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Thread: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

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    Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Post promos for Back in Business XV in this here thread.

    The deadline is Saturday 12th June at 23:59 Pacific Time.

    That is Sunday 13th June at 02:59 Eastern Time.

    That is Sunday 13th June at 07:59 British Summer Time.

    That is Sunday 13th June at 09:59 Moscow Standard Time.

    That is Sunday 13th June at 16:59 Australian Eastern Standard Time and Chamarro Standard Time.

    And so on and so forth.



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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    [... previously.]

    MICHELLE von HORROWITZ
    in
    [VOLUME FIFTY THREE]
    IT TOLLS FOR THEE.

    ***
    1937. Spain.
    Part Two.
    ***


    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man's death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
    - John Donne.



    ***

    FET y de las JONS Military Base.
    Thirty kilometres west of Seville.


    Robert Grayson did his best to maneuver himself into a position in which his entire body didn’t ache. It was, as usual, no use. He’d forgotten what it was like to be comfortable. He couldn’t say how long he’d been in his current predicament with any degree of certainty. Weeks… months… a year, maybe? Surely not that long. He reasoned that it couldn’t have been, but perhaps that was just wishful thinking.

    The nights were usually the only time that he could find any semblance of enjoyment from the existence that he had left: a sorry and austere one afforded to him by the good will of his captors, as they frequently put it. In the day, the sun beat down on him as hard as the men who had captured him did, and he was the butt of innumerable jokes and taunts that he only ever half-understood. At night, though, it was quiet, with most of the men having retired to their quarters, not to return until the morning when it was time for more taunting and the occasional beating. These usually coincided with victories for the Republicans, which had become rare as the weeks passed by, and Grayson struggled to decide whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.

    El Americano, they called him. The Republicans of both varieties, the People’s Army and the Popular Front, as well as the fascists now: none of them had bothered to christen him with a more inventive nickname. He personally knew many fighters that went by interesting, unique, or foreboding aliases: La Soñador, El Prodigio, El Black, La Dorada, El Hombre Asombroso, to name but a few. But on either side of enemy lines he was El Americano. It sounded like a cup of coffee. Still, at least he’d earned some renown.

    He sighed deeply as he sat in the pile of his own waste that had gathered in the weeks since they’d last cleaned out his pen. He had an itch on his nose, the result of a stray raindrop that had escaped the heavens and found its way into his purgatory. His hands were tied behind his back, around a concrete pole that was impaled two metres into the earth. He’d given up any hopes of escape after the first couple weeks here. Now, he just waited for night, so that he could stare at the moon and feel the embrace of a fresh rain.

    Tonight felt different, somehow. Usually, the duty change would happen and a fresh group of guards would be deployed to watch over him. The men on the night shift were generally less bothered by his existence. Those in the day seemed to perceive his prolonged living as a personal slight. This evening, though, soldiers in full nationalistic finery were perpetually passing by, this way and that, checking that the pen was properly locked and that he was still tethered to his pole. At one point, three of them walked into Grayson’s cage and pulled him up onto his feet. He had tried to return to his seated position, having quite forgotten how to stand to attention, only for a different group of soldiers to come in and yank him back up again.

    Eventually, the reason for all of this became clear. He was just beginning to nod off, but he was intent on keeping his eyes open and targeted on the moon for as long as his fatigue would allow. Just as his eyelids closed over, a loud clap in front of him stirred him back to life. His gaze was drawn away from the moon. Before him, staring at him with a look of pure, unadulterated repulsion, were two sergeants dressed in the regalia of the FET y de las JONS, standing with straight backs and fine features and spades of derision. In-between them was a third man: somewhat stooped and less erect than the first two, but making up for this with an aura that Grayson couldn’t precisely describe. He wore a long trench coat, and black leather boots came up to just below his knees. Upon his head was a golden hat with a wide rim. Grayson didn’t need an introduction: he knew exactly who this was.

    General Skulley.


    The general turned towards him, and Grayson was disconcerted by the queer smile that sat on his disfigured face. Beneath his golden hat, sat atop his head like something between a crown and a halo, one half of his face had been deformed by an undisclosed and an unspoken-of past event. You could see right through to his skull around his mouth and his eyes, and when he afforded himself a rare smile it brought with it horror, mockery, and grief. It was impossible to remove one’s eyes from the man as soon as they had locked on.

    Skulley walked up to the bars of the cage. Grayson shuffled his weight uncomfortably from one bare and bruised foot to the other.

    “You know who I am.”

    The general uttered this as a statement rather than a question.

    “You are General Skulley,” Grayson answered, the scorn plain in his voice. “And there’s blood on your hands.”

    Saint Skulley,” the man corrected, and all signs of a smile had disappeared from his deformed visage. “There’s blood on all of our hands.”

    “Then you know who I am,” Grayson said. He attempted to keep his voice from wavering, and felt he’d done a reasonable job considering the circumstances.

    “Of course: you are El Americano,” the General answered, his voice dripping with an accent from the south of the country. “I must admit, tales of your great deeds… of which I’m sure there are many… have escaped my ears. But I know who you are, and I know what you represent.”

    “And what’s that?” Grayson asked, his curiosity piqued. The smile returned to Skulley’s face.

    “A lot has changed in the time that you have been here,” the General started, crouching down on his haunches in front of the captive. “Before you became my guest, I am led to believe that you ran with the two biggest thorns in my side between the Alboran and the Atlantic. La Soñador, you call her, with the Popular Front… and El Prodigio of the People’s Army. You’ve heard, I trust, about their little falling out?”

    Grayson said nothing. He had no idea what the General was talking about, or if any of it was even true. His eyes must have let this truth slip. Skulley let out a strange and stunted laugh.

    “I guess not, then… and it’s not really my place to tell you. But rest assured that La Soñador and El Prodigio are not the budding friends that you once considered them. Far from it, in fact. The People’s Army and the Popular Front still agree on one thing: that I am to be removed from power.”

    Another scoff.

    “But that’s about all that they’re decided on. They don’t know how they intend to do it, or what my beautiful España will look like once they’re done carving it up, or which one of them will lead the people into this bright and unknown future. The future...”

    He paused and looked past Grayson, as if this idea of the future was troubling.

    “You are a large part of that, El Americano... the People’s Army and the Popular Front, they agree on one other thing: that you should be with them. At their side. You represent hope to them. Both of them: La Soñador and El Prodigio. They will continue to use you in their plots and schemes until you wake up and see what you are to them: a pawn... a tool... a prop. But I will see you dead and buried before I see you returned to either of them.”

    Skulley stood to his feet, and for a moment he removed his gold, wide-brimmed hat, revealing the patchwork of grey hair and scarred, burned skin that ran across the left side of his dome. Rain fell onto the scarring and bubbled before it evaporated.

    “Tomorrow, we begin our march. We are going to Segovia. Your friends are planning an assault, and they will witness the wrath of Saint Skulley as a direct result. But don’t worry: you are coming with me.”

    The gate was opened again, and the sergeants busied themselves in removing Grayson from his pole. With his hands tied around his back, he was led away towards a new, mobile cage that was mounted on the back of a transportation truck. He indulged in one last look at the moon before the heavy, steel doors closed behind him.

    ***

    Frente Popular [Popular Front] Guerilla Encampment.
    Forty kilometres east of Valladolid.


    It was a clear night, and Michelle - ]La Soñador, as she was known affectionately within her own camp and derisively outside of it - sat with her back against a large, smooth rock, sucking lethargically at the end of her rolled up cigarette. As she reached its end, a few errant pieces of tobacco were drawn through the paper and stuck in the back of her throat. She flicked it away in an unsatisfied manner and looked at the stars, dancing heel and toe high above her. Away to the south, the far south of Seville and the other nationalist strongholds, dark, ominous rain clouds were beginning to form and to threaten. Even the weather pisses on the fascists, she thought to herself.

    A few metres to her left, Carlos Verdad was beginning his nightly watch. He sat remote, abstracted, and silent, as he did every night. Michelle had never seen him sleep, and had long given up wondering whether the strange, quiet man had any need for it at all. She thought about mentioning the rainclouds to him, but it was pointless: he would’ve already noticed them anyway, and wouldn’t acknowledge her with a response even if he hadn’t.

    Instead, she turned on her heel and walked into the encampment, taken aback by the thick smog of tobacco smoke that lay within what was little more than a dank cave. The space was illuminated by candles and pockets within were tarnished by the stench of body odour or spilled wine. There were a handful of seats - large rocks that had been brought inside by another band of guerilla fighters at some other time - still available, a stark reminder of their dwindling numbers. Michelle neglected them all, instead moving to the corner of the cave and kicking off her shoes in front of her. She closed her eyes and let the voices of her esteemed comrades wash over her.

    Asombroso will have better wine than this pig’s piss,” the largest of the men - Miguel Garcia, an oafish former farmhand who had taken up arms when the call had come right back at the start of the war - was saying. For all of the distaste he expressed, he still drank twice as much of their rationed liquor than anyone else. He was currently invested in emptying the few last drops from his skin into his mouth. Michelle uneasily felt around for her own and found that it was still where (and as) she’d left it: it wasn’t uncommon for your last few mouthfuls to go missing in present company. Asombroso always has excellent wine.”

    Miguel was talking about El Hombre Asombroso, a civilian who ran a camp that was friendly to the Popular Front at the bottom of the hill. It was one of the last friendly spots this far south, and if a plucky revolutionary took a gentle wander a few kilometres south she’d soon find herself in the belly of the beast: Madrid itself. Asombroso, as he was known by most of the guerilla bands that riddled the mountains around Valladolid, was once a trader with little notoriety or station within his town. Since Cuéllar turned red towards the start of the war, though, he was able to deftly maneuver himself into a few positions that were suddenly unoccupied. Soon enough, he was running Cuéllar itself, and welcomed revolutionaries from the Popular Front whenever they had a need. Some said he was equally as open with the People’s Army, but these rumours were unconfirmed (and generally ignored by Asombroso himself).

    Asombroso can barely feed his own people these days,” Danillo Masquelle interjected. Masquelle was a bastard: a former matador from Seville who’d decided he’d just marginally rather kill fascists than communists. A large part of Michelle felt he’d be just as happy under a white banner as a red one. Indeed, Danillo was about the only member of the band (or any band she’d been a part of, really) that seemed to enjoy the war. Just now he was polishing his Mauser, eyes only on the weapon as he spoke to the others. “And besides, if La Soñador keeps helping herself to whatever she wants in Cuéllar, we might find ourselves locked out of the wine cellar.”

    There was a general laugh around the cave, and Michelle felt their eyes upon her. It was a poorly kept secret that Michelle was somehow entangled with Asombroso’s woman. Soon the laugh turned to a grumble, the men worrying that perhaps there was some truth to what Masquelle said.

    “Keep your hands to yourself, and off Isabella,” Miguel instructed, leaning back on his perch and unfastening another wineskin. They hadn’t many left, and would have to stock up at the camp. Asombroso can keep his woman so long as he gives up the wine.”

    Michelle did her best to ignore the jibes about Isabella - her Bella, regardless of whatever the ill-defined and long-stagnating relationship between the woman and Asombroso was. She wasn’t sure to what extent their fates were still tied, and wasn’t about to quiz Bella on the subject and ruin the few stolen moments that they managed in each other’s company. A simmering animosity built between La Soñador and Asombroso, no doubt because of these murmurs, and she was content to let things continue that way until the eventual, inevitable confrontation.

    “The General is on the move,” El Black began. In the old days, before the war, he was a struggling painter in Zaragoza. Now he was a struggling soldier in Valladolid. Some people were uncomfortable with true change.

    “Saint Skulley?” Masquille asked. El Black spat on the floor.

    General Skulley,” he corrected, reaching for his own wineskin. “The non-existent hell will freeze over before I call him that.”

    “How do you know he’s on the move?” Masquelle continued, still working patiently on polishing his Mauser. “Verdad’s eyes can’t see that far.”

    “Verdad isn’t the only source of information in these hills,” El Black replied. “The General is on the move. Towards Madrid. It looks like our reason for being here isn’t as worthless as we once thought.”

    “You think he has El Americano with him?” La Dorada asked. He was a sort of handsome man in his mid-thirties who had the look of one who had once enjoyed the fruits of wealth, but now shunned that lifestyle and had allowed himself to become ragged. The timing of this decision, it seemed, was around the outbreak of war, and one could consider this fact cynically if La Dorada wasn’t here now, in the proverbial trenches alongside the brothers he’d come to choose.

    “I hear he takes El Americano everywhere,” El Black replied, wistfully. The other eyes in the cave - Miguel Garcia’s, Danillo Masquelle’s, La Dorada’s... even Michelle’s, La Soñador herself - were turned to him in expectation. “And with him goes our best chance of blowing the bridge.”

    One by one, the eyes turned from El Black to Michelle, and she quickly closed her own again in an attempt to escape them. She knew what her task was. What it had become since Grayson was captured. The two of them - irregular soldiers, one Dutch and the other American, who’d been in pre-war Spain and decided to fight a cause which was never really their own - had been inseparable in the months leading to his capture. Grayson, a dynamite and explosives specialist, had been initially assigned the role of attaching the charges and blowing the bridge near Segovia. He’d taught her some of what he knew. She only hoped it was enough to carry out the task in his absence.

    “You ready for that, Soñador?” Miguel asked, the alcohol thick on his voice.

    “We’ll find out, I guess,” she said, her mind wandering once again to her Bella.

    “Well, you can fuck that up,” Miguel started. “Just don’t fuck Asombroso’s girl again. We need that wine.”

    “I’ll do my best,” she lied.

    ***

    El Hombre Asombroso’s safe-house.
    One kilometre south of Cuéllar.


    The mood within the camp had been merry upon their arrival the next morning, and Michelle could be forgiven for thinking that the war had missed the small settlement of Cuéllar entirely. The young men and the strong men were off fighting somewhere else, of course, but they had left behind a thriving community that did its best to make preparation for the return of their sons. At the head of the table was El Hombre Asombroso, who was quick to smile and to laugh but who made Michelle feel something resembling discomfort nonetheless. She had a hard time trusting him completely: he was the sort of man who was always in favour, regardless of the political leanings of those around him and where the strength currently lay. She imagined that, if Cuéllar was a Nationalist stronghold instead of a Republican one, he would currently be dishing out wine and meat to Skulley’s men instead of those from the Popular Front. It was an uncomfortable arrangement, but Michelle knew that hundreds of such arrangements existed (on both sides of the lines) up and down the country.

    As the day wore on and the wine seemed to flow without concern for rationing, the mood ebbed and flowed along with it. The late afternoon was raucous, and punctuated by interludes where Miguel or Danillo would disappear into some backroom with one or two or even three of the chicas that roamed wild around the camp. The central hut in which they currently were was perhaps half a kilometre away from the town itself, as if Asombroso was trying to keep his best wine, his best meat, and his best women stored safely away from the guerillas.

    “To my friends,” the host was saying, standing at the head of a table which currently housed three or four of his own men alongside the interlopers from the mountains. It had been a long day, and Asombroso had just provided these new amigos with the best meal they’d eaten in months. “Brave and noble sons of the left!”

    The guests drank the toast, but they looked sidewards at each other as they did so. It was quite clear that they didn’t think of themselves as brave and noble sons of the left. Bandidos was closer to the truth. Even La Dorada, who had joined the fight thanks to lofty ambitions of creating a better future, was now firmly entrenched in the belief that he was little more than a shadow in the hills. Still, they all drank happily, except for Carlos Verdad, who walked the perimeter of the camp in silence and stared out into the distant night. After his toast Asombroso took his seat again, and continued to pick at his food whilst they spoke.

    “You’ve heard about the General?” he asked, taking a piece of bird (Michelle wasn’t sure which type) between a thumb and forefinger and placing it in his mouth. “He’s on the move again. Towards Segovia, I think.”

    “That’s good,” Masquelle said, fresh from a visit to the backroom with the young woman that had latched onto him an hour or so prior. “It means our journey won’t be wasted.”

    “You mean to go ahead with the bridge?” Asombroso queried, trying to affect a casual air.

    “Of course,” Masquelle answered. “We haven’t put up with La Soñador for months, not to mention El Americano for months before that, for nothing. That’s why they’re here. Why we’re all here.”

    “You know what you’re doing with dynamite?” their host asked, his eyes drawn to the woman at the other end of the table for the first time. He had guessed Masquelle’s meaning, and knew that most dynamiters in España for the war were foreign. On the Republican side, at least. Michelle didn’t answer verbally. At that very moment, Isabella walked into the dark and dank room that was doubling as a banquet hall, replenishments for the wine-stock in each hand. She wore a white dress that didn’t cover a great deal of her tanned skin, with blonde hair falling in loose curls down to her shoulders, and bare feet dirtied by completing her duties in and around the camp. She placed the wine down in front of Asombroso and gave Michelle a knowing glance above the pails. The host chewed his food and waited impatiently for a response that wasn’t going to come. Finally, he appealed to the men at the table. “Doesn’t she talk?”

    “Only when she wants to,” El Black said, reaching over for the fresh wine and filling his glass. “Not so much since El Prodigio split. But she knows what she’s doing. Or, at least, that’s what Grayson used to say.”

    “Grayson? El Americano?” the host asked, cocking an eyebrow when El Black nodded. He seemed content with Grayson’s seal of approval, and left Michelle to her untouched food and her greedily-consumed wine. She had to admit that El Hombre Asombroso’s wine was, like they’d told her it would be, excellent wine. “Well, if she’s good enough for El Americano... I heard he travels with the General towards Segovia.”

    The men of the Popular Frontstopped eating and drinking in unison. This was news to them, and information was Asombroso’s second best gift.

    “You haven’t heard?” the host asked. “You still mean to blow the bridge, you tell me. Our attack on Segovia will go ahead, and the bridge is to be broken to stop reinforcements arriving from Madrid. This is the long and short of it, yes?”

    Miguel nodded his head.

    “Where have you heard this?” Danillo asked. “Only command knows the extent of the plan. And the man who used to march with us. Have you shared wine with El Prodigio?”

    Asombroso said nothing, but the glint in his eye belied the truth. At first, there was a tremendous clamour, and some at the table labelled their host a traitor and a turncoat. This incensed the men of his household, who were about ready to go to war with their cutlery. Asombroso simply sat back in his chair, ignoring them all, and stared directly at Michelle. She met his gaze and found it cold.

    “If you wish to keep details of this fissure between your good selves and the People’s Army - who, as far as I can see, fight for the same cause as you and I - then I’m afraid I cannot deny El Prodigio and his men the same comforts as I provide my esteemed guests now.”

    They knew to beware Asombroso’s silver tongue but were lured in by it nonetheless. The men and woman of The Popular Front looked uneasily to each other, wondering who - if anyone - would step up to fill in the gaps. Back before the split, when their focus had been united, El Prodigio had been their leader. Since the events in Valencia that gulf had been left unfilled. Asombroso licked his lips, feeling that his penchant for gossip was about to be satiated.

    “It was about a year ago,” Michelle began, with a certain degree of trepidation. She was a good talker but preferred silence. But these men would need a leader soon enough, and the symbolism of her stepping up now to speak for them did not go unnoticed. “We were together, then: People’s Army and Popular Front. Miguel Parr and myself. El Prodigio and La Soñador. There wasn’t a guerilla band between here and the Bay of Biscay that hadn’t heard of us. Our goal was one and the same: to rid the mountains and the fields of General Skulley and his regime. Simple and hopeful, and perhaps a little idealistic. But that’s the way it was.

    “You will remember the decree from the Holy See. The pope himself, no less. Skulley, they said, is our hermano... our padre. It was about then that he started calling himself Saint Skulley. We expected Europe’s fascist regimes to back the General. Myself? I always assumed that the pope would eventually do the same. But I held out hope that the Godly would see who their brothers and sisters truly were. When news came down to us of this decree, I was disappointed but hardly surprised. El Prodigio[, though? The three-fingered bandido took it badly. He came from a Godly family. Like a lot of us did. But the news that those close to him, left behind in his village but upon a promise to one day return, would be obliged by nothing more than their devotion to the Word to take up arms against him and his cause… that was too much for him. He cracked.

    “We were in Valencia or one of the small towns that surround it. It was back when that region and others like it - hell, Madrid itself - were still under our control. Happier times, maybe. But not that day. It had been about a week since we’d heard about the Vatican and their support for the General, and other disconcerting snippets of information were coming our way, too. The Godly from Ireland and from Italy would be joining the fray on the General’s side soon. And the priests in our country were becoming bold. Some of them had started holding service again, and a few were even openly talking about Saint Skulley, their savour and their hope. They didn’t see what I saw. What we all see. King or saint: Skulley is just a bitter, sad man, clinging on to manufactured records and ill-gotten titles, self-aggrandizing at any given turn in hopes that we’d forget the circumstance under which his myth was built. And the myth still lived. Especially in Valencia.

    “It was a Sunday morning and a large group of priests had assembled within the cathedral for the first morning service in some months. The three-fingered bandido, El Prodigio, had gotten word about the ceremony, and he couldn’t let it lie. He rounded us up. All of us, for there were more back then. The men you see before you, and two more irregulars from the Southern Hemisphere. El Jesús Black y El Lobo Blanco. You will no doubt have heard of them. They are never apart, and remain loyal to El Prodigio. Even after what he did in Valencia.”


    She paused ruefully, closing her eyes for a moment as if to pluck up some courage. When she opened them, she noted that her own men’s eyes were all trained on the ground, and that the memory had brought a sadness upon the whole group.

    “With El Jesús Black y El Lobo Blanco, he rounded up the procession and brought them outside to the courtyard before the cathedral. First there were the worshippers. El Prodigio didn’t want to hurt them. He was more interested in putting on a show. Sending a message. That sort of thing. But the priests themselves? They were not quite so lucky.

    These men, the three-fingered bandido began, they promise you more than any man can promise. They promise you an eternity of glory, and of peace, and of salvation. Their mouths write cheques that they simply cannot honour. And why do they do this? They do this to excuse the lifetime of misery and torture that is dolled out to me and you, my brothers and sisters. Work the fields, they say. Scrub the floors. Man the machines. Your suffering is a blink of an eye, when compared to the infinite glory that awaits you in your father’s bosom.


    The men of the Popular Front knew the words just as well as she did. They were inscribed into their collective mind, and no amount of water and soap could wash them away.

    Do not believe their lies. They promise you nothing, because they have nothing to give you. And now? The General that has abused you and your families and your country for the entirety of your lives… now, he calls himself Saint. And men like these excuse his crimes against you. And now, they too must repent.

    “The first of the priests was brought to the front of the group, and he knelt down before El Prodigio, his eyes sad but his soul content. He stared into the distance and ignored the bandido’s pleas to atone. To give up the cloth and the church and to fight with us: the people he was tasked with protecting. The priest simply went on staring, even when the sword was pushed into his chest, and dark red began to stain his white cloak. Some of the others repented out of fear. I imagine they are still with El Prodigio. Others refused and met the same fate.”

    Even Asombroso was silent, and he shuffled in his chair uncomfortably. She hoped that he would think twice about the guests he took into his home and allowed to partake in his wine. Isabella stood at his shoulder, as transfixed as the rest of them, happy to have the curtain pulled back and the extent of El Prodigio’s madness laid bare. The wine was improving by the glass, and she sipped at it greedily. But it did nothing to dull the memory.

    “Miguel Parr deals only in absolutes. He wants to overthrow this Great Terror, but what would he put in its place? A Spain just as divided… just as desperate. This is not the dream I have for this country.”

    “Segovia it is, then,” the host said, pouring more wine into his glass. “When will you leave?”

    “Tomorrow afternoon,” Michelle answered, speaking for her men for the first time. “We’ll make most of the march cloaked in night.”

    ***

    Frente Popular [Popular Front] Guerilla Encampment.
    Eight kilometres south of Cuéllar.


    As intended, the band left Asombroso’s camp at the appointed time and made a short trek southwards. The distance between the safe-house and their new temporary encampment was insignificant, really, but it was a tokenistic gesture towards their host in an effort to not outstay their welcome. Asombroso had gladly re-filled their wineskins alongside their other supplies and sent them on their way with a smile and a wave. Michelle was glad to see the back of him.

    That night, Isabella stole away from her man and found her way into Michelle’s arms. Bella still wore the white dress that she had on in Asombroso’s encampment, and when Michelle had first spotted her scrambling up the hillside she felt her heart skip and then leap. They lay on their backs, a few metres above the entrance to the cave in which the rest of the band (save Verdad, who took up his perpetual watch) rested their heads and their legs. Bella’s eyes were closed, and Michelle could feel the soft exhalation of her breath against her shoulder as she drifted in and out of consciousness. All-the-while, our heroine intermittently smoked away at a cigarette, watching the stars take up their positions for their nightly dance high above. Her coarse and calloused fingertips ran across the soft, tender skin on Bella’s upper arm, and as they did Michelle felt the vibrancy of youth and of life inside of her once more. She hadn’t felt this invigorated in years, and found that this feeling was now exclusively limited to the forbidden evenings she’d spent with the wild girl.

    “En la mañana,” Isabella began, amidst the soft and sweet kisses that she placed against Michelle’s cheek or shoulder as she stirred back into consciousness. “You fight?”

    “Sí,” Michelle affirmed. She had never bothered to learn much Spanish beyond the necessities, and her Bella’s English was limited to a few broken phrases. It was an agreeable arrangement.

    “El General… or… El Prodigio?”

    Michelle thought about the question. It wasn’t meant to be loaded. The girl asked because the girl didn’t know, but the five words of varying language were enough to set Michelle’s mind on its course. A year ago the fight was clear and obvious. It was with the general. Skulley had been the object of her mind’s obsession since the war had begun, and there was a time when her and El Prodigio had shared this singular desire. It was still true that the biggest threat to her, and to España as a whole, was the man who called himself Saint Skulley. His ambition was limitless, she didn’t doubt. España first, tomorrow the World. But his ambition was not matched by his ability. As a ruler and as a man, he was of the lowest calibre. Nobody knew where he was half of the time, other than that he was holed up somewhere with his greedy hands on what he had accrued in a slow and laboured fashion over the past decade. It had taken him long enough to get what he wanted… to get where he wanted… and he wasn’t about to let things like compassion and justice stand in the way of him keeping them. Why show your face when pulling the strings from afar proves just about enough?

    And when Skulley was out in the open? Well, these interludes were even more embarrassing than his hide and seek act. Skulley would feed his own ego with victories as unimpressive as they were tactically pointless. Miguel Garcia, when he was deep into his wineskin, would often proudly tell the band of the time that he and Skulley were thrown together in the chaos of the battlefield. To hear him tell it he’d bested The General, drank his blood, and then fucked his virgin daughter. But the fact remained that the General was still where he was, and Miguel was here in the dirt with her. Garcia always was full of shit.

    She knew all of this to be true, and she didn’t doubt for a moment that El Prodigio knew it, too. He had to. But he differed from Michelle in the España that he wished to see after Skulley’s inevitable dethroning. She had hoped, for a time, that fighting two divided enemies would prove more of a task for Skulley than dealing with a united one. That hadn’t been the case, though. More often than not, the General would retreat into his castle and allow El Prodigio and La Soñador to scupper each other’s plans without the need to get his own hands dirty. On the infrequent occasions when he had no choice but to involve himself, he could rely on mistrust and distaste to neuter his twinned adversaries. And all-the-while, he consolidated power and preserved the status quo.

    “Just the General, I hope,” Michelle answered, at last. “But both of them, if it comes to that.”

    She kissed the wild girl on the forehead, and then stood up. Bella made a sign as if she meant to follow, but Michelle held out a hand to stop her.

    “Sleep. I’ll be back soon.”

    She wandered down to the watchpoint, and found herself looking out southwards to Segovia and Madrid. She could see the bridge between the two settlements. High above her head, black clouds rolled in to frame the scene, and behind them the sky burned an ominous red. Next to her, Verdad stared unblinkingly into the distance.

    “Bad omens,” he murmured. They were the only two words she ever heard him utter.

    ***

    El Puente de la Capital.
    Three kilometres south of Segovia.


    She could still see the bridge through the trees in the forest. Well, the part of it that she hadn’t blown up.

    Her breathing was haggard. Her vision was blurred. She lay amongst mud and moss and autumnal leaves. Her hand was covering the wound on her side.

    When she closed her eyes, her mind raced to the end of their morning march. She and her comrades had stood within a comfortable distance of the Capital Bridge, and she’d laid out the plan with precision and clarity. Danillo Masquelle was to apply the charges to the northern ballasts beneath the bridge, whilst Miguel Garcia was to handle those to the south. The big man had joked about Masquelle being redundant, and that he was quite capable of taking the thing down with just his hands. The whole band laughed together for the final time. Even Verdad. He must have wanted to make the most of the opportunity.

    Verdad himself would be stationed with El Black and La Dorado at the southern end of the bridge, nearest to Madrid, to keep a lookout for skullduggery of any sort. Michelle would wait a few hundred metres away in the gorge with the detonator. Ideally, she’d wait until the rendezvous before taking the plunge, but they’d spoken about what would happen if things went the other way. There weren't enough of them. They all knew it, but none of them wanted to say it out loud.

    It had started well. She had watched on with bated breath as Danillo climbed down his ballast and placed the charge in the exact spot that she had asked him to. He worked quickly and deftly, wrapping copper wires around the bridge’s supports before placing the dynamite itself at the pressure point directly beneath the road. Miguel’s task took him further away from the rendezvous point, and she watched with great interest as he rather inconspicuously crossed the bridge, trying to find his way to the beginning of his own task. He had only made it halfway across by the time the men came...

    The General’s men.

    An ambush.

    The General was not with them, but Grayson - El Americano - was clear for all to see.

    One of the General’s men carried with him a large pike, and on top of it was mounted Robert Grayson’s head.

    At first, the bottom of her stomach fell out, and she felt her heart lurch up into her throat. Thoughts of Grayson, of their time together, and the time still to come that had been stolen, threatened to spill out as rage and desperation.

    And then she thought of the others, atop and beneath the bridge. She tried to find them in their designated spots, but they were empty. It took only seconds to locate them, charging as they were with their Mausers drawn in the direction of the enemy. Even Miguel, forgetting his duty, had dropped his charges to the road and was concerned only with Grayson’s severed head and the bloodlust it had stirred in him.


    Michelle watched on as El Black fell to the ground, pierced by the bullets of a dozen separate muskets.

    She placed her hand on the detonator as [i]La Dorada[/i tried to pull El Black’s body away from the melee, and was quickly cut down by the mounted gun on the eastern cliff face, overlooking the bridge.

    She cried out when Miguel Garcia lurched onto a trio of younger, smaller Nationalists, his gun having fallen from his hands, his huge fists pummeling whatever was in his path. He didn’t fight well, but he sure fought. In vain, of course. Soon enough he was lying face down in the mud.

    Daniilo was running across the bridge to avenge his comrades, but he was sprayed with gunfire before he’d made it even half-way across.

    And finally Verdad, stout and strong. He had his sword drawn, his bullets exhausted, and at his feet were the bodies of fine young Nationalists, now as silent as he was. After plunging his own blade into the heart of his ninth man this sitting, a bullet found its way into the gap between his shoulder blades. He went to his knees, and then fell to his stomach.

    She looked on as the General’s men inspected their handiwork, moving from body to body, turning them over onto their back and examining each of their visages. He seemed nonplussed, and Michelle realised that they were looking for her.

    Instead, they found the charges.

    But it was too late. Michelle pushed down on the detonator, and then stood up to walk toward the bridge. The men on top of it noted her for the first time, and let loose with their fire. She turned and she ran, the half of the bridge that they’d successfully laid their charges to blowing behind her, and made for the woods.

    She hadn’t realised that she’d been shot until she was in the forest. When the adrenaline had run dry, the pain started to hit her, and all that she could do was cover the wound to keep the blood in. Now, after she had recounted the full tale in her mind, she finally found the courage to lift her hand. As soon as she did, purplish red blood bubbled and flowed from the opening, which was about the size of a button. It wasn’t much, but - for once - she knew that it was enough.

    Had El Prodigio betrayed them? Of course, he was not counted amongst her friends or allies. At least not since Valencia. But their goal, despite the vastly differing routes that they would march to get there, had been constant at least. If El Prodigio had given up details of their plan, she hoped it was at least under duress. But deep down she knew that, if there was a gain to be made by the three-fingered bandido, he’d sell her and the rest of the Popular Front out in a heartbeat. It’s what had made him so successful for so long. It’s what made him dangerous. She should have seen it coming. Now, with her vision fading and the trees before her turning into an opaque and hazy blur, she lamented that she had not seen before, whilst she still could.

    There was no blame to be laid at El Prodigio’s door. For all his sins and all his betrayals, he had been resolute and consistent in his character and his purpose. The failures were only hers. It was her that allowed General Skulley to run amok amongst the Spanish countryside whilst distractions grew and focus disappeared. It was her that allowed El Prodigio to split the opposition, and to position himself as a would-be usurper of the would-be usurper. It was her that allowed her Bella to steal her mind and her heart, to re-invigorate her with life when it was nearing its end. It was only her. Not them. Her.

    And now, she lay dying, between Segovia and Madrid in some unnamed forest with only her unhappy, unsatisfying, and unfinished thoughts to accompany her. She removed her hand from the wound and watched the blood flow for as long as she could. And then, at last, she let herself go.




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    Hemmlock's Avatar

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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Saint Sulley Presents:







    Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
    Well it's all right, if you live the life you please
    Well it's all right, doing the best you can
    Well it's all right, as long as you lend a hand

    The scene opens with End of the Line playing by The Travelling Willburys. Saint Sulley is shown adjusting his tie in the mirror of his Pittsburgh condo home before getting in his car and heading to the airport. He takes one last look at every sight on his drive to the airport, as he knows that it may be his last before he retires to his countryside castle in Ireland for good. The FWA World Championship is sitting snug in the passenger seat next to Sulley as he drives his 2021 Pontiac through i-79 South and towards the Pittsburgh International Airport.

    He pulls into the airport parking lot and heads towards the back side where he private hanger and jet await him. He has a long flight towards France, and he is ready for it.



    You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring
    Waiting for someone to tell you everything
    Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring
    Maybe a diamond ring

    Flashbacks of all of Sulley's training to this moment come back into play.

    He worked hard to get to this moment. Not only just for this match, but every match. 97 fights he has had to prepare for. 68 of them were wins, and 25 of them losses. Saint Sulley gets out of his car and greets his training staff as they all aboard his private jet.

    He takes a deep breath as he sits down on the plane.


    Well it's all right, even if they say you're wrong
    Well it's all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
    Well it's all right, As long as you got somewhere to lay
    Well it's all right, everyday is Judgment Day

    Saint Sulley looks out the window as he flies north across the states of New York, and Maine, and eventually Nova Scotia. He's soon soaring above the Labrador Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.

    In his mind is still the anger he felt at the end of Fight Night.

    The final Fight Night ever. There was an anger in him that Sulley wanted to put behind him. It's the same anger that has pushed him towards retirement. The person he was at the end of Curtain Call? That's the person Sulley doesn't want to see anymore.

    What happened at the end of that episode was only reassurance to him that he wanted to hang up his boots.

    He has a daughter now. She sees everything he does on TV, and he needs to act responsibly.

    It'd be easy for him to say that he could do both. Wrestle and be a good man...but he tried that, and Michelle and Mike were still able to use his emotions and drag him in. Even Krash, one of the nicest people in the locker room and a good friend of Sulley, was dragged into making a bad decision back when he attacked Golden Rock with that baseball bat.

    Maybe somewhere down the road aways
    You'll think of me, wonder where I am these days
    Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays
    Purple haze

    Well it's all right, even when push comes to shove
    Well it's all right, if you got someone to love
    Well it's all right, everything'll work out fine
    Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line

    Yet still Sulley knows that he can't make this match personal. Even though he caved and let that happen at Fight Night, he can't let it happen in the ring.

    This is where it is all on the line.

    This is his final match ever.

    Saint Sulley cannot lose.

    Don't have to be ashamed of the car I drive
    I'm just glad to be here, happy to be alive
    It don't matter if you're by my side
    I'm satisfied

    Well it's all right, even if you're old and gray
    Well it's all right, you still got something to say
    Well it's all right, remember to live and let live
    Well it's all right, the best you can do is forgive

    Saint Sulley's plane touches down in the southern tip of France in the city of Montpellier. He arrives specifically at a hanger in the Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport. But he still has a long journey ahead of him.

    One of Saint Sulley's staff asks him why they couldn't have landed closer to Paris, but Sulley doesn't give him an answer.

    Because the truth is, Sulley doesn't want to admit the answer.

    The reason why Sulley had the plane land at Montpellier instead of Paris is because this is likely his last journey ever as an FWA wrestler. And he is going to drag it out as long as he possibly can.


    Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
    Well it's all right, if you live the life you please
    Well it's all right, even if the sun don't shine
    Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line

    Saint Sulley boards a train atMontpellier Sud de France. He is officially on the last leg of his journey. In roughly three and a half hours, Saint Sulley will be in Paris for his last venue. In roughly four hours he'll likely be in his last hotel room paid courtesy of FWA, and in less than 24 hours he'll be arriving at the stadium to watch the first night of Back in Business XV.

    He sits down comfortably in his private train car that sits at the way back of the train, as he stares out the window and watches the sun set for the last time.

    He takes a deep breath.

    At the moment his brain is just filled with thoughts about this match. Thoughts about every move that Mike Parr and Michelle von Horrowitz have in their arsenal. Thoughts about what he's going to do if he loses. Thoughts about what he's going to do if he wins.

    For a moment all he wants to do is just have nothing.

    No thoughts.

    No anxiety.

    No guilt.

    Just peace.

    Sulley reaches into his bag and takes downs a handful of melatonin.

    He closes his eyes.

    And finally...for just a brief moment...inside his head...is nothing.

    And then he falls asleep.



    First Car
    The Early Days
    Sometime in the middle of his train ride to Pairs, Saint Sulley awakens in a sweat. Everything is blurry as he tries to take a look at his phone and see the time. He puts his fingerprint on the screen in an attempt to unlock it...

    Fingerprint does not match.

    Sulley tries it again.

    Fingerprint does not match.

    He tries it a third time, and a fourth.

    Try your biometrics again in 30 seconds.

    Sulley grumbles, as he rubs his eyes again.

    Everything is still blurry. He stumbles up out of his seat in the dark train car, and nearly falls over. He grabs the nearby door and leans on it, heading north through the private car.

    "I need a drink" Sulley grumbles to himself as he opens up the door making his way to the bar car.

    He enters the next train car and is shocked at what he sees. Or what he thinks he sees...a young Vincent Blackbird. Like ten years younger.

    Saint Sulley chuckles.

    Saint Sulley: Well shit Vincent, you look like you did fifteen overdoses ago. What is your pathetic ass doing here? Don't you have a match to get ready to lose for?

    Vincent Blackbird: Don't you?

    Sulley chuckles at the pathetic excuse for a comeback.

    Vincent's face is still blurry and he can't quite make it out, but he knows it's him.


    Saint Sulley: I'm not in the mood for this song and dance anymore, Vincent. I've got bigger things on my plate...bigger things than you.

    Vincent Blackbird: Oh Sulley, I know. Believe me I know. You've grown quite past me haven't you? But don't you forget where you came from Sulley as you head into that match against Parr and von Horrowitz.

    Saint Sulley: Where I came from? What the hell are you talking about?

    Vincent Blackbird: Do you forget all those times we rumbled on SMASH?

    Saint Sulley: Vince, we fought 7 times against each other, and I beat you every single time.

    Vincent Blackbird: You took my X Championship away from me too...

    Saint Sulley: You're damn right I did. I was the King of the X Division...I AM THE KING OF THE X DIVISION. I'm the King of much more than that now too...


    Vincent Blackbird: But are you? Or are you going to just throw it all away? What kind of King are you if you just step down from your throne? If you win...Sulley...against Mike Parr and MvH, then good for you. You prove once more you're the King, and everyone will say that you've earned it. But, I mean, what happens then? You take off your crown, and run off retired to your castle?

    The throne still needs someone to sit in it, Sulley.

    Whether it's you, or Mike Parr, of Michelle von Horrowitz...or Chris Kennedy, or maybe even the person you took it from to begin with, Cyrus Truth.

    When you walk away, you're leaving it entirely open for the taking.


    Saint Sulley: That's not my problem, Vince. And from what I hear, it's not yours either.

    Vincent Blackbird: No...maybe not, but maybe it's hers?


    Another blurry face comes through the door. Sulley rubs his eyes once again but the face still stays blurred. He can see her soft brown hair, and her soft caramel skin. He shiny black high heels clicking against the train floor as she walks up to Sulley.

    She grabs him seductively by the tie, and gives him a soft kiss.

    Sulley gasps...


    Saint Sulley: Gabby?

    But this can't be Gabby. She hasn't looked like this since...well..2012.

    Gabrielle: There you are, my little boy toy.

    "What the hell is going on?" Sulley thinks to himself.

    Saint Sulley: I'm not your boy toy anymore. And I never was!

    Gabrielle: Oh nonsense. Every week I'd come down to SMASH and give you some pointers. Whether you like it or not, you have to give me credit for making you the man that you are today. I did that...when you started in the FWA you were a little boy. But I got you off SMASH, and I made you a man...and then what?

    Then you forgot about all of that?


    Sulley stares into Gabrielle's eyes for a moment, before pushing her away.

    Saint Sulley: No. No I'm not doing this. You can talk all you want about those days, Gabby. But they are over. I am not the same person anymore, and neither are you. Drew Stevenson was your little boy toy, but not me. I didn't need you.

    Vincent Blackbird: But clearly you do Dave...I mean look at you...your little mommy issues bleed out of you every week of your career. Whether it was back in 2012 on SMASH when you were cuddling up to the future Hall of Famer, or if it was on 2021 when you were heartbroken that you pushed that same woman to the absolute edge.

    You were the same man in 2012 as you are now in 2021. And you're going to always be the same man. If you win and stay with the world champion, or if you lose and run away...you're going to always be that same man with those little mommy issues.

    Sulley picks up a chair in the train car and throws it at the blurry faced Vincent. But the chair goes right through him and hits the wall behind him...smashing into pieces.

    Sulley storms out of the train car as both the 2012 versions of Vincent Blackbird and Gabrielle giggle away.

    He quickly makes his way through the door, still rubbing his eyes.






    Second Car
    Rise of the King

    Sulley rushes his way into the next car and slams the door shut behind him. Taking deep breaths as he holds the door closed.

    "What the hell was that?" Sulley thought to himself. He looked back through the blurry window to make sure the past versions of Vincent Blackbird and Gabrielle were not following him...not continuing their taunts. When all of a sudden Saint Sulley is punched in the face with a boxing glove.

    Sulley falls to the floor of the train car. His eyes still blurry as he looks up at the blurry face of a man he is certain he knows.


    Saint Sulley: Thomas Jordan?

    The blurry man responds.

    Thomas Jordan: That's right brother. You remember me? Your first real feud.

    Saint Sulley: I remember beating you at Back in Business XI...ending your career. You lost all enthusiasm after that...

    Thomas Jordan: It should be me at the top of the FWA, instead of you. I was the one putting in all the work. I was the one pushing our feud to be something bigger. And what'd you do? Nothing. It was like pulling teeth to get you to come out and do a segment with me, or an interview. You couldn't have cared less about our match huh?

    Doesn't that sound familiar?

    Saint Sulley: I don't know what you're talking about Jordan.

    Thomas Jordan: Sure you don't. Well let me tell you, I did all the work. You? You did nothing. The reason why our match got such a high rating was because of the build up. You think without all that, people would've cared about two dudes fighting over the X Title at the bottom of the card? No. They wouldn't have.

    Saint Sulley: And what, you think that has anything to do with right now? No, I stand by what I said. Michelle von Horrowitz and Mike Parr? They're the ones who are trying to make this match bigger than what it's supposed to be.

    But it doesn't need to be.

    All this match had to be was about the FWA World Championship. We didn't have to want to kill each other. And for what? To entertain? To get better ratings?

    I'm not in it for that. Maybe they are, and if that's the case then props to them. But I didn't need to get invested...I didn't need to make it personal. They can hate each other all they want, they can get distracted in the ring...I just want to win titles.

    And you want to reference our feud, Jordan? Huh? Maybe you're right. Maybe back then you did do all the hype work. Maybe you did push all the segments, and got people hyped up.

    But what did it do for you? Huh? You lost that match, Tommy. At Back in Business that year I beat you in the Octagon match, and I won the X Championship for a record tying third time. And do you want to know why? Because when you were out doing interviews on Letterman, and cutting vlogs on how you're going to beat me...I was training. I was getting stronger, and getting ready every single time.

    And I've been doing the same thing this year. Since Carnal Contendership, I have been training in my match. I have been focused. Do you think I'm watching tapes on all the times Mike Parr or Michelle von Horrowitz said mean things about me in an interview? No. I'm watching tapes on every time Mike Parr hit the X Marks The Spot, or every time Michelle von Horrowitz hit the Psycho Driver. Because that's what real effort looks like. That's what winning looks like.

    There is a reason why Mike Parr has choked in every big world title situation. Because he has to make everything personal. Because he had to go and attack Michelle.

    Thomas Jordan: Maybe, but it doesn't change the fact...people recognize who is putting in more effort. People recognize who cares more. And every fan in the stadium this Sunday night is going to know that Parr and MvH? They want it more than you.

    Saint Sulley: Do you really think that's true? That they want it more than me? You think I don't see the Vegas Odds? You think I don't see that I'm an underdog? Explain that to me. How the hell could I absolutely dominate this fed for the last two years, and go into this match as the least likely to win?

    Thomas Jordan: Because nobody thinks you want it. I don't even think you want it. Do you even think you want it?

    Saint Sulley: I...well...

    Thomas Jordan: Exactly.

    Saint Sulley: No. Not exactly. I do want this Jordan. I've always wanted it. You think I want to lose in my last match ever? I hate losing. I think I've proven that over the last two years Tom. I mean, look at what everything The King of the FWA has accomplished. I own every record for the X Championship. More wins than anyone, more days combined than anyone, longest reign...the list goes on. I held all three of the main singles titles at the same time, Jordan.

    Look at the careers I ended Jordan...

    Yours, Kevin Cromwell's, Dominik Armistead...I broke his arm. Viktor Maximus, Aaron Kendrick, Risky Douglas...all of them couldn't hack it after I showed them the reality. After I showed them they were Icarus flying too high into the sun. Their wings all melted and they fell to the ground.


    Thomas Jordan: And now Mike Parr and Michelle von Horrowitz are going to do the same to you. They're going to dethrone The King. What comes up, must come down Saint Sulley. And you're about to have your wings melted next...whether you win or not.

    Saint Sulley: Oh go to hell...you couldn't beat me at Back in Business, and neither can they. I'm not letting them take me down, and I never will.

    Thomas Jordan: You won't have a choice Sulley...when you walk away, whether you win or lose, your legacy is over. Everything you wrote it officially set in stone. I made that choice five years ago...and now you're going to do the same.

    Saint Sulley: Go to hell.


    With that Sulley returns the punch towards the blurred version of Thomas Jordan, but his fist goes right through him as Sulley's momentum takes him to the floor.

    Jordan chuckles as Sulley gets back up and scoffs at him.

    He runs towards the next train car door and closes it behind him.






    Third Car
    The Benefit of the Third Wheel

    Saint Sulley rushes into the third car now, the dining car, and is cautious at this point not knowing what to expect. This time he sees two different figures, both of them blurry...a man and a woman. Both of them are sitting at a table.

    The two of them are arguing about something.

    The argument seems heated, as both of them are yelling and waving their hands around. But Saint Sulley can't quite make out what they're saying.

    It isn't until he gets closer when that he realizes who is behind the blurs.

    He chuckles to himself, as if he suddenly had validation for all of his previous thoughts.


    Saint Sulley: Oh Cyrus and Gabrielle...how I remember Desert Storm 2019. How could I not? It was probably the biggest moment of my career. The night I became an FWA World Champion for the first time. The night I held all three titles at once. The night I joined the short list of Triple Crown Champions...the night I officially proved to myself that I am a legitimate competitor...not just "The King of the X Division" but "The King of the FWA".

    I proved it all.

    And how did I do that?

    I remember the fans going crazy, because when I walked into Atlanta, Georgia that night I was as much of an underdog as I am walking into Paris this Sunday. Nobody expected me to best the unbeatable Cyrus, or Gabrielle who had just won Quest for the Best. Nobody...the hurdles that I had to overcome to get to that spot were much more difficult than the hurdles anyone else had. I didn't have to just win Carnal Contendership like Michelle von Horrowitz and get lucky at being the last one standing...like it is some game of dodgeball in the gym. I didn't have to just fight my rival in a Last Man Standing match.

    No, not only did I have to defend the X Championship and the North American Championship every single week, I had to fight all of Cyrus, Krash, and Devin Golden in a three on three tag team match. Unlike Krash, I didn't just need my team to win...no, I had to be the one to get the pinfall out of my entire time. Mike Garcia and Chris Kennedy both were scratching at the bit trying to get their spot in that match over me, but I prevailed.

    And then I had to walk into Desert Storm and fight both Cyrus and Gabrielle in a triple threat match. Can you imagine that? Cyrus Truth and Gabrielle absolutely hated each other. They were mortal enemies, and they both fought against one another already. They both wanted to walk out of Desert Storm and say that they beat the other. But, let me tell you...they forgot about me.

    They forgot that Saint Sulley was in the match.

    The third wheel.

    And it worked. It absolutely worked to my advantage. Cyrus Truth and Gabrielle Montgomery spent the majority of that match tearing each other apart. And why? Because they went into it making it personal. They went into it absolutely hating each other. Because while Truth and Gabrielle were so focused on beating EACH OTHER, I only cared about one thing...winning the FWA World Championship.

    It's the reason why I agreed to let Mike Parr earn his way into the match in the first place. So I could become the third wheel yet again. It's a strategy. And if they go into Paris too focused on one another and not taking me seriously enough? I'm going to go out there and I'm going to get the upset, just like I did in Atlanta.


    Saint Sulley looks back at the two blurred faces who continue to argue. They haven't even noticed he was there the entire time.

    Sulley chuckles, remembering once again how much that paid off back in 2019.

    He grabs a drink he was looking for at the dinning car and chugs it down before making his way to the next door.

    But he turns back one last time before he goes through it.

    Saint Sulley: And Cyrus? Look at you...you haven't even sniffed the main event since losing to me that night. Mike Parr is going to be the same...I probably can't say the same for Michelle...she's got a lot of potential. But Parr? Well, he's going to be the next Mike Garcia...the next Chicago Cubs. A championship draught is in your future Parr, as you're going to go down as the choke artist that you are.

    Sulley chuckles before tossing the cub onto a tray in the car and moving onto the next room.






    Fourth Car
    Hate

    Saint Sulley is startled at what he sees when he enters the next room. A large giant blur of a man standing there. Sulley instantly recognizes who he's supposed to be, as he continues to rub his eyes.

    That's when the feeling in his stomach goes stronger. That blur is one of the biggest factors in Sulley's decision to retire and hang up his boots in the FWA. That blur is Mike Garcia.

    He gets a big old chuckle from Mike, and Mike gets a scoff in return.


    Mike Garcia: Do you really hate me that much?

    Saint Sulley doesn't want to respond.

    He clenches his fist instead.


    Mike Garcia: Tell me why...tell me what is it about me that just makes you so upset?

    Saint Sulley takes a deep breath. He considers turning back towards the last car with Cyrus Truth and Gabrielle in 2019. At least in that car he had control. His ego was the biggest one in the room. But here? This ego can't be match.

    Even after a Jurassic Park style hunt to take the ego down, and a victory at Division's Rules wasn't enough, because Mike Garcia would soon get the best of Sulley at Mile High.


    Mike Garcia: I don't know why you're so nervous about this match at Back in Business, Sulley. It's not like you have to truly worry about being dethroned and being defeated...because the fact of the matter is, I already did that back in November.

    But I'll tell you right now...I know why you hate me. It's because you and me? We're two of the same. The way we talk, the way we fight, the way people just absolutely seem to root against us no matter what we do. It's no different. And you...you see me like you see a reflection in the mirror, and you absolutely hate it. Not because of anything I do, but because I am just a projection you see of yourself.


    Saint Sulley gets even angrier.

    Saint Sulley: You have no idea what the hell you're talking about. And you didn't dethrone me at Mile High, Mike. You held that title for 27 days, and then I took it back from you on Christmas Day.

    Mike Garcia: Maybe so. But us two? We're still the only two people to have held the FWA World Championship in a year and a half. That's pretty impressive for us both right?

    Saint Sulley: Stop putting yourself at the same level as me, because we are not.

    Mike Garcia: Oh but Sulley, we are. We are exactly on the same level. And that's why you hate me, isn't it?

    Saint Sulley: I'm a better person than you.

    Mike Garcia: Your accomplishments mean nothing to me...

    Saint Sulley: I'm not talking about my accomplishments. I'm talking about me...as a person. People might see both of us as assholes, but at least I recognize that I'm an asshole and I want to change...I'm trying to change. I don't want to be here anymore, being this person who I am...you? You could care less.

    You're going to always be proud of the evil that you are.

    And that sickens me.


    Mike Garcia: And you think that makes you better?

    You think being a terrible person, but knowing you're a terrible person, makes you better than just being a terrible person and embracing it?


    Saint Sulley: Well...yeah...I do. At least I'm trying.

    Mike Garcia: You can call it trying, but it's really not if you're never going to succeed in it. You're never going to change Sulley. And them? The FWA fans? They're never going to support you either. You and I both are way too far gone.

    You want to know why you're the underdog in this match?

    Do you think it's because you're the third wheel? No. It's not. It's because every FWA Fan knows that you don't give a damn about this match. Mike Parr and Michelle von Horrowitz both have been out there every night putting the work in.

    Saint Sulley: I just had this conversation with Thomas Jor-

    Mike Garcia: No, Sulley. Listen to me. Because I'm telling you right now, you're wrong. Both of them have been putting the work in, and everyone knows it. The fans know it, FWA Admin knows it, and they know it. And that momentum is going to carry them way farther than you think it will. Remember how you were saying that you won that match in 2019 because Cyrus and Gabrielle were too focused on one another? That was the momentum that won you the match. Because it was noticed.

    And I'm telling you right now, this momentum here, that Parr and MvH have? It's noticed too.

    Nobody thinks you want to win this match.

    Nobody thinks you care about this match.

    And in the end if that's what everyone in the building thinks, it doesn't matter if you think it or not, you're not going to win the match.

    Because right now you're setting it all up for it to be a win-win for you, aren't you? If you win, you get to walk out of Back in Business still on top of the world, and you get to retire with the championship. And if you lose, you can say that you didn't care anyway and that you were retiring and ready to hang it up and pass the torch. But if that's the case...if you really have the least to lose from actually losing, then you're going to lose. Because you're not going to be the person who wants it the most.

    So I'm telling you right now, if you want to win...you need to change your mentality. It can't be a win-win for you. I know you want to set things up so they can be framed in whatever way makes you take the smallest fall, but that's just not the big risk that you can afford to take right now. This is the biggest match of your career, especially if it's the last one. And it needs to be big risk if you want the big reward.


    Saint Sulley actually unclenches his fist.

    Garcia has made a point, and some of his logic has actually gotten through to Sulley.

    But with that said, the hate is still there.


    Saint Sulley: I want you to know Mike, I don't truly hate you...I don't. And you're right, I do see myself in you. Maybe that's where the resentment comes from?

    I don't know what happened in the last few months. Why I feel the way I have felt about being on top of the world with the FWA World Championship.

    Maybe the reason why I have had so much anger towards you...is because I'm jealous. Yeah, that's right Mike. If it was you against Gabrielle, and you won? You wouldn't have gave it a second thought. You would have danced around the ring and rubbed it in her face as she had her mental breakdown on Fight Night.

    You would have surely loved the opportunity to do it again after she was chosen for the Pick Your Poison match. And you wouldn't have hesitated to jump right into the games that Michelle von Horrowitz and Mike Parr were playing. Hell, you probably would have one upped them on the mind games yourself.

    You can do all these terrible things, and then wake up and not even have remorse about them. Yet here I am, regretting every choice I ever made. I wish truly that I could go into a Catholic confessional box and believe that a priest can make all those sins go away with a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers, but I know the realist in me knows that those things still happened.


    Mike Garcia: Well...let me put it this way. If you lose at Back in Business, and then walk away and retire...then all those sins...they would have been for nothing? Betraying Ty Johnson to get on top of the FWA? That would have been for nothing. Isolating Kleio and letting her go on her own? That would have been for nothing.

    BEATING Gabrielle and making it so that you're the person in this main event while she fights some guy who just got booked to fight her on the last Fight Night.

    That would have been for nothing.

    If you're truly upset about what you did to Gabrielle...beating her for the world championship when that was what your job was...then, you should be even more upset if you go into Back in Business and you lose to Mike Parr and Michelle von Horrowitz. Because then you'll have made that win at Desert Storm mean absolutely nothing.

    I wish I could tell you to be more like me and just act like an asshole with no remorse, but hey if that's not your thing it's not your thing. But let me tell you, the woe is me bullshit isn't flying with anybody. It's not making you anymore likeable, and it's not going to win you this match.

    So here's the thing...you need to go out there, and you need to beat both of those bastards. Because you and I both know I deserve a rematch against you for the world championship over BOTH of them.

    Saint Sulley: That's right Mike...the main event is too stale, right? That's what the fans say? They've been pushing MvH into the world title picture since she debuted.

    Mike Garcia: Take that "main event is stale" bullshit, and shove it up their ass!

    With that Mike grabs Sulley by the arm, and drags him to the end of the train car.

    He opens up the door, and tosses him into the next room.







    The Fifth Car
    The First Wheel
    Sulley gets tossed into the car and then door shuts behind him. He looks up and finds himself once again in a dinning car, very similar to the one earlier with Cyrus and Gabrielle.

    And just like in that dinning car, there are both a man and a woman sitting at a table and both of them are arguing.

    Once again their faces are blurred, but Sulley can tell exactly who they are.

    Sulley gets up to his feet and starts walking toward them, and suddenly both blurs stop their arguing.

    They get up from the table and turn towards Sulley, causing him to take a step backwards himself.


    Saint Sulley: Wait...no...you two...you two are supposed to be too distracted to notice me. You're supposed to be too focused on each other.

    The blur that is clearly Mike Parr begins to smile.

    Mike Parr: You really are naive aren't you, Sulley? You know there is one difference between your analogy with the triple threat match at Desert Storm, and the one with us in Paris this Sunday? You think that Cyrus was too focused on Gabrielle because he just hated her so much? And Gabrielle was so focused on Cyrus because she hated him so much?

    No.

    Here is the reality...

    Cyrus was the world champion.

    Gabrielle wanted to be the world champion.

    Cyrus needed to defend his belt, and Gabrielle wanted his belt.


    The Michelle von Horrowitz blur begins to chuckle.

    Michelle von Horrowitz: That's right. And, Mike...who is it that has the FWA World Championship in our match?

    Mike Parr: Why, Michelle...I think it's Sulley that has it?

    Saint Sulley: Wait...

    Mike Parr: And what is it that we want?

    Michelle von Horrowitz: We want the FWA World Championship, Mike.

    Mike Parr: I hate to tell you Sulley...but in your analogy...you're not you this time around. You're Cyrus Truth about to drop the belt.

    Michelle von Horrowitz: The only question is...which one of us is going to be the Dave Sullivan?

    Saint Sulley: Neither of you!

    Mike Parr: I doubt it. We've put aside our differences, Sulley. At the end of that last Fight Night...YOU'RE the one who made it personal. You're the one who went against everything you were saying before when you attacked us at the end of the show.

    Saint Sulley: I had every right to! You crossed a line choosing Gabrielle for that match...because you know how much it would get to me.

    Michelle von Horrowitz: And you choosing one of my closest friends Gerald Grayson wasn't crossing a line?

    Saint Sulley: Gerald Grayson isn't having a mental health crisis, is he?


    Michelle von Horrowitz: You don't know what he's going through.

    Mike Parr: You're the weakest link, Sulley. I'm sorry to tell you...there's a reason why you're the underdog, and it has nothing to do with any of that momentum bullshit that Mike Garcia was spewing on about in the last train car.

    It's pretty clear you're the weakest link out of us three. How many matches have you competed in this year compared to us? You've had one foot out the door this entire year.

    Michelle von Horrowitz: You're the only one out of the three of us who didn't truly compete in the Pick Your Poison match this last show too.

    Mike Parr: Michelle and I both got wins...

    Sulley is getting frusturated now.

    Everything that they're saying is absolutely true. And he knows it...


    Saint Sulley: But...out of the three of us, I'm the only one who knows how to show up when I need to. Unlike you Michelle, who lost to Bell Connelly when you needed a win...or you Mike, who lost the North American Championship to Krash.

    Mike Parr: After taking it from you...

    Saint Sulley: And who was the one pinned in that match?

    Mike Parr: Oh you don't have to worry about that, Sulley...because at Back in Business? There won't be any excuses. It's an elimination match. If you aren't walking away with the world championship, you're going to be getting pinned. You're out of ways to save face, Sulley. You're going to have to eat this shit pie you're owed eventually, and the dinner bell is ringing.

    Michelle von Horrowitz: That's two out of the three of us...the only question is...who's walking away with the gold.

    Mike Parr and Michelle von Horrowitz both begin to close in on Sulley, who's stepping back slowly with each step.

    Saint Sulley: I am...you two have no idea.

    Michelle von Horrowitz: And you really think you deserve it? Everyone knows...you don't care about this match. You don't want to be FWA World Champion.

    You just want to retire, and go home.


    Saint Sulley: No...no that's not true. I do care!

    Mike Parr: Then I guess you'll have to prove it.

    Both Parr and Michelle von Horrowitz are about to team up to take down Sulley, but Sulley quickly evades them.

    He's about to run towards the door, but he stops and turns around at the last second.

    Saint Sulley: I'm not backing down from you two. Maybe a few weeks ago you guys were right, maybe I couldn't have cared less if one of you beat me and walked away with the championship. And you know what, maybe your plan of throwing me off and getting me personally invested in this match worked. Maybe making me fight Gabrielle got me fired up just the way you wanted it too...

    But you think I haven't been this fired up before? I've had worse. Mike Garcia for example, or even Nova Diamond and all that slimy shit he did last year. I mean, that man handcuffed me to the ring post and burned my kingly robes and crown.

    Unlike the two of you, I have experience when things get personal in the main event of Back in Business. I warned Nova Diamond when he made that mistake last year, and I warned you both too...but you had to do it. You had to drag me in.

    If you didn't do that, maybe you're right...maybe I wouldn't have cared.

    But I can't...I can't let the two of you be the future of this company, because...because you two are just as slimy and just as evil as I am, if not worse. And maybe if I was knocked off my high horse way long ago I wouldn't have gotten this bad.

    Now? Now I have the opportunity to do the same to you both.

    So come on...team up against me, come at me...see if it works? Want to put me through that dining table over there against the window? Come do it.

    Let's go!


    Sulley holds out his arms, as if welcoming the two blurs to team up and come at them...but neither of them move.

    Saint Sulley: That's what I thought.

    Saint Sulley confidently walks away into the final train car.






    The Sixth Car
    The Torch
    Saint Sulley goes into the final car, a passenger car towards the front of the train. He thinks he is prepared for whoever is there to face him, but he isn't quite as prepared as he thought he was.

    As the train car is empty.

    But only for a moment, as on the other side the door opens, and an older man...roughly fifteen years older than Sulley, comes through the door.

    The same blur on his face remains, but only for a moment as the blur begins to fade for the first time.

    As the man gets closer, Sulley gasps at what he is looking at.


    Saint Sulley: You're...you're me!

    The older man smiles back at him.

    Dave Sullivan: Do you know why I'm here?

    Saint Sulley: To give me some sort of wisdom I'm sure.

    Dave Sullivan: You really think I'm the person to hand out wisdom? No. I wish I could, but I can't. For I'm about as wise as you are right now. I can't give you any advice for your match, or any future ones, because right there...where you're standing...that was the end of the line for me.

    That was it.

    My career was over.


    Saint Sulley: That was the idea, right?

    Dave Sullivan: It sounded nice at the time...that little impulsive decision to retire. It sure sounded nice at the time. I mean, I can't complain so much. I'm an FWA Hall of Famer after all...

    Saint Sulley: Of course you are! You're a shoe in! We're a shoe in! I mean, look at the things we've accomplished. Two time world champ? Triple Crown Champ? We've done it all!

    Dave Sullivan: Have we though? I wish I could say that...but I don't know. Michelle von Horrowitz and Mike Parr had two amazing careers. They both outlasted The King after all at Back in Business. They made that entire main event about THEM after we were the first one eliminated.

    If I could do it differently...I would.


    Saint Sulley: What would you do differently exactly? Take the match more seriously? I'm doing that.

    Dave Sullivan: Do you want to win?

    Saint Sulley: Of course I want to win!

    Dave Sullivan: And then what? Nobody wants to see you walk away from the FWA as the champion. They'd rather see you lose right there and hand the torch over. The torch...it needs passed on.

    And I know what you're thinking right now.

    "I don't give a damn about the torch".

    But that's the problem right there. If you're retiring, if that's what you're doing...then you need to care about the torch. You can't stand there and say you don't care about this match, but then say you don't care about torch.

    You either are going to go in there and pass the torch, and you're going to keep it.


    Saint Sulley: So what happens if I keep it?

    Dave Sullivan: Then you keep the damn thing! You don't do what I did. You stay... 97 matches. I fought in 97 matches...you know how stupid my match history looks with 97 matches? Oh I tell myself every day how I wish I at least went to 100.

    Saint Sulley: But who cares. We're Hall of Famers!

    Dave Sullivan: So is Tony Juvenile, and Darnell Porter. How many times do their names get brought up in the conversation of who's the Greatest of All Time?

    You know who they talk about? Chris Kennedy, Stu St. Clair, Michelle von Horrowitz, Mike Parr, Wolf, Ryan Rondo...the Grand Slam Champions. But you? You just couldn't tough it out could you. We were just one tag team title win away, but you didn't want to stick around and go for that either, huh?

    So yeah, we're a Tripe Crown Champion. Whoopty Doo!

    But guess how many FWA Mount Rushmore's we're on?

    But no Sulley, it's okay...because you're tired, and you don't want to do it anymore. So you get to walk away.

    Saint Sulley: So what do you want me to do?

    The older Dave Sullivan walks up to Sulley and gets real close to him.

    He leans in for a whisper.

    Dave Sullivan: Either pass the damn torch...or don't. But either way, however you end things, you better do it the right way this time.


    The older Sullivan slaps Saint Sulley hard across the face.

    And suddenly all the blurs stop.







    Sulley is jerked awake by the train coming to a halt. He takes a gander out the window and sees that the train has already arrived at Paris. He rubs his head, having a horrible headache from all that melatonin he took. What the hell was that? The dream felt so weird. As much as Sulley wants to ignore the message it was trying to send him, ignoring dreams like that isn't so easy.

    Was it The Dreamer getting in his head?

    Was it something Parr said?

    Or was it something Sulley just needed to hear?

    The FWA World Champion grabs his suitcase and opens the door to leave the train.

    He's greeted at the Gare du Nord Train Station by his daughter Sammie Sullivan and her nanny. Sammie Sullivan runs up to Sulley and gives him a huge hug. It's been roughly a week since the two of them have seen each other.

    Sulley has a small tear in his eye as he clutches his daughter tightly.


    Saint Sulley: Sammie...

    Sammie: Yes daddy?

    Saint Sulley: We need to talk about my retirement.


    Sammie has a huge smirk on her face as the train Sulley just rode departs behind him for it's next journey...one that will go on without him.



    "I hate arrows. They try to tell me which direction to go. It's like fuck you I ain't going that way, line with two thirds of a triangle at the end." - Mitch Hedberg

  4. #4
    Striving for a B+ in life
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    A beat-up, worn-down, seen-better-days, lived-a-good-life van rests with the front left tire sticking out into a vacant, forgotten, pothole-ridden road. The other tires sit neatly in the assigned parking space, next to an unused curb, which slides along in front of a seemingly vacant warehouse. The van has a few appealing, charismatic qualities to it.

    For starters, it's got a 1970s peace sign in a multi-colored design. You know those hippie peace signs with the yellow and orange and green and blue and purple and red, in no particular order, from top to bottom in a horizontal design. It's the most prominent feature of the four-door vehicle. The rest are smaller peace signs, with more enigmatic designs.

    It's befitting of the van's age — 1974 Dodge Tradesman, purple in color and a back trunk area wide and deep enough to fit four dead bodies. If you came across this van and its "look" on this particular empty street, you might assume there'd be dead bodies inside.

    But there's nothing inside except empty Heinz Ketchup packets and a few fast food soda cups and wrappers.

    Nothing ... yet.

    The doors to the warehouse swing open in our 1997 time capsule look-back, revealing a skinny, pale man of about 5 feet, 5 inches, a green T-shirt he's worn for three years, and a pair of raggedy jeans.

    Behind him is an angry fella, Russian in accent, with an unshaved beard and thick-rimmed glasses, a cigarette hanging between two fingers. He's irate, as something wasn't met.

    "I don't want actual sauce! I want rail. Blanco. Big C. Angel powder. Snow. Heaven's dust. White lady.

    SAUCE."


    "I've never ever ever heard of those synonyms for any particular sauce. Ever.

    Not ever ever ever.

    Ever ever.

    Literally ever. Why not say the sauce you want?"

    "I can't. FBI listening."

    "What? Why is the FBI involved in my business? This feels like a prank."


    "It's no prank."

    "Why'd you call the Sauce Man then?"

    "Because ... you ... the Sauce Man ... you get me the sauce."

    "Yes, I get you the sauce. All types of sauce."

    "I want one sauce. The Sauce."

    "Again, I've never ever ever ..."

    "Stop it."

    "Alright. You want the holy grail of sauce."

    "YES!"

    "Okay."

    "So? You get me sauce."

    "All sauces are created equally so I do not consider any type of sauce above others.

    I have bar-be-cue sauce, buffalo sauce, alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, chipotle sauce, hot sauce, hollandaise sauce, A1 steak sauce, avocado sauce, or is that not a thing yet? Cocktail sauce, salsa, chili sauce, rainbow sauce, peppercorn sauce, mushroom sauce, coffee sauce."


    "I don't want list of sauces. I want the sauce I want. The sauce my customers want. They are international."

    "Do you want sauce from Brazil?"

    "YES! I want the sauce from Brazil."

    "Alright. Tucupi sauce is great. I can deliver that to you in a week's time."

    "Absolutely. Thank you. Please don't mess this up."

    "I don't see how I could."

    Sauce Man retrieves a barrel of actual culinary sauce and lugs it with his frail arms towards the back of his van. He unhinges the creaky doors and lifts with all his leg and arm strength to barely get the barrel up over the edge of the trunk platform. He slides it the rest of the way and closes the doors, huffing and puffing, completely lost for breath.

    Sauce Man enters the vehicle, turns the ignition, and drives off with a screech and a jaded start-and-stop motion. He's still trying to perfect the art of stick shift driving, as this van is only in his possession for the past few weeks, ever since he ventured on his own with a sauce company titled "High on Sauce".

    As he maneuvers the creaky, 23-year-old van towards the interstate, his dial radio airs a commercial for a local wrestling promotion. He hears an advertisement for a match featuring someone named Smeg against a name he can't quite make out. Possibly Logan Darwin but it could be off, to be fair.

    Sauce Man ponders in that moment whether he made the correct decision, to make his entire career ... his entire life ... about sauce. He daydreams of possibly being a wrestler, flying off the top rope, landing an elbow to someone's chest, the crowd going wild, chanting his name ... you know, the usual fantasy people not in wrestling imagine for themselves. It's always an elbow drop, and it's always the crowd cheering wildly.

    But it's not in the cards for ole Sauce Man. He has to deliver the sauce to the good people of southwestern Iowa, a far trek from his home in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the sauce delivery industry is already monopolized by a one "Sweet Tooth Tommy", who literally has one tooth left.

    The thought of Sweet Tooth Tommy sends Sauce Man into a silent rage, pressing his foot harder on the gas pedal and urging his ratchet piece of machinery to go much faster than is probably advisable.

    If only Sauce Man could get Sweet Tooth Tommy into a wrestling ring. That'd be the day.

    Maybe one day.

    Maybe southwestern Iowa is just a temporary stop ... before Sauce Man can go on home.



    3x FWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x FWA World Champion
    2x FWA X Champion
    7x FWA Tag Team Champion


    2020 North American Sports Poster Of The Year

  5. #5
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Chris Peacock in...
    DAVE AND LINDA

    Thud. Thud. Thud. The punching bag suspended from the ceiling in the empty gym was absorbing blow after blow; the pummeling sound echoing through the entire gym floor. Dust particles that had been embedded into the bag after a long period of neglect were fired into the air and illuminated by the sun coming in through the windows. Thud. Thud. Thud.

    The punches were beginning to increase in power and rate, as the man throwing the punches began breathing faster and faster. THUD. THUD. THUD. Things were moving at such a quick pace that it was almost too much to keep up with for anyone that might have been paying attention. It was getting out of control. The man let out a visceral scream and began punching the punching bag as quickly as he could, like Red Rush's final stand against Omni-Man. THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD! THUD!

    He stopped, unable to continue the exponential increase in his punches. Removing the boxing gloves and shaking his hands out after the intense work out, the man took a large swig from his water bottle and let out a relieved, but slightly pained, sigh.

    Tossing his bottle to the ground, Chris Peacock stood with his hands on his hips and looked around the dated gym. He’d been putting everything that he had into training ahead of his match - potentially matches - at Back in Business. This was the same training regime that had prepared him for Carnal Contendership, before certain other events transpired. Although he was confident no such antics would be taking place this time due to measures he had taken.

    After what happened at Fight Night: Curtain Call, when J.J. JAY! put his hands on his twin brother and his nephew - his family - Chris ensured that he was training for his match before he flew out to Paris, his way. No, there isn't going to be any Frank Sinatra; Peacock had all of the motivation he needed ready and in the bank.

    It was a hard sell for Peacock to make to his agent, Allen Price. Allen had developed a habit of wanting Chris to prepare for his matches by getting into the mindset of his opponent. Chris had considered this strategy in great detail before his match with Marcus McClain, yet his night spent in prison and fighting with the inmates DID help him prepare for and win that match. Although, we're becoming a bit self-aware here, so you decide if this is a rip on a J.J. JAY! promo or not.

    Allen’s concept for this match was to get Chris to work in a restaurant for an evening. Whilst Chris would usually just go along with Price’s wishes (it is usually easier than arguing with him), but this was different. Making the association between Uncle’s mask and seafood wasn’t going to be enough. There is nothing that Chris could think of that could enable him to get in the mindset of someone who would put their hands on a teenager as a part of a backwards agenda. Being a wrestler, he knows that there are certain lengths that one needs to go to, and Chris has gone to the extreme himself before, but never would he want to attack an opponent’s family. Never.

    The line had been crossed, pissed on and eviscerated into nothing at Curtain Call. Uncle attacking Chris when he’d just won the X Championship, Chris impersonating Quiet and Uncle’s match against the Diamond Dogs was all “part of the show”. What Uncle did to Drew and Max was a step too far. This was more than personal now for Peacock. Ignoring the faux-love that Uncle seemed to show for Chris, he knew that he was dealing with an other-worldly level of evil at Back in Business.

    Chris’s family meant the world to him, even in times when he didn’t realise it himself. When Chris and Drew were children, the Peacock family would do everything together. Whether it was dancing in competitions, watching wrestling or even running the family restaurant, ‘Dazzling Dave’s’, named after Chris’s father. Allen bringing up the restaurant idea as his pitch to get Chris prepared for Back in Business had Chris in a reflective mood, causing him to reminisce some of the times he had spent in the restaurant with his family when he was younger.

    After getting what he needed from his bottle, Chris had reapplied his gloves and began working the punching bag again, his thoughts drifted back to a vivid memory from working at the family restaurant... when things were much simpler, even if they didn't seem that way at the time.



    Saturday night at Dazzling Dave’s was always the busiest night of the week. Not only did the entire Peacock family have to work to ensure that all of the orders were met, but they were also always wearing their dance costumes for their weekly performance to the paying and appreciative customers. A family of four skilled dancers was a great USP for the restaurant, and Dave knew that it was something that they should take advantage of.

    “Dazzling” Dave Peacock was in charge of the sauces for his famous pasta dishes, his signature dish and the one that was the most popular with the customers was the 'Spaghetti and Disco Balls', which was just spaghetti and meatballs with edible glitter sprinkled over it.

    Dave was assisted in the kitchen by his twin sons; Drew was on desserts and Chris worked the prep station, which usually meant cutting a LOT of onions. Chris’s mother, Linda, was in charge of front of house on the busy nights. Chris remembered that she had always been a beautiful, kind and caring woman and she had always been closer to Chris than his brother - whereas Drew had always had a stronger relationship with their father.


    ”Shit!” Chris cursed as he nipped the top of his middle finger with the chopping knife, causing blood to trickle into the pile of onions he was working on. He puts the end of his finger in his mouth and walks to the sink at the back of the kitchen and begins to run it under the cold tap. Even though the water has a relieving effect, Chris still winces and grunts in a mixture of pain and annoyance. Drew laughs heartily at his twin brother’s pain. ”Don’t you start! Anyway, isn’t wrist hurting from 'scooping all of that ice cream' yet?”

    Chris was of course referring to his brother’s wrist aching due to... other... activities. The brothers begin to tussle and the loud shuffling gets the attention of Dave, who strides over from his station. ”Chris, what have you done to your hand?” Let me see...” Dave grabs his son’s hand and attempts to examine his finger, but Chris yanks his arm back and breaks his father’s grip.

    “I need to see it, Chris. Can you stop being so difficult?” The tone of Dave’s voice when he made that request made it clear that this was not the first time that Chris had hurt himself, which was true as it was a common occurrence. Doing the same thing over and over again is something that had and always did bother Chris.

    ”I am tired of cutting onions, Dad! Every Saturday night I’m here when I could be out and living my life! I’m eighteen years old for crying out loud! You’ve already made it clear that Drew is the better dancer out of the two of us; just let me live MY life!” Chris’s outburst was met with silence from his father, brother and the rest of the kitchen staff, who didn’t do a good job hiding the fact that they were listening in on the heated family conversation taking place at the back of the kitchen.

    Dave let out a big sigh and gripped Chris on the shoulder. ”Chris, I understand that you’re frustrated. Cutting onions back here is not all that you’ll be doing with your life. I promise. You can be whatever you want to be... in the future. But right now, what you need to be doing is helping us out anyway you can because we need you. If you gotta cut onions to pull your weight, that’s what you’ve got to do. Sometimes what we want to do and what we need to do can't be the same thing.” Dave walks over to Chris’s chopping board and picks up a handful of chopped onions.

    “If you don’t believe me, take this onion, here.” Chris rolls his eyes and let’s out an exasperated sigh. ”Not the onion story AGAIN, Dad!”

    ”You’ll hear this story as many times as you need to to understand it, Chris. You see this onion? You can cut it and chop it any way you like. You can make it fit your needs for what dish you want to make with it. That’s you, Chris. You’re versatile, just like this onion. Anything that you set your mind to, you can do it.

    Also like this onion, you are important to whatever you are a part of. You’re an important part of this restaurant and this family, just as much as everyone else is. That’s me, your mother and Drew.

    And here’s the part of this story that I’ve never told you before. Onions... they’re made up of layers. They’re not what they seem on the outside.”


    Chris screwed up his face, taking his father aback. ”Did you... did you just quote Shrek?! Chris had seen Shrek when it came out a few years earlier, and instantly remembered that line. Dave looks confused, not understanding the reference at all, and Drew bursts out laughing again. He holds his arms out and starts stomping around the kitchen and shouting in a poor Scottish accent. ”MY NAME IS CHRIS... I’M AN OGRE!! GRRAAAAH!”

    With Dave dumbfounded by what is happening, Chris grabs a towel and dries his hand off, ignoring his brother’s antics. ”I am tired of your lectures and I’m tired of doing what this family wants me to do. Everyone keeps telling me that I can do what I want, yet no one fucking LETS ME! This is BULLSHIT!

    I started dancing to make YOU proud, Dad! It’s not what I wanted to do! You KNOW that I wanted to be a wrestler and that’s what I’m going to do! I don’t CARE what you say anymore.”


    After staring his speechless father down for a few seconds, Chris storms out of the kitchen, unaware of how his father initially reacted to his outburst as he didn’t allow Dave to get another word in.



    Chris finished his work out and showered, using the time where he is being covered by the warm water as a chance to think back on his wrestling career, whether it was his time in NYEW, on Ground Zero or in the FWA.

    He thought about how Back in Business and his match against Uncle is the biggest match of his career and how everything that came before it was leading up to this.

    He DID become a wrestler, but it was his father’s ill health and then his brother’s injury which brought him back to dancing, with wrestling taking a back seat. He began to think about where his wrestling career would have been had he not have taken his hiatus from the ring and returned to dancing when there was not any other Peacocks left in the disco scene. However this trail of thought was interrupted by a ping on his phone.

    From: Allen Price
    Food Network. 6pm. See what you missed out on. A x

    "The Food Network?!" Chris shook his head and tossed his phone back towards the sink and finished his shower off before leaving the gym.

    On his walk back from the gym to his apartment, he met a couple of FWA fans who recognised him and explained that they'd previously mistaken his brother for him on more than one occasion. After thanking the fans and signing a couple of autographs, it was up to his apartment where he threw his keys in the bowl next to the front door.

    He glanced at the clock hanging on the wall - 6.02pm. Having nothing else to do, he made the quick decision out of nothing more than morbid curiosity to see what Allen wanted him to tune into on the Food Network. Turning on the television whilst throwing himself down on the sofa, Chris then flicked through the channels until he found the one he wanted and on the screen he saw that an episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares was beginning, with Chris turning the show on just as the opening title sequence was finishing up.

    On a warm day, Gordon Ramsay walks into the frame and addresses the camera as he walks along the pavement down a busy street.

    "I'm here at one of the most extravagant-sounding restaurants that I have ever heard of in my life - Restaurant X located in New York City." Ramsay continues a bit further on down the path, using his hands to do his talking for him in his trademark way. "Just this year there have been three different owners, and now they're all working together to try and make a success of the restaurant.

    To me, when you have three owners who are completely different and have different ideas for a restaurant, it is a recipe for disaster and it hardly ever works out."
    Ramsay rubs his hands together, noticing the restaurant on the other side of the road.

    "I understand from the locals that the restaurant was previously run as an Italian by a local family - but they had to close the restaurant due to a number of tragic and unforeseen personal circumstances. Since then, the building has been empty, until the beginning of this year when one - and now eventually three - new owners came in. I honestly have no idea what to expect from this place. Here we go. Look, they don't even have a proper sign... that's just a banner."

    Chef Ramsay puffs his cheeks out and pulls the door open and walks in, and the camera pans up and shows the Restaurant X 'sign' is just a banner as Ramsay described it.

    Ramsay enters the restaurant through the front door and is immediately taken aback by the unusual décor in the restaurant area. The walls are painted a very dark and unwelcoming black, with the tables covered in neon green tablecloths. Artwork on the wall depicts several different sea creatures and the look on the face of Chef Ramsay is one of confusion, and he can't help but blurt out a laugh. "What the f**k have I just walked into? Is this some sort of f**king joke?"

    Ramsay's bewilderment is interrupted by a waitress approaching him with a smile on her face. She was a young woman and seemed to immediately pick up on Ramsay's confusion. "Hi, welcome to Restaurant X. My name is GiGi and I will be your server today" The positivity of the waitress seemed to unsettle Ramsay even further, but ever the gentleman he extends his hand to GiGi and she shakes it eagerly. "Gordon. Pleasure to meet you my darling. This is some place, isn't it? Jesus Christ. I don't know how you can be so cheerful... just based on what I can see walking in, I am s**tting myself."

    GiGi laughs nervously at Ramsay's comments. "I'll tell you something, darling, you laughing like that isn't helping the situation either. I have never seen anything like this, I will tell you. Shall we sit down so I can have a look through the menu?"

    "Of course, let me show you to your table. Right over here." GiGi leads the way to Gordon's table, which is situated in the middle of the restaurant. "Here is your table, Chef. I'll be right back with the menu - can I get you a drink?" Ramsay takes his seat and settles in. "Just a water, thank you darling."

    GiGi walks off to get Gordon’s drink, leaving the chef to look around the restaurant whilst he waits. The same look of confusion is still plastered across his face, and he also clocks a gentlemen sitting silently in the corner. He’s not eating, not drinking. Just sitting there. "Afternoon. Do you come to this place often?" No response. Gordon widens his eyes and shakes his head.

    ”First impressions... I don’t even know where to start. The restaurant is hideous. And I’m yet to meet one of the three owners responsible for this monstrosity.”

    Gordon eyes up the room nervously, just as GiGi returns with his drink and a menu. “Thank you, darling. Let’s have a look at what we have here.” Gordon peruses the menu and appears confused at some of the items. “There’s just so much and none of it looks appetising at all. What would you recommend?” GiGi covers her mouth as she laughs and shakes her head.

    “Is none of it any good?” Gordon asks in a concerned manner. ”Our chef, who is also one of the owners, has put together this insane menu and apart from one of the desserts - the Sky High Sundae - I wouldn’t order anything from that menu.”

    ”Now that is slightly worrying. An owner and a chef that’s created a disgusting menu and a server, who is supposed to be selling the food, wouldn't order any of it.

    It is really no wonder this place is in trouble. Right, well... I’ll guess I’ll try some of the Squid Rings, this Tek-Tek Tower Burger and then I’ll finish on the Sky High Sundae. Thank you, darling.”


    GiGi nods her head and heads back to the kitchen, where we see her pass Gordon’s ticket to the chef behind the counter. ”Order up, Haoward! It’s for Chef Ramsay.”The chef, Haoward, is a strange looking man, almost resembling a mantis in appearance with large bugged eyes and a thin jaw. He cackles as GiGi hands him the order.

    ”Kahehehehe! This is most excellent, Epos! A chance for the culinary wizard to show off his skills!” Haoward looks down at a short and plump Greek-looking man who also giggles with glee. ”Ανυπομονώ να σας εξυπηρετήσω, ο παντοδύναμος και ταπεινός μου κύριος!” Haoward nods. “You are the model sous-chef, my loyal minion. Now! Prepare Tek-Tek!”

    Back in the restaurant, Gordon is trying to listen in on the unusual sounds coming in from the kitchen, but the door suddenly swings open and a stocky man walks through into the restaurant. The most striking thing about him is the tentacled mask covering his face. The man slowly walks into the restaurant and up to Gordon and extends his hand. ”When I ordered the squid rings I didn’t realise I was going to have to eat them off of someone’s f**king face! How are you, sir? Also, who are you?”

    The man ignores Gordon’s offer of a handshake, breathing heavily instead before replying. ”You come into my restaurant and mock me?! I have single-handedly made this restaurant into one of the most sought after establishments in this city! I do not want you here and this restaurant does not need you here!” The man’s aggressive attitude immediately puts Gordon’s back up.

    ”First of all, why don’t you calm the f**k down and get out of my face. All I asked you was your name, okay? I finally get to meet one of the owners and I can instantly see why this place is in the trouble that it is in. In fact, come with me, I want to speak to you and the other two owners, wherever the f**k they are, before I go any further.”

    Gordon rises from his seat and heads off towards the kitchen, with the confrontational man following him a couple of steps behind.

    When Gordon walks into the kitchen he immediately freezes in shock, and points at the chopping board where Epos is carving some grey/brown meat. “What the f**k is that?!” Haoward the chef glides over and laughs gleefully again, looking proudly at his apprentice. “You ordered the Tek-Tek Tower Burger, Chef! We must remove Tek-Tek’s flesh in order to prepare your meal! Kahehehhehe!” Gordon immediately notices the rancid smell coming from the meat. “Can you not smell that? It’s rotten!”

    “What else would you expect a decomposing elephant to smell like?”

    Gordon is speechless. Literally. He cannot bring himself to say some words and vigorously rubs his forehead in confusion, anger and likely a hundred other emotions. “Right, I want the three owners here, now.” Haoward and the angry man from the dining room stand in front of Chef Ramsay, who looks around. “Where is the third owner. I’m not f**king about.”

    The angry troll man and Haoward point their fingers in unison... at GiGi. Gordon is gobsmacked. ”You? You’re one of the owners? Did you not feel like mentioning that to me? Was I supposed to just come in here, blame these two for all of the problems and you act all innocent like you weren’t the one who let these two into this business? As far as I am concerned, you are just as much to blame for everything that has gone wrong in this place as these two idiots. How could you let them do this? You’ve enabled them! When I met you, I thought you were better than this! I’m not so sure now!” GiGi doesn’t say anything back to Gordon, who turns to Haoward.

    “And you... I am always one for trying something new in the kitchen, but are you f**king serious? You’re not going to last five minutes as a restaurant owner if all you’ve got is a dead f**king elephant and a little Greek f**ker running about!”

    Chef Ramsay now rounds on the man who was rude to him in the dining room. He looks at him with a blank expression, and shrugs his shoulders. ”I don’t even know your f**king name, not that it matters anyway because your attitude stinks worse than that f**king dead elephant.

    What I do know just from that small interaction out there is that you’re full of s**t. You walk around this place you’re some big gangster with loads of friends and loads of loyal customers, but you’re a joke.”


    ”I’m a joke? You think that these people are here because I’m making them? You don’t know the first thing about me or my business! In fact, I’d like you to get off of my property!” The angry man points in the direction of the door, but Gordon is unfazed.

    ”You think I’m scared of you? Some f**king gobby idiot in a stupid f**king mask? Show your face you f**king coward. And trust me, anything you could possibly think of doing to me I could come back at you with ten times worse you insignificant little c**t.” Gordon brushes his shirt with his hands.

    “But you know what? This restaurant is doomed with you three muppets running things, so I’m not even going to bother f**king trying. What this place needs is someone who knows what they’re doing... and it’s none of you.”

    Chris turned the TV off and considered his own reflection in the blank screen. He couldn’t believe what he had just watched... Allen really HAD done that to his dad’s restaurant. Chris grabs his phone and angrily puts it up to his ear. He waits for a couple of seconds.

    ”There he is! What do you think of the show so far? Pretty cool, huh? Or ‘groovy’ as I’m sure you’d say!” Allen laughs to himself, but is met with silence by Chris, who is seething. “Chris, you there?”

    ”How could you do that? You had NO right, Allen! Who told you that you could do that, huh? You crossed a line. This is one thing that I can’t let slide. I’m sorry. It was bad enough that you got involved in Gerald’s match when you didn’t need to... but I can’t accept this. You went too far this time.”

    ”What are you saying, Chris? Are you not watching still?”

    ”I think you know what it means. It’s over.” Chris pauses for a moment as Allen is left in a stunned and shocked silence. ”Just drop the keys to the restaurant over to my place tomorrow when I’m at the gym.” Before Allen can reply, Chris hangs up the phone. He puts his head back on the sofa and exhales loudly. Not wanting to think about the situation anymore, he heads to bed.

    It was not an easy sleep, as the memory that had sprung back into his mind earlier in the day found itself fighting back into the forefront of Chris’s conscious as he writhed around in bed.



    Chris stomps from the kitchen into the alley behind the restaurant and boots one of the metal trash cans on the floor next to the door, causing its contents to be spilled all over the floor. He looks at the scattered pieces of litter and huffs before dropping to his knees and beginning to collect the rubbish, putting it back in the bin.

    He feels a hand on his shoulder, touching him in a comfortable and incomparably caring way.
    ”Chrissy, you know that your dad means well. He just wants the best for you!”

    Chris looks up and sees his mother, Linda, standing over him. He stands up and gives her a hug, trying not to show her his vulnerability as he holds back tears. ”I don’t think I can do it, Mom. In this family... how can I live up to the three of you? Drew is the star child, and what am I? What am I supposed to do with my life? Cut fucking onions?!”

    Linda strokes Chris's hair and then puts him in front of her with her hands on his shoulders. "Honey, first of all you need to watch that mouth because it could get you in trouble one day. And Chris, you can be anything that you want to be. You're young and you have your entire life ahead of you. And no matter what you do - dancing, wrestling, cutting onions, or anything else... we will be proud of you and we will support you."

    "Family overrides anything else. No matter what happens, you will always have your family. We will always be here for you. Right here, in this restaurant. Whatever you do, you can always come back here and you will be welcomed back with open arms. Every... single... time."
    Chris hugs his mother. She always knew what to say and at the right time.



    Chris snapped out of the memory and looked up at the ceiling. His thoughts before he finally drifted off to sleep were centered around his mother. That conversation was one of the last he had with her; it was just a few days later that she was tragically killed in a car accident.

    Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Chris's training the following day was just as focused as the day before it as Paris and Back in Business drew even closer. In fact, his training was even more intense, as he still retained some of the anger caused by Allen desecrating the restaurant which brought him memories of his parents; now they were both gone, the abandoned building that was left in the same condition it was when the business went under in 2009 was one of the final tangible things that Chris had left of his parents, his brother and nephew excluded. Thud. Thud. Thud. THUD!

    When Chris returned home to his apartment, the door knocked into an envelope on the floor. He picked the envelope up and say the word 'Chris' scrawled in Allen's unmistakably messy style on the outside of the envelope. Examining the contents of the envelope, Chris saw his key to the restaurant with a disco ball key ring, which he now noticed was missing from his bowl of keys by the door. For a moment, Chris looked down at the key ring with a smile, remembering the difficulty that his dad had putting it on the set of keys, as he'd always struggled to open the ring up enough to slot keys or anything else on. Dave would always give up and then ask Chris to do it, knowing that he had a strong grip developed from his constant use of a knife in the kitchen.

    Chris then tutted and shook his head, realising that Allen must have swiped them from his apartment at some point. He throws the envelope on the kitchen counter, and catches out of the corner of his eye another piece of paper sliding out of the envelope. He picks it up and reads the message written on it out loud.

    "Meet me at the restaurant, tonight at 8. Allen." Chris shakes his head again. Not a fucking chance. He shoves the envelope and accompanying note into the trash and heads further into the apartment... where he spots his brother sitting on the sofa.

    "Drew? How did you get in here?" Drew gets to his feet and holds his hands out, expressing matter-of-factly. "I look exactly like you, numbnuts. I just told the doorman that I locked myself out and he let me in here."

    "That explains the strange look he gave me when I walked in... but, what are you doing here?"

    "Well, I have actually spent a significant amount of time on the phone today with your friend Allen. He's very, very upset." Chris balks. "HE'S upset? Give me a fucking break. You saw what he did to Dazzling Dave's, right? On the TV last night?"

    "Yeah... why are you angry about it?"

    "What? Why aren't you angry about it? You fucking saw what he did!!"

    "Bro... I think you should just go and meet him. Go through the back alley."

    Chris considered it. He looked at the clock and saw that it was 7:45. He had 15 minutes to make it for the time that Allen wanted to meet, and he just KNEW that Price would be sitting there like a lost puppy until he arrived. "God fucking damn it."

    The walk to the restaurant was a quick one. A mixture of anxiousness and a small bit of nostalgia filled Chris as he went to meet Allen. He'd not been to the restaurant in a long time, despite its close proximity to where he lived.

    His mother's words in that conversation rang through his ears...

    "We will always be here for you. Right here, in this restaurant."

    As much as Chris loved his mother, more than anyone else, he couldn't help knowing that she lied. She wasn't going to be there. Neither was Dave. All that was waiting there for him was Allen fucking Price... and he wasn't happy about it.

    Chris turned the corner and walked down the alley and saw Allen standing outside the door where he and his mother spoke. Allen appeared relieved to see Chris, holding his hand up to greet him. "Chris, I'm so glad-WOAH!

    Allen is cut off mid-sentence, as Chris has grabbed him by the collar and pinned him against the wall. "Shut the fuck up. How DARE you show your face out here, where she stood!? HOW FUCKING DARE YOU, ALLEN?! YOU'RE LUCKY THAT I DON'T KICK YOUR FUCKING ASS! ONE THING! ONE FUCKING THING! DON'T FUCK WITH MY FAMILY, ALLEN!!

    Put them in pantomimes or invite them to the shows, but you don't... you don't do this."
    Much like all of those years ago, Chris finds himself in the middle of a breakdown in the alley behind his family's restaurant. He sets Price down and drops his head. "Was it worth it?"

    "What do you mean?" Allen stumbles through his words, and Chris grabs him by the collar and slams him into the wall again. "Ruining the one thing that I had left of them... for a fucking FAKE TV show. WAS IT WORTH IT?" Chris lets Allen go again, and Price dusts himself down. Price doesn't answer the question put to him and instead puts his arm around Peacock's shoulders, ushering him towards the door. "How about we just go inside? You've got the key..."

    Chris sniffles and wipes his face and puts the key into the lock. He takes a deep breath before opening the door and entering, seeing the kitchen that had featured on the program that he watched last night. "That's where we made the elephant burger... which was just beef we'd dyed grey. You see, I just hired actors. Chef Ramsay was pissed when he found out that this was all a set up."

    Chris's attention is drawn to where he used to chop onions when he was younger and he sees the chopping boards still in place. He brushes his hand along them and then notices that Allen has moved over to the door through to the dining room. "You ready?"

    Allen opens the door and Chris walks out into the restaurant and immediately breaks down into tears. He looks around the room to see that the setting from Kitchen Nightmares has disappeared and replacing it is a modernised version of the previous dining room that he grew up with when his parents operated the restaurant. The walls are a soft shade of purple, and are adorned with pictures of the Peacock family, including Chris's time in the FWA. Disco balls hanging from the ceiling reflecting light around the room, catching Chris's eyes every so often as they well up. "Allen... I don't understand."

    "Wow, you really didn't watch the rest of the show did you? Well, after the chef said that someone needed to come into this place and turn it around, that's exactly what happened. Luckily, I had someone who looked exactly like you and some connections to call favours from to get this place looking like this.

    I don't really want to get into it right now, but you taking a chance on me means that I got a second chance to make something of myself... so I wanted to do this for you. You won't like this, but you're a lot more similar to Uncle than you think.

    There's a reason that you both have an ever-growing list of people that will put themselves down on the line for both of you. The main difference is though, people love you because you don't hide behind your insecurities. Uncle has to lie to himself in order to show any sort of compassion towards anyone else.

    But you - you Chris Peacock - you care. You're not a fraud and you're not a coward. That's why you're going to beat him. And I know I'm technically still fired, but you can bet your life that I'm gonna be right there watching when you do."


    Chris looks at this dumb fuck. This random fucking guy that approached him on Christmas Day in a hotel car park in Canada that he can't help but call one of his closest friends. Allen Price has a lot of flaws, but fuck it does Chris Peacock accept them.

    "You are the most infuriating person to to work with, you know that right? For every time you do something right you've got to do three things wrong first, huh? But I'd be kidding myself if I said that I would change a damn thing about it, because when you get it right, you get it right.

    You better be there in Paris, because I want you to be there to see me win that tournament and keep that championship. You've reminded me why I'm doing this - it is for the people that I care about and to continue the legacy that came before me. Beating Uncle is going to need me to go to some weird placed, but I'll be there and I'll do what needs to be done... Because that's what fucking onions do."

    Chris brings his manager in for a hug and then hears a familiar voice. "You two kissed and made up yet?" Chris dries his eyes quickly and sees that Drew has entered the restaurant, not wanting to give his brother any ammunition to mock him. "Well, get cooking. Everyone will be here soon."

    Chris smiles as the opening piano keys of "We Are Family" begins to play - that's right we're doing a montage now - and he nods his head to his brother.

    "We are family!
    I got all my sisters with me!
    We are family!
    Get up everybody and sing!"


    In the kitchen, Chris is back at his station and cutting onions once again, but unlike when he was younger, he is now doing so with a smile on his face. It is what needs to be done at the moment in time, and he's okay with that.

    "We are family!
    I got all my sisters with me!
    We are family!
    Get up everybody and sing!"


    Chris spins around and dances over to the cooking pot and uses the knife to slide the onions in. Helping out, Allen puts tomatoes into a blender, but doesn't attach the lid properly and promptly covers himself in red, adding in a comical slip onto the kitchen floor for good measure. Just as he used to make fun of Chris when they were younger, Drew chooses now to instead mock Price. Chris takes what he can of the blended tomatoes and also adds them to the pot, laughing to himself.

    "Everyone can see we're together,
    As we walk on by.
    We fly just like birds of a feather,
    I won't tell no lie.


    Allen sets a table for seven in the restaurant with one hand, using the other to wipe tomato from his suit. Chris impressively brings six full plates of spaghetti and meatballs out from the kitchen to broad smiles and applause from Drew, Allen, Max and The Diamond Dogs. At the end of the table, Randy Ramon tips his beer in Chris's direction, pleased with what he sees.

    "All of the people around us they say,
    Can they be that close?
    Just let me state for the record,
    We're giving love in a family dose!"


    Chris then brings his own plate through and shakes his head, seeing that none of the others had waited for him to return before they started eating. He observes The Diamond Dogs teasing Allen as Drew watches and laughs, and his nephew Max being star-struck as Randy is recounting one of his famous adventures.

    Just seeing the people he cares about the most in one place, happy to be spending time in each other's company was enough to let him know that Allen was right - he does care about those around him. That is what sets him apart from J.J. JAY! Chris's eyes meet with a photo of his parents with their arms around each other looking down over the table. He is reminded of his mother's words again...

    "We will always be here for you. Right here, in this restaurant."

    Chris looks up at the picture and smiles to himself, nodding his head, before taking his seat with his family.

    "We are family!
    I got all my sisters with me!
    We are family!
    Get up everybody and sing!"

  6. #6
    All About That Ace
    Commiesaw Jobberman's Avatar

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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    THIS
    IS A LOVE STORY
    ♥♥♥


    JAY blinked. Where was he? He’s staring up at the ceiling of a… of a trailer. He feels something wet on his shoulder, turns to his right - and pushes himself away hurriedly. His arm is smeared with fresh wet blood. There’s a body next to him.

    “Chinua?”

    He’s dead. A piece of glass sticks out of his chest. I killed him, JAY thinks. He knows this because his hands are bloody and a shallow cut runs across one of them. But he doesn’t remember how. How don’t you remember how you killed someone? JAY isn’t so feeble minded to be traumatized by the act, is he? The last thing he remembers is opening the trailer door and… nothing. Maybe the man caught him off guard and attacked him. Hit his head hard. His head doesn’t particularly hurt. There’s a knife in one of his hands. His other hand is bloody, one finger sticks out. He wrote something in his blood.

    QBAH.

    “Huh?”

    He wants to freak out, but he shouldn’t. He doesn’t have time to freak out. Never enough time, now more than ever. JAY searches frantically for a phone, or a calendar. How long has he been here? But before he can find either, he finds his Book of Cosmos laying on the trailer counter. A few folded pages stick out of it. Not JAY’s handwriting. Chinua’s? He pulls the folded papers out and sits onto one of the two chairs laid out, and begins to read.



    If you’re reading this, I’m probably dead and you’re probably confused. I would have wanted to alleviate that confusion but you told me not to. You’d forget anyways, so the better thing to do would be to just write whatever came to mind. You’d learn more about me that way. Or maybe you’d learn something about yourself. I think most people would have preferred to be told what was going on. But you have your little code word, so I suppose that’s enough.

    I’ve come to learn a great deal about you over the time we’ve spent together. I’ve learned just about every flaw that defines you. For example, you treat your life as if it were a piece of fiction. You relate everything you do to a film or a television show, and most of the time these references go over my head. You have a hard time being up front. Though, I quickly learned that this wasn’t a case of an inability to tell me of your wants and desires, you’re quite capable of it, but a stubbornness prevents you from doing so. In fact, when I pushed you towards bluntness, you simply doubled down on theatrics. Nevertheless, I had the cognitive advantage, and a case of beer is enough to loosen most tongues, particularly a lightweight such as yourself.

    I could list out your every flaw, the ones I discovered for myself, and the ones you revealed to me on your own, but what would be the point? You’ve accepted the way you are, you take pride in it. You cherish your flaws. You believe it makes life thrilling. There are people out there who resent themselves - they know how to change, and what they need to do change, but they refuse to. They’ll tell you everything that’s wrong about them, and nothing more. I’m not keen on those sorts of people. They’re awful. No one is very interested in hearing about your self-pity, there’s no satisfaction in that. They want to know what you’ll do about it. Don’t get me wrong. You’re an awful person too, in many ways. But you’ve never striven for perfection. You don’t deflect responsibility for your imperfections, you don’t blame anyone else for your actions, you don’t come up with excuses, you’ve chosen those imperfections and you’ll freely admit it. Everyone is in control of who they are, it’s the cowards that pretend they aren’t.

    I’ve been able to meet you anew thousands of times. I’m sure you understand that by now. There was a certain novelty to it at first. And at-times, I was able to push aside both my regrets and anger at our situation, but not always, and certainly not easily. A part of me wished our acquaintance could go on forever, and perhaps it could have, if I wasn’t so weak. But I am, and so it had to come to an end. Nevertheless, I did what I did with the best of intentions.


    JAY’s eyes snapped open. His whole body ached, every muscle sore. He grimaced and reached for his neck but found that he couldn’t. His wrists were bound together behind the chair he sat on. He pulled at them instinctively, even found they weren’t as tight as he initially thought, but he quickly stopped trying to get out of the bindings. There was only one spot of his body that didn’t feel like it’d been done in with a rolling pin, his right foot. Sitting opposite him was a man. He recognized him instantly, and everything slowly began to make sense to JAY. Chinua was a wanted man, manslaughter or something of the sort. He’d killed someone. Chinua must’ve knocked him out when JAY broke into his trailer. Chinua was massaging JAY’s foot, and didn’t even seem to notice JAY had woken. JAY pulled his foot away. Chinua seemed disappointed. JAY was kind of disappointed to, it was utterly relaxing amidst the aches and pains across the rest of his body.

    “What’s your game?”

    Chinua put on a half-hearted smile. “You’ll figure it out eventually.”

    “You’re going to kill me, aren’t you? That’s what you are. A killer. You know, you could surrender now, and avoid making things worse. It’s not too late. But it almost is.” JAY tries to sound both nonchalant and in control.

    “It is too late. I’ve run out of options.”

    “You can always surrender peacefully, and let me turn you in.”

    “I could, but that wouldn’t be beneficial to either of us.”

    “I disagree. I could use the paycheck.”

    “You don’t understand,” Chinua says. It’s patronizing. “You wouldn’t be able to live without me.”

    JAY snorted. “Don’t get me wrong, you do a mean foot massage, but we barely know each other. Besides, that paycheck is going to get me all the foot massages I could ever hope for.”

    “Ha, my foot massages are priceless. You’ll never get another one like it.”

    “That’s fine, you can sell that service for a great soap bar when I get you behind… bars.” JAY grimaced, his body hurt like hell. He inspected himself, half-naked as he was, and noticed welts, small cuts, and the lacerations of someone who’d been whipped. How long had he been here? He’d remember this pain, wouldn’t he?

    Chinua walked over to a counter and picked up a hunter’s knife, one that seemed it had never seen use before. He admired it briefly, but did not seem overly interested. He turned around to face JAY.

    “I’m sorry,” Chinua says, approaching him.

    “Wait-wait-wait-, you don’t need to,” JAY says, and then he breaks out of the bindings just in time. His hands free, he catches Chinua’s wrist inches from his knife piercing a slit into his chest. Chinua tries to push forward, but JAY is able to get back to his feet and get enough space between his chest and the knife.

    JAY kicks him in the balls, forcing Chinua to double over. He spends a moment too long admiring his handiwork. Chinua swings at him with the knife and JAY trips over his feet trying to avoid it, falling to his ass. He turns around to get further away, and the dusty shard of a broken mirror catches his eye. He crawls desperately for it, grabbing it so tightly, it cuts into his palm and fingers.

    Chinua grabs him by the shoulder to turn him around, and JAY thrusts. Both their eyes widen. Chinua’s mouth hangs open for a moment. He does not look at the piece of glass sticking out of his chest, his eyes are locked on JAY’s. He starts to smile, but even that is too much effort. Chinua falls to his side. JAY lays there, panting, grinning. He’s still alive. That was a close one, but he’s still alive. He needs to quit the goddamn Bounty Hunter business. When was he going to get his big wrestling break? These indy shows weren’t doing enough to pay the bill.



    You’re the strangest man I’ve ever met. You call yourself a Cosmic Horror, I’m not quite sure what that entails, and you were never keen on the details. From what you’ve told me, you’ve dined with demons, traveled through time, and worshiped false messiahs. I’m never sure how many of those stories are the product of a wild imagination and how many are genuine. You’ve spent so much time enthralling me with tales, I felt compelled to see if I could outdo them. Those new tales only belong to me and the many dead yous.

    You’re a bounty hunter for a living, but it seems you’re not quite keen on the job. You wrestle on the side. You told me your dream is to one day sign with the FWA. There, you explained, you’d spread as much wanton destruction as you could muster. Once you made it, you promised yourself you’d quit the bounty hunting business. That was before all of this. I’m not sure you’ve got much of a wrestling future now. I’m sorry about that.

    We went to a wrestling show once. It was a shit show. Well, not the wrestling itself. You were a shit show. I had to remind you not to attack me about a dozen times. Your favorite match of the night - of course, I’m only judging this by the delight in your eyes - wasn’t quite what I pictured when you talked to me about wrestling. It was a senseless melee that went on far too long for your attention span. But it was the only instance in the night where you were distracted enough to forget how you’d even made it into the building in the first place. They smashed each other with trash cans, food trays, chairs and whatever other appliance they could find that would sufficiently - heck, even vaguely - hurt. You seemed as if you wanted nothing more than to be there with them. Tossing your body from unseen heights and crashing through tables.

    One of the psychotic men bled pools of blood, it sent you into such a frenzy, you began headbangging against the barricade in front of us. We nearly got escorted out. You told me this was your dream. To participate in this nonsensical chaotic war, to bludgeon and be bludgeoned in equal parts. Apparently this is an event that happens once a year, the Super Bowl of professional wrestling. If you could make it here, you said, you’d fight to make it the longest night of your life. They’d have to carry you out of there, broken and bloody, before you’d let the night end. This was a promise you made.

    I believed you.

    But I’m not sure that’s a possibility for you anymore. Though if by happenstance it is, I’m writing this to remind you of that promise. My sympathies to whoever would be there with you, but I hope you bleed them dry, I hope you make your dreams come true.


    ♫I'm ... coming ... out
    I'm coming
    I'm ... coming ... out
    I'm coming out♫

    JAY opened his eyes to a myriad of colors blinking and flashing across the room. He turned slowly around and quickly realized he was in a disco ballroom. Aside from some spotlights dancing across the walls and the ceiling, and a disco ball shifting and altering colors across the dance floor, there was little other light in the room. He thought he was alone, but across the room, behind the DJ set, was Chinua, the man he was supposed to be hunting down. He was smiling happily, already grooving to the Diana Ross classic, and two-stepping on his way to the dance floor.

    “Shit!” JAY felt a sudden jolt around his neck. “What the shit?” He reached for it, and it shocked his hands as soon as he touched it. He let go of it immediately. He looked towards Chinua and found the man was holding a simple remote in his hands, every time he clicked it, he felt that sudden jolt.

    ♫I'm coming out
    I want the world to know
    Got to let it show♫


    “Come on, JAY, let’s dance,” Chinua said, already fully hooked by the funk that had livened the existence of millions and millions over the decades since it’s inception.

    “I hate dancing,” JAY said. He folded his arms and stood firmly. The man had the upper hand, he needed to get the zapper out of his hands. How the hell did he even get here? Wasn’t he supposed to be in the man’s trailer? Why is he in a disco ballroom?

    “Don’t be so sour, JAY, new experiences are great. When’s the last time you’ve danced?”

    “I don’t remember, but you don’t need to try something to know you don’t like it.”

    “You gotta be flexible, JAY, you gotta adapt. You can’t always have things your way. Come on, dance with me.”

    “No,” he said. His stubbornness wouldn’t allow it.

    “Alright, JAY, if you’re the sort of masochist who would rather suffer than dance, then so be it.” He pressed the button again, for a prolonged time, and if JAY had refused to dance before, he didn’t have much of a choice now. Although, calling his jerkish erratic movement and grimaces dancing might actually stretch the definition.

    ♫There's a new me coming out
    And I just had to live
    And I wanna give
    I'm completely positive
    I think this time around
    I am gonna do it
    Like you never knew it
    Oh, I'll make it through
    The time has come for me
    To break out of this shell
    I have to shout
    That I am coming out♫


    “Fine, fine, I’m dancing, I’m dancing!” JAY had known this moment would come. He’d be caught in a Saw-like scenario where his only choice was either getting tortured to death… or… dancing, an act he absolutely disdained. He thought he would be able to endure the torture, but JAY always had a contingency plan for everything, if the torture proved too much, he would have to concede and bust out the moves he had learned from rewatching John Travolta dance clips a hundred times over the span of a weekend a long time ago.

    “There we go, there we go!”

    JAY pointed one hand to the ground, then back to the sky. One hand to the ground, then back to the sky.

    “Now that I’m dancing, at least tell me why the hell you’re doing this.”

    “Oh, that’s right. QBAH!”

    QBAH? He stopped dancing. Jolt! And he was back to it again, swaying his hips, doing the twist anchored by the ball of his foot.

    “That’s right. You’re only going to be around for about a dozen minutes or so. You could spend that time absolutely detesting what you’re doing or you can embrace it, adapt, and love it. Imagine Sisyphus happy, my dear JAY.”

    ♫I've got to show the world
    All that I wanna be
    And all my abilities
    There's so much more to me
    Somehow I'll have to make them
    Just understand
    I got it well in hand
    And oh how I have planned
    I'm spreadin' love
    There is no need to fear
    And I just feel so good
    Every time I hear♫

    “I’m coming out!” Chinua sang, and JAY joined him. As much as he hated dancing, it was a classic. He wasn’t going to disrespect Diana Ross like that.

    JAY knew the man was right. If he was telling the truth, and given he had no idea how he’d gotten here in the first place, he must have been, then the only thing he could do was accept his fate, smile, and fall in love with dancing.

    “See man, with the right motivation, you can get into anything.”

    JAY grinned and lost himself in the maneuvers. “I always felt like a goofball dancing, like no one would ever take me seriously, that they’d overlook me.”

    “Who cares man? Dancing isn’t about what other people think of you! Dancing is all about you. It’s about losing yourself in the moment! If they don’t take you seriously because of your dance moves, then fuck them. If they’re the type to judge a book by its cover, that’s their problem. Just be yourself. You don’t need to sink to their level to prove anything.”

    “Fuck man, I think you’re right. Too bad I won’t remember it.”

    “That’s alright, JAY. I’ll remember for the both of us. Let’s just groove. You just gotta enjoy it while it lasts, you know what I mean?”

    The two did the swim opposite of each other. JAY enthusiastically squeezing his nose and sinking down into nothingness.



    It was a delight to discover the thing you hated the most in the world was dancing. I’d tried many times to tempt you. I asked nicely at first, but you weren’t keen, not even if you’d forget about it. Not even if it was just you and I. It wasn’t until you told me you’d rather be tortured than have to dance that I decided to put that to the test. It turns out you’d much rather dance than be tortured, who would’ve thought.

    Admittedly, you weren’t particularly good, but believe it or not, you ultimately enjoyed it. I’ve never known a person who genuinely hated dancing. Much like you, they were more afraid about how they’d be perceived than of the act itself. I once spied you dancing on your own within the trailer. Toss on a good rhythm, leave a man to himself, and his body won’t allow him to resist grooving in his own little goofy way. With no one there to see you, you allowed yourself to get lost in the moment. But I don’t believe you need to hide that pure unbridled joy from anyone.

    It’s funny, I think dancing was your only blind spot. You seem to champion self-acceptance quite a bit. There’s no need to seek outward approval, to prove yourself to others, or to let others define you. You stated that time and time again. You’ve stepped into other people’s worlds but it was never to prove you belonged in their world, it was simply to experience what they’ve experienced, to try something new. Life is about experiencing as much as you can before you bite the bullet, after all. And personally, I was keen on giving you as many good experiences for each life you’d have.

    Dancing is the ultimate act of self-acceptance, and until you could dance in front of someone else, unhindered by shame, you could never truly be self-accepting. Conversely, someone capable of dancing with countless eyes watching, would they ever have to gain anyone else’s validation? I wouldn’t think so.

    Personally, the bravest, toughest people I know are dancers. You’d agreed with me, you told me dancers were the people you most admired in this world. Like I said, you felt you could do anything, given enough motivation, but dancing was anathema to you. Despite our mutual admiration for them, dancers always seem to feel so inadequate, it’s not just their fault, people don’t look very fondly on dancers. Or at least, they never appreciate what it takes to dance. But from what I’ve witnessed, offer an arm wrestling competition, start a drinking contest, and see who will raise their hand fastest to participate, who will be most desperate to show they can contest. It’ll be the dancer. Offer a dance off, and see the drinkers and the arm wrestlers cower.


    JAY opens his eyes. He feels different. Not like he’s ever felt before. Light. Empty but not quite hungry. He sees his reflection in a mirror. His eyes don’t immediately go to his face. He quickly realizes he’s naked. He looks down past his chest, past his abdomen and… what looked like a jumbo fried shrimp where his dick should be… wait.

    “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” His screech reverberates in the room, so loud, the mirror across from him cracks ever so slightly, a shard falling to the ground. That incredible feat did not even take a fraction of his attention. Instead, he rubbed desperately at his dick, sticky panko bread crumbs falling to the ground. “WHY THE FUCK DO I HAVE A CRISPY COCK? WHAT THE FUCK?! WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCK?! WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?!”

    Instinctively, he looks at himself in the mirror, perhaps to get a better look at how his… de-crisping is going. Then he catches a glance at his face and he completely forgets about the crispy cock. His lips droop. His eyes morphing up and down. His face feels ever so slightly translucent. He knows he’s the man in the mirror, but he doesn’t feel like it. And any second now, he has a bizarre expectation that a dark demonic figure might appear behind the man in the mirror. Behind him. He wants to look away. He knows he should look away. He feels the longer he looks, the bigger the odds are that that figure will appear. But he doesn’t look away. He’s mesmerized by his reflection. He could stare at it for hours and hours and hours and hours. He hates the reflection. He loves the reflection.

    “HAHAHAHAHAHA,” the laugh, from outside the room he’s in, fades into a wheeze, as if whatever comedy he’s witnessed threatens to overtake his entire oxygen supply.

    JAY smiles, he chuckles to himself too. He’s not sure why. The laugh is contagious. It breaks him out of his stupor, his lovemaking & hatemaking with his reflection. He patiently walks towards the only door in the barely lit room, in no rush whatsoever, and opens it. The sunlight blinds him and he brings a hand up to block it out. The grass catches his attention, the most beautiful angelic lively green he’s ever seen. Tulips within a pot on a ledge to his right distract him next, he could only describe its color as that of love, the loveliest fullest shade of red he’d ever laid eyes upon.

    On the grassy plain in front of him, there were two patio chairs facing away from the trailer he’d exited, one empty chair, and the other with a man sat with his head leaning so far back, JAY could see his bright white smile from his angle.

    “Come and have a seat.”

    He didn’t object. Slowly, JAY walked over, all the while mesmerized by every blade of grass, every dandelion of the most blindingly yellow hue. He let go of the effort of carrying himself when he stood in front of the chair, nearly keeling over with it when he dropped. The man opposite him put aside a tablet, but JAY did not inquire as to what he’d been looking at. He just smiled and relaxed. Every worry he’d ever had - minutes, hours, days, or years ago - seemed such a distant memory now. He felt utterly content. He could stay like this forever and ever. Every trouble he’d ever had seemed so small now. The other man continued smiling. He thought he recognized the man. Something about his face. He felt he’d stared at it a long time once, long enough to know he needed to recognize him. But he couldn’t put his finger on it. Maybe this was just deja vu?

    “Here, give me your foot,” the man said.

    JAY didn’t question it. “Okay, footgrabber,” he said absentmindedly, and handed over his foot. The footgrabber began massaging it. JAY didn’t think it was at all possible for him to relax anymore than he already was, but here he was, feeling like he’d made it to heaven on earth. A part of him, a deep part of him, wanted to question that. Was he dead? Was he in heaven now? Don’t overthink it. Just relax.

    “Here, take my foot,” the man said. JAY raised an eyebrow. “It’s only fair,” the man insisted. JAY chose not to object. He tried massaging the man’s foot, but he was almost certain he wasn’t doing as good of a job as the man was. “We’re both footgrabbers now.”

    His massaging slowed as he once again found himself gripped by the man’s identity. In the man’s eyes, he saw a kindred spirit. The other side of his coin. He felt, upon meeting the man’s eyes, that he had no need to learn anything more about him. In a sense, he knew everything about the man, and nothing about the man. He was at once repulsed and attracted by him. It was akin to looking in the mirror earlier. He’d been attracted by his reflection, mesmerized by it, but simultaneously horrified, and yet, he could not take his eyes away.

    “Wait. Are you real, or am I going mad?” In truth, he was not just doubting the man’s existence, but everything around him now. He recognized none of it. A slight panic stopped his amateurish massage short.

    “You really think you could hallucinate your foot feeling this good?”

    No. No, he couldn’t. And even if he could, why would he want to snap out of it. If this was all a lie, it was a happy lie. This was a lie he could embrace.

    “I wish I could feel like this forever.”

    The man’s smile faded slightly, though JAY wondered if that was his mind playing tricks on him, like in the reflection, because it beamed again, brighter than before, shortly afterwards.

    “You won’t understand what I mean when I say this but… in a way, this is going to last forever for you.”

    And he was right, JAY did not understand.



    You know that cliche about the definition of insanity? The one just about everyone’s used at one point or another? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting the result to be different. In your case, you couldn’t possibly expect the result to be different, you had no idea you were doing the same thing over and over. Does that make you insane?

    Of course, as long as I could help it, I tried to keep the both of us very sane. If I could offer you a new experience every time, if I could give each of the endless yous I met a sufficiently unique existence, then I did. That didn’t always work out for you. I once fed you White Teacher, a mushroom strain. It was one of the few times your thoughts didn’t immediately jump to figuring out how you’d get me handcuffed. You stood in front of that mirror, disturbed and enticed by your own reflection for a whole hour. Every dozen or so minutes, you’d blink, reconsider where you were, and then you’d spot yourself in that mirror. And you’d stand there, staring, and staring, and staring.

    Disturbed, I think, because you saw the reflection as something other than who you were. Many people’s identity is built on the confidence that they are unique and different, a one-of-a-kind addition to our grand universe. That’s you. And when we find out we aren’t so unique and different, we hold the utmost scorn for those who are closest to us. We attempt to substantiate our authenticity, and expose the impurity of our dopplegangers. I think you were content to see the mushrooms did most of the work of unmasking the man you saw in the mirror.

    Enticed, I think, because you love yourself. And whatever discord you might feel for the man reflected back to you, it was still a man after your own heart. You were bonded to that reflection. Here is a man who lives by the law of chaos. The only man as mad as you are. This is the only man in the world who truly understands you, even as I recite your flaws, no one knows you better than yourself, and your reflection.

    That’s another part of what disturbs you. Your desperation to invalidate your other self is borne from a worry that your other self is quite capable of invalidating you, given the opportunity. And so, you and your other self race against each other - who will be the first to discredit the second? Part of you wonders if you even should. Is not the need to deligitimize your reflection paradoxically legitimizing him. Wouldn’t the sane man simply dismiss the argument that his reflection might be the genuine article outright?


    JAY opens his eyes. His heart hammering against his chest. He’s afraid. Why is he afraid? He’s looking up at the skies. Or. He frowns. He looks around. He’s in a basket. A giant basket in the sky. His heart hammers harder against his chest. He’s not looking up at the skies, he’s at eye level with the skies. Why is he here? There’s only one other person person in the hot air balloon besides the one manning it. He recognizes him immediately. He’s got the wanted ad in his pocket. He reaches for it, then quickly stops. He was holding on to one of the metal poles connecting the basket to the balloon. He grabs it again, tighter than before. He looks behind him, at the thousands of feet between him and solid ground, and sees only clouds. He stands precariously on the edge of the basket, one misstep from free falling. It’s only then that he remembers to shiver. He’s shirtless. If he falls, he’s dead. Realization dawns. He turns back to Chinua, opens his mouth to speak, but it’s too late, Chinua pushes him overboard.

    He thinks about screaming harder than he’s ever screamed before. A screech that could either cure deafness or cause it. But as soon as he opens his mouth, he reconsiders it and shuts it back up. He notices that whoever had brought him up there at least had the courtesy to give him safety goggles. Perhaps they preferred JAY get a live look at his forthcoming death instead of distracting himself pulling fly remains out of his eyes. He sees Chinua in front of him, falling along with him. Except, Chinua was considerate enough to equip himself with a parachute. So what, he wanted to see JAY reduced to a red blotch up close and personal. How uniquely morbid.

    How the hell did he get here? How did he fuck things up this bad? Why the hell can’t he remember what happened? He was just getting to Chinua’s trailer, and then. Nothing. Chinua smiles the most innocent smile JAY’s ever seen, like he’s not in the very act of murdering a man. JAY grits his teeth, if nothing else, JAY had always wanted to die in an interesting way. And shit, as soon as he hit the ground, he’d die instantly right, not much suffering there. No sense in being miserable now. Just enjoy the sights. Enjoy the rush. It’ll all be over eventually.

    Chinua flings himself in the air JAY’s way. JAY instinctively tries to get away, but his reaction’s slow. He hadn’t expected it. Chinua wraps his legs around JAY’s waist, holding him tightly, and pulls the parachute cord. The free fall stops. They drift now. JAY has to adjust himself from a man expecting to die to a man absolutely terrified and confused. He hugs the man he thought would kill him, and closes his eyes. He’d accepted death, but if life was still on offer, that would be his preference.

    “Wh-wh” he begins to ask, but he’s not sure what question matters to him more.

    Chinua grins, he looks like the happiest man on earth. QBAH.

    “Wait, what?” It does explain a few things. How he got on the parachute, for one. Why he can’t remember anything between opening that trailer door and being pushed out a hot air balloon.

    “You told me you’d never gone skydiving before.”

    JAY decided to take Chinua’s word for it, he couldn’t second guess every conversation they must’ve had. Fuck. How many conversations had they had? How long had he been with Chinua? “Yeah, because it’s fucking terrifying. Why the shit would you bring me here?”

    “For the experience! You’re only going to be around for a few minutes, wouldn’t you rather spend it doing something unbelievable. None of your other yous will ever fly like this, right?”

    Sure, but what was the point if he’d never remember it? No, he knew the answer to that. The same reason you do anything in life. Ten minutes or a century, once your time runs out, your time runs out. Still, we do things. He had a lot of obvious questions, but he’d probably asked all those questions before, was there any point wasting his time asking them again. Did clarity matter that much to him? No. He’d cut his losses.

    “You know, I thought you would scream, but you didn’t.”

    “I didn’t wanna choke on something.”

    “That’s a shame, I really wanted to hear you scream. Maybe another you.”

    “I’m sure another me would oblige.” The drift was peaceful now, even knowing if Chinua let go of him, and if JAY let go of Chinua, he’d be dead in seconds. Still, of the memories he could recall, he’d never felt at peace like this. “Why haven’t you abandoned me? You’ve got better things to do, don’t you?”

    “We’re bound together, you and I. You’re always going to be chasing after me. I will always be chased by you. I’ve simply chosen to embrace it. If we can’t live apart, we might as well live together, no?” He wanted to ask why he didn’t simply kill him. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d killed someone, that’s why JAY was here after all. But he must’ve asked that already. “If I got rid of you, someone else would just come along to take your place. Besides, sure, I’ve come to realize you’re kind of an asshole, and a bit of a troll, but I just pushed you 15000 feet off the ground and out of a hot air balloon, maybe we’re both assholes.”

    Finally, JAY and Chinua closed on the ground, tumbling in a field of tall grass. JAY caught himself smiling, but still too distraught to get back to his feet, he lay on his back, starring up at the skies he’d fallen from. Chinua knelt next to him, he had his own grin on his face. They both relished the thrill they’d just endured. Of course, JAY knew he’d forget about it all soon. He’d have the biggest grin on his face, and he wouldn’t know why.



    I pushed you 15000 feet off the ground out of a hot air balloon. You had no parachute. I knew when you forgot about that, there was little hope I could come up with anything else to jog your memory.

    I know I did some pretty awful things to you, but this was actually your idea. As much as you wanted to convince yourself that you feared nothing, apparently free falling from cloud height was something you’d kept postponing in the past. Now that you were no longer bound by a future you’d never see, you came up with a plan for me to get you to do it. The worst that would happen is that you would die, but given you only lived for the span of a dozen or so minutes, you didn’t find that to be much of a terrible proposition.

    For a moment, you had me believing you’d actually made new memories. The way you jumped off the ground, yelled at the top of your lungs, and sprinted around that field after we’d landed, like someone had shot you full of adrenaline. You’d beg me to bring you skydiving again. Something within you recalled the thrill it seemed, but held no memory of it. I kept putting it off and off. I’m not sure why. I had a feeling that this was only the tip of the iceberg. You’d want bigger and bigger risk here on out. And knowing who you are, the Cosmic Horror, you’d find it. You mentioned something about space surfing? Perhaps you should try regular beach surfing first, that’s sufficiently thrilling, wouldn’t you say?

    Maybe it’s something I should’ve added to our list of things to do, but I can’t swim. Still, every time I told you we went skydiving, you proposed other thrills. You were drawn to them. You wanted to defy death as often as you physically could. Your door traveling was pretty handy for that. I was skeptical at first, but you defied physics right in front of it, I couldn’t deny it any longer. We went snowboarding, motor-crossing, bungee jumping, and hand gliding. You nearly even got killed storm chasing.

    Most people with your condition get locked up in some asylum to be forgotten - that’s what you said. They spend the rest of their days sitting on some sofa, mindlessly rewatching commercials. That was never going to be you. You weren’t going to stop living your lives. You know how it goes. Going through something life-changing makes you think. You can either react positively or negatively. You didn’t take much time to decide. The universe would need to kill you before you conceded to it. But every time it tried, you somehow made it out alive, ready to spurn it once again.


    JAY opens his eyes. His head aches. It’s not an unusual feeling. He must’ve fucked up the door traveling. Who knew opening doors could be such a tough trick to master? But… but he’s lying on a bed. Someone must’ve found him. It must’ve been a pretty bad fuck up if he lost consciousness. He sits up, and looks around. He’s in a trailer, not one he recognizes. No, wait. A trailer? He remembers why he’s here now. His eyes flicker to the bathroom door at the farthest end of the trailer. Water stops running. The knob begins to twist. He tosses the sheet aside, and tries to hurry to his feet, but he’s dragged back by the arm. He only notices it now, the handcuff strapping him to the bed frame. Fuck.

    The bathroom door opens, Chinua steps out, drying his hands with a towel. He’s preoccupied with the act, hardly noticing JAY’s woken up. The Cosmic Horror stays very still, killers are like bears, they would ignore you as long as you did not move. This was a lie he’d temporarily sold to himself to justify his pathetic frozen state.

    Chinua finally looks up, unperturbed, and smiles.

    “Oh, you’re awake.”

    “You haven’t killed me,” JAY replies. Only taking in the fact now. That meant a lot.

    “No, I haven’t killed you.”

    “But you are a killer.”

    “So-to speak. Everyone’s a killer. You ate a spider while you were sleeping, I watched you do it. It was disgusting.”

    JAY shrugged. The thought disgusted him too, but he shouldn’t show weakness. “Protein’s protein. But you… You’ve killed a person.”

    “We’re all animals, at the end of the day. A spider’s life is worth no more and no less than a man’s.” That dubious comparison did away with much of the comfort JAY had acquired over the last minute. “I had my reasons. But I’ve already told you those reasons.”

    “I feel like I’d recall that conversation.”

    “So do I, but you didn’t. And not for the first time.” Chinua stands across from him, far enough to stay out of reach. He has a warm smile on his face. Not quite the smile of a killer. QBAH,” he says.

    QBAH…” JAY repeats, “Oh.” A beat. “Fuck.” Fuck.

    “Something’s happened to you. I have to take my share of the responsibility, I might have struck you too hard. In my defense, this is my home, and you’re the outsider, I was well within my right to defend myself.”

    He wasn’t going to argue the man’s right to self-defense or his responsibility in the matter. “How many times have we had this conversation?”

    “This is our third conversation. You told me your safe word the second time. But you never explained why it was so important.”

    JAY leans back on the bed. He’s no longer particularly motivated to escape his predicament. To be more precise, he now recognizes it’s a worthless cause. He’ll forget what he was doing by the time he could do it.

    “You watch a lot of movies?” JAY asks, relaxing.

    Chinua gestures across his trailer. There’s not a screen in sight. “Not particularly.”

    “You ever see Memento?”

    He considers it. “No.”

    “…Why haven’t you killed me?”

    “I don’t have a reason to.”

    “What would qualify as a reason?”

    “You’re worried I’m going to kill you if you tell me what’s going on?” Chinua laughs. “You came to take me in, remember? The best thing for me would be for you to leave and never come back. Killing you would only make things worse for me. Besides, I’m not in the killing business, despite what you may think.”

    JAY laughs this time. “As much as I’d like to leave and never come back, I can’t forget about you.”

    Chinua grins, taking it as a compliment.

    “What I’m trying to say is: I can’t make new memories. The last thing I remember is coming to hunt you down. The last thing I’ll ever remember is that I need to hunt you down. Any minute now, I’m going to forget this conversation ever happened. And it’s going to happen over and over again. My… entire life will be spent remembering I have to hunt you down. Even if I did capture you. I’ll just forget it ever happened. I’ll have to keep looking for you. Well, until I die, of course.”

    If that thought disturbed Chinua, he didn’t show it. JAY couldn’t tell if it was because he’d already come to that conclusion, or because he recognized it was only a matter of time before JAY forgot again. “So what’s the code word for?”

    “I came up with it after watching the movie. You know, Memento. It’s about a man who can’t make any new memories. The last thing he remembers is his wife being raped and killed. So, he spends the rest of his life hunting down his wife’s killer. There’s more nuance to it than that, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.”

    “I have no intention of watching it.”

    “Even so.”

    “Hmm. Maybe I’ll goad it out of another version of you.”

    “No, come on. You should watch it.”

    “You only have a few minutes left, then, from what I understand, the you I’m talking to right now is dead. Wouldn’t you rather do something else than convince me to watch the movie.”

    “Would I? It’s not like I’ll live to regret it, right? The point I was trying to make is, that sort of thing could happen to anyone. It could’ve happened to you. You know, in the movie he knows he’s got this condition. He tells himself to remember the story of a man he once knew who had the same condition. He tattooed the man’s name. So, I came up with a code word, if I ever saw or heard it, I’d know that I was fucked and would not be able to make new memories.”

    “You came up with a code word on the off chance you’d suffer a rare illness from a movie you watched.” Chinua chuckles, disbelieving.

    JAY laughs too. “Some people treat life like it’s a game of tic-tac-toe, others checkers, smarter people chess, even smarter people go, I like to think I play 5D go. I’m not sure if I’m mad my planning paid off, or ecstatic. It's always rewarding to see you preparations pay off, isn't it? Even if you were preparing for the worst.”

    “Hmm. If you say so. So what now?”

    “That’s not up to me, is it? I’m at your mercy. You could kill me, though if you do, kill a different version of me, this one is quite content and would love to live out his final minutes like that.”

    “I won’t kill you.”

    “Good, I doubt the future versions of me would want to be killed either.”

    “There’s no cure?”

    “Who knows? It could be temporary. Maybe if I make a powerful enough memory, I won’t be able to forget it.”

    “Is that what happens in the movie? Does he avenge his wife and regain his ability to remember?”

    JAY grins but refuses to answer. It’d be a spoiler. “I only have so much time left so I don't feel bad saying this very corny little thing: If I have any regret, Chinua, it’s that I’ll never know what it means to love.”



    One of the first times we talked, you told me you’d never know what it means to love. I think you were baiting me. How could anyone possibly fall in love with someone like you? And yet, I did. We were bonded. I could never escape you, and you’d never be able to escape me. Perhaps it was a case of Stockholm syndrome, but I accepted it. I read somewhere that we never really lose the people we love, the memories of them are something that can’t be taken away. That someone had never met you, or I suppose, had never watched many movies.

    I’ve given you everything I could give you. We’ve done everything I could possibly think to do. I came to appreciate you the more we endured together. And I think, in those few moments where you were able to put aside the dollar figure above my head, you garnered some measure of appreciation for me - right before you forgot me all over again. Love, as it were, is quite hard to define. But wouldn’t you call what we’ve gone through: love? We were inseparable. I gave you everything I had. I understood you better than anyone else could possibly understand you. And nearly every instance of you that I met accepted me nearly without question. A part of you understood that it took someone special to stand by you, in your condition, and remain unflinching.

    In the end, I had no other option but to hurt you. I had to try everything to help you gain back your memory. Love justifies everything. Love justified everything I put you through - the good and the bad. I couldn’t go any further, so I had to take a chance, I had to wonder what would happen if you tried to kill me. Some darkness, more darkness, perhaps a tinge of green, and then more darkness? Or would every memory come flooding to your head? Would everything we’ve gone through stop you short of the act? Perhaps only this grand risk would make it so.

    No.

    I’m just kidding.

    I watched that movie of yours eventually. There’s not much of a happy ending in it, is there? The truth is, I did not think letting you take my life would be enough to regain your memory. The real world doesn’t work like that. I abandoned you selfishly. You took a piece of me which each version of you that vanished. By the end, whichever way it did in fact end, there was but a fragment of me left to give. I wanted you to have it.







    It's about time you lose your memory again. If you’re still reading this, and you’ve forgotten everything else you’ve just read, then this is farewell. I have nothing more to say. This is as much as I can offer to this version of you.

    However, in the unlikelihood that you’re still reading this, and you remember everything you’ve just read, it turns out you might remember again after all. In which case, maybe this isn't the real world and my death helped.

    Someone I once knew told me that love is greed and generosity, it’s selflessness and selfishness. It is taking every single thing you can from a person. And giving them every single thing you can. You’ve taken from me all that you could, even if you may not remember it now, and I’ve taken from you all that I could. If you go on to love again, I hope you’ll remember this. I hope you will give them all of you, without remorse, and I hope you will take all of them, without mercy. There’s no room for either of those in love. And when there is nothing left to give to each other but your life, you should take - and give - that too.



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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Paris France; Hôtel Molitor Paris

    5:45 am CEST
    Saturday, June 19th, 2021

    I hate waking up in cities that I’ve hardly been to. Even in the amount of time I’ve spent on the road Paris, France isn’t one of the cities that I exactly booked, or really wanted to for that sake. Why? It always seemed too fancy for me.

    Even today, I’m here for Back to Business XV weekend and this hotel that FWA paid for the talent to stay in. Even this place seems too fancy for me. I’m just a simple man, with simple needs.



    Logan is awake and sitting on the side of his bed. Dawn is upon the city of Paris, France, the city that Back in Business XV is taking place in over the current weekend. Logan reaches over and shuts off the alarm clock that has been beeping these few minutes.

    5:45 in the morning. Another reason I hate long flights, time zones really screw up with the sleep schedule. I should have been up an hour and forty-five minutes ago. At least I beat the sun from being completely up. Guess it’s time to get ready for the day.


    Logan stands up out of. Wearing just a pair of black boxer briefs. He walks to the other side of the room and reaches for the phone sitting on the one table and calls the front desk.

    Can I have two eggs scrambled with bell peppers and smoked salmon mixed in. Also a whey smoothie with water, frozen mixed berries, low-fat yogurt, spinach and flaxseed.

    Logan pauses slightly.

    Yes, and can I have a glass of whole milk.

    Logan pauses once again.

    That is everything.

    Logan hangs up the phone. He then walks over to the luggage right sitting at the foot of his bed. On the luggage rack sits a black suitcase that Logan opens up. He reaches in and grabs a pair of black track pants and a gray tank top. He slides his body into both pieces of clothing and shuts the suitcase afterwards.
    He then walks back next to his bed to the end table that the alarm clock was sitting on. He reaches down and grabs a prescription labeled bottle of pills.


    Christ, pills. Seems I have to eat more pills to fuel this body than I have to eat actual food. Every day that I keep working in this business I always question how much less my body would ache on a daily basis at this age. Hell, maybe it wouldn’t, I’m not sure if I was in this business if I would take care of myself like this. Eating good, working out twice or three times a day. I can say one thing, eating a stack of chocolate chip pancakes covered in a gallon of maple syrup sounds a hell of a lot tastier than what I just ordered from room service. And skipping a leg day or two, that life doesn’t seem all that bad.

    But then again, I’ve been around the world, been to every possible part of the States. I’ve met so many different people in this world. I’ve enjoyed a hell of a life with a business that I’m not sure there really is an alternative for me to be in. What: car salesman, dentist, garbage man?

    I’m not saying I’m a complete idiot, but I wasn’t exactly Harvard bound when I was making my way through school. I guess at the end of it, I was given these physical gifts for a reason.



    There’s a knock at the door, you can hear a man give a shout that it’s room service. The room service guy opens the door and pushes a cart with Logan’s food setting on top of it. He’s wearing a fancy suit, almost in the same vein as a tuxedo.

    Your breakfast, sir.

    The guy removes the top from the plate of eggs.

    Thank you.

    Logan looks at the guy with a little bit of nervousness. He then reaches into his track suit pants pocket as if he’s searching for money. The service guy takes notice of Logan’s look on his face.

    No tip is needed sir. If you truthfully feel obligated just leave the tip on the cart after you’re finished.

    Logan’s face changes to an elated look. He gives the service guy a slight grin.

    Thank you sir, sorry I’m just not used to as fancy surroundings as this hotel is.

    You’re very welcome sir, and I shall pass your compliment to management. I will be going now sir, enjoy the your breakfast and the rest of your day.

    I shall.

    The service guy begins to leave the room. Logan goes to the cart and grabs his plate of eggs and whey smoothie, moving them over onto the small table in his room. He takes a seat at the table and begins to dig into his breakfast.

    Paris France, Hôtel Molitor Paris Fitness Center
    7:05 am CEST

    Logan is now in the hotel’s fitness center, he’s running on the treadmill. Logan is still wearing the same track pants and tank top he had on in his hotel room. He clearly has been either working out all together or at the very least using the treadmill for a while now as sweat is abundantly dripping from body. His eyes are fixated on the television in front of him though. On the television is a commercial for Back in Business XV. The last match mentioned on the commercial is the Gunfight Battle Royal that Logan is a participant in.

    I know of at least eight of my opponents in the battle royal. One is my son, one I have faced prior and have come out of that fight with a win. Three I have yet to actually see what they can do in the ring. The other three can unquestionably come out of this match with the victory.

    So the question that is in the back of mind is, have I trained hard enough for tomorrow night? All of these guys are formidable. Winning this match gets me right to the doorstep of a championship. It gets me within an arm's reach of achieving something I didn’t think would happen with how broken down my body has felt at times as of late.

    People can call themselves one of the best in the world, but come tomorrow if I come out of that match the last one in that ring I then have one final opportunity to fight to be called one of the best in the world.

    All you hear through the annals of the fire companies and bingo halls that I’ve poured blood in is just how great the wrestlers are that have held one of the titles here in FWA. With a win tomorrow, I then only have one more final battle to be that great one more time.

    I can’t help but think though, have I let what Johnny has done get in the way of what I’m aiming to attain? Have I let his rock bottom through a wrench into all of this.



    Logan hits the stop button on the treadmill and comes to a standstill on the machine. He places his hands on the rails of the treadmill with a blank look on his face as if he doesn’t whose thoughts are going through his head at the moment.

    Who are you right now, Logan?! He’s your son. You abandoned him most of his life just so you could be in this business that you love so much. Now, when he clearly needs you most it doesn’t matter if you have to go through twenty battle royals in order to achieve what you want one last time.


    Logan shakes his head as if to clear his mind with what he is currently thinking. He grabs the towel that he has set onto the treadmill prior to running and begins to wipe the sweat from his face and body. He steps off the treadmill, he walks over to a bench that has a small duffle bag. He takes off his tank top and throws it into the duffle bag. He wipes the rest of his bare upper body with the towel. Once he finishes that he throws the towel in the bag. He starts to ship the duffle bag up. Staring down at the bag, he gets lost in his thoughts once more.

    He never had a father, Logan. As much as you don’t want to admit it, what Johnny did to himself, you have a fault in it as much as anyone.


    Logan throws the duffle bag over his shoulder. He sniffles a little bit and then wipes a tear away from his left cheek. He then heads towards the exit door of the hotel’s fitness center.


    Paris France, Les Passages Shopping Center, Starbucks
    8:15 am CEST

    Logan has just grabbed his Americano from the Starbucks barista. He then walks into the shopping center that the Starbucks is located in. He then heads for the exit of the shopping center. Once onto the street outside he steps to the curb and yells for a cab. One pulls up and he climbs into the back seat.

    To RMC Talk Sport please.

    The cab driver nods his head and drives away from the shopping center. The cab driver looks into the rear view mirror and then his eyes get big as if he has seen Logan before but just vaguely knows who exactly he is.

    You’re that wrestler, what is it, Logan something?

    Logan gives the guy a slight smile, just enough to show that he isn’t a complete prick.

    Logan Darwin.

    The cab driver gets excited for a second.

    Yes, that’s it, Logan Darwin. I really enjoy seeing you on tv. You seem to relate to normal people like me. Just people in this world, with normal jobs, just trying to get by.

    Logan nods his head in agreement as he takes a sip from his coffee cup.

    It’s true. My father worked in the shipyard in the city I grew up in. He would be gone most of the time, working, just so he could make enough money to give me and my brothers and sisters a really nice life. He always said all he wanted was for us to know he did what he did to make it so we had what he never had as a kid.
    I took that to heart. I see people that work these tiring jobs, working hours some others can’t even fathom of working. It reminds me of my father and I’ll never be grateful enough for what he gave me and the rest of my family in order for me to eventually live a life where I could work a job that I loved doing.


    I’m sure your father is proud of that fact. That he allowed you to do something that you love.

    Logan’s face changes a little bit as if a slight button of sadness was pushed by the cab driver’s previous statement.

    He was proud of that, and called me up all the time to let me know. Unfortunately he passed away only a few years after I started wrestling.

    There is a slight awkward silence between the cab driver and Logan. To break it Logan takes a sip from his coffee cup and clears his throat.

    I believe the radio station is right up here on the right

    The cab driver pulls over to the right side of the road.

    How much do I owe you?

    Keep your money my friend. Just keep remembering your father and us common people just like him.

    Logan gives a half smile and nods his head.

    Thank you sir.

    Logan opens the cab door and steps out. He goes to close the door but pauses for a second and pokes his head back into the cab.

    Hey, I didn’t catch your name?

    Catching the cab driver a little off guard, he stumbles to think of his name.

    My name...my name is Valentin

    Do you have any kids, Valentin?

    I do sir, two sons and a daughter.

    Are you married as well?

    Yes sir, a lovely wife named Genevieve.

    Good, Valentin, good. So tonight and tomorrow, I’m not sure if you or the misses have to work. But if you do, call in sick. I’m having five tickets, with a small donation for you to get your kids some food and drink at the box office of Parc de Princes Stadium for tonight and tomorrow’s show.


    Valentin agape and speechless at Logan’s gesture.

    Please, Mr. Logan, I couldn’t possibly….

    Logan cuts him off before he can say anymore.

    You absolutely can, Valentin. I need as many of my fans there at the stadium to cheer me on. So just show up early to the show, just give them your name at the box office and that is all I ask.

    The cab driver has a huge smile on his face as Logan closes the door behind him. Logan turns around and finds himself standing in front of the RMC Talk Sport building. He reaches inside of his one jeans pocket and pulls out his cell phone. He hits a contact in his phone and holds the phone to his ear, as his smile as now disappeared and he looks a little irritated.

    Johnny, where the hell are you? We have this radio show spot in thirty minutes. It was supposed to be the two of us to talk up our battle royal match. If you’re actually in town, call me, just so I know to tell the radio station to bother waiting or not.

    Logan takes the phone away from his ear and presses a button to hang up the call he just made. He then walks in the door of the radio station.

    Paris, France, RMC Info Talk Sport Radio Station
    9:05 am CEST

    Logan is sitting in one of the radio station dj rooms. Sitting behind a mic and the DJ sitting across a table from him. The DJ is also behind a mic. They both seem to be in good spirits as they are just talking back and forth while still not on air.

    So you really had to wrestle a bear when you were on a tour in Canada?

    Logan laughs a little bit at the question.

    Absolutely, you see even though there are some decent size cities in Canada they still don’t get a lot of entertainment there. Take Ottawa, when it’s in the midst of the winter season, no one is going up there, especially on the outskirts of the city. But I was on a tour of Canada and got stuck in Ottawa because of a huge blizzard. So to make a few extra bucks I just went into some no name dive bar where they had a caged brown bear. I yelled at the top of my lungs that I’d wrestle that bear outside the bar as long as I had five hundred bucks on the top of this bar in ten minutes.
    So guess what, not even five minutes later I was seven hundred and six dollars richer. The only problem I had was how the in world I was going to wrestle a brown bear and not get mauled to death
    .

    And how did you go about accomplishing that feat.

    Truthfully, I was lucky cause it was a male bear. So I just kicked him down below and it doesn’t matter if you’re man, bear, fish, dolphin if you’re getting nailed down there with a swift kick you’re going to be hurting for a minute or two.
    So after I landed that kick I just used my thumbs and popped his eyeballs out of the sockets. It seems cruel but hell, when it’s violence of death. I choose violence every time.


    The DJ seems mesmerized by Logan’s tale. The DJ pauses for a second as if he’s trying to listen to what is being sent through his headphones that he is wearing. After the pause he then looks up at Logan.

    Alright you ready to start this?

    Absolutely, let’s get this going.

    The “on air” sign on the wall behind the DJ lights up and the interview between the two is on its way.

    Good Morning, Paris. This is Frances Lacroix with RMC Info Talk Sport Radio. Hoping that your Saturday morning is going well. To start off the show today I have a special guest. That special guest is Logan Darwin, you might have heard of him. He is on-air with us representing Fantasy Wrestling Alliance. FWA is here in Paris this weekend to hold their annual mega show Back in Business. Which will be held at Le Parc des Princes, over two nights. Good morning Logan, how are you this morning?

    I’m doing really good this morning, Frances. Just enjoying a beautiful Paris morning. Relaxing before I need to get into fight mode and lock horns with the rest of the fighters FWA.

    Now this is a two night event, starting tonight and ending tomorrow night. Which night are you performing on and what can we look for when it comes to action that you’re involved in?

    Well, Frances the match that I’m involved in is called a Gunfight Battle Royal Match. Which takes place to start the night off on Sunday. The match rules are pretty simple, we just throw a bunch of guys into one right at the same time. The goal is just for everyone to throw everyone else over the top rope and onto the floor on the outside of the ring. Last man standing gets a fast track to gunning for either the X Division or North American Championship.

    Very interesting, and who exactly are you competing with?

    Right now there are only eight participants announced. However there could be any number of unannounced entriants that could throw a wrench into the outcome of the match. To name the lot.
    There is my son, Johnny Johnson….


    Frances cuts Logan off at the mention of Johnny’s name.

    Ah yes, The Legend, where is your son? I felt like we were going to have the both of you sitting in here with us?

    Logan looks a little embarrassed and a little irritated at Frances pointing this fact at. He shows a slight grin to save face.

    Yes, it is true. Johnny was supposed to be here this morning. However the flight that he was taking to come over to Paris was delayed in London. So, unfortunately Johnny will not be here until closer to the start of the show tonight.
    But as I was saying also in the match we have a few newer additions to the FWA roster along with my song. We have Joe Burr and Sauce Man, who I have heard amazing things about. Also the fact that the rest of us in this match have never been in the ring with either of these two makes them a wild card for the match.
    In addition to other announced competitors are Saus X, Louis Valendar and Donvan Moore. Who are great competitors; they are young, full of potential players. I swear every time these three get in the ring they get better by leaps and bounds.


    That sounds like it should be a fun showdown for the masses to watch. But you said eight participants announced and we’re only up to seven with you included in that number. Who exactly are we missing?

    Logan has a slight smirk on his face, nodding in agreement that there is one last person to be named.

    You are absolutely correct, Frances. There is one more person that I did not mention yet. He uh….

    Logan has a slight pause as he tries to think of the words to describe the last person.

    To me he’s a bit of a conundrum. The last person to be named is Captain Fantasy. Have you ever known someone, Frances, that you just can’t figure out if you should applaud or sneer at how “good” they are?


    I believe when you are at the age that we are you tend to have come across every sort of person.

    Well, Frances, that’s how I feel about Captain Fantasy. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s like he’s too good. Yet he hides behind a mask. As if you aren’t supposed to know what his history is.

    So would you say he is the one person you will definitely have your eyes on throughout the entire match?

    I would say none of the entrants are fighters you would never want to take your eyes off of. Any of them could strike at a moment's notice and you’re on your way headed back to the lock room to lick your wounds.

    Frances’ smile that was once on his face now turns into a serious look.

    You mentioned history when you just spoke of Captain Fantasy. What about your history, Logan? More precisely with who is in this match with you, what about the history between you and The Legend.

    Logan’s look changes from a light hearted face to a stern look at Frances.

    And what exactly do you mean?

    What I mean is that the story is out there that The Legend was just recently in a hospital for at the very least a few days. There are reports that it could have possibly been a self inflicted overdo…..

    Logan gets enraged. He stands straight up from his chair he was sitting on. He tears off the headset that he was wearing and throws it across the room. He looks right at Frances.

    You listen here you piece of trash. We agreed that you weren’t going to utter a word of what you just said!

    Frances stands up from his chair as well, however he backs up against the wall behind him in a defensive manner.

    I’m sorry, I was just doing what I was being told from my producer to ask you?

    Logan seeing that Frances is cowering in fear, realizes he shouldn’t be the target of his rage. Logan then picks up the chair he was sitting on and throws it across the room towards the glass that separates the DJ room and the producers room. They watch in horror as the chair crashes through the glass pane. Knowing that if he goes beyond throwing the chair through the glass it could possibly land him in jail, Logan storms out of the room and makes his way out of the radio station.


    Paris, France, Just Outside RMC Info Talk Sport Radio Station
    9:55 am CEST

    Logan is on his phone calling Johnny’s number once more. Not getting through he just hangs up and puts the phone in his pocket. Still trying to come down from the incident inside of the building is he now standing outside of.

    Johnny, just be alright. I never had to be affected by the sins of my father. Please don’t make me regret every sin I committed from the day I left you until I saw you unconscious in that hospital bed.



  8. #8
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    “Uncle Mack, are you a bad guy?”

    That question from Matthew, the nephew of Marcus McClain, draws interest from the man himself as he raises an eyebrow at it.

    “Why do you ask that?”

    Marcus motions for Matthew to come to sit down next to him. Matthew is dressed like any typical kid dresses at his age, just a plain colored t-shirt and matching basketball shorts, while Marcus is wearing a Nike tracksuit with the top unzipped, revealing a black t-shirt with Tupac Shakur on it in a praying pose.

    “You were in prison, weren’t you?”

    “Yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a bad guy, Matt. I was just wrongfully accused of a crime that I did not commit.”

    “What about how you act on TV? The way you treat others like Chris Peacock or Reagan Cole?”

    Marcus sighs and thinks about it before giving his nephew an answer.

    “The way I act on TV is who I am, Matt. If that makes people view me as some sort of villain or bad guy as you put it, then so be it. I’m not there to make people happy or get cheered. I never asked for their sympathy when I first came in, the company made it seem that way, but I never wanted it that way. Now, I’m finally able to be who I am. What I do on TV I do for us, as a family. It might be viewed as not good or not the right thing to do, but as long as it benefits those that I care most for, then that’s all that matters to me.”

    “What about Dad? Is he a bad guy because he’s in prison now?”

    Marcus has to think about that again before answering. He wasn’t expecting these types of questions from his young nephew on a day where he’s trying to mentally prepare for his match at Back in Business with Reagan Cole for the Gauntlet Championship.

    “Your father, he did a bad thing, but does that necessarily make him a bad person? In my opinion, no. He messed up. He wasn’t thinking straight, and he messed up. What he did was unforgivable in some people’s opinion, reprehensible even, and as disappointed as I was and a part of me still is, he’s still my family. He’s still my blood, and we stick together, no matter what.”

    “Do you think that Reagan Cole has ever done anything bad in his life?”

    “It’s entirely possible; nobody is perfect, not even me or even you. I’m sure that Reagan Cole has done pretty bad things in his life. Things that he will regret until his time is up, but he hides it and puts on a facade.”

    “What’s a facade?”

    “A false or superficial narrative. He doesn’t act like who he is. He puts on this facade for the fans, but I know his true colors. He’s shown them, but the people, they don’t refuse to believe it, or they just turn a blind eye to it, in turn making me out to be the bad guy.”

    “So he’s the bad guy?”

    “You can say that, yes, he’s the bad guy. He just has a good way of hiding it because he wants the fans to cheer for him. He wants to be perceived as the good guy. The company wants him to be looked at as this good guy, but I’m the good guy here in reality. This was about respect at first, but the way I see it now is about more. At Back in Business, I will show the fans and the rest of the world that I am the good guy here, by any means necessary.”

    “Are you going to hurt him?”

    “If I have to, yes.”

    “What about his family? His son?”

    “What about them? The only family that matters to me is the one in this home. You, your siblings, your mother, your father….”

    “Even Uncle Myles?”

    Myles was the other brother to Marcus and Micah, the twin to Micah. Myles was seen as the black sheep of the McClain family and was rarely, if ever, spoken about. Marcus is hesitant to answer, but eventually, he does, with a hint of reluctance in his tone.

    “Yes, even Uncle Myles, wherever he is.”

    Marcus wraps his arm around his nephew and brings him in close.

    “Listen, Matt; I don’t want you to ever let anyone tell who to be. If you want to be the good guy, then you be the good guy. It doesn’t matter if someone else views you as the opposite of that, because as long as you feel like you’re in the right, then that’s all that matters.”

    *****


    Rest in power, Flock U
    Rest in power, TCON

    Team Cyrus T is Best for Business

    Letterboxd

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed
    Stop the hating of the E-Feds. If you don't like something, that's fine, just ignore it and let the people who do enjoy what they're here on WC to do. Mocking them to make you feel less of a geek for being on a geek on a wrestling forum is lame. If you want to not read their posts, I can fix that for you.

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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Exile Chronicles (Volume 3)
    Chapter 16: Learning to Let Go

    After the insane, chaotic climax of the last ever episode of Fight Night leading into Back in Business XV, the wrestlers of the Fantasy Wrestling Alliance now find themselves in the calm before the storm. A colossal two-night extravaganza will take place in Paris, and will set the pace and tone for FWA as it moves forward into its dual-branded future.

    Many wrestlers are obviously taking time to get whatever last bits of training and conditioning they can in. Others are studying film of their opposition, hoping to glean some insight and secure an edge when it comes time for the bell to ring for their contest.

    And others are engaging in what can only be described as paganist or occultist rituals to use the power of dark magics to obtain unnatural, unlimited power.

    But for one wrestler? A bit of a pit stop...




    Our scene opens in the city of Lafayette, Indiana. Our focus is not at the hear of a fairly bustling downtown nor does our gaze shift to Purdue University, the beating heart of this city.

    No, instead, our focus shifts to the suburbs...an older, less modern neighborhood. Certainly not run down, by any stretch, but the houses here are definitely several decades old. We zoom in on one house towards the end of the lane, a small unassuming little bungalow with blue siding and white trim. There's a small section of the house's yard that's been fenced off with chain-link, and we see a very energetic dog pacing around the feet of a woman standing in front of a smoking grill. The dog looks...familiar, a sort of brown coated boxer/pitbull mutt.

    The woman, however, is unmistakable.


    "Rufus! Calm down, ya damn mutt! You'll get yours when I'm done and not a goddamn second before!"

    The voice, the dirty blonde hair, the simple cut-off jean shorts and well-worn FWA tank top are all too familiar...but more than that, the absolute unapologetically loud and rambunctious attitude tells us exactly who this is.

    This is a former FWA Women's Champion. A former Carnal Contendership winner. And a former FWA World Champion.

    This is Shannon O'Neal.


    Rufus whines a bit as the annoyed expression on Shannon's face softens a bit and she gives Rufus a loving pat on the head. She then returns to her grill, where she's cooking up some bratwursts for a late lunch.

    Shannon has been away from an FWA ring for a couple of years, having retired at the end of Quest for the Best 2019 after coming up short in a Triple Threat FWA World Title match against Bell Connelly and defending champion Cyrus Truth. And while she looks just the same as she did while she was competing, it's clear that a certain...weight has been lifted from her shoulders. As if time away from the stress and bustle of wrestling has given her a sense of peace, living a relatively modest life for a former World Champion.

    As she hums the beat from "Feels Like the First Time," Rufus's ears perk up as he looks out toward the chain link fence. He begins to bark again and rushes over. Shannon, sighing again, shouts back.


    "Rufus, I swear to God, if you're yappin' at Mr. Finkle's cat again..."

    "Hey, buddy...good to see you."

    Shannon's irritation evaporates IMMEDIATELY as she recognizes the voice. Turning away from the grill and towards the fence, she sees Rufus having lifted himself onto the fence as high as he can go, well within the reach of the man on the other side who is giving Rufus a very loving scratch behind the ears.

    The man, dressed in a simple T-shirt and black slacks, gives a tired, but friendly look at Shannon as Shannon mutters under her breath with a slight grin.


    "Cy..."

    Cyrus Truth gives Shannon a nod as she sets down her grilling tongs and walks over to where Cyrus and Rufus are. The Exile stands there, giving Rufus some affection as Shannon approaches the two of them, arms crossed in front of her.

    "Hey, Shannon. Long time, no see."

    "No shit. So, what are ya doing here?"

    "Came to visit my dog."

    Shannon arches her eyebrow at that, as Cyrus scratches the back of his head sheepishly.

    "And you, of course."

    "Why?"

    "Why not?"

    "I mean, it's good to see ya again, Cy...but I kinda figured ya might have a lot on your plate at the moment. Y'know...with Back in Business right around the corner?"

    "What's that got to do with anything?"

    "You're defendin' a title, Cy. Shouldn't ya be...I don't know...trainin' or doin' media or some other shit like that?"

    "There's time enough for that. And visiting old friends is worth the time."

    Shannon gives Cyrus a bit of a skeptical look at that...but eventually relaxes as she gives The Exile, her longtime rival, a bit of a smirk.

    "Ya hungry? I was just finishing up some brats. It ain't much, but..."

    "It's plenty, Shannon. And it's not as if I'm the kind of asshole to show up uninvited AND emptyhanded."

    Cyrus reaches into a bag slung across his shoulder and produces a bottle of Irish whiskey. It looks to be a very high-end brand, definitely not something you can just pick up at your local liquor store. Cyrus hands the bottle to Shannon who inspects it with a low whistle of astonishment.

    "Not too bad, Cy..."

    She then turns her gaze back to Cyrus and flashes a devilish grin.

    "...but what the fuck are you gonna drink?"


    Cyrus laughs out loud at that as he digs into his bag and produces another bottle of whiskey. This one definitely is not some top-shelf brand, but The Exile shrugs as he holds it up.

    "I always try to be prepared, Shannon. And I figured you haven't had any of the really good stuff since that night in Atlanta. Consider it a trade for food and your company."

    "Ya know...you can be almost charmin' when you're not being completely insufferable, Cy. Come on in."

    Shannon heads over to a section of the fence that has a gate. She undoes the lock on it, allowing The Exile to enter the yard. Shannon leads Truth over to the grill and where she's set up some lawn chairs and a small table as we cut to black...

    *****

    We return after some time, presumably a couple hours later in the day. The grill has cooled and the empty plates suggest that the bratwursts have been eaten. It's much clearer that both Cyrus and Shannon have already gone through the high-end whiskey as they've begun to start into the second, less expensive bottle.

    Both Cyrus and Shannon, lounging in lawn chairs, look a little rosy-cheeked but are nonetheless cognizant. It's clear that these two can definitely hold their alcohol and, at this rate? There's likely more drinking to be done before the sun sets. Rufus is lying down, napping next to Cyrus as The Exile gives him a light pet so as not to wake him up.


    "Hey...I never did thank you for taking in Rufus for me."

    "Eh, it's no big deal. Sure, he yaps too much and has way too much energy...but he's a good boy. And I'll admit...it's been nice having him around the house."

    "Well, thanks anyway. There's been enough crazy stuff going on in FWA that I didn't want to have to worry about Rufus, as well."

    "No problem."

    "So, what have you been up to since leaving FWA?"

    "I actually own part of a gym here in Lafayette."

    "A wrestling gym?"

    "Nah, just a normal one. I got people who run it day-to-day, so I really just keep an eye on the numbers. It ain't a big money-maker, but what the fuck else do I got to spend my wrestlin' money on?"

    Cyrus chuckles at that as he pours Shannon some more whiskey and takes a sip of his own.

    "Fair enough. So, do you ever miss..."

    "Cy?"

    "Yeah?"

    "What the fuck are ya doin' here? Really?"

    You can feel a certain shift in the atmosphere as Shannon asks that very pointed, very direct question. The slight smile on Cyrus's face evaporates as his expression shows...what? Anger? Concern? Sadness? It's hard to tell, especially considering the buzz that The Exile is experiencing at the moment.

    Shannon isn't letting up, however, as she continues.


    "I'm not sayin' it's not good to see ya. Even in spite of everythin' we've gone through, truth be told? I wasn't lyin' when I said you were my favorite. But it's Back in Business season, Cy. And you're defendin' the North American Championship. This ain't exactly some small-time match. So...why? What are ya doin' here?"

    Cyrus sighs, swishing the liquor in his glass around.

    "Would you believe me if I told you I don't really know?"

    "Knowing you? It's not complete bullshit, but it ain't the whole truth either."

    "...No. It's not. You know who I'm facing at Back in Business, right?"

    "I have the FWA Network, Cy."

    "Right, of course. Sorry."

    "It's fine. Just keep talkin' to me."

    Cyrus downs the whiskey in his glass, the brown liquor burning down his throat. The Exile, with a somber expression, pours himself some more as he continues.

    "I told myself that I wouldn't face Eli Black again. Not until I was no longer champion or until he earned a shot against me. He didn't deserve it, I convinced myself. He had a chance to earn it through the Gauntlet Title and was foolish enough to push himself too far to try and reach me. I had already denied him the chance to unseat Krash as champion and beat him back when he faced me one-on-one. Whatever happened at Back in Business, whether FWA would find me an opponent or not? I was determined not to let Eli get what he wanted.

    "But the second Eli declares that he'll leave the Church of 9 if he loses...what do I do? I cave. I immediately give him what he wanted and find myself in the exact situation that I told myself I wouldn't fall into. All because I saw an opportunity to inflict more damage to the Church."


    "You're sayin' that as if it was a bad thing. I saw your social media campaign. Was all that shit you said about the Church of 9 true?"

    "All of it."

    "So what's the problem?"

    "The problem is that my issues with the Church of 9 were, by and large, done. I...can't really talk about the specifics, but suffice it to say that a great many things in my past came back to bite me thanks in no small part to the Church and Eli. But I found a way to get them to back off, to go back into the shadows where they belong. I started a war with the Church and won, Shannon. This match? Sure, forcing Eli to abandon the Church of 9 and ridding FWA of it is all well and good. But it changes nothing. The battle's already said and done, and all I've really done is put my North American Title at risk against a boy who has done nothing to deserve it in a Back in Business match. I gave him and FWA exactly what they wanted, and all I get out of this if I win is to take even more away from Eli than I already have.

    "It just...it just leaves a sour taste in my mouth, that's all. Whatever anger I felt at Eli has long since burned out. I don't feel any strong sense of purpose in this match. Not like our match at Back in Business. Not like facing off against Chris Kennedy in our Title vs Streak classic. This match has been put together as an afterthought because nobody seemed to care enough about me or the North American Title to try and find someone else more deserving of a shot."

    Shannon takes a sip of her whiskey, looking at Cyrus be so...open. So candid about his feelings. Images flash in her mind of the past, where Cyrus during his second World Title reign had grown frustrated and angry at the situation he found himself in, lacking any sort of spark or desire outside of a raw, seething hatred for FWA and what Cyrus perceived to be their abject disrespect of him.

    The hatred's not there...or at least, it's so faint that you'd have to look really hard to see it. But the frustration, the exhaustion...yeah, Shannon can see that.


    "So, what are ya gonna do about it?"

    "What else can I do? I already agreed to the match, and I'm nothing if not a man of my word. And despite my personal feelings towards the match itself? It's still a North American Championship Match, and it's still Back in Business."

    "Mhmm...Cy, you know what you're problem is?"

    "I'm a self-righteous asshole who believes he's always right and has a terrible tendency to speak in hyperbole to the point that it only serves to exacerbate the image of an implacable and unapproachable bastard?"

    Both Shannon and Cyrus laugh at that as Shannon pours herself and Cyrus a fresh drink.

    "I mean...besides that."

    "Well, I could go on if you want."

    "Nah, not necessary. Cy...when was the last time ya ENJOYED wrestling?"

    For such a simple question, The Exile looks as if Shannon just asked him what the meaning of life is. Hell, given Cyrus's past, the meaning of life seems like a simpler question to answer than what Shannon just asked him.

    "...Enjoyed wrestling?"

    "Yeah. When was the last time ya just...went out and wrestled a match 'cause ya wanted to, instead of had to?"

    "I don't...I'm not really..."

    Shannon sighs as she takes another sip.

    "Your biggest problem is that ya always wrestle like everythin' is at stake. And I ain't gonna say there's not stakes in this match. You're a champion fighting off a challenger that has a shit-ton on the line as well. And fuck...Back in Business? Ya just don't have matches without stakes, Cy. Three World Titles, a North American Title, and Gabrielle in a fuckin' Trial by Fire."

    "Shannon, you're not exactly telling me something I don't know."

    "That's the point, ya idiot. It's always stakes with ya. Beating Eli the first time was stickin' it to the Church. Doing it again really drives the damn knife in. All your past matches had their own stakes...but you being you? Ya always make those stakes so goddamn high that it seems like every time you step into a ring, the fate of the fucking world is in the balance.

    "Ya wanna know why I retired? Sure, I got banged up. I ain't as spry as I once was and I'm beat the fuck up. But the real reason is that I...lost something. Maybe I didn't like who I became when I beat ya for the belt. Maybe Bell's betrayal stung a lot harder than I wanna admit. All I know is that wrestlin' stopped bein' fun. And a lot of that's on me. I think...I think there comes a time where ya gotta step back a bit from the chase and let it go. Wrestlin' is always gonna be serious business, I get that. But still...what's the damn point if ya don't enjoy it? Sure as shit easier ways to earn a living or make a name for yourself, right?"


    There's a long...long silence as Cyrus sits there pondering what Shannon's saying. The look on The Exile's face is that of a man considering something that he never took the time to come to terms with, but something that deep down he knew was something he HAD to consider.

    "So, what are you saying? That I need to retire?"

    Shannon shrugs as she downs her whiskey, arms waving motioning towards her modest yard and home.

    "I mean, it ain't glamorous, but..."

    Cyrus shoots her a stark and pointed look as she laughs.

    "Nah, I'm just fuckin' with ya. If I know anything about ya, it's that you're far too bullheaded to just walk away. They're gonna need to carry your dead body out of that ring before you'll just quit. But that's not what I'm sayin'. All I'm sayin' is that you let the weight of whatever the fuck you're doin' just pile on your shoulders until ya can't move like ya should."

    "Easy for you to say. Unlike you, I've never won at Back in Business."

    "Didn't ya beat Stu St. Clair?"

    "An opening match, but not the main match. Besides, nobody remembers that, so why should I harp on it?"

    "All right, fine. But Cy...who beat ya at Back in Business, hmm? Ryan Rondo, Chris Kennedy, and Gabrielle. Oh, and me. It ain't as if you're losing to some scrubs. And aside from me? You've beaten every single one of them at one point or another. Hell, you took World Titles or defended World Titles against all three of them..."

    "Hold on a second. Let's not forget that you did lose at Quest for the Best in that Triple Threat for my World Title, Shannon. Don't try and pull that bullshit."

    "Hey! I wasn't the one you pinned, Cy!"

    "You still lost!"

    "Fuck you!"

    "Fuck you!"

    There's a moment where the conversation threatens to devolve into a shouting match between the two former rivals as they stare somewhat drunken daggers at one another...but after several seconds of uncomfortable silence, both Cyrus and Shannon start laughing, any tension evaporating.

    "I said it before and I'll say it again, Shannon. You are one infuriating bitch."

    "Ya also said it was part of my charm if I'm rememberin' things clearly."

    The two continue to laugh as several of Shannon's neighbors look at this scene as they're walking by on the sidewalk and shake their heads disapprovingly. Neither Shannon or Cyrus give any damns as they eventually stop laughing.

    The sound woke up Rufus, who walks up and puts his head on Cyrus's lap. The Exile smiles as he pats the dog's head.


    "You asked me before what I'm doing here, right?"

    "Yeah, I did."

    "I think this is why. For someone who calls himself 'Truth,' even I'm not immune to being blind to certain Truths about myself. You're right...I can't remember the last time I wrestled where I was simply having fun. There's always been SOMETHING else besides just the match itself. A title was on the line, there was a grudge that needed to be settled, other extraneous bullshit that always added more weight to a match outside of it just being a match.

    "But the real Truth is...I allowed a lot more bullshit to get in the way of my matches. I put a lot more weight in the end destination instead of the Road that took me there. Everything had stakes, but I'm the one who pushed those stakes to astronomical levels because I wanted glory, or I had to fight a war, or because somebody had wronged me and I couldn't let that shit pass. And in the process? I forgot just how much I enjoy wrestling, enjoy competing and fighting at the highest level. And it's only make my failings harder to endure.

    "This match at Back in Business has stakes. It's fucking Back in Business, it's a title match, there's no getting around that. But I don't give a fuck about the Church of 9 anymore. I already ended that war. And I've already beaten Eli in a title match once. Why the fuck shouldn't I do it again? What the hell is stopping me from beating his ass again? Fucking hell, I'm one of the best wrestlers alive, aren't I? I'm the North American Champion! I'm a four time FWA World Champion and still the only motherfucker alive who's been World Champion in both FWA and CWA! Why the fuck shouldn't I have some fun? Why not pick up my first decisive and unblemished win at Back in Business?"


    Cyrus is clearly a lot more inebriated as he stands up, puts down his glass, and picks up the whiskey bottle that still has about a third of its contents left. Standing up in front of a seated Shannon, Cyrus swishes the bottle around as he continues.

    "Eli Black was so desperate to prove he's some big shot that he's willing to throw away his birthright as the future of the Church of 9. But I don't give a shit about that. Why should I? I'm a wrestler. I like wrestling. I enjoy the art of wrestling. And whenever Eli's not trying to be a fucking scumbag daddy's boy? He's a fun wrestler to wrestle. Why shouldn't that be enough? It should, shouldn't it?"

    "Damn right!"

    "This match against Eli wasn't what I wanted for Back in Business. I wanted to be done with Eli and move on to something else. But it's the match I got, and the only match I was going to get because FWA was stupid enough to think he could've gone the distance. So...fuck it! I'm going to wrestle Eli. I'm going to wrestle fucking circles around Eli and put on a classic the likes of which the entirety of Paris and anybody else watching Back in Business are never going to forget. I'm going to remind the world that I'm Cyrus Fucking Truth, and I'm a damn good wrestler! I'm a fucking GREAT wrestler! And not only am I going to walk out of Back in Business still the North American Champion, I'm going to do it by giving Eli Black and the Church of 9 one last giant 'Fuck you!' for all the shit they put me through this year. Because I'm Cyrus Truth, damn it...and who the fuck is going to tell me I can't or won't?"

    Cyrus sways and stumbles a bit, his words slurring just a bit. But even in spite of the drunken haze he's in, the fire and passion comes out of his words. For the first time since this match was announced? Cyrus feels fired up, feels driven to put an end to this nonsense with Eli Black, the Church of 9, and his own spotty record at Back in Business once and for all.

    Not because he has to.

    Not because his entire world is at stake.

    But because he CAN. Because he WANTS to. And he knows full well he possesses the ability and will to do it.

    Shannon, smiling and looking somewhat tipsy herself (though it's clear she's able to hold her liquor far better than The Exile), stands up with her empty glass and looks Cyrus dead in the eyes.


    "There ya are, Cy. Wonderin' when the fuck you'd show up. Now this is something I'll drink to."

    Shannon holds up her glass...and realizes that it's empty as she shakes it in front of Cyrus. Cyrus quickly realizes what's up as he pours out half of the remaining bottle into Shannon's glass, clinks the bottle with it, and joins Shannon in downing the rest of the whiskey.

    Both wrestlers shudder a bit as the brown liquid leaves a trail of fire down their throats as Cyrus bows his head slightly.


    "Hey."

    "What?"

    "Thanks."

    "For what?"

    "For listening to me bitch and being cool about it."

    "Eh...it ain't like ya bitch a lot anyway, Cy. Hell, it's kinda refreshin' if I'm bein' honest. Makes ya a bit more human instead of whatever the fuck ya are usually."

    "Hahaha...fair enough. I suppose that means you're always willing to listen whenever I have to vent?"

    "Only if ya keep bringin' me whiskey. Otherwise? I don't wanna fuckin' hear it!"

    Cyrus chuckles at that as he shakes his head, his mind swimming in alcohol.

    "Damn it...it's Atlanta all over again."

    "Eh, not yet. We'd still have to tear through a case of beer if we're really tryin' to redo Atlanta."

    "Do you have a case of beer?"

    "Nah, but I know where we can get one. So...when are ya flyin' out to Paris?"

    "Tomorrow afternoon. My flight leaves Indy at around 3 PM. I was planning to get a hotel here in Lafayette and head out first thing in the morning."

    "A hotel? Cy...why not just stay here for the night? Unless you're tired of my company already?"

    Cyrus raises a leery eyebrow at Shannon's suggestion as he looks past her towards her bungalow.


    "Stay...here? I mean...it's not as if I don't want to keep catching up, but do you even have a guest room?"

    "Nope."


    "Then where am I going to sleep, Shannon?"

    Shannon crosses her arms in front of her as she flashes a wicked smirk.

    "We're smart people, Cy. I'm sure we'd figure somethin' out."

    There's a long, almost uncomfortable silence as Cyrus looks a bit out of his element...but eventually, he laughs uproariously as Shannon smiles and chuckles alongside him.

    "Well, I suppose we're going to need that case of beer, then. And maybe some Chinese takeout."

    "Ya buyin'?"

    "Don't I always?"

    Time passes, as day turns to night here in Lafayette. Cyrus, Shannon, and Rufus are sitting on the porch of Shannon's modest home. The night sky is cloud-free and the stars are shining bright. Tension, worry, exhaustion and frustration seem to have left The Exile, at least for this evening as he and his longtime rival turned friend chat through the night, as Rufus and a case of beer sits between them, empty boxes of Chinese takeout at their feet.

    This wasn't the match that Cyrus wanted at Back in Business.

    But it is the match he has.

    And for once? That's all right. Because Cyrus is who he is. And he's remembered something that he never truly forgot, but has been out of his thoughts for too long.

    The Long and Winding Road will always take you where you're meant to go.

    Even if there's a stop or two along the way that you don't want to make.

    But even the stops you have to make don't have to always be miserable.

    Because the Road is what you make of it.

    Cyrus Truth is the North American Champion. His challenger is a man who has come to define much of his past year, for better or worse. And his challenger has laid it all on the line to prove he is Cyrus's equal, if not his better.

    But Cyrus Truth is a wrestler. A world-class wrestler who has endured far greater challenges with far higher stakes. And he has a passion for the craft he's chosen to master.

    At Back in Business? Cyrus shows that passion once again.

    He will answer the challenge of Eli Black with everything he has.

    Cyrus will meet Eli Black head-on and score the definitive win at Back in Business that has long since eluded him.

    Cyrus Truth will walk out of Paris as the defending North American Champion...and put an end to the reckless ambitions of Eli Black and the Church of 9 in the process.

    Because he is a wrestler...

    ...and wrestlers wrestle.
    Something Witty!

    Cyrus Truth
    4x FWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x FWA North American Champion
    Carnal Contedership 2016 Winner
    2x CWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x PnH International Champion

    Konchu Hao
    1x FWA X Division Champion
    Ground Zero Winner (Season 2)

  10. #10
    SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT

    Shawn's Avatar

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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    TOTALLY NOT

    A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE PROMO



    CHAPTER 1


    “Remember when I said, quite plainly, that the Zombie bar you picked was the one wrong place in all of Texas to have a drink?”

    The question hangs in the air. The asker, one “Rockstar” Randy Ramon, puts the question out there as he takes a sip of his beer. It’s a local brew, but they’re not in Texas anymore. In an effort to make amends for picking said Zombie bar the night before Desert Storm, the receiver, Devin Golden, agreed to let Randy pick the bar for their pre-Back in Business night out. But when he made the offer, he never imagined he would end up here.

    “Yes…”

    “Well, this is the best place to have a drink in all of Belgium!”

    Randy takes another gulp of his beer and lets it slosh around in his mouth a bit, enjoying the Belgian flavors and nuances that make Belgian Beer the best beer in the world. You can disagree, but you would be wrong.

    As Randy enjoys his beverage, Devin takes another look around the bar. Based on the cowboy décor, Budweiser paraphernalia and skimpy outfits worn by the wait staff, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was all actually taking place in Texas.

    The two sit across from one another in a worn down booth, a beaten table rests between them. The neon green light emanating from the fixture on the wall above the booth illuminates traces of sawdust on the floor, completing the ambiance.


    “This feels just like every non-Zombie bar in the Southern U.S., especially Texas. Why drag me all of the way out here?”

    “I told you. Best beer in the world.”

    “Right, but we could have gone to any bar, brewery or hole in the wall and gotten Belgian Beer. We’re IN Belgium!”

    Randy looks away from his beer and smiles. Golden immediately realizes what’s going on.

    “You did this to prove a point. I took you to the only oddball place to drink in Texas, so you drug me to the only American bar in Belgium.”

    “You got me!”

    Devin looks down to his own beer, shaking his head.

    “So, all of this to prove a point then? A five-hour train ride, each way, to prove a point?”

    Randy downs the last mouthful of beer, gets the attention of their waitress, and orders another round.

    “I’m sorry… would you rather be in Paris, sitting at a little corner boutique drinking cheap wine?”

    Devin shakes his head again, acknowledging that Randy might be right on this one.

    “Well, look, we’ve had a lot going on lately. I’m not going to drug you again, but I thought the train ride might help clear our minds. I mean, think about it. Losing the titles in the first place, then the stuff with Krash and Black, then the network sanctions, the Quinn reveal and the emotional roller coaster that came with that… and then…”

    That was the wrong thing to say at the right place to drink in Belgium.

    “Don’t even say his name.”

    Golden quips back quicker than he meant to. The wound is obviously still a bit fresh. He and Ryan Rondo have quite the history. One could argue not much needs said about the Golden-Rondo rivalry that hasn't been explained in detail in some form. Only problem is glossing over the history does the magnitude a disservice. It is a story on the level of Stu St. Clair and Ashley 'O Ryan, Duke Drazin and Matt Boudreau, Chris Kennedy and WOLF, Gabrielle and Cyrus Truth. To say otherwise is a lie.

    This ... microcosm of the main event of night 1 at Back in Business is enough to sell out an arena. It matters. And Golden is, still, coming to some semblance of "grips", as the cliche goes, with the situation. All things considered, it’s clear that the true identity of Donny Toner is not sitting well with Golden, even if he knew it all along.


    “…and now my point is proven.”

    Obviously, Randy has quite a history with Danny Toner. There have been several FWA Exclusives on the subject, more matches than one can count, and more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose. Everyone knows how deep their history runs. We don’t need to get back into it here. The point is, tensions are at an all-time high ahead of Back in Business, and whether they will admit it or not, both Ramon and Golden could use the time away. Time to decompress.

    “So what’s the plan then?”

    Ramon shrugs his shoulders.

    “I don’t know. I figured we’d have a few beers, listen to some jams, see some sights. See where the night takes us. You know, just a chill night out."No matter what happens, we'll be back in France. Every ending tonight is the same.

    “Fate? Destiny? Really?”

    "You wanna test it?"

    Devin is not impressed. Can you blame him? Think back to some of the situations these two have found themselves in before. A simple night at a foreign bar doesn’t really scream “creative”, “innovative”, or “exciting”.

    “What, is that not good enough for you?”

    “Well, I mean, it’s pretty low key for you. Last time we went out, you drugged me.”

    “I promised I wouldn-“

    “No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that you normally have something bigger up your sleeve. Beers in Belgium is cool and all, but… you have nothing else planned?”

    “I didn’t. Not after last time. But… now I feel like I need to come up with something here…”

    Randy looks around the bar, looking for something exciting. Something different. Something… befitting of a Rockstar, and then he sees it. Shiny, clear, and illuminated. Like a sign from the heavens above.

    “Miss!”

    He calls out to the waitress taking care of them. Her nametag reads Missy, but they're not quite sure if that's her real name, or just a nickname used within these walls.

    “No, Randy, I didn-“

    “Yes, uh, can we get Das Boot. Fill it with uh… what’s the strongest thing you’ve got?”

    She checks the menu in her hand, and responds with an obviously forced twang in her voice. One that fits perfectly with the name on her badge that is now clearly not her own.

    “That would be the Quad. It’s 13%.”

    Randy’s face lights up. Devin's… does not. Sour does not even begin to describe it.

    “That’s perfect! Yes, Das Boot of the Quad. Thank you!”

    She turns and heads off to fetch sixty-seven fluid ounces of freedom.

    “Randy, what are you doing. What have you done? We can’t drink that… we have to be back in Paris TONIGHT.”

    Randy laughs as he reaches into his pocket.

    We are not going to drink that. Don’t worry.”

    “Ok, then what’s the pl-“

    One of us is going to drink it. You’re going to decide who!”

    He slams a shiny new quarter down in front of Golden, gulps down the rest of his beer, and places the empty glass in the center of the table.

    “You’ve played quarters before, right?”

    Devin nods.

    “One shot. You make it, I drink it. You miss?”

    “I die.”

    Randy laughs.

    “Nah, you’ll be fine. I believe in you!”

    Devin surveys the situation. Luckily, they’re in Belgium, so most of the beer is served in tulip glasses, so the shot is makeable. He takes a minute to thank his lucky stars that they’re not actually in Texas, otherwise this would probably be a regular pint glass, or god forbid, a tall boy – a nearly impossible make. As he starts to line up the shot, he’s again compelled to voice his displeasure with this plan.

    “I don’t know how good of an idea this is.”

    “Oh, it’s a terrible idea! I only had a few seconds to come up with something. But when have we ever had fun with a good idea?

    Plus, remember, nothing will be different in the end. That's the point of destiny.”


    The waitress has returned with Das Boot. It’s even more daunting than it originally sounded. She sets it down on the far side of the booth, closer to the wall, smiles, and walks off.

    Devin, again, shakes his head as he makes final adjustments to his trajectory.

    “Well, here goes nothing…”

    He slams the quarter on the table. It bounces towards the glass.

    What happens next? You decide!


    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 2 TO SEE DEVIN MISS THE SHOT
    CHAPTER 3 TO SEE DEVIN MAKE THE SHOT



    CHAPTER 2


    Spoiler:

    The quarter hits the table, bounces high in the air, flips a dozen times or so, hits the rim of the empty beer glass…

    And…

    Falls to the table.

    “No!”

    Golden is beside himself. He hangs his head.

    “I just… I knew that was going to happen.”

    “With that attitude...”

    “Do I… do I have to do this?”

    Ramon breathes a sigh of relief, thrilled that he doesn’t have to chug it. That’s a lot of heavy beer for one man. Truth be told, the duo would probably be better off had Golden made the shot, and if Ramon was the one about to down the veritable bucket of beer. You know, he’s trained most of his life for this exact kind of moment. But here we are.

    “Oh, you’ll be fine buddy.”

    “I’m not so sure.”

    Golden lifts the boot to his chin and takes a mouthful. His face turns a bit bitter, as this isn’t a flavor pallet he’s used to – he’s more of an IPA guy. He shakes it off and starts working his way through the beer. One mouthful, one gulp, one after the other. As he drinks, a small bubble has started to form in the toe of the boot. About a third of the way through he stops for a breath and to let his stomach settle.

    “Hey, is there a-” *hiccup* “Is there a jukebox here?”

    Ramon looks around, not sure.

    “I wonder if they have my jam.”

    Ramon worries to himself. Have we gone straight past happy drunk Golden to melancholy drunk Golden? Probably going to be a short night if that’s the case.

    “The Black Parade? I don’t know. Did shitty emo music make it all the way to Belgium? For their sake, I hope it stayed in the states.”

    If looks could kill, the stare from Golden would have decapitated Ramon on impact.

    “You know I don’t know why you’ve got to be like that… always ripping on the things I like. But I meant, you know…”

    “Rihanna?”

    “Yes!”

    Ramon shakes his head. To the Rockstar, the only thing worse than shitty emo music is crappy pop music. Neither have many redeeming qualities. It’s close, but pop is definitely worse. On the bright side, we’re still at happy drunk Golden. Nevertheless, he’s only one third of the way through the glass.

    “I hope not…”

    A despondent Golden lifts the boot back up and gets back to work. Over the lips and through the gums, look out stomach, here it comes! His stomach keeps getting fuller, and the bubble in the toe just keeps getting bigger. After another third or so, he takes another break. Another deep breath.

    “Doing alright there, buddy?”

    “Yeah, yeah, I’m good. Just need a-“ *burp* “Just need a second.”

    He looks around the bar, just taking in the scene. Doesn’t seem to be a jukebox in site. In fact, it hits Golden at this moment that there is no music playing anywhere. He’s left alone with his thoughts, which wander back to the most obvious place they could wander.

    “You know, I feel kind of guilty here… Here I am sitting here in this bar, drinking this delicious beer… while my wife is at home taking care of our newborn on her own. That doesn’t seem… right.”

    Oh, there he is. Melancholy Golden has arrived.

    “Would you feel the same way if we were back in Paris doing lunges or pushups or something?”

    Golden thinks for a second.

    “No, no probably not. It’s probably just the beer. I do miss them though… It’s weird being so far away so soon.”

    “I know you do. I know you do. We’ll get out of Paris as quickly as possible tomorrow after our match and get you home to them. Promise.”

    Golden nods and looks back to the beer. He’s near the bottom. Once again, it’s bottoms up.

    The thing about Das Boot, though, is that when you get down to the curve at the bottom, where the shoelaces would be if it was wearing a shoe, you have to twist the entire boot to release the air bubble that builds up while you’re drinking. If you don’t twist it, the bubble pops and splashes beer all over the drinker’s face. Anyone who has ever seen the movie Beerfest would know this.

    Unfortunately, Devin Golden has not seen the movie Beerfest.

    So he doesn’t twist the boot.

    And now his entire face is covered in beer.

    “God damnit!”

    He slams the glass down on the table, a few ounces left in the bottom.

    “I’m done. Forget this.”

    Meanwhile the Rockstar is stifling a laugh. He had a feeling this would happen, but never did he imagine it would be so grand; or so fulfilling; or so perfect. He tries to console his partner, fearful that we may be approaching angry drunk Golden. A person he’s only heard about, but never met. He’s heard the stories… but has never seen them, live and in person.

    “You did gr-“

    Turns out, the legends are true.

    “No… you knew this was going to happen, and you let me do it anyway. Now I’m covered in beer, and I’m going to smell like beer for the entire five-hour ride back to our hotel. People are going to think I’m a drunk!”

    “Well, if the boot fits…”

    Ramon loses it and begins to laugh uncontrollably. He’s nearly doubled over in laughter and is gasping for air.

    “No, you know what? Fuck that. Fuck this.”

    He pauses a second.

    “While I’m at it, fuck Danny Toner and especially fuck Ryan Rondo. Who the hell do they think they are?”

    Golden’s face is beet-red. It looks as if every single blood vessel in his face could pop at the same time, any second. He stares off in the distance, collecting his thoughts and trying to calm himself down. That’s when he notices the front window of the pub. It’s made of that opaque glass that distorts the light into multiple beams as it passes through.

    A single beam of light is trying to break through. To Devin, from one angle it looks like the sun is coming up outside. From another angle, it looks like it’s going down.


    Which is it? You decide!


    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 4 IF IT'S A "SUNRISE"
    CHAPTER 5 IF IT'S A "SUNSET"

    CHAPTER 3


    Spoiler:

    The quarter hits the table, bounces high in the air, flips a dozen times or so, hits the rim of the empty beer glass, with each half turn in the air feeling like a full minute of time passing by …

    And …

    Falls to the bottom of the glass with a rattle between each side until it finally nestles cleanly at the empty base.


    “Yes!”

    Golden is ecstatic. He talks a big game, but he isn’t sure deep in his heart if he could finish this monster. He also knows the night would naturally come to an end a lot sooner if he had to try. Ramon? He can handle it. This is his thing. This is what he does. He’ll be fine.

    “In my defense, I didn’t think you’d make it.”

    “Neither did I…”


    Ramon takes the glass in his hand and lifts it from the table.

    “Well …” he says with a pause for dramatic effect, and a cheeky smile to signal he welcomes the challenge before him, “bottom’s up!”

    He touches the glass to his lips and in a manner of seconds has impressively finished more than half the liquid. “Impressive” might be an understatement, to be frank. He sets the glass down for a second to allow himself a breath, starting to internally admit to himself this bet was a really bad idea. He’ll never say it out loud, but he immediately regretted even suggesting Das Boot in the first place.

    Karma, comeuppance, and all that.


    “Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you. I finally took your advice.”

    This statement catches Golden off guard. What advice? For the last 11 months or so, their relationship has obviously resembled that of a mentor/mentee, but in this moment, he can’t think of anything he offered that Ramon didn’t specifically take to heart right away. The reference to a delayed follow-through is mind-boggling to Golden.

    “What, you’re getting yourself put on the donated liver list early, so one is definitely available when this current one kicks the bucket?”

    Ramon chuckles, again lifting the glass from the table.

    “No, but thanks for the reminder!”

    He goes back to work on the Quad, and after a few breathes, the glass is empty. Again, impressive as hell. Impressive enough to get a wide-eyed glare from Golden watching the glass leave the lips and appropriately bang down towards the bartop. He lets out a guttural groan as he slams the glass back to the table, clearly proud of his accomplishment. Another deep breath.

    “No, I finally listened to the Black Parade. The whole album. Start to finish.”

    “And?!”

    “Definitely better than picking one or two random songs to listen to. I like how it flowed from beginning to end. I can see why you like it.”

    “So, you’re a fan now?”

    “Oh, no. Not at all. Not even close.”

    “But you didn’t hate it?”

    “Right. But I need something to bust your chops about…”

    “You didn’t hate it. I’ll take that as a win.”


    *buzz*

    Before Ramon can respond, his cell phone – situated on the table next to his empty beer glass – vibrates. As he looks down and reads the letters on his screen, his face drops from joyful to concerned.


    “Oh shit.”

    “What is it?”

    “Draft results.”


    A long moment of silence ensues. Golden, who is well aware of the results, tries an attempt at damage control. He has been receiving insight this entire time, sneakily, and keeping it all internal throughout the conversation, bet, and chug.

    “You should … you should probably not read that. We’re having a good time. Let’s save it until after the show. Who holds a life-altering event like a draft just days before the biggest event of the year?”

    The two both give a dirty, side-eyed look at the camera, making sure those who should be shamed are properly shamed.

    *buzz*

    In what seems to be a trend, before either of them can decide whether or not to read the article, another headline flashes before Randy’s eyes.

    GOLDEN ROCK SPLIT IN DRAFT AHEAD OF BIB
    Another long, awkward silence.

    “MotherFUCKER!”

    He angrily slams the phone down the table, lucky to not have broken it, which turns a few heads in the bar. Golden is quiet. He’s the senior member of this team and has been through almost everything, but at this moment, not even he has the words to put a positive spin on this.

    Golden knew it was coming. He was just trying to … ignore it? Have a good time? Not bring up a negative conversation? Maybe that’s unhealthy, but it was the route he took. Ramon’s ensuing rant affirms to Golden that if he could pull off the knowledge heist, he should’ve.

    Unless you believe in the “rip the band-aid off right away” method of dealing with bad shit.


    “I knew this was going to happen. I knew it. I’ve been against this whole damn thing since the beginning. Brand split? Nah, fuck that. They should have called it a ‘dick measuring contest’ because that’s all it is. People getting off on fucking with other people’s lives. This is why I left the first time. Another brand split ending something that was really REALLY good for me. Fuck whatever your roster thinks. Fuck your livelihood. Fuck your sanity. Fuck everything, so long as the idiots in charge get who they want, where they want, when they want. Un-FUCKING-believable.”

    Golden continues to sit quietly and allow Ramon to get it all out.

    “I mean … I told them I would quit if we were split. I told them this team is what I wanted, and I didn’t want to be a long-term singles guy. Not right now. But I guess no one listens!”

    He shakes his head and lets out a deep exhale.

    “I’ve been in this company for seven damn years, off and on. That’s a lot of blood and sweat I’ve left in the ring. I’ve missed things back home, birthdays, weddings, you name it – all in the name of the FWA – especially in the past year or so. You’d think that that would give me just one little modicum of influence on this shit. I mean we… we revitalized the tag team division! Where was it before us? I’ll tell you! It was so piss-poor that a team walked on the scene, won the titles, and had a tournament named after them a few weeks later! Then IN that tournament, they lost their third and fourth matches, took their ball, and went home!”

    “Without Golden Rock, there’s no Danny FUCKING Toner. There’s no Donny Toner, no return of Ryan Rondo, no Gang Stars, no Back in Business main event! Everything that’s happened in the tag division in the past year is because of US. If Devin Golden doesn’t pull Randy Ramon out of retirement, there is a zero percent chance that these tag titles are co-main-eventing the biggest show of the year. Zero. But yeah, split up the ONE team that brought interest and discussion back to, and helped elevate the division to the point that the World FUCKING Champion wants to move to the tag division, because HE thinks it’s more interesting and HE thinks it’s more challenging! It’s not fucking rocket science. It’s not that hard. Just don’t fuck it up. Don’t fix what ain’t broken. Aghh!”


    He’s clinching his fist, still pissed off. His right leg juts up and down under the table, an obvious attempt to burn off some of the negative energy that has washed over him in the last few minutes.

    “You know I-“

    “Sorry buddy, I’m not done yet. For all of the success we’ve had the past year … this is just the cherry on top of a fucking shit-pie sundae. First we bust our ass for almost six months to win the tag titles, and security can’t be assed to do their jobs, and we get attacked with steel pipes. Then after a lot of poking and prodding, I work myself into a main event match with the World Champion, a dream come true for me, and before that can even START, more steel pipes. Then I put out the effort of my fucking life at Desert Storm, and we still lose – not to mention the pipes afterwards again. Now this draft bit. I know I should be – honored – that everyone wants to use me, use us, to wiggle their way into the spotlight. I get it. The Gang Stars wanted to make a statement – what better way? Danny wants to call on our backstory to get himself a title match – what better way? Now some knucklehead sitting in some office somewhere wants to split us up for … for what, shock value? To be a fucking meme? So that they can broadcast the announcement every year when they redraft or something? ‘Oh, hey, remember when Golden Rock got split up at the draft!?’ Fuck that. I deserve better. You deserve better. You’re a goddamned legend. “

    Ramon isn’t stopping, even as Golden opens his mouth to interject. But he quickly recognizes he must wait a little longer for Ramon to get to his end.

    “I guess the question I need an answer to… is when does all of the work we put in actually get acknowledged? When does our moment get to actually be OUR moment? I mean … we’re a few days from the biggest fucking match of my career, dare I say one of the biggest of yours and absolutely the biggest of Danny’s, and we’re sitting here talking about decisions made by some stuffed shirt somewhere, instead of actually focusing on what’s in front of us. It’s fucking absurd! Maybe… maybe this company just isn’t everything I thought it was.”

    Randy takes a deep breath and sinks his shoulders, trying his best to let the emotion go, to move past it. He again shakes his head, still beside himself, but much calmer than a few minutes ago when he almost shattered his portable cellular device.
    Golden finally enters in with a question.


    “You done?”

    “No, probably not, but you go ahead.”


    Golden chuckles. If he is the senior, calming presence in this team, Ramon is certainly the emotional hothead. We saw that the night Rondo showed up when Ramon tried to kick his head off, but just ate an RKO for his troubles. It’s nothing new.

    “I don’t like this either. I don’t know what we can do about it, though. What are you going to do, demand a trade? Come on, we both know you’re not going to do that.

    Well, I know one thing we can do about it.

    I know it sounds cliché, but we need to look past this. Look, if we win at Back in Business, there’s no splitting up. As long as we win, and hold onto those titles, then there’s no splitting up. So I need you to focus. I need you to get your head right, because we’re going to win our titles back in a few days, but ONLY if your head is in the game. Can you do that? Can you ignore the draft results? Pretend they never ever happened? And literally just think with this mindset of, ‘Never lose again’?

    I’m serious. Never. Lose. Again. That’s where we’re at. That’s what we gotta do.

    Maybe that's our destiny. Maybe THAT is our fate.

    We're right here, right? And we will be where we are supposed to be? No matter what road we take? So maybe this is our road.”


    ”I don’t have much choice, do I?”

    “No, not really. ... Not if you believe in fate. But maybe it's comforting to know this is out of your control.”

    “Well, I’m never going to like it. Good chance I don’t let it go anytime soon, but you’re right.”

    Then, just when Ramon thought things couldn’t get any worse … his phone rings again.

    “What now, did they create a second World Championship and award it to Danny Toner by default?”

    Randy’s snark is replaced with a chuckle as he reads the text message.

    “Actually, much worse…”

    He shows the phone face to Golden.

    KELLY KAPOOR: HEY RANDY, YOU AROUND?
    Golden almost falls out of his chair laughing. It’s a memory lane trip back to their visit to The Office, when they broke into the world of Dunder Mifflin and Michael Scott and Dwight Shrute and … yes, Kelly Kapoor.

    “You still talk to her?”

    “Once in a while. She texts a lot. Sometimes I answer. Sometimes I don’t.”

    “Well, what are you going to do this time?”


    What should Randy do? Respond to Kelly or ghost her? You decide!



    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 6 TO IGNORE KELLY'S TEXT
    CHAPTER 7 TO ANSWER KELLY'S TEXT

    CHAPTER 4


    Spoiler:

    The fact “The Golden One” can’t tell right away that the sun is in fact rising is a testament to one of two things — or maybe both:

    - How damn long he and Ramon have spent stooled up in “the best place to drink in all of Belgium.

    - How much damn high-alcohol-volume Belgian beer he just drank in a short amount of time.

    But after a few seconds fixating on the sun and grasping the reality of time and recent past events, he’s positive the sun is rising. The clock is 5:57, on the a.m. side of the coin, as he and Ramon have yanked out an all-nighter.

    An all-nighter in honor of one half of the reigning FWA Tag Team Champions.

    An all-nighter befitting of a man who has thorned himself in the side of Golden Rock for months, in Golden’s side for months and his partner’s side for years.

    An all-nighter in honor of a man who has pulled off many of them in his heyday.

    An all-nighter for a rising sun in the FWA.

    “You know something …”

    Ramon suddenly turns to face Golden, eye to eye, as if the weight of the world is about to come out the Hall of Famer’s mouth in the next few seconds.

    “I gotta admit something …”

    Not very climactic or epic, but Golden feels a burp coming on so he didn’t want to have to stop mid-stream. He places his fist to his chest and makes a blowing facial expression, before finally looking back down to the bartop.

    "Hold on ... almost ready ..."

    Then up to Ramon with sort of a pensive, defeatist expression.

    “Danny Toner is good.

    Really ... good.”


    Ramon shakes his head and Golden gives a mocking hand-over-mouth gasp to express shock and horror. But it’s all for show.

    “Admit it. Toner is good. He’s had us in his sights for months, nearly a year. He got his shot, and he beat us. He won 1-2-3. He also beat me one on one. He’s on a roll. He’s on a really really really big roll.

    And he goes into Back in Business with ALLLLLLL the momentum. He pulled off a heist. He pulled the mask over Rondo’s face to hide his identity, all the while putting a mask over both our eyes to hide the fact that he was on a new level, something we hadn’t seen from him before.”

    Ramon doesn’t want to hear it really, but Golden presses on. And when I say, “presses on”, I mean he bangs a closed fist into the top of the bar to get Ramon’s attention, along with the slightly frightened bartender cleaning glasses at this 24-7 haunt.

    "I mean, he literally got a future Hall of Famer to be on his team, to help him win the tag team championships. Who else does Ryan fuckin’ Rondo come out of retirement for?
    Name them.”

    Ramon pauses for a second as he contemplates an answer. He’s unsure of where to start.

    “I’ll name them for you.

    ‘The Golden One’ Devin Golden.

    That’s it.

    That’s all.

    That’s everyone.”

    Golden is sort of sticking his point now.

    “And when I say, “everyone”, I meant … everyone. That’s all. I thought it’d just be me. I thought I was the only person who could do it.

    I was wrong.

    I was wrong … but also kind of right.

    Because the way Danny Toner got Rondo back from retirement was smart. Very very smart. See … he got Rondo out of retirement … by OFFERING UP ME.

    Rondo, incensed by the fact we teamed up after the random drawing, was goaded into a return by Danny Toner using our team-up to inspire Rondo’s rage for revenge.

    Danny Toner used the fact that I was the ONLY person Rondo would come back for … to get Rondo back as some sort of scorned, forgotten lover.”

    Golden now smiles at Ramon, who sits back in his barstool and looks out into the distance, at nothing in particular since the back of the bar is a mere 8 feet away.

    “Danny Toner is wild. Danny Toner is fierce. Danny Toner is beloved. Danny Toner is a brawler, a bruiser, a fighter. Danny Toner is unpredictable.

    We knew all of these things, but we now have to recognize that Danny Toner … is smart.

    Calculated.

    Focused.

    Focused on ONE … thing …

    Ending Golden Rock for good.

    He wants to be the rising sun, as we are fading to black. Hell, he already sort of is.”


    Golden realizes what just happened right after he says it. Ramon perks up in his chair and offers a look of confusion mixed with fury. He knows what happened, what that means, but he’s still a little foggy on the surety. Is this 100% certain? Did the draft really swing that way?

    “I’m sorry. I’ve been getting texts all day, and I guess night, about it.

    I’m on Meltdown. You’re on Fallo…”

    “Fuck this.”

    Ramon slams the glass into the bartop and places his face into his hands. He’s infuriated. He’s beside himself. This has somehow turned … poorly.

    “This means Back in Business could be it. Like … IT … IT.”

    “It … it.

    Could be it.

    Doesn’t have to be it.”

    Golden smiles as he looks at Ramon, who is still in a minor fit of rage. He cannot possibly understand just how Golden is smiling in this situation, with this knowledge.

    “Danny Toner does not deserve to end Golden Rock.
    He can be all the things I said. Driven. Focused. Unpredictable. Calculated. Wild. Fierce. A brawler. A fighter.

    A champion.

    But he isn’t better than you one on one. Maybe me. I don’t have much to base the opposite on, but he isn’t better than you.
    Who made the final three of Carnal Contendership? And who didn’t even crack the top 7?

    Who has beaten him … over and over and over again, even once at Back in Business? And who couldn’t even survive three matches in the tournament, two of them with a Hall of Famer as a partner?
    Who got a title shot because the pool was thin?

    And who won the titles in a stacked 12-team tournament?
    Danny Toner is not better than you. Ryan Rondo is not better than me ... when we're in the ring together. We're a wash. So it's you and Toner, and I take you every damn time. That means TxR or the Toner Brothers or Tondo or whatever they wanna call themselves are not … better … as a collective unit … than Golden Rock.

    And if I need to build myself up? Against Danny Toner?
    All I gotta do is say … Back in Business. It’s the biggest stage. I shine. I don’t shrink. I shine bright. There’s a real big fuckin’ reason Chris Kennedy has never sought me out for a Back in Business streak match. Because there’s a real big fuckin’ chance it would be the very last Back in Business streak match.”

    Golden’s speech has Ramon a little calmer now. Just enough for him to get one last mini rant in on this warm early morning as they sit in the best drinking spot in Belgium with half-full beer glasses and fully full stomachs.

    “I don’t want to go home.

    This is Game 7 for us. It’s Game 6 for them.

    I don’t want to go home yet.

    That is NOT Danny Toner's sunrise. That's ours.

    The sun keeps rising. Funny thing about it. Every day, the sun rises again.

    It can rise again for us, too."

    Golden chugs the remaining half of his beer and proudly slams it on the countertop. He looks over to “Rockstar”, who nods his head and does the exact same with his. With empty glasses, they clink together for a symbolic cheers.

    "Plus ... I made Danny Toner. And I hope he knows, somehow, that I said that. I hope he feels it. Can fate let him know?"

    The good vibes turn a little questionable when an older-looking man walks up. Snow white hair balding in the front of his scalp, droopy, drowsy eyes, a straight face void of any smile. He kind of looks like …


    “Bill Murray?!?!” Golden says under his breath.

    Sure enough, this Bill Murray-lookalike approaches them with those mellow eyes directed right at the pair. Golden and Ramon reposition as they try to pretend like they weren’t eye-fucking him, but their “play it cool” shtick is nothing more than amusing fodder to anyone watching. No one would believe them.

    “You boys have been here ALL night. I've watched you ... from over there ... all creepily and stuff. Heeh.

    I figure you could use one more drink.”


    Golden and Ramon eye one another up, unsure of how to respond.

    “Well … what you say? Can I get you … you know what, nevermind … hey bartender, gimme two of the …”

    “Sir, we’re sorry but we really intended for that last glass to be THE last glass.”

    Golden is a bit surprised by Ramon’s response. I mean, why not tempt the fates with one more drink from this random person? Ramon usually is the one pressing the gas pedal, not hitting the brakes.

    “I’m sorry, but I won’t say no.
    Unless … you BOTH say no.”

    The man now looks to Golden for the swing vote. The Hall of Famer looks to Ramon, trying to get a proper read on the severity of the situation. The plan was to leave right around now. One more drink could be the death toll for them both. A lot of alcohol has been consumed. A lot of fun has been had. Emotions shed. Feelings felt.

    Maybe it’s time to go home.

    Or maybe … just maybe … there’s a reason for this person to come up at this exact moment … with the sun rising again on Golden Rock in the tag team division. Maybe it’s symbolic. Maybe it’s romance. “The Golden One” is a sucker for those abstract theories.

    And he knows Ramon will follow suit, begrudgingly or happily, with whatever he chooses.

    What should they do? You decide!



    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 8 TO ACCEPT THE DRINK
    CHAPTER 10 TO HEAD BACK TO PARIS


    CHAPTER 5


    Spoiler:

    As Golden sits on the stool and peers out the window, he cannot quite make out the direction the sun slowly travels at an undetectable-to-the-hidden-eye pace. Slowly, steadily, it either falls or rises.

    So Golden, in a tipsy haze, does the math for how many beers in and how long time has passed. Eventually, he lands on the correct response.

    A setting sun, with the clock on the establishment wall showing 8:18, in the evening.


    "The sun has been setting for 11 goddamn years, though," Golden thinks to himself silently, as Ramon sits in his stool and collects his own thoughts on Golden's last words of "who the hell do they think they are?"

    The sun, metaphor for Golden's wrestling career arc if you haven't gotten it yet, officially set some time in 2015. Funny thing about the sun: it keeps rising and setting over and over again.

    So here we are, at Back in Business XV. The sun rose at Back in Business XIV when Golden beat Michael Garcia with an RKO nod to Rondo for the finish. And now, a year later, he is nearly a year into telling just about anyone who will listen that the clock is nearly run out yet again.

    He wanted one more run, whatever the run consisted of, to feel proud. To prove he could still ... do ... it. He certainly proved that. With "Rockstar" by his side, and without him. Zachary Kazadi would know the latter. Michelle von Horrowitz and Gerald Grayson would know the former.

    But, somewhere along the way, Golden either lost himself or found himself further. Glass piercing into another man's flesh. Anti-CWA rants. Twitter monologues. In-ring scolding sessions. This was not lovable Hall of Famer, "The Golden One" people knew. This was a rotten variation, a nod back to title-burnings of 2010 and Crossfire rampages of 2015.

    This was ... another form of proof. Golden proved again he could win at the highest level.

    This was proof he could still be the biggest damn bastard in the world. This was proof of who he was if you poked him, if you tempted and tested him, if you thought it wise to think of him as a fan-pleasing wonderboy you could run over time and time again with no repercussions.

    It's someone Ryan Rondo, the sunset of the current rag-tag tag team champions, knows well enough.


    "Oh ... Rondo ... how is it that our story has come to this?" Golden thinks internally. He tries to vocalize something to his partner, to his best friend through the past calendar year, but nothing materializes right away. It's a mixture of pensiveness and sorrow.

    Then it all flows out. Verbally. Externally. And it is a tidal wave of emotions meant for Ramon to shoulder even if he wasn't mentally ready to do so.


    "I feel ... legitimately ... bad ... that Rondo and I are where we are, in a seemingly neverending game of oneupsmanship," Golden expresses.

    Golden and Rondo have been tied together in a loose string since 2009, some 11 years ago when Rondo debuted on the first installment of Crossfire and the first brand split in the FWA's growing history.

    He was a white-knight, baby-face kid. Just like Golden.

    He did fun jumps and flips and spins and kicks. Just like Golden.

    He excited the crowd, who loved him. Just like they loved Golden.

    And he was billed for the X Championship. Just like Golden.

    So their first encounter was inevitable. Do you call that "fate"? The mysterious hidden hand pushing them together like two teenagers pushing their single friends together at an awkward school dance?

    Everything else, though, was beyond fate. It was choices. Dominos.

    Rondo CHOSE to join Golden's Crossfire Great Siege in 2011. Then the pair CHOSE to team up and go for the tag titles in 2012. They CHOSE to win them, chose to reinvigorate a division in the doldrums thanks to Aut Pax Aut Bellum's coast-job, chose to split up after losing them amid controversy.

    Rondo CHOSE to burn the Television Championship and join Jimmy King's CWA infiltrating army in 2014. Golden chose to challenge and beat him at Back in Business the same year.

    Beyond choices, fate partly put them together on Crossfire in 2015. Rondo won Carnal Contendership and the World Heavyweight Championship, sealing his fate with a choice of determination. Golden was slotted via draft. Mysterious hands struck again.

    But it was Golden and Rondo, by choice of their own, trading the title back and forth throughout 2015, each holding it twice on separate occasions. Each beating the other for it at least once. The pair facing in some form or fashion six times in 2015 ... a seemingly neverending arc that did end with the sixth and final, which was supposed to be the final of Golden's entire career.

    Yet, here we are, nearly six years later, and this has been destined for nearly a year, although only Danny Toner and Ryan Rondo knew it the whole time. "This" is the next — and possibly final — chapter of Ryan Rondo versus Devin Golden in some capacity. And, for the second time and the first time with present awareness, this is Ryan Rondo versus Devin Golden in a battlefield where both truly built the roots of their story ... where both take immense pride ... tag team wrestling.


    "It's something to be proud of, sure, but there should be closure. Positive closure. A moment of serenity and understanding. Of appreciation. Of respect. Of love," Golden says.

    "We seem so far from that place right now."

    Is it awkward to express these things about your former best friend ... to your current best friend? Does it inspire some hints of jealousy? Is it putting "Rockstar" in an untenable, uncomfortable, no-win position? Possibly, but Golden is a few drinks in, including one of those boot-things, so his verbal filter isn't exactly working properly.

    "No one past or present in the FWA knows me better, and I know no one better. That's why when Donny Toner was masked and doing his thing before we ever faced at Desert Storm ... I had a gut feeling it was Rondo.

    That's why I was surprised when it was Christian Quinn. Why I wasn't surprised when it was Rondo.

    This is him. He's chasing his ghost: me. He's always chasing his ghost. Him teaming with Danny Toner ... and getting THE MOST ... out of Danny Toner ... to get another shot at me ... is exactly what Ryan Rondo would do."


    Golden has his hands folded on the bartop, looking sort of down in a diagonal direction. If you could follow his eyes down to the bartop in a straight line, it'd form a 90-degree triangle with the bar itself and Golden's visible upper body. It's the type of look someone with a lot on their minds, a lot of questions, gives at a place like this. A place where people come trying to answer their most difficult questions.

    But Golden doesn't really have any difficult questions. He's just in a mood. Always in a mood about "The Last Star in the Sky" whenever that star shows itself.

    "Listen ... Randy ... I want you to listen to me real good."

    Golden looks over to his left at Ramon, eyeing him up with the most sincerity he can muster.

    "He's the best ... to ever do it. The best.

    But ... not when he's in the ring with me.

    We're close to a wash when we go. He has the record for titles. He beat Kennedy. He beat Cyrus. He wants me to know he beat Michelle. He beat KAIZEN. He beat Stu. He beat PAJ. He beat Shane McLean. He beat Bell. I mean ... he's beaten everyone there was to beat.

    He's the best. There's ... no one ... better overall. No one. I'll say it until I'm dead. He's ... the ... best.

    But when he's in the ring with me ... I with him ... something is different. It's just ... different. We're close to equals.

    Close.

    And I have the margins.

    Because I'm big brother."


    Golden looks back in the diagonal direction at the bar.

    "I was the one who raised him, who built him up, who put him first, who gave him confidence, who energized and enabled him. I empowered him to chase after being THE BEST.

    I made him. He'll say otherwise, but I did. I ... made ... him.

    And he knows it. That's why he forever and ever chases after me, wanting to prove himself ... against me ...

    prove himself TO me."


    Golden nods his head.

    "But in some ways ... I failed him. Failed us. And he knows that.

    He sees you and me ... Golden Rock ... and it eats at him. He sees our success and my return and it kills him. Because it's me righting a wrong, or trying to right a wrong. In his mind, at least.

    Sunrise-Sunset ended with a whimper. That's one of my biggest regrets.

    I didn't carve letters into Stu or Ashley's chest. I didn't go maniacal to defend us. I didn't push back when we were pushed. I let them run over us and cast us aside. Too early, too soon.

    I did with you, with Golden Rock, what I SHOULD have done with Sunrise-Sunset. I was still too young, too afraid of what others may think.

    Now, I don't care what they think. Only what you think.

    And a little what he thinks."


    Golden pauses, again lost in those internal thoughts.

    "It's too far gone to fix.

    But I will say this: I pushed back. I pushed back at NOLA against Gang Stars. I pushed back with Alyster Black.

    I wish I pushed back eight years ago. I hope Rondo knows that. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. He likely doesn't forgive me either way.

    But at Back in Business, I'm pushing back against him as well. He doesn't get to end us. He doesn't get to set the sun again.

    Maybe somewhere, somehow, it'll all get better between he and I. But probably not at Back in Business. That's where the next war happens. Hopefully, it's the last war."


    Golden chugs the remaining half of his beer and solemnly places it on the countertop. He looks over to “Rockstar”, who stays as still as a statue. Eventually, he does the exact same with his drink, although this moment doesn't deserve a cheers glass-clinking. With empty glasses, they clink together for a symbolic cheers.

    Golden then looks at his phone and sees what he has already known. Ramon sees it, too.

    This could be the last war for Golden Rock.

    Somber vibes get more somber. Ramon is inconsolable.

    The somber vibes are interrupted when an older-looking man with snow white hair walks up. Droopy, drowsy eyes, and straight face void of any smile are the other main features. He kind of looks like …

    “Bill Murray?!?!” Golden mutters to himself.

    Golden and Ramon stay entirely still, not at all worried if this Bill Murray-lookalike knows they're staring at him and watching him approach.


    “You boys have been here ALL night. I've watched you ... from over there ... all creepily and stuff. Heeh.

    I figure you could use one more drink.”


    Golden and Ramon stay silent, unsure if now's the time or place to go again.

    “Well … what you say? Can I get you … you know what, nevermind … hey bartender, gimme two of the …”

    “I actually think we could use a pick-me-up, so sure, why not?”

    "Not sure I'm feeling it, to be honest."

    Ramon and Golden seem on opposite wavelengths right now, and the man looks to Golden for a response. The Hall of Famer feels like he should follow Ramon's wishes, since he burdened him with so many of his past and present emotions related to his other tag team partner.

    But Golden is also persistent, if anything, and persistence can pay off. Golden feels, in his soul, that another drink would help.

    He knows what's best, but he also knows what's right.

    What should they do? You decide!



    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 8 TO ACCEPT THE DRINK
    CHAPTER 10 TO REFUSE THE DRINK


    CHAPTER 6


    Spoiler:

    Ramon looks to the phone, then to Golden, then back to the phone…

    …and then clicks it off.

    “Nah man, tonight is about us. She ain’t going anywhere. I’ll reach out when we’re back in the states.”

    Golden shakes his head and stares down at his hands.

    “You know, I would never, ever trade what I have at home, but there are times I wish I could get just a glimpse of the life you lead when I’m not around.”

    Randy chuckles.

    “Nah, no you don’t. You couldn’t handle it.”

    “Maybe…”

    Randy stands from his seat and fixes his jacket.

    “Definitely. I’ll be right back. I’m gonna hit the head.”

    Randy leaves the table and briskly makes his way to the back of the bar. A sign reading “Hommes” on the façade of a large oak door tells him he’s at the right door. He didn’t learn a lot of French before this trip, but he learned enough to get a beer, go to the bathroom, and a few choice phrases should he luck into some companionship one of these nights.

    Unfortunately, it’s not the last word he’ll recognize before he gets back to the table. Right there, in black and gold, directly above the urinal is the last word he wants to see: Toner. It’s an outdated Back in Business Promo poster, still advertising the Tag Team Champion “Toner Brothers”. As one would expect, Randy’s mood goes from jovial to perturbed in a manner of seconds. He finishes his business at the stall, but his mind is elsewhere, and he forgets to flush.

    He remembers to wash his hands, however, and steps back out into the hall. After thinking about it for a few seconds, he makes the decision to delay his return to the table for a few minutes. He takes a few steps away from the bathroom door as he pulls his phone out of his pocket. The same one that Kelly texted him on not ten minutes ago. A few clicks later he’s connected to the wifi and streaming live for the world to see.

    “Hey guys, I’m not going to do the big fancy intro for this… I’m just not in the mood. You know, I’m here in Belgium with Devin, just a few hours from France and a few days from Back in Business, and I couldn’t feel more simultaneously at home and totally lost if I tried. I mean yeah, hanging out with Devin is normal, but that’s not what I mean when I say it feels like home. Look at this:”

    He slides the bathroom door open a little – don’t worry, there’s no one inside – and shows the outdated poster to those watching. Due to the change in time zones he’s not entirely sure how many are watching, math and all that, but whoever happens to see this will know what he’s getting at.

    “Even here, at this little bar in the middle of nowhere, Belgium, they can’t get enough of Danny Toner. I mean, I get it. Dude has made a real name for himself the last year. He’s made a name for himself by winning big matches and showing out when the time was right. He’s made a name for himself by… taking things that weren’t his to take. Things that belonged to me. He’s made his name at my expense.”

    His stance shifts from side to side as he takes a more aggressive stance.

    “First, he took the undefeated streak. Danny had never, ever, beaten me in a tag team match before Desert Storm. Zero and six, or something like that. At the same time, he took the Tag Team Championships that Devin and I busted our asses for several months to win. This was all despite the fact that – and I can’t speak for Devin’s feelings on this one, you’d have to ask him – I wrestled one of the cleanest, smoothest matches I’ve ever wrestled. With those two losses in the same night came a third: my confidence. Have you ever done your absolute best… and still lost? Yeah, that was a new one for me. It took me a LONG time to recover from that. There was probably still a bit of that lingering when I entered the Carnal Contendership as well, but I’m not blaming that on Danny. That’s on me. But then something weird happened.”

    “Something… clicked… in my head. Something that I can’t really explain. But I realized that maybe, just maybe, that effort from Desert Storm WASN’T my best. Maybe… just maybe… I had another level that I just hadn’t unlocked yet. And… it hit me, like the sun coming up over a mountain that you thought was too tall to climb. Danny didn’t take ANYTHING away from me. He gave me a gift. I was content just being the guy who beat Danny Toner all the time. But now? Danny helped me realize that I am capable of so, so much more. The best part is… all of this came to me recently, very recently in fact, as I realized that not only is Danny fighting to defend the Tag Titles at Back in Business… he’s on a mission to take something else away from me: Golden Rock.”

    “I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now. Devin and I were drafted to different brands. If we don’t walk out of Back of Business as the Tag Team Champions, we’re done. That’s it. I don’t like it – in fact, I hate it – but there’s nothing I can do to change the results of the draft. The only thing I can do, is make sure we win those titles, and then never let them go. The only thing I can do, is make sure that Danny Toner fails in his attempt to take anything else away from me. So what does Back in Business mean to me?”

    “Everything.”

    “Literally everything.”

    “It’s the beginning of a new title reign."

    “Or it’s the end of Golden Rock.”

    “It’s the beginning of Randy Ramon’s life after Devin Golden.”

    “Or it’s the end of Danny Toner and Ryan Rondo."

    “But I’ll tell you this. I’m not ready for this ride to end. This has been the best run of my career, bar none. Yeah, the time with Ayla, that was great. I’m a better person for all of it. But THIS is the highlight I’ll look back on when I hang up the boots. The Elite Division Tourna-Bracket, winning the titles at Mile High… and hopefully, if I have anything to say about it, winning them back at Back in Business. All of that? I owe to…”

    Before he can finish his sentence and heap praise upon his partner, the aforementioned partner walks past him on his way into the restroom, clasping Randy’s shoulder on the way by.

    “Yeah… him. So-“

    He’s cut off by the sounds of a disgruntled Golden calling from the bathroom.

    “You know… I HATE it when people don’t flush. It’s so rude! I wish I had the balls these people do. Unbelievable!”

    Devin flushes, and we can hear him was his hands. He exits the restroom, and nods to Randy on the way by.

    “I’ll see you back there.”

    Randy drops out of view as the scene follows Golden out of sight.

    Scene pans back to Randy, who is about to continue, but notices several messages scrolling across his feed:

    WHAT HAPPENED TO RANDY?

    WHERE DID RANDY GO?

    HOW DID DEVIN GET HERE?
    WHAT’S GOING ON?

    He stops and thinks. What are they talking about? He’s still here and Devin is back at the table… right?


    Wrong. Sure enough he peeks in the restroom – still no one else in there – and the mirror shows exactly what he feared: Devin Golden.

    “Not again. I don’t have time for… actually, I’m not done yet. This can wait.”

    He ducks out of the bathroom and back into the hallway.

    “I’m… not entirely sure why this happened again, but I’m not done yet. I don’t know if Danny is listening to this, or if he’ll bother with it, but I want to make sure he remembers what happened the last time we fought at Back in Business. It was a Street Fight. I threw him from the top of a twenty-five-foot escalator, through a sheet of glass, and to the floor. I jumped – from the top of that same escalator – and crushed Danny beneath the weight of my entire body. I WALKED out of Back in Business victorious. Danny was taken away on a stretcher. Might as well have been a coffin. Because yeah, Danny was around a couple more weeks, long enough to win the Tag Titles together, but after that? He was never the same. His career was done. He went back to his career as a nobody. And stayed there.”

    “Until Devin and I won the Tag Team Titles, that is. You know the saying ‘I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it’? It’s something my mother used to say to me all the time. Well, Danny… I took you out of this world, I brought you back into it, and at Back in Business, I’m going to take you out of it again. I don’t care if it’s three stages of hell, eight stages of heaven, or twenty-seven steps of everything in between. Ladder Match, another Street Fight, Taipei Death Match, none of it matters. You’ve already taken everything from me that I’m going to let you take. You’re not taking Golden Rock away from me. Not now, not ever. In fact, I’ll promise you this: from now on? I’m the one doing the taking.”

    “Stay classy Belgium. I’ve got to go figure…" *points to himself* "…this out.”

    He shuts the stream down and tucks the phone back in his pocket. After a deep breath to center himself, Randy-Golden heads back to the table to confront Devin-Ramon.

    “Hey.”

    The wide-eyed look from Devin-Ramon tells Randy-Golden that Devin-Ramon hasn’t seen his reflection and has no idea what’s happening.

    “Oh, oh no…”

    “Yeah…”

    “What happened?”

    “No idea…”

    “Did you say the… the phrase? I wish blah blah blah?”

    “No, did you?”

    “No I d—oh fuck.”

    Golden hangs his head.

    “Someone didn’t flush the toilet. I said something about wishing I had the intestinal fortitude to be such a dick…”

    Randy rubs his temples.

    “That dick was me. I was distracted by the Toner ad above the urinal and I guess I forgot.”

    “So, we mixed our…”

    “Yep. I’m going to head in there and go again. Give me thirty seconds. We’re becoming experts at this shit.”

    “Seems so.”

    Ramon heads back to the restroom to start the process all over again. But Golden is torn. All of the sudden he feels a lot more sober. Apparently, with Ramon’s body came his alcohol tolerance. Poor Ramon – he’s about to be hit by a drunken military tank.

    So… what should Golden do? You decide!


    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 9 TO STAY AS IS
    CHAPTER 10 TO SWITCH BACK


    CHAPTER 7


    Spoiler:

    “Yeah, I guess I should answer. Don’t want to be rude. I’ll just let her know I’m busy.”

    Ramon unlocks his phone and types out a response.

    HEY KELLY, I’M IN BELGIUM RIGHT NOW. CAN WE CONNECT WHEN I’M BACK?

    OH! I LOVE THEIR WAFFLES! DENNY’S IS BETTER THOUGH!

    NO, I’M IN THE COUNTRY OF BELGIUM… NOT THE WAFFLEHOUSE OR WHATEVER.

    WHY DO YOU ALWAYS TALK DOWN TO ME? YOU’RE SO MEAN. RYAN NEVER TREATED ME LIKE THIS. HE LOVED ME! ACTUALLY, DON’T TEXT ME. I’M CALLING RYAN.

    At first Ramon laughs, but then his eye focuses in on one particular word. It gets bigger and bigger until it’s all encompassing, and it’s all he can see.

    RYAN

    “You ok buddy?”

    Golden cuts through the silence, obviously realizing the sudden change in demeanor of his tag team partner. Ramon looks up from the phone, but initially doesn’t say anything.

    “Penny for your th-“

    “Ryan fucking Rondo.”

    “Oh boy.”

    “Ryan FUCKING Rondo.”


    Ramon sets the phone down and cracks his jaw, collecting his thoughts before he says another word. Ryan... FUCKING... Rondo. The person he is compared to in association to Golden, and Toner. This is the OTHER tag team partner of "The Golden One". This is the OTHER person closely linked to Danny Toner. In those ways, Rondo and Ramon are forever linked. Indirectly, in a way. Two degrees of separation is more correct.

    They don't have a direct tie. No past feud. No insane rivalry. Just... this. This thing that started last year. This thing that is linked to the other two people in the match. This is the only dynamic without a direct link, but in a way, with all the cross threads, this has just as much heat as anything right now. This is personal.

    “Ever since he took that ugly ass mask off and showed his uglier face, I’ve been trying to figure out his angle. I’ve been trying to figure out, in my own head, why he’d come back NOW. Why, after all these years, come back just to compete for the Tag Team Titles? I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with it, obviously. But… he’s a legend. He’s going to go down as one of the best ever, if not THE best ever. Why not angle for a World Championship match at Back in Business? Why not try to win the Contendership? Why not go after Chris Kennedy and his streak? Why angle his way in here, with us, when – at the time – there were so many better options?”

    “Just now… for some reason… something Kelly said made it all click for me. Sure, a big part of it is about you, Devin Golden, but I think there’s something else at play. He’s not trying to just show that he’s better than you or superior to you… I think he’s trying to prove that HE can do the Sunrise – Sunset shtick better than YOU. Cause I’m not an idiot, I know our status. I know that almost every single thing you say is totally measured and intentional and directed in a manner to make me learn some grand lesson, so that when we eventually – a long, long, loooooong time from now – split up, I leave this partnership better than I entered. I get that, and I appreciate that. I also know that you did the same thing for Ryan back in the day.”

    “So now, I have to assume, he thinks he’s trying to do the old ‘student has become the master’ thing, right? He has to be. There’s no other logical reason for him to come back how he did, when he did, where he did. But the thing about the student becoming the master, is that sometimes the master has more than one student. Sometimes, the original student can’t stand to see someone else succeed where they once did. The original student can’t stand to see someone else do BETTER, than they once did. That… that’s what this is all about. Jealousy.”

    “I can’t believe it took me this long to figure out… The Last Star in the Sky took his ball and went home, stayed home, and sat and watched while someone not only replaced him, but made people forget about him. No longer were the parallels between Sunrise-Sunset and Vodka and Venom, they were between Golden Rock and Vodka and Venom. No longer were people talking about Ryan Rondo’s three million title losses, they were talking about Randy Ramon’s quest to be remembered as the best damn Tag Team Wrestler in FWA history.”

    “Ryan woke up one day and he realized… his sun had already gone over the hill and started to set. He was no longer the guy on the rise, no longer the next big thing, no longer the future. No, he took a good, long look in the mirror and realize that he has become the Sunset. He’s the past. A washed-up has-been. What’s the logical direction then, to direct his anger? His jealousy? Right here. It all makes sense. That’s why he came back when he did.”


    Golden gives a look that is somewhere between shocked and proud. Of course, it's something he already had a sense of and figured out, just from knowing Rondo so well. But for Ramon to get it, to learn it and see it without being told it, that's huge

    “Good job, buddy cop. You cracked the case then.”

    Ramon adjusts himself in his seat, crossing his arms as he leans back.

    “But you see… he doesn’t realize it yet, but Rondo’s time is up. It’s my time. It’s our time. Danny Toner thinks it’s his sunrise. Rondo is probably deluded enough to think so too… but they’re both wrong. This has been the best damn run of my career. We’re coming up on a damn year since I came back… and I’m not about to let them take it away from me. From us. They already took the titles at Desert Storm. Yeah, credit where it’s due, they won, but it’s not happening again. Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place, and it’s not striking again anywhere near the Tag Team Titles. In fact, the odds of them winning again at Back in Business are so low that they should their names to Danny “Fluking” Toner, and “The Last Prayer in the Sky” Ryan Rando.

    “They’re not taking anything else. No more. We’re going to win those titles back at Back in Business, and if we have to, we’ll never lose them again. I’ve fought too damn hard, and for too damn long, and so have you, to let things end like this. I know I said that by the time I retire, I want to have the most Tag Team Championships in FWA history. That’s still true. I’m not going back on that. But… I’d gladly trade all of those goals if we win those titles back and never lose them again. In a heartbeat.”


    Golden cuts in, realizing how heated Randy is getting. He wants to make sure it doesn't go entirely overboard right now, in this bar. There are three stages of hell at Back in Business:

    A fight in the streets, which is a callback to Final Fight Night and Ramon and Toner's war at a past Back in Business.

    A Taipei Death Match, which is a callback to Rondo and Golden's history and preferences.

    A ladder match, which has symbolic meaning for both teams in various facets, mostly negative memories.


    “Hey, buddy, I get it. It’s a heated situation. It’s the most important match of our team. Of Golden Rock. And we will make them bleed. They will die to beat us. We will die to beat them. "

    "We're all going to die."

    "But that's Back in Business. Not tonight. We have to relax the muscles tonight."

    Randy does as requested, softening his posture in the process.

    “Alright. That’s better. So it seems the Quad didn’t do it for you. Even after you had almost a literal gallon. So what’ll it be? What’s going to take the edge off?”

    Randy doesn’t immediately respond.

    “You want some scotch? There’s a nice eighteen-year-old, full body option behind the bar…”

    “Yeah, I’ll take that.”

    Golden laughs. He knows Ramon’s dirty mind isn’t thinking about the brown liquor on tap.

    “No, for real. Let me get you a scotch, what do you say? I won’t drug you..”

    “Heh, funny…”

    "Oh, better yet, the waitress told me about a drink special on the way in tonight. Let me order up two of those?"

    Ramon checks his watch, knowing they have to leave soon to make it in time for their train. But maybe there’s enough time left to sip down a glass of Scotland’s finest?

    What should he do? Wrap it up for the evening, or chase beer with liquor?

    You decide!



    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 8 TO ACCEPT THE DRINK
    CHAPTER 10 TO HEAD BACK TO PARIS


    CHAPTER 8


    Spoiler:

    "I don't normally take drinks from strangers ... as it's a good way to get drugged. But here we are. Thanks to you, surprisingly."

    Devin shoots a glare across the table at Randy.

    "Says the guy who drugged his own tag team partner the night before a major title defense... one that we lost, mind you."

    Randy smiles at the memory of that grungy emo bar Golden took them to and played that emo-ass song.

    "Well, hey, sometimes... you've got to do what you've got to do. Plus, if we won, you'd be thanking me instead of criticizing. Don't act like you wouldn't..."

    "Yeah, well, woulda, coulda, shoulda, and all that noise. Good thing is we're winning this time, so you can thank ME for the path we chose."

    "The path we chose. Nice. Everything in life is a choice. Fortune cookie time from 'The Golden One' Devin Golden."

    "It's true. Had I not returned and you not returned, we'd never have formed this bond. We'd never have won the FWA Tag Team Championships."

    "Yet, fate sometimes leaves stuff beyond our control. Sometimes it's other people. This is my way of accepting stuff I can't control. The draft is the perfect example. It's my way of accepting what happened at Desert Storm. It's my way of looking forward instead of behind. I have to think this is all leading to one big moment. I have to hope. All the frustrations and annoyances and ups and downs ... all to Back in Business. It was meant to be."

    "Did fate make me carve 'FWA' into Alyster's chest? No. I did that. It was my choice."

    "A choice inspired by someone else's actions against you. A choice inspired by the invisible hand.

    Go back to the start of Golden Rock. The idea of the random-pairing tag team tournament is what brought ME back. Michael Garcia's bullying and Chris Kennedy's superkick is what brought YOU back.

    It's like those memes."

    "What memes?"

    "The memes with the dominos, small to big."

    Golden is lost, looking blankly back at social-media-hip Ramon.

    "Yeah, I forget you only go on Twitter to bash CWA.

    So there's a meme with dominos behind one another, ranging in size from small to large. It's symbolic of how one tiny event can have long-lasting cataclysmic events. So, for example, someone with 30 followers on Twitter can post about global warming and somehow that tweet goes viral and inevitably leads to the downfall of a Fortune 500 CEO."


    "So like how Krash and Parr's double-pin on The Division was the first domino that led to the formation of Tondo, Golden Rock and the return of Gang Stars."

    "Yes!"

    "Well, that's dumb as hell."

    "Why?"

    "Because everything in the universe can be traced back to other stuff. You can trace back Golden Rock to our parents having sex."

    "That's not the point of the meme."

    "It's a stupid fuckin' meme. You can trace everything back to something someone else or something else did, posting a tweet, eating an apple. Whatever.

    The only dominos that matter are the ones you control, based on your actions. We came back. We won the tag team championships. We lost them to the Toners. Now we're going to win them back."


    A pause.

    "And now we're either going to die or thrive because we accepted a drink from Bill Murray!"

    The nice waitress comes back with a tray containing two light brown double shots. They almost look like coffee. In fact, they kind of smell like it too. She sets them down.

    "Here you go boys. Two Groundhogs."

    She turns and walks away, once again leaving the two to their own volitions. Randy picks up one drink and slides the other across the table to Devin.

    "Well, bottoms up! Oh, wait, are we racing?"

    Devin lifts the drink for a salute.

    "No, that's a fools game for me. I never win."

    "But you're getting better! Like Louis Valander!"

    Another glare across the table.

    "Shut up and drink," Golden says with a menacing mumble.

    They clink glasses and down the milky substance, both making a sour face as the liquid crosses their lips. Slamming the glass down, Randy expresses his dislike.

    "Ugh, what is even in that?"

    Devin shakes his head.

    "I've ... got no idea."

    A beat.

    "Hey wait... did she say the name of the drink is a Groundhog?"

    "Yeah, I think so, why?"

    "Just you know... that day we were stuck in for an eternity?"

    "Oh ...

    you don't think?"


    "Nah, there's no way ... right?"

    "Right ... and we control our own destiny. That guy IS NOT a domino."

    A beat.

    "But he did kind of look like ...

    "Actually, I feel kind o-"

    Darkness.


    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 1 (START OVER)


    CHAPTER 9


    Spoiler:

    “What the hell Devin… or Randy… or… whatever I should call you. Man, this shit is confusing.”

    Randy-Golden storms back to the table.

    “I waited over five minutes for you. What, you want to stay like this?”

    Devin-Ramon nods. He isn't ready to get rid of this feeling. Why would he? He feels a jolt of energy, something he could use when he makes his home with the newborn. He is worried he'll be emotionally and physically spent after Back in Business. Can he stay like this forever? Can he just be "Rockstar" now?

    “Interesting. You’re usually the one trying to eliminate all the distractions before a big match.”

    He nods again.

    “You going to give me anything here?”

    “There’s… a very good explanation for it.”

    “Ok?”

    “I… like your alcohol tolerance. I know as soon as we switch back, I’m going to hit the floor, and call me crazy, but I’m not looking forward to that.”

    Randy-Golden sits back down across from him.

    “Yeah, I get that. Your tolerance sucks and it’s taking all of my control to stay on my feet right now. So yeah, switch us back, or I’m going to start taking a shot every five minutes you keep us this way…”

    “You wouldn’t!”

    Randy-Golden perks his head up looks for the waitress.

    “Alright! Alright! Fine. Don’t kill me… you… whatever…”

    Randy-Golden points to the bathroom.

    “Go.”

    Devin-Ramon shakes his head, stands, and makes his way to the bathroom. Doing his business in the same urinal as before, he mumbles under his breath:

    “I wish I had my own shitty alcohol tolerance back…”

    He finishes his half of the equation and looks in the mirror as he washes his hands. No change yet. Through the bathroom door and back to the table he goes, where he is met by the best possible sight he could see in this moment: Randy Ramon.

    “It worked!” Golden says as his knees buckle, giving into the massive quantity of drinks he’s enjoyed this evening.

    Lucky for him, Ramon expected this, and is out of his seat quick enough to catch him before he hits the floor.

    “Alright man… let’s get out of here. I called a cab, it should be outside by now. We’ll get back to the train and let you get some sleep. You clearly need it!”

    Devin nods, leaning into Randy as they make their way to the door. Arriving on the street, they are met with the final conundrum of the evening. To the right sits the yellow cab that Randy called. It’s run down, beat up, and clearly seen better days.

    To the left is a pristine, long, black, limo. It flashes its high-beams at them, seemingly beckoning them to take a classier ride.

    Randy points right...

    “We called that cab. That takes us to the train, which gets us back to Paris before morning."

    …and then left.

    “But that limo is sweet. Something is telling me that we should see what’s up with that.”

    He helps Golden stand up straight.

    “What do you think? Cab or limo?”

    Golden scratches his chin, looking left and right, over and over, making himself dizzy in the process.

    “Well…if it's fate at play, won't it be alright no matter what? Seems like we should choose the one with the most chaos.”

    "Or is the most chaotic one what we were always going to choose, meaning the most chaotic choice is actually the safest one from one perception?"

    "Man, what a night for philosophy."


    What should they do? Should they be responsible and take the cab they ordered? Or should they check out the mystery limo? You decide!


    GO TO:

    CHAPTER 10 TO GET IN THE CAB
    CHAPTER 11 TO GET IN THE LIMO


    CHAPTER 10


    Spoiler:

    "It's for the best."

    Ramon's words seem to sting a little, like a piece of glass piercing at Golden's heart. He was ready to have more ... fun. You can alter the nuances of what "fun" means, but it'd all be fun. Hectic, chaotic fun.

    "I guess so."

    Golden and Ramon look out the windows of the cab taking them back to the train station. The cab one of them called in the transition period from them being inside the bar to being outside now in the lot, amid a sun that is either slowly rising or setting behind a plane of trees and European-style houses. The cab they entered, either by choice or default.

    "Isn't Belgium beautiful?"

    And it is. It really, truly is. Golden takes in this gorgeous European country from inside the vehicle, still amazed like an 8-year-old at the idea of cars driving left of one another instead of right. But he's exhausted. It has been a long day, or night. He forgets again whether the sun is rising or falling.

    Ramon forgets again whether he texted Kelly Kapoor back or not. This is what Belgium does to you.

    But, sure enough, they got into the cab.

    They'll get on the train.

    They'll go back to Paris.

    Rondo and Toner, who Golden has officially donned Tondo, are waiting for them. The FWA Tag Team Championships are waiting for them. Hell, in a three-part epic, is waiting for them.

    "We're so ready for this. So ready for this match. So ready for this to be done. And it WILL be done."

    "All roads led us to this cab. Like I told you. Whether you made or missed the shot, whether we took the extra drink or not. No matter our choices, we're right here. Because I truly feel it is supposed to be this way. We were supposed to lose at Desert Storm to get split on the draft and win at Back in Business.

    That's how it is SUPPOSED to be."


    Golden isn't one for destiny but he let's it slide. Ramon is right. They are on their way, right where they should be.

    And when they get to Back in Business, they feel in their hearts ... they will win. All roads have led them here. They have no reason to think otherwise.

    A few minutes of silence pass in the cab. Golden's eyes get more and more narrow, although he remains alert enough to conjur thoughts.

    "In case it doesn't go our way ..."

    Golden turns to Ramon and begins to speak, not noticing the eyes have been closed shut for a few seconds now. So he retreats himself, wishing to undo any inkling of speaking an alternate ending into existence.

    "Yeah ... nevermind."

    Fade to black.



    THE END

    CHAPTER 11


    Spoiler:

    “Where are we going? Why the hell did we get into this limo? We didn’t even order it!”

    It’s mere seconds after the limo pulls away from the bar, and already the second guessing has begun.

    “I… don’t know. The cab was right there. This just felt… right?”

    “We’d be halfway back to the train station by now. This was a bad idea.”

    After an evening of twists and turns, after several instances of Golden needing to talk Ramon off of one ledge or another, it’s Ramon’s time to be the calm, clear-headed one. After all, this isn’t really THAT out of the norm for him. The night starts with one bad decision, and then more often than not, he wakes up somewhere he’s never been before. It’s not just the life of A Rockstar, it’s the way of THE Rockstar. If anyone would know how to handle this, it’s him.

    “Alright. I’ve got this. We’ll figure this out.”

    Ramon slides closer to the front of the limo and taps on the glass that separates the driver’s area from that of the passengers.

    “Hey, uh, driver? Can you, uh, can you tell us where we’re going?”

    The glass slowly slides down, revealing a semi-familiar figure.

    “You fellas haven’t figured it out yet?”

    Randy and Devin lock eyes in a completely confused staring contest.

    “No, do we… know you?”

    The man chuckles as he responds.

    “Name’s LaVon. LaVon Davis.”

    A look of realization comes across the face of the FWA Hall of Famer.

    “Wait… LaVon. I know that name. I thought you were dead?”

    Another chuckle.

    “What I am, and what I’m not, are not important right now. What IS important, is where we’re going.”

    Ramon hasn’t quite put two and two together yet. His mind is still cluttered with news of the draft, and all of the drama that surrounds it. Golden is piecing it together, little by little.

    “Yeah, I’m lost…”

    Before Golden can open his mouth to explain, the bright purple and teal lights on the side of the highway do it for him:

    TONERVILLE
    “Waiiiiiiiit a minute… this place is real?”

    “What it is, and what it’s not, are not important right now. What IS important, is why we’re here.”

    The limo pulls off the exit ramps. Exit 420. Fitting. The former and soon to be Tag Team Champions are caught somewhere between shaking their heads and picking their jaws from the floor of the limo as they take in the scenery. It looks like something out of the shitty parts of Las Vegas that you don’t want to be caught after dark.

    “Alright, we’re here.”

    LaVon stops in front of the biggest house in town. That’s not really saying much, because the whole place is run down and in need of a facelift, but one would assume that the guy who had the balls big enough to name a city after himself would live in it’s biggest house, no?

    “Where are we?”

    “Where you are and where you aren’t are not important right now. What IS imp-“

    “Yeah, we get it LaVon. Thanks for the ride.”

    Ramon climbs out first, followed by Golden, who closes the door behind them.

    “So what do you think of all this? What’s this all about?”

    “If I wasn’t so sure that this was real, I’d wonder if one of those drinks was ACTUALLY drugged, or that some combination of everything we drank tonight like… put me in a coma or something. Am I on my deathbed?”

    “Only if I am too…”

    “Rules that out then… you'll never die.”

    Randy is caught staring off into the distance again, not looking at anything in particular, but deep in thought.

    “You know, I keep thinking about what LaVon said…”

    “Which part? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone say so little with so many words.”

    “He said that what was important was WHY we are here. Why are we here?”

    Another long silence follows.

    “Do you think we should just get a cab back?”

    “I haven’t seen a cab since we pulled in here.”

    “Well, we should at least like… load up one of your podcasts and do the thing, right? Like, we always do the thing after a night out like this.”

    “You know… I’m not feeling the thing tonight. I’ve got a better idea. I don’t know if it’s what LaVon meant, but I have a feeling it would make him happy.”

    A new look of excitement has found its way to Ramon’s face.

    “Be right back.”

    Ramon ducks off camera, leaving Golden alone, confused, and completely beside himself.

    “Randy! Where ar- oh it’s no use with you. Once you get one of your ideas…”

    After much longer than Golden would like, Ramon comes back into view.

    “I’ve always wanted to do this.”

    “Do what? What’s in your hand? And why do you smell like gasoline?”

    “Too many questions. Just… get ready to walk away slowly and all badass like.”

    “What? What are you talking about? Is that a matchbook?”

    Before Golden can stop him, Randy lights an entire matchbook, waits until the flame is big enough to catch, and tosses the book onto the porch of the largest house in Tonerville.

    “Start walking.”

    “What? Why?”

    “Just do it, come on! And look at the camera!”

    “What camera?”

    “Dude!”

    “Alright, fi-“

    Before Golden can finish his sentence, the house behind them detonates, explodes, goes kaboom, whatever phrase you want to use. The noise is enough to startle Golden, who turns and looks back.

    “Come on man, you’re not supposed to look. You’re ruining it!”

    “Where did you find gasoline?”

    “Can’t you just be cool? Starting to be glad they split us up…”

    "Remember how we said all roads lead the same way? Fate and domino effect and all that?"

    "This stop in Tonerville wasn't really part of the plan."

    "I didn't think so."

    "But that doesn't change that at Back in Business ... the ending is all the same. We burn Tonerville to the ground."

    The two reach the end of the scene and start to fade from sight.

    "But just in case we don't win ..."

    "Stop. We aren't doing this."

    "It was all a lot of fun. And Tonerville ... the FWA ... the tag team division ... they will never be the same ... because of us."

    Fade to black.


    THE END









  11. #11
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Rooftop Terrace, 435 W. 31st Street, New York City, New York

    5:45 am EST
    Saturday, June 19th, 2021

    What the hell was I thinking? I’m accepting help from a man I tried to keep out of my life since I was five. A man that couldn’t bother being an actual father for 25 years. But now because of how I run my life, he feels like he needs to extend an olive branch.

    I’m not ignorant to the fact, I live fast. I drink, I party, I do dumb shit. I’m not going to change this lifestyle anytime soon. It doesn’t matter how high and mighty one old man feels when he realizes that he should have been a better person 20 years ago.


    Johnny is standing on the rooftop terrace of his New York City luxury apartment building. Daybreak is just coming over the horizon. The sun is painting the bottom of it a bright orange color, a color that if they looked at one would get thoughts that today was going to be a good day.
    He’s wearing designer silk pajamas, a robe that is completely unbuttoned and a pair of matching silk shorts. The pattern is a color mix of gold, black, red and turquoise. He’s leaning over the fenced railing that surrounds the rooftop terrace. In his hand he holds a glass of whiskey that is half way full.


    Take today for instance, it was supposed to be, “take your son to work day”, and I was supposed to be in Paris yesterday already so me and Logan could be on some trash French sports show. Fact remains that, “olive branch” of a contract doesn’t have enough zeroes on it for me to want to sit next to that old bastard and answer questions on how we are trying to mend old wounds.

    I have no desire to talk about any of that. I signed that FWA contract merely to appease a ghost from my past. I had zero desire to have him in my life once I knew what a gutless nobody he was when I was kid and I have zero desire for me to go much further with him in my life than the length of this contract.

    I’m not sure if Logan is in the belief just because my mother and her “line of credit” she calls a husband has recently decided to think I wasn’t worth the sweat off a dog’s ass and say they want nothing to do with me that I would look at him like he’s my guardian angel. I’ve been hustling and turning my rich daddy’s money into my own money that they would never know about. It’s why I’m on this roof. It’s why I’m able to drink this five hundred dollar bottle of whiskey on a daily basis.

    I’ve been taking care of myself my entire life. I’ve never needed anyone to extend an olive branch. I’ve never needed anyone to come in and be my guardian angel. I’m the fucking Legend. It’s not a damn moniker that some punk kid on a web forum threw onto one of their favorite wrestlers. I gave myself that name because there isn’t a damn soul on this planet that can be me. Some people might be able to be great at one thing. There isn’t a damn thing I can’t do and do it at the absolutely highest level. And for some beaten down over the hill nobody like Logan Darwin to think I need his help…


    Johnny’s hand that was gripping the glass of whiskey has tightened to almost the point of shattering it. But his thoughts are interrupted by a gorgeous woman that is only dressed in a grey, silk robe and that is tied, just very loosely. You can see that she is wearing a bra and panties that match the robe as well.
    She runs her hand across the back of Johnny’s shoulders, she leans in on him and places a gentle kiss on his cheek. Once she takes her lips away she lays her head on his right shoulder.


    What’s got you up this early, love?

    Just thinking about this weekend, babe.

    You’re not nervous are you, Johnny?

    Johnny turns his head towards the woman with a sour face.

    First off, you know it makes me vomit inside my mouth anytime someone calls me that. That was a name given to me by a man that could have died twenty years ago and I would have been none the wiser.

    The women can tell the disdain behind Johnny’s words and reading it from his face. As he continues to speak she becomes submissive as not to anger him anymore. Her head raises off of his shoulder and her hand slides back away off his other shoulder. Johnny pauses for a second staring at her in a bit of a condescending manner. He then turns his head back towards looking out to the horizon and over the city. He throws the rest of the whiskey in the glass down his throat and then reaches out with the glass in his hand towards the woman, however he does not turn his head to look at her.

    Since I’m allowing you to come with me to Paris you should probably get dressed. Our flight leaves at nine fifteen this morning. But while you’re at it, work on pouring me another half glass of Fiddich 91’.

    The woman looks down at the glass in Johnny’s hand. Her lips pucker as if she wants to shoot something back at him at the fact that he just made her feel like a complete piece of trash. She however pauses and reaches out to grab the glass and gives Johnny a half hearted smile.

    I’ll leave it on the bedside table so you can enjoy it when you come in to get dressed.

    Probably the best idea you’ve had today.

    Johnny’s tone is still that of a condescending prick. She reaches out and grabs the glass from Johnny. She starts to walk around the back of Johnny. He reaches out and latches his hand around her right bicep and pulls her back for a second. She looks down at her arm then into Johnny’s eyes. Johnny has a snide look on his face.

    Remember, we’re going to be in Paris. There’s going to be a lot of eyes on us and I am a king to those peasants. A king that needs to have a queen by his side.

    Johnny’s face changes to an evil sneer, looking her up and down.

    Or at least a woman that looks like one.

    Johnny releases her arm from his grip. She is trying to hold both the fact that she wants to cry and at the same time wants to throw him off of the rooftop terrace as she walks by him and down to Johnny’s penthouse apartment.

    The woman, who’s name is Jasmine, knows full well how condescending Johnny can be. She’s been with him for three months now and it’s relentless. She finds solace in the fact that it is not just with her, but with any single person he is in contact with. When she found Johnny in the bed that night a few weeks back, unresponsive, a feeling of guilt swept over her cause she found herself, just for a minute, just leaving him there to die alone. But there was no way she could have lived with herself if she did that, so she called 911. She finds herself making excuses the past few weeks even though she wants to leave him for good. First came that night, then came the guilt for what she felt, next she was hoping his actual father would work his way into his brain. This Paris trip is where she decides. It’s the tipping point for her, how well she is treated on it is her litmus test.



    Johnny’s Penthouse Apartment, 435 W. 31st Street, New York City, New York
    7:05 am EST

    Johnny is in the shower. He has his arm against the wall of the shower, right underneath the showerhead. His forehead is pressed against his forearm and he is just allowing the water from the shower head to hit his back. He, once again, has a half glass of whiskey in his free hand and puts it to his lips to take a sip.

    Nervous, The Legend, she has to be a complete idiot. After this Paris trip Jasmine should probably be thrown to the gutter, cause clearly not all of the gears are turning in that head of hers. But man, what a knockout. Probably best I’ve bagged this year so far, but man, dumb as a bag of rocks.
    I’m going to Paris to do what no one else can do better than me. And that is to win. Only things that make me nervous is if scurvy will ever make a comeback, or if whiskey will ever not be a thing. Speaking of….


    Johnny puts his glass back to his lips for one last gulp. And with the glass being empty it appears that Johnny is done with the shower as next he turns the water off.


    Johnny’s Penthouse Apartment, 435 W. 31st. Street, New York City, New York
    8:15 am EST

    Johnny walks into his bedroom, buttoning the cufflinks on his dark blue designer dress shirt. Jasmine is laying on the bed in a dark blue dress that has a v-cut to it that reaches just above her belly button, her sides are exposed except for two straps that have been designed into the dress. She is just laying on the bed thumbing through a magazine.

    As Johnny finishes buttoning his cufflink he looks at his bed with Jasmine on it, with a look that is a mix of confusion and disgust.


    What the hell are you wearing?

    [COLOR=#000000]What do you mean? This is a dress you bought me the other week. I thought it was you trying to hint for me to wear it on this trip.

    Johnny shakes his head as if she told him the dumbest thing he’s ever heard. He grabs an empty glass and walks over to a mini-bar that is set up in his bedroom. He opens a whiskey decanter and pours himself a glass of the liquor. He throws down the entire half glass of whiskey he poured all at once and turns back towards Jasmine, who by now is sitting up on the side of the bed.

    What the hell are we?! Does it look like I want to be some abysmal suburban family that goes to Macy in their matching t-shirts and gets some uneducated buffoon to take their photo?

    [i]Jasmine who is now clearly upset and reasonably so because to do the best she can to diffuse the situation.

    [COLOR=#000000]NO, Johnny that isn’t what I”m trying to do. I just thought this was a sexy dress that you would like to have on your queen as the millions of people looked towards their king.

    Johnny’s temper has smoldered a bit. He sets his empty glass on the mini-bar and then walks over to his bed. Jasmine, not sure whether to be receptive or cower as Johnny approaches. She stands firm as not to show weakness towards Johnny. Johnny looks down at her at first with not much emotion. He then grabs her chin and gently pulls it up towards him so she is looking right into his eyes. His words start to come out calmly but with a deep coldness.

    My queen wouldn’t even perceive that the millions of people looking at The Legend would even want to look past him and at the bag of flesh he has by his side. And that is all you are because clearly beyond the beauty there isn’t a damn thing going on inside that feeble mind of yours.

    You had it good for three months, but that stops today. You’re not going anywhere with me. You have till the time my plane lands in Paris to get your shit and get out of this apartment for good. I’m going to make a call when I land back here to my apartment's security and if you haven’t left by then…...let’s just say one way or the other you’ll be on the street.


    Johnny lets go of Jasmine’s chin. Tears begin to fall from her eyes and run down her cheeks. Johnny turns and leaves the room, leaving Jasmine behind as he makes his way to the airport.

    First Class Of Airplane, Runway of JFK Int. Airport, Queens, New York
    9:30 am EST

    Johnny looks down at his phone one last time before shutting it off when the plane takes off. There are two missed calls and one voicemail, all from Logan Darwin hours ago. He hits the button to play the voicemail. As it begins to play he holds the phone to his ear, listening as Logan speaks. He takes his phone away from his ear, shuts it off and sets it on the tray to the left side of him. Johnny looks up to the front of the plane, spots a flight attendant and begins to snap his fingers, as if he’s beckoning a peasant to dance for his amusement. The flight attendant walks back to Johnny.

    Can I help you sir?

    You absolutely can, if you wouldn’t mind I could really use a glass of whiskey. The best one you have.

    Would Blanton be fine, sir?

    Johnny scoffs a little bit at the question.

    I wouldn’t normally drink that horse piss but I can’t imagine this poor excuse for a company has much better than that. So yeah, would you poor me a glass of that, it would be much appreciated.

    The flight attendant shifts her eyes a little bit at the smugness of Johnny.

    I’ll be right back with your drink sir.

    The flight attendant walks away to get Johnny his drink. Johnny then sits back and relaxes in his seat. He closes his eyes and begins to think about what is going to be there for him when he lands in Paris.



    What do I know about this fight tomorrow night I’m in. I know all I need to do is throw dim witted, neanderthals over the top rope and onto the floor of that stadium. What, right now I know seven of them. But some how this idiotic company that I signed my life away for has decided that a brilliant idea would be to advertise the fact that there could be mystery people that enter this thing.

    These idiots are so brain dead that all they needed to do to fill every seat in that stadium and have record breaking PPV buyrates was to advertise it like this, “The Legend in a Gunfight Battle Royal, where he will defeat a horde of brainless idiots. Watch as he defies the odds and slaughters the competition to make his way to capture the gold that only he is worthy enough to hold.”

    That story right there, that’s a story these peasants in France could really sink their teeth into. Me, The Legend, a hero they could only even fathom of being forty-third as good as I am in everything, right before their eyes. Wait, France isn’t filled with peasants like that anymore, right? I mean I’ve heard how down right dirty and disgusting some places in France were, guess I just figured FWA would have at least a sliver of intelligence not to invite The Legend to come and wrestle in a place where he would have to step over bottom-feeding miscreants just to get into the door of the building.



    Your drink, sir.


    Johnny’s eyes flash open and he’s met with the same flight attendant. She hands him the glass of whiskey that he asked for. He grabs the glass, takes a sip and then sets it on the table in front of him.

    I made it double of what we usually are supposed to give out. I thought with the long flight ahead of us you wouldn’t want to run out.

    Johnny looks up at her, he reaches out and pinches her name tag that is pressed on her shirt, it says, “Gwen”. Johnny gives her smile while piercing his lips.

    Well, Gwen I have to say. You’re not as dumb as I thought you would be. That is an astute observation but believe me this is far from the last double of whiskey you’ll be bringing me in the next eight hours that we’re on this plane. Now would be the best you can be and get me a current newspaper from Paris?

    Gwen grimaces at Johnny’s backhanded comments, but she proceeds while not losing her cool.

    Actually sir, there is a copy of Le Parisien stored on the back of the seat in front of you. It’s from yesterday but it’s the most current one we have as of this morning.

    Great, just what I needed to get me to sleep. That will be all for now, Gwen.

    Gwen nods her head as she can’t help but have a bad taste in her mouth from how much of an ass Johnny is with just the tone of his words. Johnny reaches ahead of him and grabs the copy of Le Parisien. He opens it up to the sports section and sees an advert for Back in Business XV in it. His thoughts form as he reads through the advert.

    Logan Darwin, part of me really wants to just have pity upon you. Not because I feel any apathy whatsoever, but just because how can you even believe you deserve to be in the same ring as me. My biggest hope is that once that bell rings you just throw yourself over that top rope and make sure your ass hits that floor. As much as I don’t generally care about your well being, how would it look if I crippled an old man the first time I’m wrestling for this company?


    Who else is there, oh that’s right. Two other guys who are making their debut. It really must be a huge boost for them to know that before anyone else in this company pollutes their mind on what a great performer is that they get to see the greatest there is. I imagine it’s not going to be all that difficult to rid this match of these two goons. They might wear red shirts and hold phasers cause they’re really the low-level cannon fodder that is easy for The Legend to be rid of.

    Then there is Captain Fantasy. The guy wears a gold mask. Talks and walks around like he’s doing his best impersonation of Christopher Reeve as Superman, but not when Chrisopher Reeve was actually Superman, no, I mean when that dumb bastard fell off the horse.

    And then the other three advertised low-rent goons are Saus X, who even Logan beat down like he owed him money. There’s Louis Valender, people say I have a drinking problem. This guy can handle his booze about as well as Logan can handle his bladder at his tender age. I imagine the guy will end up coming in drunk off of some cough syrup. That leaves Donovan Moore…..I’m not sure who this guy is actually. I’ll leave him for Logan.

    And finally the as advertised, “and More”. Honestly FWA are you that dense. No one ever cares about the, “and More” people. No, I’m going to correct myself, someone does. It’s that kid in the final row of the stadium. Little Jimmy, or wait we’re in Paris so it would be Little Frances. He thinks the local town wrestler that FWA dredged up from whatever homeless shelter he has been residing in for the last six months is going to come in and mop the floor. The issue is Little Frances has two parents that had the same IQ as hermit crabs and passed that down through to Little Frances. So clearly there isn’t a person with an IQ above seven that thinks any man, woman, ET, sasquatch, multi-dimensional creature that FWA isn’t advertising as being in this match will actually have a chance in winning. Especially when you consider The Legend smack dab in the middle of the ring to be the hero that these primitive imbeciles deserve.


    Johnny takes a deep sigh as his thoughts about what will happen in Paris please him. He folds the paper in half and throws it to the empty seat on his left. He reaches for his whiskey, puts it to his lips and takes a big sip. Overhead the pilot letting everyone know that the plane is about to take off for its destination. Johnny sets the glass of whiskey on the table, lays back in his seat as he folds his hands over his stomach and closes his eyes with a huge smile on his face.



  12. #12
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    The Book of El Demente
    Vol. I - The Insanity
    Chapter 1 - Lies From the Lips of a Soldier


    War…

    Where the young go to die…

    I mean, that’s not what they’ll tell you, but…

    That’s exactly what will happen…

    They will say things such as…

    “I’m gonna become a man!”

    “I’m gonna make good money!”

    “I’m gonna fight for my country!”

    “I’m gonna come home…”

    They say these words with conviction.

    They believe everything they say.

    They are also lying to themselves.






    A small light bulb flashes on and El Demente stands there in his black and white mask, only his head being shown with the light bulb above him. The light bulb swings back and forth by its wire. Everytime it swings to the far left or far right El Demente disappears into the darkness. His glowing white eyes cut through the darkness, blinking very sparingly.


    When they say these things they don’t yet know they are lying to themselves. They all genuinely believe their own bravado. They go to boot camp and have their mortal coil ripped from their bodies. The drill sergeants then meticulously take apart their souls and reconstruct them to be no more than a machine. Sure, some of their individuality lingers within them, but they are turned into a machine for whatever country they are “fighting for.” Once they complete boot camp and see their families before deployment, they think they are not only stronger physically, but mentally. They think they are ready for whatever their enlistment is going to throw at them. They look into the eyes of their loved ones and say they are going to come home.


    At that exact moment they don’t realize they are lying, but their families know the truth. They will stand strong for their little soldier and say they will be waiting, but secretly that worry every night that they may never see them again. These soldiers can watch all the war documentaries or training videos they want, but nothing will truly prepare them for the world that has opened up to them. They receive their first assignment and are sent out to the frontline. They are pumped full of adrenaline and are excited to put all their training to work. They step onto the plane that will take them to their new home. They take one last look out of that plane window, confident they will come home, but the lie continues.


    After hours of flying they finally land in a nice looking city, no sign of war, but this is not the last stop. They are loaded into a Humvee and drive out on a trip that eclipses the flight time of the plane. They know they are close by the sounds off in the distance. This is their first time truly hearing the sounds of war. At this moment there are some thoughts of doubt creeping into their head, but it must be cast aside because this is only just the beginning. Once they finally arrive at the Forward Operating Base, they are moved into a tent where they are given a thorough run down of the rules, regulations, laws, dangers, and emergency procedures. All of the information is daunting, but if they are not adhered to they will never get to go home in one piece.


    Unfortunately they don’t get to relax before the mayhem begins. They don’t have to do night watch since they just arrived and are encouraged to rest up while they can. They turn in for the night, their nerves rattling through their body. After a while they finally pass out, but they would have wished they hadn’t…


    BOOM!


    The whole base camp rumbles as a RPG rips through a Humvee at its outskirts. Gunfire becomes the theme song of the night as bullets rip through every tent. That young soldier jumps out of bed and stays low to the ground, trembling with fear. Welcome to the front line son; welcome to war. He drags himself across the dirt floor of the tent toward the door. He peeks out, just trying to get a gauge of his surroundings. Several tents are on fire, gunshots ring out through the night, only muffled by the sound of explosions and molotov cocktails breaking. He knows he needs to do something, anything. He scrambles to his feet trying to get his bearings in a foreign environment. He thinks he knows where the armory is and needs to get outfitted. He keeps his head low and tries ducking between the few tents that aren’t on fire. He thinks he’s almost there when he feels a sharp pain in his leg. He winces, but knows he can’t stop. He takes one more step and collapses. He keeps trying to get up, but no matter how many times he tells his body to move, he can’t put weight on that leg. He looked down to see that the leg he was telling to move was no longer there.


    MEDIC!


    He sees several men rush toward him and pick him up. He passes out not long after that. He finally comes to in a nice comfortable bed. He breathes a sigh of relief that the hellish nightmare is over. He swings his legs off the side of the bed and goes to stand up. Unfortunately things don’t go as planned. He collapses to the ground as a nurse notices what is happening. Before she gets close to him, he realizes that the nightmare was reality and his leg is gone. He screams and sobs that his life is over before it ever begins. The nurse helps him back into his bed and administers a sedative to calm the soldier. Once they kick in, a chaplain appears and wishes to speak to the young man. The bad news is that his tour is over, but the good news is he gets to go home.





    Home…

    The young man thinks in silence…

    I get to go home?

    No, son. Not exactly.






    The kid that went to war to fight for his country, to make money, to become a man, he does not get to go home. That kid died. That kid died that night when he had his life taken from him by a grenade. You, the man that lies in that bed, gets to go home. What do you get to go home to though? You get to spend the next year in rehabilitation. You’ll get a nice prosthetic leg and get to learn how to walk all over again. Remember that girl you promised to marry? She isn’t going to want you with one leg. Let’s not forget all the PTSD you’ll get to enjoy! And, let’s say you find someone to marry and have kids with, what then? You won’t be able to chase them or teach them sports. When you went to war, you died. You were lucky enough to get a second chance at life, but now you’ll spend every single day wondering about what could have happened if you just stayed home.


    War isn’t for kids. War isn’t for men. War isn’t for women. War is for the demons inside all of us humans. The demons that yearn for bloodshed and mayhem. They feast on destruction and malice. If you go to war you better promise your loved ones, not that you will come home, but that you will try to see them again. Your last words to them should not be a lie! Tell them you love them, but that they should know you will not come back as the same energetic kid they know and love. If you come back you will be a broken shell of a man who has seen people die and left a part of yourself on that battlefield!


    Back in Business XV is said to be war and I am ready for a fight! I know what it means to step onto the battlefield and look my enemy in the eye. I know what it means to be the last one standing! Sunday night will open with what they are calling a gunfight and I am thirsty for it! No one else in that battle royal has seen battle, has seen war. They are all children when it comes to experiencing the harsh reality of war. Before the show they are going to tell their families that they will see them when they get home, but that is a lie! They are stepping onto the frontline and staring El Demente in the eyes and we are going to war! I don’t care who you are, where you came from, or who you think you will be! Every single person in that match is going to be nothing more than a bullet sponge for me to unload on! When this war is over there is going to be one winner and it’s going to be El Demente and I will be going home and that is FWA Fallout! Once there, I will challenge the FWA X Champion and take them to war! Back in Business is going to be one hell of an event where the entire company will be shaken to its foundation. This is but the first battle of my war and you better bet your ass there’s going to be casualties.


    CLICK!


  13. #13
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Gerald Grayson in...
    "Reunion"


    February 14, 2010.

    Valentine’s Day. What a stupid concept of a holiday. The day of love they said. I was a junior at Enloe High School dating Lily Jacobsen. It was a pretty chill relationship, you know? Meeting up early for school, having lunch together, passing notes to one another during class. At the end of the day, we had extracurricular activities with sports. She had soccer and I had basketball. We were there for each other at the end before we had to go home. So yeah, it was a very casual relationship. None of that lovey dovey stuff. But it was Valentine’s Day, so I thought, you know what? Why not take part in the day’s festivities? We’re a couple, aren’t we? That turned out to be a big mistake.

    The day before, I skipped basketball practice to decorate Lily’s locker. I filled it with some of her favorite snacks like symphony chocolate bars, watermelon sour patches, some cute notes I had hand-written, balloons - everything. After I was done decorating, I met with Lily after her soccer practice to give her a ride home, making sure she didn’t go to her locker.

    The next day, I came to school bright and early. I stood by Lily’s locker with a bouquet of flowers, so I could see the joy on Lily’s face when she saw my surprise for her. The doors opened and I could see Lily from a distance. At that moment, things were moving in slow motion as a love song played in the background. My stomach started feeling funny and I was weak in the knees as Lily came walking down in her high-waisted shorts and a pink, floral long-sleeve. However, as she approached, she stopped in her tracks at the sight of me and my surprise for her. Instead, she walked the other way as a good amount of people saw my face turn a bright red from embarrassment as the school bell rang.

    Lunch time came and Lily was at our usual table. I still had the flowers with me as I thought maybe she was a bit shy as I may have gone a little overboard with the surprise earlier. As soon as she saw me, she began packing up her things.

    “I’m sorry, Gerald,” she said, remorse shining through in her voice.

    “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” she continued, before running off.

    Noah, Will, and Nick all just arrived at the cafeteria when they saw Lily running off, looking at me with concern. Finally at our table, they began consoling me but I wasn’t in the mood for this. I threw the bouquet of flowers down and ran to the parking lot. I got into my car and headed home. On the car ride home, I remember tears running down my face as every radio station was playing love songs. Of course they were - it was Valentine’s day after all.

    As soon as I came home, I threw my bag to the floor, and ran upstairs to my room. I had my face in my hands. This was the first time I put myself out there only for it to backfire in my face. Just then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was my older brother, Jay.

    “You alright, Ger?” he asked.

    I began wiping my tears away, even more embarrassed getting caught crying.

    “Hey, it’s alright man. What happened?” he asked, taking a seat next to me.

    “Lily,” I said, staying silent for a moment.

    “Lily? What happened with Lily?” he questioned.

    “I think we broke up,” I said, trying to rid myself of the sniffles.

    “Oh, I see what’s going on here. Your first heartbreak,” he said, chuckling a bit.

    “Ger, it’s alright to cry. Allow yourself to feel the emotions you want to feel. Nothing wrong with that. But you can’t dwell on it. It’s not healthy,” Jay said, trying to make me feel better.

    “Easy for you to say,” I retorted, clearly annoyed at the advice Jay gave me..

    “You’ll be fine, Ger. Like I said, allow yourself to feel these emotions. Once you’re done - move forward man. That’s the only thing you can do. Move forward, alright?” he said, tapping on my shoulder, exiting the room.

    The next day at school, I found a letter inside my locker from Lily. She explained that she freaked out over my Valentine’s Day gesture about how things were getting a little too real, that I leveled up the relationship to new heights that were too much for her at the moment. She said she had other things taking up her time, like sports and other extracurricular activities, and that it wasn’t fair to me that she couldn’t find enough time for me. Despite this, she wanted to remain friends and hoped I understood.

    At that very moment, I was filled with anger and sadness, moreso the latter. It took some time to become friends with Lily but it eventually happened. As time went on, we eventually became good friends the rest of our high school lives - even keeping in touch afterwards before things faded away again. Everything happens for a reason, I guess.

    ———

    It amazed me how wise Jay was even back then. The lesson he was trying to teach me that day has helped me my entire life and is one I’ll never forget. I wished he was around right now to give me the big brother speech. He’d be mad at me right now for not listening to his advice of not dwelling on my current situation.

    Jay, forgive me but what I can’t move on from just yet is the X-Division title. The X-Division title is what put me on the map in FWA. I will admit that I wasn’t a great champion and that is something I’ll forever regret. My reign didn’t feel right at the time because I had other stuff going on. I guess the same happened with Lily and I.

    But I have the means to change that at Back in Business. The only roadblocks in my way are Uncle J.J. JAY!, Konchu Hao, and the current X-Division Champion, Chris Peacock. Make no mistake about it, my second run with the title will be different. I owe it to myself to give this title all the prestige it deserves especially after the hot potato-ing going on with it. The ultimate goal is to make my name synonymous with the X-Division title. X-Division Title - Gerald Grayson. Right next to each other - exactly where it should be. It’s not going to be easy but anything worthwhile never is.

    Meanwhile, the notification sound on my phone went off and when I looked, I was added into a group chat on iMessage. The first message sent said, “You guys ready to party it up? See you at the reunion!” sent by the one and only Noah Howard. Noah was one of my best buds back in high school. He was the party boy of the group. Another message came in soon after saying, “I’ll be there.” sent by Nick Carpenter. Nick was the popular one of the group. He was the serious one and did pretty much everything - basketball, lacrosse, theater, glee club. “Can’t wait to see you guys! It’s been ages!” The next message read sent by Will Richardson. Will was the neutral part of the group - he participated in many things but wasn’t much of a party boy, extremely smart too. Then there was me. I was the sweet, innocent child of the group, and while I did my own thing, I wasn’t privy to a party. “YEAAAHHH BOYYY! See you dudes there.” was the message I sent in the group chat.

    Tomorrow is my 10 year high school reunion for Enloe High School - where many memories were made that shaped me into the adult I am today. They say high school serves as an indicator as to where you’ll end up in life. For me, I was an average student who participated in basketball and journalism while motocross was my true love. I went to so many parties with the gang. In fact, we were the life of so many parties that we were nicknamed the “Troublesome Quartet.” But after high school, we went our separate ways almost instantly. Despite the good times we had, everyone couldn’t wait to get out of Raleigh, North Carolina to see the rest of the world. Sure, we kept in contact but the last time the Troublesome Quartet were in one place was five years ago when our paths led to a Las Vegas trip - but that’s a story for another time.

    I first heard about our high school reunion happening a few days after the Mile High pay-per-view. I was sent an email indicating the reunion was going to be a black tie event taking place at the Brier Creek Country Club. My first thought was wow, that’s going to be one hell of a celebration because of how luxurious Brier Creek is. Being there a couple of times for weddings and conferences, I know how extravagant it can be. At the end of the email, I found out it was sent by Lily Jacobsen. Suddenly, my heart started beating faster than usual as it took me a few moments to calm down. The email told me to RSVP as soon as possible and for some reason, I immediately did, not knowing what may happen.

    ———

    It was the day of the reunion. I was already in Raleigh as I usually touched base at home before a pay-per-view, so it was good timing for the reunion. The guys mentioned wanting to meet in the lobby before we made our entrance. Being the punctual one, I was the first to arrive. I dressed myself in a black tuxedo with a black undershirt along with a black bow tie - going with the all black look. I saw a few old classmates of mine as we exchanged our hi’s and hello’s before they made their way into the venue.

    “Gerald!” was screamed from across the lobby signaling the arrival of Noah Howard. He was dressed in a black tuxedo with a black tie, but instead of going with pants, he went with shorts - his yellow Pikachu socks visible for all to see. Noah, with his signature ginger hair, hadn’t changed one bit - everything he did was loud. He came up to me and gave me a bro hug as soon as I was within reach.

    “Noah, holy crap. You look great man,” I said genuinely, as Noah flexed his calf muscles.

    “Yeah, I practically live in the gym now after a health scare,” he said, before taking out a flask. There’s the Noah I know.

    “Starting early, are we?” I said sarcastically in regards to the flask.

    “You know it! It’s been too long. Glad the boys are coming to this,” he said, taking another swig of his flask.

    “Hello, you beautiful bastards!” A voice came through, belonging to Will Richardson, with his perfectly parted combover making an appearance. If there’s something you must know about Will, it’s that he cares about his hair… a lot. Dressed in a standard tuxedo, Will came running at us before coming in for a hug.

    “Good to see you guys! It’s been what, five years? Man, look at you guys,” he said with a laugh, as he looked at myself and Noah’s fashion choice. Something else about Will - he’s a hugger.

    “You beautiful bastard. Still a hugger huh?. Not gonna lie, I missed them. Bring it in here,” Noah said, as Will in fact, went in for another hug.

    Just then, our phones went off. I looked at mine and so did Noah and Will. We received a message from Nick saying he was already inside.

    “Typical Nick,” Will said, annoyed.

    “Of course, he did. He’s probably in there taking the spotlight again,” Noah said, with his hands on his hips.

    “C’mon guys. We’re here to have some fun. I’m sure Nick is just warming everyone up for us,” I said, trying to calm the situation down.

    Noah and Will nodded their heads as we made our way to the venue. As soon as we entered, we stopped at the entrance way to look at the beautiful set of decorations around the venue. The room had high walls filled with green and gold balloons for the colors of Enloe High School. There was a live band playing “Sweet Caroline” that immediately got Noah dancing. The first thing I spotted was the massive buffet line in the distance and since I hadn’t eaten all day, it was what I was going for first.

    Before we could proceed, I felt my hand being taken and stamped. It was Carol Winker. Before I could react, she smiled at me and I returned the favor. Carol was known as the big girl in high school. As soon as I saw her, I felt bad for her because Noah and Will didn’t treat her the best. I definitely didn’t defend her back then as I probably should have but I’d like to think I wouldn’t be on her hit list or anything.

    “Fat Carol?” Noah and Will questioned in unison, as their hands were stamped.

    Carol, not as big as she once was but still a bit chubby, rolled her eyes.

    “It’s just Carol,” she said, clearly annoyed with them.

    Before anymore could be said, I pulled Noah and Will by their arms away from Carol as they were already being their high school selves. I pointed towards the food and they nodded their heads as we made our way to the buffet line.

    “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston started playing, causing the crowd to get louder. The first voice came in then a familiar second voice came in to serenade the crowd - it was Nick. He took the stage to sing with the band - I mean, he was in the glee club after all. Once he made his appearance, we abandoned the buffet and made our way towards the stage.

    When the chorus came in, we were close enough to slap hands with Nick. And just like that, the little annoyance Noah and Will felt towards Nick was gone, as they were dancing their asses off. Further, they went on to clear the dance floor as they did their infamous dance routine garnering a loud roar from the class of 2011. They did their classic robot moves, the worm, literally everything you can think of - adding in a few new steps to keep up with the times. As their routine ended, Noah took another sip from his flask. When he turned around, he was startled by Fat Carol - causing him to spit his drink right on her face. The crowd and even the band turned silent.

    “YEAHHH!” Noah screamed. The crowd also began screaming as the band proceeded to finish the song.

    “Let’s run it back one more time. This time, I want you all to sing with me. Let’s go!” Nick said into the microphone before dancing again. Nick commanded so much attention navigating the stage like a real rockstar as he slapped hands with people closest to the stage.

    Noah began flipping tables - three tables in fact, and breaking glassware as he took a drink before going crazy on the dance floor once again.

    “Bit overkill, don’t you think?” Will said, suddenly all serious.

    “What?” I asked, as we were both dancing among the crowd.

    “Bit overkill to have Noah go crazy like that?” he explained further.

    “What? What are you saying? Are you okay?” was my retort as I had no idea what Will was talking about.

    “You could write Noah doing something else is what I’m saying,” he said slowly, as he was running out of breath while dancing.

    Either Will was on drugs or I just couldn’t understand him. That being said, I kept dancing pretending I didn’t hear what Will said as he was genuinely confusing me.

    Among the crowd, I saw an individual dressed in an elegant navy blue dress that parted above the left knee. Her hair was in a bun held together by various jewels. Her perfect white teeth shone through as she smiled towards me - it was Lily. As soon as I identified her, I smiled back before getting lost in the sea of people. Before long, the song ended with the crowd giving the band and Nick a resounding round of applause. A few moments later, we made our way back to the table.

    “Whoa there, Gerald. You eating for two?” the voice asked.

    “NICK!” Noah and Will said in unison.

    “My boys. Get in here,” Nick said, happy to see us.

    The gang was all back together like the good old days. After exchanging pleasantries, we went to get more food and drinks.

    “Glad you guys made it. We haven’t properly been together for five years, I think it was. Updates. I need updates,” Nick said, leaning forward.

    “Never better, Nicky boy. Going through a divorce but it’s nothing I can’t handle. It’s as amicable a divorce can be,” Noah said, taking a drink from his flask once more.

    “Life’s not the greatest for me right now but I don’t want to think about it. I just want to have fun tonight,” Noah said, as he stuffed his face with nachos.

    “Yeah, well, I’m in FWA now…” I said, before getting cut off.

    “Right! I caught a couple of your matches, Gerald. Sheesh. You’re good. But you gotta tell me. Don’t you feel nervous wearing your underwear around for thousands of people,” Noah asked, genuinely concerned.

    “I mean, it pays the bills,” I said cheekily, as the boys chuckled.

    “No, yeah. I gotta know more, Gerald. I’m a huge fan of FWA. I can’t believe you were actually partners with Michelle von Horrowitz,” Nick said, leaning in forward in interest..

    “Yeah, she’s cool. Takes a little getting used to but she’s great,” I said, with confidence.

    “Aren’t you in some tournament at Back in Business?,” Nick questioned.

    “I am, yeah. It’s for the X-Division Championship. A title I once held. My match is against Konchu Hao. A real madman,” I said, shaking my head.

    “Indeed he is. I want to say to combat a madman, you need to give him a taste of his own medicine. Neat little trick I’ve learned,” Nick said, catching our attention as we look at him with uncertainty.

    “That makes sense. Konchu’s one tough cookie but everyone has a weakness. For Konchu, it’s chaos. So like you said, I’m going to fight him by giving him a taste of his own chaos - the GG version,” I said, as the guys began to cheer me on in excitement.

    “I’m not quite the fan you are, Nick. But I know about that Uncle guy a little bit. His masks are really popular in Raleigh. Do you have a game plan ready for him?” Will asked, as he continued stuffing his face with food.

    “Uncle’s quite unorthodox. He’s similar to Konchu but honestly, once you get to know Uncle, he’s a teddy bear on the inside. As Selena Gomez would say… I’m going to kill ‘em with kindness,” I said, garnering a laugh from the boys.

    “I might as well tell you guys about Chris Peacock,” I said, leaning in.

    “Peacock?” Noah questioned.

    “Yes, Chris Peacock. Disco’s Last Warrior. Shh, let Gerald speak,” Nick said, leaning in, waiting for me to talk as Noah held his hands up in surrender.

    “Right, Chris Peacock. There’s almost nothing bad to say about the guy. In my interactions with him, he’s a cool dude. Everyone backstage likes him. The crowd eats him up every time he makes an appearance. He has what I want. He’s the current X-Division Champion. However, I think the pressure is mounting on him - the pressure to deliver. I’ve been in his shoes not too long ago and while I didn’t do the best, I didn’t fail. Peacock here, might be setting himself up to fail especially since he’s so entranced with Uncle at the moment. He needs to remember about Konchu and I,” I said, with determination in my voice.

    “Going into Back in Business, it doesn’t matter who is in front of me. You boys know more than anyone that if I set my mind unto a goal, I am able to achieve it. The same applies to this situation. The X-Division Championship - I don’t just want it, I NEED it,” I said, staring at them.

    The boys nod their heads in agreement. I look at them and realize I see bits and pieces of my opponents in them. They’ve been preparing me all this time for my Back in Business match, wow. Life sure knows how to work itself out. Just then, a photographer comes and points a camera at us. Without hesitation, we smile for the camera. I recognized the person behind the camera - Joseph Young, known more as Seph for short. He was my buddy in journalism class. We’d both take photos and write for the school newspaper.

    “Seph! How are you doing man?” I said, standing from my seat.

    “I’m doing well, Gerald. I see you’ve got the entire Trouble Quartet reunited here. You guys were quite the crew back in high school. Hope you don’t mind me taking your photo,” he said, before waving at everyone.

    “No, of course not. It’s good to see you man. We gotta catch up soon,” I said, giving him my business card. He took it and in exchange - using a bluetooth printer, he printed out a picture for us right there and then.

    “Oh wow. Thanks a lot, Seph. Looking forward to catching up with you,” I said, as we said our goodbyes.

    I held up the photo, seeing the changes we’ve made in life - seeing how the madness has affected us thus far. I saw four best friends together again, talking and spending time with one another as if no time had passed since we last saw each other. I put the photo down and for a second, I saw the high school version of the Troublesome Quartet. I blinked once only for the scene to keep changing between our high school selves and our present selves - the only difference was our present selves were painted in a red hue. I saw the devils we truly were. With horns on tops of our heads and devious looks on our faces with cruel intentions on our minds. Was it my naive mind playing tricks on me or was I seeing the truth for the first time?

    I closed my eyes hard and blinked again hoping for everything to turn back to normal - and it did. I went back to the guys and passed around the photo for everyone to see.

    “So guys, I’m glad you’re all here. I know you all came here to have a good time. But I need your help,” Nick said with a serious look on his face. Noah, Will, and I looked in his direction with interest.

    “I’m a detective for the NYPD,” he said, flashing us his badge.

    Our eyes dilated at the surprise Nick dropped on us.

    “I’m here investigating a lead. I’ve been on this case for months now and it has led me to believe that we have a drug smuggler at this reunion,” he said, motioning for us not to let the secret out.

    “Excuse me!?” Will said loudly, before Nick shushed him.

    “Look man, I’m here to have a good time. If I wanted to have a hard time, I would’ve stayed home,” Will said, not convinced he should be a part of this.

    “I’m all for it! You need me to be the Scooby-Doo to your Shaggy, Nick? You got it!” Noah responded with enthusiasm.

    Nick looked at me as if this whole operation wouldn’t work without my help.

    “I’m here to have a good time too but I guess we can have fun and help you with your investigation, Nick,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

    “What’s in it for us?” Will asked, searching for an incentive.

    “Well, when I told you information about this case, you all just became my informants. You’ll be in the good graces of the NYPD and some cash will be heading your way from me personally. You guys in?” Nick said, as he tried to persuade us.

    “Look Nick, it’s not even about the mon-“ I said, before getting caught off.

    “We’re in,” Noah and Will said in unison, much to Nick’s delight. Despite my surprise at Noah and Will agreeing so quickly, I’m always down to lend a helping hand to a friend.

    “Perfect. All I need you guys to do is enjoy the party and report any suspicious things you see. We’ll be in pairs. Gerald and Noah then Will and I.” Nick said, giving us clear instructions.

    “How about you and Gerald pair off then Will and I go another way?" Noah suggested.

    Nick and I looked at each other with curiosity and confusion as to why Noah would suggest this before Nick gave his answer.

    “Alright, sure. You see anything suspicious and you report it to the group chat,” Nick said, nodding his head.

    Noah and Will put their hands in a huddle, looking at Nick and I to return the favor - we did, before breaking out into the party.

    Nick and I decided to position ourselves near the entrance so we could see the traffic going in and out as we occupied a nearby table.

    “So when were you going to tell us you were a detective for the NYPD?” I asked, trying to make small talk.

    “I wanted to tell you guys, but I’ve made a lot of enemies. I kept it a secret to protect you guys,” he said, looking at the crowd of people, as I nodded in response.

    “How about you? I don’t have a lot of free time but when I do, I watch FWA. You know how much of a fan I am. By the way, thanks for sending that signed Michelle von Horrowitz t-shirt a few months ago. I did get it. Sorry it took this long to send you a response,” Nick said, apologetically.

    “Oh, I’m glad you got it. Any time man. That’s what friends are for,” I retorted before letting out a big sigh.

    “What’s wrong?” Nick questioned, noticing my big sigh.

    "The past few weeks have been rough. Not just in FWA but personally. And I’m sure you know this, but our biggest show, Back in Business, is coming up. My opponents remind me so much of you guys,” I said, looking to Nick to see if he agreed.

    “Chris Peacock, Uncle JJJ, and Konchu Hao. They’re tough, but I think you can pull it off man. Let me guess, I’m Chris Peacock?” he asked. I looked at him, questioning how he knew he was the Chris Peacock of the group. But wait, he’s a detective. Duh. Of course he knew.

    “Indeed you are. Uncle is Will. Noah is Konchu,” I said, scanning the room for any suspicious activity.

    “That makes a lot of sense. If you were able to handle the Troublesome Quartet back in the day, then I have no doubts you’ll be able to handle these guys in the tournament," he said, nodding his head at me. I nodded my head back in appreciation.

    “But hey, what’s the vibe you’re getting from Noah and Will by the way? Do you think they could be smuggling drugs?” he asked, taking a sip of his drink.

    “What?!” I immediately said in response.

    “What? I’ve got to consider everyone. Even you,” he said, nonchalantly.

    “Me?! Look, Nick. We’re all here to have a good time. Then you proceed to drop the news of you being a NYPD detective and ask us to help you with your investigation, which we all agreed to, yet you still suspect us? That’s kind of unfair, don’t you think?” I said, with a bit of anger in my voice.

    “I need to suspect everyone. You never know. People change,” he said, with a shrug.

    “Is this seat taken?” A soft voice suddenly asked.

    I turned to my left - it was Lily Jacobsen. Her dark, brown hair in a bun with those hazel brown eyes that could hypnotize anyone were ones I remember fondly.

    “Long time no see stranger,” Lily said, chuckling as she took a seat next to me.

    “Oh uh, hey Lily.” I said, as sweat suddenly forms on my forehead.

    “You remember Nick, right? I asked, turning towards Nick.

    “Of course. Who could forget the Troublesome Quartet? Where are Noah and Will anyway?” she asked, looking at the crowd.

    “Ha, the Troublesome Quartet. Haven’t heard that nickname in ages,” Nick said, as he shook hands with Lily.

    “Uhm, they’re around here somewhere. We came in together. You know them, they’re probably causing trouble, as you said,” I said, with a stupid smile on my face.

    “Those two are always up to no good,” she said, smiling at me.

    There was a silence that seemed to last forever. With the history between us, it’s difficult for me to know what to say next. She was Lily freaking Jacobsen. My first heartbreak. She had this power over me that no one else did. But I began mustering up the courage to say something but she beat me to it.

    “So how are you liking the party?” she said to break the silence.

    “It’s looking great. The decorations, the food, the band. You planned the whole thing, right?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

    “I did. Glad to hear you like the arrangements I’ve made. Have you seen the other parts of the country club? There’s a swings area that’s gorgeous, especially at night. I’ve been here a few times but tonight feels different. I’ll be checking it out in a few minutes if you want to see it again,” she said, looking at me for a response.

    I sat there - dumbfounded at the prospect of things getting romantic. But I didn’t want to tell myself that that was really happening. Before things could get awkward, Nick nudged me.

    “Yeah, I’ve been here a few times too. The swings area is great. Definitely an area for a photoshoot if anything. And sure! Why not?” I chuckled nervously.

    “Well, I’ll catch up with you in a little bit. Swings. Be there. If not, at least find me and say bye before you leave, alright?” she said, almost imperatively.

    “I won’t. Catch you later,” I said, with a smile that crept up on my face. When she left, I had my face in my hands.

    “Catch you later? Really Gerald? I see there’s still something between you and Lily. The chemistry is unmatched,” he said jokingly.

    “Yeah yeah. Not one of my finer moments,” I said, as I took a sip of my drink - an alcoholic drink. You’re welcome, Michelle.

    “Did you know that Noah and Will have had their fair share of troubles since we last saw each other?” Nick questioned.

    “Hmm? No, I didn’t,” I said, almost defensively, as I was caught off guard by Nick’s question.

    “And the way Noah suggested he and Will pair off together? That was weird," Noah said, continuing his suspicion on them.

    "Noah’s gotten several DUIs and several disturbing the peace charges against him. He’s also going through another divorce. His first divorce stripped him of everything, but he was able to recover somehow. Then his second marriage was a Las Vegas wedding where he got hitched with a show girl. Now, they’re currently fighting over the assets that Noah built up. How did he build them up in the first place?” Nick said, telling me what I’m guessing is sensitive information.

    “Will isn’t doing too good either. Not sure if you know this, but Will is in a lot of debt. Apparently, he couldn’t stay out of the tables that one time we all met up at Vegas. But you see him living comfortably. How is that possible?” He said, looking at me.

    “What? I had no idea these things were happening to them, I -,” I said, before getting cut off.

    “Then there’s you. You’re actually squeaky clean but you’ve made a lot of enemies in the past. There was betting going on in the background of your motocross adventures back in the day. There were times when you were supposed to lose but somehow managed to win,” Nick said, looking at me if I had any idea these things were happening.

    “You’re joking. My bike has definitely felt strange at times. As if it was made heavier so that I’d go slower. Or how my bike needed maintenance thirty minutes before a race. If what you say is true, then things are starting to make sense,” I said, with concern in my voice.

    Just then, loud screams were heard from near the stage area. All eyes went towards the stage while Nick and I ran towards the stage to get a closer look. It turns out the lead singer of the band had collapsed, foaming from the mouth - he was poisoned. This almost certainly spelled the end of the reunion as the authorities were called.

    “Gerald, I have to clear the area for when the police get here. I don’t think you’re a drug smuggler as we were together most of the night. Why don’t you go and find Lily?” he said, motioning me away.

    “Huh?” I retorted.

    "I saw the way you guys looked at each other. There’s still something there. Trust me. Coming from a guy whose job it is to make observations, there’s definitely something there. Go,” he said, shoo-ing me away.

    “Some reunion huh?” I said, as we both shrugged our shoulders as I dashed out of the venue.

    She said to meet at the swings, which were a little far out from the venue so I ran, hoping she’d be there. However, as I approached, I heard a woman screaming - that had to be Lily. I hid behind a pillar to see what was going on. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Lily had been tied to the metal foundation of the swings and near her were Noah and Will carrying some black duffel bags on their shoulders.

    “Wrong place, wrong time, Lily,” Noah said, grabbing some tape, handing it to Will.

    “It didn’t need to be this way. You just had to ruin it just like how you tried to ruin the Troublesome Quartet back in high school when you dated Gerald,” Will said, as Lily screamed even more before Will placed a piece of tape on her mouth.

    “Guys! What’s happening here?” I said, coming out of the cover without thinking.

    Noah and Will instantly turned to me. Noah had a gun pointing towards me.

    “Whoa whoa whoa!” I said, with my arms in front of me.

    God damn it, Gerald! Not you too,” Will said, sounding disappointed.

    “Guys, what’s going on here? Please don’t tell me -” I said, stumbling on my words.

    “Don’t tell you what, Gerald? Things have changed since high school. Open your eyes,” Noah said angrily.

    Not everyone’s lives turned out great, okay Gerald?! Will and I need the money for various reasons. That’s all this is,” Noah said, with bitterness in his voice.

    “You don’t want to do this. I’ve seen what happens when you turn to madness. It’s not the answer. If there’s anything in life that I’ve learned, it’s that we can all learn from this and move forward. There is a way forward, guys. Let me help you.” I said, pleading my case.

    “It’s all we got. What else can we do, Gerald?! All Will and I know is madness. We live it every day! Every day we have to hustle because we don’t know where our next meal will be. We don’t know if there’ll be a roof over our heads. We barely get any sleep!” Noah shouted.

    “Why didn’t you guys come to me for help?” I questioned, as I saw Lily crying behind them. However, she was motioning me with her eyes. It took me a bit but I finally understood.

    “Hey! Don’t look at her!” Noah shouted, threatening me with the gun.

    “Ask you for help? The poster child of innocence? We have a better chance with drug lords. Plus, we’ve moved on from being the guys you knew in high school. We’ve never been more alive than right now. Right, Noah?” Will said, as Noah nodded his head in agreement.

    “Hell yeah! You’re still living in the past, Gerald. Wake up! It’s time you took your own advice and move on. Let me tell you something about reality. There are good guys like you that get handed everything who think they’re above people like Will and I. Then there are good guys like us that have to scratch, claw, and make our way just to find a living. Does that really make us bad guys? I don’t think so,” Noah said, getting more and more intense as he spoke.

    “No, it doesn’t, Noah! It’s not our fault that we have to work harder to make a living. I’m sorry we can’t all be like you, Gerald. Plus, when was the last time you even reached out to us? You forgot all about us as soon as high school ended,” Will said angrily.

    “Let me tell you this before we have to put you away, Gerald. In this little world we live in, madness rules. Madness controls every aspect of our lives. Because without madness, the world we live in does not function properly. Madness is what drives us to live. So if that’s so wrong - then that’s too bad,” Noah screamed, his eyes bulging, screaming into the universe his false ideals.

    “Guys, c’mon. We’ve been friends our entire lives. Just put the gun down and we can come up with solutions. You don't want to give into the madness, trust me. I've seen what it can do to people. Things will never be the same once you give in. I won't be able to help you if you give in. Please, don't give in,” I said, with worry in my voice as sweat was dripping from everywhere.

    I walked closer towards Noah. Suddenly, a gunshot went off near my foot. Noah had actually shot at me - even startling Will.

    “One more step and I aim a little higher,” Noah said, still pointing his gun at me.

    Just then, Lily screams her loudest through the tape on her mouth as she kicks Will behind the knee causing him to fall. He screamed in pain, garnering Noah’s attention. With Noah distracted, I jumped onto him with enough force for the gun to fly away from his hands. I laid some punches onto Noah - enough to knock him out. Will was still holding onto the back of his knee screaming in pain, barely able to move.

    It was over.

    I went to check on Lily, who hugged me immediately, as she continued crying. I held her close to make her feel as safe as possible.

    Finally, Nick and the authorities came just at the right time (like in TV shows and movies, duh).

    “We heard a gunshot go off in this direction. Are you guys okay?” Nick asked, scanning the area.

    “We’re fine. Noah fired a warning shot at me. I’ve never been shot at before. Holy hell,” I said to Nick, as I doubled over with my hands on my knees, exhausted by everything that went on.

    The authorities arrested Noah and Will as Nick, Lily, and I looked at them with disappointment.

    “I’m sorry, Gerald,” Will said, struggling to walk.

    “This isn’t the last you’ll hear from me!” Noah screamed, trying to wiggle free from the handcuffs.

    Just like that, the Troublesome Quartet was no more. Noah and Will succumbed to the madness in their lives only to be brought down in the end. The good guys win again. For someone like Konchu to thrive on his own madness for this long - he's got something coming to him once Back in Business rolls around.

    After being checked by the medical team, I went to check on Lily again.

    “Hell of a reunion huh?” I said, playfully.

    “I guess that means I won’t be making plans for our 20th year reunion,” she said, as we shared a laugh.

    “Probably for the best,” I said, as we continued to laugh before there was a moment of silence.

    “Well I - So I should” we said in unison, awkwardly letting out a laugh.

    “You go first,” she said, smiling at me.

    “When I saw you earlier tonight, there was a feeling in my stomach that I couldn’t ignore. And I don’t know. I was thinking, maybe, if you want, we’d go out for dinner some time?” I asked, nervously.

    She laughed the cutest laugh just like I remembered it.

    “I’d like that,” she simply said.

    “Alright!” I said, as I threw a fist in the air, garnering more laughs from Lily. In my mind, I apologized to Jay once more because this is something I couldn’t move on from.

    In the distance, a beautiful fireworks display began going off. Lily and I looked each other in the eyes. Our faces got closer.

    “Glad to see you guys back at it again,” Nick said, halting our moment, causing us to awkwardly pretend like nothing was going on.

    We looked at him with a bit of annoyance as he interrupted us. He let out a half laugh, which we returned with embarrassed smiles of our own.

    “Gerald, can I talk to you for a minute?” he said, motioning for me to follow him.

    I looked to Lily for permission as she nodded her head.

    “Good job taking down the bad guys tonight,” he patted me on the shoulder.

    “I’m going to be straight with you. My ass was on the line if I didn’t catch these guys. You’ve always been there for me, Gerald, even when you didn’t need to. And for that, I thank you,” Nick said, as we shook hands.

    “But uhm… I feel what Noah said may be true in that we won’t be seeing the last of him,” Nick said, with a stern face.

    “What do you mean?” I asked, with concern.

    “I believe he’s working with one of, if not, the biggest kingpin in Raleigh - the Architect. This might be a bit much for you to process right now, so we can discuss more later. But I think it’s absolutely necessary we put you in witness protection ASAP. Not just you. Your family as well. Lily too,” he said.

    After all that had gone on tonight: meeting with the boys, meeting with Lily again, seeing so many old faces, the shenanigans at the reunion, Noah and Will turning out to be drug smugglers - the madness had won tonight. No wonder Konchu thrives on it, it’s all around us. Even if there is no sign of it at first, one move is all it takes to change that. But at that moment, none of it mattered. There was only one thing on my mind when Nick said our loved ones might be in danger.

    Jay.

    Tough times don't last, tough people do.

    >>> Check out "IMPACT! Wrestling 2019: On The Rise" in the BTB Section <<<

  14. #14
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    SIMPLIFIED COMPLICATIONS

    Manchester, a long time ago…

    The intimate set-up of the room didn’t make Andrew exactly the most comfortable man right now. He had understood and respected that the closeness and the intimacy was exactly the point here but that didn’t mean he had to like it. His participation in this group therapy group was not even voluntary, he only found himself in this circle of chairs after Eleanor had insisted him to get some help. Begrudgingly, he accepted, it was near impossible to say no to his sister. He just wished she knew that she could only lead a horse to water and not force it to drink. But now that he was here, he already regretted giving into her demands. The bland beige walls were not distracting enough to stare himself into a trance and the closeness of the chairs made sure he could not squirm without making accidental contact with other people in the room. Joy.

    “I have to commend your bravery and strength for coming here and being with me at this moment.”


    Spoke the bald man in the different coloured chair that signified his status as the therapist of this group. Andrew was more concerned with his shining bald head, though. He have always wanted to slap a bald man’s head, truly a testament to how seriously Andrew took this. He would just sit tight like he was in a make-shift coffin, speak only when addressed, leave immediately after the end and tell Ellie that everything was stupid and he would not do it again. Then she would probably find a way to change his mind again. Probably. Most likely. She did that a lot.

    “It takes a lot of courage to admit that you needed help and take the first step towards getting better.”

    The therapist said, a pretty confident implication that Andrew was going to be better. It was hard for him to keep himself from rolling his eyes, but he somehow managed. Small victories are more than worth cherishing when the big ones don’t seem to be on the horizon.

    “I realize you may not see it that way for now, the disease we call depression is more than capable of draining one’s self-worth entirely that you fail to recognize the simplest steps of growth. It’s more than okay, I’m here to at least try and guide you the way to a clearer, healthier state of mental being.”

    The man looked and sounded sincere if Andrew had to give anything to him and if he didn’t feel mentally exhausted enough he could definitely feel at least some remorse for his efforts. Such a shame all around. Then, he stopped thinking, continued sitting, not moving, letting whatever’s going to happen just simply happen. Life was certainly easier that way. That way, nothing could bother him…except for the girl sitting right next to him bouncing her legs for some reason and causing the sides of her leather boots to brush against his leg. That definitely bothered him enough to raise his head a little and shoot a glare to the girl, who did not return the favour, which was pretty lucky of him as Andrew did end up staring at her for a bit longer than it would make any woman in the world comfortable.

    “…self-loathing…irritability…reckless behaviour…anger…fatigue…self-isolation…loss of interest…feeling of worthlessness…”

    The therapist droned on and on and on until presumably he got tired of listening to his own voice and actually decided to give others a voice. The group had to be introduced to each other. Andrew watched people talk about themselves, his mind really not registering anything until he felt all the eyes in the room on himself. After a silent sigh, he opened his lips in front of everyone for the first time.

    “My name is Andrew Saturday and I suffer from depression.”

    ‘Hello, Andrew’ he heard everyone else say, everyone except for the begrudgingly pretty girl.

    “Throughout my life I never felt like I was in control of most of my decisions and the ones I had control over I always made the wrong ones. Everything I tried has blown up in my face. I feel like I have achieved nothing in my life and I don’t think I will either because I just keep sabotaging myself by simply being who I am. I am dysfunctional and depressed and a failure and I see no light at the end of the tunnel for me. Thank you for listening.”

    As he finished speaking, he saw her eyes on him for the first time before she quickly averted her own gaze. Weird. During the few seconds that passed with the therapist noting down most of Andrew’s words, he realized it was her turn to speak next. And when the therapist signalled her turn, he was surprised to see her mouth unmoved. Even more to see her casually write things down on the notebook she had in her lap. Eventually she raised the notebook for everyone in the circle to see.

    ‘Hello! I am Bora! Sadly, I am mute and I doubt everyone here knows sign language so this is how I choose to communicate. Please do not ask any questions about that!’

    That was all Bora decided to share, apparently. She seemed to be…an interesting case, too bad other people were also present in the room with their identities and their stories. Andrew didn’t know just how many minutes he had to endure the rest of the session, but surprisingly it flew by quick. Before he or Bora could go into any details about their struggles, the therapist ended the session, apologising about his poor time management before dismissing the group, though not without telling everyone that he expected everyone back for the next session and somehow Andrew was not as cold to the idea as he was during the beginning.

    As he waited for his sister to come and pick him up, Andrew saw everyone leave one by one until there were only two left. After checking if he has got any texts from Eleanor, he came face-to-face with the screen of another phone.

    ‘most people find staring to be very rude.’

    Andrew raised his head a little further and saw Bora standing in front of his chair with the phone nearly shoved at his face. She saw him stare at her like a creep, then. That could’ve been a problem but the girl surprisingly didn’t look too bothered.

    “Sorry.”

    That was all he mustered, which made things even more surprising when Bora actually smiled at him. She had a pretty smile, almost as pretty as her own face as a whole. She typed damn fast on her phone before the screen was once again in front of his eyes to read.

    ‘its ok. u were probably bothered by my feet touching ur legs, tho i must say im kinda flattered lol.’

    He extended his hand quickly, almost too quickly.

    “It was Bora, right? Uh…I’m Andrew.”

    And the hand was taken. The ‘conversation’ was going surprisingly smooth.

    ‘u know, i would be pretty disappointed in you after you didnt remember my name after looking at me for that long. nice to meet u andy!’

    “Likewise, likewise.”

    ‘can i ask why u still here? waiting for a chance to talk to the mysterious mute girl sitting next to you? :P’

    The girl certainly got jokes and she was handling herself surprisingly well for someone who supposedly needed group therapy. Though it was entirely possible she was putting on an act with other people, that’s how Andrew himself mostly coped.

    “I’m waiting for my sister to come and pick me up. She actually suggested me to come here….very strongly.”


    ‘i could tell lol. same with me actually. my dad wanted me here and now i am waiting for my guardian to pick me up.’

    “Your guardian? You mean your dad?”

    ‘do i? :P dont you think its too much to ask from a girl you just met today andy?’

    She had a point there, he was clearly being too forw-

    ‘naaah dont look at me like that, im mostly jesting, but thats kinda personal stuff.’

    “Ah, I’m sorry.”

    His phone buzzed after that, with the text from Eleanor saying that she was in the parking lot. The text he awaited from the beginning was now the text he did not want to recieve. He cursed silently.

    “My sister’s here…I think I’ll be going now.”

    Then he said after standing up from his chair.

    ‘will i be seeing you next session?’

    She asked, and the feeling of being ‘wanted’ broke his defences. Andrew could not hide his blushing cheeks while one hand found the back of his head, awkwardly scratching it.

    “I think so…yeah.”

    ‘good! i will be forced to be here every session so can use somebody like you around. show me a good enough time and this might be the start of something wonderful :D’

    Accepting with a slight nod, the blushing mess that was Andrew knew it was time to head for the exit, though Bora did not let him go without at least one more text to show.

    ‘my lips wont keep sealed forever! well, metaphorically at least :P like i said, be a good boy, a good company to keep and i might even tell you my real name!’

    The fake name didn't even bother Andrew much, especially when he would go on to learn her real name.

    Later in his life, Andrew would grow to see his therapy buddy become a friend, then a best friend, then a girlfriend, then a fiancée…and then, something very complicated.

    Los Angeles, just a few days before Back In Business XV…

    Going through some familiar streets, the only thing keeping the navy blue Hyundai from driving in absolute silence is the radio. But we’re in 2021, so it’s more fitting to just call it Spotify. Two men inside the car are just letting the singer lady sing her song with no words between each other so far.

    ♫…It's so romantic in Paris…
    …Won't even try to compare it…
    …Thought I was sure that I'd find it…
    …But I already have love in LA …


    Neither man in the car has made any comments about the song so far or how fitting the lyrics would be for the person sitting in the passenger seat next to the driver. It was a silent understanding between the two old friends, though it would not last long, they were friends after all, two dick-ish ones.

    “I must say I’m equally impressed and shocked, Kevin.”

    Nova Diamond’s expression bears nothing but an amused smile, looking at the phone that played the music before turning back to face the driver who he just called Kevin. Knowing a thing or two about Nova and FWA would reveal to anyone that a certain Amadeus is currently driving the car, who doesn’t wait long before his retort.

    “What do you mean?”

    Nova replies back with a low-pitched chuckle.

    “Oh, it’s nothing serious. I just didn’t know you had any songs in your playlist that’s not from Oasis or ‘Rock Me Amadeus’. I’m just shocked at your ability to listen to other music.”

    “Okay, first of all, who is in their right mind, listens to only one fucking band?”

    “Honestly? I thought you did. I seriously did.”

    “That’s because you’re a wanker.”


    Taking the phone and staring at the screen, Nova feels the need to ask.

    “But seriously…Sabrina Carpenter? That’s what Spotify says her name is, at least? But her? That was totally not a Kevin Cromwell song.”

    Kevin lets out a sigh as the car turns away from the main road.

    “Because it’s not a Kevin Cromwell song. It’s one of Oneyka’s, and I felt too lazy to change it once it started playing. It’s not bad enough that I have to be your glorified driver after being your glorified trainer, but now my good taste in music is slandered through the fucking mud. Such an ungrateful twat you are, Andy.”

    Yeah…that explanation made much more sense. Kevin still had his spouse, had his happy little family. Nova may had the upper hand in their wrestling rivalry but he could not help but to be jealous of the stability Kevin had managed to retain in his personal life.

    “Your lady’s got a better taste than you.”

    “I know.”

    As the car drifted farther away from the main streets and delved deeper into roads that Nova was more familiar with, the former CC winner could not help himself but to open his gob again.

    “Sorry I kind of dragged you into this again…you know I don’t have my car anymore and this new Fallout contract didn’t help me much in terms of money…since I made it crystal clear that I’m pretty much only going to be there whenever the world title’s involved. And yeah, that’s that… So, I appreciate you doing all of this for me Kev, I really do.”

    Kevin Cromwell, surprisingly, replied with nothing but a nod, indicating his understanding over his friend’s situation. Soon, Nova would put the last Sabrina Carpenter song on loop, lay on his back and close his eyes for the remainder of the ride, which wasn’t long either. The Hyundai stopped in front of a fancy-looking house that was all too familiar to the new Fallout acquisition. A house that was once his own. As Nova pulled the car door open to exit, he heard Kevin speak with a stern tone.

    “You know when your flight starts and I told you when to expect me back here. I’ll wait for ten fucking minutes tops and after that, I’ll fuck off and you’ll find another way to get back. So, don’t make me wait this time, clear?”

    Nova looked back at his friend again, grateful, sending him back with a nod. Kevin was dead serious about things like this and he had no doubts he would just leave Nova here. It was hard to afford the flight to Paris, so he could not afford missing it.

    He heard that it was so romantic in Paris. But he already had love in L.A.

    Had.

    This was going to be tough. Walking to the entrance of his former house, Nova recognized everything looked just as the same as he left them when he left after his last loss to Cyrus Truth. Or at least, from what he remembered. It had been nearly a year, after all. Perhaps a whole year. Time could be a lost concept to him. Nova entered the password that would open the big front gates (which was still ‘1-2-0-5’, the group therapy where he met his…complicated person held its first session on 12th of May of that year, hence the reason behind the password.)

    He walked inside, looking at the environment, passing through the same garden, smelling the same kinds of flowers and walking past through the same decorations before he finally found himself in front of the door. He grabbed the knob, the door was obviously unlocked for him to get in. He had thrown his spare key in the sea after he left and she somehow learned that and so much more. Enough to remove any obstacles that could prevent this big confrontation from happening.

    Nova was inside the house now, feelings of nostalgia and ‘home’ rushing through him with the fastest possible speed. It was so hard to make the decision to leave this place, so he predicted he would feel the weight of that decision again once he took the first step inside, which easily proved to be the case. Resisting the temptation to just come back, reconnect with the girl who changed his life, get his old life back, get his old connections back…it was hard, especially with the weight of the memories mentally pressing him down. But it was not impossible. Min-Su had changed him enough that he could find it in himself to change again. For that, he would be always grateful.

    But as of now, he felt everything but gratitude for her. He didn’t came here to reconnect, to reconcile or even for a closure. He came back to his old home to have some words with his old fiancée because kidnapping his sister Eleanor was a low he could never imagine she would sink, though now he was aware he should’ve seen that coming. There was virtually no bound in between of Min-Su and her goal once she had set her mind to it. And if she wanted him back, well, then she got him back, for today at least.

    Walking past the same, unchanged pieces of furniture, Nova begins to climb the stairs to the attic, for he was certain they would be there.

    “You didn’t have to bring her into this. You didn’t have to bring family into this.”

    He walks inside the room they spent hours to decorate and indeed, found his old flame staring at him dead in the eyes with her own which did not contain half the light Nova remembered they did, definitely not helping the situation about his guilt. More importantly, Ellie was right behind Min-Su…and there was certainly no implication that she had been kidnapped. Both people, with justified reasons Nova believed, looked angry. Even his phone buzzing did not cut the tension in the room as he could predict what that notification was about.

    ‘I thought we were a family.’

    Sounded about right.

    “We have a lot to talk about…brother.”


    Said his sister who he apparently wrongly thought was in danger. Now that Nova slowly realized he had been set up for this trap by two people who got to know him most in his life…he could always turn back and leave, call Kevin to come early and go to Paris. He knew he didn’t have to talk with them. But he stayed. At least Ellie deserved that much, he owed his sister that much. His ex, however…that was a whole different can of worms waiting to be opened.

    “Min-Su was generous enough to offer me a chance to talk to you again, this was her idea to get me here and then send you a text hinting she kidnapped me. I told her it would not work but she was certain you would believe that story up. And she was right, you took the bait.”

    Not taking a seat, not trying to make himself comfortable, Nova continued to stand wherever he was.

    “I figured out that much now, yes. You got me. Hello again, sister...hello again, Su.”

    He sees his sister lay into the chair his ex is sitting on and whisper something inside her ear. A few seconds of silence ends with an accepting nod from the owner of the house, so Ellie takes one step forward, facing her brother directly.

    “After a year of avoiding everyone, you didn’t think you could escape forever, did you?”

    As Nova was about to open his mouth, Ellie’s voice roared to cut him out before he could start.

    “No, no. Don’t fucking answer that. Of course you did. Of course you thought running away was the answer like that could fix anything. How did life treat you since, brother? Did you have fun last year? I heard you lived quite the nomadic life. You went from city to city, I even heard you got yourself into some trouble in Toronto. During all of that, did you even stop and think about how your choices affect other people in your life?”

    Silence.

    Of course you didn’t. You’re selfish, you’re too self-absorbed with yourself to care about others. Letting you go and be Nova Diamond was hard enough for me as it was, Andy. I even found it in myself to forgive you after everything you did to me. I was never the same after you abandoned us to play house with her, yet I forgave you because you were finally happy. You were finally content with yourself and that’s all I wanted from you. I even told you that much myself. But just when I thought you had found your place in life, that your mental being was finally in tact, you go out and burn it all down. “

    Silence.

    “You run away, you write a bullshit thank you note to the woman you sold me and your family for, you don’t even try to inform me about that decision, you don’t even think about how worried I must’ve fucking been for you because you think cutting all your ties with everyone and ‘soul searching’ will make you help your growth or whatever bullshit you have conditioned yourself to believe. That’s exactly how you think and I know you can’t deny any of my words. Because I know you, brother. I knew you before she did, I knew you better than anyone. I still do. I know you, but I can’t understand you. I can ask myself why, I can even ask you why but I know you can’t give me a satisfactory answer because you don’t have one yourself either, do you?”

    Not much there to rebut. Nova just stands still and lets her spill any kind of resentment inside of her, that’s the least he could do. So, she continues, her voice sounds like it’s has the potential to crack up any second, though the circumstances make that entirely reasonable.

    “For years, I loathed myself for not being able to provide you the support she seem to have effortlessly. I thought I was a shitty sister when someone you knew for a few days have helped you ultimately more than your own goddamn family. Now that I realize crystal clear that only you can help yourself. Only you. I couldn’t do it while she only helped you hide your problems instead of solving them. I don’t know why are you like this, Andy? I don’t know why I still care either. But I do. I will always care about you and I will continue to hate that I do. Because you are, without a doubt, the most frustrating person I’ve ever known in my entire life. And changing that…is entirely up to you and you alone. Not me, not her, only you.

    So, Andrew, Nova, whoever you think you are right now, please try to justify yourself, please try to justify my panic attacks, my own struggles like you did to Gabrielle.”


    After all her words, Nova’s jaw finally opens again.

    “Gabrielle has nothing to do with thi-“

    “No, no, she has a lot to do with this. FWA and wrestling have a lot to do with this because after nearly a year of you going radio silent with everyone that cared about you, the first everyone has seen you again was back in the wrestling ring. You came back from your self-isolation not for us, but for…wrestling. I’ll always regret asking you to sign up to MEW with me, I unintentionally started the process that destroyed our family. But I’m so curious about all the reasons about what you do, if there are any.”

    “I can’t explain myself if you’re going to accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about every damn sentence, Ellie. It becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy at this point.”

    “No, please, I won’t interrupt this time. Talk as much and spew as much bullshit as you would like.”

    That, in addition to another nod coming from Min-Su, allows Nova to speak once again.

    “Good. I left because I realized my problems never went away. I left because I realized being Nova Diamond was not that glorious solution to everything like I used to believe. I realized all of that was just an illusion. Yes, you’re right. My problems were my own to solve, so I went out to be myself, alone. I tried, but the person who invited you to verbally smack me in the face made sure my assets were all frozen so everything else from that point was hard for me to do.

    I went away, I travelled, I lived, I hated. I hated every single second of it. I thought I would discover who I truly was and I was left with…nothing. But you know what, I had nobody to hold my hand and guide me, all my choices were my own, and for that I will never be ashamed of. For that I will never regret. I would do it all over again. My only regret in all of this was never letting you two be more aware of my feelings. Maybe if I tried to explain you everything better, you would understand and even support me in my own journey. Or maybe…you would just refuse to listen, rebut everything and tear me a new one…like you do right now.

    Then again, that was always the problem with you, dear sister. You always refused to take my feelings into consideration with anything. It was always had to be your way with you. And when you did, it was too late. You forced me into wrestling. You forced me into that group therapy, then I met her and the rest…is what destroyed all three of us.

    I’m sorry. I’m sorry I never called you. I’m sorry I never told you I was going to be okay. That’s all I’m sorry for, nothing more.”

    Ellie, even though looks somewhat calmer, still does not back down.

    “It had to be my way, Andy, because I could not let you have it your way back then. I encouraged you to start wrestling with me because you could use something to do, a hobby to pursue, a tool to distract you from your own thoughts.”

    “Yes, yes, clearly very genius of you to think my thoughts would flourish under being your useless tag partner who was just there to take damage before hot tagging you.”

    “Any worse than letting you mope and cry in your bedroom all day? No, I don’t believe that. And then, when you did not seem to get better, I negged you until you went to that group therapy, because I believe you needed it. I just didn’t know you would meet…somebody there. The catch here is this, Andy, you could’ve always refused. I didn’t put a gun to your head and force you to do all those things. You just needed to be more confident in yourself and have faith in your own decisions all along. But you didn’t, you let me make decisions for you. I wanted that about you to change for so long, but you never did when it would be the most beneficial for you.

    You never knew what you wanted, you contemplated all your decisions, didn’t make up your mind until one strong impulse randomly passing through your brain. Honestly, that’s the worst thing about you.

    You’re impulsive. You’re quite possibly the most impulsive person I’ve ever known. You always claimed whenever you made your own decisions it always backfired on you. That’s because you always took those decisions randomly, without thinking. Without taking possible consequences into account. You just needed to stop those impulses taking you over.

    Hell, I know you’re going to be in Paris in a few days solely because of your impulsiveness. You spent weeks telling you would only wrestle for the world title. That you would not care about random rivalries and that. Week after week you shouted that. You refused Gabrielle again and again, thought you had a comment on her struggles while you back-talked anyone who commented about your own. You told her no, you told her you would not ‘enable’ her.

    All that talk, and then in the end, all it took was a forearm to the mouth and some drops of blood for your impulses to take over and accept the match on your behalf. That’s just you, brother. You betrayed your own words after one moment of losing control, one moment of weakness. Because that’s who you are.

    You can run away from me, you can run away from her, but you can’t run away from yourself, your own flaws.

    And now, I know you regret accepting the Gabrielle match. But you also know you have to show up and fight to sink not any lower than you currently have. And I say…yes, you absolutely have to do that. You at least need to keep your promise to Gabrielle. You at least need to do that.

    And despite all of my words, I want you to be successful, because you’re my brother and I love you.

    But I also know that one day, you’ll truly have to face the music. You will finally realize that life isn’t the theatre you love so much and that you can’t wrap yourself in layers of narratives you write for yourself.

    When you realize that, you’ll come home. You’ll come back to your family. I will take you back, but I will not forgive you. Maybe one day, I’ll even do that, but I won’t forget.”

    With that, Ellie lightly slaps one of Min-Su’s shoulders before walking forward. She parts her lips apart one last time when she walked past her brother.

    “Yes, now I’m finished. See you later, Andy, you know where to find me.”


    Thus, the sister left, giving Nova much to think about. Though he was not going to find the time to think soon as there still stood one more person in the attic, glaring at him with actually less fury than before. Nova imagined Ellie’s own fury placated the mute girl’s a little. Nova took that opportunity to start the next uncomfortable discussion himself.

    “And you, Min-Su? Was that what you wanted? You conspired with my sister to slap me in the face with my flaws and mistakes. Good on you! Whatever you say about me, I think of that myself tenfold every day. Did you get what you want, at least?”

    Notification sound.

    ‘Why? How could you? Knowing this is all I want.’

    “Nothing I already haven’t said before.”

    ‘Nothing we couldn’t have fixed together if you stayed.’

    “Whenever we try to fix things together, this is what ends up happening.”

    ‘How could you say that?’

    “Leaving helped me reflect on our relationship as a whole, Su, on everything we’ve been together. And by that, I mean everything. Not just the highs.”

    ‘And you’re making it sound like it’s a bad thing. Were you unhappy? Did I make you unhappy? Is that why you left? I just want to know that and what can I do to have you back.’

    A sad smirk appears on Diamond’s face, he shakes hid head slightly.

    “Not sending men after me could’ve been a good start. You didn’t tell my sister about what kind of troubles I ran into, did you? I bet you avoided telling her a lot more things…but for now let’s focus on that.”

    ‘That wasn’t me.’

    The smirk disappears, leaving its place to a cold expression and shocked-looking eyes.

    “Explain.”

    ‘It’s not me who has explaining to do here but I’ll do it anyway. When you left and I learned my father helped you do that, I cut all contact with him, locked myself in this house and the old fool obviously regretted his choice to help you take yourself out of my life. That’s how you got suits following you all over the continent. If you want to be angry about that then be angry at Atticus, not me. It hurts me that you thought I was the one who sent them, though it doesn’t surprise me that much.’

    “…”

    ‘Now that my explanation is out of the way, let’s hear yours. Was it because you kept losing matches? Was it because you believed I wouldn’t want you anymore after you kept failing? Was it something else? Please enlighten me so I know where we go from here.’

    “In the beginning, it was for the obvious reason I stated over and over. I realized I never healed like I thought I was. I wasn’t Andrew Saturday anymore but I never lived up to being Nova Diamond either. I left to find who I really am. I found nothing…but enough time to think about everything. For both of our sakes, do not press me to go into more detail.”

    ‘You realize you don’t have many options, Nova, right?’

    “What do you mean?”

    ‘I brought out your sister here to not only get your attention, but to show exactly why you can’t return that home of yours. If you go back to your biological family, all they are going to do is to judge you for your past mistakes. Whenever you have a slight disagreement, even when it has nothing to do with the topic, your sister will remind you how you abandoned her. She’s scarred forever, she will never get over it. She will be always in the shadow of what we did, what we had together. She will take all of that on you and she will never stop. That’s why you can’t go back to her, to your ‘family’.

    Meanwhile, you still have a home here, Nova. You can come back to me, you’ll never have to worry about such things. Together, we are strong enough to overcome everything. You’ll just have to promise me that it will be just the two of us like the good old days. Me and you, against the world. Just like we promised each other before.’

    “You still look at everything with rose-coloured glasses. Su, this is literally what I’m talking about. What we had was…powerful. Intoxicating. Just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl of fantasies, not realizing we have been swimming too deep. It was just too damn easy to let ourselves drown in our delusions and that’s what we did. Look at yourself, look at me. We were co-dependent on each other to the point of toxicity.

    And that’s ironic because our relationship started with us only using each other. You were too suffocated with being sheltered that you used me to as a way to escape. I took you places, showed you new things, while I just needed somebody to be my manic pixie dream girl. I used you for my fantasies while you also took me places, showed me new things. We helped each other change…and not exactly in the most positive ways.

    You isolated me from my family, my friends because you just wanted to have me for yourself. And I played along because being wanted was my drug. I ate it all up, all your abuse, all your gaslighting because I knew you did all of that because you wanted me and it was so damn intoxicating. We enabled each other, simultaneously brought out the best and the worst in each other.

    What we had was unhealthy. It had unhealthy foundations so I knew it would not last even when most of our toxicity died down when everything was so smooth for us. Big contracts, big money, big opportunities. And when my downward spiral hit, I bailed because I realized I didn’t grow to become a better, more stable man. I needed to do that myself without you.”

    After Nova finishes speaking, he sees Min-Su make an attempt to get off her chair, but eventually she slumps right back into it. Her hands once again types on her phone furiously so Nova waits for what she has to say. Checking his clock however, indicated he didn’t have much time before Cromwell’s arrival.

    ‘I can’t believe this is how you decide to look at all the beautiful memories we’ve created together. I just can’t believe what I’m hearing, I wish my ears worked as well as my voice so I didn’t hear you throw away all those years like they were nothing to you. Toxicity? Codependency? Enabling? Do your horrendous words even reach your ears? We were going to get married, Nova, for god’s sake. You promised me. You promised that we’d be a happy family together. And now that also means nothing to you?

    I know what we had together wasn’t the most conventional but we both knew ‘conventional’ wasn’t our thing. Conventional wasn’t what we sought out from each other. It was something only we could have had together, it was so damn special to me. You dare call ‘us’ toxic when we helped each other in ways that we never thought possible before? You dare claim that when I helped you fucking be somebody? Your sister can run her mouth all she likes but I was the one who fucking beat your depression for you, it wasn’t her, it wasn’t you. I did that for you. Just like you did that to me. I made you happier than you’ve ever been before, and you did the same for me. And you call that toxic? Do you even know the meaning of that word?

    Hell, you made me agree with Eleanor, congratulations. You once again locked yourself into whatever dramatic bullshit narrative you have built for yourself and you cover your ears and scream so you don’t hear people calling you out on your bullshit. But you’re wrong. You’ve never been that wrong, not even when you were that human shell of a person that I needed to breathe life into.

    But you can still open your eyes, wake up from this new narrative of yours and see the reality that have always been in front of you. Me, you, us. We belong together. We complete each other. I don’t give a shit if you lost ten or a thousand wrestling matches. I don’t give a shit about that, I never have. I just wanted you to achieve whatever you wanted to achieve. Even if you can’t do that, it doesn’t mean anything to me. Please, I’m begging you. Come back to me, and we can continue from where we left off. I want to be ‘us’ again. I just want to be whole again.

    Though looking at you, seeing how you look at me and how you think about me and everything we’ve gone together. I just can’t help but feel the need to ask that, Nova.

    You said that we used each other and I’m telling you that you became so much more for me even though it started out that way. Have you felt the same way? Have I grown past that? I loved you with my whole being and you know that. But did you? Did you even love me?’


    The last question…was not one of millions of questions he had asked himself ever since his departure, but it needed to ba answered clearly. One step forward, then it became two, three and more until he was just in front of her. Going on one knee, he took her hand between his. Taking a deep breath and making eye contact, he gave his answer:

    “I tried.”

    Under Min-Su’s distraught but unsurprised gaze, Nova gets up again and slowly leaves the attic. He climbs down the stairs with the massive feeling of emptiness within his every cell, every ounce of existence. He gets himself out…no, throws himself out of the house, out of the garden, out of the gates and finally, finds himself in Kevin’s car once again. Just laying on the backseat, he thinks about a billion things as Cromwell drives him to the airport.

    The intimate set-up of the room was not bothering him as the circle of chairs did not seem to be taken. Not many humans to be intimate around this time, not many to bump into when shifting and adjusting. Bland beige walls were not even considered as he only stared at his clipboard laying on his lap. After a deep sigh, his head raises and his stare is fixated somewhere.

    “I have to commend your bravery and strength for coming here and being with me at this moment. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you needed help and take the first step towards getting better. I realize you may not see it that way for now, the disease we call depression is more than capable of draining one’s self-worth entirely that you fail to recognize the simplest steps of growth. It’s more than okay, I’m here to at least try and guide…”

    His words die in his throat as he once again stares at his clipboard. He takes off the glasses he was wearing and throws the clipboard.

    “No, no, not really.

    I can’t believe it all turned up like this. But I guess I don’t have anyone to blame but myself for my impulses. Either then, a simple ‘yes’ would’ve been a lot more appropriate than punching you in the face and then dropping you on your head. That…was my recklessness, I shouldn’t have lost control of myself like that and for that I can’t do anything but to say sorry. And I guess months of not seeing myself bleed…well, you making me bleed awakened my impulses, then again, that is entirely my fault and I should’ve conducted myself better.

    Because despite everything, I don’t have anything against you. I still don’t. I don’t hate you and you may even say you are still one of my favourite wrestlers, Gabs. I’m only disappointed that I allowed myself to be side-tracked like this and the example I’ve set for myself for giving into you. I imagine that’s not going to make my mouth a primary target in the future for those who want to fight me.”


    Nova chuckles after that joke, but he’s also quick to recover from that shift.

    “Some part of me would’ve been honored by you wanting to face me at the biggest stage in wrestling, however I can’t say it isn’t frustrating to be targeted like this. People can ask the big question of ‘why’ about what lead us here. Why did Gabrielle Montgomery, actively push for a match while all she had been doing since Desert Storm was just showing up, letting the tides lead her to fight whoever they would be? And to give you credit, you were very persistent of answering that question. You wanted to be at Back In Business. You thought if you couldn’t get yourself a place there, then there was no place left for you at wrestling, the only thing you have conditioned yourself to believe you have left. It could’ve been anyone, all you wanted was just a match. Nothing personal there.

    Except that it’s not the case at all, is it?

    I don’t think this is about just being at Back In Business. No, I think that’s just how you try and cover it. It had to be me. Can you tell me that I’m wrong? You didn’t want just a match. If you did, you could’ve asked anyone. Alyster Black surely wouldn’t have turned you down. Or you could always have answered the call of your ex-husband before Krash did. There were plenty of roads to Paris, yet I was the one you picked. Not those who aimlessly wandered around, not those who actively looked for a fight, but me. The good old Nova Diamond, who said time and time again that he didn’t want to wrestle in BIB.

    But according to you, I owed you that match. Alyster Black or Chris Kennedy didn’t play a part in your downfall, but I did. Chris didn’t eliminate you from Carnal Contendership two years in a row. Alyster didn’t use you as a stepping stone in order to build himself up for his big title match. You hold me responsible for your baggage, for being better at you when things mattered. I ruined things for you and now, you want to do the same to me before my big Elimination Chamber match.

    Except…no, you’re better than that. Even at your lowest, this can’t be about petty revenge, no, no. I don’t believe that either.

    You don’t want to beat me up or teach me a lesson because you’re frustrated about what paths I’ve blocked for you. I wasn’t the only one who made life difficult for you. It is something else that you want. You went at me full speed, crashed intoto me because it was solidarity that you sought out for. You yearned for comfort, give a meaning into what they call a ‘feud’, or a ‘rivalry’. I don’t think so. It’s not what I wanted and I can say that it’s not what you want either.

    You look at me and you see someone who was in a similar situation to you. A kindred spirit, some might say. You see someone who rose above all the self-doubts and demons and mental struggles to come back to the ring again to chase the one goal that he proclaimed he will never let go of. You see determination that you lack. You see focus, drive. You want it. You want to feel all of that again. But those demons won’t let you. The so-called Gods of FWA has taken all of that from you. They took your fire from you and replaced it with that ice, that coldness that keeps the broken pieces of your heart together so you can still have the bare minimum strength in yourself to keep yourself standing.

    You want them all back and you think I can give you every single drop back. You think I hold all the answers of how to beat the internal forces that keep you down, keep you tied-up while they whisper horrible, horrible stuff to your ear about how you’re a pitiful human trash and you don’t deserve a single ounce of happiness for the rest of your life and they damn you, they damn you to wallow in your own misery and depression for an exit they hide from you so they can torment you all over and over again.

    But no, I have no answers to give to you, Gabrielle Montgomery. Truth be told, I have no answers for myself either. I can’t be your therapist, because in this room, I’m just another patient. I can’t defeat your demons for you.

    I can only defeat you and hope that I’ve knocked the strength into you to fight them yourself. And if I fail again, if I only end up furthering the opposite of my purpose here, then I want you, your friends, your family and everyone who respects and loves you to know: I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. I’m sorry that I couldn’t help the great Gabrielle Montgomery out of this horrible, horrible abyss that she is aimlessly wandering in.

    But I’m not going to be sorry for beating you. I’m not going to enjoy it either, I will only do what I must.

    See you at Paris.”


    What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?


  15. #15
    Liv Forever

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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Change is coming in the FWA. Fight Night will be no more. The FWA will once again go the direction of two brands though Fight Night and CrossFire are both relegated to the past. Saint Sulley is by all accounts set to retire. Michelle von Horrowitz seems set to claim the throne that has been her apparent destiny from day one. This truly is the dawn of a new Era, a new day in the FWA. Different faces, a new guard on top while the names in FWA history seem to be at the end of their road.

    This is something that has consumed much of Gabrielle’s thoughts in recent days. She’d pleaded with Nova Diamond for a match at Back In Business, too no avail. He wanted no part of it, he wanted to part of dwelling in the past. All about looking forwards to the Golden Opportunity. A briefcase and cute name that were dangled in front of Gabrielle’s face…just so the Gods could crush her and toss her aside as all things march towards the culmination of their plans.

    Everything is changing, and even after everything she has achieved and everything she has sacrificed she’s being left behind, left in the past.

    Everyone has moved on, and forgotten about Gabrielle, or they just simply don’t care. She knows when people claim too that they’re just fishing for brownie points. They want to look supportive so people think highly of them…but no ones coming to actually help her. No one is here to support her. They’ve all moved on.

    She’s a discarded relic of the past, her every feat, her every achievement is worthless now.

    Case in point; she’s found herself sitting alone at a bus stop. Her hoodie pulled up over her head to hide her away from everyone as she stares down at her phone. Watching, listening to the words of Shake Meltzer, Rupert Watkins and Cal Robinson.

    RW: I will be more clear, just for the record’s sake, on someone that I don’t want. Much has been made in the online press recently about the treatment of Gabrielle Montgomery. I can’t take any responsibility, or credit, for this treatment, but I can hardly say I disagree with my partners on Fight Night. This is not the sort of attitude that I would want to bring to my brand. Next thing you know, she will be unionizing, and we know where that leads…
    Every word just reinforces every thought that Gabrielle has thesedays. She’s not wanted, she wont be drafted. No one cares about what she’s going through, they just want her gone so their lives are easier.

    RW: One thing that I certainly want to address is something that I believe, from my impartial observations as - as I’ve already admitted - a content outsider, has been festering within this organisation for a while. There is a probability when it comes to credibility, both in terms of the match-making process and the business culture associated with the Fantasy Wrestling Alliance. In the ring, we’ve seen pay-per-view main events over the last year that are just not in line with what the world wants to see. Gabrielle Montgomery and Mike Garcia are, well, they’re good hands, but they aren’t going to be selling out arenas in 2021, let alone in 2025. This limited concept of opportunity will soon be a thing of the past.

    And as for out of the ring? We have seen too much from our on-screen stars who, if I’m perfectly honest with you, should remain just that: on-screen. Montgomery and Garcia are just two examples. Von Horrowitz is another. Black and Krash walk around with belts manufactured and promoted by competition. Trivial competition, but competition none-the-less. I want Fallout to be taken seriously in every sense, and that is precisely what I am: a serious man.”
    His statements absolutely defeat her. But the worst part is…he’s right.

    And Gabrielle knows it. She’s felt it, she’s heard it, she’s seen it ever since she came out of retirement. Sure sometimes she’s met with adulation and love from the fans, sometimes.

    But far too often they’re all still clearly judging her by her past. Judging her by things she did years ago and acting like she couldn’t possibly have changed. No one remembers when she fought for the FWA’s very survival against Jimmy King. No one remembers when she won the FWA World Championship for the second time and celebrated in the ring with her daughter. No one remembers all her great deeds, they only remember her at her worst.

    She wants to find Rupert Watkins and kick him in the throat. But she knows he’s right. Its why her name, her face, her now broken and discarded Legacy are not used by the FWA to promote anything. She see’s it at every show; no posters, no advert appearances, no merch…nothing.

    Its not just the Gods who have discarded her. It has been everyone. She knows that the last sixteen years of her life now mean nothing. The only thing she has to show from all that time is a daughter that she’s too ashamed to see. Nothing else means anything anymore. Everything she accomplished in the FWA is worthless. Sixteen years amounts to nothing.










    There is a brief sense of relief upon Gabrielle as she’s passed her latest round of physicals. A requirement from the FWA for her over recent months. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the company continuing to book her as her mental state has spiralled further and further. So requiring her to pass certain physical tests before every match has been one way of ‘covering their asses’.

    Though after she fainted in the middle of a Cage match with Captain Fantasy these protocols have been revised and the tests have become more strenuous to ensure she’s up to the rigours of competing.

    Today, just hours out from the last ever Fight Night she’s passed all these new tests, and for the first time in a long time feels not quite happy, but content. Her thoughts have been a storm of fears recently. Fears that she wont be drafted, fears that she wont make Back In Business and fears that if she didn’t make it onto this Fight Night then her career is over.

    But it seems someone has picked her to be someone else’s ‘poison’. So for now, for the next few hours at least Gabrielle still has a purpose in life, she still has something to do, she’s still a Professional Wrestler…for now. So its eased her troubled mind, until the bell rings after her match she’s still somebody. She just doesn’t know who she’s facing, yet.

    The hours pass by. The last ever Fight Night begins, the Curtain Call to the FWA’s most popular and long running brand. Mike Parr ended up facing Krash. He was the one palatable option for Gabrielle, the one possible opponent that didn’t bring so much emotion out of Gabrielle. So now she’s a ball of nerves. Michelle von Horrowitz besting Gabrielle right before Back In Business and sending her off to the unemployment line is just what ‘they’ want. Just the thought of it incensed her and caused her to clench her hands into a fist. As for facing Saint Sulley…she couldn’t even bring herself to think about that possibility.

    And then as Saint Sulley makes his way down to the ring Gabrielle is approached by some random crew member. He’s very young and very nervous. Considering what he’s been sent to tell her he’s probably some unlucky intern. She barely hears a word he says after “Saint Sulley”. She’s facing Saint Sulley…

    Why would they do this to her? Why would Mike Parr choose her? Why do none of these people care about her?

    Sending Gabrielle out there to face Sullivan shows a complete indifference to everything she’s struggling though. These people really do want her gone. This young intern keeps babbling away about something, he looks remorseful, its not his call and he knows how wrong it is but nothing he says registers with her.

    Its taking everything within her, every bit of strength she has left to even just stay on her feet and not collapse into a ball.

    She trudges away from him, squeezing her hands into fists so tightly that it hurts. But its nothing compared to the reality of having to face Sullivan again. Everyone is just mocking her again, teasing her, trying to break what little resolve she has left. All she wanted was a match on Fight Night, and a match at Back In Business. She just wants to compete, to do the one thing she has left in her life…

    But she cant even get that anymore. Everyone is just mocking her struggles, mocking her downfall and helping the Gods who have cast her aside finish the job.

    She knows she’s not special anymore. Not wanted anymore. They’ve all moved on. No one wants to use her face to promote the FWA. None of the fans chant her name or wave banners around for her anymore. She hasn’t heard her name mentioned in the list of ‘Greats’ for so long now.

    The Goddess has truly fallen, and with it everything she ever did, everything she ever accomplished is worthless, meaningless and forgotten.

    As she lowers her head and her hair, her discoloured, matted, nearly ruined hair cascades down around her face, hiding her away. She silently weeps. This is how its all coming to an end. They’ve sent her out to face Sullivan again, not caring about what it would do to her, what it means to her, how it will impact her.

    As she hears her music hit, she finds herself cursing those childhood dreams that brought her here to this nightmare. Sixteen years of her life have amounted to absolutely nothing. This is all she has left, and she feels so worthless doing it…










    Draft night has finally come for the FWA. The dawn of a new Era in the premier Professional Wrestling Company. The roster has become so stacked, so competitive, so impressive that one show can’t contain so many Egos, so many Characters, so much Drama. Fallout and Meltdown are a brand new direction for the FWA. All around the World fans have tuned in to watch the draft unfold. The talents themselves have eagerly tuned in as well, intent on seeing which brand they’ll call home, and just how highly they are valued. Chris Kennedy is likely watching on from his Estate with Bell and Carmella by his side. Alyster Black is probably half cut in some bar somewhere watching on. Lizzie Rose…she’s probably accidentally tuned into SpongeBob SquarePants or something similar.

    But none of them have as much on the line tonight as Gabrielle does…at least in her own mind, in her reality. Her entire future is at stake here. Being in the FWA and competing is all she has left now, and there’s the possibility that no one will want to draft her in her current state to their show.

    Case in point, while most of her colleagues are watching the draft with family, with friends, and within familiar surroundings she is all alone in some cheap poorly lit Motel room. She’s sitting on the bed, with the probably not regularly washed blankets wrapped around her entire being helping to hide her from the World even more. She holds her phone tightly in both hands, her attention fixed to the screen and the live feed of the FWA Draft.

    Cal Robinson: "Myself and my associate were 100% in agreement on who our first choice would be, should we be able to make the first choice of this process. Ladies and gentlemen, with the number one pick, Fallout selects: KRASH!"
    Gabrielle just keeps intently watching, her expression unchanging for now. Krash was a worthy first pick afterall…



    Rupert Watkins: "Time for Fallout to get some gold of its own: with the fifth overall pick, Fallout selects the FWA X Division Champion, Chris Peacock."
    Hardly a surprise to see a Champion picked so highly. Though Gabrielle grips her phone even tighter.



    Dinorah Redgrave: "Michelle von Horrowitz is going to Meltdown."
    Just the mention of her name causes Gabrielle to grit her teeth. Her interactions with Michelle is limited to just one solitary moment in a CWA WrestleRoyale…yet her name makes her uncomfortable. Not for anything she’s done. Rather just how favourably the Gods look upon her after casting Gabrielle aside.



    Dinorah Redgrave: "The 16th pick of the FWA Brand Split Draft is... Lizzie Rose!"
    For a moment there is a flicker of joy upon her face. But just for a moment. Her protegee, her biggest fan Lizzie Rose a bundle of nervous energy picked so highly, looked upon so favourably…but picked ahead of Gabrielle herself. She bites down on her bottom lip, drawing blood but not even noticing it.



    Dinorah Redgrave: "With the twenty second pick in the FWA Draft, Meltdown takes Logan Darwin."
    She just stares at her phone, slowly processing the words she has just heard as a few tears trickle down her cheeks. Twenty Two picks in and Gabrielle’s darkest fear is becoming a reality. No one values her anymore, no one cares about her anymore, no one wants her. A 45 year old with two matches in the FWA is more important than her, more desired as a Pro Wrestler than her. Her tears fall down upon her phone, blotting the screen as she tries desperately to sink further back into the blankets.



    Dinorah Redgrave: "At pick 24 overall, Meltdown takes Saus X."
    A prospect for the future no doubt. But the last straw, the final nail…its all she can take. It has truly become reality, Unwanted, unneeded, cast aside. She stares down at her phone for a moment as her hands clench it tighter and tighter, her knuckles turning white as she grips it so intensely. And then she tosses it as hard as she can right through the window of her Motel room, smashing it with a loud crash. She collapses back onto the bed drowning in a pit of despair and her own tears.

    Sixteen years, Sixteen long years. Broken bones, concussions, burns from more Trial By Fire matches than anyone else, so many scars. World Championships, Tag Team Championships, Women’s Championships. Breaking barriers, changing the World, Paving the way for every woman that came after her. And it all means nothing, at the end of it all, at her lowest point, her loneliest point no one cares about any of that. It’s all meant nothing; it was all for naught.

    She knew it was coming, she knew no one wanted her anymore. But reality slapping her in the face makes it so much worse, she wasn’t prepared for just how much this would hurt, and how truly empty she would feel. Sixteen years amounts to nothing in yet another moment.





    Her phone managed to survive being hurled through a window, just. There’s some chips and dents in the phone and the screen is cracked all over the place but it still works, and when she squints just enough Gabrielle can read text on the screen.

    She’s roughing it tonight now, the Motel Manager didn’t appreciate having a window smashed late at night by an unruly guest and kicked her out. In the past Gabrielle would have easily talked her way out of any wrongdoing. Her soft caramel skin, hourglass figure, and those bright brown eyes of hers got her out of trouble more than once. In her wilder younger years there were a few trashed Hotel rooms and the like that saw her skate by unpunished after batting her eyelashes.

    But tonight in her state, even on the verge of tears she couldn’t talk her way into being allowed to stay. It was a miracle that she’d managed to talk her way into taking that blanket with her.

    That blanket she has wrapped around her body in the dead of night as she sits on a random park bench all alone. Its doubtful that she’s ever felt lower in her life than she does right now. There’s been so few moments we’ve ever seen of a ‘low’ Gabrielle, until recently. She feels like everything has been ripped away from her, it feels like a pack of Wolves have attacked her and torn into her very soul.

    The famed Caramel Coated Goddess…reduced to this. Alone, neglected, defeated. The Motel Manager had no idea who she was, he even referred to her as a ‘junkie slut’ as he kicked her out. THE Gabrielle, reduced to this. She’s unrecognisable. For the better part of sixteen years every room she walked into, every head turned. Everyone knew who she was, and if they somehow didn’t then they were very quickly informed of just who Gabrielle is.

    Icon. Revolutionary. Legend. Future Hall of Famer. Game Changer. Insatiable. Undeniable. Great. Fantasy come to life. Hero. Super Star.

    But no one looks at her like that anymore. Most people ignore her now, and if they do stare its usually with a mixture of pity and disgust. No one calls her any of those things anymore either. Its all in the past. All she is now, is a broken woman clutching onto her broken dreams to give her any kind of purpose of life.

    She sighs, loudly. Her voice carried away by the cool night air, she’d almost welcome any voice in reply at this point. Anything to not feel so totally alone in the World. But all she has is herself, all she can do is stare down at her broken phone, and the broken reflection it shows her.


    “I didn’t deserve any of this.” She mutters to no one. Again she waits for a reply. Anyone to hear her and comfort her. She’s never been lower than right now, she wants help right now, in this moment. But no one comes.

    There’s only one thing left to do, one last time. As far as Gabrielle is aware this is the end of her career. One more trip to Paris, the City where she first met her Childhood Hero Kerry Kennedy and her career comes to a close. As far as she knows no one wanted her on their brand. Rupert Watkins gloated about not wanting her on Fall Out. And even the all-female trio of Dinorah, Sally, and Alana showed no interest in signing Gabrielle for Meltdown.

    She’s without a brand, all she has is this one match with Nova Diamond. A match he refused to give her, preferring to just sit at home and leaving her with nothing. Standing in the ring on the verge of breaking down completely, on the verge of entirely snapping as Saint Sulley put on his little act was almost the end of her career right there.

    But she gets one more moment in the sun, one more night to try and be ‘Gabrielle’ again. One more Back In Business. One last match before the Gods discard of her entirely…

    So she does what she has to do, the only thing she can think of doing; she vents. Stumbling through her shattered phone she eventually starts to record herself. The image is truly a Gabrielle the World never thought it would see. So wholly defeated and dejected. Words like ugly, disturbing, chaotic come to mind upon staring upon her face. Words that never should have been used to describe Gabrielle…

    But here we are.

    Things were never meant to turn out like this when she returned in 2019.

    She doesn’t speak at first, she just breathes, softly, slowly. The words threaten to just spill out of her mouth at a mile a minute. So many thoughts are raging on inside her mind. So many fears have come to life. The World used to hang on her every word, her speeches were gospel. Now she’s alone in the middle of the night under a blanket on a park bench and no one cares.

    The World just passes her by.
    “The World is just passing me by. All I wanted was to get the opportunity to be a Wrestler. Then I just wanted to prove that I could hang with the best women in the World. Soon that became the best men in the World. And then truly the Best, I wanted to fight the absolute best and do things that I never imagined…even in my wildest dreams.”

    Silence for a bit, she just lets the cold night air carry away her tears before speaking again. “Look where I am now, all I want is the opportunity to be a Wrestler. Its all I want, its all I have left. All I can look forward too is stepping inside that ring week after week. After everything I’ve done, I’m right back where I started.”

    “When I came to the FWA they didn’t see me as anything more than just a pretty face, a pair of tits and an ass I could shake as I managed Jack. That’s all they saw in me. Somehow after everything I did to be so much more than that. Every barrier I broke down, every Championship I won…somehow I’m now worse off…”

    “I chased my childhood dream, and I actually achieved it, I actually made it into reality. Yet somehow, someway I’ve wound up here with nothing to show for it all.” She stares up at the starless sky, of course there’s no stars. “I wish I never knew the name Kerry Kennedy. I wish I never left my simple life in New Zealand. I could have done anything else, been anyone else. Instead…I’m this…”

    “How can I have nothing to show from any of this. How can I have no one there to comfort me…to help me, to love me? I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve to be tossed aside like this. I atoned for my sins, I made amends, I changed. I became someone I could be proud of being, but the Gods grew tired of me, and now no one wants me.”


    Silence for what feels like forever but could only be a few short seconds in reality. But its so quiet and so awkward and Gabrielle looks so tragically defeated in her heart, her body, her mind and her soul that it seems to drag on forever.

    “No one wants any part of me, why’d you make me have to beg?” The way she stares down into the screen of her shattered phone, its obvious there’s only one person she could be talking too. “All I can look forward too is match after match. Something for me to do in life, something to tear me away from this empty silence. Its all I have, and you couldn’t even give me one match.”

    “Nova…why’d you have to make this so hard? I know you lusted for me, lusted over the Caramel Coated Goddess in the past. I’m sure you ‘read’ my Playboy far too often. Yet you couldn’t just give me what I wanted, the only thing I wanted. You could have made me happy, you could have brought a feeling of joy into my life. Instead, all you did was help make me realise just how unwanted I am now. Just how insignificant I am now, because of you I can see just how done with me the Gods truly are.”

    “Its just one match, one night…why’d you have to make it so hard?”

    “I wasn’t asking for the World, just the chance to perform in front of it. But you just kept denying me, hurting me, piling on top of all the anguish I feel. People don’t turn me down, people don’t turn me away, at least they never used too. But now I struggle to even get any kind of match at Back In Business. Me, of all people, no match, no opportunity. All I had was you, sitting on the sidelines thinking you could rely on that Golden Opportunity, that Curse in disguise that you don’t even have.”

    “You’re just letting the Gods lure you in with that, reel you in like a fish caught on a hook. Trust me I know. I thought I had it all, I thought I had the greatest opportunity I could ask for. But I never did, I never had a chance. The Gods were never going to allow me to get in the way of what they wanted. They’d never allow you either.”


    Silence again. She needs to compose herself. For sure there was a little more venom to her tone for a moment there. A bit more bark to her now usually so frail speech. But she’s still on the verge of just crumbling completely. She could just hide in this blanket forever and let the World continue along, continue passing her by. That would be so easy, no one would bother her, no one would care. She’d be free of it all.

    But even in her state deep down she doesn’t want to give in completely. Deep down Gabrielle wants to feel the sun on her skin, a pair of warm hands against her skin and something gold around her waist. But she has to push all of that even deeper down. Acknowledging those wants and desires even for just a moment makes it all hurt even more. Wanting anything, just makes how little she actually gets even more painful. Shooting for the Stars now…it seems impossible.

    The little girl she once was dreamed of being just like Kerry Kennedy. The Goddess she became achieved that. The woman she is now though…she doesn’t have any dreams. It all seems impossible. All she dares to ask for is to get to step into the FWA ring and compete. But now as far as she is aware she wont even get to do that anymore after Back In Business.


    She pulls her hair back out of her face, and just holds it there as she stares down into her lap and her phone before finally speaking again. “There was nothing Golden about it. They broke me with it, and now I see all these familiar faces sitting around mocking me, teasing me. Belittling my struggles, claiming their own place in breaking me and discarding of me…or even worse; pretending they care about me.”

    “At least you don’t do that Nova. You simply don’t care. So consumed by yourself and yourself alone that the only way I could get through to you was by drawing your blood. It felt good in that moment, it always does. Its what I do, its what I have, its what I am, its all I can rely upon. I fight and I fight and I fight.”

    “I fight for nothing and yet everything. I fight for purpose and for some kind of meaning in life. But if everything I have done in my life already cant make me important in the eyes of men like you or Rupert, then nothing ever will. Men like you only care about yourselves. Men like you exist in your own little bubble, and think you’re great. Think you’re special, think you can look down upon someone like me.”


    She looks around at the complete stillness and silence around herself, and sighs. “I guess I cant blame you there can I?”

    “Look at me, this is all I have left now. A ticket to Paris, a one-way ticket…after all why bother coming back? There’s nothing left here for me, nothing at all. Once I beat you Nova…or maybe you beat me…then Gabrielle is no more. The Gods get what they want now that they have no more use for me. No more Gabrielle.”

    “No happy retirement this time, and there wont be a glorious return any day after this. Does this make you special Nova? You’re to be my last. After this…I just…I…I…what becomes of me…”


    Her voice trails off as she falls silent once more. She pulls the blanket tighter around her body, it feels warm and secure. Its all she’s got to shield her from anything, right now.

    “I don’t know what I do after this. All I know is I have you in Paris to look forward too. One more night. One more moment. Maybe even one more chance to prove to anyone that I still have some worth. Maybe I can still be someone, or maybe I don’t get to be…ever again.”

    “How has it come to this for me, after everything, can you tell me that Nova Diamond? Do you know, do you think there’s anything that anyone could say to explain to me why I deserve this pain? Does anyone know? Why were the Gods so cruel to me?”


    “Even now they’ve orchestrated it all so that my career, my everything comes to a close on the same night that Sulley hopes to ride off into the sunset.” A fear tears run down her cheeks now. “No one will care that I am gone, because this is how it was meant to be. I was meant to lose at Desert Storm, not allowed to win no matter what I did. Now while everyone waits with baited breath to see if Saint Sulley can ride off into the sunset…all that I can find meaning in will be ripped away from me forever.”

    “No more Fight Night, no more Gabrielle…but it doesn’t matter. Relics of the past that are no longer needed. And all I wanted from you Nova was this one match. You who think you have everything ahead of you, couldn’t just give the woman who has nothing ahead of her this one thing.”

    “I hate you. I hate Saint Sulley. I hate everyone who has abandoned me. I hate Kerry. I hate the FWA. I hate it all.”


    The sound of her tears rolling off her cheeks and crashing onto the cold ground below breaks the brief silence.

    “I hate this life that has brought me here. I hate you for not just seeing I how badly I needed this one thing from you. You owed me this one little thing. You ended my Carnal Contendership dreams two years in a row. You should have just given me this match when I asked for it. But most of all, I hate myself…”

    Those soft little splashes stop and once again we hear nothing. Nothing until she starts to pull at her hair. Dismaying as strands of her badly kempt, damaged hair comes lose in her hands.


    “I want to show you Nova, and I want to show the World how much I hate all of this. How much I hate even myself now for chasing this dream that got me here.”


    She tosses the clump of her own hair aside and then drops the blanket from around her shoulders. There is a fire to her voice, hatred consuming some of the sorrow and despair in her being. But even still she can’t muster up the energy of the famed Goddess. As she sits there, she is a mixture of anger, sadness, fury, loneliness, chaos and desperation. All these emotions wage war on her face and she cant hide any of them.


    You all want me gone. So many people have conspired to destroy me and see the end of me. But if Gabrielle is no more…I will make it so that no matter what anyone tries no one can forget me…If I cant have it all…then no one will…


  16. #16
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Captain Fantasy (2021) #3

    THE FLOOR IS LAVA... AND SAUCE!

    Somewhere in Nowheresville, Fantasyland



    “Ladies and gentleman, as you well know, Fantasyland is expanding! We’ve hit records highs in revenue, heroes and villains alike from the past have come to join the heroes and villains that have marked our present! The citizens of Nowheresville have demanded more and more heroes and villains to war for their entertainment and we have answered! One could say, Nowheresville’s demands outstripped what it could contain… and so we’ve made the executive decision to split Nowheresville into two self-contained towns capable of handling the needs of our citizens. Some of us board members will be leading the town of Fallout, while the others will be leading the town of Meltdown. By now, you’ve all been informed which town you will be relocated to, and villains, take heed, we will unleash all our possible might on you should you try to transgress a territory you do not belong to.”


    “Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities for heroes and villains of Meltdown and Fallout to intermingle! And, it is that time of the year, is it not? The time of the year where the blood runs hot, where grudges are settled, where the fiercest battles are fought. In commemoration of this unprecedented time in Fantasyland, the board has invited many of you up and coming heroes and villains to HQ for a special once in a lifetime opportunity. We are going to be running a special game of… wait for it… the Floor… is…. LAVA! Wooooooo! And the winner will get a free shot at YOUR new town’s champion, whether that be any of those goofballs fighting for the X key over on Fallout or the mighty Wayward Warrior and the Liberator fighting for the NA key on Meltdown. You all know those are two of the highest goals to attain in Fantasyland, so remember, take no prisoners, show no mercy, push whoever gets in your way onto the floor, and stake your claim to glory!”




    Elsewhere in Nowheresville, Fantasyland
    … The Captain & his “Sidekick”


    “Help! Help! They’re after me! Help!” The high pitched voice of Giant Killer fills the hallways of the Fantasyland HQ. He’s desperately running using two walking sticks that allow him to see from unnatural heights for the first time in his life.


    Captain Fantasy’s eyes open wide at the sound of the most important word in the entire world. “Help!” How can he possibly ignore such a cry, coming from anyone. He stands up from the couch he was sitting (cross-legged on) and hops onto the coffee table, the next desk, and with a rare feat of athleticism, makes it onto a big potted plant. He reaches for the door, and while its locked, a man of his size does not struggle twisting it open anyways. A man he’d once met in the Fantasyland HQ had told him of this secret stash. He would have to apologize to the man afterwards, but there was clearly an emergency!


    The hero of Fantasyland was able to quickly assess what was happening. That low pitched voice of Giant Killer was unmistakable, and those two walking sticks he’d seen the man grab when the Floor is Lava game had been officially announced. Behind him, he heard the sounds of dozens and dozens of wheeled chairs rolling through the hallways behind him.


    Captain Fantasy and Giant Killer did not know each other very well, but Captain Fantasy made it a point to greet anyone employed by Fantasyland, villain or hero, he wanted them to feel welcomed. Giant Killer had of course taken offense to Captain Fantasy’s offer for a handshake. It appeared that many people liked to offer him a handshake and then squeeze so fiercely, that voice of his had no choice but to come out. And of course, given Captain Fantasy’s impressive size and strength, Giant Killer must have felt the man was his natural enemy. Captain Fantasy did much to dissuade the youngster from taking such an antagonistic point of view, but people of little confidence had no choice but to view anyone and everyone as threat and enemy. Captain Fantasy would prove to Giant Killer that he was an ally, though that was far from the point. Giant Killer had asked for help, that was the point!


    Captain Fantasy grabbed sauce pack after sauce pack, squeezing them tight till they splurged out their tasty viscous liquid onto the floor. After a while, the floor did look vaguely like lava - if lava was a mix of sirarcha, barbeque sauce, buffalo sauce, among others.


    “Oh, no!” Giant Killer yelped, his walking stick slipped on the lake of sauce and he lost his balance entirely. Captain Fantasy had already anticipated it. He’d jumped back on top of the couch and kicked at the coffee table. It slid faster thanks to all the sauce that was piling about. Giant Killer crashed into the table, but he was light enough that the table did not break upon his landing.


    “TAKE MY HAND, GIANT KILLER!” Captain Fantasy offers his hand. Those rolling pursuers were getting closer and closer. Giant Killer grimaced, considered the hand, looked over his shoulders. He’s got no choice! Giant Killer grabbed Captain Fantasy’s hand and the hero lifted him over onto the couch just in time.


    The army of chair rollers were in sight, but quickly spiraled out of it! The sauce sent their chairs rolling and falling every which way. Body after body flew across the lounging area, suits being covered in vinegared sauces. They groaned and moaned, decrying the outrageous ploy by Captain Fantasy. Giant Killer who was in the arms of Captain Fantasy grinned happily.


    “That’s what you all get you sellouts! What, you think just because The Legend paid you some money and gave you some fancy suits, that gives you the right to bully people. Na-uh! You’re all out of the game now! Guess the Legend wasted all his money anyways.”


    A cough echoes through the intercom. Giant Killer and Captain Fantasy look around.


    “Wow, great job, Giant Killer. But what you don’t understand is, I’m rich. Those guys don’t matter. Nowheresville is full of people who will put on a suit if you pay them enough. You think just because you’ve found someone to team up, that’ll give you any help? This is a game of attrition, and you simply don’t have the resources to keep up pipsqueak.”


    “WHY DON’T YOU GET DOWN HERE AND SAY THAT TO MY FACE!”


    “Ha. As if I need to breath the same air as a lower life-form like you. You two know where I am don’t you. How about you make your way up here, then I’ll be kind enough to toss you to the ground myself. Legend - out.”


    “GOD, I hate that dude.”


    Captain Fantasy clears his throat. “So, we’re a team now.”


    “What? No, we’re not on a team. It’s everyone for themselves.”


    “We can surely work together for the moment. It seems the odds are against us. I’ve heard that a new man called El Demente has gathered an army of his own on the basement level. Sauce Man has cornered the Military Industrial Complex with his sauce packs, everyone’s been using them to eliminate people. And there’s rumors that the board has prepared for even more people to join the melee!”


    “I don’t care! If I team up with you, everyone will just think I’m a sidekick. I’m not a sidekick. I’m the Giant Killer! I’ve beat bigger guys than you.”


    “How about this, I’ll be your sidekick!”


    “You’ll be my sidekick? That means you’ll listen to everything I say.”


    “Hmm. Within reason.”


    “Everything!?”


    “… Within reason.”


    “Fine. Deal. Captain Fantasy, you’re now my sidekick. We’re officially calling you, Sidekick Fantasy.”




    Elsewhere in Nowheresville, Fantasyland
    …Battle on the Rooftop


    “I knew I’d find you here, you’re so unbelievably pathetic.” The Hour Man stepped out of the door to the rooftop. He stood on a hoverboard, arms folded, and looking proud of yourself.


    “That’s because I told you I sleep on the roof of HQ. Everyone knows I sleep on the roof of HQ,” X responded. He’d been standing in the empty garbage bin of a cleaning cart. Perhaps he’d heard about the chaos with Legend’s mercenaries and El Demente’s army, so he decided his best bet was to stay where it was safe.


    “Bad spot to be, X. We can do this the easy way… you get out of that garbage bin and give up, or we do this the hard way… maybe you don’t touch this lava floor, maybe you go flying right off the rooftop, splatting down, down, down below, courtesy of the Hour Man. What do you think about that X?”


    “Uhm. Behind you.”


    “What?”


    The Hour Man turned around too late! One of the two elevator doors dinged open. Louis the Fifth wheeled out of it, on an electric scooter, in a hurry. By the time The Hour Man realized what was going on, it was too late. He was bumped off of his hoverboard! That’s the problem with hoverboards, there’s nowhere to hold onto. The Hour Man was not completely helpless, he had the instincts to grip the electric scooter and hold tightly, avoiding his feet touching the roof and being eliminated. Louis the Fifth kept scooting, and scooting.


    “Stop! Stop! Stop! STOP!”


    “LET GO AND GIVE UP!”


    “I’M NOT LETTING GO!”


    “I’M NOT STOPPING!”


    And so, The Fifth’s electric scooter charged right towards the rooftop and crashed against the edge and… The Hour Man went flying.


    “Ha, that’s what you get Hour Man. Everyone knows X stays on the roof, I just had to wait to see who would be the first idiot to take advantage of easy prey, and of course it was you Hour Man! Now, you’re out. Possibly dead? Who knows!” Louis the Fifth turns around and stares down X. “Now, I’m going to be the one to take care of you X, the easiest prey in all of Fantasyland!”


    “Take your best shot, Louis the Fifth, you always talk a big game, but I think I usually get the best of you, don’t I?”


    “Wow, someone taught you how to be confident for once in your life. Don’t worry, I’ll bring your self-esteem back where it belongs, right down on the floor. Both literally and metaphorically.”


    “Are you going to keep talking with your mouth, or are you going to talk with your fist for once?”


    Louis The Fifth doesn’t take that sitting down. X is more than ready, using the two brooms on the cleaning kart he begins pushing himself towards Louis The Fifth. The electric scooter zooms in his direction. The two are on track for a head on collision!


    The elevator door dings again. X and The Fifth are momentarily distracted by the ding but they’re far too slow in stopping.


    CRASH!


    They go sprawling across the rooftop. X sliding right out of his garbage bin, and Louis The Fifth front flipping out of his scooter. They rub their bruises and stare at the elevator door. Captain Fantasy -err Sidekick Fantasy is on a pogo stick with Giant Killer on his shoulders. They’re looking slightly dumbfounded at the eliminated pair.


    “What, even you came to take out the easy prey, Captain Fantasy?” Louis the Fifth demands.


    “It’s actually Sidekick Fantasy for the moment.”


    “What? For that guy?!” The Fifth shakes his head.


    “Would you have been my sidekick if I asked?” X queries.


    “If you asked pol-“


    “Doesn’t matter! What the hell guys? You took each other out? We were going to come ask you guys for an alliance! You know that guy Legend is paying a bunch of dudes to help him? And a bunch of idiots in the basement started worshiping El Demente and here you two are fighting each other again. Don’t you ever get tired?”


    “In my defense, Louis the Fifth attacked me, not the other way around.”


    “Talk him out of it! We’ve got bigger priorities damn it. Now we gotta go hope Sauce Man’s sauce weapon empire hasn’t gone to his head.”


    DING!


    They head back downstairs.





    Elsewhere in Nowheresville, Fantasyland
    …Eat The Rich


    DING!


    The elevator stops, as expected… just not on the floor they expected. Sidekick Fantasy and Giant Killer’s eyes go completely wide.


    “You really thought you were going to use my elevator, traveling up and down in MY headquarters, gathering an army to defeat me, and I was going to let you have your way?!” Legend stands on top of an electric bike. Between Legend, at the far end of the room, and Sidekick Fantasy & Giant Killer, there’s dozens and dozens of his paid mercenaries. They’re using all sorts of equipment that they’ve cobbled together. Vacuums, scooters, hoverboards, boxes with wheels, roombas, floor cleaners!


    “Mr. Legend, I must ask you-“


    “Hey, you’re the sidekick, you’re supposed to follow my lead!”


    “Right, sorry Mr. Giant Killer, go on.”


    “LEGEND, YOU DOOFUS! You think that just because you’ve got big pockets that gives you the right to boss everyone around! It doesn’t! I’m the Giant Killer! That counts for Giant People AND Giant Armies and it looks to me like you have the most gigantic army around. So get ready to be killed! CHARGE SIDEKICK!”


    “CHARGE MERCS!”


    Just one hop on the pogo stick before Sidekick Fantasy and Giant Killer stop.


    “WHY ARE YOU STOPPING?! THEY’RE COMING RIGHT AT US!”


    “Shhhh, don’t you hear that?”


    “THE SOUND OF THEIR WAR CRY?! YES, I DO! NOW CHARGE!”


    “No, just feel it, Mr. Giant Killer.”


    “Feel wha-“


    And he feels it. A slow rumbling. Something drips down onto his shoulder. Some red liquid. He licks it.


    “Hmm. I know this taste. It’s… it’s the Secret Special Sauce. WAIT A MINUTE! B-b-b-back into the elevator, Sidekick Fantasy, HOP ON IT!”


    Sidekick Fantasy obeys and begins hopping backwards into the elevator. The charging mercenaries realize way too soon what’s going on. The roof caves in, and Secret Special Sauce rains down on every living being here. Everyone is drenched. Slipping and sliding. Practically drowning. Whatever they once wore isn’t even visible under that sauce. They have to wipe their eyes to even be able to see. The entire army of mercenaries is eliminated!


    Legend, on his bike, is absolutely furious. He’s completely red. It’s hard to tell if that’s the Secret Special Sauce or just his current mood.


    “SAUCE MAN! YOU BASTARD! You think that because you made some pocket change selling sauces that you can step up to me? I AM LEGEND! I RUN THIS DAMN BUILDING! I’M GOING TO WIN THIS FLOOR IS LAVA GAME! I’M GOING TO GET MY SHOT! NOT YOU, SAUCE MAN, YOU ABSOLUTE PERVERTED SICK JOKE OF A HUMAN BEING!”


    “Son, that was your mistake.”


    Legend’s eyes go wide. He looks up. The Reaper stands there. Solemn as ever. He drops down from the roof and crashes on Legend, the pair fall onto the ground, both eliminated.


    The elevator door closes with The Reaper, slightly covered in sauce, nodding to the two heroes.


    “HA~! WE DID IT, SIDEKICK FANTASY, WE TOOK OUT THE LEGEND’S ARMY!”


    “I think we might owe Mr. Reaper a bit of credit there. He clearly bought up all that sauce because he knew it was his responsibility stop the unhinged power of the Legend. Mr. Reaper has never been a very rich man, he must’ve spent every penny he owned in order to stop Legend. That man is a hero I aspire to be like one day.”


    “Oh, calm down, man. You’re my sidekick, not his. If you’re going to praise anyone, at least praise me for getting us out of there. If I hadn’t told you to get on the elevator, he would’ve taken us out with the rest of them.”


    “You’re certainly right, Mr. Giant Killer, great job getting us out of that dangerous spot in a hurry.”


    “Right! Man, I kinda wish we’d stayed though, that Secret Special Sauce is incredible. Could’ve grabbed me a nice box worth. And rich people flavored? Mwuah!”





    Elsewhere in Nowheresville, Fantasyland
    …IT’S THE FINAL SHOWDOWN!


    DING!


    The elevator door opens. It’s eerie and quite dark in the basement of Fantasyland HQ.


    “I thought you said he had an army…” Giant Killer whispers.


    “That’s what I heard. People who have gone down here, individuals, duos, groups, I heard Legend even sent about three dozen at once, none of them came back. The only explanation is that he has an army, isn’t it?”


    “Hmm. I guess that’s a good assessment, Sidekick Fanta-WHOA!”


    The pair nearly slip and drop but Captain Fantasy is just barely able to get his grip. He looks down. There’s quite a bit of sauce everywhere.


    “Is that a body?”


    Lights turn on one by one in the basement. Dim lights, but enough for Sidekick Fantasy and Giant Killer to see that the basement is filled with bodies end to end. Unconscious and writhing on the ground. Every single vehicle and furniture they’ve brought has been cobbled together into one huge death machine in the far end.


    “That’s… Sauce Man.”


    “Sauce Man? Wow, he died off-screen! What a loser! And you were worried we might have to deal with him.”


    “We shouldn’t disrespected Sauce Man. Without him, I never would have saved you Mr. Giant Killer, and how do you think Mr. Reaper would have taken out Legend and his army.”


    “Okay, first of all, you did not save me, I saved you. I warned you about their army, and thanks to my warning, you were able to take advantage of my recon knowledge and take them out. And second of all, Mr. Reaper only won because we distracted Legend’s army. If we hadn’t come, they totally would’ve noticed all that sauce above them.”


    “So… you two are the last remnants of humanity.” The death machine approaches very slowly. “I am the demon, El Demente. I hope you’re well prepared for your doom.”


    “We’re not the last remnants of humanity, but we’re definitely the last two people left, and with Sidekick Fantasy following my lead, there’s absolutely no way you’re going to beat us. We’re going to take you out El DEMENTIA, and then I’m going to go on and get my wonderful shot. No one will ever, EVER, underestimate me again. You got that? Everyone will remember the night Giant Killer beat El Dementia and his army, Legend and his mercenaries, and even Sauce Man and his stupid sauce.”


    “Is that so? And will your sidekick willingly cede this opportunity to you? Are you perhaps not overestimating his kindness, presuming he isn’t using you, as you are surely using him?”


    “Sidekick Fantasy would never betray me. He knows his place! Right, Sidekick Fantasy?”


    “Don’t let him distract you, Mr. Giant Killer. He’s the enemy here. We should focus on taking him out first, and we can talk things over.”


    “No! NO! Let’s talk things over now. You’re going to lay down and let YOUR captain take the spot. RIGHT, SIDEKICK FANTASY?”


    “This is his plan, Mr. Giant Killer. We can’t turn on each other now. I’ve followed you to the heavens and the hells of HQ, haven’t I? If we let him get the best of us, we’re going to end up like Sauce Man, like Louis the Fifth and X, like Mr. Reaper and his son Legend, we’re better than this, aren’t we? I’m YOUR Sidekick, Mr. Giant Killer, lead the way. Let’s do this. I believe in you.”


    “HRMMM. HRMMMMMMMMMMMM!” Giant Killer wrestles over his predicament. He doesn’t have faith in Sidekick Fantasy. “I-I… Fine, I’ll tru-”


    CRASH


    A garbage bin on wheels hits Giant Killer right in the chest and he nearly falls off of Sidekick Fantasy’s shoulders. Sidekick Fantasy holds on tightly, but Giant Killer is inches from the ground and doesn’t have the strength to get back to a better stance.


    “HOLD ON, MR. GIANT KILLER!”


    “I-I can’t…”


    El Demente prepares to throw something else at Sidekick Fantasy, and if this one hits, there’s little chance for pogo hopping Sidekick Fantasy to survive. Sidekick Fantasy is in a tough spot, there’s no way he will let go of Mr. Giant Killer, but what else can he possibly do.


    “You-you have to let go, Sidekick Fantasy.”


    “No! We’re a team! I told you we’re a team, Mr. Giant Killer. We go down, we go down together.”


    “We can’t! You’re a hero Sidekick Fantasy. What happens if a man like El Demente wins? The people need someone to look up to. He’s a demon. He makes everyone around him worse. LOOK AT WHAT HE DID TO US? I almost turned my back on you, my Sidekick, YOU trusted me Sidekick Fantasy, and I almost tossed that all aside because that demon twisted my thoughts against me. You can’t let him win. You need to let go. I trust you to do the right thing… the right thing for me, the right thing for Nowheresville. The right thing for our new home, Meltdown. Please, Sidekick Fantasy… become the Captain Fantasy you were always meant to be.”


    “…. Mr. Giant Killer…”


    “I knew it. You’re too good deep inside, Sidekick Fantasy, that can be a mistake sometimes. If you won’t do the right thing - THEN I WILL!”


    Just as another furniture projectile flies at Sidekick Fantasy, Giant Killer uses the last vestiges of his energy to push himself up, launch himself off of Sidekick Fantasy’s shoulders and crash into the flying projectile.


    “MR GIANT KILLER!”


    “He’s gone now… Captain Fantasy. It is only you and I. Do you really think your pogo stick will match up to my death machine? You might as well surrender now, Captain.”


    Sidekick Fantasy whose head had momentarily fallen rises up to look El Demente in the eyes.


    “Surrender? I could never. The only thing I have left to say to you, El Demente… is I. AM. HERE!”



    Elsewhere in Nowheresville, Fantasyland
    … IT’S OVER… OR IS IT?


    Captain Fantasy, hero costume tarnished, limps on his pogo stick into the elevator. Behind him, the death machine has fallen apart. El Demente lies on the ground, not far off from Giant Killer and Sauce Man. Captain Fantasy solemnly hops into the elevator.


    “Congratulations, Captain Fantasy. You’ve done well. Unfortunately for you, more people have entered the competition. You remember your old friends Nasty Nate and the Sin City Bad Boy? Well they’re only two of the many surprise competitors we have for you. Good luck, Captain Fantasy, don’t let us down.”


    The elevator door opens up. Nasty Nate and Sin City Bad Boy are on a go kart. Captain Fantasy cracks his neck on one side, he cracks his neck on the other.


    “Here I Am.”



    OOC: Sorry for the basic formatting. Not feeling great, just wanted to get this up. Still had lots of fun writing this! Uh ALL PRESENTATIONS OF ANY OTHER CHARACTER IS A DRAMATIZED/FAKE/INNACURATE VERSION AND ARE NOT MEANT TO BE ACCURATE DEPICTIONS OF THINGS THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

  17. #17
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    “It's a wonderful city, you'll love it they said...."


    A thoroughly disheveled and unimpressed Mike Parr finds himself in the streets of Paris, a tamely warm night at the start of June a far cry from the exotically warm weather that he was promised before he departed. A light breeze blows down the side street he finds himself on, lifting and shifting various bits of discarded garbage in the southerly direction to which the wind itself was travelling. This is not what he signed up for. The sun was just about to give way to night, and as he looks up in the distance he can see the silhouette of the site of what is soon to be his greatest accomplishment. The Parc des Princes. The site of Back in Business, the place where he can only hope to be his greatest on his greatest day.


    Appropriate, one might say, given that the site of his greatest day is going to be the battleground of one of the powerhouses of French soccer, recently humbled by an underdog. Does The Prodigy consider himself an underdog? You even dare to whisper that to his second cousin twice removed and he’ll find you and kick your teeth so far down your throat that you’ll be shitting them out for months. But Mike Parr? He’s a realist. He would wipe his you-know-where with the dirt sheets but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what they say. He doesn’t do social media but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make its way into his inner circle. They all have grown accustomed to the fraud that is Dave Sullivan, he doesn’t deserve any further title to that, bleating about how he might cry and desperately wants someone to take his championship belt off of him, only to then turn up an defend it with every fibre of his being. As he casually strolls down the street, Parr lifts his hand and gently caresses the scar that remains on his forehand from the closing events of Fight Night. The reminder, not that he needed it, of what exactly can happen to him if he drops his guard for a second. Indeed, as that thought passes, his arm extends from the aforementioned position to the right hand side of his head, just at the 2 o’clock position of his temple, and caresses the lump that was left by Dave’s attack on him. Another reminder, but again, not that he needed it. For as much as the world has grown accustomed to Dave Sullivan and his continual shenanigans, for as much as people have grown expectant of him just finding a way like all the supposed greats do….then there is Michelle von Horrowitz.


    The Chosen One, or as close as you are ever going to find to that. The dreamer who one year ago wasn’t even a teardrop in the ocean that is the FWA. But now….now she is the main event. Destined, apparently, to be in the main event of this show and to be the person to end the labored reign of Sullivan. Destined. You know what destiny is? Destiny is a crutch for people who don’t quite know if they have what it takes to make it to where they want to be. Destiny is a sham. There is no divine intervention that has plucked Michelle von Horrowitz from relative obscurity and placed her in the biggest and brightest spotlight that the FWA has to offer. If anything, far be it being from being destiny, it was chance. It was luck. It was luck that the lead pipe that connected with her skull didn’t collapse into the vacant space between the bone and it was chance that she was able to emerge the other side and tell the tale. It wasn’t destiny. The biggest accomplishment of Michelle von Horrowitz remarkable rise to the top is what exactly? Not being thrown over the top rope for longer than anyone else and then being knocked off the top rope at Desert Storm and claiming that as some sort of victory. What else? Vacated a title that she barely defended. Almost winning a tag team title. What is destined about that? What is the exciting about that – why has wrestling in a ring for an hour and not getting thrown over the top rope a cause for celebration? It’s chance. The Destined One is dreaming. Do you know what isn’t chance? What isn’t chance is standing in the ring for one hour with someone and not being able to pin them. Not being able to submit them. For anyone who could watch Michelle von Horrowitz in New Orleans and come to the conclusion after a full hour that it is somehow her destiny to become the World Champion and win in the main event? Is that you? Well you are the reason as to why he hates social media. Why he hates people. Why he thinks that anyone who thinks that he is an underdog is a deluded as some guy who parades around like he has been canonized or walks around and thinks that her dreams are going to come true. Parc des Princes isn’t about to be the scene of a destiny being fulfilled or another chapter in the story of the champion who cried wolf so many times it has lost effect and crucially, it is not going to be the site of the underdog winning because the underdog is not Mike Parr. Not in his world, not in any world. This is The Prodigy’s moment and Dave and Michelle should consider themselves lucky to even be able to momentarily bask in it.


    Notwithstanding all of that, Mike has reached his destination as the sun has dropped and hidden behind the Paris skyline, as he reaches into his pockets to present the ticket for entry at his final destination for the evening.


    Attendant
    “Puis-je voir votre billet s'il vous plaît?”


    While he would not consider himself fluent, there is certainly enough residual French from his time in Toronto to identify that he is being asked for his ticket, and he duly obliges. As Mike passes over the ticket, you can just about see the name of the event on the face of it.


    FWA : la comédie musicale (présentation en anglais)

    Ushered into his seat a matter of moments later, Mike surveys the scene as he tries to determine exactly how he managed to end up here. “It’s good for the soul” Sean told him, although they haven’t really spoken all too much since the forced split in the draft was made public. Maybe this was Sean’s way of screwing with him as a parting gift…either that, or Prodigy has severely misjudged him for all these years. He shuffles into seat, with many getting the pleasure of his ass brushing their wine glasses as he navigates his way into the center seat of the middle row in the theatre. Enter stage right to a round of applause emerges a rather portly man in his 40s called Jacques, who for lack of a better term is the master of ceremonies tonight for the English presentation of FWA: The Musical.


    Jacques
    “Bonjour, Salut, Hola, Guten Tag, Salve and Hello one and all and welcome to this very special production. My name is Jacques and as well as being, how do you say, your very handsome host, I will also be a part of the show this evening. Mes Amis, on the eve of Back in Business, I would like you all to take a step back, take a seat as we roll back the years and take a look at the highs and lows of a superstar that you might just recognize…..”


    “Bet they start with that Golden Shower of s**t and the tag division”


    Mike casually remarks to himself, but also bizarrely to the person beside him who has a look on their face in response akin to a look you might have if somebody took a crap and posted it through your letter box. One quick side eye glance down at their t-shirt, one of those ghastly Golden Rock collectables, tells you all that you need to know about that reaction. The fangirl takes a glug of her wine and returns her gaze to the stage. As the curtain peels back, Mike’s eyes widen before narrowing in as he identifies someone on stage that…looks familiar.


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “All roads lead now to the Parc des Princes, but for where it all started you have to come back to this,
    First shot at the title, hanging up there. Chants of triple champ, ringing through the air.
    From a fingertip away, less than a yard, to not even getting a match you remember is on the card.
    This was my moment, this was supposed to be my glory. But Cyrus kept the belt, and for me, it started a whole new story…”


    Indeed, the loose representations of Bell Connelly, Eyesnsane and Cyrus Truth have now joined The Prodigy on stage as they reinact their battle from Mile High 2016. Mike, in the audience, has gone as pale as you have ever seen him. Now he knows Sean must’ve been playing with him. He grasps his hands tightly around the armrest on the seat, before almost hoisting himself up through his upper body strength as his legs aren’t really doing the job for him. Awkwardly, he shuffles back out of the aisleway and staggers his way towards the exit for the auditorium, each breath feeling tighter and weaker than the last. One glance back and a last look at The Prodigy with his television title before the sweet release of the foyer is reached. Who. What. Why. Where. When. All of those maybe not valid questions for this situation but all of those questions that are bouncing around inside his head. Mike crouches down, with his back planted against the wall behind him as he regains his composure. Mile High 2016…that was the night he got closest to the World Championship, where a pretty substantial argument could be made that since that point he has only gotten further away. All the talk of things being destined for certain individuals in Paris…well this…this is why he doesn’t believe in destiny. The crowd chanted Triple Champ vociferously all night, the crowd that would barely cheer him if he saved a kitten from a blazing building, but they wanted it for him that night. Destiny being a thing would mean that he could open the auditorium doors and they would be reflecting on his greatest night not his darkest hour. Destiny can go and take a running jump.


    As Mike’s breathing regulates back to something relatively normal, his thoughts too begin to rationalize themselves somewhat and that leaves him with one pertinent question…how could he be so stupid? Maybe that little shit Sean had a decent idea once and for all. This whole thing, from last year to the main event of the biggest show of the year, has been about Parr thinking he is playing checkers with everyone else just chess but….he’s doing it again? His eyes are fixated on Michelle von Horrowitz and stopping her so much that they aren’t actually focused on something that has mattered far more to him for a far longer period of time…the FWA World Heavyweight Championship. And only now…on the cusp of the biggest show of the year, does he now see that? Maybe Mile High 2016 is exactly what he needed, to remember that crushing low and feeling of dread that he experienced because that is motivation, to make sure that THAT doesn’t happen again. Mike ruefully shakes his head and reflects, maybe he has taught Sean well after all…


    A round of applause from inside the auditorium interrupts his thought process, as he presses himself back to his feet and cautiously edges the door ajar, having a glance at what is on stage now.


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “Four years pass by, before another shot at the title. This time it’s more personal, as I'm in there with a rival.
    Everyone said that the title scene was a bore, but nobody asked for it to be interrupted by the Carnegie Carnivore.
    It wasn’t a clean fight, he had his cronies help with the deed, they managed to get one over on both me and the New Breed.”


    Not in the mood to watch caricatures of Sulley, Garcia et all reenact another of his lowlights, Mike swiftly closes the door. Parr paces back and forth outside the auditorium as we only catch muffled laughter and low level noise as the audience react to the musical and the stories. Mile High 2020 isn’t something that he wants to dwell on too much, if his 2016 shot at the championship still hurts him then 2020 is the one that haunts him. That night he should’ve had Sean and Prototype carry him out of that building on their shoulders holding that title in the air but instead…he let Michael Garcia outthink him. A remarkable achievement, all things considered, in more ways than one. Mike suddenly pauses in his tracks, as the same story hits him once more. He wasn’t outthought he overthought. He was too focused on wanting to conceal his complicity in the Michelle attack that he took his eyes off of the prize dangling in front of him at the time. Thankfully, Mike had leant against the wall as he stopped pacing otherwise he may have been floored by the sudden wave of déjà vu. Master manipulator, he considers himself the most clever guy in whatever room he is in and suddenly…this. He arrived in this city very aware that he was in the main event but to him, that main event has been Michelle von Horrowitz’ final curtain…how has he not really thought about it being Mike Parr’s crowning glory until now?


    A cat call and a round of applause again interjects in his thought process as Mike tilts his head in a south western direction to try and catch an audible of what caused such a reaction. Unfortunately for him the doors are doing their job and its very much inaudible. Mike once again bridges the door ajar although this time, he takes a step inside and closes it behind him. The Prodigy is on the stage in some sort of army gear with a cheap looking battlefield style set. For such a lavish auditorium, the expenses clearly went there as opposed to being directed towards the budget for the props. The audience are hushed as they hang on every word, fully invested in whatever story the theatre production company have told.


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “Six years I waited for this moment. Six years I’ve been denied. Six years I’ve sweat blood and for six years I’ve tried.
    Battles with Cyrus, fights and conflicts with Garcia, victories over Dave the king and saint or whatever he calls himself I have no idea.
    From the first match with Craig Cage as I was welcomed to the dance, to this my final battle where I lay it all on the line in France.
    I’ve had strife and conflict especially with Michelle, to watch her somehow overcome the odds and emerge as the victor would be my own personal hell.
    Then they guy holding the crown, the former king who thinks he’s a saint, to have to watch him walk out victorious makes me feel so sick I feel faint.
    The battle lines are drawn, the final story is about to be unfurled, but you shouldn’t be surprised that the story ends with me as champion of…the world.”


    Indeed, at the conclusion of that line, the audience rises to their feet for The Prodigy on stage, while Mike remains less so focused on the proceedings there but instead soaks in the ovation around him. As the crowd slowly begin to shuffle out of their seats, Mike takes his leave before he is recognized by anyone. What sort of masochist watches a production that centers around himself after all. He stands in his shadows as the audience files out oblivious to his presence, hearing the variety of nationalities present converse about all things from how they still believe Mike is a dick to how he’s perfect boyfriend material for some. Some people have no taste. As the last member of the audience lets the door swing closed behind them and they exit into the now cold Parisian evening, not for the first time today Mike opens the door and steps back into the now empty theatre, approaching the stage. He places his hand on the wooden set, still oblivious to the battlefield reference as he was outside but curious none the less.


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “I think it was because of the poster, they ran with the idea.”


    Mike swivels on his heels and is now face to face with..himself? Or at least the vaguely similar looking male specimen who was asked to play him. Indeed, it’s a strange situation for the both of them.


    “You had some interesting character traits, I must say.”


    Parr’s eyes again narrow as he tries to get a read on the individual.


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “Well…you certainly have some interesting traits to examine. Some intricacies that…were a challenge.”


    “Humor me, I’m ready to hear it.”


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “The best. That’s what you called yourself when you first came into this company in your very first night. You stuck to it, and on your day you can prove it. You’ve beaten Kennedy. You’ve beaten Cyrus. You’ve beaten Sullivan. You’ve beaten Michelle. On those days… you are the best. You are great. But it’s amazing to me, having looked at your body of work and all that you do, is that you cannot see that only being the best on those days doesn’t make you ‘the best’ that you think you are. You are more concerned with trying to brush that chip off of your shoulder than when you’re looking at your shoulder you get sucker punched in the face. What makes people the best is being better than anyone else on their worst night, not their best. So I find…that conlifct….intriguing to try and understand.”


    Parr cocks his head again, inquisitively.


    “Who the hell are you? You have some nerve to talk about me being the best of anything when you stand there and make a living off of what? Being me? Not only being me, but being such an inconsequence that I didn’t even know you were a thing until I sat down in here tonight. And you have the nerve to te-“


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “You think I’m wrong, why could you not even watch? I know. I’m good at my job and I’ve watched enough of you to know panic when I see it…and that was panic. Panic as the aura that you have convinced yourself to be accurate has come shattering down all around you. You might be pretty good at hiding behind it from most people, but all it takes a little scratch on the surface and the soft underbelly is exposed…the vulnerable little boy needing affirmation. The guy who tells us he is smarter than anyone to convince himself that it’s true. You can’t just wish it into existence. Smart would be a multiple time World Champion right now, not someone who keeps getting distracted by what? Fights that he started. If you were as good as you said you were, you would be a multiple time World Champion here. Instead, you’re nothing more than Michelle von Horrowitz’ fast track ticket to the World Championship you’ll never have. And you know it.”


    That’s more than enough for Mike, who shoves the guy firmly in the chest with such force that he takes an immediate drop to the floor sans stumble. But yet…there isn’t an immediate retort, as those words linger in the air along with the stale smell of recycled air present. ‘Mike Parr’ returns to his feet.


    ‘Mike Parr’
    “Maybe when you walk in there tomorrow evening, you’ll remember what’s really at stake. The title. I’m certainly pulling for you…”


    With that, ‘Mike’ brushes past Parr and has soon vacated the theatre leaving Parr there on his own. In one night, Back in Business has gone from the fall of Saint Sulley and Michelle von Horrowitz and is now going to the rise of The Prodigy. To the neutral, that may not seem like much of a distinction but at last, to Mike, that distinction probably matters more than anything else. That distinction is what is going to cast his focus on the championship and not the people in his way. Mike nods to himself, and gives the stage a tap before making his way back towards the exit for the final time. Reaching into this pocket for his cell, he dials as the door opens…


    “About that ticket you got me, Sean….”

  18. #18
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    Devious Productions Presents:

    Konchu Hao in...


    "Memories of a Madman! The Journey into Chaos!!!"


    Location: Normal, Illinois
    Date: July 19th, 1997


    As you would expect from a city called Normal, we find ourselves in a very non-extravagant town full of incredibly average-looking people mulling around downtown, engaging in all sorts of summertime activities to beat the heat or just have a grand old time.

    Our focus shifts to the outskirts of town, where a large, very opulent house stands apart from the rest of the community at the end of a long driveway. This two-story manor of red brick and polished stone screams of affluence and a higher station. We cut to inside the manor, where an older and somewhat heavier-set man is chatting with a much younger 20-something woman sunbathing in a very tiny bikini next to a large Olympic-sized swimming pool. The woman seems barely cognizant of the older man as he rambles on and on.


    "My sweet Bunny, business in the lending industry has been booming! I dare say I'll be doubling my profits from the previous year come August. Yes, I do believe that the good times will continue on and nothing will ever change that!"

    "That's so great, sweetie."

    "Indeed! Oh, by the way...where is my son?"

    "Oh...he's in his room."

    "His room? On a day like this? Hold on...wasn't he supposed to be trying out for the soccer team or something like that?"

    "No idea, sweetie. You know I have a hard time keeping track of those things."

    The man grumbles a bit as he stomps off, while the woman produces what looks to be some Xanax and pops a pill before chasing it with some very expensive-looking champagne.

    The older man heads into the house and climbs the stairs to the second story (although he does have to stop and take a breath as he's noticeably winded) and heads to a door that has all sorts of decals and pictures denoting this room belongs to a young boy. Without even knocking, the man bursts into the room.

    There, lying on his stomach on his bed with his face buried in a book, is a young boy roughly about 10 years old. We don't get a good look at his face, but his hair is trimmed very short and his eyes pierce out with a very familiar green hue. The Boy is so engrossed with his book that the sudden intrusion by who we assume is his father startles him as he yelps in terror.


    "SON! What the devil are you doing here cooped up in your room on a gorgeous day like today?"

    The Boy scrambles to regain his senses as the camera pans behind him, completely hiding his face from our view. But we do get a good look at the Father, whose jaw is clenched in irritation and disappointment.

    "Papa, I'm just studying."

    "Studying?! I thought I told you that you have to expand your horizons. Aren't you supposed to be at soccer practice?"

    "Soccer isn't until the fall, Papa."

    "Then baseball, damn it! After all the money I invested in your Little League team, I would expect you to be participating and excelling."

    "But I don't like baseball, Papa."

    "Son, I've told you before. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not! It's EXPECTED of you! Now put down that..."

    The Father takes a long...hard look at the book his son was reading. A vicious scowl crosses his lips.

    "What are you reading, boy?"

    "I-i-it's nothing! Nothing at all, Papa!"

    The Father immediately snatches it out of the Boy's hands and starts thumbing through it, his eyes widening in rage.

    "'A Complete History of the Occult Practices of Eastern Europe?!' Boy, I told you before that this sort of trash is not permitted in MY HOUSE! We are a good, honest Christian family, and this filth is the devil's handiwork."

    "B-b-but, Papa! If we're supposed to be a Christian family, then why did you cheat on Mother with Bunny? Isn't that..."

    *SLAP!*

    The Father swiftly and without hesitation slaps the shit out of his son, sending him down to the floor. Enraged, he glares at the now sobbing boy.

    "I am your father! You will NOT talk back to me, boy! Our family is an old and important one, and I will NOT allow your whimsies to tarnish what I, my father, and his father before him built! You are the heir to a great legacy, boy. It's time you started conducting yourself in a manner befitting that!

    "You have five minutes to stop your crying before you leave and head back to the baseball field. And you will participate, and you WILL excel. And I will NOT catch you reading more of this garbage while you live under my room. Am I understood?!"


    The Boy, who has his face in his hands, sobs, but nods his head.

    "...Yes, Papa."

    The Father huffs and looks at his son with a look of disappointment and disgust as he takes the book and leaves the Boy alone. As we cut to black, all we can hear is the heartbroken sobbing of a boy, alone in his room and in the world...

    *****


    Location: The Cloak and Dagger Gaming Store
    Date: September 13th, 2004


    We flash forward to a time in the future from where we started, where five teenagers are huddled together in the back of the Cloak and Dagger Gaming store. Sitting behind a Dungeon Master's screen, we see a somewhat familiar, if older, boy with the same piercing green eyes. The screen obscures the rest of his face as he verbosely describes the next stage in the battle.

    "The green dragon looks at you adventurers surrounding it, laughing sinisterly at your beaten and weary forms before unleashing its poison breath at you. I will need Fortitude Saves from Belthar and Arienne."

    A teenage girl sitting at the table, with long red hair and thick glasses wearing denin overalls over a black T-shirt, speaks up.

    "Arienne is a dwarf, so does that help me?"

    "Yes, of course. You'll have a bonus to your saving throw."

    Both Arienne's player and Belthar's player, a blonde haired boy wearing a Metallica t-shirt, roll dice, and both wince at the outcomes. The Dungeon Master nods solemnly as he rolls dice for damage.

    "Both of you take 49 points of poison damage. Arienne takes half due to dwarven resilience to poison, but Belthar will take all of that."

    "It doesn't matter. Arienne is down."

    "As am I."

    "Oh dear. Well, Cedric? It's up to you. The dragon does look rather worn out."

    Cedric's player, who's clearly a jock based on his broad shoulders and letterman jacket, moves his character's figurine close to the green dragon and says in a very solemn tone.

    "I move up to the dragon, greatsword in hand and I say to this dragon, 'That's far enough. You'll not hurt another soul.' And I raise my greatsword to strike at the dragon, saying a prayer to Bahamut...

    "...NATURAL 20!"


    The entire table erupts into cheers as, while we can't see the Dungeon Master's full face, the eyes suggest he's pleased with this turn of events.

    "Roll damage, Cedric."

    "Can I pump a Divine Smite into that?"

    "You absolutely can."

    Cedric's player rolls damage as the clicking of dice smacking one another gives the other players hope that they might yet survive this encounter.

    "That's going to be 31 points of damage."

    "And that's enough. Cedric, as you're feeling the presence of the holy platinum dragon surge through you, you CARVE a swath through this dragon's soft underbelly. The wound EXPLODES in divine radiance as the dragon, once so proud and haughty, falls to the ground dead.

    "As you race to stabilize your friends, you hear a formless voice cackling out...'Kehahaha! It seems that my trap failed to finish you feckless heroes off. A truly great shame. But...Arax served his purpose. I have what I need. Soon...and very soon, you all will bow before your new master as I unleash my Army of the Night upon this land! KEHAHAHA!' And that's where we'll end tonight's session."

    The players all let out a sigh of relief as Arienne's player looks towards the Dungeon Master with a big toothy brace-filled smile.

    "That was an awesome session! I'm really gonna miss this when you head out to Oxford."

    The Dungeon Master sighs as he pulls up his hood over his face, obscuring it as he packs up his minis and screen.

    "Yes, I will miss these games of ours. But Father insists I study abroad, so that's how it must be."

    "Dude, that fuckin' blows, bro. Your dad's a total fuckin' tool."

    "Bro!"

    "What? He is!"

    "It's fine. My father is certainly...not terribly empathetic. But it is what it is. Great things are expected of me, and I must strive to do my part. Regardless of how I feel about it..."

    There's a sad silence in the back of the game shop as the Dungeon Master tries to change the atmosphere.

    "But! It's not anything to worry about just yet. Let's just enjoy the time we have and worry about that nonsense later. Shall we meet up, same time next week?"

    The three players shake out of their funk and nod in agreement, all of them smiling as they grab their dice and figurines. All four of them file out of the game shop, as the Dungeon Master locks it behind them and his three friends wave goodbye and head off separately to their homes.

    The Dungeon Master, standing there alone, watches his friends disappear as he sighs sadly. He stands there for several minutes before wiping something from his eyes and heads off to his own home...


    *****

    Location: Oxford, England
    Date: February 7th, 2006


    We find ourselves far away from the prestigious Oxford University grounds, to a cellar located beneath a very rough-looking pub. There, kneeling in the middle of a circle of candles, is a young man wearing a simple black cloth mask. His torso is bare and he's sweating profusely. His eyes are dilated and he's breathing heavily, as if under the influence of something.

    There's an older woman, with grey thin hair and wearing a simple brown robe, sitting in front of him, leering down at him and speaking in a raspy tone.


    "Initiate...you're too weak. Your mind refuses to cast off the chains of the dawn and you cling to your comforts and what you know. LET IT GO! CAST ASIDE THE DOGMA OF THE CLOSE-MINDED AND FREE YOURSELF!"

    "I...I am trying...trying to..."

    "Trying is not good enough! If you truly wish to learn the secrets of the dark world, and you're truly willing to delve deep into the greater mysteries, you'd have already opened your mind. You are RESISTING! You are...afraid..."

    "I am NOT afraid!"

    "You are TERRIFIED! I can see it in your eyes. A life led and full of disappointments and failure! You are NOTHING, boy! And you've always been nothing."

    The witch shrieks as the flickering flames of the candles dance in tune with the waving of her arms. We see the eyes of the young Initiate tremble beneath their eyelids as she continues to berate him.

    "Your father sees you as nothing but a continuation of his legacy. You abandoned your friends so that you can try to please a man who CANNOT be pleased. And in your pursuit for the secrets of the world of shadows, you will continue to fail and fail again as new rivals and adversaries will inevitably arise. You desire power...you crave it. But what is the point of showing you the means to power if you're too WEAK to hold onto it?!"

    In the mind of the Initiate, we see a great many things.

    We see the Father, berating his son for not living up to expectations that the Father himself is unwilling to meet.

    We see the friends of the Dungeon Master, sad and disappointed looks on their faces as their friend abandoned them to try and earn the respect of a man who has none.

    And we see others as well.

    Figures and faces the Initiate has never met...or rather, has yet to meet.

    The illithid-masked figure of an agent of chaos and unrestrained id, mocking the Initiate for being a hack and a fraud while being himself a horrific amalgamation of everything the Initiate wishes to tame, but not be consumed by.

    The lithe, athletic form of a young man, deft and high-flying, looking at the Initiate with a look of disdain and...pity? Disappointment? Certainly nothing that suggests this athlete has any love for the Initiate.

    The form of a man wearing vintage 70's disco dancer attire, with a big doofy smile on his face wagging his figure at the Initiate. He's denying him something, something the Initiate can't see...but his blood BOILS at the defiance.

    The voices of those in his past, and those in his future rattle as the witch's voice turns the voices into a maddening cacophony, hissing at the Initiate to break his chains.

    The voices stop.

    Because the Initiate has lurched up from his kneeling position to wrap his hands around the witch's throat.

    The grip is tight, but not completely choking as the Initiate looms over the witch with a wild, mad look in his green eyes. The witch is absolutely shocked, unable to say a word as she stands terrified of the young man she was berating before...


    "...hehehehehe...

    "...hahahahaha...

    "KEHAHAHA! KEHAHAHA!"


    The grip on the witch's throat loosens. The young Initiate stands, still towering over the shrunken witch, but laughing maniacally as his voice echoes in this cellar.

    The chains have been broken.

    But they weren't the only things to break...


    *****

    Location: Paris, France
    Date: June 17th, 2021


    Konchu's eyes open as a soft beeping brings him out of his trance.

    We find the Mad Wizard floating in a pool of salt water, inside of a sensory deprivation pod. He is absolutely alone, and has clearly spent a good amount of time alone with nothing but his thoughts.

    Konchu shakes his head, rubbing his temples with the ball of his hand through his locust mask as he stands up, stark naked and his modesty protected simply by the camera angle. He finds a soft cotton robe and wraps it around himself, as he walks towards a nearby sink and looks in the mirror.

    The whole point of a sensory deprivation pod is to find peace with one's thoughts, by shunting out any outside distractions.

    But Konchu? Konchu's green eyes betray a certain haggardness. The manic gleam that has come to define him, that sort of whimsy and playful deviousness is not there.

    This is a different kind of madness. One born of hunger and a desire to see one's enemies destroyed.

    Several minutes later, Konchu emerges from the room fully dressed in his usual robes and pants and other accoutrements as Epsilon, who has been seated in the lobby of this spa fiddling with his tablet, sees his master and rushes up to him. The clerk behind the counter looks at Konchu and says in a warm tone:


    "Monsieur Hao. I trust your time was relaxing, no?"

    Konchu, still in a bit of a daze, shudders a bit as he returns to the present.


    "Hmm? Oh, right...yes. Thank you, Victor. I do appreciate the accommodations."

    "But of course! I wish you luck in your matches, monsieur!"

    "My matches...yes, of course. Au revoir and all that..."


    Konchu, almost zombie-like, heads out of the spa. Epsilon, looking very confused by his master's sullenness, scampers behind him.

    The pair walk the streets of Paris for what seems like hours before finally stopping in front of the Parc des Princes Stadium, the arena that will host both nights of Back in Business XV. Konchu stands there, looking at the massive stadium, saying nothing at all.

    Epsilon is the first to break the silence, asking in his incoherent tongue:

    "Yewuk toza, Jubakara?"

    Without looking at Epsilon, and without even twitching to suggest he heard him, Konchu replies.

    "No...no, my friend, I don't believe I am all right.

    "And I don't suspect I will be all right unless I destroy those fools standing between me and the X Division Championship."


    There's a heavy gravitas in Konchu's tone. A massive stone of purpose and cold fury. Epsilon looks up at Konchu with a bit of fear evident in his stance as Konchu continues.

    "I am not a disappointment. I am not a joke. And anybody who can look at the four of us and even suggest with a straight face that any one of those three is more worthy, more deserving to be the X Division Champion is even crazier than I am. I have done everything right to get to this point, my friend. I won Ground Zero. I beat J.J. and Gerald within the violent arena of Madman's Mayhem. Not Christopher...ME. And yet he is the one who took the title away from me. Standing so proud...does he dare think he's better than me? Does he think that he deserves some kind of revenge against me for what I did at Fight Night's Curtain Call? For what? He was the one who put his family in danger. I wasn't the one who choked out that young man. That was J.J. who felt the need to put the exclamation point on his own tribulations with him.

    "Christopher Peacock thinks himself a proud, noble champion. But he is a THIEF, Epsilon. A thief unworthy and undeserving of the Power of the X. They ALL are unworthy...ALL OF THEM! Not a single one of them has endured what I have endured to become a Master of the Dark Arts like I have. The only one of the lot who has any appreciation for that is J.J., but he is a gnat sucking the life blood out of a dragon...and I AM that dragon.

    "...I have to destroy them all, Epsilon. I cannot, should not, WILL NOT show mercy. I must reclaim the X Division Championship. I must not fail again...NEVER again..."


    Epsilon lets out a very concerned tone as he, cautiously, asks a question in his garbled tongue. Konchu, not even looking at Epsilon, has his gaze firmly locked onto the stadium.

    "There will come a time when things return to as they were, my friend. I have no desire to allow darkness to control me...I am the one who commands it and bends it to my will. But for Back in Business? I will drink deep from the cup of evil. This is no time for being whimsical, no time for making jokes and being merry. This is a time for cruelty. For violence. For conquest and the complete evisceration of my opponents until none stand between me and my rightful prize.

    "Grayson is the first. A sniveling, unremarkable whelp of a boy who stands as some arbiter of justice. By what right did he have to judge me for the actions of J.J.? Who is he? His sole great accomplishment was winning a title without having to defeat the current champion. All Grayson has done is stand in the shadow of greater men and women, pretending that his presence hasn't been completely drowned out. He fell by my hand within Madman's Mayhem...but if he thinks that's the worst I can do to him? He is sorely mistaken.

    "And once I've disposed of him? Either J.J. or Christopher will fall. Because neither man deserves to walk out of Back in Business with championship gold. Not over me. Not over ME! I am not some side attraction to some headlining feud. I'm not just the enabler of other men's insanity. I am Konchu Hao, Epsilon! The Primogen of the Black Mass, the Mad Wizard, the Master and Ruler of the Realm of Chaos, and the X Division Championship is MINE, BY RIGHT!"


    Konchu's left fist clenches tightly, so tightly that a trickle of blood seeps from his palm.

    "The time for fun and games is done for now. I see that all too clearly. Let the world think I'm a clown for now. I don't mind. It'll make the devastation I unleash at Back in Business all the most shocking as I stand atop three broken corpses, and reclaim my position as Champion of the X..."

    There's no long, crazed cackle.
    There's no flowerly, verbose metaphors.

    At Back in Business, Konchu Hao will be evil. Will be cruel. And will not relent until what was lost is reclaimed, and punishment for defiance is meted out.

    However, in this spiral of anger and grim determination, Konchu feels a tug at his robe-sleeve. For the first time, Konchu looks down and sees Epsilon pulling at him.

    As Konchu's fist unclenches, Epsilon takes it into his own.

    Epsilon says nothing. Does nothing. And he doesn't need to. The gesture is enough.

    Epsilon knows his master's obsession. Knows that he will pursue it with full vim, vigor, and venom.

    But he also knows that this isn't who Konchu Hao should always have to be.

    And this small gesture is a reminder of that.

    Konchu looks down at Epsilon holding his hand...a tiny show of friendship, sure. But it is a welcome one. One that reminds the Mad Wizard that the dark path he's about to embark on will not and should not define him. A seed of light to chase away the darkness once the task at hand is concluded.

    For the first time since this whole thing started, Konchu gives Epsilon a soft, sad, but genuine smile as he turns his gaze back to the stadium.

    The two of them stand there, the monumental challenge ahead of them. And neither budge as we cut to black...
    Something Witty!

    Cyrus Truth
    4x FWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x FWA North American Champion
    Carnal Contedership 2016 Winner
    2x CWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x PnH International Champion

    Konchu Hao
    1x FWA X Division Champion
    Ground Zero Winner (Season 2)

  19. #19
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    The following takes place a few days before the duo of Jackson Fenix & Nate Savage, better known as The Undisputed Alliance, make a trip overseas for FWA’s largest show of the year; Back in Business. We find the two friends at the home of Nate Savage, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

    *****

    A Tale of two knights

    “Remember last year at Back in Business XIV?”

    Nate Savage asks his friend and tag team partner, Jackson Fenix. Jackson was too busy swiping away on his iPhone even to bother paying attention to Nate. Jackson has his long hair done up in a bun, and he’s wearing a white t-shirt with Britney Spears sitting in a chair, along with some blue jeans and casual shoes.

    Nate Savage: “Hey, are you even listening?”

    Nate is wearing an officially licensed UA t-shirt, which you can find now on ShopFWA.com! He’s also in some lounge shorts and sneakers. Jackson finally looks up from his phone to see Nate glaring at him.

    Jackson Fenix: “What?”

    Nate Savage: “Are you finished looking at locals on Tinder?”

    Fenix pockets his phone and leans back on the couch.

    Jackson Fenix: “Yeah, I guess so. Nothing caught my eye anyway.”

    Nate Savage: “With how much you were swiping left, I kind of guessed that. You know, maybe if you weren’t so picky and settled down with a nice lady.”

    Nate shrugs like he’s saying, “What do I know?”

    Jackson Fenix: “That sounds like an awful idea; why would I do that?”

    Nate Savage: “I don’t know, man, I’m just saying is all. Anyway, what I was asking you a moment ago while you couldn’t make a selection, do you remember last year’s Back in Business ?”

    Jackson Fenix: “Of course I remember, how could I forget? It was our BIB debut, and we were walking in as the FWA Tag Team Champions!”

    Nate Savage: “Yeah, that sure was something, huh? It’s too bad that we didn’t walk out as the champs, though.”

    Fenix had a grin on his face, but once Savage mentions the outcome of that match, the grin instantly vanishes.

    Jackson Fenix: “That’s bullshit.”

    Nate Savage: “Look at us, a little over a year later, and what have we done since then? We said that we would take back what was ours. We made that promise, and yet, here we sit, empty-handed.”

    Jackson Fenix: “While we let other teams like Golden Crock, Danny Toner, and Donny - I mean Ryan Rondo - run roughshod over the division. Are we even on the card for this year’s show? I saw that we got drafted to some new show called Fall down or whatever.”

    Nate Savage: “It’s Fallout, and yeah, I believe we are on the card. In some kind of battle royal match, the winner can challenge the North American Championship or the X Division Championship.”

    Jackson Fenix: “Oh, that thing? I didn’t think we were on the card because our names weren’t even listed; freaking Joe Burr gets billed, but not us? What type of horse-”

    Jackson stops mid-swear as Nate’s six-year-old daughter, Delilah, walks into the room.

    Delilah: “Daddy, what are you doing?”

    Nate Savage: “Daddy is just speaking with Uncle Jax.”

    She trots over to her Dad with a slight frown.

    Delilah: “Daddy, do you have to leave?”

    She clings to his knee, and it sounds like she may start crying; Nate sits up and consoles her.

    Nate Savage: “I’m afraid, so sweetie, Uncle Jax and I have to travel somewhere very far for our company. I know that you wanted to come, but I think you should stay here with Mom and your brother, okay?”

    Delilah sniffles and then nods. Nate hoists her up on his lap and wipes away some tears.

    Delilah: “Daddy, can you tell me a story?”

    Nate Savage: “A story? What kind of story?”

    Delilah: “I don’t know, just any story, please, Daddy.”

    Jackson Fenix: “Yeah, come on, Daddy, tell us a story.”

    Nate shoots a glare at Fenix, who snickers at his little joke.

    Nate Savage: “Okay, I thought of one. It’s a story about two knights; Savage Knight and Fenix Knight.”

    Jackson Fenix: “I bet that Fenix Knight is devilishly handsome and scores with all the ladies.”

    Nate Savage: “The two knights traveled from a land called Falloutopia to a town called...Business.”


    Savage Knight and Fenix Knight arrive at the town of Business after what seemed like over a year-long journey.

    Fenix Knight: “Finally, we are Back in Business!”


    Jackson Fenix: “That doesn’t sound like something that I’d say.”

    Nate Savage: “It sounds exactly like something that you’d say, now where was I?”


    Savage Knight: “Yes, but we’re here for a job, not for leisure.”

    Fenix Knight: “If you ask me, after that long journey, we deserve some downtime and leisure.”

    Savage Knight: “There’s no time to waste, Fenix. We were sent here for a job, and we have to get that job finished, got it?”

    Fenix Knight gives a slightly dejected nod, and the duo carries on through the town until they notice a signup sheet for a battle royal of some kind.

    Savage Knight: “Gunfight Battle Royal, all may enter. The winner will receive a prize of gold of their choosing.”

    Fenix Knight: “Gunfight? That sounds like a ridiculous name!”

    Savage Knight: “Yes, but this is it! This is the job that we came here for!”

    Fenix Knight: “It is?”

    Savage Knight: “Indeed, we must sign up and meet where it says to meet later.”

    Fenix shrugs and signs his name just as instructed.

    *****

    Time has passed, and it’s now time for the Gunfight Battle Royal to commence. Savage and Fenix were not the only competitors representing Falloutopia. There was the Fantasy Captain, Mr. Sauce, and the man simply known as Summers, as well as many other rumored names. The rest of the field of competitors featured characters from the town known as Meltdownia.

    Savage Knight and Fenix Knight arrive in battle and stand across their foes from Meltdownia and Falloutopia. Only one person can survive this battle; who will it be?

    Savage Knight and Fenix Knight fend off as many foes as Shocks, Louis Calendar, Darwin father & Darwin son, Hour-Man, and even that little pipsqueak Joe Burr. They’ve even managed to outlast several of their fellow Falloutopians, and now it’s just down to the Knights. The two friends stand across from each other and have a staredown.


    Savage Knight: “This is it. I was afraid that it would come down to this.”

    Fenix Knight: “Really? I’m not. You should know better than anybody that it’s every man for himself!”

    Savage Knight: “You are correct, my friend, for once in your poor, pathetic life, you’re correct.”

    Fenix Knight: “Poor, pathetic life? What does that mean?! After this is all over, we’re still allies, aren’t we?”


    Savage Knight: “Of course we are!”

    Fenix Knight: “Then why did you feel the need to insult me?!”

    Savage Knight: “To take you off your game.”


    Fenix Knight tries to figure out what that means, but he’s tackled to the ground by Savage Knight. He starts hammering away at the man that has been his friend and ally for so long now. Fenix Knight blocks an attack and gives himself the advantage now.

    Fenix Knight: “Well, well, well, how the turntables….”

    Savage Knight: “You’re not even making sense!”

    The two get off of each other and stand facing off once more.

    Fenix Knight: “This is it, huh?”

    Savage Knight: “I guess it is.”

    The two charge at one another for the final clash…


    Jackson Fenix: “Wait, what if it does come down to us?”

    Nate Savage: “Like you said in the story, every man for himself.”

    Jackson Fenix: “Basically, that means it’ll be me that wins then, right?”

    Nate Savage: “Not if I have anything to say about it.”

    Jackson Fenix: “Well, as long as it’s one of us and not some goober like Sauce Man.”

    Nate Savage: “or that weirdo Captain Fantasy.”

    Jackson Fenix: “or Louis Valander or even that little dork Joe Burr!”

    The two continue to prattle on about the match and whatever else as Delilah sleeps soundly on her Dad’s lap.

    *The End*


    Rest in power, Flock U
    Rest in power, TCON

    Team Cyrus T is Best for Business

    Letterboxd

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed
    Stop the hating of the E-Feds. If you don't like something, that's fine, just ignore it and let the people who do enjoy what they're here on WC to do. Mocking them to make you feel less of a geek for being on a geek on a wrestling forum is lame. If you want to not read their posts, I can fix that for you.

  20. #20
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    Re: Back in Business XV | Promo Thread

    The Book Of Yuna -To Die or Live Free?

    No one knows precisely when they would die. There was a time, though, when fanciful tales dissipated into echoing questions, leaving gaping holes in the tapestries of lore. And people - from the lowliest of innkeepers to the highest of kings, encompassing every fine and not-so-fine maid - would wonder because no one knew how to live the life of a legend quite like Captain Yuna.


    It was a storm, a huge one, kicking up something terrible along the coast of Paris. That threatened to bring her down with her ship she loved so much they were joined, supernatural,. If she went down, the ship went down; if the ship went down, she went down. And that's how Yuna Funanori knew she would die.

    But to die like this? At the hands of a mad man? Not possible. Born with a sword in her hand Yuna Funanori was the daughter of a gypsy, you know, magic in the blood. Was that her fate? To die? At the hand of Vincent Blackbird? The madness finally caught up with her.? Sun and rum and -

    Scurvy. Fever. Syphilis. Plague. Plague? Bubonic plague.

    Traitor, mutiny, skeletons. No, that was years ago or more. Another curse, then, a better one. A Killing Curse. From different Gods? Aye.

    Was she fated to die trying to save Wrestling? Or was she to be taken by Wrestling?. Yes, he was taken by one of them.

    Hanged. No, not hanged - tortured. Brave man, though, never gave up his crew. Never? Never ever.

    She could feel her ship thrumming beneath her, cutting silently through the waves. The sea was glass-smooth, reflecting the skies above. The indigo silks of Singapore and silver threads from Morocco; peacock feathers, cyan and dragon's blood. A fine mist clung to her sails like the last vestiges of a dream, of a memory, of a life before. The more she tried to grasp it, the more it slipped away, and so she contented himself with settling a feather-light grip on the wheel.

    Here, the sea and sky stretched out, and there was a ship sailing beside her; a large man was sneering up at her from his rivalship. After seemingly months of chasing her, he had finally caught up to her, and now he was the one waging siege on her, not the other way around that were pale smudges against the dark wood, but each one nonetheless recognisable for it. The vessel was flying colours that she knew as well as himself, and she could hear sweet snatches of a half-remembered song. She followed the sound, followed them into choppier waters, where the wind sang in her ears and the mist was washed away. Salt on her tongue and a laugh bubbling from her lips

    There would be no more running from Lord Vincent.

    No more tricks.

    No more games.

    Vincent wishes for a fight to the death?

    Then this will be the night where Yuna will gladly die for what she believes in, even if the world mocked her, even if her actions were mocked, even if the world rolled its eyes. Yuna will die for her vision. And cut down those that served to bring down what she considered art.

    For it was better to die with a sword in her hand than live as a servant.

    Lord Vincent would board soon. And she would be waiting;

    She will chase that horizon across the seas and into forever.
    Last edited by An Original Name; 06-12-2021 at 07:13 PM.
    The most amazing thing about this recent conversation is that I've learned AON is even more of a waste of space than I thought he was previously

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