Title: Mostly Dead Man Walking
Summary: My take on the upcoming episode 2.6 - Dead Man Walking based on the promos
Spoilers: Through 2.5 and incorporating the promo for 2.6
Pairings: none really, though maybe the beginnings of a little Charloe if you squint
Disclaimer: Revolution and its characters are property NBC et al. My fanfic is purely for entertainment and I do not profit from it.
A/N: I absolutely loved last week's episode. Possibly the best episode ever, and it fully cemented my extreme emotional attachment to Monroe. I was so euphoric at the end of that episode, then I watched the preview for tonight's ep and I nearly had a breakdown. So this story happened out of my need to convince myself that Monroe lives. This would have been published sooner, but to make everything worse, my laptop took an unfortunate tumble and broke my hard drive. I cobbled together a working back up computer from components of 3 other laptops to be able to publish this before tonight's ep airs and it officially becomes AU.
Charlie woke with an uneasy feeling. Sun was streaming in the windows and it was late morning. In the past couple of weeks on the road with Monroe they'd never slept past daybreak, regardless of who took second watch. Sleeping in felt too much like the kind of luxury that was certain to cost you, in one way or another. But it had been nice to sleep in a real bed again.
She got up, dressed, and cleaned herself up in the wash basin in the bathroom down the hall from her upstairs bedroom. Something still wasn't sitting right with her as she made her way down to the kitchen. No one was around, and she was a little surprised that no one had woken her yet. She grabbed an apple from the small basket on the kitchen table and started to look around. As far as she could tell, the big farm house was empty. It was the first time she had been alone in as long as she could remember.
Monroe had been her unwelcome shadow ever since he pulled her from that bar in north Texas. Now he wasn't there and it just felt… off. It wasn't that she missed him. They might have developed an uneasy truce, and when they left the drama aside they had actually worked rather well together, but she had never forgotten exactly who her traveling companion was. She'd just become accustomed to his presence. And while she wouldn't go so far as to say that she trusted him at any point in their journey, knowing that someone with his level of skill and ferocity was at her side did instill a certain kind of comfort as they'd traveled through some pretty unsavory areas.
She shrugged off the feeling of being on edge and took her apple and a glass of milk from the icebox and sat on the front porch to eat her impromptu breakfast. The neighborhood was disarmingly quiet, but Charlie just figured people were off at work or whatever they actually did around this little town. Just as she was starting to relax, she noticed a small group of boys, about nine or ten years old, running down the street toward town.
"Hey boys, where you headed so fast?" She called out, interested in what the kids could be so obviously excited about.
One of them stopped to answer, "They caught him. That guy that dropped the bombs." He said it in between panting breaths. "Those soldiers are bringing him through the town any minute now." Then he turned and sprinted to catch up with his friends.
She heard the words and instantly knew what it meant. Something had gone horribly wrong with Miles and Monroe's plan. Did they have Miles too? Did they know who he was? What would they do to him?
The apple dropped from her hand and rolled across the porch. She jumped to her feet and ran for the town. She was about half way there when she saw Aaron jogging toward her. His face was red and he was obviously winded.
"Charlie, thank God." He was quick to stop his awkward running and gasped in mouthfuls of air as he rested his hands on his knees. "I was coming to tell you. They caught Monroe."
She interjected as he stopped to breathe again. "But what about Miles? Was he with him? Is he ok?"
"Miles is fine. He made it home safe early this morning."
"How'd they catch Monroe?" Charlie asked.
"No one knows, but it was Rangers and Soldiers that took him down. So whatever he and Miles tried to set up with those bodies, I don't think it worked."
Panic coursed through Charlie at the realization that they may have all been made. "Where's my mom and grandpa? I woke up and the house was empty."
"They're already in town. They brought in your grandfather a little while ago. They said they needed a doctor to help them make preparations."
"Preparations for what?" Charlie questioned. "And why didn't they tell me what was going on?"
"Charlie," Aaron began nervously, "they're talking about a trial they already held back east. The charges included treason and war crimes. They've already found him guilty."
"They tried him without him even being there? Doesn't he have the rights to face his accuser or something?"
"I guess you're not old enough to remember the Patriot Act, but when terrible things happen, the government can go a little crazy and rights somehow become less important than safety, and this is not the time to be debating the justification of post 9/11 American civil liberty annihilation." Aaron curtailed his rant.
Charlie looked at him a little confused. "This is a load of crap. They just want to keep making people think it wasn't them that dropped those nukes. We still need him. We'll have to get him out. Does Miles have a plan?"
"That's why they sent me." He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder.
"They?" Charlie questioned.
"Miles and your mom."
Charlie cringed at the inclusion of her mother. "What? My mom's never going to agree to try to help rescue Monroe."
"That's just it. They're not going to try." Aaron said apologetically. "I'm supposed to keep you at home and away from all of this while it happens."
"While what happens? You said they already had their trial."
"There's only one penalty for treason, Charlie." He took a deep breath and rushed out the words, "They're going to execute him. Tonight."
She felt her stomach plunge. "What?" she barely squeaked out.
Aaron realized that she was a little more distressed at this news he had expected her to be. He wouldn't pretend to know what had happened between the young woman he'd essentially helped raise and the brutal psychopath to make her appear to actually care about him. He briefly lamented that the nanites seemed to only like to give him little peep shows of Miles's dangerous exploits, and not those of his equally danger prone niece. He used the hand on her shoulder to pull her in to him. He put the arm around her shoulder supportively.
"What are they going to do to him?" She asked with a quiver in her voice.
"Lethal injection." Aaron answered. "That's why they needed you grandfather." The look on her face was confused, and he realized that growing up in post-blackout times, she'd probably only ever seen or heard of execution by firing squad. "They strap him down, put a needle in his vein and give a combination of drugs that will stop his heart." The look on her face was horrified. "That's how executions of convicted felons were handled before the blackout. It was felt to be more humane than a firing squad. Now it's a statement. They're doing it to show that the old U.S. Government is back."
Charlie couldn't imagine anything less humane than the death Aaron was describing. She'd spent no small amount of time in the first few months away from her family imagining exactly how Sebastian Monroe would die. Most often it was at her hand. It was usually an arrow to the neck or chest. Sometimes it was a blade across his throat. If she wanted to imagine getting her hands on a gun, it was a bullet through the skull. They were the quick clean death dealt by a hunter to a challenging prey that they held in respect. What Aaron was describing was something else. It was like putting down an old sick dog. She just couldn't imagine Monroe that way, and it bothered her. He deserved something more befitting who he was. No matter how she had felt about him, she had always pictured him going out fighting, a blade in his hand and a sneer on his lips. After what little insights he'd shared during their trip, she suspected he would also be more outraged by the manner in which his life was to be taken than by the ultimate result.
Aaron's voice broke her contemplation. "So, I get that you and he have been through some stuff, and that this might be a little tough for you. Why don't we do what Miles and Rachel asked and get you back home?"
"Aaron, this is bull shit." She looked up and pulled away from him.
"Charlie, there's nothing we can do." He started.
"I get that Mom can't let go and is fine with letting him die, but Miles? I saw them together yesterday. Yeah there's issues, but deep down they're still like family."
"I think you're right, but Miles realizes that there's just no way to help him this time. It's like the entire military is in town for this. Anything we try would be suicide."
"They said the same thing about going into Philly to get Danny." She said defiantly. She'd made up her mind.
"I'm not going to point of the irony in this analogy. Instead I'm going to ask again if we can just go back to your house." Aaron begged.
"Yeah. Not a chance." She smiled up at him apologetically and then dashed away from him and toward town.
"I told them this was going to happen." He grumbled to himself and then started after her. "Charlie! Wait up. Hold on."
She reached Main Street just as the caravan approached. The street was packed with people lining the sidewalks and crowding to get a look at the evil monster of the Monroe Republic. The crowd actually started cheering as a cage type prisoner transport wagon began down the street. Charlie unceremoniously pushed her way as close as she could get to the front of the crowd.
"Charlie." Aaron had found her and, panting again, shuffled through the crowd to her side.
Just then the main attraction came into view. Sebastian Monroe was sitting in a cage, his hands shackled and a fresh bruise on the right side of his face. He was subdued and seemed utterly resigned to his fate. Charlie almost couldn't bear to see him that way. His eyes looked empty, as he peered out aimlessly over the crowd.
Even Aaron found the state of his former nemesis unappealing. It reminded him of a caged tiger he'd seen once during a trip to Thailand. The poor beast had been captured, confined, and its spirit broken. He realized the identical statement could be made about the man in front of him. As the wagon rolled past, the crowd changed from cheering the soldiers to booing and cat-calling the prisoner. It seemed to have no effect on Monroe. Aaron wondered what they'd already done to him to make his expression so lifeless, like he was just looking through everyone around him. That was until his eyes found Charlie's. Aaron could tell the second it happened. Monroe's face dropped and his eyes got huge. He looked scared and ashamed and you could tell he wanted to look away from her but couldn't bring himself to do it. Then he seemed to find some strength and, after a meaningful look Aaron couldn't begin to interpret, he turned his head and body away from them. It was as if he couldn't stand for them to see him that way.
Charlie, however, kept right on staring until someone in the crowd hurled a piece of fruit at him and it smashed into pieces against the cage bars. It was the most debasing scene she could imagine. As she finally turned away, Aaron pulled her into a protective hug.
"I'm sorry Charlie." He whispered.
After a few seconds, she pulled herself out of the embrace and looked up at her friend. Determination was replacing the sadness that had been there a moment before. "Where's Miles?"
"I'm not sure. But I already told you, he doesn't think this can be done. I get that you now care about Monroe… or something… or… ok, I really don't get it. At all." Aaron decided that he deserved some answers since it was becoming apparent that he was about to get dragged into yet another fun Matheson adventure. "What happened Charlie? When you left six months ago you were, like, set to kill him if you ever saw him again. Now you're…" he looks around at the crowd dispersing around them and makes sure no one is paying attention to their conversation before continuing, "you're talking about breaking him out of Death Row. What changed?" He took a deep breath before rapidly firing off, "You're not sleeping with him, are you?"
"What?" Charlie's nose scrunched up in shock at the last question. "Gross. No. Why does everyone keep thinking that?"
Aaron's whole frame radiated a sensation of relief at her answer. "I'm sorry, but you're growing up now, and he's… him… and there's definitely stuff going on between you and your mom, and if you wanted to rebel or get back at her or whatever, I can't think of anything she'd take as a bigger fuck you than getting involved with him."
Charlie almost laughed. "I was in New Vegas trying to kill him when some bounty hunters caused some problems for both of us for a little while. He found the wanted poster about Mom in their stuff and then I thought we'd gone our separate ways. I was heading back here to warn you guys and one night on the road there was an incident at a bar. He showed up and kinda saved me. We came to a bit of an arrangement after that. Now, we're here." In reciting the story she tried to convince herself that that was all it was.
"Right. Because that's what that look was all about." Aaron's incredulous sarcasm seemed to strike a nerve with her.
Before she could respond, Miles's voice rang out from behind Aaron. "I gave you one job, Aaron. One. Job." He sounded exasperated.
"Well she was determined… and spry." He responded defensively as he turned to face Miles.
Miles turned his gaze to his niece. "I suppose you're going to insist that we do something about this, aren't you."
"I just can't believe that I'm the one having to convince you. He's the one…"
Miles cut her off. "Not here. Let's get off the street before we continue this conversation." He led the way to his apartment.
Once he, Aaron, and Charlie were inside and the door had closed behind them, Miles looked to Charlie, "So, what's your plan?"
A dumbfounded look crossed her face and she wasn't sure how to respond. She'd expected Miles to come up with the plan. That was how it always worked.
"C'mon Charlie, let's hear it." There was an undertone of anger in his voice as Miles continued to address Charlie. "I spent the better part of a year teaching you everything I know and now you've even had a couple weeks working with Bass. That makes you what, basically a pro at this now?"
Charlie couldn't understand why Miles was getting angry at her. She tried to think of what she could say to try and get them all on the same page, but Miles continued on before the words would come to her.
"Why don't I help you out on this one. We'll plan this together. Ok? So, how much time do we have?"
Charlie was not ok with the way Miles was treating her and indignation began to well within her. She decided to answer his question to see where this was going, but she was hesitant. "They're planning to execute him tonight."
"What time tonight? It's almost noon now. Do we need to get him out in six hours? Before the stroke of midnight? What if they've scheduled the injection for nine twenty-seven pm?" Mile took a short breath before peppering another volley of questions at her. "Where are they going to execute him? How long before the actual execution will they bring him there to get prepared? Where are they going to be holding him until then?"
"They took him to the town hall. They've got a holding cell in the basement. That's probably where he is." Charlie felt a little better being able to answer one of Miles's questions at least.
"Probably?" Miles questioned mockingly. "If we have to use some explosives to gain entry are you ok with just being 'probably' sure that we're not going to blow up the room they're holding him in? Say you're right and he is going to be held in the basement. How many guards will they have on him? On the perimeter of the building? Will the same guards handle transport to the execution? Is there any time where the shift changes and there are fewer men around him?"
Charlie was now furious. "Fine. I get it. I don't know anything about what's going on. I came to you because I expected you to help, not give me a lecture on preparedness."
"And that's exactly why I already told Aaron to tell you that this isn't going to happen."
"You're not even going to try?" There was venom in her voice.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you Charlie. All those questions I just asked you? I already know the answers. They're just processing him at Town Hall for now. He'll be quietly transported to the old bank the Patriots have been using and kept in the vault until he's transferred to the courthouse by armored wagon about forty-five minutes before the very public execution at midnight. There are currently two hundred and seventeen armed Patriot soldiers in this town, and all but a skeleton crew of support staff are going to be assigned to this prisoner detail. That means there are going to be at least forty sets of eyes on Monroe at any given time. They've already swept the Town Hall and are keeping your grandfather sequestered until the execution. There's no getting in there ahead of time to plant anything." He took a deep breath as the rage in his voice faded. "And your mom and grandfather aren't about to help us on this one. So, knowing all the facts, let's hear how just you and me are going to bust him out. I'm serious. If you've got a workable plan I'm all ears. Because I got nothing."
As he trailed off, his voice changed and Charlie understood. He was frustrated. Monroe still mattered to him. And now, when he and his particular skill set were needed the most, there was nothing he could do. He was impotent, and that filled him with rage. The raw emotions warring across his face touched her, and she couldn't remember ever seeing him this close to breaking down before. She closed the two steps between them and embraced her uncle.
At first Miles was surprised by her reaction, but after a moment his pride relented and he hugged her back. He'd been so used the having to be the one to comfort her, though he was sure he usually did a piss poor job of it, it was a little strange to have the roles reversed. She really had grown up during her time on her own.
"We'll find a way." She soothed.
Feeling once again in control of his emotions, Miles stepped back from Charlie. "Look, anything we try is only going to be a suicide mission. I can't ask anyone else to do that. Bass is my…" he searched for the words to describe the extremely conflicted emotions running through him. "…responsibility. I'm not really ok with risking your life for his."
"Well I'm not ok with just letting the Patriots do this to anyone. Everything we went through, everything that happened at the tower, all those people in Philly and Atlanta that didn't deserve to die… This isn't about Monroe. This is about them. This is about getting justice and letting these Patriot assholes know that we still know what they did and we're not about to let them get away with it." Charlie said it with conviction. And while she did mean every word of it, she tried to ignore the nagging thought at the back of her mind that was also still was about saving Monroe. Maybe it was because she knew what loosing Monroe this way would do to Miles, whether he wanted to admit it or not. Maybe it was because she really did believe that they needed him to stand a chance against the Patriots. In killing that Ranger, he'd already proven that he was willing to be the monster and make the hard choice that none of the rest of them would have considered. But what she really didn't want to admit was that just maybe she'd spent enough time with the monster that she'd started to see a bit of the very broken man underneath. He was as broken as this stupid messed up world they lived in, and if there was some form of redemption to be had for Sebastian Monroe, maybe, just maybe, there was a chance for the whole damn crazy world. In him, she saw hope for humanity.
Miles looked down at her with one of those stares that looked right through her, and she realized that she didn't have to say those last thoughts out loud. He understood.
"Alright." Miles sighed. "Let's figure out how we're going to do this."
A smile stretched Charlie's lips ear to ear and her face lit up like he'd just told her she could get a puppy. It was a little more enthusiasm than he had expected and he felt himself unable to stop the question that poured from his mouth. "You're just way too excited about this. Are you sure he didn't… you two aren't…" an uncomfortable expression pulled at his face.
"Oh my God! I'm not sleeping with Monroe!" She yelled loud enough that the neighbors could probably hear.
Miles made a supplicating gesture. "I just needed to be sure. No point in going through with this whole rescue thing if I was just going to have to kill him myself after."
She rolled her eyes at him. "We need a plan."
"Something like this, there are generally two options. Large scale violence or treachery." Miles began. "We don't have the manpower or the firepower for a direct assault, so that leaves treachery."
Charlie paid rapt attention, intrigued by this window into the inner working of the mind of the continent's former preeminent General.
Miles pulled out a hand-drawn map of the town center and spread it over his kitchen table.
"The most vulnerable time is transport." He traced his finger in a line over the map from the old bank to the courthouse and continued. "But they know that. They'll be taking every precaution, and we're still too outgunned for even a tactical strike."
"And even if we got him out then, they'll go nuts looking for us. They've got the numbers to tear this town apart. We need to find a way to get him out without them realizing that he's missing, at least for a while." Charlie added.
Miles looked over at her and couldn't hide the small swell of pride at her evaluation of the situation. "This would be so much easier if we had just one inside man." He lamented.
"What if we could get to my grandpa?" Charlie asked.
"Charlie," Miles sighed. "Gene doesn't really like me." Off of the questioning look Charlie gave him, he filled in, "It's a long story and I'm not going into it with you now. The point is, he likes Bass even less. He blames him for what happened to his daughter and grandson. We're not going to get his help."
"What if he doesn't know he's helping?" They had nearly forgotten that Aaron was in the room and his voice was unexpected.
"Come again?" Miles asked.
"They're the ones that chose not to use a firing squad. What if we just make sure what ends up happening is a not-so-lethal injection." Aaron continued.
"Switch the drugs." Charlie nodded, liking where the plan was heading. "Like you said, there's no way we can get to Monroe through all the guards. This way we don't have to."
"Yeah," Miles started, "but we can't just switch that stuff out for water. When he doesn't actually die they'll figure something's up."
"Oh, we still kill him." Aaron added. "But just enough to be mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive."
Miles rolled his eyes. "Really? The Princess Bride? Now?"
"It's a classic." Aaron defended.
Charlie was lost.
Aaron continued. "We just make it look like he died."
Miles interrupted, "None of us are doctors. We don't have access to those kinds of drugs, and we have no idea how to use them if we did."
"Actually it's easier than you think." Aaron corrected. "The drug cocktail they use starts with a sedative to calm the prisoner, then they give a combination of potassium chloride to slow the heart and pentobarbital to stop it."
"Why on earth do you know this?" Miles asked.
"Just before the blackout, California had a vote on the ballot to repeal the death penalty. I like to be an informed member of the democratic process." He shrugged. "I also remember it because of that dog I told you about that I used to have, the King Charles Spaniel. Turns out that that breed is predisposed to some seizure disorders. One time he got pretty bad and the vet had to basically put him in a medically induced coma. She explained all about how they did it with pentobarbital. Turns out it's the same drug combo they use for euthanasia, but at one tenth the strength it just causes a coma-like state that will last the better part of a day."
Charlie couldn't believe it could be that easy. "So you're saying that all we have to do is water down the drugs?"
"And then steal the body, but yeah. That's what I'm saying."
"This could work." Miles admitted.
"What could work?" Rachel's voice was irritated and had the borderline irrational tone to it.
"Shit." Charlie spat out. They had been so preoccupied that they hadn't heard her come in.
Rachel continued on, "The three of you locked away up here scheming. I assume you're planning some kind of asinine rescue attempt."
"You don't want any part in this, so why do you care?" Charlie nearly growled at her mother.
"I care because people I care about are about to get themselves killed for that… monster." She volleyed back.
"The plan is actually for us not to die." Miles added glibly. "Well, other than Bass. But he's only supposed to mostly die."
Rachel gave Miles a perplexed look.
"Look Rachel, this is about more than Bass. This is about standing up to the Patriots." Miles attempted.
"It just so happens to also conveniently involve saving your dear old friend." She glared back at him.
"Mom…" Charlie pleaded.
Rachel cut her off sternly. "No. I'm not about to let this happen."
Charlie snapped. She had had enough of this argument with her mother. They had an actual feasible plan and now she was undoubtedly about to sabotage it. Charlie went off at Rachel. "I'm so sick of this stupid vendetta! You act like you're the only one that's been hurt here, that that gives you the right to make decisions for all of us. Well, I was the one that was there holding Dad as he died. I was the one there with Maggie when she bled out. I pulled Danny's body out of the line of fire after he was hit. I was the one putting pressure on Nora's bleeding gut while you took the key card and left to go turn the power on. And how did that work out? Remind me again how many people in Philadelphia and Atlanta died because you were so hell-bent on getting the power back on to destroy Monroe?"
Rachel took a step back from her daughter, a hurt look on her face.
Charlie continued, "I've lost people too, but you have to get past that. This eye for an eye crap has got to stop or we're all going to end up blind."
A derisive snort from Aaron broke the escalating tension. They all turned to look at him. "An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind. Charlie just paraphrased Gandhi at you, about Monroe. It's… ironic."
Miles growled audibly and dragged his hands over his face. "Can we save the philosophical crap for later? We have a lot to do and not much time."
"You're still going through with this?" Rachel asked defiantly.
Miles felt trapped. He had feelings for Rachel, had had them for a long damn time. He knew how damaged she was and he wanted to support her, but this time she was just plain wrong. "Yes. We're going through with this." He stated evenly. "And you don't have to help, but you do have to stay out of our way."
Charlie breathed a sigh of relief. She wasn't stupid. She knew something was going on between Miles and her mom. She had been worried that Miles would give in to appease her, that he would choose her mom over her. Charlie looked at her mom and didn't miss the flash of hurt across her face at Miles's decision. It was quickly replaced by a look of petulance.
"I'm not going to let you do this." She stated.
"Yes. You are." Miles looked at her sternly. "You're not just going to let us, you're going to help us." She looked back at him with a wild, slightly fearful expression. He continued, "Because we're it, Rachel. This is what's left of your family." He gestured to the room's occupants. "Look at your daughter. Do you even realize that you're losing her? And look at Aaron. This poor bastard has followed you clear across the country to help your family. And I'm still here. You're surrounded by people that care about you, and you just keep doing your damnedest to push us away. Your need for revenge is damaging your family more than Bass ever did."
Charlie was shocked. Every word he was saying was true, and she wouldn't argue that it needed to be said. She was just shocked that Miles had actually said it. Truthfully, that was probably the longest speech she'd ever heard him give.
"So what's it going to be Rachel?" He asked earnestly. "Are you with us, or are you going to keep pushing us away?"
The look on Rachel's face was contrite. At least some of what Miles had said must have hit home. Her voice was small when she finally spoke. "What do you need me to do?"
It didn't make everything ok between them, but Charlie decided to accept the peace offering. She stepped up to her mother and wrapped her arms around her. "Thank you." She whispered.
Rachel hugged her back tentatively. When they released each other Rachel saw the first true smile on her daughter's face that she could remember.
Miles spoke next, his voice supportive. "Do you think you can get in to see your dad?"
"That shouldn't be a problem." She responded.
Rachel waited about half an hour after they took Monroe to the old bank before approaching the guards at the town hall and asked to be allowed to see her father. The men had to check with their commanding officer, but ultimately it was decided that Rachel could visit briefly. As she was escorted down the corridor to the office where they were keeping him sequestered, she contemplated why they had let her pass with so little effort. They obviously knew who she was. Did they know about her past with Monroe and assume that she wouldn't do anything to hinder the execution? Did they think she would simply remain passive about the execution to throw suspicion off of herself regarding the nukes? Or did they not know her much at all and just wanted to keep her father happy with them, since he was the only doctor for a couple day's ride and therefore the only one legally allowed to perform the execution with the expediency they wanted?
She was led into the office and then her escorts returned to a guard position outside the office door.
"Rachel." Gene smiled at his daughter and embraced her.
"Hey dad. I wanted to come see how you are holding up."
"I'm a little surprised, but that's all."
"It's not every day that you get to be the executioner for public enemy number one. What are the odds that he ended up caught here in Willoughby?"
Once the guards were outside and the door had closed fully behind them, he began in a harsh whisper, "What was he doing here? Are you mixed up in this?"
"No, Dad." Rachel acted surprised and hurt. "I just found out last night. He came for Miles."
"But how did he know where to look?" Gene was skeptical.
"He must have followed Charlie. She said she found warrants for me and Monroe in some bounty hunter's wagon. He must have been following them, then when he saw Charlie, he knew she'd lead him to Miles." As she spoke, she casually glanced around the small office, searching for her target.
"I know how you feel about Miles, and I know he's done some good for this town, but I still think we'd all be better off if he'd just left. Look what he's brought down on us know. Think how much worse this could have been, what could have happened to you or Charlie."
As he had been speaking, Rachel had spotted what she was looking for. His doctor's bag sat on the desk with three amber glass vials laid out next to it. She acted exasperated at his last comment and walked away from him. She took a seat in the chair in front of the desk and pouted. "That's not fair. Miles has done nothing but look out for this family."
"You know that's not true, Rachel. What he did to you when he was working with that monster..."
She carefully fished a flask out of her back pocket and hid it in her lap. "That was Monroe, not him. He didn't have a choice, and that was a long time ago." She turned her back to him feigning anger, but she used it as cover to visually search the desk for a syringe she could use to dilute out the medication. She turned back once she had found everything she needed.
Her father stepped up behind her and placed a soft hand on her shoulder. "I don't want to fight with you about this again, and not here."
She nodded her head and acted as if she was swallowing back tears.
He dropped his hand from her shoulder and stepped to the window where he looked out wistfully. Rachel knew this was her chance. She picked up the bottle labeled "pentobarbital" from the desk along with the large metal syringe she'd found. The bottle looked like it only had a couple of teaspoons of drug left in it. She fished the flask of water out of her back pocket and pulled up a full syringe of the diluent. All she had to do was inject the water and then pull out enough of the diluted solution so that it looked like the same amount remained in the bottle. She was almost home free.
Just as Rachel plunged the syringe need through the rubber stopper on the top of the bottle, her father spoke. "Do you remember the last time your mother and I visited before the blackout?"
Rachel froze. He still hadn't turned away from the window, but she hesitated. "Yeah. It was about this time of year, wasn't it?" She answered cautiously.
It was Halloween. I remember how excited Charlie was about her costume. It was one of those Disney princesses. The one with the red hair and the bow and arrow."
Rachel smiled at the memory. She remembered watching five year old Charlie delight in the cartoon movie about the little Irish girl that would rather shoot arrows and play in the woods than act like a princess. In retrospect, it seemed almost prophetic.
Her dad continued, "And Danny wasn't quite two yet. He was still such a tiny thing for his age, and you had him in that little fuzzy bumblebee costume."
The memory crashed back over Rachel. She had spent weeks making him that costume by hand because his size made it impossible to find one that fit him at the store. She was a terrible seamstress and she bloodied her fingertips time and time again constructing that costume, but there was nothing she wouldn't have done for tiny son. She vividly remembered carrying him around the neighborhood and pulling him in their little red wagon as Charlie eagerly bounced door to door collecting sweets. It was like a stab to the heart. That little boy had been her whole world. And now he was gone. The grief in her heart quickly gave way to anger. A familiar hatred began to bubble up through her. Her precious son had been taken from her, and here she stood, about to help the man responsible for it.
Slowly, Rachel removed the syringe's needle from the bottle of pentobarbital and set the bottle back on the desk. Then she quietly ejected the water from the syringe back into her flask. She returned the flask to her pocket and the syringe to the desk next to the unaltered bottle of poison.
She stepped up to the window next to her father and took his hand. "You're doing the right thing, Daddy. This is for Danny."
"I know the oath is 'first, do no harm', but I just can't bring myself to care. This… what I'm being asked to do to this man… because of what he's done… it doesn't even bother me."
"It shouldn't." Rachel smiled up at her father and gently patted the back of his hand. They stood in silence that way for a few moments before she added, "I should go before these soldiers kick me out."
"You'll be there tonight?" He asked her.
"I wouldn't miss it." She smiled back at him as she walked over to the door and knocked to get the guard to let her out.
Charlie and Miles stayed in his apartment and waited nervously while Rachel went on her mission. Aaron had returned to the school to check in with Cynthia so that she wouldn't suspect anything. He'd meet them again after nightfall for the next part of the plan.
"Why's it taking so long?" Charlie grumbled, not for the first time.
"That's a good thing Charlie. That means she got in. She's just taking her time to make sure she can get the job done right."
Charlie looked at him skeptically.
"And you really should give her a break. What she's doing... this is a big step for her. Try to be supportive."
"I'll take it into consideration," Charlie mumbled back. After a pause she changed topics. "I still don't like it that no one knows how they found Monroe."
"Bass isn't exactly known for laying low. Somebody probably spotted him."
"He was doing a fine enough job staying out of trouble in New Vegas."
"Jesus, Charlie. That's where you found him? What on Earth were you doing there?"
"I was trying to kill him. Met a guy in the Plains Nation that said they'd seen him there, so that's where I went."
"Looks like you've had quite a change of heart in the last few weeks." Miles prodded.
"Well, I didn't know about the Patriots then. Now he's useful to us."
"You do realize you sound just like him there, right?"
Charlie scowled at her uncle and he snickered at her. "Look, I'm the last person with any right to give you grief about having mixed feelings about taking him out for good. Just... be careful Charlie. That son-of-a-bitch will probably start to grow on you if you give him half a chance."
"Like fungus..." She muttered under her breath, but he still heard it.
"Pretty much." He smiled.
They both startled as they heard the front door knob turn. Then they calmed as Rachel opened the door and entered. They both looked at her expectantly.
"It's done." She told them.
Miles and Charlie both visibly relaxed. "Good." Miles started. "The hard part's done. Why don't you two go home and get some rest. We've still got a big night ahead of us."
"My father has asked that Charlie and I attend the execution." Rachel informed Miles.
"Why would he do that?" Charlie asked.
"It's partly as support for him, and partly because he's under the crazy assumption that we're both still devastated about what Monroe and his men did to your father and Danny." Then tone of her voice was hard.
Charlie tensed with irritation and Miles could tell another fight was looming. "Alright!" He snapped. "Rachel, go home. Charlie, you can stay here. I've got a few more things to go do to be ready for tonight. We'll all meet back here around nine."
Rachel and Charlie had both said it with such indignation that Miles couldn't help but add his own, "Fine."
He had once commanded an army of thousands. Why could he never get these two women to just listen to him, even once? He watched Rachel leave, then gathered up a few things from the apartment. He gave Charlie a glaring look that said, "Just stay here and don't do anything stupid." before he left.
Charlie and Rachel, as special guests of the executioner, got what essentially amounted to VIP seating. They were in the second row near the right hand side. Those seated around them were the officials from every town within a day's ride, senior officers of the U. S. Military, and distinguished guests. The general public was being kept out of the actual event, but that hadn't stopped a massive crowd from forming outside the courthouse. Rachel and Charlie had been asked to arrive just before eleven o'clock to complete a rigorous screening and be seated before the arrival of the prisoner.
The room looked ominous to Charlie. People were filling the bench seating on each side of the center aisle. Armed guards were posted at regular intervals throughout the room. Miles had been right. There would have been no change of storming this room. Then, front and center sat a gurney with arm and leg restraints attached. The overall effect was chilling. Even though she knew everything was in place for their plan, Charlie's gut still clenched in a nervous anticipation.
They had not been seated long when a hush fell over the room. The double doors at the back of the courtroom opened widely and Monroe was led in, wrists and ankles shackled, escorted by no less than thirty heavily armed guards. He shuffled in quietly, head hung, defeated. It bothered Charlie, because she'd never seen him without that swagger in his step that was uniquely Monroe. He'd been president of the whole damn Monroe Republic and he knew it. Even when he was at his lowest, pit fighting in a brothel, it had still been there. Now it looked like they'd already killed a part of him. Charlie noticed a small spark of life as he got about half way down the aisle and laid eyes on the gurney waiting for him. He stopped short and the whites of his eyes and his nostrils flared like a spooked horse. One of the soldiers behind him quickly jammed the butt of their rifle into his lower back and jarred him into shuffling forward again.
Charlie shuddered at the blow as if she had actually been dealt it herself. Her mom put a soft hand on her shoulder reassuringly.
It was still quiet as the grave in the courtroom as Monroe reached the gurney. His handlers spun him around and shoved him onto it gruffly. The look on his faced showed him fighting to stay calm. With one guard holding each limb, his shackles were removed and his wrists and ankles were strapped down in the cuffs attached to the gurney's frame. He struggled briefly as most of the guards took a step back and leather straps were tightened over his chest and thighs, holding him against the gurney.
He was trying to maintain some dignity, but Charlie could see the panic in his eyes. She watched as they darted around the room. He was no doubt assessing the situation as Miles had previously, trying to determine if he had any hope of escape. Then his expression changed as his eyes continued to scan the room. She knew exactly what he was doing and thinking, and she ached for him. He was looking for Miles. He was desperately clinging to the hope that his once best friend had not forsaken him, that he still mattered to the one person that really mattered to him. His expression became more and more pained as his inspection of the room did not yield the familiar face he searched for. But then she knew the moment he spotted her. His eyes instantly changed back to the calculating glare she knew only too well. He kept his eyes moving, as not to give away his familiarity with any particular person in the crowd, but she saw his gaze pass over her repeatedly. On one such pass, after having checked that no one around her seemed to be paying attention to her, she winked at him and then rolled her eyes the way Miles always did when he was exasperated with her. He didn't change the expression on his face, but she caught it when his chest constricted suddenly to make a quick snort, and she was fairly certain he'd taken the hint.
After giving the audience a few moments to gaze upon their featured attraction, Dr. Porter was ushered to the front. He stepped up to Monroe's side and spoke calmly. "I've been asked to prepare you for execution. And may I say, it's an honor." He fastened a tourniquet around his left arm just above the elbow and felt for the dilating vein amidst the scarred tissue at the top of his forearm. He jabbed the catheter roughly through the damaged skin that had once been the man's infamous tattoo. When blood appeared in the catheter hub, he advanced the catheter along the vein, pulled out the stylet, and capped the end with an injection port. Then he placed a piece of tape over the catheter to hold it in place. He removed the tourniquet and then injected saline into the catheter to confirm that the drugs would flow well directly into the vein without leaking. Rachel's father smiled vindictively down at Monroe before stepping back off to the side of the room.
Next, Ed Truman took center stage. He began a speech that made Charlie's insides roil. He was talking about what it means to be an American and the symbolism of the country's flag. How it signified the coming together of great states under one rule. Charlie nearly scoffed out loud. This thing Truman was blabbing on and on about may look just like it, but it was not the American flag she knew. Her flag was tattooed on Nora's back. It was hanging in the rebel base outside Philly. It was proudly displayed in a dilapidated old apartment building where a bunch of orphans looked out for each other. It was hidden in the backpacks and desk drawers of every person that wanted to end tyranny and oppression and was brave enough to fight for it.
Truman continued his pretentious rant, pacing back and forth only feet away from Monroe's restrained form. She knew the speech was equally as torturous to the former General, and she delighted in imagining what would happen if Monroe's restraints suddenly disappeared. He would break the pudgy man with his bare hands on that stage in front of everyone. So it wouldn't happen right now, but it was comforting to realize that after they successfully pull off their little charade tonight, a Monroe/Truman duel to the death was very likely in the cards in the near future.
As the speech rattled on beyond the ten minute mark, Truman turned the focus toward the atrocities committed by the prisoner before them. How everything he had done had been to harm and destroy the way of life of the United States of America. He ranted about how Monroe had amassed his army and brutally murdered anyone that stood in his way. The general outline of the things he was describing wasn't that far off, but Charlie had been there. Nothing had been as black and white as this guy was making it out to sound. She also couldn't help but notice that Miles had been essentially omitted from the story. Everything was being blamed solely on the man in front of them. She was surprised they didn't also try to pin the blackout on him. She wondered if anyone else knew that responsibility for that travesty belonged solely to the woman next to her.
She looked over to her mom at that thought and realized that she looked alarmingly tense. Then the topic of the speech became the nuclear holocaust of Philadelphia and Atlanta. He tabulated that the number of casualties exceeded a hundred thousand. Then he went on to comment that as far as atrocities went, it was second only to the blackout itself in spreading death and devastation throughout this great land. That was when Charlie heard her mother let loose a small sob. To everyone around them, it looked like just another emotional woman crying about a tragedy. But Charlie knew exactly what it was for. Guilt.
Truman wrapped up the speech to a round of applause and cheers from the crowd, with the exception of the two women in the second row. It was five minutes until midnight at that point, and Charlie was just getting anxious for the whole thing to be over with before their cover was blown. The last opening act before the fireworks was the reading of the charges. Some judge with a northeastern accent was brought forward and began the official portion of the proceedings.
"Sebastian Monroe, you have been tried in accordance with the Patriot Act of 2001 by the federal court of the United States of America and have been found guilty of the following charges."
As the man talked, Dr. Porter again approached Monroe. This time he had a small table on which three glass bottles and three metal syringes were aligned. While the charges were read, he carefully drew up fluid from each vial into its associated syringe.
A quiet murmur had begun within the courthouse occupants and the din continued to grow as each syringe was prepared and the list of charges approached the final grievance.
Charlie could hear Rachel's ragged breathing and looked over at her. She looked like she was about to have a panic attack. Rachel turned and looked down at Charlie with huge eyes full of regret.
Rachel whispered, "Charlie, please forgive me."
She couldn't believe her mom was having a breakdown about the Tower again, and now of all times. "Mom, it's ok. What happened at the… place... That was Randall. You didn't know and if you had you wouldn't have done it." Charlie tried to keep it vague, knowing they were surrounded by Patriots.
"It's not that Charlie. I couldn't do it."
Charlie was so confused. "What are you talking about? What couldn't you do?"
Rachel's voice was faltering, "Earlier today with my father. I was about to do it, and then he started talking about Danny, and I just couldn't make myself do it. I couldn't help him. Not after Danny."
"So when they give him that shot, he's actually going to die?" Charlie felt horrified and furious and panicked all at once. Her eyes shot up to Monroe and she found him staring straight at her. He must have seen the exchange between her and her mom and realized that something had gone wrong. Charlie looked around the room frantically. She needed to get word to Miles. They'd have to do something else. They needed a plan B, but she didn't have one. This had been their only shot and it had failed. She looked back to Monroe and their eyes locked again.
At that moment the judge read out, "…and high treason. Having been found guilty on all counts, I hereby sentence you to die by lethal injection this third day of November in the year two thousand twenty-eight. Execution is to be carried out post-haste.
The sadness and desperation in Charlie's eyes told him everything he needed to know. He struggled briefly against the restraints, but, as expected, they did not budge. He panted deeply for a few seconds as he mentally transitioned from fear to acceptance of his fate.
Just then, the clock struck midnight and the Town Hall's clock tower bell chimed over and over again. By the time the twelfth bell sounded the clamor inside the courtroom was becoming almost unmanageable and sounds of a crowd were drifting in from outside as well.
Monroe leaned his head back and closed his eyes. So this was how it ended. He'd always imagined he'd go out fighting, or fucking, or at least doing something more befitting that just lying there. But after everything he'd done, maybe he didn't deserve one of those more noble deaths. It was all part of the punishment. He braced himself as he felt the doctor's clammy hand at the catheter site.
Rachel's father held the syringe of sedative poised over the catheter. "Do you have any last words?" The man's voice was cold.
Bass thought of all the things he could say, all the things he should try to atone for, but he knew he didn't have the time. Instead he chose to attempt to appease the only grievances that really mattered to him in the end. He opened his eyes and looked up at his executioner. In a soft voice full of all the sincerity he had ever possessed, he asked, "Tell your family I'm sorry." The doctor's face shifted a little and Bass hoped that maybe he would actually believe him and that he would pass the message on. Then he felt a slight burning sensation at his elbow and realized that the first injection was being given. Within seconds his head felt heavy and the edges of his vision blurred. Everything around him seemed to be buzzing loudly. He barely registered the doctor leaning back over him with the next syringe when he thought he heard Charlie's voice yelling out. He tried to look up to see what was wrong. Even in the situation he was in, his first instinct was to protect her. But his vision went dark and he was too weak to even move his head. The last thought he was able to process before he slipped into unconsciousness was that he hoped Miles could help her.
A FEW MINUTES EARLIER
Miles and Aaron waited at the back of the courthouse with the wagon that was set to take Monroe's body to the cemetery immediately after the execution. Miles paced around nervously while Aaron sat on the passenger seat of the wagon and picked at the corner of the flag patch on the sleeve of his recently pilfered Patriot uniform. Three dead Patriots lay stripped down to their skivvies outside the city gate on the far edge of town.
Miles anxiously kept watch on the clock tower next door on the Town Hall. The "execution" was scheduled for less than a minute from then and he was nervous. This plan had been nowhere near foolproof, but it was the best they had under the circumstances.
"Uh, Miles…" Aaron blurted out.
Miles turned and saw Aaron's eyes roll back into his head. "Aaron?" He called as he ran to his side. His head lolled forward, and though his lids were closed, Miles could see his eyes moving furiously underneath. Shit. This was one of those visions he talked about. That couldn't be good. Miles looked around and found that mercifully no one else was around the loading bay to see. As the tower bells began to chime out the hour, Aaron's eyes calmed and then flickered open.
"We have a problem." Aaron started.
"Yeah, I figured as much." Miles replied sardonically between tolls of the bell.
"Rachel didn't dilute the pentobarb."
"That's impossible. She got to it earlier today. Are they using a different bottle or something?" Miles questioned disbelievingly.
"You don't understand. I just saw her and Charlie standing there. Then I heard her tell Charlie she didn't do it." Aaron informed him.
"I thought you said these things were usually just visual. Now you're hearing stuff too? Are you sure you heard it right?"
"Yes I'm sure." Aaron spat out. "And I could feel Charlie's reaction. Miles, she's panicking."
Miles rolled his eyes and scrubbed a hand down his face. He reached into the crevasse at the back of the wagon's bench seat and pulled out his sheathed sword. He pulled the blade from the scabbard, jumped off the wagon, and started toward the back entrance to the courthouse. "Looks like we're doing this the hard way." He grumbled. "C'mon Aaron."
Miles turned around as the clock tower bell stopped tolling and realized that Aaron wasn't following. He looked back and saw Aaron still seated on the wagon, unconscious again. "What now?" He cried out and ran back toward the wagon. As he stepped back away from the building, the different perspective gave him a clear view of the glowing green dots swirling in the sky above and in front of. The number increased in front of his eyes, from thousands to tens of thousands of swirling fireflies occasionally coalescing into forms that he couldn't quite make out. As the green glow in the sky intensified further, he could hear the townspeople gathered in front of the building beginning to freak out. Then he heard the sound of crackling fire consuming old timber beams, and the screaming really began. He looked back at Aaron one last time, slightly afraid of his friend for the first time, then charged toward the building.
Charlie watched on in horror as Monroe gave up, closed his eyes, and stopped struggling against his restraints. She tried to absorb everything she could from her surroundings, searching for some weakness she could exploit. She heard panic erupting in front of the courthouse and wondered if some kind of protest, like the ones Aaron had described, was breaking out. She saw Monroe open his eyes and say something to her grandfather as he gave the first shot. That was when she started to smell the smoke. Others had obviously noticed it too, and then visible plumes began to roll in around the seams of the closed front doors. Panic was descending on the crowd. This she could use.
Charlie jumped to her feet, turned to face the back of the courtroom, pointed, and screamed "Fire!" at the top of her lungs.
Exactly as she predicted would happen, the crowd surged chaotically away from the source of the danger, moving in a terrified stampede toward the front of the courtroom. Charlie was up in a flash, hurdling over the back of the bench row in front of her and up toward Monroe. The troops tried to keep the mob away from the prisoner, but they were too panicked as flames began to lick at the back walls of the room. Charlie saw her grandfather, the judge, and other officials be quickly ushered away into the judges' chambers off the side of the courtroom. Crazed citizens were running through the front of the courtroom. Guards were still standing around Monroe, but she saw her chance as one man ran by and bumped the small portable table stand that the drugs had been laid out on, sending the bottles and the syringe rolling to the ground.
Using a skill she'd picked up from the man on the gurney in the previous weeks, she acted as if she was bumping into the many men that rushed past her. When one collided with her, her hand felt a thin hard square object in his jacket pocket. She adeptly liberated the flask without giving the slightest hint that she had done so. Then she joined the throng of people rushing toward the front side exit. As she got near the gurney she faked a trip and fall. She went down in a controlled manner and seized the third syringe, still full of the fatal dose of pentobarbital, as she rolled. As quickly as she could, she squirted out nine tenths of the fluid onto the ground and then quickly uncapped the pick-pocketed flask and sucked up enough liquid to refill the syringe. She sent up a silent prayer that mixing the drug with whiskey instead of water wouldn't alter the desired effect, and then dropped the flask. She deposited the syringe back on the small table as she pretended to scramble to regain her footing. At this point a guard had finally made his way over to her and attempted to help her stand and continue to flee the burning room. She made certain that her foot found the pentobarbital bottle as she stood, shattering it beneath her boot and destroying the remaining contents. She hazarded a final parting glance at Monroe as she left the flow of the crowd carry her out the door.
As they all raced through the back corridors, she caught sight of Miles in military fatigues fighting his way toward her through the mass of people like a salmon swimming upstream. When he got close enough, he grabbed her shoulders and pulled them to the edge of the hallway. He looked down at her, his eyes asking the question his voice couldn't.
She realized that he somehow knew what had gone wrong, but did not know the ultimate fate of his friend. "The fire broke out before he could give the last injection." Charlie informed him. "I got to it in the panic. The hotshot is cold." She said in a conspiratorial tone, not knowing who was listening.
Relief visibly washed across Miles's face. "Good. Now get out of here and get to safety." He hesitated before he asked, "Have you seen your mother? Did she get out already?"
Charlie looked up at him with dead eyes and answered, "No. And she can burn in there for all I care."
He knew there was no point in arguing with her now. "Follow the crowd. Get safe. I'll take care of this." He informed her.
She nodded curtly and took off again with the crowd dashing for the exit.
Edward Truman was livid. Everything had been going off without a hitch. He'd even been able to keep a close eye on Rachel Matheson and her family, and they hadn't even tried a thing. Now some fire bug had nearly ruined his execution.
As the courtroom emptied out, he looked to two of his guards and signaled toward Monroe. "Get him in back." He ordered.
The two men quickly unbuckled the restraints and dragged the unconscious man to the judges' chambers where the rest of the execution team had already fled. Truman grabbed the last syringe off the table and followed.
Monroe's limp body was dumped on top of the desk. Dr. Porter instantly approached it and began feeling for a pulse. It was slow and thready, but it was still there. When Truman entered, Gene approached him. "He's still alive. I have to give the final injection."
Truman held up the last syringe, as if to say "You mean this?"
Dr. Porter extended his hand to take the syringe, but Truman withdrew it. "I think I'll just make sure there are no further stays to this execution." Then he jabbed the needle into the catheter and pushed the plunger on the syringe. Its contents expelled, he pulled the syringe out and dropped it on the desk before stepping away.
Rachel's dad stepped up quickly and placed a stethoscope on Monroe's chest. He heard the already bradycardic heart rate slow further, falter, and cease. He listened for a full ten seconds before removing the stethoscope and announcing, "He's gone."
"See." Truman announced, "He's not such a big bad monster anymore. Now is he?" Then he turned to the guards. "Get the wagon brought around. I want his body paraded down Main Street for everyone to see, then I want him dropped in some hole in the ground and out of our way for good." Then he turned and left through the exit from the judges' quarters to the back street and ushered Dr. Porter, the judge, and all the other execution staff to follow.
Miles had just made it to the courtroom in time to see Truman walking into the judges' chambers with two guards dragging Monroe's body. He ran toward the door and slipped in just before it closed. He took a place along the wall of the small office and stood at parade rest with the other soldiers there. He kept the brim of his cap low and his face tipped down, hoping that neither Truman nor Gene would notice him. He steeled himself for what he knew was to come when Truman produced the syringe. He never allowed the mask of detached facial expression to waver, even as he had to repeatedly play Charlie's words over and over to himself while Gene pronounced him dead. "The hotshot is cold. The hotshot is cold. The hotshot is cold."
Once Truman and Dr, Porter had exited the room, Miles turned to the few remaining guards. "Hey, yeah, I'm with the wagon detail. Saw the smoke and came to see if you guys needed help."
Some smoke was starting to seep under the door frame and the remaining guards looked all too pleased to get out of the burning building. "Sure. Let's just get him out of here and get this over with."
Miles grabbed Bass under his arms, and the young private grabbed his legs. As they carried the body through the back exit and toward Aaron and the waiting wagon, Miles could sense an extensive amount of tension in the other young man. "What's wrong Private? This can't be your first dead body?" Miles asked.
"No sir. It's just… it's him. The stories I've heard… I keep half expecting him to rise from the dead at any moment."
Miles didn't stifle the laugh that escaped his lips, though he was laughing for a very different reason than the young man suspected. He had just felt a soft pulse in the large artery that ran through Bass's armpit thump against the skin of his arm as he carried him. It took quite a few seconds, but then there was another one. Charlie had done it.
Aaron saw two men approaching and carrying a body. He sat stock still in the wagon seat, afraid his nerves would make him do something stupid that would give him away. He finally exhaled when he heard Miles's voice call out to him.
"Hey Corporal. Help us get this guy in the box."
Aaron climbed down and approached the back of the wagon. He pulled the lid off the pine casket resting on the flat bed and helped them get Monroe's body into it. He went to replace the lid, and Miles stopped him.
"The General wants everyone to be able to see the body."
"Uh, will do." Aaron responded weakly then caught Miles's disapproving glare. "I mean yes, sir." With that he nervously returned to the front on the wagon.
Miles walked around to the front of the wagon as well and untied the horses from the hitching post. "Thank you for your help Private. I'll let you know is he rises from the dead."
The young man smiled at Miles as he mounted the wagon. "Yes, sir." Then he disappeared into the night, likely off to join the crowd gathered along Main Street.
As soon as they were alone Aaron asked, "Is he… dead?"
With a smile Miles replied, "Mostly."
Aaron actually laughed out loud as Miles steered the horses around the smoldering remnants of the courthouse and onto Main Street. He and Aaron both did their best to hide their faces as they pulled the wagon up near where Truman was making some showboat speech in front of the town hall.
Aaron couldn't help but notice that the flames that had engulfed the courthouse had seemed to inexplicably burn out right about the time he had caught sight of Miles carrying Monroe's body. He wasn't sure about anything involving his new superpowers, for lack of a better term, but he wondered if this was a sign that he was starting to gain some control over them.
Miles attempted to both scan the crowd and hide his face from them simultaneously. He finally spotted Charlie front and center next to her mom and grandfather, listening to Truman prattle on about how terrorists will never stop the United States of America. He caught her eye and gave a curt little nod to signal that everything was ok. She turned back to Truman just as he was finishing his soliloquy. A small smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she clapped, and Miles could tell it wasn't for the speech.
Miles and Aaron both did the best they could to hide their faces as Truman directed everyone's attention to Monroe's funeral procession, but there was no need. The only thing anyone saw was the open casket. Miles put the horses at a slow walk as they paraded the body through the town's main thoroughfare. He tried to remain impassive as the townsfolk ghoulishly struggled to get a closer look at what was supposed to be the corpse of his former best friend.
After a lap around the center of town, Miles and Aaron were instructed to head toward the cemetery to dispose of the body. Fortunately, no one decided to follow them and the graveyard was empty when they arrived. They found the unmarked hole dug near the back and stopped the wagon next to it. They quickly pulled Monroe's body from the casket and Miles set about changing him into the extra Patriot uniform they'd stashed in the wagon, while Aaron dumped the empty pine box into the grave. They sat Monroe's unconscious form on the wagon seat so that it would give anyone passing by the impression that he was overseeing the work of the other two soldiers.
Miles and Aaron grabbed two shovels and set about filling in the grave to hide the evidence of their plan. Aaron's general level of fitness combined with Miles's damaged hand made the work a little more slow going than either would have liked. They worked in silence, mainly because Aaron was having to focus too much of his energy on huffing and puffing to hold up a conversation. Once they had finished, about an hour later, they climbed up into the wagon and headed back toward town with Monroe sandwiched between them.
They started to encounter the occasional traveler on the road as they got closer to town, but no one seemed to give them a second glance. As a wagon of young people passed by, Aaron had to resist manipulating Monroe's elbow to make it look as if he was waving at them, this completing the Weekend at Bernie's experience.
They made it to their destination without incident. It was a small abandoned cottage on the outskirts of town that the group had set up as a safe house shortly after they had arrived in Willoughby. Miles had spent the earlier part of the afternoon making sure it was stocked with the supplies they would need tonight. Aaron helped Miles carry Monroe inside and then left to return the wagon and get back to Cynthia before she began to worry about him.
Miles lit a small lantern and got Bass set up in the makeshift hospital bed. He set up a hanging bottle of IV fluids and attached the line to the catheter still in his arm. Rachel had gleaned a little bit of medical knowledge from the time she'd spent helping her father in the last six months and had insisted that the fluids would help flush the drugs out of his system faster. The suggestion had been made before she had apparently elected to double cross them.
Having done everything he could for the moment, he pulled a chair up next to the bed and took a seat. He was at a complete loss about what to do with Rachel. He still had feelings, strong feelings, for her, but she just wasn't making an effort. After tonight, there would be no reconciling Charlie and Rachel, and he was stuck in the middle. He looked down at his unconscious former friend and muttered, "I'm really in a pickle this time, buddy." After a pause he added, "What? No great ides? Because you were always so full of them. Like that time sophomore year when we took Ben's car and drove to St. Louis." He smiled at the memory, but then his face dropped as he realized how many lifetimes ago that had been. Everything was different now, and he hated how easy it seemed to be to just fall back on that old sentimentality.
Miles was interrupted out of his musings by the sound of footsteps creaking on the front steps. He tensed and was about to blowout the lantern when he heard Charlie's whispered voice echo through the house.
"Miles? You here?"
"Yeah Charlie." He called out quietly. "Back bedroom."
Charlie walked in and instantly asked, "How is he?"
"Far as I can tell, it looks like he's doing just fine." Miles shrugged. "He's still out, but I guess we expect that for the next few hours at least."
She nodded and paused to take in the scene around her. The thing she noticed most was that Miles looked like shit. He'd barely got any sleep the night before after helping with the bodies of the Patriot and the Ranger, and it had been a rough day for him physically and emotionally.
"Why don't you go home and get some rest. I can handle things here for the rest of the night."
"I'm not sure how I feel about leaving you alone with him." Miles answered honestly.
"Miles," She gave him a look that suggested he was being overprotective, "what's he possibly going to do? He's unconscious."
He knew she was right. She'd spent weeks alone with him and seemed like she'd been able to hold her own. And while it was completely warped, the cretin did have his own sort of code. No matter what he was working toward, he wouldn't do anything to her right after she had saved his life.
"Fine, but you come get me the moment he wakes up."
"I promise." She smiled at him.
He patted the top of her head and walked toward the door. He stopped before leaving and turned to her. "He tries anything... You don't hesitate to slit his throat."
"I know." She rolled her eyes at him as he walked out the door.
Charlie settled herself into the chair Miles had pulled up next to the right side of the bed and carefully studied the unconscious man in front of her. He was taking soft breaths at a fairly regular interval of about fifteen to twenty seconds. She pulled his arm out from under the scratchy blanket Miles had thrown over him and felt around the wrist for his pulse. It wasn't easy to feel and the rate was so slow that there were a couple times she became afraid that it had actually stopped. But each time, she would put her hands on his chest, and eventually the soft thud would register under her fingertips.
She watched the bottle of IV fluids, and when it ran out she disconnected the line from the catheter. She held her breath as she pulled off the tape holding the catheter in place and then slid the device out of his skin. A small drop of blood accumulated at the hole where it had entered the vein, and she quickly tied a bandage around the area to apply pressure until a clot would stop the bleeding.
She took a moment to look at the large scar on his forearm. She'd noticed him picking and scratching at the damaged flesh during their trip, but he never talked about it. She figured it held some kind of significance, because he seemed to subconsciously reach for it whenever certain subjects came up in their conversations. She ran her fingers over it and inspected the faint and distorted discoloration of the deeper skin layers. As she pulled her hand away she noticed the burned scar on her own wrist and made the connection. He'd probably burned away the tattoo to hide his identity, but she couldn't help feel like there was more to it than that.
When they'd first teamed up, she had expected him to be fairly easy to read. She imagined him focused on power and vengeance and intended to discount any statements or actions that spoke to a different purpose or emotion to simply be manipulations to further one of those real obsessions. It hadn't taken her long to realize that she had been wrong and that there was more to him than she'd expected. Granted, he kept anything that even resembled human emotion buried deep beyond what she'd been allowed to see. She was a little curious about what went on beneath his carefully crafted facade, but she doubted she'd believe him if he ever tried to tell her, so the mystery continued.
After about an hour of watching and contemplating, she was starting to get antsy. She wondered what he'd done and thought about while he looked after her while she was unconscious for nearly a day. She grabbed a cloth from the bathroom and some water that they'd stashed in the house and decided to busy herself by cleaning him up a little. There was grime caked into the small lines at the corners of his eyes and around his nose and ears. She also wiped away the patch of dried blood adhered to a little scratch in the center of the bruise over his right cheekbone. After she cleaned his face and neck, she then moved on to his arms and down to his hands. She noticed that he didn't have any fresh defensive wounds and wondered why he'd let himself be captured without a fight. That was another story she would love to hear but doubted she'd ever trust the validity of.
As the night wore on, what little bit of energy she'd retained from the excitement of the rescue waned. There came a point where she was having difficulty feeling his pulse again, so she put her head down on his chest and listened. The heartbeat was still there, just as strong and maybe even a bit closer to a normal tempo than before. The small adrenaline rush of worry dissipated quickly and she found the soft rhythmic sound of his pulse beneath her ear to be rather soothing. She fell asleep before she even realized how exhausted she was.
Charlie woke slowly. Only a small amount of light was filtering through her eyelids, so she knew it couldn't be too late. She rationalized that should be able to sleep a bit longer. She also registered the soft sensation of fingers running along her scalp and through her hair lulling her back to sleep. As she was about to drift back off, something kicked her conscious mind back into alertness. She wasn't supposed to be asleep. She was supposed to be awake... and doing something... something important. The previous night's rescue mission came back to her in a flash and she snapped her eyes open.
The sight that greeted her was not what she'd expected. Two bright blue eyes were staring down at her from an impassive face. Her head was still on his chest and his left hand was entwined in her hair. She froze in terror. She could just imagine him gripping her hair, arching her neck backward, and slitting her throat with the blade he undoubtedly had in his other hand. Instead, a small smile tugged at one side of his mouth and he gently slid his fingers from her hair.
Charlie sat up slowly and frowned at the small spot of drool that remained on his shirt where her head had rested.
His voice was scratchy, but he softly coughed out, "Probably shouldn't tell Miles you fell asleep on watch."
She smirked down at him. "Probably also shouldn't tell him I woke up to you groping me."
He smirked back at her as he sat up in the bed. "Probably not."
"How long have you been awake?" She asked as she stood and walked into the next room.
When she returned carrying a glass of water, he answered, "Just a few minutes." She extended the glass out to him and he took it from her and took a sip before continuing. "It took a second to figure out what happened..." he then brushed a hand over the wet spot on his shirt, "and why something was... leaking on me."
Charlie blushed as she snatched the water glass out of his hand and put it on the night stand.
"Honestly, I'm a little surprised I woke up at all." He looked serious. "Last I remember, I was getting the distinct impression from you that something had gone wrong with whatever plan you had schemed up."
Charlie sneered at the memory. "It turns out that my mom's not so much of a team player."
"You were counting on Rachel Matheson to help save my life? That's a whole lot more crazy than I would have expected from you and Miles."
"Yeah, well, we didn't have any better way to get to the drugs before the execution." Charlie tried to rationalize.
"So, I'm guessing that Rachel didn't actually do whatever it was she was supposed to. Imagine that." He'd said the last part rather sarcastically, and it earned him a small knowing smile from Charlie. "Then how is it that I'm alive right now?"
"I was able to get to the last syringe and dilute it out before they gave it. Full strength the stuff kills you, diluted it puts you in a coma. It got everyone to think you were dead long enough for us to sneak you out here."
"But how did you get to it? Your grandfather already had the damn needles in my arm?"
Charlie shrugged and said the next part rather quickly. "Aaron used the nanites to light the building on fire with the power of his mind."
Monroe started laughing in earnest. When he looked up and saw the look on Charlie's face, he stopped. "You're serious..."
She just shrugged back at him.
They were both quiet for a while while they pondered the implications of Aaron's new powers.
Monroe was the first to speak again. His eyes were dark and piercing as he asked, "I get why Miles broke down and helped me out, but I thought you... tolerated me at best. You took a pretty big risk just for me. Why?"
What could she say? She knew he'd never understand all the mixed emotions she had about letting the Patriots kill him, or worse he'd try to manipulate them. She paused only a second before offering what seemed like a plausible excuse. "Look, you saved my ass that night in Pottsboro. I didn't really like the feeling that I owed you for something. Now we're even."
"Uh huh." He leered at her, not buying her excuse for an instant.
"Believe what you want." She said with an eye roll. "Now that you're awake, I'm going to go get Miles." She stood and started toward the door.
Before she could get out the door, his voice called out to her, "Charlotte..."
She turned and looked at him. He had gotten out of the bed and was walking up to her. He stopped just shy of violating her personal space and looked down at her. She found it unnerving that he knew exactly what her limits were.
"Whatever your reasons, I didn't want to die like that." He swallowed, as if expressing the sentiment in his words was causing him physical pain. "Thank you."
For a moment Charlie was afraid that he was actually about to lean forward and hug her, but he didn't. She knew it probably meant she was exceedingly gullible, but something about this interaction struck her as actually being genuine. She took a deep breath before being honest with him.
"Saving you... that took trust on our part. Remember that. I'm not entirely sure you deserve it, but I'm hoping that when the time comes, you'll prove that we weren't wrong."
He nodded solemnly before turning away from her.
She shook her head, slightly upset at herself for letting him get to her even a little, and then left.