Mission: The Good, The Bad and The Yeehaw
By Madeleine Gwynne
They both take the first step away from each other but they are near enough that they can still hear each other’s breathing,
The suspense begins to build. No one knows what is going to be the outcome.
The townspeople hold their breath, silent, as they watch it all unfold. Even the wind stills in anticipation.
The steps begin to blur together.
Fingers are itching to skip the wait and just shoot already.
It becomes a guaranteed win, but at what cost? It isn’t worth it.
This wasn’t the plan. It has all gone downhill so quickly. All that is left is the fact that a naive rookie is about to meet an idiotic death.
The guns go off, their sound echoing throughout the town. A body falls to the ground…
The blazing sun shines down, causing the scorching hot sand to be dangerous for bare feet to stand upon it. On the outskirts of the main town, everyone is hiding indoors, leaving the streets empty as they are all trying to escape the treacherous heat. These types of extreme weather conditions make it so much easier for the agents to make their arrival. Not that any townspeople would notice them anyway. For the only thing that announces their arrival was the echo of a faint clap as they land and the footprints they leave behind them as they make their way into town with the invisibility device still cloaking them. Even then, the dusty wind blows away their footprints easily enough.
They make their way behind the barber shop and once completely hidden out of sight, Commando deactivates the cloaking on him and Jerry.
‘Remember Agent, we get in and then get straight out. No detours, no flirting with waitresses like on the last mission and absolutely no use of weapons unless you are about to die. Our asses are already on the line so we cannot afford to fuck up. The asset went under detection for too long and now the whole timeline is at even more risk so we grab him and leave. Do you understand?’ Commando says.
Jerry stands up straight overly dramatically and mock salutes to Commando instead of just saying yes. Last time Jerry spoke an unnecessary reply Commando threatened to pop his head off. And judging by the way Commando is now looming over Jerry and staring down at him with the promise of brutal death in his eyes, that wasn’t the right answer either. But as Commando said, no mistakes mean no conflict, so Jerry could at least convince himself that he was safe for now. As Commando pushes past him and nearly sends him flying into the wall, Jerry knows for sure that Commando hasn’t warmed up to him still. He thought his cold demeanour was just an act for their bosses, so they wouldn’t think he was too soft for any missions. Apparently not. Jerry has come to the conclusion that Commando is like winter. It’s like he has the ability to give everyone around him frostbite, suffering, because he sucks the warmth out of every room he enters, and leaves a cold trail behind him wherever he goes. He probably isn’t even hot in this weather.
But there's nothing Jerry can do about any of it so he follows his partner into the tavern where the asset is located. Maybe if Jerry can prove he is actually worth something and show that he is partnered with Commando for a reason, maybe he will start to take a liking to him. Or at the very least, pretend to tolerate him and show his hatred less visibly. Surely managing to locate, capture and return the asset to their original timeline will be impressive enough? Screw it, he thinks, let’s do this. Jerry runs after Commando so that he can try to get ahead of him. He’ll make him regret ever doubting him as a partner.
Commando doesn’t know what he hates more. The fact it is 1870 and in order to blend in he has to wear frilly boots and a ridiculous cowboy hat in weather that could easily give him heatstroke. Or that he was partnered with the most pretentious, arrogant snob who’s only an agent because he is a lucky shot. He swears the Time-Keeper Agency wants to punish him by keeping Jerry by his side even though on their last mission, because of their inability to work together, King Charles III got kidnapped by the Eshays of Australia and nearly died. Commando has said it once to his bosses and he will continue to say it: he works better on his own.
He bursts through the wooden doors, letting them swing back and forth, not for dramatic effect but in the hopes that they hit Jerry as he comes in. And Commando’s wish came true. Jerry gets struck in the ribs by the doors as they swing towards the outside and leave him gasping for air. Commando only thinks it is highly unfortunate though that the lovely oak is now chipped and dented, and a piece of fine material is now ruined. It was bloody worth it though as he chuckles to himself at how Jerry is trying so hard to pretend that nothing just happened. Now Jerry is the one to give the death glare.
Commando looks back across the room and is unable to spot the target. Hopefully he is just in the bathroom taking a shit or something, he thinks to himself. Commando signals to Jerry to head to the back of the tavern to see if there is anything else back there while he keeps an eye on the door in case their asset decides to make an impromptu escape. At least now Jerry is out of the way for a bit and Commando can finally think better than just plotting revenge against the young kid.
As they split up and Jerry heads to the back area, Commando heads to bar in desperate need of a drink. These missions are starting to get to him. Now that he is forced to have partner that is more likely to fuck everything up. He could have easily done this job on his own, but the all mighty overlords came in and interfered, obsessing over their newest and smartest recruit. There are so many rules to follow that is just easier to be alone. But the agency is on edge. They don’t have enough people signing up for the academy and even fewer manage to actually graduate at the end of the program. Jerry not only managed to pass every trial with enormous success but he managed to graduate early. The only other person to do so was Commando himself. Now, twenty years later, he is stuck on a job with an unprofessional rookie and shitty whiskey that only burns his throat as it goes down. He wants to escape the bustling noise inside the tavern and leave all the raging alcoholic cowboys behind. It’s a good thing this era is well in the past. He is honestly surprised that no-one has pulled out their guns. Yet. At least the up-beat music on the piano will always remain a timeless classic. Now he just needs his musician man who is in the wrong to appear so that they can complete the mission and go home. Only a matter of time now.
On the other side of the bar, girls are falling over the top of each other, fighting and begging for attention just so that they can try and get a good tip. As Jerry heads further back, the lighting becomes darker, hiding people's faces more and more. He knows he has to proceed with caution. Getting on the wrong side of these people will create the exact kind of mistake Commando was talking about and put the whole mission at risk. Jerry notices a table crammed right into the back, hidden from view by the piano when he first walked into the tavern. As he walks towards the table, he can’t shake this nagging feeling that he should be going to go get back up for dealing with these guys. Commando would be able to help him and make sure nothing goes wrong but Jerry’s determination to prove himself is now taking over every other emotion. And so he walks up to the table and doesn’t even get out a ‘G’day, mate,’ before there are four guns all trained on him.
‘Okay fellas, let’s think this through. There is no need to be irrational right now,’ Jerry says to the guys sitting down. They don’t move, guns still pointing at him. Definitely should’ve gotten back-up first.
‘Fine, I won’t shoot you now. But meet me outside in five minutes so we can duel and then I’ll shoot your brains out. And don’t mistake this as a nice gesture. I’m just bored in this town and our visitor back there is no fun. He keeps singing really fast in anger about some dude named Burr,’ the main cowboy said.
‘What the fuck is wrong with you? Our number one rule is to not draw attention to ourselves so that no civilian finds out the truth. This is the complete fucking opposite of that!’ Commando says as he paces back and forth across the empty room. After the cowboy challenged Jerry to a duel instead of killing him on the spot, Jerry found Commando and took him to an empty place across the road from the tavern to figure out a solution. He definitely thought the conversation would go differently, especially since Commando seems to have his eyes burning with pure rage and looks like he is ready to burn the whole village down to prevent anything getting worse. He tries to think through every possible situation that ends with everyone being alive, with jobs, and the timeline still intact.
At the moment, arson seems like the only possible solution.
“Will you calm down, it is just a duel. I can just shoot him and then we are out of here,’ Jerry retorts. ‘I mean seriously what is the big deal? I saw our asset hiding in the back and I would never have noticed him had I not approached that table. I did exactly what we needed to for the mission so why don’t you just be grateful for me?’
Commando stills. He turns towards Jerry, and it takes everything he has not to kill him right where he stands.
‘Grateful for you? Every single time you have managed to get us into a gigantic mess with people being at risk of dying, which leads to the timeline then being messed up. Essentially defeating the purpose of our jobs. So why don’t you stop being such a worthless little piece of shit and actually try and fix your own goddamn mess for once instead of making me do it for you,’ Commando says.
Jerry can’t believe what he has heard. He thought Commando would actually understand. He did it for the job. Everything he has done has been for the job. All he wants is to help people and keep them safe but it seems that he is incapable of doing so.
‘You know what Commando? You’re right. I’m just a screw up who can’t do anything right. But at least I actually care about people. Maybe you could learn from that. I’m going to go outside and face the scary ass cowboy because it is my mess and I should be the one to clean it up. And we both know I can’t win against that cowboy no matter how good of a shot I am. So just make sure you grab the asset and get out. Don’t need any further messes. Have fun now that I’ll be gone. I know that’s all you’ve wanted,’ Jerry said.
He turns away from Commando who hasn’t even made eye contact with him at this stage. Commando doesn’t care and Jerry knows that. It’s time for him to enter the duelling ground.
‘Jerry… wait,’ Commando begins but it is too late. Jerry is already gone. Commando goes to follow him outside but the townspeople have already gathered into a crowd to witness the duel, making it impossible for Commando to spot Jerry amongst everyone.
As Commando pushes through the crowd, he calls out Jerry’s name only to receive no response in return, and then everyone suddenly falls silent. They have seem to have shifted to the edges of the street, leaving space for where Jerry and the cowboy now stand. Back to back. Ready to duel. Where Jerry is prepared to die. And there isn’t a chance in hell Commando is letting that happen no matter how annoying he can be.
They both take the first step away from each other.
The crowd is already on the edge of their seats, waiting for someone to get shot.
No-one watching makes a move. It’s all too exciting for them.
It all begins to blur together. Commando doesn’t know how he is going to save Jerry.
The cowboy wants Jerry dead already.
Commando begins to pray that he will make it out alive.
This can’t be how the mission ends.
The guns go off, filling the silent air, and the cowboy’s body falls to the ground. Jerry fires a victory shot and dances around in celebration. He turns around and spots Commando in the crowd. They make their way to each other and Commando can do nothing else but hug Jerry in relief that his body isn’t currently going cold on the ground.
‘Told you I would fix my mistakes,’ Jerry says.
‘You also said you’d die in the process,’ Commando replies. Jerry chuckles nervously in response, still unsure of how Commando really feels about him. ‘But I’m glad you’re not dead. There isn’t any other partner I want in this line of work.’
The two hug again, glad to have somehow managed to put aside at least some of their differences.
‘Now, I believe I saw a certain musical icon with a perfect goatee while I was in the duel. I believe he ran around to the back of the barber shop,’ Jerry says.
‘How convenient for us, considering that is where our stuff is. Let’s go already, I’m sick of cowboys and we probably should hurry up and get Lin-Manuel Miranda back to the opening night of Hamilton. I think World War III might start if that musical never exists,’ Commando says.
‘Didn’t know you loved musicals so much,’ Jerry teases back.
‘Oh shut up.’
The two agents laugh together as they finish their mission. Both are glad that although they annoy each other, they do make a pretty good team.