Organized Lightning

Chapter 17

We rode through the night and most of the following day. Once we were far enough away from the spot we'd left Charlie and Adam we decided to stop. Neither of us had spoken much since the night before. I wanted to ask about New Vegas and I wanted to tell him about Texas, but I didn't want to risk him taking back his forgiveness. "Be right back," he said, gesturing off into the woods and I nodded.

I climbed off the wagon and walked around it. In the dark I hadn't seen anything any in the back of the wagon, but in the light of day I could see papers under the benches. I reached for them and pulled out an entire stack of papers. I flipped the first one over. In large black letters it proclaimed "Sebastian Monroe wanted alive for crimes against the US government." There it was again, US government. I put that paper behind the rest; the next was exactly the same except instead of Bass's name "Rachel Matheson" was at the top of the page, the third had my name in the bold font.

No pictures of course, but there were short descriptions of each of us at the bottom of the posters. Mine read, "Caucasian, red hair, 5ft 4in to 5ft 8in, small build" not the most original, Monroe's and Rachel's were even more generic. For the most part we were anonymous.

I wasn't surprised about Bass's poster; he'd obviously be at the top of lot people's most wanted lists. Rachel's was most puzzling, other than being involved with the original project I wasn't sure what she'd done to warrant this. Part of me wanted to argue I hadn't done anything to warrant a poster either, but from an outsider's view I'd betrayed Georgia for the Republic and I'd killed a few people to do it.

Bass came out of the trees and I handed him the posters. He flipped through them and then glanced up at me. "Explains why they were so happy to see you."

"I've always wanted to be a fugitive, it's been a huge dream of mine," I said jokingly.

"Nothing is going to happen to you," Bass responded seriously.

I laughed harshly. "That's not the first time I've heard that. Something always happens."

OoOoO

"This US government stuff has to be a joke, right?" I asked, tossing some more kindling on the fire. "It can't be serious. There's no such thing anymore."

Bass shrugged. "I didn't think there was. Isn't this what you wanted?"

"Maybe Garrett was right, maybe I just wanted to be in charge. I wanted my own America. I definitely didn't want to be wanted for a crime I didn't commit."

"The guys in charge, they know who fired those missiles."

"Before Randall shot himself he said he was a Patriot, at least that's what Miles told me. You think he was sent by this new US government?"

"He had access to a computer, I wouldn't be surprised if he was getting his orders from someone else."

"The more I learn about this world, the more I think there's no hope for it. It's a good thing I don't care anymore; I'm tired of putting the greater good before myself. I wish I could live out the rest of my life somewhere like…Fiji." I sighed and closed my eyes. "Beaches, palm trees, pineapples."

"I haven't had pineapple in years," Bass and I said in unison. I opened my eyes and smiled at him.

"Alright, Fiji it is, let's go," I said. "I'd settle for Hawaii."

"Are you going to build a boat or steal one?"

"I'm already a fugitive, might as well steal one," I told him. "It's not like we have much time left, we've got a price on our heads. We might as well spend the rest of our lives selfishly."

"I'm not arguing with you."

I laughed and stretched out next to the fire. "You can take first watch, I need some beauty rest."

When I fell asleep I dreamt about lying in the sun drinking piña coladas, with Bass at my side.

OoOoO

"Ciara, get up," Bass said. I opened my eyes and saw Charlie standing behind him. I groaned.

"Missed you too, Ciara," Charlie said.

"Is the bounty hunter with you?" I asked, standing up.

"He's temporarily out of commission."

"Did you show her the poster yet?" I asked.

"We were just about to ask Adam about those," Charlie told me. "Care to join us, Sleeping Beauty?" She offered me a hand and pulled me to my feet. We walked back towards the road were Adam was lying unconscious. Charlie splashed water in his face and he opened his eyes. "What the hell is this?" She held out Rachel's wanted poster.

"A wanted poster," Adam said simply.

"Why do you have it?" She asked.

"I'm a bounty hunter. There's a bounty on her. Lots of other bounty hunters have that same poster. What's it to you?"

"You said the Patriots had your dad-"

"I lied, so sue me. I wanted to collect the bounty on Monroe. I can't get paid if he's dead."

Bass raised his gun to shoot Adam. "Don't!" Charlie said, I frowned at her.

"He's a dirt bag."

"So are you and I'm letting you live, against my better judgment," Charlie said. Bass sighed and hit Adam in the head with the butt of his gun instead, knocking him out again.

"We need to warn Rachel about the warrant," he told Charlie.

She looked between Bass and I. "We? There's no we here, there's the two of you and there's me. I'll let my mother know, thanks for the concern."

"They'll need our help, you know that. We don't know what we're up against," Bass reminded her.

"You're crazy if you think my family would ever want your help," Charlie told him.

"Miles trusts me and I trust Bass, I think Miles would see the logic here," I countered.

"You clearly don't need our help, Ciara, so we don't need yours," she told me. She turned and started to walk away. I lifted my gun instinctively and held it as she walked away my finger hovering over the trigger.

"You'll regret it," Bass said, but made no move to stop me. I shrugged indifferently. I held it for a moment before dropping my arm back to my side. He was right, as reluctant as I was to admit it.

"If you're serious about helping Rachel and Miles, I know where they are."

OoOoO

I knew Bass and I would beat Charlie to Willoughby, we had a wagon, so we took our time. We'd been on the road for a few days and Bass and I were becoming more comfortable around each other again. "Let's stop for drinks," Bass suggested.

"I'll have you know, I'm an upstanding young lady," I said putting on a thick Southern Belle accent. Bass snorted and I hit him in the arm. "Excuse me, that was not a joke."

"Oh really? I seem to remember a few less than respectable nights back in Philadelphia."

"Who said a Southern Belle couldn't have a little fun." This was as close as we'd gotten to talking about our former relationship since our reunion. I looked through the windows of the bar and my mood instantly soured.

"What?" Bass asked, noticing my foul expression.

"Charlie is here," I said. I glanced in the window again and saw Charlie stumble to her feet. "After bar hopping across the country, you think she'd be able to hold her alcohol a little better than that. This is embarrassing." She collapsed to the ground and it dawned on me this was more serious than her just being drunk. "Damn it, Charlie." I ran across the street and pushed the door open. A few guys were approaching Charlie. I aimed my gun at them. "Touch her, and I'll shoot you."

"Looks like we hit the jackpot tonight, boys," one man said. Another guy wolf whistled.

A third man approached me. "Put the gun down girl, you're out numbered." He reached to take my riffle and I

"Unfortunately for you, I don't need backup," I said. I kneed the guy in the balls and he fell to the ground. Once he was down I delivered a swift kick to his head, knocking him out. Someone shoved my shoulder and I tripped over the unconscious man. I lost my grip on my gun and it slid uselessly out of reach. The man who had pushed me loomed over me.

The door swung open again and Bass stepped in. He glanced at me on the ground. "I was beginning to think you were going to let me have all the fun," I said. He drew his swords and instantly Charlie and I were forgotten, the would-be rapists had more pressing issues to worry about. As Bass fought, I crawled along the wall towards Charlie. She was still struggling to get to her feet.

"Ciara," Charlie murmured. "You saved me."

"Come on, let's get you out of here," I said. I hoisted her to her feet and she clutched my arm tightly. I looked to Bass for help, but he was still busy. "You can walk, ok?"

"Ok," she said unconvincingly. We'd barely taken two steps before I lost my hold on her and she dropped like a lead brick. I sighed.

"You can get her," I ordered Bass. "I'll get the wagon." I stepped over bodies on my way towards the door. I knelt down to pick up my gun. The man I'd knocked out was still breathing. His hand was loosely wrapped around a knife that I hadn't seen earlier. I slid the knife out of his hand and his eyes opened. As soon as he made eye contact with me I drove his own knife into his neck.

I stood up and walked out of the bar without looking back.

OoOoO

I lifted Charlie's head and slid my folded jacket between her and the ground. I sat cross-legged beside her, waiting for her to wake up. We'd been on the road all day and Charlie had been passed out in the back of the wagon the entire time, I expected her to wake up soon. "You're being nice, for someone who tried to kill her a few days ago."

"I am nice," I argued. He scoffed. "Believe it or not, Charlie and I actually got along alright, up until a week ago." We were camped out under a bridge because it was raining. I knew it would be humid in the morning but right now the sound of rain falling on the bridge above was relaxing.

Charlie opened her eyes and looked surprised to see me sitting there. I handed her my canteen. "Here, you should get that stuff out of your system." She hesitated and I pressed it into her hand. "Drink it." She did, in big gulps, until it was empty.

"We aren't friends," she said.

"No, we aren't."

"And you don't need my help, you know where Rachel is."

"Yes, I do."

"Then why did you save me?" She asked.

"You were in trouble and we happened to be there, so we helped," I said. She frowned. "Look, I'm not going to go out of my way to save your life, but Miles would hate me if I let something happen to you that I could have prevented."

"So this is about Miles."

"Of course, he's the only person in your family that I actually like."

"What's his deal?" She asked, gesturing towards Bass. I shrugged.

"I want to prove that I'm trustworthy. I still think that Rachel and Miles will need my help," Bass said.

"And I still think that you're crazy if you think my family will ever want your help."

"So you didn't want his help back there?" I asked. "If it wasn't for Bass, you'd probably be lying face down in a ditch somewhere."

"I know that I can't make up for everything I've done," Bass told her, "but I have to try."

Charlie looked between Bass and me and laughed. "You really are a perfect pair, you know that? You're both so good at lying and manipulating. You'd really say or do anything to get your way, wouldn't you?"

"What?" Bass asked.

"This poor, wounded Monroe act is pathetic. You're a sociopath. You'll say whatever you need to get whatever you want. Inside you're cold and empty." She looked at me. "And you, you're smart, but when it comes to him, you're an idiot. You can't see that he's a monster and when you finally do it'll be too late, you're just collateral damage." I stood up and walked into the rain. "Real mature, Ciara!" She called after me.

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