The following morning we were packing up the camp we'd made the night before. I walked over to my horse to tie my bag on and as I walked past Miles I hit him on the shoulder. "How's my favorite cripple doing this morning?"
He grunted. "I'll be fine."
"I still think you're stupid for coming all the way out here."
"You said that already."
"Bass, can I ask you something?" He asked, ignoring me. I rolled my eyes, even Rachel looked annoyed with Miles. She wasn't exactly thrilled he was pushing himself, after his near death experience, either. "What do you expect to get out of this?"
"He's my kid," Bass said. "I don't know."
"He may not be too happy to see you."
"Whose fault is that? You're the one who took him away from me."
"I want to go," I told Rachel. I was not interested in sitting through another argument between Bass and Miles.
"Let's get moving," Rachel called to the guys. "We're wasting daylight."
Bass and Miles stood up and tied down their things without another word to each other. "Thanks," I mumbled.
I kicked my horse so I could catch up with Miles. "Hey."
"I was just thinking, you've known where Connor was this entire time and you never told me. Georgia was safe, he could have been with family."
"He is with family."
"What? Who?" I racked my brain for other missing family members. "Emma and my mom had an older brother, right, from grandpa's first marriage? I don't think I ever met him."
He nodded. "Yeah, that's who I took Connor to."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"You were better off forgetting that you had more family. You weren't going to be able to see them anyway."
When we came to the top of the hill I realized what he meant. "That's the border."
"That's Mexico, Miles."
"You took my son to Mexico?" Bass asked joining us. "Why?"
"As I was just telling Ciara, he has family there. Plus Mexico is richer than most of the other Republics."
"Not the Federation though," I mumbled.
"And we wanted to get him as far away from you as we could," Miles finished.
"That's some wall," Rachel said.
"How do we get in?" I asked. We looked around and Rachel pointed out a wagon with a sign about day workers, quite a few people had gathered near it.
A man in a suit was standing on it surveying the small crowd around him. "I need strong backs to pick tomatoes."
"Grab them," Rachel told me. "I'm getting us on that wagon."
I nodded and walked back to Miles and Bass. "Stop standing around like idiots, Rachel's got our ticket." I lead them back to the group.
"They're with me," Rachel told the man in the suit.
He sighed. "Get on." The three of us climbed into the wagon quickly. A few others from the crowd joined us. We drove past people, a few of whom were still begging to be taken across the border. The border police allowed us to pass and pushed back the leftovers.
I got my first look at Mexico. It wasn't much, just a river and some trees, but it reminded me of leaving Savannah with Garrett. That trip had changed my life, I could only hope this one would be a little less life shattering.
After we'd been driving for a while, I started to see huge mansions. They were bigger and newer than the ones I remembered in the Federation, but they made me yearn for my home on Forsyth Park. "Do I need to stop the wagon before you fall out?" Bass asked.
"I have a thing for architecture," I mumbled.
"We should make our move soon," Rachel whispered.
"Not here, no cover," Miles told us.
The suited man turned around to look at us and winked at Rachel. He patted the seat next to him and Rachel slid closer towards Miles. "Yep, it's time to make our move," I said.
"Hey!" Bass said to get the man's attention, but he didn't turn back around. He stood up despite the glare Miles was giving him. Bass grabbed the man's gun and bashed him in the head with it. The suited man fell off the wagon. Bass swung the gun towards the diver who jumped from the wagon. I hoped up into the driver's seat and grabbed the reins and brought the horses to a halt.
"Thanks for riding with us on this lovely day but I'm afraid this is where the tour ends. Welcome to Mexico, have fun," I told the other people in the wagon. They looked at me confused. "Go." They climbed off and I gave the reins a snap. The horses started up again and I grinned.
"Give me those, I don't trust you not to tip us all over," Bass said, taking the reins from me.
"Whatever, my ass is just happy to have a padded seat."
We pulled into a town with dusty streets and run down buildings. Women in short, body-con dresses stood in doorways and leaned against walls, they watched us as we drove by. "This is the place," Miles told us.
"You brought Connor to a glorified whorehouse? Typical," I grumbled.
"It wasn't like this when I left him here," Miles told me defensively. "Over here." He led us to a door and knocked. "Tell him we're looking for Gary and Susan Bennett," he instructed Rachel. The names sounded vaguely familiar but mom had hardly talked about her older brother and his wife, I wondered if they'd lived down here before the blackout. When a man opened the door Rachel asked for them, in Spanish, and the man shook his head and replied.
"Oh," I mumbled.
"What?" Bass asked.
"They're dead," I told him.
"They died eight years ago," Rachel added.
"Mi primo estuvo con ellos, ¿sabes dónde está? Se llama Connor," I asked. The man shook his head again, this time more fiercely, and then he slammed the door in our faces.
"What'd you ask him?" Bass asked.
"If he knew where Connor was. I guess he's not interested in helping us out."
"If we don't find him, you and I are going to have some serious problems," Bass said to Miles.
"We'll find him."
"I sincerely hope so, for your sake," I said.
I met up with the others in a bar a few blocks down from the Bennett's former residence. "Anything?" Bass asked.
"I knocked on every door and no one knows anything. Or if they do they won't tell me," I told him. "I'm leaning towards the latter. I don't suppose these lovely people have been more helpful?"
"Nothing," Miles said.
"Awesome. Seriously, Miles, you've really out done yourself this time. I get that you didn't want Connor near Bass, I didn't know him then so I won't argue about it, but you didn't have to send him to Mexico. Rich republic or not, the Federation would have been a hundred times better."
"Emma and I didn't know about Jonathan's election at the time, it wasn't exactly something we'd planed on doing. Bass knew Elizabeth, Georgia would have been the first place he'd look. You hardly even remember Gary, he was the safe choice."
"And clearly the wrong one." Someone behind me cleared his throat and I turned around. "What?"
"Pardon the interruption, but if you don't mind my asking, what are you folks doing in town?" A young man asked. He gave us all a glance over.
"Yes, actually we do mind. Mind your own damn business," Bass said.
I took another look at the kid and glanced over my shoulder at Miles, who nodded at me. "Bass."
"You're in our town, show some respect."
Bass stood up and hit my arm lightly. "Isn't this the whitest Mexican you've ever seen?"
"Bass," Miles said again.
"Connor," I said. His eyes darted towards me and then back to Miles.
"I know you. You're Miles." He looked back to Bass and me. "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm your dad," Bass said.
"God, you two sound alike," I said. Connor glanced at me again. I introduced myself quickly, "Ciara Jackson, I'm Emma's niece. I'm your cousin."
"Your lying, my dad's dead."
"I don't know what Emma told you, but he is your dad," I told him. "Look at me, I look like Emma, don't I?" He nodded hesitantly. "Miles, tell him."
"Then where's my mom?"
"She died a few months ago," I told him. "I was with her, she asked me to find you."
"I just want to talk to you," Bass said.
"Yeah sure ok, let's have a heart to heart," Connor said sarcastically.
"You're right, they do sound alike," Miles told me.
"Shut up," Connor told Miles. To Bass he said, "You're going to crawl under whatever hole you came out from, or I'll burry you."
"You're going to burry me?"
"I don't suppose I can ask you to get us out of this one?" I whispered to Rachel.
"You've got what, thirty guys here? You think you're king of the world, don't you? Trust me, kid, this is a dead end street."
"And how would you know what?" Connor asked.
"Because I'm Sebastian Monroe."
Connor laughed and then looked at our faces and realized he was the only one. "You're serious?"
"Yep," I said, popping the p. One of the other guys came up and told Connor that Nunez wanted to see him. He turned and left us without looking back. "Who's Nunez?"
Reluctantly we left and made camp outside of town. "I want to go back," Bass said.
"You saw him, now it's time to go," Miles told him.
"This is your fault, Miles."
"Does it feel like looking in a mirror?" Rachel asked. "It doesn't matter what Miles did or didn't do, Connor would have always turned out like this. He's just like you."
"Frankly, I don't give a damn, who's he's like," I said, standing up. "I've been playing nice, but that's my cousin. He's the last person on this entire planet that is biologically related to me and I am not going to let him waltz out of my life because he has daddy issues."
"Sit down, Ciara," Miles told me.
"No, the three of you can argue and insult each other all night for all I care. I'm going to talk to my cousin."
When I made it back to town, Connor was sitting outside the bar. He looked up when I approached him, I couldn't tell if he was happy to see me or not.
"You're still here," I said relieved.
He shrugged. "I thought you might come back." He nodded at the chair across from him. "Want to sit down?"
I nodded and slid into the seat. I noticed he was holding a picture and reached for it, without thinking. He glanced between the picture and me before putting it in my hand. It was a photo of Emma holding him as a baby. "You probably don't remember, but I met you when you were four." He shook his head. "Yeah, I don't really remember it either." I looked at the picture again. "She wanted me to find you."
"You told me that already."
"I know. I just want you to know that Emma really loved you." I handed his picture back.
"Then why'd she dump me here?"
"Because she thought-" I stopped. "I don't know. She thought it would be safe, I guess."
"Safe from what?"
He shook his head. "I'm not ready to get into that. What's your deal?"
"Well, the President of Georgia is my dad," I told him. "Was. He's dead."
"So you're telling me my dad was president of the Monroe Republic and my cousin was president of the Georgia Federation. That makes me pretty much royalty, doesn't it?"
"I wasn't president. Yet," I corrected. "But yeah, I guess you have some high expectations to live up to. Though Miles tells me you're working for a cartel or something?"
He nodded. "You do what you have to," He told me. "You still have family up north?"
I shook my head. "Dad died in the bombings, you probably heard about those, wiped Atlanta and Philadelphia completely off the map, and my mom died when I was seventeen."
"How'd you get hooked up with Miles and Monroe?"
"Miles is a family friend, not that he bothered to mention he knew where you were until about a week ago. I met Bass when my dad sent me up to the Republic to marry some militia guy."
"Sounds like your life was just as crappy as mine."
"Wasn't that bad until everyone around me started dropping like flies. I should probably warn you, I'm cursed."