Old Ventures 2, Ch. 10

Ten, Washington, D.C.

Hugh hoped Jack wasn’t this stupid, but that was wishful thinking. He’d known Jack for sixty years, and he’d always been a stubborn jackass- especially when he thought he was right. And he always thought he was right.

He hoped he would be able to head Jack off at his cache here in D.C., a little storage shed where he kept guns, black clothes, everything you could need to break and enter. Or clandestinely kill someone. He missed him there. He would never forgive himself if he missed him here.

Hugh watched through telescopic lenses in his suit as Jack vaulted the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and sighed. He set off his counter-protocols, taking temporary control of the White House’s myriad security systems. This was going to cost him a dozen favors and likely millions of dollars, and that was if he and Jack managed to avoid living out the rest of their lives in a CIA black site.

He opened up a call that immediately rang through to the Secret Service. “That preparedness drill we talked about, it’s happening. Now,” he said. He didn’t wait for a confirmation, and disconnected the call.

He cut his suit’s engines, and turned so his body was a missile aimed at the White House lawn. The suit calculated the last possible moment to stop, and he pushed that by a third of a second, the g-forces nearly knocking him unconscious as he fired his engines in the direction of his fall, hovering above the White House lawn mere feet from Jack.

“Lovely night for a stroll,” Hugh said, his voice distorted somewhat by the suit.

“It’s winter in Washington,” Jack replied. “Witch teats are warmer.”

“Which teats?” Hugh asked with a smile on his lips, one Jack didn’t return.

“You here to help me, Hugh, or stop me?”

“That depends on what you’re here to do.”

“Same thing I always do, what’s right,” Jack said, and dropped his bag, and rolled a rope off his shoulder. He stretched his back, then twisted his neck from side to side.

“This is silly,” Hugh said. “Even in your prime, before your knees went out and when my suits were practically using steam power and analog controls, you couldn’t take me.”

“That’s silly,” Jack said, “because before this second, you were never defending tyranny.” Jack reeled, throwing a punch that was faster than Hugh expected- but not so fast the suit couldn’t dodge. But it was a feint, and Jack seized the back of his head, and rolled Hugh over his shoulder. Hugh was powerless to do anything but wait for gravity to bring him crashing back into the dirt.

“That was humbling,” Hugh said, pulling a clod of grass and soil off his face.

“Then this is going to be downright embarrassing,” Jack said, dropping flat onto the grass. Hugh had time enough to look down and see several explosives at his feet.

“Oh, mother-” the explosion threw him again into the air, only this time he landed on his head. Jack took a crowbar to one of the panels on Hugh’s back. Hugh could hear metal warping even as he tried to push himself up. But he was struggling, as the suit’s operating power dwindled. “Damnit, Jack,” Hugh said, his knees knocking as he fought to keep the suit standing. With a hiss the suit opened enough for him to look his friend in the face and say, “Listen to me.”

“Okay,” Jack said, “I’ll give you a moment. But if you’re just stalling me so you can reroute power, I’ll peel you out of that tin can and box your ears.”

“Noted,” Hugh said. “Rose know you’re here?”

“Low blow,” Jack said.

“That’s a ‘No,’” Hugh said. “Ask yourself how I knew you’d be here?”

“Your spying makes the NSA’s tech look like a baby monitor?”

“Ian told me. He was worried what you were going to do.”

“I wouldn’t expect him to understand. He was three when I liberated my first concentration camp.”

“And I was, what, fifteen? Sixteen? I missed most of what fascism was really about- some of that certainly because the parallels between fascism and corporatism muddied the waters for me at that age. But I knew we were fighting evil, Jack. I was helping design better bombers, more robust planes.”

“You leave the states during the war?”

“No,” Hugh admitted.

“You’ve seen that evil in what, books? Documentaries.”  

“Jack… I’ve known you long enough to know that I can’t think my way around you- and if I can’t, probably no one can. So I just want to ask you a question. What’s this about?”

“Evil, Hugh. This is… it’s fascism, taking its first steps in our country. This is every half-drunk conversation about killing Hitler before he could start his pogroms; we can smother this evil in its crib.”

“Okay, Jack,” Hugh said. “I’ve also known you long enough to trust your moral compass. So if you’re telling me that the right thing to do, right now, is to break into the White House and murder an elected President… I’m with you. We’ll fight our way in, and I’ll hold the old bigot down while you run him through with an American flag.”

Jack glared. “I’ve covered Joey’s medical expenses, and will, of course, in perpetuity. So, if this is about Joey, about protecting him and loving him- not the way he wants but the way you always knee-jerked- with violence… then you know this isn’t right. Not here, not now, and not like this. So what’s it going to be, Jack?”

“You’re a real prick,” Jack said, and picked up his bag from the grass.

“So I’ve been told,” Hugh said, moving his arms.

“Playing opossum?”

“Only the last sixteen seconds or so. Not sure what you did back there but I’m going to have to engineer a counter-measure.”

“You’re welcome to try. And you’re buying.”

“I don’t drink anymore.” “S’okay,” Jack said, “just means I have to drink twice as much to make sure you get your money’s worth.”

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