Truth, Consequences, and the American Way
“I’m not sure I’m following.”
Montague Cervantes and Jaclyn Pierrot stand on the opposite side of a rounded metal table. Instead of the usual blue dress and magician’s outfit that the two were best known for, the pair have pulled on a matching set of black suits. As the clown struggles with the sleeves, which have despite her best efforts gotten twisted under the blazer, Montague looks over the folder that Jeff Goldblum handed to him. “Jeff-“
“Mac!” The actor offers. Jeff, or Mac, had also changed from the poet’s coat and thick, rectangular glasses and into an identical black suit.
“Right…” Montague says. He looks over to his companion who has righted the sleeve, but now wrestles with the tie. “Mac. I’m not sure what you want us to do here?”
“Well it’s simple, yes?” Mac waves his hand towards the file. Montague assures himself he is waiting long enough before speaking, unsure with the frantic actor’s cadence if the pause is intended.
“Ah! Yes, Well…” he motions out to the file, not leaning forward far enough to indicate he is wanting it, but not withdrawing quickly enough to signify otherwise. Montague leans forward, resulting in Mac reclining himself away. The magician clenches his jaw. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?!” Jacky yelps from behind him. He can tell by the sudden crash, she is still struggling with the attire, but he never-the-less shares the sentiment. The actor’s head lifts like a meerkat and looks her way.
“She’s fine.” Montague takes a quick breath, attempting to calm himself. Mac continues his investigation.
“Is she, she seems like she may be having some troubles with her, ah…” He motions sporadically then waggles his fingers in her direction, as if that is explanation in itself.
“She’s fine! What is this ‘mission’?” Montague snaps. Mac leans back and looks him over, furrowing his brows.
“Well, you can just ask. You can ask, you know? It’s not that much, did you want me to show you? Did you want to see, watch, watch my lips,” Mac crosses his eyes, attempting to see his mouth as he speaks. The motion causes his voice to somehow become more nasal. “What is the mission? Now, you try it.”
Montague does not. Magician and actor, eyes locked in a standoff. Jacky, finally able to resolve her wardrobe dilemma, bounces up beside him.
“So what’s the mission?”she beams up to her companion who still stares a hole into the actor’s head.
“Thank you! Was that so hard?” he stretches his arm out, indicating towards the clown. “The mission is for the two of you to travel to our top secret base. I can’t disclose the name.”
“Area 51?” Jacky takes a guess.
“…Or the location…”
“Nevada.” Montague says.
Mac squints his eyes and peers between them, unsure of where they may have gotten their intelligence. He reluctantly proceeds: “Our intelligence tells us that a foreign entity is moving forces through the information superhighway to organize a strategic assault to penetrate the defenses.”
“The information superhighway?”
“The internet,” Montague says. The clown ‘ahs’ silently.
“So what do you say?” he asks, sliding a drawer open on the desk. He pulls a tiny, almost syringe-like gun free and sets it on the desk. The golden eyes of the clown begin to dilate and she licks her lips, leaning towards the gun.
“Do we get a license to kill?” Jacky asks, reaching for the weapon. Mac pulls it back from the desk, eyeballing her for a moment before extending it out to Montague.
“Okay, you’ll hold the gun.”
“No wait!” She yelps as he takes possession of the pistol.
Almost in unison, the young men all pause, chins tilted slightly upward as they seem to sniff the air.
Stacked on a skateboard being steadily tugged by a cable, two cases of Monster Energy Drink drift by outside their ring. One by one, they turn and begin following with the absent hypnosis of a cartoon character lured by the smell of home cooking. The skateboard drifts lazily toward a large metal shipping container.
Just as the youths wander into the container after it, the double doors slam shut behind them, pushed by Montague and Jacky. They each sigh and nod to each other through their Ray-Bans before walking around to the other end of the container.
On the grounds of David E. Norman Elementary school, a crowd of students are being paraded around by their parents. Family units can easily be identified by matching protest shirts and picket signs sporting slogans such as ‘My Child, My Choice’, ‘Let Parents Call the SHOTS’, and ‘Stop Medical Tyranny’.
The Showman and The Ragdoll approach a middle-aged woman with a bullhorn, assuming she’s the organizer since she’s shouting about not allowing the children to become experiments and not wanting her DNA to be changed.
“Good afternoon,” Montague greets her jovially.
“Hiya!” Jacky adds. “We’re from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. I’m Agent Diana Scurvy, and this is Agent Fawkes Murder–”
“Ahem, Agents Scolder and Mully,” Montague steps forward as he corrects her. He extends a hand as he takes over the explanation. “We have collected evidence which shows that the latest mRNA vaccine developed by Pfiderna has nanotechnology which can digitally reorder the polynucleotide chains in human cells, causing patients to become bio-magnetic.”
“Fucking magnets,” Jacky throws her arms out to the side. “How do they work?”
“We thought our presence could possibly lend some credibility to your protest. Do you mind if we join?”
The woman eyes them up and down, her gaze lingering particularly on Monty’s carefully sculpted beard and Jacky’s colorful hair.
“I.. guess having you here would look good on camera?” she admits. “You’re not going to do anything crazy are you?”
“No…” Jacky mutters as Montague shakes the woman’s hand vigorously, “...just kill you.”
“We feel you,” he amends as he pulls the woman’s arm to turn her away from the Ragdoll. “We must allow our children to grow to their full potential and not become guinea pigs. Please, do you have any extra signs we can carry?”
Before falling into step behind them, Jacky shrugs. “At least I said the names right.”
An hour later, the protest comes to an abrupt stop. In a sudden panic, the parents all realize that their children are no longer with them. The ATSDR agents are nowhere to be found.
“Remember, it’s Scolder and Mully,” Montague reminds his partner. She’s fiddling with her sleeves again.
Jacky doesn’t look up as she holds her arms out in front of her, comparing the length of her cuffs with some consternation. “I don’t know why you keep repeating it. I’ve got it.”
“Are you sure this is the right place to do this?” She looks up at the sign: Verizon Wireless Authorized Retailer.
“Trust me,” he assures her. “They have several national carriers, and fifteen local carriers in town. We’ll be able to collect the whole batch before dinner.”
Through the giant panes of glass of the shopfront, they can already see the soccer mom type slamming her hand on the counter, her jaw unhinged as she begins berating the much younger woman. For her part, the agent’s face is a mixture of confused frustration and detached resignation.
“This is it,” Monty strides toward the door. “Game faces.”
Jacky slides her Ray Bans into place and steps out in front of him. “Let’s do this.”
The doors to the strip mall sweep fly outward as Tragedia march into the lobby to announce their presence.
“Step away from the counter, ma’am,” Montague warns.
Addressing the representative, “Agents Murder and Scurvy from the Federal Communications Commission.”
Montague loses a step as Jacky introduces them, but decides to just roll with it.
“We have reason to believe this establishment is imposing fraudulent charges on its customers and…” he trails off, leaving a blank space for–
“I KNEW IT!!” the customer takes the cue without even realizing it. “I KNEW YOU WERE MAKING IT UP.”
“Ma’am?” Jacky approaches the woman with feigned concern.
“‘Federal Regulatory Service Fee’? ‘Universal Municipal Charge’? ‘911 Commission?’,” she repeats each charge with an indignation that belies the few cents each one is costing her. “And then you can’t even explain why they were raised?!”
“Why can’t your manager explain them?” Montague asks the agent.
“THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO KNOW!” the customer bellows.
“M- my manager isn’t in the store today,” the rep, now truly shaken, stutters. “I… I could call her?”
“You do that,” Jacky commands as she consoles the customer, who is still shaking with rage. “Ma’am, would you mind coming down to our field office to make a statement? With your help we might be able to shut down these predatory practices.”
“You’re damn right I will,” she insists, nose rising to perch high in the air. She begins to stride toward the door as Monty and Jacky share a quick, conspiratorial smirk.
“And you’ll be hearing from my lawyer, missy,” the customer calls over her shoulder at the retailer, who is now fully in tears.
Jacky and Montague cast judgmental looks toward the counter, then follow their witness out into the parking lot.
In Lincoln County, Nevada, near Groom Lake, the United States Air Force operates a testing and training range officially known as Homey Airport. While the full details of operations are not available to the public, it is common knowledge that the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapon systems take place here. In the fifties, the Lockheed U-2 was the primary testing target, and in the sixties, Project OXCART evaluated captured Soviet aircraft. The military has also used the range to test anti-radar aircraft and pushed the boundaries of structural integrity in both manned and unmanned flights.
Of course, pop culture has given the 25 square miles of restricted airspace north of Las Vegas a completely different name: Area 51. While the proliferation of declassified government documents in a post-9/11 world has revealed many secrets, there is at least one section which is still designated Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information. Even satellites are forbidden from photographing the area from space. Those who consider themselves ‘in the know’ assume that this is where the remnants of the 1947 Roswell, New Mexico crash site–both technological and biological–were brought for further study.
Since then, Area 51’s intensely guarded secrecy has fueled conspiracies which purport to have obtained information proving that it’s ground zero for alien autopsies, reverse-engineered extra-terrestrial computing and navigation systems, Illuminati-flavored undertakings with otherworldly beings, weather-controlling devices, portals to other dimensions, time machines, energy weapons, and New World Order operations.
Now, it seems, the Men in Black have lost contact with an agent sent to infiltrate the facility. Agents ‘Murder’ and ‘Scurvy’ have been tasked with the location and extraction of said agent.
On the slope of Tikaboo Peak, Jacky spins the oddly shaped gun she was requisitioned like an Old West gunslinger while Montague surveys the base through high-powered binoculars.
“What did Jeff say the agent looked like, again?” Montague wonders aloud.
“It’s ‘Mac’, Monty, and he said we’d know her when we saw her.” Jacky reminds him.
“I bet it’s Katy Perry,” Montague suggests.
“I was thinking Madonna,” Jacky muses. “Or Marjorie whatever. Her face looks like a lizard.”
“The Georgia senator.”
Montague lowers the binoculars to stare horrified at his friend, who simply shrugs. It’s silent for a few moments before Jacky speaks again.
“Remind me why we aren’t just busting up in there like we normally do?” Jacky asks absently. As a response, Monty points his chin toward a pitted, but otherwise maintained sign nearby.
NO TRESPASSING BEYOND THIS POINT
PHOTOGRAPHY IS PROHIBITED
WARNING: USE OF DEADLY FORCE
IS AUTHORIZED BY THE
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
“And they’re not playing,” Montague assures her, “three years ago Nye County Sheriff Department was pursuing a suspect who took a wrong turn and drove through the security checkpoint at Mercury. When they finally ran him off the road, he exited the vehicle intending to surrender. Instead, the sheriff’s men and the base security personnel immediately opened fire, executing him without question.”
Jacky nods, impressed, “Point taken. Glad we brought a distraction, then.”
She shakes a small device with an antenna and three buttons. Montague checks the binoculars again.
“They’re approaching the storage containers. Release the Kyles.”
Jacky grins and presses the top button.
On the other side of the facility,
Three storage containers have been dropped just outside the security gates on Groom Road. Each of them has a hastily-constructed, handpainted sign on clapboard set up in front of it.
As three green Hummers roll from the inside of the base toward the gates to investigate, a series of three rapid beeps sounds, and a mechanical click signals from the first container. The doors swing open, and the young men from Tonopah rush out. They pause only to briefly read the sign, which says ‘Stepfathers This Way’.
With a cacophony of roars, they light out for the fence, fists swinging, and begin punching their way through. The Hummers swerve south and men pour out, unslinging assault rifles and taking aim.
Two Creeps, unnoticed for the moment, sprint down the slope toward the back side of the facility. Montague slows only long enough to peek through the binoculars again.
“They’re sending out reinforcements. Release the Anti-Vax kids.”
Jacky cackles with glee as she presses the second button.
Back on the front side, the Kyles have successfully punched and kicked their way past the vanguard, only taking one casualty. As they run Naruto-style further toward the facility, there’s another series of beeps followed by a click. The second container opens, and several elementary-aged children scatter outward. They read their sign which says ‘Free Essential Oils This Way’.
They cheer and rush over the destroyed fencing, pursuing the Kyles and gathering up rocks to through, because kids are fucking stupid.
Having just vaulted over the back fence, Monty and Jacky each do a picture-perfect superhero landing. Monty starts to raise the binoculars again.
“Let me see!” Jacky pleads. “I’m missing all the action!”
Monty hands them over, and she peers through. She’s delighted to see an army of Kyles throwing jabs and hooks at the front walls of the facility. Military personnel are pouring out to deal with the threat, but the hesitation at seeing a bunch of kids running around is enough time for said kids to begin launching rocks at them. The guards are pelted by an onslaught of stones steady enough to hold them off.
“I can’t believe that worked!” she giggles. “Ready for the Karens?”
Montague smirks and nods, and Jacky pushes the final button with gusto.
Inside the facility, the higher clearance security chiefs are staring in disbelief at their closed circuit televisions. Each one features a forty-something white woman in some part of the facility screeching that “they don’t know who they’re messing with” and that “you people are being live-streamed on Facebook right now.”
The entire base is in utter pandemonium as the forces try to fight off the invaders.
Only forty five minutes after the infiltration begins, all the crazed invaders have been taken down and calm has more or less been restored.
All of the crazed invaders except, of course, two, who are now pushing their target frantically up the Tikaboo Peak slope.
“Wait, WAIT!!” Jacky insists, dragging the rescued agent to a halt by one arm. The sudden stop knocks Monty off balance, and he plops down ungracefully on his ass.“I have to know!”
She pulls the hood off the other agent, revealing…
“Now let’s find out who you really are.” Jacky says with a flair that impresses the Showman. She grasps Kris by her cute fringe and yanks, revealing an actual lizard’s head beneath.
Montague comes to his feet in shock.
“I knew it, I knew it!” Jacky dances around victorious. “What’s your name, friend?”
“I want to believe.”
The scene opens up to the two members of Tragedia Dell’Arte, Montague Cervantes and Jaclyn Pierrot standing side-by-side in a large hangar. Around them, forms rush-to-and-fro, from Naruto runners running to Karen’s looking to lodge a complaint. The sirens blair from the hallway and the facility looks to have dropped to emergency power as the only lights on are dim and distant. The clown, who has somehow found an American flag pin which she has attached to her lapel, looks into the air as she speaks.
“I want to believe in this world where we are all equal and that that word means the same, whether you have a dollar in your pocket or a billion in the bank. I want to believe that we all have the same shots - the same opportunities. I want to believe that when I dream and when you dream, we both have the opportunity to wake up and see the same things, go to the same places, have the same experiences.”
“I want to believe.”
Montague shakes his head.
”But that’s just not the way the world works, is it? This is the world of the haves and the have nots. The Battle of the Bulge, once where we waged war for the souls of man, now is a war waged with wallets and at the expense of the poor. The weak. The tired and huddled masses that yearn to breathe, but that can’t take a single step, a single breath without a paywall standing in their way. We wage war on one another while they place bids and bounties on our heads. They tax the wages they set and then once a year, punish us with laws that they create in a game of ‘What Do I Owe or What Do You Owe Me?’ They trick us into waging a culture war to keep us from waging a class war.”
Jaclyn pantomimes using a pair of binoculars to look around.
“They shift and shape our views and our visions until we can’t see the truth, even if it’s right in front of our eyes because their vision has a selective lens. And it’s their lens - and their focus. What are heroes? What are villains? We all want to believe we're one or the other, but the reality is we are all at times both. What we see as good and evil is merely our way of labeling and justifying the world, through their lens and with their vision. Is it evil to steal, or is the intent that matters? If you steal a loaf of bread to feed your family, is it evil?” She grins. “What if you steal a win?”
The magician turns towards the clown.
“By any means necessary, that’s what they say from the bottom.” He considers this for a second, tapping his chin as he nods. Montague looks to the camera. “And so by any means necessary, we’ll win. Now, we’re not on the bottom, but that’s also not looking through your lens. Your narrative. Your vision. We want to be able to speak to you two in your terms - those you can understand. Those you can comprehend.”
Jaclyn Pierrot snorts with laughter.
“You two tell the world of the wonders that you’ve become. The man who stopped the clown, what a legacy, that’s really a laugh. Ten years later you beat someone not ten months in and told the world how you had arrived as though the decade before didn’t mind or even really matter. It’s one over the other, depending on what you can afford.” She winks. “Now Tony - nothing defines you more than the championship you hold. A gift - so you would think there would be gratification, but there you stand - on the other side of the ring. The Legacy and the Laughter, which side do you really think you’re on? Keep telling yourself - they’re all with you, but the truth?”
The jester looks into the distance, her voice somber as she speaks: “The truth is out there.”
Montague folds his arms in front of his chest.
“If there’s one thing we’ve all learned recently, it’s that the truth hurts. Isn’t that what they said? The truth hurts and they’ll put us in our place, but our place, despite what you may say? Has always been at the top and this year alone we have proved just that.”
He raises an eyebrow.
He spreads his arms wide, palms up in offering.
“It’s out there, even through their lens: The NPC that currently crawls his way through the Conquest division? Crushed by the Clown-faced Creep. The Cooperative champions? They couldn’t quite get it together in the face of Tragedy. And my opponent at Ever Escalating Endagerment? Well - he sure showed me. Even the dullest World Champion since Mil Vidas has taken his licks from the Clown Show. The truth? Well the truth is plain to see, if you just open your eyes.”
Jaclyn Pierrot claps her hands with glee.
“Monday Night? It’s two for one, and that’s to say two wins for him and one for us and when the smoke clears and the dust settles? We find that nothing is truly final and the fantasy? It meets its reality as we see it’s more of the same: The Creeps reign supreme. When it’s over you can do just like the rest have done before and say ‘I don’t want to believe!’”
She winks, leaning forward as she shakes her finger towards the frame.
“But the truth is out there.”
There is gunfire in the distance. And the sirens slowly seep into the scene once more as the frame fades to black.
“So they are real?”
“Yes!” The magician can feel his chest sink, “As you may suspect, the Lizard Men have indeed infiltrated our society in ah…highest? Yes, highest levels. We have long tolerated their presence, their moves have become more…hostile? Ew. It is unfortunate things have come to this but it goes with saying that the two of you may be of more use to us. We have reason to believe they may have already infiltrated UGWC. “
Montague turns to see the clown, only inches away, wiggling her eyebrows his way. She doesn’t say, ‘I told you so’, but he can hear it all the same. He brushes her back with his arm as the actor slash MIB chief continues. “Now, it goes without saying that certain things should not and can not-“
“Hey!” Jacky says from just over Montague’s shoulder. He turns to see the small pistol in her hand. “We never even got to use this thing? What does it even do?”
“No wait!” Mac exclaims, just a moment too late.
The weapon discharges into the ceiling, and there’s a sound that’s less of a sound and more of an expanding pressure inside the eardrums. All of them are thrown to the floor as plaster and sparks shower down on them.
Looking up, every floor in the building has been exposed to the sky. As his senses begin to clear, Montague can see a bright light in the sky, heading their way. The beam blinds him and he holds a hand up to try and squint past and see.
He can feel the cool droplets from the sprinkler system and the beam shifts and turns and he can finally see the ABC7 emblem on the side of the helicopter. The magician turns to see the clown, standing once more, the tiny pistol aimed towards the helicopter. The wild look settling on her face once more, she screams towards the sky.
He closes his eyes, expectant of the blast, only to feel himself be tackled from behind. Instead of the reverberations, the only thing he can hear past the Men in Black shouting commands is the honking sound of the maniac clown’s laughter.
“Do you think they’ll call us again?”
Jaclyn Pierrot pulls a pair of cigarettes from the small, red package labeled Morley, offering one over to the magician. The two sit on the back stoop of Morgan Freeman’s home, between two stacks of construction equipment. He sighs, taking the nail from her before tucking it into his lip. A lighter flashes twice and the two sit in silence once more.
The clown leans back, looking towards the moon. She blows a pair of smoke rings and squints an eye, staring through them with one golden orb. “You would have done it, too.”
“I had the gun the whole day,” Montague sighs.
“Well…” she smiles cheerily, bumping into him with her shoulder, “It was worth it!”
He doesn’t lean back towards her, his eyes focused on the blinking light around her ankle. “Jacky…”
Montague looks over to the clown, unsure of exactly what to say. They were right there, right at the finish line. Just a few more minutes and they would have released that bond and she would have been free. But the curiosity? She flutters her eyes towards him.
It didn’t kill the clown.
“But you could be free right now?”
“Really?” she asks, raising her exaggerated eyebrow. “Are you that naive?”
The magician looks her over, stunned. “Do you really think they would have let us go if I didn’t pull that trigger and destroy half of their stupid little base?”
Cervantes blinks his eyes, looking over the clown once again. She turns her head, taking a drag of the cigarette then clutches it with her lips.
“And hey, I grabbed this!” Digging into her dress, she pulls out the pen-like device, waggling it towards her friend. His shock turns to laughter as he takes it from her.
“You’re insane,” he says, looking over the Neuralyzer.
“Jacky?” Morgan Freeman’s voice calls out, muffled through the thick door. The pair turn in time to see it open and he pokes his head through. “What’s all this construction for? Did you do this?”
The clown shakes her head, shrugging up to the actor. “I’m not sure, I think Tank and Trevor had a party when I was asleep.”
Morgan Freeman squints at her, unsure if that’s a story he will choose to take at face value. He slowly closes the door and his voice can be heard muffled once more. “Tank!”
Montague looks over to the clown. “You didn’t.”
“I did.” She nods, pulling out the Aristocrat, her long barrel .44. “All three of them.”
The magician shakes his head.On instinct, she clicks the hammer back to ready, aiming it at the sky. “I wonder if it still fires.”
Without a thought, she starts to pull the trigger.
“No, wait!” Montague says before his voice is drowned out by the gunshot and a dull, distant ringing.