Chapter XXVII:

Into the Breach

They had stopped in front of the main entrance to the White House. There were so many of them, come out of the woodwork and their hiding places to follow Leon down the street, as if they knew the importance of his mission. Now they faced him rather than the security guards, who, to Leon’s eyes, looked quite nervous. They must know that no one, no police officers, no one in the real world beyond the White House gates, was coming to help them. But Leon watched as several more cars reached the opposite side of the gate. More security guards. There had to be some thirty-five of them altogether. Quixotes would die if they stormed the gate like this. Did Leon want that on his conscience?

One of the guards kept speaking into the megaphone: “THIS IS AN UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY. DISPERSE OR WE WILL DO IT FOR YOU!”

The threat, guns drawn, was less than subtle. The guards formed a line beyond the gate, though the Quixotes barely seemed to notice. They only faced Leon, as if waiting for their cue. Leon wasn’t sure that he wanted to give it.

Heather was in there somewhere. What were they doing to her? Was he strong enough to sacrifice the lives of strangers to save someone important to him? And what was in store for him on the other side of those gates? Just as it had been since the thing had first come to him, there were a thousand times more questions than answers, but, and this was different, today there was the chance that those questions might discover their complementary answers. Yet who knows what waited for him inside the White House.

There was so much power he felt clenched in his fist. He remembered: the power to make it universal, and he looked at the security guards. Maybe he could save some Quixote lives as well, before the guards even got the chance to shoot them.

The security guards were looking at him too now. The only unturned person among the thousands before them.

Following his instincts, Leon raised the Quixote and turned it to face the guards.

Sparks began to crackle in his hand, thousands of painless hot nettles pricking his palm and fingers, like it were charging up for something.

“Come on,” Leon said. “Let me see it.”

He imagined a beam of light striking the security guards, and an answering sound of silence suddenly enveloping them as the motorcycle helmets came down over their eyes.

The thing jumped and popped as if it were trying to escape his grasp. Leon brought his other hand up to hold it steady, facing the security guards, who had gone mute. He saw that the sights of their guns were now trained on him, fear in their eyes.

“Go,” he said, and the Quixote cracked with approval. On the street beneath him the Quixotes close to the gate followed his advice, all of them turning towards the White House and the gate and the security booth and their Secret Service weapons and SUVs, and they marched forwards.

“Knock it down,” Leon said, and watched them take on the gate, the press of thousands of mute, helpless bodies. The security guards did not fire on them, hesitating between the apparent leader of them, and the crowd itself. How many lives were put on the line, all at once. He had to do something.

The Quixote still sparking in his hand, Leon imagined that it were a weapon to be channeled.

He aimed it at the main gate, which was groaning under the weight of the Quixotes, and, indeed, he watched some of the security guards take the safety off their assault rifles.

Do something, the Quixote said. Now.

“I will,” and the thing in his hand responded.

A beam of light fanned out from his hand and flashed towards the gate, catching each of the security guards and causing them to drop their guns. Just like there had been before, at the over-turned car, there was a popping sound like a vacuum being filled in, and the security guards had become Quixotes themselves, and were already turning to join the masses, but there were surely more guards where those had come from.

The gate stood no chance beneath the weight of the crowd. Frontline Quixotes crushed cruelly against its metal, it finally buckled and fell back and the crowd followed it in, streaming into the road and the lawn beyond like a hive of ants.

It was quite a thrill, wielding such power and directing it. Leon’s own army, a master weapon under his control. He had come to the right place. There was no doubt in his mind.

He jumped down from the car and followed the crowd into the grounds of the White House, the significance of his mission striking home at the weight of the place he was infiltrating. This was a big deal. People were dying out there.

You’re doing the right thing, Leon, the voice told him.

“I hope you aren’t lying to me,” he answered, acknowledging a momentary doubt in his chest at the soundless voice: it was possible that the thing had been lying to him all along.

You have to trust me.

“I have no choice.”

Past the gates now the Quixotes fanned out across the lawn. There were more security guards at the White House itself. Leon heard some gunshots, but he did not fear the bullets, when he would come to them himself. His power was such that he felt invincible.

I’m all you need, Leon, the thing told him. I’m here to help you and help everyone else.

“They kidnapped my girlfriend.”

She is in danger.

“Will I find her?”

If you know where to look.

He had reached the stairs towards the front door of the White House. There were Quixotes in a chaotic crowd all around him, and security guards at the door. Leon aimed his Quixote at them and fired, and their guns fell harmlessly out of their hands. The Quixotes attempted to spear them with their lances, but the ends were far too dull to do any serious damage.

The elaborately carved door swung open and more security guards came rushing out. Leon turned them instantly, and watched the rest of the Quixotes envelop them, all becoming indistinguishable from each other. His power throbbed in hand, through his mind and heart and body. It was like he was becoming one with everything. No more words or megaphones, only the clip-clop of the Quixotes’ hooves.

The door to the White House was still opening. Inside he saw a blue carpet, elaborate chandeliers, doorways and furniture lining the hallway.

The Quixotes did not cross into it.

Leon turned around.

The Quixotes had fanned out across the lawn, come up to the windows, and were milling about. Leon heard more gunshots around the corner from him. The sound of lives being taken, but there was nothing he could do about that. It wasn’t why he’d come here, but why had he come here? It couldn’t just be for Heather, with the enormity of it all. There was something about the thing in his hand, now, that he realized he did not trust, some game that it was playing. Why had it come to him, of all people?

There’s no reason why, the voice interjected. You were as good as anyone else would have been, but you do not know the half of why it happened in the first place.

“Is that something I’m to discover?” he asked.

Maybe. If you live that long. But make no mistake about it, Leon, there is no going back to the way things were.

“I’ve been taken.”

Yes you have. But so far we could not be more pleased with our choice of champion.

“‘We,’” Leon mouthed the word, and it felt dirty to him. Who on earth was ‘we’?

Turn around, the thing said. Go where you need to go.

“I will,” he said, and turned around.

Find Heather. Rescue her. She needs you more than any of the rest of them.

“Shut up,” he said.

The plush hallway yawned before him, empty of human, Quixote or sun-orb life.

Go, the thing said.

Leon went. The doors swung shut behind him as if an invisible force had so compelled them.

Once again, Leon was alone. The quiet enveloped him, not a single sound: no phones, no conversations, no fax machines.

It was just he and the Quixote, once again.

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