|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
The Unholy Cyber Army explodes out from a desert rock formation, the SHOOT Project World Tag Team Championships around their waists. Nate Robideau steps out just behind them, the calm to their fury.
(MY BLADES) a little sharper
We jump-cut to Jacob Mephisto crawling out of a desert canyon, the Sin City Championship hanging around his neck like some twisted medallion.
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
We flash to Buck Dresden cradling the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship surrounded by darkness, a single spotlight shining down on his moment.
(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, Buck Dresden stands atop a mountain, the World Heavyweight Championship raised above his head defiantly.
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
Jacob Mephisto snatches the Sin City Championship from the referee while standing on wobbly legs.
(FUCK YOU) a little harder
The Unholy Cyber Army raise the World Tag Team Championships high over their heads in victory, surrounded by the steel cage that became their playground.
My roots, my roots
Buck Dresden stands tall, covered in sweat, and hoists the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship in the air on the entrance ramp, ticker tape falling around him before we cut to the SHOOT Project helmet logo.
Run deep into the hollow…
We flash quickly, as the song fades, to the new number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship, C.K. Butcher sitting in darkness with his head bowed. The glow of perhaps a campfire illuminates his face as he slowly looks up, a smirk forming on his lips before we abruptly cut to…
The heat is harrowing, this far out. What many don’t tell you in that the nights are just as gutting for different reasons. The wild oscillation from hot to cold can break folks. But not our subject. The tent, the tarp, the beaten truck. The smoldering, blackened fire pit. She emerges, filthy and stoic, blinking a few times and surveying her kingdom. We know her. Were her bearing not so dead and frightening, she would be as anonymous and easy to forget as any day laborer, farmer, civilian. But we know her, and we know her works. We know she’s far from another face.
Charlie Jay Hitchens.
She strides over to a heavily weathered Igloo cooler—almost bleached to pink—and opens the top. The flies that emerge seem to not bother her in the least, and she reaches in to pull out a shank of half-gray meat. Likely Pronghorn, but who can tell? She steps to the pit in the dying sunlight, dropping the meat on a rusted cast iron. Grabbing a handful of kindling and some Red Devil lighter fluid, she begins to build. The work is methodical. The small flames get stacked upon. The sticks ignite. Soon she can add larger logs. With a spare stick she stokes, working it up, unearthing red coals from the smolder of ash.
She takes a moment to warm her hands, before a sound startles her. Almost imperceptible, but her ears catch it and her movements are natural. Man is in the woods. Without any wasted motion, she grabs a nearby hatchet, stands, and turns in the direction of the sound. She says no words. Just waits with the stillness of the grave, her grip on the handle solid. Soon, the noise becomes more apparent. The soft trod of boots in sand, the crunch of old dried earth under a heel. The breathing, the grunting. Someone making a long journey. Finally, a form emerges from behind the scrub brush. She sees the shape, but cannot recognize the individual. She readies her hatchet, her heels digging into the ground, her stance dropping into a fighter’s crouch. There are some long moments where all we have for audio is the wind, the far off bird, and the steps. Charlie primes herself, ready to charge—when suddenly, her arms go limp. She leans forward. Her face registers an emotion, somewhere between confusion and shock.
She steps forward slowly to meet the figure. The figure is a man, his steps haggard. She finally drops the hatchet, her eyes showing her to almost be mortified. Her pale skin grows paler. She has seen a ghost. And now so have we. Though he wears a cowboy hat, and a bandanna to stave off the dust, they are both removed. He has not shaved in many days by the look of things, and he has bags under his eyes. Frankly, he looks dusty and underfed. Was he not so heroically built, he could pass for any dock worker, ranch hand, man on the street. But we know him, and we know his struggles. We know he is far from just another face.
He exhales and looks at her. She at him. There is a long, incredibly tense moment. Finally, he clears his throat.
Buck Dresden: Charlie. Could I bother you for a minute of your time?
The New Vanguard Vs. KHARRION
Eryk Masters: Folks we’re uh getting word…
He pauses and holds his headset to his ear for a moment, processing information.
Other Guy: Spit it out, man!
Eryk Masters: …we’re getting word that there has been an attack backstage–we’re taking you there now…
When we cut backstage, the scrum of humanity is positively chaotic–security personnel and EMTs have swarmed an individual. Though we cant see who, his tights are green and gold, and laying to the side of the mass of humanity with a massive crack down the middle is a familiar golden mask…
EMT: Sir, sir! You need to calm down! You’ve suffered a head injury, and we need to stabilize your spine and get you some help, if–
Avarice: You don’t understand! You can’t possibly understand! Let me go let me go YOU HAVE TO LET ME GO!!
His voice has none of the honeyed sweetness, none of his trademark calm, not even the hushed whisper of remembrance. He sounds mortified. Scared. Screaming. Three security guards finally are able to pin his arms, and as he gets lifted up, we see the closest view of his face yet: his hair is matted to one side of it and the other is covered in blood. The veins in his neck bulge in vascular definition as he strains against the guards, thrashing.
Avarice: He hurt me! He stripped me! No! No! Momma! My FACE!!
EMT: Guys let’s get him onto the board at least! We can strap him down!
They move him to a spinal board and begin strapping him down–and Avarice HAULS off, breaking an arm free and smashing his fist and feet into anyone he sees!! He shoves a guard off and scrambles forward, one hand over his face, stumbling in his weakness onto the floor. He crawls forward and retrieves his broken mask, holding it to his face so hard that blood begins to seep from the eye holes. His ragged breathing calms, and he puts up no fight as the guards pick him up and haul him almost limply to the stretcher.
Avarice: Never seen, always heard..he told me, when I was young…its disgusting…not allowed…have to have my face…
He holds onto his mask as they put a collar on him and begin strapping his legs down. He leaves a finger tip smear of blood down one side, breathing raggedly, his swollen eye peeking out from behind the cracked gold.
Eryk Masters: Wish I could tell you what’s happening there, but Avarice is being carted out in an ambulance, and his mask appears to have been broken. I’d say it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, but…
Other Guy: Couldn’t agree with you more. Up next, we’ve got two debuts to the SHOOT Project! Mason Pierce, who’s a well decorated former SHOOT Project champion in his own right, and Kennadee Starr!
Eryk Masters: Weird thing about this Kennadee Starr business though is that she’s apparently not the one that wrestles? Her contract is for marketing and appearances only. She’s effectively the voice behind the influencer or something. I don’t really get how all that works, but it’s also not really up to me. The wrestler behind the Starr brand is someone named uhh… Mr. Buttons? Has anyone actually seen this guy before?
Other Guy: Not me. This’ll be a first. Here we go! Mr. Buttons w/ Kennadee Starr versus Mason Pierce! Next!
Mr. Buttons w/ Kennadee Starr Vs. Mason Pierce
Eryk Masters: Hearing that there’s a commotion in the back!
Other Guy: God, I really wanted to talk about Kennadee Starr and Mister Buttons!
The camera flips backstage, and the first thing you see is Jonas Coleman walking someone down with a lead pipe in his hand! You can see his shoulders heaving with every breath, and the glimpse you catch of his face is absolutely red with anger!
Jonas Coleman: I warned Avarice, and he didn’t listen. I gave you all an out. I said just stop and nothing else has to happen, and yet… YET, MALICE. HERE YOU ARE.
He has MALICE of the New Vanguard cornered now, and he clinks the lead pipe against the wall, continuing to walk him down. He gets directly into his face.
Jonas Coleman: You put Eddie E. in a hospital. That guy will never be the same again. We all watched it happen, and I STILL… still, in my stupidity, didn’t just take Avarice out when I had the opportunity to do so…
He clinks the pipe against the wall again.
Jonas Coleman: I was hoping I’d read a report that the New Vanguard decided to dissolve and go their separate ways, because they’re some ultra talented second-generation kids that can make it on their own in this business, or whatever fluffy bullshit the columnists say…
He clinks the pipe once more.
Eryk Masters: This is actually giving me goosebumps. And not in the good way.
Other Guy: You can hear the rage at the back of Jonas’ voice, and yet he’s still so calm sounding.
Jonas stands in front of Malice now.
Jonas Coleman: But instead, here you are and here I am, and as I told Avarice and as I know he shared with the rest of you… I can get to all of you anytime I want. You are evidence of that. And now, you suffer the consequences of your actions.
With that, Jonas swings the pipe into Malice’s stomach, and Malice shrieks out in pain, doubling over. Jonas takes his boot and kicks Malice back into the wall so that he’s standing again, and he drills him with the pipe ONE MORE TIME. Malice lets out a massive breath and spittle flies, some landing on Jonas’ shirt. Jonas shakes his head and hits him one more time in the gut!
Jonas Coleman: I didn’t want to have to do this, but here I am.
Jonas pulls Malice’s face close to his and then shoves him face first into the wall! You hear Malice’s head SMACK against the brick, and he slumps down. Unconscious. Just now, you hear heavy footsteps running up behind Jonas, who turns around, lead pipe still in hand. You see him smirk.
Jonas Coleman: You and I could do this right now, but my recommendation is that we not. I’ve already put one of you down tonight, and while I’m not done, I… well…
The camera turns and reveals Void!
Jonas Coleman: You’ve got a whole world of issues that are coming to you, man. Your family’s patriarch is coming for you.
Void shakes his head, saying nothing, and he starts to walk forward. Jonas holds the lead pipe towards Void, who stops.
Jonas Coleman: Making the choice not to believe me is fine. I think if I were you, I’d make that same decision, in fact… I know I would, but maybe… maybe you should stop and think for a second, and then maybe you should take a trip out to the cave and take a look for yourself.
This stops Void in his tracks.
Jonas Coleman: That’s what I thought.
Void takes a few steps backwards, never taking his eyes off of Jonas, until he gets to a hallway cross section. At that point, he turns and vanishes into the Epicenter. Jonas turns back to look at Malice, dropping down to one knee and cradling his head in his hands.
Jonas Coleman: In the event that you are awake and hearing this, please inform James Johnson that the Butcher comes. He is next.
Eryk Masters: What the fuck was that?
Other Guy: I don’t know, and I have a feeling that we won’t know tonight either…
Eryk Masters: We’ve got… man… we’ve got more action on the way, including a first round match in the six-man tag team tournament. The Holler Vs. The Collective and that’s up NEXT!
The Holler Vs. The Collective
Eryk Masters: Wow!! That was ONE hell of a match!!
Other Guy: None of those competitors have anything to be ashamed of. This one went the distance and THEN some.
Blood runs down Arthur Pleasant’s forehead at an alarming rate. He wipes it with his right hand and draws the “Ↄ” symbol that is quickly becoming synonymous with the Collective right on the mat. As “Seizure of Power” audibly comes to life, Arthur stands up from the mat. Looking over at Milton and Addy, he nods. Milton calls for a microphone.
SHOOT Project’s newly appointed time keeper, Dennis Heflin, hands it to Milton who then hands it to Arthur.
Eryk Masters: Oh no.
Other Guy: Here we go.
Arthur Pleasant: Though it is always appreciated and I love to hear it playing, please cut my music. Thanks, friends in the back!
After a moment or two, the song is stopped.
Arthur Pleasant: Friends, I just want to apologize.
He pauses for a moment, looking up into the rafters.
Arthur Pleasant: We… we should have been here last week in front of you all. But we weren’t. We should have been at Shut Up and Fight, too. But… we weren’t. You see, we had these grand plans to come into this ring and introduce you all to the newest member of the Collective. Hehe.
Again, he pauses.
Arthur Pleasant: But good ole Louie had to go and FUCK things up, didn’t he!? Just had to flex his big man muscles and prove something to his boss. That he could prevent chaos.
Well, friends. I wanted to inform you all that one does not simply prevent chaos any more than one does not simply walk into Mordor.
The inevitable is not prevented.
It is only… delayed.
Now roll that beautiful bean footage, monkeys!
The SHOOTron lights up and we see Arthur Pleasant, Milton, and Adelaide Ainsworth standing in the parking garage where talent normally takes their vehicles before the shows. More specifically, they stand in an empty handicapped space, and behind them is a giant present with the “#” symbol slashed into the gift wrapping, exposing the cardboard box behind it.
Lou Grimaldi: Guys. C’mon.
None other than Lou Grimaldi approaches. Much to the Collective’s surprise, he seems to be all alone.
Lou Grimaldi: We’ve been through this. I am not allowing you three inside the Epicenter. Not after what you did to that man and his son. If you want in, you are going to need the blessing of management – which I have not received yet. So, if you want to stand here all night while the show is going on? That’s fine. But this — (with his hand, he motions the perimeter of the parking space) — is as far as you go. Understood? And consider yourselves lucky I’m not calling the police for illegally taking up a handicapped space.
Arthur laughs. His voice echoing in the hustle and bustle of the parking garage while personnel and talent slowly make their way into the foyer area.
Arthur Pleasant: Oh Louie. Poor, poor, Louie. Where’s the rest of the security team tonight, hm? I don’t see the Kevlar Kommittee with you… do you, Milton?
Milton shakes his head, an ever-present smirk on his rotten lips.
Milton: Indeed I do not.
Arthur smiles and sighs.
Arthur Pleasant: That can mean one of three possible things, Louie. One, you feel as if we’re no longer a big enough threat to warrant appearing before us with a whole security team. Two, your security team doesn’t arrive as early as you do because you aim to impress management by showing up suuuuuper early. Or three, your security team is… simply… well… missing.
Arthur thinks about it for a second, allowing Lou a moment to shift uncomfortably on his feet.
Arthur Pleasant: Personally, I think we’re looking at a combination of two and three. You and your team must’ve seen what happened to Mr. O’Malley. And I can’t imagine that settled well with a couple of underpaid rent-a-cops just looking to play out a little Call of Duty on the SP+ app. So, I’m of the mind that when you arrived early, like you always do, you found out that they didn’t come through for you and bolted.
Lou Grimaldi: Alright, that’s enough. I’m going to need you to-
Arthur Pleasant: AND I’M GOING TO NEED YOU TO SHUT THE FUCK UP, LOUIS.
Grimaldi looks stunned, as Arthur actually gets in his face.
Arthur Pleasant: Oh, I’m fucking sorry, Louie. Did you expect me to stand back, laugh, and make jokes like the airhead you thought I was while Milton here acquiesces your fucking idiotic requests!? Heh. Do I look like a… Joker… to you, Louie? Well, you don’t know me like you thought you did, do you? Oof. That’s embarrassing.
Arthur chuckles and removes the Iron Fist Championship that he has around his waist. He holds it up so that it is inches from Grimaldi’s face.
Arthur Pleasant: You and the rest of SHOOT Project are going to learn two important things tonight. First, you’re going to learn that nobody can stop what is inevitable. And secondly? Well —
Without warning, Grimaldi goes flying towards Arthur, who sidesteps him in anticipation.
Arthur Pleasant: I’d like to introduce you to our newest member of the family. Say hi…
The video stops abruptly.
Arthur smirks widely.
Arthur Pleasant: … Andromeda.
“Patron Saint O’Thieves” by the Rumjacks hits and out walks Andromeda Flynn. In tow, wearing a dog collar and on all fours, is Lou Grimaldi.
Eryk Masters: Oh God. This is sick.
Other Guy: Looks like we know who hashtag is, don’t we?
Eryk Masters: I really didn’t see this coming. Why on EARTH would she join this group!?
Every so often, Andromeda would yank on the chain, causing Grimaldi to yell out in pain and collapse to the steel ramp. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Andromeda makes her way up the steel steps and into the ring, just about dragging Grimaldi the entire way.
Arthur Pleasant: Look at you. Mr. Head of Security with a puffed out chest. You’re nothing more than an… an ant waiting to be stepped on.
He slaps Grimaldi in the face. Milton and Ainsworth look on with much enthusiasm.
Arthur Pleasant: Well you don’t have to wait any longer, Louie. Because this is the moment that we, the Collective, steps on you. Andromeda? If you would, please.
Andromeda forcefully sets Grimaldi up between her legs like she is going for a powerbomb.
Arthur Pleasant: Addy? If you would, please.
Ainsworth rolls out of the ring and searches hurriedly underneath the ring apron. A few moments later, she pulls out a table. Sliding it into the ring, Arthur now looks to Milton.
Arthur Pleasant: Milton? If YOU would, please.
Milton nods and immediately begins setting up the table. Looking at Andromeda, he nods.
Arthur Pleasant: Time to send this prick to Hades, Ms. Flynn.
Andromeda lifts Grimaldi up into position for her patented crucifix powerbomb. Arthur and Milton each hold a shoulder, positioning him perfectly to fall directly into the table. Addy, meanwhile, climbs to the top rope.
Once on the top rope, Addy positions herself so that she is facing Grimaldi’s widened eyes. Snarling, she leaps forward in a rolling senton motion, landing on Grimaldi as he’s driven through the table with the Crucifix Powerbomb.
Eryk Masters: THE CELTIC CROSS!!
Other Guy: A Collective ASSISTED Celtic Cross!!
Eryk Masters: My God, Lou Grimaldi needs some help out here guys. Jesus Christ.
Buried in the rubble of the wood that exploded all around him upon impact, Grimaldi remains motionless as Andromeda dusts herself off. Holding his Iron Fist Championship up, Arthur begins the count…
Arthur Pleasant: ONE!!
Eryk Masters: So much for having a sense of law and order around here. What the HELL is it going to take for SHOOT Project to return to a sense of normalcy!?
Other Guy: The way 2020 has gone? Yeah, I don’t know that it ever will.
Arthur Pleasant: FIVE!!
Milton pats Arthur on the shoulder while Ainsworth jumps on Andromeda’s back, kissing her on the cheek for showing the level of violence she is capable of.
Arthur Pleasant: EIGHT!!
… annnnnnd you get the picture. STILL… THE GREATEST… IRON FIST CHAMPION… THAT. HAS. EVER. FUCKING. LIVED.
“Seizure of Power” blasts through the air again as the four members of the Collective celebrate their unending, unyielding violence and destruction.
Eryk Masters: Just… what the fuck!?
The light of the flame flickers in the night as it separates the two of them. Charlie Jay Hitchens stares across the fire at Buck Dresden, who is seated comfortably and clean before her and before her flame. He is in her camp. He removes his tattered Bad Ass Brotherhood cowboy hat, the oldest piece of memorabilia he owned from that time in his life, and he tosses it to the dirt next to him. He reaches into his bag and draws out a bottle of water and tosses it over the fire to her. She is slightly startled at this motion, as it happens so fast she doesn’t get the chance to determine the intent. She watches the flames attempt to lick the condensation off of the bottle as it flies over the fire and lands with a heavy thud before her.
Buck Dresden: Figured you’d be thirsty. Awful dry in the desert.
She says nothing, merely staring at the bottled water for a moment before casting her eyes upward to him yet again. He is chugging down a rather liberal amount of water from his own bottle, and his eyes are closed as the ecstasy of his thirst being quenched overwhelms him. After he swallows down his water, he looks back to her, rubbing the drop that escaped his lips off of his bearded chin.
Buck Dresden: Made a home fer yerself out here, though. Gotta say, it’s a mite cozy for a camp. No disrespect.
She says nothing. Just listening. The cracking of the fire eating the wood sounds like the breaking of glaciers in the Arctic, at least to her.
Buck Dresden: My daddy took me campin’ a lot when I was a pup. You know, you never get the real appreciation fer what you have until you lose it.
Buck Dresden: Makes me wish I knew the last time we went in the woods was the last time. I would have cherished it so much more…
She opens her mouth to speak, but he stops her.
Buck Dresden: But that’s just it, Charlie. You never get told when the last time something is is…it just happens. You roll with it. Deal with it. Move on. I don’t even know if I remember fully the last time I talked to Charles Magnus. I know we weren’t on good terms. I know we fought one another. I know I ended his in-ring career in an attempt to save him from himself. You knew that, didn’t you?
Buck Dresden: Yep. His group, Magnus International. I broke free from it, fought everybody on the team, and finally settled up with him in a match where the stips were simply that the winner took control of the World title up for grabs and the contract of the loser. He’d told me if he won he’d force me back into the Magnus International fold an’ he’d never let me go. I told him when I won, I’d take over Magnus International, I’d take over his career, an’ I’d save him from himself.
Buck Dresden: I won.
He takes another swallow of his water and stares into the fire.
Buck Dresden: He begged me, Charlie. He pleaded with me. But it didn’t stop me. I knew what was best for him. I killed Magnus International. I watched his eyes grow wider ‘n’ wider when I told him I was releasin’ him from his wrestling contract. He told me nobody would hire him, he’d be out of a job and this was all he wanted to do. But I felt like…like he treated wrestling like a fatty food an’ he was addicted. Just kept eatin’ an’ eatin’…didn’t know when or how to stop. So I stopped him. I remember his sobs as the fans cheered their asses off fer me. I watched him get dragged to the back. I saw the footage of him gettin’ kicked outta the arena. I remember it all.
He licks his lips, his head down in shame.
Buck Dresden: I’m sure we saw each other again. I know we did. But I don’t remember if he forgave me or I asked fer forgiveness.
He looks across the flame at her.
Buck Dresden: When I felt the cool night air hit my skin once I was free of that casket, Charlie, I wasn’t filled with anger. I was filled with that hollow feelin’ again. I was in a situation where I thought I was gonna die an’ my only thought was…how lonely it all was. I was gonna die alone. Like Chuck did. He was on that boat of his all alone in the Caribbean tryin’ to make heads or tails of his own life until that storm came an’ he lost it. I cried in that box, Charlie. I sobbed. I screamed. I panicked. It took every last bit of me to move the ground above me an’ break out.
Another sip from his water.
Buck Dresden: I got free an’ I went home an’ tried to forget about it. Tried to get mad. Tried to take care of my dog. But I kept feelin’ this callin’ inside uh me. I took Wink to my friend Corey’s, dropped him off, parked my truck, an’ I walked out into the darkness. I didn’t know what I was doin’, where I was goin’. I just knew I couldn’t go to the Epicenter an’ I couldn’t go home. I was called to come out into the desert for something.
He stares at her now.
Buck Dresden: I saw a light in the distance. It flicked an’ it flicked until my eyes decided it was real an’ not in my head. I walked towards it. Then I saw you. Sittin’ right over there. I knew why I was here. What called me to you.
He doesn’t even hesitate as he continues, keeping her attention as he does so.
Buck Dresden: I’m here to tell you how sorry I am. Fer everything.
He lets that sink in.
Buck Dresden: I thought the way through all of this was to defeat you. Fight against you. Go to war with you. But that ain’t it. You can’t punch the current or the tides. You have to let it flow. You have to go with the tide. I realized Charlie Jay Hitchens isn’t a monster, a prophet, a demon, an angel, or even just a person. I realized you are a force of nature. An act. You’re more’n just one of the called. An’ if I’m gonna survive this, if I’m gonna live…I need to let go. I need to let go an’ just…listen. Listen to you. Hear you out. You said you had a mission, a plan for me. My problem was thinkin’ I knew what that plan was. I don’t. So, I’m sorry. I should have listened to you.
He lets his face contort from a stern and solemn gaze to a…warm…smile.
Buck Dresden: So please, Charlie, please tell me what you need me to do.
She takes a long moment. Looks to the fire and stokes it, then throws another log on. Methodical. The sparks rise between them, and her eyes–cold even in the hot glow of flame–study him. She opens her mouth to speak, then pauses. Her brow furrows. Her tone when she finally does speak is about as soft as her angle grinder voice can get. Introspective.
CJH: Y’know, you by far ain’t the first person I’ve had to deal with. There have been others. I done had his voice ringing in my head for almost my whole life, Buck Dresden. Means I ain’t get much in the way of a childhood. Cause when the good Lord says there’s work to be done, you do it. Or you deny him, and you get dealt with. You deny him and you have to deal with me, or someone like me. Because when I finally rest, that’s not the end of his bloody hand taking what needs to be taken and culling what needs to be culled. Just means it’ll have a different face.
Her shoulders have slumped. She almost smiles, though it could easily read as a sad wince from a different angle.
CJH: But in all those other times, ain’t a single person done what you’ve done. Fought fate as hard as you did. Laid me out as good as you did. Made it necessary to be buried in the earth itself. Sought me out like you have. Apologized like you did just now.
She shakes her head. Looks to the horizon behind him. Her spine stiffens somewhat, and her tone reclaims its assured rhythm.
CJH: Truth is, Buck Dresden, I have no doubt of what I am. It’d be…easy, if I could just take this introspection of yours and say you’ve learned what you needed to. Say you’ve seen the error. Say you’ve grown and will accept his light and his favor again. And you don’t even understand how lucky you are, do you? He wants you in his favor. He wants you to feel his blessings.
Her eyes drop to the fire for a moment.
CJH: I’ll never know that life.
Back to Buck, locking eyes with him.
CJH: Work ain’t easy. And try though you might to realize the lesson and move forward, there ain’t but one outcome that will end this between you and me.
Buck Dresden: Tell me. Please.
CJH: Combat, Buck Dresden. We meet. We give each other every ounce of what we have. Not because I want it, not really. But because I will keep coming unless we do. I will keep finding ways to show you how serious I am. I have my orders. And our work is yet to be completed. Not until we can step in there, together, with nothing around us but instruments of maiming and destruction, to see who breaks first. Only through violence can you achieve salvation. Only through violence can I earn rest. These were his words to me.
He laughs a nervous laugh, listening to his longtime foe. This woman, unlike anything he’d seen before, anyone he’d fought before. He nods, looking into the fire between them.
Buck Dresden: I believe in heroes ‘n’ villains. Gods ‘n’ monsters. Good ‘n’ bad. You…yer one of those wayward type souls. You have a mission, you heard God command you. Maybe God’s out there, maybe he talks to you, maybe he tells you things he doesn’t tell others, or maybe you just have better hearin’ than the rest of us. I don’t know.
He continues to nod, his mind becoming resolute.
Buck Dresden: But I know I found you out here. I know somethin’ gave me the strength to get outta that hole you put me in. I know somethin’ is guidin’ us to the end of this journey. If I learned anything in my time on this Earth, it’s that ya got two ears versus one mouth, which means you should do twice the listenin’ than ya do the talkin’.
He finishes his bottle of water, placing the empty bottle back in his satchel.
Buck Dresden: Thank you, Charlie. I shoulda listened from the beginnin’. I shouldn’t have treated you like I did. I was wrong fer that. You deserved my attention an’ my respect an’ I lost sight of that. I can’t be a champion…a true champion…if I don’t harness the responsibility thrust upon me. Use it to better myself, this company, an’ my opponents. Leave it better’n how I found it.
He stands up and smiles at her. A warm smile. An actually…kind smile.
Buck Dresden: You’re wrong about one thing, Charlie.
He dusts off the dirt on him and slings his satchel back over his shoulder.
Buck Dresden: If God exists an’ he speaks to you an’ he wants to use you as a guide but doesn’t wanna let you experience it? Doesn’t want you in his favor? I still can’t wrap my head around that. If I’m deservin’ of his love, his glory, or whatever else he’s spoken to you about…then so do you. Nobody oughtta be kept in the shadows when they can see the light. You deserve love, too, Charlie. Hopefully one day you’ll see that like I do.
Buck Dresden: Hopefully you don’t gotta get thrown in a grave to do it.
He turns from her and waves, looking over his shoulder to her and smiles. He heads off into the darkness yet again, leaving Charlie alone with her thoughts and the light of her fire.
Nate Robideau Vs. Alden Butcher
After the bell, Nate Robideau gets to his feet unsteadily, calling for a microphone.
Eryk Masters: The most stoic soldier in SHOOT has something on his mind!
Other Guy: He should be making his way out of here surrounded by security, the way the Butchers have been walloping his ass backstage as of late.
He grabs the mic and strides past the admittedly confused looking Alden Butcher, leaning over the top rope facing the entrance. He glares at it for a long moment as the crowd buzzes, his eyes stern. When he speaks, it’s at a bellow, louder than we’re used to him speaking by a sight.
Robideau: CK Butcher!
The crowd begins to scream as he starts stalking that side of the ring, pacing. He waits, then continues.
Robideau: I know you are not far. You are never far. I do not want Alden. I never have. I know that he merely does the bidding of the true head of the Butcher clan. I could go to the back. I could subject myself to another attack. But I am not a fool. And it would solve nothing.
At this, the crowd boos.
Robideau: I could perhaps go back and lie in wait. A snake in the grass, the rattler behind the rock. Wait for you to try and strike and then return in kind what you have subjected me to. But this is not my way. And it would solve nothing.
The crowd reacts with cheers to this suggestion, and Nate stops walking, looking toward Alden and then back to the ramp.
Robideau: I could stretch your brother in ways that he has not experienced yet. Dislocate, snap, break. Millimeters of pressure separating him from a debilitating injury and freedom. It would make him feel weak, and alone—just like you have made me feel time and time again! But…this is not my way. And it would solve nothing. So why not, instead of you and I doing this song and dance, you come out like a man and talk to me, face to face, right now?!
That’s all he had to say. “Drums of Drakkar” by Amoebacrew pounds through the speakers like rolling thunder. The crowd reacts accordingly and turn their attention to the stage where The Lord of the Flies, CK Butcher, casually strolls out from the Gorilla position with a smile from ear to ear.
Eryk Masters: There he is, ladies and gentlemen. The Cerebral King Butcher, The Lord of the Flies, the 2020 Redemption Rumble winner, the number one contender.
Other Guy: Aka the luckiest guy on the planet.
Robideau: No. No. No.
The music immediately stops and CK Butcher curiously flexes his eyebrows as he watches Nate continue to take his giant brother hostage.
Robideau: This is not an opportunity for you to pontificate about the nature of things or how you are going to remake this company in your own image. This is not the time for you to be a blowhard—and we both know that is what you are, CK. You are a thug with delusions of grandeur. You speak to everything being so high-minded, but try as you might, that is all a smokescreen. You want to fight me. You want to put me down to establish your dominance.
He looks CK right in the face with fiery eyes, holding his arms out for a moment, before barking into the mic.
Robideau: I am right here! No more games, Butcher. Put away the dog and pony show and let us handle things as people like us have for thousands of years. Or would you rather just keep jumping me in locker rooms with your brothers?
Butcher is patient to respond. He contemplates. He strokes his chin and stares upward as he deliberates with the voice in his head. He smiles.
CK Butcher: You should’ve snapped Alden’s neck. As a matter of fact – I insist. Fuck that evil sasquatch bastard. But, I get it. That’s not why we are here. Actually, I know why we are here. You’ve spent a lot of time repeating the same refrain. You keep saying that any predictable action you take will solve nothing. You couldn’t be more wrong. It most definitely would solve everything. Care for me to explain? I won’t beat around the bush. You said it: no more games. Here, let’s all watch it together…
CK directs all attention to the screen above him.
The footage is of a quality that could be described as grainy—certainly not in high definition. Clearly it’s either a rip of a VHS or a VHS itself, as tracking lines abound at the top and the bottom of the footage. What might be a municipal center, national guard armory, or middle school holds a wrestling ring. The crowd is actually somewhat populous, but the building might not hold more than 300 people at maximum. In the ratty ring are two men, both staring absolute murder at one another. One is stoutly built, vascular, fresh—the public-access grade graphics beneath him identify him as a younger Nate Robideau with a full head of hair. The words under his opponent—fresh faced, lankier, flexing his pecs and glowering—is “Kid Falcon” Ricky Brown.
Like a gunshot went off, before the ref can even call for the bell, Nate absolutely bumrushes Ricky and lays into his mush with a massive right fist! The crowd begins screaming, as Ricky begins returning shots, alternating between hammer Nate in his ribs and his ear. The referee attempts to step between them, only to be shoved to the mat. In the brief separation, Nate rushes Ricky again, but gets dumped out to the ground. He follows him out, the cameraperson shakily keeping up with the action, Ricky laying in a few kicks before Nate gets to his feet. The crowd disperses with screams as they start laying into one another more, grabbing onto one another and walloping each other in the face almost at the same time, repeatedly. The referee calls for the bell, likely calling the match off, though no announcement is made. Strikes to the eyes, to the noses, both of them looking like hamburger quickly: eyes beginning to swell shut, noses going out of alignment, lips cut. Both men beat each other bloody before the locker room empties, wrestlers and trainers alike—including El Diablo Verde, cane be damned–swarming the pair and separating them with a gargantuan effort. It takes the combined efforts of four men apiece to hold them both away from one another. Ricky yells insults, while Nate positively screams in rage, spittle and blood almost flying in a mist in front of his mouth.
The crews keep them apart, Ricky being dragged to the back first. Nate remains restrained, his shoulders breathing shaking with his heavy breath. Finally, after a long enough period of time has passed, They begin escorting Nate to the back, Verde yelling at him all the while.
Then the feed cuts to an astounded Lord. Butcher’s eyes are wide, and he’s sarcastically shocked; almost mocking the moment. His eyes move back and forth. He points up at the screen, and then at a sobbing Robideau.
CK Butcher: What…a…REVELATION! Sweet Jesus, Mr. Robideau, you and Ricky Brown did not like each other! It’s just…too damn bad that we don’t get to see the real finish…
Nate, full of bluster and fire not moments ago, looks absolutely harrowed. He has gone pale, his shoulders sagging, and his brow is furrowed in a look that can only be described as absolute agony. He releases He backs up from the edge of the ring, trying to put space between the screen and himself, until he’s finally slumped against the ropes on the opposite side. His arms stay limp at his side, but he is shaking his head, almost silently mouthing the word “no” repeatedly.
CK Butcher: Ladies and gentlemen…
CK Butcher extends his arm toward the ring as if to introduce someone.
CK Butcher: …I INTRODUCE TO YOU… the murderer, the slayer of futures, the exterminator of youth, the cold blooded…MONSTER…
Robideau covers his mouth with his hand. His eyes begin to well. He cannot believe that he’s seen it again. The footage strikes post traumatic stress, but has also struck Nate frozen in the ring. Stone cold horror.
A sadistic look of pleasure creeps across CK Butcher’s diabolical visage. The words tremble as they leave his lips, echoing throughout the Epicenter.
CK Butcher:… Ricky’s Reaper…NATE…ROBIDEAU…
CK Butcher: May the truth set you free.
The Lord drops the microphone as it causes a thud in the speakers after hitting the stage. Butcher begins to chuckle to himself while his devious eyes stay locked on the broken Robideau who slouches in the ring and clutches his face with sadness.
Other Guy: I’m sure that we’ll have a lot more to hear about and say regarding how things are playing out with Nate Robideau and C.K. Butcher as time goes on, but this was a psychological blow to someone who’s been a model citizen since he debuted.
Eryk Masters: I’m just impressed that someone still had a VHS tape. Do you have any of those left over?
Other Guy: I don’t, actually. I got rid of mine years and years ago, but I digress. We’re headed to backstage where Abigail Chase is standing by!
She looks as splendid as ever, wearing a baby blue V-Neck ruffle dress. It didn’t leave much to the imagination and yet remained classy all the same.
Abigail Chase: Ladies and gentlemen… X-Calibur!
X, looking a tad pissed, comes into the picture. He’s dressed in a black and white SP emblem hat, jeans, and a brand new X-Calibur shirt that has “#TGO” stamped on a lone “X” in the front, with the words “The Legendary One” written on the back.
Abigail Chase: X, at Shut Up and Fight, we all saw Dan Stein say that he was going to address your challenge here at Revolution 147. Seeing as though no one has heard from the man you challenged to a match at REVELATION yet, what can you tell us about the situation?
X scoffs at the question.
X-Calibur: What can I tell you about the situation, Abigail? What, am I Dan Stein’s handler or something? No. Only Dan Stein can tell you about the situation since I dropped the situation right into his dirty dick of a lap. But, I’m not gonna beat around the bush, Abigail. I’m… what’s another word for disappointed? Fucking disappointed? Ehhh fuck it, I’m fucking disappointed. At the same time, though? What’s another word for same ole shit, same fucking asshole? Heh. To say I’m not surprised would be a gross understatement, Abigail. Saying he’s going to do something only to not deliver IS Dan Stein’s M.O., after all. Dude’s made a career out of doing that, somehow. So it is what it is.
He paused and shook his head with disgust.
X-Calibur: Maybe this is my fault. Who knows? Maybe… maybe I was just too rough on him. Maybe droppin’ his noggin’ with that X-Terminator onto the chair was just too much for a fragile little mind like his to take. Maybe he’s concussed? Whoops. Should’ve known better, I guess. Shame on me for that, I suppose.
X-Calibur shrugs at Abigail. Then, he looks directly into the camera lens.
X-Calibur: Nah. On second thought? Fuck that. You’re a blundering fuckin’ IDIOT, Dan. Ever since I arrived here? You’ve shown exactly why I never thought you were on my level. You’ve shown everyone EXACTLY why you belong down in a developmental place like REIGN, spending more time on Spitter than in the gym, raisin’ imaginary titles with the young upstarts of tomorrow who wanna make a name for themselves any way they fuckin’ can. Pathetic.
But, despite what you may think, Dan? That little envenomed arrow of truth notwithstanding? I didn’t want to come out here and spit it at you this week. I’ve done enough of that already. What I wanted was to sit back and watch you address my challenge. Like a fuckin’ MAN.
But of course, reality sets in and… welp. Dot, dot, dot. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I wanted to just chalk it up to that point in every person’s wrestling career where they’re not sure what they should be doing or where they should be going. Like that lost light in the bottom of a cave. The best of us have all been through that, so I figured maybe that’s what was happening to you in SHOOT Project circa 2020.
But… Christ, Dan. Come ON, Dan. I issued you challenge. But it’s much, much more than that. It’s a chance for you to finally fuckin’ bring it and prove the naysayers, including myself, wrong about you.
He turned away from Abigail for a moment, debating whether to say what he clearly wanted to say. After a moment’s hesitation, he just went for the jugular.
X-Calibur: But you just don’t get that, do you? Let’s review why.
You and your dumb ass cousin and your space cadet wife have paraded around here for months, providing endless laughs and hollow entertainment to any idiot that would be duped into believing this makes you a credible threat.
You’re gonna raise that Sin City Championship back to prominence? Right.
You’re gonna Make Championships Great Again? Okay.
You’re gonna ride my coattails to the top? You wouldn’t be the first, so… fine. Whatever.
Nothing. Fuckin’ crickets, Dan. And yet, I’m still here, trying to give you the benefit of the doubt when no one else will. From one former Redemption Rumble winner to another. From one former SHOOT World Heavyweight Champion… to another.
I’ve fuckin’ had it. ‘Cause last I checked, you came at me with a gang of fools at Redemption, trying to embarrass me week after week after that by playing fuckin’ cat and mouse. You tapped into my ferociousness by feeding me to a nightmare from my past and then fed your cousin to me when I was able to wake the fuck up.
And now? You’re just a sorry excuse for a man that wishes you could just lock yourself away in that janitor’s closet like Johnny Patriot did.
At Shut Up and Fight, you said you were gonna address my challenge. And yet here we all are, none the wiser as to what you wanna do.
I put the ball in YOUR fuckin’ court, letting YOU be the one to accept MY challenge. And you wanna ghost me?
Fuck you, motherfucker.
He shook his head and leaned in to Abigail Chase.
X-Calibur: I’m giving you one more week to answer my challenge. One. More. Week. That’s Shut Up And Fight 9, in case you want to mark it on your red, white, and blue calendar. If I don’t hear from you by then? Then I’m gonna pay Real Deal a little visit and set us up for a match myself. Without your blessing. Without your fuckin’ professional input.
And then? I’m gonna make sure the only thing you’re riding here on out is the first train straight outta SHOOT Project.
You’ve been warned…
X-Calibur pulls a card out from his wallet and shows it to Abigail. Though the picture is faded, it clearly shows an “Instant Heat” identification with no expiration.
X-Calibur: Just in case anyone thought I might owe someone fifty cents.
Shoving the camera out of his face, X-Calibur sidesteps Abigail before simply walking away.
Abigail Chase: Well, there you have it. Strong words from X-Calibur! And, did he just challenge Dan Stein… to answer his challenge!? I guess we’ll all have to wait for Shut Up and FIGHT to see where this Challenge-Ception winds up going!
Scion Vs. Azraith DeMitri
“Leather Teeth” by Carpenter Brut is playing through the arena as the SHOOT Project fans and faithful are celebrating Azraith DeMitri’s victory over Scion, who is down in the ring, upset at the loss. Azraith raises his arms and begins to leave the ring when a familiar guitar riff hits and “HOLY DEFENDER” by Primitai takes over the audio!
Eryk Masters: Oooohhhhh shit. Jonas told Malice that he was coming for Scion, and it LOOKS LIKE this is the place!
Other Guy: This has been a cathartic episode of Revolution to some extent, I’ll tell you that much.
The music keeps playing, and Jonas pops out onto the top of the ramp drawing a huge cheer from the crowd! He turns his head and looks at either side of the arena before he draws out AN ASP!
Other Guy: This is almost symbolic, I think. He worked Malice over with a lead pipe, the same weapon that Malice nearly beat Eddie E to death with, and now he’s got an ASP, which is how he took the Real Deal out!
Eryk Masters: I realize that I am supposed to stay largely unbiased and all that, but I’m kinda excited to watch this fucking punk get his shit pushed in right now.
Jonas begins to walk down the ramp, and passes Azraith DeMitri on his way, merely nodding at the former World Heavyweight and Sin City Champion. Azraith smirks and just walks right by. Jonas calls for a microphone on his way into the ring, which he rolls into.
Jonas Coleman: I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because I don’t want to take much time away from the main event, but as you all know… I have begun to enact my own crusade against the New Vanguard. Physical and psychological. Physical began with Malice, psychological began with Void, and physical continues with the prodigal son of the SHOOT Project laid out before you… James “Scion” Johnson.
With that, Jonas drops a heavy boot into Scion’s stomach, which causes an audible groan to come out from him. He pulls Scion back to his feet and shoves him into the turnbuckle. Scion bounces off and tries to come back at Jonas, but Jonas uses the Asp and clips him in the midsection again, dropping him to the mat!
Eryk Masters: This is going to get uglier, I think.
Other Guy: I hope so. I don’t know when he’s going to get such a public opportunity like this again.
Eryk Masters: Let’s be clear, he MADE this opportunity for himself.
Scion starts to get to his feet, on his knees, but Jonas IMMEDIATELY runs at him and DRILLS him with the Butcher’s Cleaver and his head rocks back into the second turnbuckle! The crowd POPS! Jonas leaves the ring and pulls a table out from underneath it! He slides it back into the ring, follows it, and sets it up!
Eryk Masters: Mans has some BAD intentions right now.
Other Guy: I mean, can you blame him?
He positions the table so that it’s directly in line of sight with the ramp and drags Scion over to it. He pulls Scion up and DRIVES HIM DOWN WITH A POWERBOMB THROUGH THE TABLE. He rolls back to his feet and picks the microphone up once more.
Eryk Masters: It’s been a hard day for tables here at Revolution…
Jonas Coleman: Avarice, Malice, Void, and Scion. The SHOOT Project will not put up with any of this for any longer. I will continue to find you, hurt you, and do what I can to put this to rest. If your “benefactor” has an issue with that, then I recommend that he make the trip to Las Vegas and settle things himself.
He kneels down and pulls Scion’s head up by his hair, holding the Asp against his throat.
Jonas Coleman: You know where to find me.
He SLAMS Scion’s face down into the mat as “Holy Defender” kicks off again!
Eryk Masters: Well, you were right. This has been a cathartic episode of Revolution, for the most part. Watching Jonas get to every single member of the New Vanguard has been absolutely delightful.
Other Guy: And with all that in mind, we STILL have the main event coming up! NEMESIS takes on Jacob Mephisto for the SIN CITY CHAMPIONSHIP, and that’s coming up in just a few short minutes!
Eryk Masters: Up next is our main event, folks; and it’s for the Sin City Championship!
The fans seem ready and excited for the upcoming main event…
Tiiiiiiiime… is on my siiiiide… yes it is!
The voice of Wilson Pickett breaks through the speakers as the crowd boos loudly.
After a few seconds Jacob Mephisto walks through the curtain, the Sin City Championship clasped around his waist. He stands on the entrance ramp, smirking at the jeering crowd. Another couple seconds pass and Mephisto is flanked by Dietrich and KC Rockefeller.
The Empyrean Codex stands united on the entrance stage for a few seconds before making their way down to the ring.
As they enter the ring, Mephisto grabs a microphone and motions for the music to be cut.
Jacob Mephisto: It didn’t have to be this way, you know. Targeting family isn’t typically my style. But, tonight… this opportunity… I’m genuinely excited for you, Judy.
The crowd’s booing intensifies.
Jacob Mephisto: I’m looking forward to this. I know your coming into your own, child. It’s only natural for you to be a little apprehensive. But, the brutality is reserved for your father, Judy. You and I can have a nice, clean match…
There’s a change in the crowd as they begin to cheer. Azraith DeMitri walks onto the entrance stage, no entrance music, no lights, stalking his way down the ramp and climbing into the ring. He’s dressed in full regalia, t-shirt as well as a long black trenchcoat along with his normal ring gear. He stands alone in the ring with the three men. Face to face with Jacob, as Dietrich and Rockefeller slowly circle to flank. A brief look of consternation crosses Jacob before he flashes a devious smile.
Jacob Mephisto: Azraith! I’m surprised you have the energy to come out after that war with Scion. I believe he might have knocked that plate in your skull loose a bit though, you’re not the DeMitri I’m fighting tonight, unfortunately. Though…I’m sure if you ask nicely they’ll let you stay and watch me…well…you know what I’m going to do to her, right?
The crowd boos heavily as Jacob raises his arms in a trademark motion, his eyes never leaving Azraith. Az, for his part, doesn’t move, and doesn’t crack the fiery glare he’s given Jacob since stepping into the ring. After letting those words hang in the air a second, Az suddenly reaches out, snatching the microphone from Jacob’s hand. The rapid motion causes Dietrich and Rockefeller to instantly snap into offensive positions, but Jacob raises his hands again to keep them still for the moment.
Azraith DeMitri: I made a promise to NEMESIS that I wouldn’t get involved here. She is going to succeed or fail on her own merits…her own skill. She doesn’t need to be lifted up by my name, or burdened by my sins. I’m trying…
Az lowered the mic for a second as he looked down, emotion briefly overcoming him. An audible laugh escapes Jacob before he covers his mouth in faux respect, his eyes twinkling at the sight of a vulnerable Azraith. Az’s eyes close and his jaw tightens as he takes a deep breath before looking back up at Jacob.
Azraith DeMitri: I’m trying my goddamn best, but I think, in this case, you were never intending on making this any kind of actual competition. I think…you were going to come out here, take advantage of the opportunity this company has given her, and you and your two thugs were going to beat the everloving hell out of her to send me a message. You get what you want, which is to hurt me, and you don’t have to worry about your precious Championship wandering off. Am I getting close?
Some of the amusement seems to leave Jacob’s face as that, and Az’s grin grows.
Azraith DeMitri: See…I thought so. So the way I look at it…I’m not really stepping on any toes right now. The way I look at it, it’s my responsibility as a father to make sure my daughter gets all the opportunities that she’s promised. The way I look at it…
With his free hand, Az reaches behind him, into the depths of his trenchcoat as the crowd starts to cheer again.
Azraith DeMitri: …I think I have a job to do.
Az’s grin is downright sadistic as he pulls a CROWBAR out from the depths of the coat! Jacob’s eyes widen as he instantly takes a step back, but Az’s swing instead arcs to the left, jabbing the curved end of the crowbar right into Rockefeller’s gut! The man doubles over in pain as Az then swings at Dietrich, going right for the fences! Dietrich ducks, but Az is there for the action and catches him with a rising knee strike, knocking him flat on his back!
Eryk Masters: Azraith clearing house right now!
The crowd ROARS as Az grabs Rockefeller and THROWS him out of the ring, following him as they start to brawl! Jacob watches in absolute disbelief as Dietrich staggers to his feet and follows after the two, soon turning the two man brawl into a three-man melee as they punch, kick, and throw each other around the ring, each member of the Codex deftly avoiding most of the most vicious weapon strikes while attempting to take Az to the ground, to little effect. Eventually, the brawl pushes past the barriers and out through one of the side doors, off camera. Jacob is still standing in the middle of the ring, for the first time looking like he has NO idea what to do next!
Other Guy: Jacob looks like he’s had his plan here ruined tonight, hell the Sin City Championship is still around his waist…wait, listen!
Carpenter Brut’s version of MANIAC starts blaring across the speakers of the arena as the lights start to throb rhythmically. After a second of the brain-vibrating synth roaring through the arena, NEMESIS steps out to the roar of the crowd! She’s wearing a new black, white, and red wrestling outfit, matching the mask she debuted during her last promo! After a second of standing at the top of the ramp, rolling her neck from side to side, she RACES to the ring and slides under the bottom rope, rolling to her back and kipping up RIGHT IN FRONT OF JACOB!
NEMESIS: RING THE FUCKING BELL!
NEMESIS Vs. Jacob Mephisto (c)
Eryk Masters: She did it! We have a brand new Sin City Champion! NEMESIS has uncrowned Jacob Mephisto!
Other Guy: This is a HUGE moment for her, E! She earned thi- oh what the hell!?
Just as NEMESIS raises the title over her head in victory, she is MOWED down from behind by a sickening blindside lariat to the back of the head and neck.
Jacob Mephisto’s entire body shakes as he seethes with unbridled rage. His pale, grey eyes burn with pure vitriol. He STOMPS down on the lower back of NEMESIS as the new champion crawls towards the ropes.
Jacob Mephisto: So much fight in you girl. Just like daddy!
He STOMPS down again on her lower back, stopping her progress.
Jacob Mephisto: You took what’s mine, little girl.
Another stomp. NEMESIS still fights forward. A sick, twisted grin forms on Mephisto’s face.
Jacob Mephisto: Keep fighting, girl. Just like your father. He can’t help you now.
This time, Mephisto DROPS an elbow across her lower back and quickly hooks her arm with his legs and SNATCHES her by the hair, yanking back and forcing her eyes up towards the big screen, which has come to life.
Jacob Mephisto: LOOK, girl. See what’s to become of the DeMitri line. SEE.
On the screen is a hideous sight. Azraith DeMitri has been chained to the wall, his arms and legs spread in some twisted effigy of Davinci’s Vetruvian Man. His face is a complete crimson mask and his chest has been exposed. Written in blood on Azraith’s bare chest are three words. KHARRION stands in front of the elder DeMitri, bruised from clear contact with the crowbar, which Dietrich now carries in his left hand. They step to the side, revealing the message inscribed in blood on Azraith’s chest.
Mephisto laughs as he rolls off NEMESIS and out of the ring, leaving her staring up at her father’s predicament.
She finds herself awoken, the dawn’s light creeping across the desolate ground. Sand and grime stick to her face as she raises from laying to sitting, her eyes slowly adjusting to her surroundings. She knows he is gone. She watched him leave. But still, there is a moment of confusion. The fire is all but a smoking smolder now, the meat is consumed, and she is left with little more than the wind and the beasts of the desert as a companion.
She stands, brushing herself off, and dons her ballcap. Looking over her site, everything seems in it’s right place—but she stops dead, her eyes widening. They focus on a single item that is foreign to her space. The evidence of another. Hanging on the almost barren leaves of a scrub brush.
A cowboy hat. His cowboy hat.
She pauses for a moment. Considers. Then walks over and retrieves it. Her rough, scarred fingers run across the brim. Then smells it. Not the inhale of remembrance, but the quick sniffs of an animal gathering a prey’s scent. Stepping about aimlessly, she thinks for a long moment. The silence almost seems oppressive. She walks to her stump, a flat and weathered surface. Coated in black and brown grime, dried blood, bits of flesh, and deep cuts—this is clearly the cutting board and skinning station. The flies, predictably, love it. She sets it down on the stump, almost tenderly, and walks out of frame. For a long while, we hear nothing. The scraping metal. The soft thud of heavy items hitting the earth. The grind of things being pulled from a truck bed.
Finally, after a long moment, her footsteps are heard. Steady as ever. As she enters the frame, her arms are positively full with junk. Placing herself in front of the stump, she faces away and begins arranging things as she sees fit. We watch her work. For many minutes.
Finally, she steps back. Surrounding the stump is a tableau of itemage: rusted folding chairs, bent and twisted strands of barbed wire, hammers. And leaning against the stump, a makeshift cross of a baseball bat and a board with many nails in it. She looks at her work. At her altar. She slowly pulls a pocket knife from her pocket, flipping it open with an assured movement. Without so much as wincing, she grips the blade and pulls, slicing her hand open from wrist to finger. The blood drops to the dry ground with tiny tap, tap, taps. Pocketing the knife, she adds her blood to the blood of many dead animals on the stump. Gathering some on her thumb, then smears a cross–first on the front of Buck’s cowboy hat, then her own forehead. She drops to her knees. Clasps her hands.
CJH: “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield...”
We leave her there, praying, the sun beginning to bathe her, her altar, her campsite once more.
Revolution fades to black.