Chapter 5: An Interlude in the Golden Tower

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The fighter jets speed through the air, one chasing the other like a fox after a hound. They dive and climb, swooping and soaring in impossible maneuvers, until finally the pursuer has the rebel jet in its sights. Spittle flies, accompanied by the sound of gunfire. The rebel jet crashes nose-first into the desk, leaving a small gouge in the wood.

Across the cavernous room, the door creaks open. A man in a butler's uniform pushes a cart with a covered tray. “Snack time,” he says in a sing-song voice.

“I'm not hungry,” says Forty-five. “I'm shooting down losers.”

“You have to keep up your strength, Mr. President.”

“I told you not to call me that, Chris! I'm not the President anymore. That's fake news. It's illegal. I've never broken the law. I spoke to a judge, he said I was the most law-abiding citizen he'd ever seen. But you can't be the president. Let me tell you, I was the best. And if I was the president again, I could do great things. But you gotta have states' rights. So I'm the Governor. Governor of all the states. First person in history to do it. I have the most states out of anyone.”

“Well, not all the states. About half, at last count.” Chris sets a newspaper on the desk next to the crashed fighter jet. Forty-five snatches it up, tries to rip it in half but can't, tosses it onto the floor.

“Fake news!” he says. “I've got more states than anyone.”

“Yes, Mr. P- Governor,” says Chris. He whisks the dome off of the tray on the cart. “I made chicken fingers, but if you're not hungry, I guess I'll have to eat 'em all myself.” He picks up one of the morsels and pretends to eat it. “Om, nom nom, nom nom. Mmm, It's so good.”

“No, stop it,” says Forty-five. “I want it! You get meatloaf. That's all you eat.”

“Well, if you insist,” says Chris. He sets the tray on the desk. It's heaped with microwaved chicken fingers surrounded by condiment cups brimming with ketchup.

Forty-five sets down his fighter jet and tucks in. “Read me a story,” he says around a mouthful.

Chris picks up the newspaper and smooths out the wrinkles. He opens his mouth to read a headline, but he's cut off by the buzz of the intercom.

“Hold on, this could be important,” says Forty-five. He presses the button for the intercom, leaving a sheen of chicken grease. “What?” he says.

“Mr. Governor, it's the Chief. I've got vital intelligence for you.”

“Well, get in here. I made chicken fingers. Chris can't have any.”

The Chief strolls in with a grin on his face. He's in full uniform, complete with plastic badge. He's holding a briefcase in one hand. His other arm is behind his back, and when he gets close to the Governor's desk, he whips it around with a vrooom that echoes around the room. In his hand is a toy plane, and he flies it over the desk.

“Oh, cool, a bomber!” says Forty-five.

“Uh, oh!” says the Chief. “I think I see some enemy chicken strips down there. Bombs away!” He presses a switch on the plane and the bomb bay doors open, dropping plastic bombs onto the tray. One of them lands with a splat in the ketchup. Forty-five pumps his fist.

“Aw, he got one in your ketchup,” says Chris. “Here, let me clean that up for you.”

“Back off, turd pants,” says Forty-five. “I like it that way.” He picks up the plastic payload and sucks the ketchup off.

The Chief lands the bomber on the desk next to the fighter jets. “I brought that one just for you. There's fifteen-hundred more where that came from. Life size, with real bombs.”

“Yeah! Let's bomb the shit out of them.” Forty-five slams the bomb back into the ketchup, then pops it into his mouth like a sucker.

“Out of who?” says Chris. Forty-five spits the bomb at him. It hits his shirt, leaving a small red stain.

“I've got a few targets for you,” says the Chief. “I just got word that Forty-two and Forty-three launched an attack on a camp full of innocent homeless people. We sent in the NICE Boys to bring them in, but they blew up a bridge and escaped. Five of our men died. Real bad deaths, and it's not our fault.”

“What about Forty-four?” says Forty-five.

“Still no sign of him,” says the Chief, “but I've got good news. I just heard from a reliable source that the,” he looks from side to side as if to be sure that no one else is listening, “C-O-N-S-T-I-T-U-T-I-O-N has been spotted near a rebel base.”

“The construction?”

The Chief nods, his smile unwavering. “Not only that, but the Constitution, too. You're so smart to spell so good.”

“That's why I'm the Governor.” The Governor dips another chicken finger and takes a bite.

“You sure are,” says the Chief. “You're such a smart Governor. You did such a good job ordering that airstrike on the rebel base.”

Forty-five stops chewing for a second. “Oh, yeah, yeah. The airstrike.”

The Chief nods. “At least a few of the presidents are bound to be there when it happens. And we might just get the Constitution back while we're at it. You know. To keep it safe. There's just a little paperwork to sign. It's boring stuff, so I'll make it quick.” He opens his briefcase and presents a stack of documents to the Governor. "All this says, pretty much, is that you ordered those really tremendous airstrikes. And a few other little things."

“Mm-hmm.” Forty-five signs wherever the Chief points, spotting the papers with grease and ketchup. He tosses the pen at Chris, stuffs the last bite of chicken into his mouth and licks his fingers.

“Good job, sir,” says Chris. “You're in the Clean Plate Club today.”

“I'm not a baby, Chris!” he says through his mouthful.

“Well, I'd better go get started on that airstrike,” says the Chief. “I bet somebody wants a power nap after that big, manly meal.”

“Yeah,” says Forty-five. “Bring me my blanket, Chris. And pillows. I wanna do a desk fort.”