A/N: So it's been a hot minute since I've updated any of my stories, but I've done so much work on them over the years that it would be a shame not to continue updating now that I've finally got some time again. Hope I'm not the only one still in love with Revolution and Charloe. Let me know what you think!
Out of all the days, out of all the conscription facilities, Monroe had - frickin had – to pick this one.
As Miles Matheson, former leader of the Monroe Militia, watched the ferry carry his one-time friend toward the same boat his niece had gotten herself taken aboard only yesterday, his heart began to pound ever-closer to a heart-attack.
Damn you, Bass. Trying to still the slight tremor in his sword hand, Miles searched desperately for a new plan. The half-assed idea he and Charlie had managed to scrape together before she ran headlong into a deathtrap, all for a kid they didn't even know, wasn't going to be worth shit now that Monroe was here. Along with his usual troop of guards to protect him, Bass had clearly decided to err on the safe side after the rebellion's most recent uprisings and had brought an extra twenty-or-so men along.
An extra twenty men who would make it impossible to spring Charlie until after they were gone…
…Which meant she'd be trapped on board that ship indefinitely.
And a ship with Monroe in charge of it was no place for her - for any sane or good person.
Mind whirling, even as his stomach clenched with dread, Miles tried to remain rational. For now, there was nothing he could do – nothing that wouldn't put Charlie in even more danger. Miles wasn't even sure Monroe remembered that his once-friend had a niece… No that wasn't true. Monroe was never one to forget a detail. But the one thing even Bass couldn't know was whether or not that niece had survived the Blackout and all the turmoil that had followed it.
Not unless Miles did something stupid now and exposed her…
Miles groaned, drawing a concerned look from Aaron, but his own eyes never left the ship, where, at this very moment, the only family he'd known in years was being remade in the image of the Monroe Republic – the monstrosity he'd helped Monroe create.
Bass, you son of a bitch. Why did you have to come now?
He could kill himself for allowing her to get herself captured – and would, most likely, if he couldn't get her out – but even he knew there was nothing to do now but wait and pray Charlie kept a low profile until Bass returned to Philly.
"Attention. Fall in!" There was a scuffle, the sound of still-green cadets lining up for inspection, and then a full silence. Taking one last look at the lighthouse, Monroe shook his head and turned to face them. There would be time enough later to figure out what it was that had caught his eye-
"General, sir, I apologize for this display." Lieutenant Slotnick's transparent simpering had already begun – Bass wondered with each new phrase spilling from the man's overly-obsequious lips if he might finally be forced to make it the man's last. "The cadet will be dealt with and I can assure you this will not happen again–"
"I hope so, Henry." Monroe fixed him with a stare made of ice. "I would hate to see your reputation, and that of this facility, fall." Twin sparks of fear and understanding finally lit the lieutenant's eyes, and he quickly backed away and turned to his second-in-command, presumably to receive an account of how it happened that a gun had been fired in the General's presence.
Ready for the other business at hand, Bass turned towards the now-subdued cadet, who was on her knees with her arms restrained, her head down and silent. None of the former rebellion that had lit her features when he'd first seen her seemed to remain. But then, he could not see her face now.
He stepped toward her, taking his time, surveying the way her head tilted to one side for a brief moment, before bowing forward again. If Bass had not been watching her so closely, he would have missed it altogether. But, like the lighthouse, something about her seemed out of place – dangerously so.
Continuing to study her, he motioned Slotnick forward, demanding a report of what had happened to cause such a disturbance.
"It appears, General, that when the newest recruits were lined up for their first inspection, one of the other cadets was insubordinate toward the officers. When they approached him, to take him below to continue his reeducational exercises, the girl tried to steal one of their guns, but the soldier noticed. In the struggle to retrieve the gun, a shot was involuntarily fired–"
"If it was a 'struggle' for your men to subdue one new cadet, Henry, then I'm becoming even more concerned over the state of this facility."
"Sir, but–" Monroe's gaze snapped to his Lieutenant, stopping the excuse cold.
"Think before you speak, Henry." His voice was quiet, but flint-hard and clipped. "And be sure the next words out of your mouth inspire only my confidence in your competency. Nothing. Else."
He turned his attention back to the girl, trying to place the exact cause for his unease.
Her shoulders were too narrow, not normally the kind of recruit Slotnick looked for when he raided the nearby villages. Based on the more impressive size of the other recruits, Slotnick's standards hadn't generally slipped. And yet, here she was, at the very heart of the fray. She was small – not entirely weak-looking, but still an odd choice.
And the way she'd cocked her head just now, as though she were looking for something behind her, to the left…
Making sure not to draw attention, Bass let his eyes follow the direction of her quick glance. His eyes met those of a dozen scared farmboys, each clearly still green enough to look at him rather than straight ahead or at the ground.
Perhaps if the girl's head had not been so bowed – at least she knew how to show proper respect – he might have seen which of these had drawn her eyes in particular. A friend, a brother perhaps? A boyfriend/lover?
He wasn't quite sure why yet, but he felt sure he may come to need some kind of leverage on this cadet if the initial premonition he'd felt was any indication.
Stopping a few feet in front of her, he motioned to Slotnick. The other man hurried to his side, subdued but clearly with an uncreatively servile remark ready on his lips.
"How long has this one been with you, Henry?" Head tilting, Monroe studied the top of her head, the blonde waves shining in the sun.
"She arrived yesterday sir. Perhaps… it was premature to put her with the rest of the recruits, but her processing went so quickly that we saw no need to delay."
"Only yesterday?" After a long moment, Bass sank into a crouch, his eyes never leaving her. It seemed strange that this one cadet that made him uneasy should have arrived almost at the same time he had. Possibilities flew through his mind – an assassination plot rising, as always, to the top. Although he knew many in his own government believed that he'd grown paranoid since… He shook his head, unwilling to revisit a painful memory when there were far more important things to deal with.
Paranoid or not, there were plenty of people who wanted him dead – as experience had taught him well.
His eyes narrowed on what could be his would-be assassin, before reaching out to pull her chin up and her face into the light. Her blue eyes, which appeared somehow to go deeper than his own, only met his for a moment, before she began to subtly take stock of the other soldiers behind him and surrounding them both.
But he'd seen those eyes before – or at least something like them. The woman he'd left behind in Philadelphia, under the special care of her usual guard, for instance – Rachel's eyes, both in color and expression, were reproduced almost perfectly, here in this girl's face.
The only thing to differentiate the pair of eyes in front of him from those in his memory was the definitive lack of insanity, replaced with cool reason and calm insight – qualities sadly lacking in even his closest current advisors.
Qualities that reminded him of–
For a quick moment, Bass couldn't help but picture that it was Miles across from him, sizing up the enemy – their enemy – and forming the best plan of attack, which they would execute together as perfectly and automatically as every time before… This girl wore the same expression, the same look, the same calculation and determination that Miles had, and as he looked at her Monroe couldn't help but miss his partner.
Somehow… this girl reminded him of Miles
When he did speak, after what had been a long and breathless pause, as much for the surrounding soldiers as for the General himself, his voice was not quite so detached and cynical as it was moments before.
"And what was the cause of her outburst, I wonder?"
"With your permission, sir, that's what we would like to find out – and correct." Slotnick snapped his fingers at a pair of guards, and they moved to his flank. "She will be taken below and disciplined."
"Reeducated, of course. Excuse my mistake."
Slotnick's men moved to hover behind the girl, ready to take her, but then paused, waiting for a sign that the General was finished with her. Without looking at them, Monroe waved his hand, sending them back a few paces. "I wonder how often those you 'discipline' become useless before you can get any information from them, Lieutenant," Monroe muttered in such a low voice, he knew Slotnick would not have heard it. But the girl did. Her eyes flickered, as though she'd almost thought to look back to him, but had stopped herself, in favor of continuing her careful inspection of his troops. But her apparent focus did nothing to hide the telltale jump in the pulse at her throat.
She was afraid. Her body couldn't hide it. But she never let her eyes stray from their purpose - whatever it was. He'd seen Miles get the same look a thousand times-
He released her chin.
"That won't be necessary at this time, Lieutenant." Monroe rose, turning back to face his subordinate, who was trying to erase any trace of surprise from his features. "It's clear your facility is overwhelmed, as it is. So I'll take this job off your hands… But I'll expect to see better results from you by the time I leave."
With that, Monroe nodded to his personal guard, and immediately two of them moved to take hold of the girl from either side, displacing Slotnick's men and leaving Bass with a dual sense of relief and apprehension. Turning on his heel, he ordered Slotnick to lead the way to his private room – and released a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding when he heard his guards pull the girl to her feet and begin to follow behind him.