Chapter 12: The Effects of Pugilism on Giants Made of Stone

Three ex-presidents tumble through the air, Number Twenty-six still in his werebear form. Forty-two clutches his saxophone as if to cushion its fall. Forty-three secretly wishes he'd worn his flight suit costume, because then at least he'd look cool.

Far above, silhouetted against the sky, is the receding face of The First, carved from the rock of the mountain and animated by the power of the Constitution. Far below and getting closer is the ground. Off to the side, some dark shape moves against the brownish green of the forest. It quickly grows, spreading like a stain in their wind-blurred vision. No, not growing. Getting closer.

They land with a thump, hard and painful but strangely cushioned. “That was a close one,” somebody says. It's Sam, standing on top of Cam's dirigible with a rope tied around his waist. He hands out ropes with carabiners attached. “Get clipped in, fellas. It's just a short slide, a little swing, and then we'll be inside. Then Cam can fly us out of here.”

The stone giant form of The First spots the aircraft and stiffly turns to swat at it. They all hug the roof as Cam maneuvers out of the way.

“I'm not leaving,” says Twenty-six. He's morphed back into his human form, and he stands naked, unashamed.

“The hell you say?” says Sam.

“Seven still has the document. I know what I need to do now.” He makes a loop with his rope and puts his hand through it. “This will come in handy, I think. Here's what I need you to do. And hurry, we don't have much time.”

 

 

“He's nuts,” says Cam. “It's gonna be like trying to hit a bullseye with a yo-yo tied to a blimp. Which is pretty much what we're doing.”

“But you can do it, right?” says Sam.

“Of course I can. As long as it opens up like he says it will.”

The dirigible picks up speed, a small nude figure dangling from it on a rope. The First gains on it, stepping awkwardly as it finds its legs. The airship swoops down, aiming to buzz the top of the giant stone head of Twenty-six, still embedded in the mountain. Sure enough, as the real Twenty-six swings closer, the stone mouth opens. Cam throws the ship into full reverse, backing off of the giant bust's hairline at the last second and launching Twenty-six into the opening. Forty-three throws his hands into the air. “Goal!”

“Now,” says Cam, turning the ship and rising above the grasping hands of The First, “let's get a ringside view.”

 

 

Twenty-six lets go of the rope and soars feet-first into his own cavernous mouth. He morphs into his bear form just before landing, to better absorb the impact and heal from any petty human wounds. He quickly reverts to his human form. This is not a job for a bear.

The mountain rumbles, sending loose boulders tumbling down its slopes. Any animals that didn't flee when The First rose do so now. The stone giant form of Twenty-six stands erect. He turns to The First, and he puts up his dukes.

“My money's on the one with the mustache,” says Forty-three.

“Of course it is,” says Forty-two. “He's on our side. We're supposed to be rooting for him.”

Forty-three shrugs. “Even besides that. He looks scrappy.”

The First opens its mouth, and a booming voice emanates from it. “You think you can defeat me? I have the document. I have The First. I have a robot. What do you have?”

“Years of boxing experience,” says Twenty-six. “My apologies to Number One, but that's his head you're in.” His giant stone form hits The First square in the nose. The stone head cracks around its circumference, splitting under the ears and all the way around the back of the skull. The entire top of the head flies off, powdered wig and all, leaving Seven and his robot exposed in the now open lower jaw.

“That was fast,” says Forty-two. “And kind of anticlimactic.”

“I knew our boy could do it,” says Forty-three.

“It's not done yet,” says Sam.

Twenty-six's giant reaches up and pinches the top of Seven's robot, a delicate gesture for a gargantuan stone figure. The robot tries to swat his hand away, but it's like an ant slapping an elephant. The glass on the display case cracks, and Twenty-six raises his granite hand, clutching the Constitution gently between his fingertips. He sticks the fingers into his mouth, where his still-nude flesh body retrieves the Constitution from their enormous grasp. He turns the gray giant toward the airship and gives a wave of triumph.

Sparks of red, white and blue fly from Seven's robot. His voice buzzes like a swarm of insects. “Fools! You don't know how to harness it. I'm the only one that understands it.” With a final burst of energy, a parting shot before the residual power of the Constitution bleeds from his nested bodies, Seven makes a fist with The First's right hand. Before they can warn Twenty-six, or intercede on his behalf, before his stone eyes see it coming, the fist has connected with his head.

The First lurches forward, pulled by momentum. Twenty-six's stone head is free from its neck now, a granite cannonball sailing over the South Dakotan forest. It lands nearly a mile away. The giant's body, absent its pilot, falls with The First. They seem to fall for hours, toppling together under the stoic gaze of Three and Sixteen and the shocked faces of the crew in the airship.

They fall for what seems a long time, but not forever, and when they hit the ground, it's felt across all fifty states.