In the US Army, they’d taught them about heroes. They’d taught them about the Medal of Honor and the men who won it. They’d brought in vets with various ribbons to show them what each of them meant and what it took to get each one. They showed you the glory bestowed on suicidal bravery, and stopped just short of actually encouraging you to follow in their footsteps.
They were more honest in the Other army. They had never hidden that heroes were created by the morale officers, not born. They still tried to make them, though. Red was never sure if it was because they couldn’t grasp the concept of it not working anymore after they admitted the sham, or if they really were nothing but a sick reflection of the real army and couldn’t stop if they wanted to. In any case, he knew what heroes were now. They were tools, and the people who used them would throw them in the grinder the second it was more advantageous than patting them on the back. It didn’t stop him from feeling off about what had to be done with Wolfe. But it did mean that, no matter what he did or how he want down, he didn’t expect anything else for himself.
Dead is dead, mission is mission, that’s what Baz used to say. Red hadn’t run into him in awhile, but he knew he was still out there, working toward his objective. He might not be thrilled that Red hadn’t taken a shot at Galt the night Dante’s opened, but Red had his own mission now, and he didn’t take orders from anyone who he hadn’t chosen as a commander anymore. Baz’s was good and all, but there were priorities. Galt was nothing but scumbags worshipping a lunatic, but national defense came before domestic politics.
On that note, the order was almost ready to take its first steps. One meeting, to give info and gauge interest in how far people were willing to commit, and Red would know what he had. If nothing came of it, nothing lost, at least far as he could see. But if people felt like he did, then this could be the start of something important. Something powerful. If war really came, they’d be the Freehold’s best line of defense. They’d be…
Red stopped himself. He had almost said it. As much as he knew it was stupid, he still wanted it. The recognition, the fame, the thanks. They would never be heroes. Depending on how things went, they’d either be people doing their job and probably dying for it, or the paranoid neighbor watching his lawn a little too close. People who thought themselves heroes were always fooling themselves dangerously.
As far as Red could tell, thinking you were a hero is how the whole ‘Hunting’ thing got started. These were people who thought they were doing good, who were honestly trying. If Red had found out about the wider world another way, he might be one of them. But with any amount of sight, you could see they did as much harm as good. Even Finch was wandering into areas that could get people hurt, and even being blackmailed hadn’t made Red think against him. He wasn’t sure why he wanted Sparviero or whatever, but whether it was it was to do an exposee on a hitman or to get in contact with a dangerous hunter, it wasn’t good, and Red strongly suspected that Wu was behind it. He might make himself a problem, and not one Red was looking forward to cleaning up.
Red knew he needed to give up on glory and heroes. Coyote had passed up command of the greatest weapon ever conceived, and it had been the right choice. If he hadn’t, he’d be a hero. And a lot of people would be dead. So he needed to be like Coyote. Powerful, but not for its own sake. Strong, but slow to strike. Honorable, but wise enough to remember that honor wasn’t worth lives. Red was ready to dig, and to fight, to meet in secret, and to open doors, and he was ready for all the consequences, practical and moral, that might come. But it didn’t mean he had to be happy about it.