Oct. 27th, 2011

Nixon and I stagger up to the grotto level. It's like a battlefield. The smoke has largely cleared and the lights are on, but many of them have been shot up. The tombs are pocked with bullet craters, and the forms of dead men lie slumped in niches and sprawled in bloody piles. None of them look presidential.

We turn west and mount the steps to the central altar. All at once Aaron Burr sprints into the chamber from the north and draws up short. He has a cutlass in one hand and an Uzi in the other. "Hello," he says, looking faintly puzzled.

And then Jefferson flies in from the south. He has a flamethrower strapped to his back. Where did the third president of the United States get a flamethrower? Sometimes it is best not to ask certain questions. "Hello," says Jefferson, including Burr in his greeting.

"It would seem," Burr says, "that our weapons are hardly suitable for a gentleman's mode of dueling."

"Absolutely," agrees Jefferson. "For instance, it's almost impossible for me to miss you with this thing."

"You were a terrible president," Burr remarks.

"And you were the worst vice-president," Jefferson replies. There is a pregnant pause.

"Hey, you know what we need right now?" says Nixon brightly.

"What?" I ask.

"Floor!" says Nixon. He drags me to the ground, a split second before bullets fly and gouts of flame fill the grottoes.

"So they were running mates?" I ask Nixon, who's on top of me. He smells like old leather and Brylcreem.

"Yeah," mutters Nixon. "Used to be that veeps got the Process too, just in case. But then things soured between Burr and Jefferson; that was the end of that tradition."

The fight moves off to the east. "We should get out of here," I tell Nixon.

"Yeah, gimme a second," says Nixon. He rolls off me stiffly. He's weeping a little black fluid again.

"How's your head?" I ask, concerned.

"Head's fine," grumbles Nixon. "Burr just shot me in the ass."

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