Title: Makers of Monsters (part 1 of 2)
Fandom: nbc's Revolution
Rating: R- language, self-starvation and suicidal tendencies.
Characters: Bass, Tom, Jeremy and Miles
Summary: Monroe has finally gotten his revenge and broke Miles completely. It's exactly what he wanted… Isn't it?
Author's Note: It's a sequel to Scorched Earth and from Bass' point of view. A link to part 2 can be found at the end
* "Hateful day when I received life!" I exclaimed in agony. "Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance."
* "Once my fancy was soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame, and of enjoyment. Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine. When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I alone."
- Mary Shelley, "Frankenstein"
Bass flies with a captive Miles to St. Louis, arriving a day ahead of Jeremy and his men. The so called uprising in St. Louis has been a thorn in his side for too long; it's given The Plains Nation and Georgia Federation the mistaken notion that he's weak, that his Republic is frail. For too many years he's lost sleep at night, worried about an all-out war, concerned over his soldiers at the border and within their own territory- a place that was supposed to be a safe haven for them. Isn't that why they've founded the Republic in the first place? To restore order and a sense of security, to let people feel safe again?
He ignores a reticent Miles completely, but makes sure he's guarded round the clock. Miles hasn't said a word since… Since then and he hasn't put up any opposition- but Bass isn't taking any chances. He tells himself that he's keeping Miles alive to watch all that he's fought for crumble to dust. That he wants Miles to witness the famous St. Louis Resistance fall in one fell swoop. He doesn't interrogate Miles, doesn't ask him about those other Rebel Camps, because he's got more important things on his mind. When they get back to Philly, Tom can interrogate him to his heart's content; he's washed his hands of Miles Matheson.
Quenching the Rebellion ends up being a short and anti-climactic affair. All the planning and preparation that went into it… And within a day, all their bases are burnt to a crisp and all the members of the Resistance are either dead, captive or a handful of them are on the run. Bass congratulates his men on their victory, but it feels hollow to him. It wasn't a war or a battle… It was a massacre.
"I'm sure it won't be this easy with The Plains or Georgia," Jeremy tries to console him. "Who knows, we might even lose some men, before we conquer them."
"Losing men is not a joking matter, Captain Baker," Bass chides him quickly. "Today was a good day- things went smoothly, no lives were lost and few were injured. Today was a victory."
"Then why do you look like you were on the losing side?" Jeremy asks, before remembering himself. "Sir-"
"I want you to stay and make sure Captain Burke has everything here under control, before you head back home."
"Yes, sir!" Jeremy solutes him. Bass dismisses him and sighs tiredly. He thought he'd be happier right now, but instead there's this numbing emptiness at the pit of his stomach that he doesn't want to examine too closely.
They return to Philly and he hands Miles over to an eager Major Neville. He tells Tom to do no permanent harm to his prisoner and to report back when he has the locations of the Rebel Camps, and any other information Miles can provide.
"It'll be my pleasure, Sir," Tom tells him with a gleeful grin. Bass swallows a lump in his throat and gives Tom a tight grin. He closes himself off in his office, pouring over maps and battle plans for the upcoming battles.
His nights are restless- it's hard for him to fall asleep and he spends hours staring at the ceiling and trying not to think. When he does fall asleep, he's plagued by fragmented dreams, filled with chilling screams for help; billowing smoke; burnt rubber and diesel fumes. He keeps waking up in cold sweats, his heart racing and his hands shaking.
He gets one of his more discreet Lieutenants to find him a different random woman to fuck every night, but he sends them packing before he falls asleep- it wouldn't do to have people talk about President Monroe having nightmares. Eventually even sex loses its appeal and ceases to serve as a distraction.
Major Neville steps into his office on the fifth day and announces that he has the information on the Rebel Camps. Bass pours himself a glass of whiskey and sits on the edge of the desk.
"Dr. Jaffe was our "guest" for three weeks before he cracked, and that was just because we threatened his daughter," Bass says slowly, swirling his scotch and taking a sip. "Are you telling me you broke Miles fucking Matheson in less than a week?"
"No Sir," Neville says, his voice hesitant. "You did. He's nothing more than a ghost of a man these days."
"Then why did it take you five days to get the information?"
"I don't rightly know, Sir. Maybe he wanted to buy the Rebels time, maybe it was the last thing he had that kept him going, or maybe-" he stops suddenly, shaking his head. "I can't tell you what goes on inside his head-"
"What were you going to say?" Monroe asks him, his eyes narrowing.
"Sir, I honestly don't know why Matheson has held on as long as he did," Neville says carefully. "But I think… I think he wanted the… Interrogation to last."
"Why- so he can prolong his life? Miles Matheson isn't afraid to die," Bass says, eyes hard.
"No, he's not. I think he wanted to be tortured," Neville stops mincing words. "I think he wanted to hurt, to suffer physically half as bad as he's suffering emotionally. I think he blames himself for what happened and that guilt was eating him up."
"Now that guilt ate up everything that remained. There's nothing left, no reason to hold on and whatever he gained from the beating is gone as well."
"I see," Bass says placidly, but he feels the whiskey churning in his gut.
"Sir, may I ask what you intend to do with Matheson now?" Neville asks cautiously.
"I have a feeling you want to make a suggestion," Bass says with half a grin. "Go ahead, speak freely."
"Sir… He's given us all the information he can give. The man's spirit is beaten and there's no point in prolonging his agony; he's a traitor to the Republic and should be summarily executed"
"And here I thought you were looking forward to spending quality time with him," Bass says with a mocking smile.
"Miles threatened my wife, so yes- I wanted to make him suffer before slicing his throat myself," Neville says candidly. "But that man isn't Miles Matheson anymore, he's nothing but a shell of his old self. And there's no pleasure to be had at beating a dead horse."
"I see," Bass puts his glass down, stands up and straightens his uniform. "Your opinion is noted, Major. Keep the prisoner in his cell in the meantime and make sure I'm updated on his condition."
"You're dismissed," Bass tells Tom icily. Tom straightens his stance, checking himself from saying anything further. He snaps to attention and leaves, shutting the door behind him.
Tom gives him a brief report on Miles' condition once a day. As soon as Tom stopped questioning him, Miles stopped talking completely. Even when asked a direct question, he just stares blankly ahead.
"I tried to use some physical persuasion," Tom says dispassionately. "The result is the same- it appears he's said all he's going to say."
A week later he stopped eating. "He doesn't get to decide whether he eats or not," Bass says to Tom angrily. "I don't care if you have to shove it down his throat- make sure he's fed."
Tom never voices his displeasure, but Bass knows it's there all the same. Miles has given them all he can give; now he's just taking up food that could be used for people who deserve it, people who aren't going to be executed.
He can hear the murmurs of the men, knows what they think of him- they're claiming he's lost it, that he's gone soft. Bass knows that every day he lets Miles live; he loses his power and hold over the men. And God knows what that snake Julia's been whispering to Tom about him. He knows he should just do it- he knows Miles would probably prefer to get it over with, instead of lingering in uncertainty. But it's not about what Miles wants; it's about what Bass wants- if he ever figures that one out.
When Jeremy gets back, Bass summons him to his office. "Miles Matheson hasn't spoken a word in about a week and it seems he's now gone on a hunger strike."
"Miles is still alive?" Jeremy asks in shock. "I thought for sure you'd have had him executed by the time I got back. If you were waiting for me to get the party started, you really shouldn't have."
"I need you to assess his physical and mental wellbeing," Bass says with his back to Jeremy, as he looks out through his window. Miles used to love peering out the window at the men, watching them toil. He never could stop assessing or let his guard down, even in their own little sanctuary.
"Because you're one of his oldest friends- you'd know if he's faking it and up to something."
"But I'm not his oldest friend, and why even bother?" Jeremy asks, frowning. "You're going to be executing him anyway, right?"
"We've sent men to the Rebel Camps he's mentioned- but until they report back, we don't know if the information he's given us is legit or not. I need to know if Miles truly broke and if there's anything he's still keeping from us. Is that reason enough for you, Captain Baker?" Bass' tone is nonchalant, but his gaze is piercing.
"Yes, Sir!" Jeremy gives him a crisp solute and Bass dismisses him quickly. He goes through the motions, the work that needs to get done, but he's distracted and on edge. He knows that Jeremy's got a point, that nobody knows Miles like he does, but for some reason, the idea of going to his cell and seeing him terrifies him. He sighs and puts down the pen he was holding, pouring himself another glass of whiskey. He'll have his answers soon enough, though he's not sure if he's ready to hear them.
Jeremy returns the next morning, his face crestfallen.
"Miles was never much of an actor- if he's faking it, he deserves an Oscar," Jeremy says with a sigh, as he helps himself and pours two glasses of whiskey, downing one of them, before continuing:
"The lights are on, but nobody's home. I sat in his cell for hours, and he didn't say a Goddamm word. I was running my mouth- cursing and badmouthing every single person he's ever known. Then I narrated my favorite soaps, giving him a full rundown of each and every character and storyline over the years. I even started singing the greatest hits from my repertoire: I did Celine Dion, Lady Gaga and even Britney Spears- he barely even blinked, he didn't tell me to shut up or tried to sucker punch me."
"So you think Miles has cracked?" Bass asks quietly, fingering the rim of his glass, but not drinking from it yet.
"I think you finally managed to break him," Jeremy says seriously. "It's what you wanted- isn't it?" Bass doesn't answer; instead he stares at his glass a moment, before downing his drink.
"Thank you for the information, Captain Baker," Bass dismisses him formally.
"Sir- may I speak freely?" Jeremy says in uncharacteristic tentativeness.
"Would it stop you if I said 'no'?" Bass huffs a chuckle. Jeremy shifts on his feet and waits until Bass finally says: "Go ahead."
"I know what Miles means to you," Jeremy says softly. "I know that you don't want him dead, even after everything he did- I get it. You're still hoping that he can come back, that you can get Miles back… But Bass- Miles isn't coming back from this; he's the walking dead and the best thing for everyone involved-especially him- is to put him out of his misery. Putting a bullet between his eyes is the merciful thing to do, for both of your sakes."
"Are you finished?" Bass asks coolly, not meeting his eyes.
"Yes, Sir," Jeremy sighs, resigned. Bass dismisses him once more and this time Jeremy walks out of his office in a heavy stride.
Bass waits a few minutes until he can no longer hear Jeremy's footsteps down the hall. He grabs his glass and tosses it against the wall, feeling satisfied when it smashes to pieces. He leans on his desk, gripping the edges tightly as the room spins for a moment. He closes his eyes and takes deep, calming breaths; trying to get himself under control.
He refuses to fall apart over Miles fucking Matheson. If Miles isn't faking it and playing dead, then he's probably just depressed. Bass has been there and he's seen Miles at his lowest lows- something Miles would never let Jeremy witness. Miles is a fighter, he always has been. Even when he's given up, there's always been a spark there, waiting for someone to come and ignite it once more.
Bass busies himself with charts and maps all day, going over battle plans, field reports and even inventory. In the evening, when he runs out of things to do, he finally caves and goes to Miles' cell.
It's one of the smaller ones- just a cot and a bucket really- and the chair they bring him takes up the rest of the space. There's a small barred window on the wall over the cot, near the ceiling that lets in a beam of moonlight. The walls are peeling and the air is dank and stinks of excrement. One of the guards tries to insist on staying inside, but there's barely enough room for two, let alone three and Bass doesn't think Miles is stupid enough to try anything.
Bass takes a deep breath, strides into the cell purposely and waits patiently until they lock the cell door. His heart is beating like a jackrabbit in his chest and he tries to calm his nerves, before he talks. "Hello Miles."
Miles completely ignores him, sitting on his cot and staring at the wall. His arms are handcuffed behind his back and his clothes seem to hang off of him. His face is gaunt, tight and his expression stony and unreadable. The guards have been forcing him to drink, but it's not that easy to force down solid foods. They've been feeding him various soups and juices, but it's not enough and he's lost some weight since Bass last saw him.
"You know, hunger strikes tend to be more effective, if you tell someone what you hope to achieve," Bass says pleasantly, sitting on the chair across from him.
Still no response from Miles. "And if this is your way of killing yourself, well it's a bit passive for you, isn't it? Why not bash your head against the wall or something? I bet Charlotte would have done something by now, rather than just waste away." That got him a flinch and Bass knows exactly which buttons to push.
"Do you think she'd be proud of you- giving up your Rebel buddies so quickly?" He wonders aloud. "But I guess that's nothing compared to getting her and her whole family killed." Miles' eyes finally, slowly wonder towards Bass in a heated glare, before they return to the wall. He still doesn't talk.
"The Militia was your idea, not mine," Bass says placidly, leaning forward. "You're the one who had to restore order- remember when we rescued Jeremy? It wasn't enough that we saved him, oh no- you had to kill those two unarmed men in cold blood, to stop them from killing and robbing other people. You never could leave well enough alone, could you? You always had to do something. You wrote the rules, Miles; you created the brand and the conscription boats; you trained the men and taught them what to do and how."
Bass' voice gets more animated as he goes on. "And then what do you do? You try and kill your best friend and just abandon me, abandon everything you used to believe in. So you have no one to blame but yourself for what happens in your absence." He gets up angrily and pounds twice on the door, signaling that he's done. He scowls at Miles, but he doesn't even look away from the wall. Bass leaves the cell more riled up than he went in, his emotions simmering in his insides.
His night is restless. Every time he closes his eyes he sees Miles' eyes from the brief glance he gave him. There was anger there, sure- but there was also hurt and grief and doubt and something else that Bass isn't ready to face yet. He finally gives up on sleep at 4 AM and goes back to Miles' cell. Miles is lying on his side, facing the wall- but Bass knows he's a light sleeper and that he would have heard him. Bass waits as the guard puts the chair back in and shuts the door behind him.
Bass sits down on the chair heavily. "I can't sleep, haven't had a good night's sleep in… weeks," Bass admits, his voice raspy. "Not that I imagine you slept any better. When I do fall asleep, I keep having these dreams…" Bass shakes his head and fights down a shiver. "I need to ask you something, a question I've been asking myself over and over all these years: Why'd you do it, Miles? Why did you try to kill me- twice- and then cut and run?"
Miles doesn't respond, gives no indication he's even heard him, but once Bass got started, he can't seem to stop. "Dammit Miles! Don't I at least deserve to know why? If I ever meant anything to you, you'd tell me what I did to deserve it!" He takes a shaky breath and tries to control his anger. He doesn't expect an answer, knows it was pointless to even come here. He stands up, pushing back his chair and raps on the door for the guard.
"You went too far."
Bass turns around so fast he gets a kink in his neck. He motions away the guard when he opens the door and sits back down. Miles slowly rolls over onto his other side, facing Bass, but he still doesn't look up at him. "You changed, The Militia changed- for the worse," Miles croaks, his throat raw from disuse. "There was so much blood, I couldn't stomach it anymore, couldn't look the other way."
"Then you should have tried to talk to me-"
"You should have tried harder!" Bass nearly yells, before he can get himself under control. "If I were you, I wouldn't have put a gun to your head and then bolted!"
"You wouldn't have even noticed something was wrong," Miles says acerbically. "You stopped caring; all you cared about was power."
"That's not true and you know it," Bass argues vehemently. "I cared about you."
"No, you didn't."
"Of course I did-"
"Really, Bass? You cared about me so much that you let me think Rachel was dead for years and that it was my fault? You cared about me so much that you killed my own brother?"
"That was an accident; Tom was under orders to bring him in alive-"
"And then what? After you kidnap him and tear him away from his family- what was the plan, Bass? You'd ask him politely about the blackout and when that fails, what then? Would you have tortured him, hmm? Or would you have tortured Rachel to get him to talk?" Miles lets out a mirthless chuckle. "They're my family Bass, it used to mean something to you, but you're so far gone now, that you can't even see it. And what you did to Charlie and Rachel and…"
Miles cuts himself off, coughing slightly. "The Bass I knew would have never done that. The Bass that I found in the graveyard with a loaded gun, who told me he had nothing left and it should have been him- that Bass would have put a bullet in his own brain before doing that to someone else."
"Maybe you shouldn't have saved me then," Bass says. "Maybe you should have let me kill myself."
"I wish I had."
Bass gets up so quickly, he topples the chair over and it crashes loudly to the ground, the sound reverberating through the small cell. He stalks out of the cell, silently fuming, and goes to find Major Neville and see if there are any uncooperative rebels to question.