“American Blood” by Passion Pit from Iron Man 3: Heroes Fall
I’ve failed. Not on mission. I’ve never failed on mission.
But I’ve failed The Mission.
I really believed it. I wasn’t cynical like Jones, in it just for a paycheck and a chance to strut and be feared. I wasn’t like Sparx either, long gone and there for an excuse to kill without going to jail. Hell, I wasn’t even like Glenwood, doing it because who else would while hating every minute of it. I was a true believer.
Yes, we did things I knew were against the rules. Against morals. But I thought it was in service of something bigger. Something beautiful. I never reacted out of anger or hate or bloodlust but always to protect and promote ideals. We did the terrible things so the ideals could survive. That’s what I thought.
He was attractive. It’s rotten to say but I suspect it is true. If I hadn’t noticed him…like that, I doubt my curiosity would’ve lasted. But he was and it did. So when the insomnia came, I found myself in an all-night business center hunting down his digital trail. And it was strange. People generally think they’re better at hiding their tracks online then they are but really they leave neon lines crisscrossing the digital space, revealing who they are under the skin. And he was no different. But his interests were…normal? Average? Checking out exes and never was. Dirty pictures. Weird black holes about urban legends. Trashy pop music.
But none of the things we had been trained to spot. No hot words. No signs of radicalization. He didn’t even seem to be reading articles about politics, nevermind getting whipped into a frenzy.
So I went further. Visits with friends and family. Posing as a newpaper reporter here, a private investigator there, a friend from college here, a stunned ex there. Each stop too separated from the previous and the next to check in with one another and expose me. The disguises helped too, of course, but better safe than sorry. Nothing. No one knew anything. His apartment revealed nothing. An old storage unit exposed nothing but a love of nickel statues of cartoon characters from the 40’s. Why were we ordered to do this?
As I grew increasingly convinced a mistake had been made, I grew sloppy too. Before long Glenwood could not ignore me and sent Dutch. Poor, poor Dutch. A young thrillseeker looking for a pardon from a particularly misspent youth. He was dedicated to the dream like me but he was no monster either. And ultimately that’s why he was easy to beat. He lacked the resolve or the illness to do what was necessary.
From there, I decided to stop messing around. If I was exposed, there was no reason not to go right to the source.
The Director didn’t bother pretending to me. He laughed like sandpaper and explained that our target had seen something and while he didn’t seem to know what, we had to take him out. What he had seen? A politician having an affair. Not the President even. Just someone “friendly” to our squad. Someone the Director didn’t want to risk having out of office. Didn’t want another official getting voted in to ask us questions.
In this day and age he had us kill a man who might have seen a politician cheating.
It was too much for me. The Director was never a soldier, not really. Just a kid playing in a costume. He went fast. I thought about the men and women I had been alongside, who died as heroes, who never achieved what he had because they were too committed to be cowardly like him.
I raided the archives. Thousands of lies laid bare before me. The Dream dying over and over for selfish men to get paid, for selfish men to never have to face their legacies, for selfish men to pat themselves on the back as heroes and delay their punishment for the afterlife.
And now here I sit. Trained to be a weapon of the Dream with no Dream left to protect. Only a System that I propped up again and again so the rich and powerful could exploit the citizens. The world. What does a man like me do?
Tear it all down? Burn it to the ground and salt the Earth? Leave nothing behind but scar tissues and whispers?
Feels right to me.