Chapter 10: Bear v. Lion

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The giant robotic hand of President Number Seven's Freedom Enforcer grips harder, controlled by Seven's own hand. The air squeezes out of U.S. President Number Twenty-six with a grunt.

“You're crushing him!” says Forty-three.

“You don't have to do this,” says Forty-two. “We're all on the same team here, Seven. Just put him down, and we can talk this out. Vote on it. Simple majority, like we always do.”

“Well, not always,” says Forty-three.

“One man with courage makes a majority,” says Seven, and squeezes harder.

“Well, now you just sound like a supervillain,” says Forty-two.

“You want him back? Take him.” The Freedom Enforcer's arm swings back and tosses Twenty-six at the other presidents. They break his fall, but all three end up on the floor in a heap. The flag-festooned robot stomps forward. Seven looks down on them from the cockpit. “The Constitution is mine, gentlemen. I'm the first man in history to realize its true power. Only I can harness it.”

“Speaking of supervillains,” says Forty-three, “now you're starting to sound like another president I won't name here.”

“There's no other like me.”

“Let's keep it that way,” says Twenty-six.

“And how are you going to stop me? Look at you. You're pathetic. No power. No name. No votes.”

Twenty-six coughs, and a little bit of blood trickles out. He grabs his walking stick from where it's fallen nearby and pushes himself to his feet. He says something in a low, soft voice.

Seven leans forward. “What did you say? You're mumbling. Even your voice fails you.”

“I said, 'what's brown and sticky?'”

“Lots of things. Molasses-”

“A stick.” Twenty-six's walking stick rips through the air with a whoosh. It strikes Seven in the chin. The robot staggers backwards, raising its arms in unison with Seven's own. Twenty-six rushes around the side of the hulking construct and raises his stick to smash the display case that holds the Constitution, the source of the machine's power. Inches from the glass, the robot blocks the strike. It yanks the stick out of his hand and snaps it in two like a pencil, then kicks Twenty-six square in the chest. He flies like a ragdoll and slaps against the wall, out cold.

“Nothing can stop me now,” says Seven. “I'll defeat you one by one, absorbing your power with every victory. I will reclaim my name, regain the Presidency, and crush the world into tiny pieces of Freedom.”

A low rumble, almost a growl, comes from Twenty-six's body. His arms twitch, flex, then seem to grow. His mustache lengthens, followed by the rest of his body hair. His clothes rip under the pressure from his swelling flesh. His nose and mouth protrude. Claws curl from his enormous fingers. He opens his eyes, two black wells. His lip curls into a sneer over his pointed teeth. He looks Seven straight in the eye, and in a low bearitone, he says, “You broke my stick.”