We open to a black screen, the soft intro beginning to play.
I thank you for all the lives you’ve led
Against the black backdrop, sparks begin to fly as a curved line begins to carve into the darkness in gold.
I thank you for every word you said
The carving continues along its path, straightening and curving again as it goes, beginning to form a familiar shape.
I thank you for walking away
The sparks stop as the rudimentary carving of the SHOOT Project helmet glows red-gold against the black background.
I THANK YOU
The screen flashes brilliant white, almost blinding to the naked eye.
I thank you for the promises you broke
We cut to the Mojave desert, outside of Las Vegas, the fabled Epicenter just barely visible in the distance.
For always watching, watching while I choke
We cut to the inside of the Epicenter the backstage halls empty. The camera transitions to a first person view, beginning to travel the halls.
I thank you for teaching me
The camera begins to move further on, through the curtains to the empty arena, the ring at the center. It is empty, pristine, untouched.
Yes, I thank you for your hurting
We move down the entrance ramp to the empty ring, and just as we reach it…
(I BITE DOWN) a little harder
Dan Stein and Johnny Patriot back to back amidst a desert landscape, the SHOOT Project Tag Team Championships on their shoulders.
(MY BLADES) a little sharper
We jump-cut to Azraith DeMitri dragging himself from the dry, cracked desert earth, the Sin City Championship clutched in his hand.
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
We flash to Jonas Coleman in darkness, his head bowed initially, but then snapping upright quickly.
(STRIKE BACK) a little harder
Cut back to a completely packed Epicenter, pyro exploding all along the stage in shades of red and white.
(I SCREAM) a little louder
Back in the desert, Jonas Coleman explodes out of a desert rock formation, the World Heavyweight Championship held on his shoulder in defiance.
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
We cut to a rotating shot of all three SHOOT Project championship belts against the darkness with the helmet logo carved into it.
I’m stronger than I ever knew
Fade back to the empty Epicenter, this shot taken from above.
I’m strong because of you
The scene flashes to a packed Epicenter, the lights flashing various colors, the atmosphere tense with excitement.
(I HIT BACK) a little louder
Azraith DeMitri raises the Sin City Championship high in the air after a hard fought victory.
(FUCK YOU) a little harder
Make Championships Great Again sling their titles back over their shoulders after eeking out yet another victory.
My roots, my roots
Jonas Coleman stands tall, covered in sweat, and hoists the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship in the air before we cut to the SHOOT Project helmet logo.
Run deep into the hollow…
Cut to backstage. Shaky camera as security and EMTs rush to the aid of a literal giant of a man–Tank is laying on the ground, moaning and clutching at his leg. Though he’s wearing pants and boots, the lower half of his calf and his foot are hanging limply in a sickening fashion. The EMTs begin grabbing gear, including an inflatable splint, as the security guard leans down.
Security Guard: Tank, what the hell happened?
Tank: Heck you think happened?! Some fella in a mask and a hoodie blindsided me and broke my damn leg!!
He groans and grips at his camouflage pants.
Security Guard: That’s all you’ve got for me, mask and a hoodie?
Tank: He ain’t exactly stick around to chit chat, man! Busted me up with a ballbat and yanked out one of my teeth with a pair of pliers!!
He reaches up and pulls his lip down, showing a bloody gum where a tooth should be.
Tank: Lord gimme strength, y’all get me to a doctor or something!!
The medics begin inflating the splint, and we cut back to the announce table, where Other Guy holds his hand out, looking at Eryk Masters expectantly.
Other Guy: You see? See what I mean?
Eryk Masters: Folks we’re still trying to get to the bottom of these strange attacks, but trust me when I say, we have our head of security looking things over and tightening things up in the arena.
Other Guy: Y’know what? I’m gonna raise my concerns!
He takes off his headset and motions to a security guard, waving him over.
Azraith stands tall in the ring as the music continues to play, the crowd seemingly waiting with bated breath to see if Ria is about to become another victim of his post-match savagery.
He looks at Ria as she begins to stir on the canvas, his eyes dead and staring. He is focused, intent.
Which is why he doesn’t hear the crowd. Which is why he never sees it coming.
Eryk Masters: Look out!
Jacob Mephisto absolutely levels Azraith from behind out of nowhere. Az drops to the canvas suddenly. Ria rolls out of the ring safely. Az immediately begins to pull himself to his feet, but Mephisto is too fast. The latter hits the ropes and delivers a quick basement dropkick to Azraith’s ribs just as he is pushing himself up to his knees, sending him tumbling again.
Other Guy: Where the hell did Mephisto even come from, Masters!?
Eryk Masters: I don’t know, OG. What I do know is that this is getting really violent really quickly between these two.
Mephisto stalks Azraith as the Sin City Champion continues to get up, pulling himself to his feet. But, Mephisto charges forward just as Az gets to a standing position and drives a HUGE knee into his midsection before hooking the head and dropping back into a flowing DDT, planting Azraith.
Eryk Masters: This attack is methodical. It’s not wild, or spontaneous. Jacob Mephisto knows exactly what he’s doing. This was planned, OG.
Mephisto doesn’t ask for a microphone. He doesn’t need to. The camera mikes pick up what he’s now saying to Azraith and the latter keeps fighting to try and get up.
Jacob Mephisto: I thought the beast was still alive inside you, DeMitri.
Mephisto delivers a hard kick to the ribs, sending a shock to Az’s system.
Jacob Mephisto: I wanted to wake you up. I wanted to unleash you on the SHOOT Project.
Azraith pushes himself up. Mephisto kicks him in the ribs… harder this time.
Jacob Mephisto: But, you’re no monster.
Another attempt. Another boot in the ribs. The crowd has quieted. This attack isn’t ultraviolent. But, it’s so deliberate. So methodical. It’s savage in it’s own special way.
Jacob Mephisto: You’re just a broken man. A shell. All that anger you showed me last Revolution…
Eryk Masters: For the love of God, Azraith, stay down, man!
Azraith does not stay down. He drags himself away from Mephisto. He makes it to the ropes and starts pulling himself up, defiance in his eyes.
Mephisto is quiet, but slowly follows Azraith’s progress, watching with clinical detachment as his quarry drags himself back up.
Jacob Mephisto: Was just so easily squashed. The beast isn’t awake, Azraith.
Azraith turns to face Mephisto, pure RAGE in his eyes. Mephisto smirks. Azraith charges.
But Mephisto was waiting. He ducks, hoisting Az up onto his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. He shrugs him up into the air, dropping back and bringing his knees up, landing a MASSIVE lungblower!
The crowd gasps as Azraith writhes around the mat in agony.
Other Guy: Jesus, E, I’ve never seen Mephisto this cold before.
Mephisto crouched next to a still fighting Azraith. Az swipes at Mephisto, but the self-proclaimed Mr. Sin City simply moves away before deliberately STOMPING down on Az’s hand.
Jacob Mephisto: The beast is dead. I warned you. I told you something is coming. You didn’t listen. You had a chance to become something so much more. The Empyrean Codex spoke of the beast who would wreak havoc upon the world.
Azraith fights. Mephisto strikes, this time, with a closed fist across the jaw.
Jacob Mephisto: So now, Azraith, I will simply destroy the man… this shell of your former self that you’ve become. You will witness the Word of the Empyrean Codex. All Hail.
Mephisto stands and walks across the ring, picking up the Sin City Championship belt. He looks at the belt, seemingly mesmerized by the light dancing across the surface. Azraith is fighting to get to his feet again, absolute fury in his eyes.
Azraith turns. Mephisto charges.
Eryk Masters: That’s ENOUGH dammit! Mephisto just laid out the Sin City Champion with his own title belt.
Blood stains the front of the belt as Azraith crumbles to the canvas, blood trickling down over one eye. Mephisto smears the blood across the faceplate of the title. He walks over and ever so gently lays the belt across Azraith’s waist.
Mephisto looks directly into the camera, pale, grey eyes cold and calculating.
Jacob Mephisto: Come. And. See.
The crowd has found its voice and has resumed hurling boos down in Mephisto’s direction.
Several SHOOT Project officials, including medical staff, have made it to the ring as Mephisto starts backing away, stepping through the ropes.
Eryk Masters: I don’t know about any beasts, or monsters, folks. But, I do know about Azraith DeMitri. And Jacob Mephisto may have just made the worst error of his life.
Other Guy: I would agree with you, E, but, after what we just saw? I don’t know if I would want any parts of Jacob Mephisto if I were Azraith.
Mephisto stops half-way out of the ring and looks back, seeing the medical team working on Azraith.
He smirks, and the fans boo loudly, sensing what’s coming.
Eryk Masters: Come on! This is way out of hand!
Other Guy: I agree, Masters, but I’m not gonna be the one to stop him.
Mephisto stalks forward, shoving medical staff aside. The staff backs away reluctantly while pleading with Mephisto. One of them ends up too close and gets thrown for his troubles.
Mephisto looks down at the prone Azraith with disdain. He reaches down, grabs the legs, twists them together and turns.
Eryk Masters: Mephisto has Azraith locked in that high-angle cloverleaf he calls Mephisto’s Method! That’s the move that submitted Sammy Rochester. It’s the move he’s used to inflict pain and punishment on countless SHOOT Project Soldiers.
Other Guy: And now Azraith DeMitri is feeling that pain. This… is ugly.
Azraith comes ALIVE with pain as Mephisto cranks back on the hold. Mephisto is screaming into the camera, a wild look in those pale greys.
Jacob Mephisto: IS THIS YOUR MONSTER!? YOUR HERO!? YOUR SIN CITY CHAMPION!?
SHOOT Project officials start pouring out from the back, referees and road agents trying to physically pry Mephisto off Azraith. Finally, Mephisto releases the hold and backs away. Azraith, ever the fighter, starts to crawl and claw himself to a seated position. Mephisto begins to measure him, the staff and officials pleading.
And then, Mephisto starts laughing. He drops down and rolls out of the ring, backing up the ramp, laughing all the way. He stops atop the stage and speaks directly into a camera positioned there.
Jacob Mephisto: You’re all going to learn. In the end? Everything rots.
He laughs again, but then turns deadly serious, gabbing the camera with both hands.
Jacob Mephisto: Come and see.
He let’s go and stalks back behind the curtain as the medical staff and officials tend to Azraith in the ring.
Patron Saint O’ Thieves by The Rumjacks begins to pound through the Epicenter, causing the crowd to perk up and collectively murmur.
After a moment, Andromeda Flynn stalks out from behind the curtain and makes a beeline for the ring, rolling in under the bottom rope. She grabs a microphone and stands center ring.
She’s not dressed to compete, wearing a pair of capri style jeans and a Celtic Dominion Wrestling t-shirt.
Andromeda Flynn: I told the world at Shut Up and Fight that I’d be here on Revolution. I told the world that I’d make a mark. Well, here I am.
She begins to pace back and forth, a mixture of nerves and apparent anger building up into her posture.
Andromeda Flynn: I thought long and hard ’bout how I’d go about this. I could’ve jumped a legend. I could’ve interrupted an established Soldier and started a fight. But, as fun as those things are, that’s not how I want t’be remembered here.
She stops pacing, staring into the nearest camera intently.
Andromeda Flynn: I’m issuin’ an open challenge. Anyone who wants a good ol’ fashioned fight can meet me in the ring at Redemption. Either way, I’m gonna be there. And, if I don’t have a match by the time Redemption starts? I’m gonna have to take measures into me own hands. Either way, Andromeda Flynn is gonna be in action at Redemption.
The music hits again and Andromeda drops the microphone, stepping out of the ring and heading to the back amidst a mild amount of cheers.
Robby Bingo is walking, carrying what appears to be 8 open top plastic cups of beer between his hands and arms. A practiced maneuver. He makes it to a locker room door and kicks it a couple of times.
Bingo: Hey! A lil’ help here? I’m haulin’ too much swill!
He waits for a moment, then sighs, reaching for the door handle with his pinkie, barely getting purchase enough–but he does unlatch the door, without even spilling a drop. He pushes it open with his foot, shuffling inside.
Bingo: You lazy shitbird, I’m trying to–WHAT TH’ FUCK?!
There is the sound of multiple cups of drink hitting the floor, and the cameraman shoves into the locker room as well–and that’s when we see it.
A figure hangs from a coat hook by his wrists, arms bound together with zip ties. His body is streaked with blood dripping out from yet another cheap, white, featureless mask. His legs have gone limp, but based on his size and the undercut mane of red hair–and the snakeskin boots–we can recognize who it is.
Bingo: Haskell!! Th’ fuck happened man?! Say something!!
Robby crosses over to him and pulls the mask away, which wetly clings to the brutalized face underneath. There we can see the extent of the damage: his jaw seems lumpy and misshapen, his lip busted open, and from his slacked open mouth, he’s missing at least a couple of teeth. He looks less like someone who was in a fistfight, and more like someone who met the business end of an axe handle. Robby reacts in abject horror, turning and shoving the cameraman to the ground as he hangs his head out of the doorway.
Bingo: Security!! EMTs!! Someone!!
He turns and rushes up to Haskell’s body, shouldering his weight and pulling him down from the hook. He kneels down, setting his friend on the floor, and screams at the cameraman
Bingo: You stay sittin’ on your ass and not gettin’ some help and they’ll be sendin’ two people to th’ fuckin’ hospital!! GO!!
The camera gets set on the ground, and the feed cuts to the entirely shocked announce table.
Other Guy: These aren’t isolated incidents, are they?
Eryk Masters: Uh, fans, getting word from the backstage that security are on the scene and that EMTs are en route…
Other Guy: Fuck the breaking news routine, Eryk. Something is happening here!
X-Calibur sits on a bench in the locker room, moments before his match with Jacob Mephisto. He guides the black laces in a criss-cross motion through the holes of a brand new shiny pair of dark purple boots with white trim and sole. Whether he would admit it or not, nerves crept up into his mind as he concentrated on tightening up his foot wear.
X-Calibur: Shit. Was I this nervous with Haskell? Heh.
After his last double knot, he sat upright. Slapping his hands on his knees, he just kept them there while shaking his head.
X-Calibur: You got this. There’s nothing to worry about. You know you still got it. You know you never lost it. You made short work of Haskell. (Slaps self in the face) Jacob’s a different breed than the Colonel, though.
He trailed off with a “Yeah…” that began as a whisper and ended as mere lip movement. Just as he was about to get up, a knock could be heard coming from the door.
X-Calibur: Yeah? It’s not like it’s locked or anything.
Female Voice: But this is the men’s locker room.
X-Calibur: (Shouting so the woman behind the door could hear him) We live in different times, lady. No one gives a shit. Besides, I’m not naked or anything. (In one of the poorest Captain Picard impersonations ever recorded) You may enter, number one!
Enter Ria Lockhart. She warily looks around the locker room before focusing her attention on X-Calibur. She gives him a nonchalant, but friendly wave.
Ria: Times might be different, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking to walk into a sausage party. I was also raised not to be a rude asshole. Ria Lockhart, by the way. I just need a moment.
He eyes up Ria. Impressed she had the fortitude to knock on the door and approach him, X held out his hand. Ria accepted it without hesitation.
X-Calibur: Nice to meet you, Lockhart. I’ve heard great things about you. Potential. Loads of it. And I would love to sit around and maybe give you some advice, if you wanted it of course, but I’m actually up next and I’m about to head to Gorilla. So, I don’t mean to be a prick and blow you off here, but… I’m sure you understand given my position.
Standing up from the bench, he smiled respectfully at Ria.
X-Calibur: Now, if you’ll excuse m–
Ria takes a slight step to the side… Not to give X-Calibur space, but to block his path.
Ria: This won’t take long. Hell, I’ll make it as brief as possible. You. I want a match.
X-Calibur: Is that right?
Echoes of “Church of Execution” by Fear Factory travel all the way to their current positions, as well as the thunderous roar of the audience. Each and every one of them dying to see X-Calibur and Jacob Memphisto to get underway.
X-Calibur: You know what, I don’t mind being fashionably late for my entrance here. You, my dear, are worth it.
He pauses for a moment.
X-Calibur: You’ve got a lot of balls coming in here, interrupting my focus, my fuckin’ chi if you will, just to tell me that you wanna challenge me. And you know what, Ria?
He closed in, the height difference causing him to tower over her.
X-Calibur: I love that. You fuckin’ want some? You wanna to step up to the plate?
He makes a motion with his foot as if he’s cleaning off home plate for her “at bat”.
X-Calibur: Well you got it. Whether we do it at Redemption, the week after, at Shut Up And Fight, or we fly to Japan and do it in the Dojo… I don’t care. I meant it when I said I was here to wrestle my goddamn heart out. I meant it when I said I was here to give each and every one of them watching out there and back at home the best match of the fuckin’ night, EVERY night. I meant it when I said, I am here to win matches, championships, and the right to go out how I wanna go out.
Cracking his neck with a split-second tilt of the head, he chuckles.
X-Calibur: So if you think you can slow me down in accomplishing any of that by beating me in a match? Then I welcome the opportunity. Let’s do it. But, all I ask of you is this: you better be prepared to give me everything, as I will settle for nothing less. You get me, Lockhart?
He reaches out with his hand for Ria to grab. The audience grows impatient as his entrance theme continues playing, making him later and later to appear. Ria accepts the handshake while staring up at X-Calibur, her eyes piercing right into his.
Ria: I wanna be clear, I do respect you. That’s exactly why I did things this way. Face to face. No grandstanding bullshit. No sneak attacks. The timing might not have been the best for you, but hey… It worked. Fair warning; I might be new-ish here, but I’m no rookie. My goal is, and always has been, to be the best. Gotta beat the best to do that. You’re gonna get everything I have, so you BETTER be ready!
Without saying a word, X makes the motion of tipping an imaginary cap to Ria Lockhart. Turning away from her, he opens the door of the locker room, allowing the bombardment of drums and guitars from “Church of Execution” and an anticipating audience to nearly melt their fucking ear drums.
Jacob sighs, frustrated, as his music blares over the speakers, but as the crowd boos some sporadic cheers start to fill the arena.
Eryk Masters: Wait…can we get a camera on that spot on the crowd over there?
As we finally get a camera in the commotion, we can finally see AZRAITH DEMITRI shoving his way past guards and medical personnel! One of his eyes is wrapped over in bandage, and there are still dirty black streaks on his face from the mist, but he is making a beeline towards Jacob Mephisto!
Other Guy: Jesus! Azraith looks like he’s been hit with a truck but he’s heading towards the ring!
Jacob, finally seeing Azraith, grins broadly and folds his arms in the middle of the ring, waiting as Az stalks through the crowd, finally hopping the guard rail and pacing around the ring.
Jacob Mephisto: Really, Azraith? What do you think you can show me now?
Azraith slides into the ring, but instantly is met by violent stomps from Jacob. Az tries to curl up and out of the way, but Mephisto is relentless. Eventually Jacob once again clenches his fingers into Az’s hair and pulls the man up to his knees.
Jacob: This is for disappointing me, Azraith.
At those words, a sick, bloody smile starts to curl across Az’s lips. Even the crowd can start to hear him laugh.
Other Guy: I can’t believe I’m uttering these words again after all these years, but I finally think that Az has lost it.
Jacob rears back for another brutal knee strike, but in one rapid motion Az snatches Jacob’s off leg from behind and YANKS it forward, snapping the large man to his back! His head now free from Jacob’s grasp, Az instantly jumps on top of Mephisto in a mounted position and starts to rain down vicious punches, elbows and hammerfists! The crowd ROARS as Azraith finally gets some measure of violence inflicted upon Jacob.
Eryk Masters: After weeks and weeks of instigation and mindgames, Azraith is getting his hands on Jacob Mephisto and he is NOT wasting his chance this time!
Azraith quickly hops to his feet, wrapping both of his hands around Jacob’s throat and yanks the man to his, as well. Jacob is dazed as Azraith steps back, sizing the man up before taking one more step back then spinning forward, SMASHING Jacob with a ROARING ELBOW!
Jacob ducks at the last second, and in a sickening clean fashion, reaches from behind Azraith and rakes his fingers across Az’s face violently, gouging at his eyes and ripping the bandages from his left! Az snarls out in pain as he drops to a knee, and Jacob takes this opportunity to roll out of the ring, still facing Azraith as he walks backwards up the ramp slowly.
Other Guy: It looks like yet again Jacob has Az’s number as he makes a tactical retreat, maybe a little bloodied but certainly not worse for wear compared to Az right now…wait Az looks to be motioning for a mic?
Az staggers to a corner, snatching a mic from the ring tech on site..
Azraith: No…NO! This is NOT GOING TO END LIKE THIS! Jacob! JAAAACOOOB!!! You decided that I was something worth playing around with. You got in my…you ma…no. No. You didn’t make me do shit. I did that shit. I gotta own that shit. There’s a monster in me, Jacob. You think you understand that but you don’t. You think the game is to get me across the line so I can’t come back…but Jacob I crossed that damn line years ago. Over and over and over again. This…feeling inside of me, this urge to stalk up the ramp and drag your stupid face down it like parm over a fuckin’ cheese grater, it’s a part of me. It’s ME, dipshit!
Jacob’s small grin is gone, replaced by a scowl as Az grins somewhat.
Azraith: I’m a full-tilt failure at being a lot of things, Jacob. They’re documented and well known. The one thing I’m good at. The one thing that nobody can hold a candle to me on? What I do in this ring week in and week out. Over and over. You want to interject yourself into my life? Attempt to ruin the few good things I have left? Cause me to lose everything? Come and fuckin’ MAKE ME lose everything!
Az reached down and grabbed his Sin City Championship, holding it over his head with his free hand while holding the mic with his other.
Azraith: I’ve turned this piece of metal and leather into the MUST-WATCH Championship in this company. I’ve had more defences, fought more varied opponents, and BUILT A LEGACY for this championship. You wanna ruin me, Jacob? TAKE THIS FROM ME. I DARE YOU. I’M BEGGING YOU TO GET IN THE RING AND TAKE THIS!
The crowd cheers at the challenge!
Eryk Masters: I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a champion begging for a challenge like this, but Az desperately wants Jacob in the ring…
Jacob paces on the ramp for a second. It looks like a very rare moment of uncertainty for the master manipulator. Az’s grin grows as he presses up against the ropes, leaning into them like he’s gonna push right through them to get to Mephisto.
Azraith: C’mon Jacob. What do you have to lose? The worst outcome for you is that I beat the ever-loving hell out of you, stand over your unconscious body and show everyone what a goddamn joke you are. Best case scenario, you get to dethrone one of the most dominant Sin City Champions of all time, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve taken pretty much everything you could away from me. At Redemption, you’ll be able to say you were the one to finally break Azraith DeMitri.
Jacob stops pacing on the ramp, and finally looks at Azraith. After a second, he grabs a mic from the tech beside the ramp. He looks up at Azraith and his eyes wander to the title that made him a household name in SHOOT.
Jacob: Challenge… accepted. At Redemption, you’ll be anything but redeemed.
The crowd ROARS it’s approval as Az nods in the affirmative, throwing his mic down and once again hoisting up the Sin City Championship above his head.
Other Guy: Well there you have it! It’ll be Jacob Mephisto vs Azraith DeMitri for the Sin City Championship at Redemption, in a battle that’s been boiling over for months now!
Nearly everyone in the crowd jumps in terror as if being frightened by someone sneaking up on them; ALDEN…KILL! The deep, monotone, voice shouts constantly through the sound system every two seconds with no musical accompaniment.
Eryk Masters: Alright, OG; this is a match everyone has been anticipating since 143. Dan Stein laid out the challenge, and Robideau accepted. If Nate wins – Unholy Cyber Army calls the shots at Redemption. If he loses? It looks like Make Championships Great Again has the advantage…
Other Guy: I mean, I understand machismo and wanting to prove someone right, or get the upper hand, but sometimes you just say no.
The SHOOT faithful press their feet against the floor of the Epicenter and witness the entrance to one of the most unique and esoteric duos in the industry. The crowd releases a mixed reaction as most people are still unsure how to handle the wildly horrific Butcher Brothers.
CROWD: ALDEN’S GONNA KILL YOU!
CROWD: ALDEN’S GONNA KILL YOU!
Eryk Masters: I’ve seen big men in my time with SHOOT, but just the overall gerth of Alden Butcher is enough to spark fear in any man.
Other Guy: We’ve seen what the Butchers are about. We know they’re animals. They’re primal. Primeval. Worst of all? They’re human beings.
Eryk Masters: You’d think beings of this nature would be consumed by some other-worldly horror; but these guys are all natural…
Alden, weighed down by special boots that SHOOT Project security placed on him earlier tonight, slowly enters the stage from the gorilla position. Suddenly, bouncing off Alden, and fiercely throwing himself onto the stage like a cannonball, is the younger sibling, the jean overall wearing, tourette riddled Elvis, who uncontrollably begins to shout muffles of incoherence toward the crowd as he rises to his feet. He’s wearing the half Hannibal mask that contains him from biting anyone he comes into contact with. Both Elvis and Alden wear special gloves, each man with a circumstantial pair that are unique to the individual. Alden’s gloves lock the knuckles of both hands together so that he cannot use his bear paws, while Elvis’ mittens lock both wrists together so that he cannot claw and maim.
CROWD: FUCK YOU EL-VIS!
CROWD: FUCK YOU EL-VIS!
The mammoth Alden, dressed in his signature tunic and tattered khakis, the tallest SHOOT soldier, continues slowly, Frankenstein-esque, guiding himself down the ramp as Elvis Butcher makes his way toward the ring. Four SHOOT Project security guards patiently wait for the brothers to arrive at the ring apron where they’re ready with keys to unlock Alden’s protective equipment. Elvis lunges toward one guard and chomps his disgusting mouth at him. The guard is wearing a Demanent training bite suit, and sticks his arm out at Elvis. The young Butcher acts as if he’s going to clamp down, but stops as Alden descends his contained arms around him like a bear hug. Alden helps the guards unlock Elvis and unleash the beast. Another guard keeps Elvis contained with a Tomahawk ACP3 animal control pole, wrapping the leash around his neck, keeping it tight, and keeping a distance. Elvis starts to laugh as he guides the guard around ringside.
CROWD: ALDEN’S GONNA KILL YOU!
CROWD: FUCK YOU EL-VIS!
The gloves come off. Alden stretches his fingers, and cracks his knuckles. Another guard assists in removing the weighted boots. The mask is removed by a guard standing on the ring apron to level himself with the seven foot, two inch gargantuan. Alden reaches passed the guard and grabs his brother. The guard releases the loop. Alden instantly lifts Elvis up and launches him over the ropes like a doll! Elvis lands like a sack of bricks, doubling over, onto the ring canvas. Much to the crowd’s surprise: Elvis rolls onto his feet and jolts toward the ropes. He falls forward and starts to gnaw on the second rope. Alden pulls himself up with ease onto the apron, and then steps over the top rope and enters the ring. They await Nate Robideau, but not without Alden walking center ring and bellowing in his deep, hollow voice for all the SHOOT faithful to hear: “KILL!” He exclaims.
Power Devil and Superbeast rush to ringside to protect Nate from Alden and Elvis Butcher, as a cheer erupts from the crowd! The camera cuts to the backstage area where Make Championships Great Again are in their locker room. Johnny Patriot has a long neck beer in his hand, and a group of women are celebrating the big win. Molly, Toni, and Tina are all standing off to the side. The camera starts to pan around the room before Stein runs in from the showers, spinning his shirt over his head (like a helicopter). Stein is wearing only a pair of thong underwear, thankfully keeping his package fully embraced – designer, of course (the thong, not the package).
Stein yells as he runs around the group of women, pats Johnny Patriot on the shoulder as he runs by that is more of a slap than a pat, and then over to Molly, who he scoops up and dips down for a kiss. Stein sets her back on her feet and continues to run around the room doing laps once more. Patriot speaks with a smile behind his mask.
Johnny Patriot: I see someone’s American Pride is bursting at the seams.
Stein stops running as he gets back to Patriot. A little out of breath, Stein pauses.
Dan Stein: Now, Johnny, I want you to get out there and tell those nerds what we talked about. We don’t want a Death Match, we don’t want a cage match, we don’t want ANY gimmicks, including CAGE MATCHES, okay?
Johnny Patriot: Cage Match. Got it.
Dan Stein: No, no cage match.
Johnny Patriot nods.
Johnny Patriot: Cage match.
Dan Stein: God dammit, Johnny. Say it with me here. We…do not…want…a cage match.
Patriot nods again, and smiles.
Johnny Patriot: We want a cage match.
Stein sighs, laughing into his hands.
Dan Stein: Fuck it, I’m going out there.
Stein turns to leave the room, but Molly grabs his arm. Stein looks at her.
Molly the Assistant: You can’t go out there looking like that, you’ll get fined!
Dan Stein: …I do like money.
Stein looks back at Patriot as Molly lets his arm go.
Dan Stein: Just… please, Johnny, I’m begging you. I’m PLEADING WITH YOU. If you do anything for your family above your country, please don’t say we want a cage match.
Patriot thinks for a moment, then smiles.
Johnny Patriot: No cage match.
Stein sighs, then laughs, patting Patriot on the shoulder again.
Dan Stein: THERE HE IS! THAT’S THE GUY I LOVE. Now, get out there, and let’s make this thing official!
Patriot turns to walk out of the room, Stein quickly whips his ass with his shirt causing Patriot to yelp. Johnny Patriot makes his way onto the stage with a microphone in hand, and he walks the stage back and forth feeling the crowd’s hatred for him. Patriot stops for a moment in the middle of the stage and simply thinks.
Johnny Patriot: Good evening, my fellow Americans. I see a few of you out there with masks on, and that’s okay. It’s not your faults you’ve been indoctrinated by the liberal media and democrat teachers all of your life to believe a hoax as big as the China Virus.
The fans in the arena boo, loudly.
Johnny Patriot: It was a sad day in the Patriot household when even our devine President wore a mask because of the pressure put on him by the liberal agenda.
Eryk Masters: Ladies and gentlemen, let us remind you that Johnny Patriot’s words are his own opinions and do not reflect the values of SHOOT Project as a company.
Down in the ring, Nate Robideau, on his feet yells at Patriot to “JUST GET IT OVER WITH”. Patriot looks down at the ring and then points.
Johnny Patriot: The three of you boys have been a thorn in the side of my cousin and I for the last three months or so. We beat you fairly, 1-2-3 at RISE and since then, you couldn’t wait to get your paws on another shot. You could say we did that arm wrestling thing in the boardroom, but that was FAKE NEWS.
The crowd boos at the comment.
Johnny Patriot: Then, we were the masters of our environment at the three legged race, and you still claim we cheated. Americans don’t cheat, Nate. Real Americans never break the rules…or the LAW, Nate! Unless you’re not a REAL American – like our PRESIDENT.
Above Patriot’s head, the tron flickers to life and we see Stein and Molly in the back. Stein has Molly on his lap and he’s sat in a chair, still only wearing the thong underwear.
Dan Stein: Hey, not to ruin your love fest with America, but could you get on with it, here? I got a party to get to and a photoshoot in the morning, Pal.
Patriot looks up at the tron, then back out at the fans.
Johnny Patriot: When I came out here, all of you booed me. Why? Is it because I love my country? Is it because I want what’s best for my country? Is it because I work hard and never take any shortcuts? Is it because I always get the job done?
Dan Stein: Johnny, we talked about this…
Johnny looks into the camera, pointing at the tron.
Johnny Patriot: Cut the sound. You won’t like the sounds he’s about to make when I do this.
Dan Stein: DON’T YOU DO IT. DON’T YOU MU-
Stein’s mouth still continues to scream at Patriot. Stein jumps up to stop Johnny, but Molly grabs him again and keeps him from leaving. Johnny Patriot looks down at the ring.
Johnny Patriot: That’s right. I never take any shortcuts! And at Redemption, Make Championships Great Again isn’t taking any shortcuts, either!
The fans begin to clamor now.
Johnny Patriot: Unholy Cyber Army, you have degraded us for the last time! I want this thing done and over with. One last match, UCA vs MCGA II, for the SHOOT Project Tag Team Championships, at Redemption….
Stein pauses, waiting to see what Johnny says…
Johnny Patriot: …IN A STEEL CAGE.
Stein loses his everloving mind. The fans lose their everloving minds in the arena at the sight of it. Stein throws around chairs, Stein kicks out the women from the room. Stein starts throwing clothes around. UCA in the ring starts to celebrate. Patriot throws up two fingers on each hand ala Richard Nixon and walks backwards toward the back.
Eryk Masters: Does…does Johnny Patriot know that a steel cage match is…basically exactly what the Unholy Cyber Army had wanted his entire time?
Other Guy: I…have to think he doesn’t? But, Dan Stein does! And for someone who holds their beauty in such high regards, a cage match does NOT sound appealing.
Eryk Masters and Other Guy are seen front and center as the camera gets a perfect shot of the two men sitting at the commentators table post-match as they discuss the altercation that’s just ended and the stipulation that’s just been announced. The crowd volume descends as they watch the three men in the ring finish up to make way for the Main Event set to occur in just a moment.
Eryk Masters: I’m…I’m in awe. What a match, OG. Nate Robideau did everything he could and the Butcher Brothers have to respect that. Johnny Patriot and Dan Stein have to respect that, or at least they should…
Other Guy: The only thing potentially going through Robideau’s mind at this point, aside from future nightmare’s of Alden Butcher’s knuckles or Elvis’ teeth, is what Stein and Patriot are conjuring up for the Unholy Cyber Army come Redemption.
Eryk Masters: It’s going to be one of the greatest tag matches of all time, and if SHOOT has ever done anything particularly right, the tag team division has always been stellar. You have to figure that the Unholy Cyber Army will use this as motivation in just a few weeks.
Other Guy: The referee is keeping a hand on Robideau, steadying him, as he shakes his bloodied head. Nate put on a Hell of a show, that’s for sure. The officials are outside the ring returning the protective gear on Alden and Elvis, and both of those boys should now have a better understanding why Nate Robideau is so dangerous.
Eryk Masters: Elvis took a pretty solid beating; part of which was due to his own actions. Even the big man got the best of Nate. The three put on a He…
As if the Epicenter wasn’t quiet already, you can almost hear a pin drop. Masters and OG begin to look around the arena as the voluminous sound is heard of a fly buzzing throughout. The officials have Alden and Elvis locked in gear, but the two brothers look at each other, and it’s apparent they’re lightly grinning underneath their Hannibal facial covering. The fans stand, and some have their attention at the tron where there is an up close image of a fly’s face. The large eyes protrude from it’s head, connected to its mouthparts and antennae. The referee in ring, now being assisted by another official, is helping Nate Robideau toward the ropes. The three men stop as they turn their attention to the screen above the stage. Everyone’s attention is at the screen above the stage. The fly continues to sound.
Other Guy: What in the Hell is this?
Eryk Masters: That’s a fly, OG. A member of the order Diptera, phylum arthropoda.
Other Guy: All of a sudden you’re an ecologist?
Eryk Masters: Flies love shit, and there’s often a lot of shit in SHOOT, so being that I am one of the greatest commentators of all time: I have to know my shit, and the flies that consume it.
Other Guy: Touche, kind sir.
The face of the fly begins to transition, and within seconds we see the visage of C.K. Butcher surrounded by darkness. His eyes are direct, and directed at Nate Robideau. The buzzing stops. Members of the crowd familiar with C.K. and his work send their support his way, but the remainder of the crowd is silent as they watch the Blue Ridge Butcher stare at the bloodied Robideau.
C.K. Butcher: Nate Robideau. Is that your blood in the ring?
Robideau, sitting against the ropes, blankly stares up at the screen as his upper lip quivers. C.K. smirks, but he’s quick to continue.
C.K. Butcher: There’s somethin’ happenin’, Nate. Do you see it? Then’gain, I don’t expect anyone to see it; there’s too many people in this…production…who are blind as a bat. However, there’s definitely somethin’ happenin’. Look around you. Look at the people. Look at their faces. Look at Alden. Look at Elvis. LOOK AT ME. You don’t see it? You don’t want to see it. Then again, it’s probably too hard to see with all’ya blood blindin’ ya.
Robideau slowly shakes his head, he’s seething, but he’s containing it well. C.K. Butcher smiles and continues his discourse.
C.K. Butcher: Wake up, Nate. Wake up, and tell all yer’friends in the back to wake up, too. We’ve spent enough time preachin’ in our own special way. We’ve done enough to warn all you. There’s not much more you can do. Think, Nate. THINK. Do you all not see what’s goin’ on? Warnings have been given. Yet, you all sit back doin’ ya thing with absolute tunnel vision. Christ, some of you bastards act like you’re the smartest people in the business, yet you’re so ignorant to what’s happenin’. Wake…the fuck…up.
Butcher’s smile fades, and his brow furrows.
C.K. Butcher: You and your army have your hands tied with Patriot and Stein. That silly bastard Mephisto is locked with Azraith. Jonas and Buck are stuck in their own little world fightin’ for a title that holds no true worth. X-Calibur drifts through the company on a set of giant imaginary testicles, and gives no fucks about what’s happening because he’s punch-drunk on past accomplishments and couldn’t find himself if he looked in the mirror. You’re all a Goddamn mess, and when it happens, you’re all going to wish you would have been more focused. Smarter. Wiser. Prepared. What else ya’got? Ya’think bringin’ in a trinity of greed, evil and emptiness is going to stop the real horror that’s gonna plague this business? Nate, this…is….gonna…be…so…much…fun.
C.K. Butcher: We gon’wear your ribs as crowns, sit on thrones made of your bone, and wear robes made of your flesh. Your organs will be used for our art. We’ll turn your limbs into our own personal trophy display. We’ll squeeze the goo from your eyes, and yank your teeth out one by one. We don’t need championships, just your demise, and we’ll do so by devouring from within. That blood ya’spilt tonight? That was just the beginning. Defeating everyone up to this point? Well, needless to say, we’ve tested the waters, and since it aint Holy…we’ve been blindly welcome into your home like a blood-thirsty vampire. You fools…
C.K. Butcher: I never did like the word redemption, but it’s fitting. We’ll see you soon, Nate; and hopefully by then you all will be awake in time to fight the nightmare.
His face fades into the darkness that surrounds him. Robideau, annoyed, blood beginning to coagulate on his face, turns his attention to Alden and Elvis Butcher who are contained by several officials at ringside. The officials start yelling at Alden and Elvis to move up the ramp, but the Butcher’s do not budge. Suddenly six members of the security team run down the ramp in the instance all Hell breaks loose. The fans ERUPT as the Unholy Cyber Army have made their way onto the stage; they stand waiting to strike. Robideau is slowly pulling himself to his feet using the ropes. He stands tall, bloodied, pinned, but not beaten. His eyes are locked on the animals before him. Alden looks over at Superbeast and Cyber Devil, and then looks back and Robideau and lifts his chin. Elvis wants to charge Robideau, but is held back by the animal control pole. Alden and Nate stare each other down, Security is able to resolve any possible conflict, as the scene fades.
Cut to the announce booth. Eryk Masters looks alarmed, and Other Guy has removed his headset and is in an animated discussion with a member of the security team.
Eryk Masters: Fans we’re–
He holds his hand to his headset, listening intently
Eryk Masters:–jesus, we’re being told there’s been another attack on an employee. Van, do we have a feed?
The feed cuts to backstage, where we see an EMT attending to a familiar face to the faithful–Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Samantha Coil. Slumped against a wall with plenty of onlookers being blacked by a phalanx of security officers, she holds onto her midsection. She’s been bleeding from a wound on her hairline, that the paramedic is holding a compress to as he flashes a light into her eyes to check for pupil activity.
Paramedic: Can you tell me what hurts specifically ma’am?
She takes a moment. Her speech is slow, confused.
Coil: Head…ribs…got slammed right onto the concrete…
Paramedic: Jim let’s get her collared and boarded. Clear some room people!!
As they begin to put a spinal board behind her back with care not to jostle her too much, one of the guards leans down.
Security Guard: Ms. Coil, did you catch sight of who did this? Anything you remember might help.
She opens her eyes and looks at him, her gaze shimmering out in high contrast to all the dried blood on her face. Her brow furrows.
Coil: Men. Hoodies, masks.
The EMTs transfer her to a gurney, and the guards part the gathering crowd as we cut back to the announce table. Eryk Masters is still sitting, and Other Guy has his headset back on, but remains standing with his arms crossed.
Other Guy: See?!
Eryk Masters: Man…I don’t know. If you’re looking for answers from me, I don’t have them.
Real Deal walks into his office, his shoulders weary. Between the attacks and the regular chaos of an evening’s show, it’s been a long one. He strides to his desk and turns on the light, not looking down before walking to the window and resting his head against it.
Laying on his desk, on a simple silver tray, are three bloody teeth. As he turns to sit down, he notices them–reacting quickly, he grabs the desk phone, but pulls up a handset connected to a severed cord. In the darkness, we catch the gleam of a mask, metallic and shining. The voice, honeyed and kind
Avarice: That likely isn’t necessary.
Josh glowers at the dark corner, his jaw stern, his hands balling into fists.
Real Deal: You?
Avarice: Me? Us. That’s why you can do what you would like to right now, and beat me within an inch of my life–I’m certain I deserve it!–but it wont stop what’s coming.
Real Deal: Cut the shit. What is coming? You’re going to beat up more of my employees? If so I can easily have you barred and–
Avarice: More beatings? Heavens, no! These have been the distant rumblings of thunder, the first errant drops of rain you feel on the back of your neck. The storm has yet to arrive! Hahaha.
He stands, stepping a few feet forward into the light.
Avarice: Three teeth. Three disciples. He always said I was poetic, which is why I’m chosen for this specific task, you see? Look to the horizon, Mr. Johnson. Certainly you’ve felt it, right? The change in pressure. The ache in an old injury.
He looks down, his voice soft.
Avarice: Old injuries are what we deal in, he said. He asked what was more merciful, to grievously wound an animal and watch it suffer, or to finish the job you have started?
Josh considers for a moment his options, then speaks.
Real Deal: Adam is going to be bedridden for weeks–his brain has swollen inside his skull, and they may have to operate to relieve the pressure. Haskell is going to need reconstructive surgery. Tank has a spiral fracture that’s going to require months of physical therapy to repair. I’m still waiting on word about Samantha. That’s your idea of mercy?
At this, Avarice perks up.
Avarice: Good sir, absolutely! They’ll be safe and warm when the lighting starts crashing down. The rest? They’ll not be as lucky.
He puts up two fingers in a peace sign.
Avarice: I’d get your affairs in order. Have a blessed day!
With that, he quickly pulls open the door and exits, sprinting down the hall with laughter echoing off the walls. Josh picks up a bloody molar, examining it, before reaching into his pocket and hitting speed dial on his phone.
Real Deal: Yeah, Lou? I want security for Redemption doubled. I don’t give a shit how much it might eat into the operations budget, you understand?