Chapter 9: A Good Old-Fashioned Heist

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Sam sits in his cell, dejected. He rummages for a bobby pin in a secret pocket of his patchwork suit, turns the pin over in his fingers, then tosses it across the room. “What's the point,” he mutters. The door swings open. A guard comes in with a cafeteria tray. “I'm not hungry,” says Sam.

“Not even for a good old-fashioned heist?”

Sam looks up at the guard's face for the first time. “Forty-three?”

“The one and only,” says Forty-three. “I'm here to rescue you.”

“Where's Forty-two? And Cam?”

“No time to explain. We're heisting!”

“I don't follow.”

“We got to talking to some of the rebels here. Turns out, not all of 'em are happy with the way things are running. We're staging a little rebellion within a rebellion. Heh, heh.”

“I knew I could count on you two,” says Sam. “Listen, Applegate's lost it. He's taunting Forty-five into launching an airstrike on the Faceless Mount. They have the Constitution up there. The original. It'll be incinerated. They're trying to stage it so Forty-five is responsible, but they'll be just as culpable, and the document will be just as dead.”

“We know,” says Forty-three. “Don't worry, we've got a plan to get it back. Come on, before they come to check on you.”

Forty-three leads Sam into the hallway, where he's parked a souped up Segway with flames painted on the wheels. He hops on, starts it up and immediately falls on his face. Sam gives him a hand up.

“I hate when that happens,” say Forty-three. “Come on, we'll just jog.”

They meet up with the rest of the mutineers at the entrance to a tunnel. A monorail shuttle stands ready to ship them down the tunnel.

“What took you so long?” says Forty-two.

“We had a little trouble with the Segway.”

“We don't have much time,” says one of the rebels in a soft voice. He half-leans on a big walking stick. “This tunnel leads to an elevator that goes straight up to the Faceless Mount. We need to get in there and get it out. Cam is ready with his airship. He'll swoop in when we give him the signal. Take this radio, Sam. You'll be stationed at the exit. When the Constitution in removed from its display case, the alarms will automatically sound. That's when you'll need to signal Cam. The code phrase is 'Hey, Cam, it's time to swoop in now.' Does everybody know what they're doing? Good. Let's ride.”

“Halt!” says one of the guards as Twenty-six steps off the shuttle. “What's the meaning of this? The heads have been evacuated. You all need to turn back now.”

“Wouldn't you know it, in all the excitement of packing, I left my glasses upstairs. It'll only take a minute. I know exactly where I left them. It is my head, after all.”

“Sorry, Mr. President,” says the guard. “Nobody's allowed back up. General's orders.”

“If you're just going back for your glasses, why'd you bring all them with you?” says the other guard, motioning toward the shuttle. “You've got, like, twenty people in there.”

“Well, I thought, as long as I'm going back for my glasses, I might as well give these guys a look at the place,” says Twenty-six. “They've never seen the old melon from the inside. We won't take long. Just a quick gander for old times' sake.”

“Absolutely no one is allowed in the heads,” says the guard. “Especially not some glorified tour group.” He looks at the rebels stepping out of the shuttle. “You've all been with the rebellion long enough to see upstairs. It's not my fault if you put it off until it was too late.”

“Hold on,” says the other guard. “Aren't the other presidents supposed to be in lockup?”

“The funny thing about 'supposed to' is-” Twenty-six twirls his stick and knocks the guard on the side of the head. Before the other guard can react, he's been knocked out with the other end of the stick. He grabs a badge from the first guard's lanyard and swipes it next to the door. The elevator slides open with a ding. “They'll have a headache in the morning,” says Twenty-six. “You two,” he points at two of the mutineers. “Stay here and hold off anybody that tries to follow us.”

“We'll do our best.”

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” He grabs the submachine guns from the unconscious guards and hands them to the rebels.

The heads are cavernous inside, and nearly empty. Blasted stone domes that turn a whisper into a thousand echoes. “The document is this way,” says Twenty-six. “Inside the First. You three, go with Sam. Make sure we have a clear way out. Presidents, and the rest of the mutineers, with me. Do a good job, and there might be a place for you in the Rough Riders. I'm thinking of starting it up again. It's a cool name, right?”

Forty-two leans in and whispers to Forty-three, “He's a little different than I expected.”

“He did invent the Teddy bear, though, right?”

“Enough lollygagging, men. This is it. Tonight, we save Democracy.”

They charge through the wooden door into the head of The First, splintering it off its hinges. There, in the middle of the room, encased in a glass display, illuminated only by emergency lights, is the original U.S. Constitution.

“It's beautiful,” says one of the rebels.

“I can feel it in my bones,” says Forty-two.

“I feel like when my foot falls asleep, but it's my whole body,” says Forty-three.

Twenty-six takes a step toward the document. His muscles flex, ripping his shirt to shreds which fall away like feathers.

“I had a feeling you'd be making you way up here.” The voice seems to come from all around, echoing in circles around the dome.

“Who's there?” says Twenty-six. “Show yourself.”

The floor around the display case slides open. The case itself rises toward the ceiling, borne upon the back of a hulking robot cobbled together from flag poles and ancient voting machines. In the center of the robot, controlling its movements, sits another ex-president.

“Seven,” says Twenty-six. “I didn't expect to see you here. Come on, we have to get that to safety. Thanks for building whatever that thing is to carry it, I guess.”

“Fools,” says Seven. “I've been here all along. Who do you think convinced General Applegate to bring the document up here, and to evacuate the heads. That was all I needed to complete construction of my Freedom Enforcer. With the Constitution, I finally have a power source. Nothing can stop us now. With my creation, I will crush everything in my path into glorious freedom!”

“But the airstrike,” says Forty-two. “There'll be bombs falling on us any minute now.”

“Forty-five's men couldn't bomb the broad side of a barn,” says Seven. “They might hit the rebel base, but they'll not come anywhere near the heads. Now,” he moves his hand and the robot's arm swings forward, grabbing Twenty-six in its massive fist. “Who wants to be free?”