasped around the handle but her foot collided in my ribs causing me to loosen my grip and allowing her to grab it. She held the knife above me and I grabbed her hands pushing the knife away from my face. I kneed her in the stomach knocking the air out of her. This gave me enough time to snatch the knife and get to a stable standing position. "No one is hurting anyone, ok?"
"Fine," Rachel said.
"Now that that's settled, who just tried to kill us out there?" I asked. Rachel shrugged and I groaned. "Fine, if you don't want to answer that question, how do we get in the cabinet." I gestured towards the glass case full of rifles.
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because we're on the same side!"
Rachel looked at Bass, who was searching the office, then looked back at me. "Clearly we aren't. What do you see in him?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" I asked.
"It doesn't, but if you answer my question I might answer yours."
"Even if I did know how to explain it you wouldn't understand."
"Fair enough. Those people that attacked us? They were involved in the blackout, same as me."
"Only they were put in charge of this place and you were put in charge of a pendant?" I asked.
"More or less."
Bass finally gave up and sat down next to me. "You know how to open it," he said to Rachel.
"Why would I help the man who killed my son?" She asked.
"I have a son, too," Bass said after a moment. That caught Rachel off guard and she stopped looking angry for the first time since we'd gotten in this room. "I don't know where he is, but I'm going to find him. I have to." Rachel still didn't look convinced. "I've done so many horrible things and there isn't a lot I can do to fix them. I don't even know if I'd fix them if I could. But Ciara and my son? They're all I have left. I'll find him and I'll keep her safe."
Rachel looked at him and I could almost see her remembering this morning when Bass had tried to shield me from her. "Even if it means sacrificing yourself?" He didn't respond but Rachel and I both knew the answer. Rachel shook her head slightly looking utterly baffled.
"I told you, you wouldn't understand." I walked towards the back wall where two screens showed a series of security cameras around the building. Two familiar faces walked past one camera. "Rachel, come here." She joined me. A few moments later Charlie and Miles appeared on the second screen.
"What are they doing here?" She mumbled.
"I promise that if you help us get out of here, Charlie won't be hurt," Bass said. Rachel looked at him and then at me and nodded. I could tell this was her way of apologizing to me for the grenade. Rachel went forward to open the cabinet while Bass and I continued to watch Miles and Charlie on the screens.
"Bass," I said quietly. He glanced at me. "Don't kill Miles. You'll regret it, you know I'm right."
"Do you want one of these or not?" Rachel asked, gesturing to the open gun cabinet. Bass and I each grabbed a rifle and then we gathered by the door. "I haven't seen any of them on the cameras, they know how to avoid them. Be careful, be quiet and don't get shot," she told me, never looking at Monroe once. She opened the door and the three of us stepped into the hall. "I'll get you to the elevator, but then you're on your own."
We ran down the hall towards the elevator but before we could reach it I heard shouting. "Charlie!" Rachel called, running after the voice. When we reached the end of the hall I saw some of the men who'd shot at us before pointing guns at Charlie and Aaron. Charlie and Aaron were incredibly out numbered and it was good we'd arrived when we had. I shot on of the men in the back, before he even noticed we'd arrived.
I ran towards Charlie and got her out of the way. "Is Jason with you?" I asked.
She shook her head. "We and Neville got stuck outside."
Panic alarms went off in my head. "Outside with the militia?"
Bass grabbed my arm. "Time to go." I nodded and took off the way we'd come.
The first thing I noticed when we got back into the main hall was how close we were to the elevator. The second thing I noticed was Miles was even closer to us. Bass and I stopped running. I had gotten ahead of Bass so I was stopped in between him and Miles. Miles pointed his gun at me; I was surprised until I realized it wasn't me he was pointing at. "Step aside, Ciara."
"I don't want either of you dead," I said calmly.
"Ciara, get out of the way," Bass said behind me. I whirled to face him.
"If you want to kill him, you'll have to kill me," I said to Bass. Then turned to face Miles and nodded to let him know that applied to him as well. Before either of them could react another bullet was fired at me. It barely missed me and I leapt towards Miles, in the direction of the elevator. I hit the button but nothing happened.
"The stairs, come on!" Miles yelled at us, yanking me towards the door. The three of us ran down until the stairs ran out. I could hear footsteps behind us fading, as our pursuers realized we were getting too far out of their reach. We burst through the last door and into what looked like an indoor river. "Jump!"
I started to take a running start but one of the guards shot at me and I lost balance trying to get out of the way. I crashed into the water and went under. I sucked in mouthfuls of water and struggled to fight the rushing current. Suddenly there were arms around me pulling me above water and I gasped for breath. "Ciara, breathe!" Bass ordered me. I clung to him but not long after I blacked out.
When I woke up I was on the bank of a river and Miles and Bass were at each other's throats once more. I stood up and vomited, getting both of their attention. "Another reason why I didn't want to go to England," I mumbled, "I get severely seasick." A shot hit the tree behind me and I screamed, surprised that there were still people shooting at us. "I am really freaking tired of getting shot at!" I yelled.
The lone man standing at the edge of the trees shooting was wearing a militia uniform. "That's one of my men," Bass said. "This is General Monroe, I order you to hold your fire!" He shot again as he ran back into the trees.
"What was that about?" I asked, but quickly realized Bass and Miles had resumed yelling at each other.
"I have more important problems than dealing with you and your hurt feelings," Miles told Bass.
"You started this," Bass reminded him. "You tried to kill me!"
"Because you murdered so many innocent people!"
"They were a threat! I did it for you," Bass insisted. "I was trying to protect you."
"You're a maniac," Miles said.
"I didn't want any of this." Bass gestured around and as if to illustrate his point, one of his helicopters flew overhead. The helicopter opened fire on us. I didn't have time to run and I was caught in the fire. A bullet hit me in the leg and I cried out in pain as I fell to the ground. I tried to push myself up but my leg hurt so bad that moving it at all hurt. I almost didn't even notice Bass lifting me off the ground.
"No, Bass, go!" I said through clenched teeth. "They're after you not me."
"I'm not leaving you here," he told me. He wrapped my arm around his neck.
"I'm just going to slow you down! Please, Bass." He didn't say anything he just half carried half dragged me through the trees.
It wasn't long before several militia soldiers intercepted us. I knew Bass's army was turning on him but I hadn't expected it to be quite so abrupt. One of the soldiers pulled me away from Bass and more or less flung me over his shoulder. I cried out again as grabbed my leg right over the bullet wound. "Put the girl down," one of the men ordered, I assumed he was a commanding officer but I didn't recognize him. "We were under orders to find Bass, not hurt Miss Jackson."
"Under orders from who?" Bass asked.
"If she was more comfortable as she was, then return her to that position," the officer told the soldier carrying me as if he hadn't even heard Bass's question. The soldier slammed me to the ground but I refused to give him the satisfaction of crying out again. I wrapped my arm back around Bass's neck and we continued back to camp.
Two of the soldiers held us at gunpoint. "In case you were unaware, Ciara's been shot. I find it highly unlikely she's going to escape, Franklin," Bass addressed the man to his right.
"She might not, but you could," Franklin answered. Bass clenched my waist tighter as if he was trying to show the soldier he wasn't going anywhere.