Despite everything I slept like a rock. I was woken up to Duncan shaking me. "I hope you've done some creative thinking. Gould has his little dog fight scheduled for tonight."
I sat up. "Duncan, are you sure you can't help? How sure are you Gould even believes you about not being involved in the heist?" I got up and started getting dressed.
"I wasn't involved."
"Yeah, but neither was I supposedly. Do really think he's stupid enough to fall for that? If you saved me, then you're a suspect too." I put on my jacket and turned around.
She hesitated. "You should get out of here, forget about Monroe. You have a chance to live."
"I can't just leave them."
"You're what, mid twenties? You have plenty of time to start a new life. Forget about Georgia, forget about the Republic and the Patriots, go somewhere safe. Fall in love with someone who doesn't find killing so easy. Remember who you were before all of this started. Don't let yourself turn bitter. Don't turn into me."
I shook my head. "It's too late."
She shook her head, looking disappointed. "Then I guess I'll see you tonight."
That night I stood next to Duncan at the duel but neither of us spoke. She looked calm and serene like this didn't faze her in the slightest. Maybe it didn't. She'd probably seen a countless death matches. I, on the other hand, couldn't stop moving. I looked around the room at the faces of every spectator and guard. I studied the iron bars of the cage, looking for weaknesses.
I had no idea how I was supposed to get Bass and Connor out of this mess. I needed Miles and his ingenuity. The announcer got on his podium and began shouting out information about the match; the crowd was so loud I could barely hear him. But then through the flaps of the tent Gould led Connor and Bass towards the cage.
They walked right past me and Bass locked eyes with me. I felt a sudden wave of calm, this wasn't the first time I'd seen him on deaths door and every time he'd survived it. Then my eyes found Connor's and my stomach churned. If Bass lived Connor would die.
Connor and Bass were pushed through the gate and it was locked behind them. For a moment they just stood there, finally Connor reached for the swords and handed one to his father. Connor's back was to me but I could tell he was saying something. Bass glanced over Connor's shoulder and looked at me again, and then he took the first swing at Connor.
I watched just as captivated as every other spectator. With every swing of the sword I cringed. I had always appreciated the artistry with which Bass fought. He fought the way only someone who'd been holding a sword for ages could, like his sword was an extension of himself. However this time he was more restrained. To a casual spectator I was sure it looked like he was giving his all, but it was obvious to me he was holding back.
It took me a moment to register someone was pressing something into my hand. My fingers wrapped around a gun. "Count to three," Charlie whispered.
I watched as Connor threw Bass against the fence, one. He pressed his sword against Bass's neck, two. Bass nodded, three. I turned and shot the guard to my left. At the same time Charlie and Duncan's men also opened fire. Spectators scattered and I ran towards the gate, dodging the punch of one of Gould's guards and shooting him in the knee. I shot the padlock on the gate and practically flew into the cage. "God that was too close for comfort," I said, wrapping my arms around both of their necks and pressing our heads together. For half a second I allowed myself to enjoy that before pulling them through the gate.
I sat by the fire at Duncan's camp leaning on Connor's shoulder. "You two are an awful lot of trouble," I mumbled.
"Hey, you wanted to leave the safe house," Bass reminded me.
I rolled my eyes. "That I did." I shook my head. "Please don't get into anymore scrapes when Miles isn't around, I am really good at saving my own skin, not so great at saving anyone else's."
"Miles doesn't like working with you, you're stubborn and impulsive."
"Did he say that?" I asked. "That's rude, but also true."
Duncan walked up with a few men behind her. "What's all this?" Bass asked.
"Charlie saved my life, I owe her," Duncan said. She looked at me. "And I'd like a favor from this one, down the line."
"Just five? We could use three times this many," Bass protested.
"Be glad I'm giving you any."
He sighed and stood up. "Alright, let's go, boys." Bass and Connor headed away from camp but the men didn't move. Charlie offered me a hand and pulled me to my feet.
"Oh, I forgot to mention, they don't answer to you," Duncan said. She pointed to Charlie and me. "They answer to them."
Charlie and I glanced at each other and then at Bass. Charlie smirked and I laughed. "I guess let's go then," I said with a shrug.
"Oh and Ciara," Duncan said. I turned around. "You're too good for Monroe, don't forget that alright."
I shrugged. "What can I say, I have keep my standards low."
One Week Later
"You don't even know their names," Bass said.
I rolled my eyes. "Like you knew every one of your soldiers."
"I had hundreds. You have five."
I shrugged. "They're not very talkative. Anyway, Charlie basically controls everything but their breathing. When they get a command from me it'll be an important one."
He smirked. "Look at you sounding all high and mighty."
"I wonder what kind of favor Duncan has in mind," I said, ignoring him.
"Probably something you won't like."
There was shuffling in the trees and we all drew our guns. Miles stepped out from behind a tree with Rachel following behind us. "Hold your fire," Charlie told our men.
"They're with us," I clarified to the men that still held their guns defensively.
"Five? That's it?" Miles asked.
"Yes, five. We're lucky we're still alive, let alone here with a few mercenaries," I told him. "How were things here?"
Miles and Rachel shared a look. "Fine," Miles said.
"Let's get back to the house, I'm starved," Charlie said.
"The safe house isn't so safe anymore, we've moved on," Rachel told us.
"So things were fine?" Charlie pressed.
"We're all alive."
Charlie and I both rolled our eyes. "Fine."
The new safe house was on the river; it looked to have been an old factory or water treatment plant. The building itself wasn't much to look at, but the view of the river from the top was stunning. I sat on the edge of the bridge, legs dangling over the side, arms wrapped around the railing, taking it all in. "Hungry?" Miles said bringing up a bowl and offering it to me.
"Thanks," I said taking it. He leaned against the rail and Bass sat down on a box. I craned my neck in their direction. "What's up?"
"Tom and Jason are here. The Patriots have Julia and they want to trade her for Monroe," Miles explained.
I turned back to the view and ate my lunch. "Well that's a problem."
"Well, let's go take them out," Bass said. I tossed my bowl down with a little too much force and the metallic ring cut through the air. Miles looked at me curiously.
"First thing's first," Miles said.
"What's more important than killing someone who wants me dead?" Bass protested.
"There's something you need to see," he started walking without waiting for us.
"I'm still eating, Miles!" Bass called after him.
"I can fix that," I said, grabbing my spoon and dipping it into his bowl finishing off the last of his meal.
"Hey!" He said and tried to grab my arm but I jogged to catch up with Miles. I tried to push thoughts of the Nevilles out of my head. I couldn't help but still feel protective over Julia, she had been nothing but kind to me. But short of giving Bass up, which wasn't going to happen, there was nothing I could do from here.
"Up here," Miles says. "Get down." The three of us crouched and moved to the edge of the cliff.
"That's a lot of Patriots," I mumbled.
"Not just any Patriots," Miles said. He handed me the binoculars.
I took them and examined the camp closer, it wasn't just another base it was a training camp. "These are just kids."
"Where are they getting new recruits from?" Bass asked.
"A few different towns, but a lot of them-"
"I recognize her!" I interrupted. "Her dad owns the general store in Willoughby, she worked there sometimes. She was always really helpful."
"A lot of them are from Willoughby," Miles finished. I scanned faces and sure enough there were several others that I knew, or had at least seen around. I handed the binoculars to Bass, feeling sick to my stomach.
"I've been spending a lot of time out here, watching this camp," Miles told us. "That building is loaded up with mortars and other high powered weapons."
"Well, we can't have that," Bass said.
"We could use it," I said.
They both looked at me. "Took the words right out of my mouth," Miles said. He nodded back the way we had come, "Let's head back." Bass jumped up and helped me to my feet.
"So tell me, what'd you do to make them want to kill you in New Vegas?" Miles asked.
"Oh you know, robbed a casino for diamonds to buy mercenaries, the usual," I said.
"Of course you did." He shook his head. "And you were stupid enough to get caught?"
I held up my hands defensively. "Hey, I wasn't part of the heist. Blame it on Connor and Charlie."
There was rustling in the bushes, we all glanced in that direction but didn't say anything. "You have to admit Connor's got some moves," Bass said.
"One day he's going to be able to beat you without you throwing the match," I said.
"Oh you noticed that?" He asked.
"I've been watching you fight for going on a year now, of course I noticed." Miles nodded towards the bushes and headed in that direction. Bass and I circled around. Miles knocked two kids to their knees.
"So you suck at sneaking up on people, fyi," Miles told them.
I lifted the girl's head up and looked at her, she wasn't one of the kids I recognized, neither was the boy. "What do we do with them?" I asked.
"Kill them?" Bass suggested.
"How about we take them back to camp and find out what they know, first," Miles said.
"We're taking Patriot spies back to camp? I really don't think that's a good idea, no matter how incompetent they are," I said.
"It's our best chance at finding out what's going on in there," he reasoned. "And we won't let them go."
"Okay, but when your psycho girlfriend guilt trips you into not killing them, don't say I didn't warn you."
Miles pushed the kids into camp, they went pretty willingly, I guess I would too if someone was holding a gun to my back. Gene and Rachel met us as we came down the hill. Gene looked at the kids confused. "Dylan? Kim?"
"You know them?" Miles asked.
"I delivered them."
"What's going on?" Rachel asked.
"We were checking out the Patriot's new boot camp, and caught these two tailing us on the way back," I told them.
"Are you two alright?" Gene asked the kids, neither of them answered.
Connor and Charlie had started towards us and Miles motioned them over. "Tie them up." They took the kids and led them down the hill and into the building. Gene watched them go with a sad, confused expression on his face.
"There's an ammunitions dump on the edge of the camp, if we hit that it'll do a lot of damage," Miles explained to us.
"You're just going to storm in there guns blazing?" Gene asked. "What about the kids?"
"We'll save the ones we can," Miles told him.
"Look, we need those weapons, and even more than that we need them out of the Patriots' hands," I argued.
"What is the point of saving this town if we have to kill its children?" Rachel asked.
"It's not about saving the town, Rachel! It's about beating the Patriots." I pointed towards the kids. "Today they're just a couple of kids but by tomorrow they might be full fledged killing machines. That place is literally a Patriot factory. We have to shut it down, no matter the costs."
Rachel looked to Miles, but he didn't say anything. I walked past them, to the water's edge. Bass followed me. I kicked a tree, knocking a bit of bark off. "I'm sick of this, I'm tired of running every decision we make past Rachel and her dad. We can't save everyone; we have to make tough choices. I don't want to kill a bunch of kids either, but they're practically Patriots already."
I watched as Rachel and Gene went inside to talk to the kids. Miles walked towards us. "So I'm not even allowed to interrogate my own prisoners now?" Bass asked him.
"Rachel and Gene can handle this," Miles said.
"I'd get answers a lot quicker."
"Why don't you just let them try? They know these kids."
"The Nazis were someone's kids. Everyone is someone's kid. If we're going to win this thing it has to be you and me calling the shots."
"We need them."
I laughed dryly. "No, we don't. They're holding us back. We would get things done so much quicker without them questioning our every move."
"I trust them," Miles told me. "A hell of a lot more than I trust the two of you."
"Trust them to do what? Screw everything up? Because that's what they do, every time." I looked towards the building. Rachel and Gene were leading the kids out. "What are they doing?"
We all headed towards them, intercepting them at the stairs up the hill. "Where do you think you're going?" Miles asked them.
"They don't know anything," Gene said. "They're just kids. I'm taking them back to their parents."
"The hell you are!" Bass said. "They'll give away our position."
"Then we'll get a new position," Rachel said.
"Why? Why in the world would you give up the safety of yourself and your daughter for a couple of Patriots?" I asked exasperated.
"They're just kids, Ciara, look at them," she urged me.
"I can see them perfectly, they look like the enemy to me."
"We're not letting you leave," Bass said.
"Then go ahead and shoot me," Gene said. He started to walk past Bass, but Bass grabbed him by the collar.
"You think I won't?"
"Alright, alright!" Miles yelled, grabbing both of them. "I'll handle this." Bass made no move to let go of Gene, so Miles ripped him away. "I said, I'll handle it."
"Come on," Rachel said to the kids. She led them up the stairs with Gene following behind them.
There was a tense moment where I was sure Bass was going to punch Miles. "Then handle it," Bass said finally. Miles stepped away and followed Gene up the stairs.