Alexander's Office - STA Headquarters
Alexander turns off the television as Vega submits to Wunderbar and turns his attention to Connor. "A success, I think you will agree Connor."
He nods once. "It did come off well, sir but what about the Mayhem championship? After our ploy with Wunderbar I'm no longer in contention for the title."
"That is an acceptable sacrifice. The Monkey will have his fun this week. We must focus on other things." He places his hands on the desk. "I have received advance word about WZCW's plan for their next show. There will be a Battle Royale for a spot in the World title match at Unscripted featuring the majority of the roster."
Connor pauses to take the information in. "And you expect me to win." His tone makes it clear that's not a question. "How do you want me to train for this? Double sessions in The Circus?"
"No, Connor. What you need to win a Battle Royale cannot be found by training alone. Physical skills matter very little in such an environment. No talent is required to throw a man over the top rope. No, the most important weapon is your mindset. If you doubt that you are good enough to headline a WZCW show for even a moment that is the moment you will be eliminated. If you doubt that anyone in the ring is anything but your inferior you will be unable to send them to the ground. To control others you must first be in control of yourself."
"Have you been speaking to Hiraku again, sir?"
Alexander doesn't laugh. "You are to appear as a headliner of the debut show of the newest SWN affiliated federation. Sascha has arranged transport and accommodation. You depart in two days."
"Is that all, sir?"
"Not quite. Connor, Peter Ken is scheduled to appear on the show as well."
Connor intercepts. "And Kara will be there too." His jaw clenches in spite of his attempts to retain his composure. "Thanks for the warning." Not giving Alexander a chance to continue he turns to the door.
Five days later - Backstage of SWN: Louisiana debut show
The show must be close to over. Connor doesn't know for sure, he'd spent most of it sitting in his dressing room. It was easier than confronting the elephant in the room - or more accurately in the sea monster in the Gorilla position. A knock on the door breaks the grim silence he's been sitting in. "It's open."
Kara opens it. Perfect. "Con, you're up."
He stands, brushing past her and taking the microphone in her hand. "After my music hits, tell the boys that there's going to be a schedule 5." He walks off towards the curtain.
"WHAT! Are you shitting me?"
"Nope" He reaches the curtain and nods to the sound man.
"Don't you dare go out there Connor!" She must have been furious to resort to calling him that.
Not that it would stop him. He steps through the curtain to the 500 or so booing fans. Not bad for a bush league federation. He slides into the ring and turns on the microphone.
"Wow, New Orleans." The crowd pops for the name of their town. Idiots. "I can't think of a better place to be contractually obligated to stand in front of 500 people." The crowd boos mildly, not a bad start but still a long way to go. "But as much as I could say about this town, I've got bigger fish to fry." He pauses a moment. "While I've been here, I've been taught the meaning of Southern hospitality. Everyone I've met has greeted me politely and with a smile and perfect manners. Everyone that is except for one person." He lowers the microphone to inhale. "A man who once upon a time I respected as a veteran wrestler. A man whose commitment to this business is beyond dispute. A man I want to talk to face to face. So Peter, why don't you come on down?" Nothing happens. The crowd starts booing more. Still more to go until he reaches his goal. "Not coming out to play? Well maybe you're not sure exactly who I'm talking to. I want "Tornado" Pete Ken to come down to the ring. Come on, you used to be willing to travel 3,000 miles for a paycheque, what's an aisle?"
The figure of the once great wrestler finally appears. Connor opens the ropes for him. "Glad you could make it." He says sarcastically, noting the lack of a microphone. "Too much of a rush to grab one of these?" He waves his own in front of him. "Well that's OK. I don't really care what you've got to say, old man." The crowd gets louder with their disdain for Connor. He smirks, he hasn't even started yet. "No Pete, I stopped caring what you had to say when you tried to get me fired from WZCW and blackballed everywhere else. How'd that work out?" He laughs in the man's face. "No answer? Luckily I know exactly what happened. You called everyone you could think of to get rid of me and most of your 'contacts' hung up as soon as they realised who the number belonged to. Those that didn't had a two letter answer for you." He gets within inches of the old pro, eyes level. "I can see it in your eyes. You hate me, don't you Pete? There's no point in hiding it." The crowd's getting rowdier, but Connor doesn't move seemingly intent on Ken. "You're pathetic Peter, you truly are. You're a fat old has been with no balls and a liver in worse shape than this shithole after Katrina." Cheap, but effective the crowd is getting rowdier with every word. He's getting close.
"Oh you don't like what I'm saying to Petey?" He lets the crowd scream at him for a moment. "Well, it's about time the truth about this scumbag came out. There's a reason the man you're getting angry for has only got one family member who hasn't disowned him... yet. This is a man who hasn't spoken to his younger brother in three decades because he's 'a faggot'; an egomaniac who screwed over his own brother to get a push; a sociopath who missed his mother's funeral because he might have been able to get some bookings in Japan." He backs away, and stars circling the cancer survivor. "Two brothers, a sister, three ex-wives, seven mistresses, countless flings and two dozen kids. And how many people saw you in hospital? Only Kara, the rest didn't even care enough to send a card. How many followed you into the family business? Just Kara. Hell, you got more people to quit wrestling than you did inspire to follow in your footsteps. And when I left her in a crumpled pile for the EMTs your blood boiled." The crowd is straining at the barricades. It shouldn't take too much more. "But not because you cared that I attacked her. Let's face it, you barely saw her while she was young, and even now you'd leave her in your rear view mirror if you weren't physically unable to wrestle. You got angry because I killed off the only chance that your family had to remain relevant. The Ken wrestling dynasty, the one thing other than yourself you care about will die with you. Kara's the only other Ken in the business, and let's face it nobody cares about the ring rat division. I was the only chance you had to have a son-in-law who'd carry on your family's legacy into the future and that kills you. When she marries some nobody and has kids that amount to less than nothing that means you failed your Dad." He looks out at the crowd, straining at the barricades, security working overtime to keep them back.
"But guess what. It's too late, you already did fail. Your career ended with you widely reviled as a past his prime fatass who doesn't know when to hang up your boots, without a penny in the bank. The only reason you've been able to pay the rent is because Alexander Stark gave you a handout by appointing you as head trainer at the first SWN school he opened. And deep down you know everything I've just said is the truth. I could lay you out right now and you'd take it like the bitch you are before watching me climb to heights you never reached. I'm the first of the next generation, the poster boy of an emerging era, the future legend. You are as you've always been. A nobody who thinks he's a star." It's time. Connor swings around, his elbow colliding with Peter's chin. The old man topples. The crowd finally has enough, forcing their way through gaps in security and flooding the ring area looking to tear Connor limb from limb. Wrestlers charge down the aisle to take control of the situation. In the chaos, Connor vanishes.
The riot would probably make the local news. Connor was billed for the next New Orleans show. If there were less than a thousand fans he'd be positively disappointed.
He is ready to ascend.
The scene opens in Brother Mason Westhoff’s beautiful office, with the man himself sitting in his large leather chair with his back to the camera. The camera is aimed over Brother Westhoff’s left shoulder, with only the outlines of his body and desk and a video screen clearly visible due to a lack of light. On the screen in front of him, the following scene plays:
There it is. The first time I succumb to a fall in WZCW. The first time Brother Jacobs and I get a chance to face the goofball idiots masquerading as champions with no one else involved. Just two on two, one fall to a finish. This was destined to be the night that The New Church proved that we are the best tag team in WZCW. Despite our best efforts, it was not to be.
Brother Westhoff reaches out with his left hand and begins fiddling with a pen, twirling it between his fingers and intermittently tapping it on the desk.
No one likes failure. Most people do their best to avoid it. I, however, have managed to do what most cannot and avoid failure my entire life. Anything and everything I have set my mind to, I have accomplished. I was told that no one would believe me about The Almighty. Now, I have a congregation that numbers in the thousands. Then they told me that I would never build the worship space I had envisioned where I had envisioned it. You can look around the room we are in now to see how that went.
Brother Westhoff tosses the pen onto his desk and rises to his feet. The camera follows him as he walks around his office, admiring the various objects on the bookcases despite the relative darkness.
I don’t consider our loss on Ascension as a failure. A disappointment or a setback, yes, but not a failure. The WZCW Tag Team Championship is the ultimate goal of Brother Jacobs and me. As strange as it may seem, the Supershow Battle Royal this week may the perfect opportunity for us to prepare for that goal.
You see, there are very few matches as chaotic as a battle royal. It’s more of a bar fight than a wrestling match. Bodies everywhere punching, kicking and grabbing to achieve one goal: be the last man standing. I must admit that I am quite excited for this to be my first foray into competition solo.
Brother Westhoff pauses for a moment to rearrange some knick-knacks on top of a bookcase. He chuckles to himself before continuing.
It’s funny, I plan to enter this match, but not for the reasons that most do. I plan to enter to help prepare for the next time Brother Jacobs and I step into the ring with Saxton and Saboteur. They didn’t defeat Brother Jacobs and I with superior wrestling or strategy. They won by creating chaos in and around the ring, chaos that we were not properly prepared for. By entering a battle royal, a match designed for chaos, I will be that much more equipped for a future tag title opportunity.
Most of the men entering this match will do so hoping for their chance at the WZCW World Title and the glory that goes along with it. This is not to say that I wouldn’t make the most of the opportunity if I were to receive it, especially if that is the plan The Almighty has for me. To put it simply, I will walk out of the Supershow one step closer to some kind of championship gold, be it tag team or world. I will succeed in having one of those belts around my waist because, gentlemen…
Brother Westhoff turns the screen off, plunging the room into almost complete darkness.
I do not fail.
The scene opens up with Alex sitting at a dinner table, Candles are lit, a feast is sure to be had. Bowen's head is freshly shaven, and his ever present beard is combed. Two plates are fixed, and the second chair is pulled out, Bowen's company for the night must be late. He leans down and holds his head in his hands. The company is about ten minutes late, Bowen scratches the side of his head, and sighs deeply. A few minutes pass, and finally a Doorbell rings. Bowen shoots out of his depressed demeanor, and briskly walks to the front door. Dodging things here and there, in his smaller house, he finally makes it to the front door. Opening it he is met by a woman in a small black dress, she almost plows him over. It's Lilith and she is giving him a bear hug that the biggest of submission artists would be proud of. Bowen kisses her on the cheek, and turns pulling her to the dinner table. Pulling out her chair, she sits, down and Bowen makes his way to his chair
Alex- I'm glad you came over, I thought you had stood me up! It's been a crazy couple of weeks, I can't believe I ran into you outside of the Power House. Do you understand, really how long it's been?
Lilith can use whatever she wants, she can lie, use product, anything, but her ID wouldn't lie. She is seven days older than Alex, born on the 14th of November, Alex Was born just a week later.
Lilith- Oh it's been quite some time, I remember seeing you on T.V a few times. I even tried to look you up after you got out of Jail. I even went to one of your shows, A long time ago. But you were with some woman, and she had a little girl by her side. I thought it was best not to say anything. She isn't around still is she?
Alex- Not really she divorced me about four years ago. I'm not a cheater, or a liar, but I was never really there for her. She tried to keep on the road with me. But this really kind of swallows you up, you know?
Lilith- Not really, I know what you've told me... that's about it.
Alex- It's not an easy life for one person, but when you put it all on the line, every night. It can wear on even the toughest partner. I'm not sure how it really started, but when it all comes down to it. Two hundred dollar pay checks to rip your body apart didn't cut it. I was doing that for ten years.
Lilith- Are you mad that you did it? It seems like you love the sport, you're still in it.
Alex- I'm not mad that I stayed in wrestling. I never wanted to be like my dad, and this is all I'm good at. But when I look back I'm more like him, than I ever thought possible. I was a roaring drunk, trying to will away the pain every day. I never beat her, or cheated. But I wasn't a husband, or a father.
Bowen shakes his head, and lets out a deep sigh.
Lilith- The way you talk now, you're trying to move past that. Trying to go to higher places! I'm proud of you, Alex. I'm not lying when I say this, I'm glad you're talking to me again. It seems like you've traveled a long road, Alex. I'm glad you're going places now. It's never to late.
Lilith- What's was it like?
Alex- What was what like? I'm not following?
Lilith picks up her fork and pokes around at the food on her plate.
Lilith- I saw what you did to people Alex, how did you do that? I'm sorry, but I would have to agree with your wife... I watched your videos. They weren’t matches, you were trying to hurt people. I went back and saw a lot of your matches, how do you call that wrestling?
Alex- Why are you attacking me? It's not like I was beating up defenseless people. They were there for the same thing.
Lilith- But it looked like you enjoyed it.
Alex- I did, that's what you have to be in this business. No one is going to lay down for you, so I made them lay down. That's exactly what I have to do in the Battle Royal, if you want to win, you have to let people know you are the top dog. The whole vibe backstage with me is a joke, but I could really care less what they think. People look at me differently, they think I'm soft. I mean I guess I can't blame them, I've won a tag team match since beating Ricky. But this is a chance, luck has nothing to do with it. This is the kind of match that I really can survive in. No one in the company has taken the punishment that I have and survived!
Lilith- You act like you have to hurt people...
Alex looks at Lilly with wide eyes.
Alex- What do you think this is, patty-cake? A man smashed a crystal globe in the back of my head at the last pay per view. It's gone past show now, he's in water that few have ever dared to tread in. I have no real clue what his beef is, but Lilly, I'm going to make sure this ends. He's sat back and been a log jam in front of me for long enough. Grand mystique makes me sick... He's just like the rest of them, this is a company, and I know they have to do what's right to make money. But I know for a fact, that with a good match I can make each and everyone of the fans buy my stuff. I don't need a super cool gimmick, or flashy flips, and jumps.
Lilly has been eating her food, and carefully hearing out what Bowen has to say. He shakes his head and takes a deep breath. Reaching forward he takes the glass in front of him, and takes a huge gulp of water. Lilly looks at Bowen, and shakes her head.
Lilith- I really don't know anything about wrestling, and that's the truth. But I'll support you, if this is what you want to do. It's important to you.
Alex- It is important to me. I always have a plan, that's something that people have always said about me. Bowen is just a neanderthal with a kendo stick, swinging it here and there. Even Baez said it about me. But that's funny, how did I survive this long? I was older, and in worse shape than most of the roster, but I'm still here. It's because I'm smarter than most of them. This isn't a singles match, it's a match for survivors, and that's what I've been my whole life. Everyone wants to win that title, and they will take any chance to do it. Well that's not me, Lilly, I know how to make the most of my time. Screw hitting the big finisher, or Wowing the crowd. They can remember my name after I win this thing, and then win the title.
Lilith- You also have more on your plate than most of them, GM could be waiting for you anytime.
Alex- That's to true, I'm not totally going to let that weigh on my mind. I'm not a normal roster member, I've ground Wzcw's greatest hero’s into dust. I helped plunge this whole company into darkness, now it's my time to rise above the rest. I'm not a jobber for life, I'm not going to let the Mayhem division define, Alex Bowen anymore. I'm going to take this company by it's balls, hold it hostage until I get what I want. This will be my shot, this will be my night.
Alex raises up his glass for a toast, Lilly follows suit.
Lilith- To the next world champ.
Alex- Cheers... this whole company can hold its breath and wait. This is my time, no one will stop that. They can all face the colossus.
Bowen puts down his drink, and points a finger into his chest.
Alex- Because I back down from no one...
A loud banging echoed throughout the quiet house. A cool draft could be felt seeping through the cracks around the door. The banging continued.
I'm going in there.
Give him some more time.
All he has done since Apocalypse is sleep and drink.
Dinah shook her head at James.
His girlfriend of three years is gone. How would you react if I just up and left one day?
James didn't respond. He just kept his attention on the floor.
Not to mention he spent a few of those days in the hospital after the attack.
The look of anger on James' face was evident. He was still clearly sour over the incident.
I should still go check on him.
Dinah silently nodded her approval.
When James opened the door it was like he stepped into an entirely different world. The floor, usually littered with video games and comic books, was littered with empty bottles. The smell of alcohol was still fresh on some of them.
Dinah stuck her head in for a quick peak, and quickly retreated to a safe distance. The sight and smell hit her and upset her already fragile stomach.
James made his way through the mess to the bed. He pulled the covers back, and instantly regret his decision.
Is he okay?
Dinah called from the hallway.
Yeah, but don't come in. Mikey is completely naked.
James pulled the cover back up over Mikey's waist and tried to wake him. The only response he got was a mumble and some stirring.
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a piece of paper. Curiosity got the best of him and he picked it up. He expected it to be the Dear John letter, but what he read was even more surprising.
Just by writing this it proves I’m not over you in the way I convince myself
Long ago I tried to write you off when I pulled this book off its shelf
You had the world in your hands and you threw it away
I want you to know though that on my thoughts you don’t as often weigh
We had it all and we wanted nothing less
To have received you I thought I must have been blessed
You broke my heart though and into a million pieces it was shattered
I look back at you and realize to you I never really mattered
I used to say thanks for making me the person I grew into
It is only now that I realize I am someone entirely different thanks to you
I would like to forget your smile each time we awoke
And I want to forget your voice from each time you spoke
I want to forget how I was hurt and how I cried
Most of all I just want to forget how I ever tried
I could kiss a million people and it would never compare
To when I laid next to you and ran my fingers through your hair
You left me sitting here cold broken and alone
With a loneliness that gave me chills down to my bone
Of all you ever did to make me the person I didn’t want to be
The most important probably the one thing that you will never be able to see
Because strength is born from heartache
And because of your actions I am now finally awake
Able to see to the end any pain I may go through
And the strength to finally be able to get over you
I see you found my poem.
Mate, this is decent. I didn't know you could write poetry.
I rolled out of bed. James turned just in time to see me bending over to pull on some pants.
Damn, I did not need to see that.
I fell back into bed and reached under it, searching for something. I pulled out a partially empty bottle of vodka and sat next to James.
You didn't need to see that either.
I tapped the paper with the bottle before taking a long drink.
It wasn't bad. You may just have a hidden talent.
I took another drink.
I have a few things I'm good at that I keep to myself.
I reach for a shirt on the ground and start to pull it on.
Is that a puke stain?
I look down at the stain. I pull the shirt off and throw it across the room, then reach for the next closest shirt.
Because over the last few years I've found that it is easy to be Mikey, but it is harder to be Michael.
James shoots me a puzzled look.
Mikey is that guy that most of the fans cheer. The goofy guy who is all smiles. The guy who goes out and and horses around with Ricky Runn for five minutes instead of having an actual match. He is the guy who tells the announcers to order him take out when he is staging a sit in. That guy is easy to play.
I pause to finish off the bottle.
Michael is the guy most people don't see. The guy who wrote that. The guy who cries when he sees abused animal commercials on TV. The guy who made a girl way out of his league fall in love with him. The same guy who pushed her away. The guy who has trouble juggling his private and public life.
The two of us sit in silence for a few minutes.
Look at me. I'm not ready to come back, but I have to. I have to keep outdoing myself, I have to keep smiling, that is what being a good guy is all about.
Are you ready for that? I can find out who attacked us, I can get revenge.
I'm not ready, I just told you. Frankly I don't care who attacked me. Right now I don't care about anything. I could up and quit tomorrow and I would be happier. Michael would be happier, but the fans don't love Michael. They don't accept Michael. They love and accept Mikey, and that is who I have to go out there and be. I don't give a damn about this battle royal. I don't give a damn about The New Church, or Krypto, or Saxoteur. I could care less if Chris K.O. or Steven Holmes, or Darren Bull ran the company. Sometimes I feel like I'm not supposed to be here. Sometimes I wake up, I don't want to be here. Others I wish I would have never tried to be a pro wrestler. It changed everything. My mom loved to text me. She doesn't look at me like I’m the same person. I used to be the sweet one, but things changed. Now I just keep going out there and doing what the fans want, that way someone will accept me. My whole life I wanted to be part of the cool crowd, part of the winning team, but considering the person I have become, alone is exactly how I deserve to be.
James takes a moment before he speaks.
You have people who accept you. Dinah and I have grown to actually like having your around believe it or not. Your family allows you to come back anytime you want, and you have Ros...
He stops when he realizes his faux pas.
Did I ever tell you how we met and eventually came to be?
James simply shook his head no.
I take a deep breath and begin my story.
About five years ago I was at a party. Don't ask why I went, I think a friend dragged me along to get me out of the house. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade had just came out and it was taking up most of my free time. He said a high school senior should be doing things other than guiding a Dwarf Hunter through made up lands. Anyway I spend most of the party glued to the wall. I wasn't a big drinker back then. After my third or fourth soda my bladder was ready to explode. As I made my way to the bathroom I saw a girl crying in one of the upstairs bedrooms. My naturally altruistic personality kicked in and I went to check on her. This guy she had been crushing on hard had rejected her and she was upset over it. For the next hour or so I sat talking to her and getting to know her. It took me an hour to fall in love. Once she stopped crying she went back out to the party, and I thought I would never see her again. I didn't want that though. I ended up neglecting my guild almost every weekend. I was going to parties like a Hollywood whore, just trying to see her again. Finally I was at a graduation party a few months later when I ran into her again. I tried all night to work up the courage to talk to her. Finally I put all the nervous shit out of my mind and went for it. She was a little tipsy, and most of the talk was nothing more than her talking about wanting to be a singer, and her drunkenly telling me she thought my hair was cute. I couldn't keep the courage I had and let her walk off that night. Graduation came and went, and by societies standards I was a man at that point. That summer I thought it would be me and few friends hanging out, getting into some trouble, kicking some alien ass in Halo, and enjoying life before college. It ended up just me and her. I liked her and she liked me and I more than liked her, but I didn't know if she did or did not more than like me. She never said, so I didn't say anything all summer. I was content to enjoy the small miracle of a girl choosing to talk to me and choosing to do so again the next day and so on. A girl who was smart and funny and who, if I said something dumb for a laugh, was willing to say something two or three times as dumb to make me laugh, but who also got weird and wise sometimes in a way I could never be. A girl who read books that no one had assigned to, a girl who had blue eyes that made me feel like I was lost floating somewhere in the sky.
I shifted my weight, and I wiped a single tear from the corner of my eye. James still sat, surprisingly intent to enjoy my story.
It was like that until the weekend before I left for college. That Saturday we sat on the bank of the river, just talking about nothing, but to me it was everything, but the reality was I was going to go off to school soon, and unless her family made a drastic move, I would be pretty far away, and it would probably be it for us. I had to say something, but with my track record if I said something it really would be it for us. The sun was setting, and our conversation had gotten quiet as we gazed out onto the calm waters. We sat in silence until the sun had creeped behind the horizon and we made our way back to my car. The hum of static from my broken radio was the only sound there was for much of the drive. All of a sudden I broke the silence. “Can I tell you something?” Then I was telling her. And I kept telling her and it all came out of me and it kept coming and her face is there and gone and there and gone as we passed underneath the lights that lined the sides of the highway. And there’s no expression on it. I think just after a point I was just talking to lengthen the time where we lived in a world where she hadn't said “yes” or “no” yet. And regrettably I ended up using the word “destiny.” I don’t remember in what context. Didn’t matter. Before long I was out of stuff to say and she smiled and said, “okay.” I didn't know exactly what she meant by it, but it seemed vaguely positive. I would have loved to leave in order not to spoil the moment, but there was nowhere to go because we were in a car driving home.
James interrupts, and despite him being older than me by a good five years, I feel like I am telling a bedtime story to a small child because of the look on his face.
Nerves took over and I shut up the rest of the ride. I dropped her off without a word. I don't remember the drive from my house to hers. All I remember is falling asleep as soon as I got home. The next thing I can recall vividly is arriving at college and kissing my mom bye when she and my dad left.
By this time Dinah had made her way from the hallway back into my room. James made room for her and she took a seat to hear me finish my tale.
A few days later I was in class, and I ended up seated next to this girl who I had gone to school with and been good friends with, and her parents moved away when we were nine or ten. Puberty and adolescence had done her a hell of a lot of favors body wise. We got to talking and she invited me to a small get together that weekend. Maybe it was peer pressure, maybe it was me trying to change who I was, but that night I wasn't myself. I shaved and gotten a hair cut the day after the invite. I went out and spent what was supposed to be my food money on all new clothes. When I arrived I wasn't Michael, or even Mikey, I was someone totally new. I had on a nice button up collared shirt, with a plain t-shirt underneath. There was no Spider-Man or Batman hiding behind dress clothes that night. I had on nice shoes and new pants, instead of the same old cargo shorts and sandals. I even wore contacts instead of glasses. Not that I needed them, because when I looked at her that night I had 20/20 hindsight.
I laugh at my own lame joke before I continue
Nothing that night was typical me, I got drunk for the first time. At the end of the night when I was usually in a rush to get home and get a few hours of gaming in, this night I was ready to literally get it in. I ended up having my first one night stand that night. Maybe it would have been more but as I stumbled to my dorm the next morning I checked my phone and had a voice mail. When I got back I listened to it.
Hey Mikey, this is Rose. I know I haven't talked to you since that night, I had to think about it long and hard. I think you are right though. Destiny was the perfect word. Over the summer I fell for you and I fell hard. I want you like I haven't wanted anything in my entire life. I just hope you feel the same way.
The rest of the story you guys pretty much know. I left that evening after I sobered up and picked her up. Aside from the twist ending it was storybook.
Dinah is crying at this point. James puts a hand on my shoulder. I close my eyes and the room falls silent for a few minutes.
I look at you guys, you are in your late 20s, you are about to start a family. You two are pretty much the same people you are going to be your whole life. At your age, if you are a liberal person you are pretty much gonna be liberal your whole life. If you are conservative at your age, you are pretty much gonna be that way your entire life. If you are a girl who doesn't like oral, you better buy some cats and curl up with your Twilight books because you are gonna die alone.
James and I laugh a little, Dinah mostly lost to the joke.
I'm not there yet. I still have a lot of growing up to do. I'm twenty two but still feel like a child at times. Being a former tag team champion doesn't make me a man. Falling off a twelve foot ladder through four tables doesn't make me a man. Surviving a brutal blind side assault does nothing to help me grow up. I could be the first guy eliminated in the battle royal, or I could win the whole thing and go on to shock the world and be world champion. Those won't make me a man either.
This is all such a sad story.
I guess it is a story. It isn’t a story about how girls are evil or how love is bad though, it is a story about how I learned something and I’m not saying this thing is true or not, I’m just saying it’s what I learned. I wish I could say this was a story about how I got on that late night bus home a boy and got back here a man. More cynical, hardened, mature and all that bullshit. But that’s not true. The truth is a long time ago I got on a bus a boy. And I never got off that bus. Being with Rose was like a dream, maybe its time I wake up and face reality.
Novum quest incipit!
So, what now?
The hero returns; shed of malfunctioning equipment.
I must press on.
David Cougar, Drake Callahan, and Steven Holmes have all taken their seats at the banquet table, but yet one seat remains to be filled. One seat still remains vacant. This is the prize that kisses my ears. A seat at the table of men who have all proven themselves to be capable warriors of such a battle. All of them imperfect, but skilled in their own right. This is the class I most hope to find myself amongst. That is my quest!
At the second Supershow of WZCW, in Los Angeles, California, a new quest begins.
"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it." -Ayn Rand
James Howard is standing beneath the eaves of his loft space; bare plaster board can be seen in the gaps between photographs. Lots of photographs. Photographs of Grand Mystique, Titus and El Calife Dragon along with the rest of the WZCW roster; beneath each photo a brief handwritten scrawl of notes, bulleted lists of who they’ve beaten and who has beaten them, strengths and weaknesses, allies and enemies. Several photos are missing; the men who could, nay, must have attacked Mikey Stormrage.
Howard re-attaches some of the photos to the wall, namely Constantine and Matt Tastic; given what happened to them on the night Howard has eliminated them from his investigation, the remaining five are laid out upon a flat-pack desk that had clearly been built in a rush. Scooping the photos into a folio he carries them out of the room, and ultimately out to his car as he drives away from his house, pausing briefly at the sight of his tag partners car, untouched since they left for Apocalypse over a month ago. As Howard drives out of sight the front door opens, revealing a heavily pregnant Dinah Kelly, who quickly turns; slamming the door behind her as she realises that once again, her fiancée has disappeared into the night, a scream of frustration lingering in the silent, temperate evening.
The Californian countryside whizzes by the windows of Howard’s car as he races towards the city centre, eventually stopping at a vodka bar. Howard pauses momentarily at the neon signed entrance before stepping inside.
Hammer met anvil violently in Howard’s ears as the sheer volume of the music almost burst his ear drums, knocked off balance by the abrupt change in air pressure, he staggered like a drunk toward the bar, leaning heavily upon it.
“Would you like a drink sir?” The beautiful Russian woman asked from beyond the bar, her appearance just enough above a mid-shoot porn star to allow her to avoid being arrested for prostitution. Howard leant forward and whispered in her ear and she immediately disappeared. Howard rested on a stool and span around, leaning his back against the bar and waiting for an old friend to collect him.
“Mister Howard.” A deep dark voice appeared, the voice of a man as wide as he was tall but still somehow invisible between the strobe lighting in the club itself. “It has been a long time, come, please, follow me.”
Behind the curtain the sleek modernism of the club had been abandoned for white breezeblock walls and mazes of cardboard boxes, the large man leading the way did not look down nor, it seemed, straight ahead, forever peeking around corners and checking darkened doorways like a Spetsnaz officer who was yet to break the habit.
“You do realise of course that Aleksey is not here, he is still resting.”
“I know that Sergei, but this isn’t a social visit. Is there an office around here where we can talk?”
A leather-clad door was at the end of the long, dirty corridor. Its handle glinted in the light, a faux diamond rested on the end of the pivot. The other side was like walking back in time, oak panelled walls and an expensive walnut desk, sat directly in front of a large admiral’s chair and some artificially lit venetian blinds.
“Please, Mr Howard, take a seat.”
Howard duly perched on the smaller leather seats with thin, stubby legs. Sergei was already taller, when both men had taken their seats Howard could barely resist the urge to look around for his mother and plead his case.
“Now, why have you come to see me?”
Howard lurched forward from the child-sized chair, dropping the folio onto the desk.
“You owe me a favour or two. I’m cashing them in.”
Sergei leant towards the folio and laid out its contents.
“That is not how business is done, not profitable business at least.”
“Don’t mess me about Sergei, you know you owe me.” The meeting has barely begun but the exasperation in Howard’s voice was evident. “I need you to follow these men.”
“Follow?” Sergei laughed, “that is not so bad for business. Who are these men anyway?”
“Enemies, I wish I could call them rivals but one of these guys made it personal. I guess you know I’ve gotten into wrestling.”
“I had heard, I recognise the black one and the one with the mask. They seem like men who go too far.” Sergei pointed at the photos as he crudely described the headshots.
“Saxton and Saboteur, they’re the tag champs. They’re also the prime suspects but I highly doubt they’d do something like this without prompting. Idiots but they’re not that stupid.”
“Krypto; he needs to be locked up, homeless guy who has gotten it into his head that he’s an alien. I fought him the other week. He wouldn’t be on the list but he’s been paired up with the Looney Tunes and could’ve done their dirty work.”
“And the crew cut man and a priest? What exactly have you been doing with your wrestling to make enemies out of a priest?”
“The priest is Mason Westhoff; he’s not a man of actual god, you know, man in the sky god. He’s all hell fire and vengeance, the crew cut guy is his lackie, Derek Jacobs.” Howard paused, clearing his throat before standing “I trust I can leave this in your capable hands.”
“Of course friend. When we find anything I will let you know. I assume you want revenge, all you have to do is give me the word.”
Howard waved his hand “not necessary, I’ll take care of that.” With that Howard walked out of the room and back through the maze of corridors before returning to the vacant stool at the bar.
Two days later Howard returned home, he had walked or caught a bus for the majority of his journey. His car keys were now in the possession of a pseudo-porn star barmaid after he threw his them into the air and crashed through a glass table trying to catch them.
“Where in the blue hell have you been?” A scream came from upstairs as the door slammed behind him. “I’ve been worried sick”
“Phone went dead by the first morning.” Howard walked up the stairs, passing his heavily pregnant fiancée. “I had to ask a favour from an old friend”
“Russians?” Dinah said, almost whispering.
“Yes, Russians” Howard sneered in response “Between Rose leaving him and the attack Mikey’s broken and I don’t think I can fix him. Meanwhile you’ve turned into a hormonal harpy and then the Russians, the goddamn Russians. I cashed in a huge favour just so I can find the guys the put him in the hospital.”
“It’s not his body that’s the problem and you know it.”
Howard staggered back down the stairs, stumbling on the bottom step but staying upright. He marched through the living room and kitchen and down towards the basement. Over the next few days he only returned to the house to eat.
The argument when he decided to return to the real world was long and loud. Mikey appeared for the first time since Apocalypse to throw a bottle down the stairs and tell them to shut up. The argument eventually soften to a conversation; the conversation turned, inevitably, to WZCW and the battle royal.
“The thing is Dinah, the only way I can know for sure I’ve got the right guy is to get to the top of the mountain. This chance at a world title shot isn’t about gold or glory, it’s about helping him. I need to talk to him.”
Howard marched up the stairs, closely followed by Dinah. He slammed his fists onto the door, knocking as loudly as he could.
“I’m going in there”
*Steamboat Ricky stands in his locker room after his tag team match on Meltdown, guzzling a bottle of water. Johnny Klamor, pouring himself a glass of champagne, stands with the former champ.*
Once again...once again...no one respects me. I show up to Meltdown...a show that is beneath my quality, as an act of charity to Glow in the Dark Pajama Bottoms, and what does he do? He leaves me high and dry, taking a loss that should have been his. Don't these people realize what I've done for this company. The sacrifices I've made along the way...simply so they could have jobs? I mean...who's done more for this company than I have?
Surely, no one, sir. I know you are feeling as though justice was not served tonight, but you will have a chance to redeem yourself.
Why should I have to redeem myself?? I don't need to prove ANYTHING to ANYONE. I was running the show around here when most of the roster was in books. And still, I get nothing close to what I deserve. I'm sick of it, Johnny...I'm sick of it.
Just...just hear me out. You've wanted a shot at the WZCW World Heavyweight Championship since you've returned, yes?
A shot at it? It should be given to me. Who has been a better WZCW Champ than me? Who is more deserving than ME??
*Klamor looks down, hiding his rolling eyes*
Surely, no one, sir. But you know that no one in upper management has the mind to put the belt on you...the fed's most marketable and accomplished star. So, you might have to take it yourself...and here's your chance. At the Supershow next week...I hear that there's going to be a Battle Royal for the 4th spot in the WZCW Championship Fatal Four Way match. Best of all? You're eligible to enter. What a better way for you to reclaim your throne than to show up the roster on a night where everyone will be watching?
*Ricky scratches his beard*
Not a bad idea, Klamor...not a bad idea. Finally, the biggest and brightest star that WZCW has ever known will reclaim his spot atop WZCW. I'll make them wish they would have given me my belt back sooner. Ha.
Mmmmmm...that's the hunger I want. That's the hunger I NEED! That's the kind of champion that I agreed to manage.
Johnny, here's to redemption...
*Ricky taps his bottle of water against Klamor's glass of champagne as the scene fades out.*
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