Chapter 7: No Heroes

“They're not superheroes, Sam. They're human beings. And they're fugitives from the law.”

“An absurd law. You know that, Jack.”

“Don't call me 'Jack.'”

“Johnny, then?”

“General. Or sir.”

Sam raises his hands, jingling the chain that runs from his wrists through a hoop on the table. “Is this really necessary? You know me, General Jack. Remember The Fall? We've been through hell together.”

“This is hell,” says the General. “I thought I knew you.” He shakes his head. “But you can't trust anybody these days. Maybe you never could. In a way, maybe everything that's happened to this country is for the best. It's revealed everybody for who they really are. The American Experiment hasn't failed, we have.”

“You don't believe that, Jack. I know you don't. This country's entire history is full of horrors. We've seen times as bad as this before. Worse, even. There's a million embarrassing things we'd like to sweep under the rug of history. But what makes this country special, what makes the human race special, is not what we are or what we've done, but what we're capable of. We define our greatness not by what we've accomplished, but by what we strive for.”

The General nods. “Not bad. Give it a second draft, and it'll make a pretty good speech after the... After.” He stands. “There are things worth fighting for, Sam. Not ideals, not justice. Not some future utopia. We fight for control. Resources. Power. It's just how the world works, Sam. We were fools to believe otherwise.”

“Deep down, I know you don't believe that. If you did, you wouldn't have bothered to hold onto it. Keep it safe.”

“Keep what safe?”

“The Constitution,” says Sam.

“Oh, that. Yeah, we have it. For now. It's the real deal, too. We'll make sure they know that.”

“Make sure who knows?”

“The Media,” says the General. “State run media, real news, bloggers, all of them. There'll be no doubt that it was the original document.”

“What do you mean, 'was?'”

“We purposely leaked images of the document to various media sources. We assumed it would attract a few ex-presidents. The two you brought make a total of eight. Not a lot, but enough. A good variety, too. Some that are loved and hated by all sides. But all are hated by Forty-five. They're a constant reminder of his shortcomings. His failures, his incompetency. He'd do anything to get rid of them once and for all.”

“You didn't,” says Sam. “You brought them here just to-”

“We're not going to kill them. Well, we have no current plans to. They'll be safe here in the base. It's the mountain they'll be targeting. There's a skeleton crew there right now, preparing to install the document in a place of honor inside Number One's head. They'll evacuate long before any airstrike. We can expect zero casualties, and Forty-five will get the blame for cremating the Constitution. We can discuss what to do with the exes afterwards.” The General puts on his hat and opens the door to leave.

“You can't be serious,” says Sam. “Jack. If you do this, you- you'll be no better than them.”

The General pauses, his hand on the doorknob. He looks back at Sam. “I'm not.”