Three carved tallies in oak barn siding. A slow zoom out and staring deep into the wood lacerations are the dark, empty eyes of the Crimson King, CK Butcher. The blood red skin of the former Lord glistens in the sunlight peeking through slits in a barn wall. Light beams off the top of his bald, red scalp. The interior is a decorative cobwebbed mess of neglect and stacks of rat filled hay cubes. Farm machinery is stagnant, covered in dust and rust. The Crimson King is shirtless and wears black pants tucked into crimson boots; this is now his cult’s trademark attire.
Crimson King Butcher: Two down. Another one to go. I could do this all night long. Tally them. Check another box. Cross another name off the list. All in the name of Buck Dresden. The hero of SHOOT Project. A man who eats, sleeps and breathes that World Title. A man who represents everything good about SHOOT Project. The problem with people like that is that they’re haunted by the common antithesis which therefore becomes a great burden in their story. Heroes must have villains. They must have struggles. They must have consequences for being who they are. A hero wouldn’t be a hero simply because they’re good, or they display model behavior. They’re heroes because they have enemies, and their enemies want to win.
He continues to face the graying wood grained walls of the barn. He studies the slices he’s chiseled. He rubs his blood stained and crusted fingertips over the third tally.
Crimson King Butcher: I want to win. I will not lose.
He turns to face the camera and his purpose filled eyes glow as his brow furrows. There’s a smirk that’s slowly guiding the corners of his lips toward each ear. The King confidently continues.
Crimson King Butcher: Who’s next, Buck? Jonas Coleman? The corpse of some Bad Ass Brotherhood mentor? Your future wife? Your dog? Whose life will be on the line for you to simply give me the rematch I deserve? We will meet again. I guarantee it.
The Crimson King raises the box cutter. He tilts his head, and he seems to be suddenly contemplating. The item has the Crimson King’s gears moving. He continues the dialogue, but the tone in his voice is blanketed by a rather odd intrigue for the razor sharp blade.
Crimson King Butcher: Another life…will be lost tonight. That’s three, Buck. A strikeout. A pinfall. Three…losses…because you’re too good to…try…and defeat me…again. Another life…will be lost tonight.
He turns around so that his back faces the camera. The word “BUCK” has been carved into the Crimson King’s back between both shoulder blades. Each letter is about six inches in height, and four inches in width. The wounds are fresh, and deep. Blood continues to drain from each letter and runs down the valleys of his epidermis until it stains the waistband of his black pants. He peers over his left shoulder as the camera zooms in to get a better look at the self mutilation…
Crimson King Butcher: I…guarantee…it.
“BUCK” in blood red. The name carved into the Crimson King’s skin; the ominous blood red skin of CK Butcher. Fade to black.
X-Calibur Vs. Void
A black screen. Then a title card in white text.
“FINDING A FOURTH PART I”
We fade in…
Elgin: I just dunno why we’re even doing this, man. We already know Sasaky is th’ best fit, right?
Bingo: Lissen, I want us to th’ mos’ feared faction in th’ Yew-nighted States! It uh…begroobs us to see who alls out there.
They’re at a folding table. Both Elgin Blair and Haskell Payne let out a deep sigh, flanking Robby Bingo, who guzzles from a Bingohaus Imperial Swampwater Ginger Porter. The reason for his compatriots collective exasperation is clear as the camera pans to who they’re considering. Seven feet tall, almost all of it skin and bones. A bright, electric blue afro. A mask of a skull wearing clown paint. An outfit in mustard yellow and ketchup red.
The Colonel: Okay fuck it, let’s get this thing goin’. Now mister Pay…Pay-Asso de la Muerte?
Payaso: Si. Death Clown.
Elgin shoots Haskell a look, Haskell shoots it right back. Robby grins.
The Colonel: So uh…Death Clown, what kinda connection you got to Kentucky or th’ culture of Kentucky? Any at all?
Payaso: Si. Chicken.
At this, Payaso places his hand atop his head, fingers extended, in an impression of a cocks comb. He darts his head forward and backward in an approximation of bird like demeanor.
Payaso: Koo-ka-ri-coo, koo-ka-ri-coo!
Haskell sets down the clipboard he was taking notes on, his eyes wide. That hangs in the air for a moment, Robby clearly entirely engaged and amused. Elgin Blair shakes his boulder of a head and checks his own notes.
Elgin:…hoookay. It’s race day at Keeneland. You’ve managed to get in cause your cousin knows a guy. What’re you eatin’?
Payaso: The races? Posole.
Elgin scribbles, and Robby raps him on the shoulder.
Bingo: Hey now! That’s like…Mexican Burgoo. You mark that’n correct!
Blair considers this and nods, if begrudgingly. Bingo clears his throat and consults his notes, then sets them down and retrieves a pair of readers. He nods and looks over them before looking at Payaso de la Muerte and smiling.
Bingo: Misser Death Clown, what is th’ greatest pop ever done been sold?
Payaso: Si. Jarritos Tamarind.
Haskell throws up his hands.
The Colonel: We even gotta vote here? That’s a disqualifier any way you slice it, Bingo. We already know who we’re gonna choose, man!
Robby sets out a calming hand.
Bingo: Jus’ a couple more candidates, bubby. Trust me on this’n.
He then looks to Payaso de la Muerte.
Bingo: Thank you so much Misser Death Clown, we’ll be in touch.
As Payaso stands and leaves, the members of the Holler jaw amongst themselves, as the scene fades to black.
The scene opens and we get an audible cheer from the Epicenter crowd as the Real Deal is shown on screen, standing backstage.
Eryk Masters: Well this is an unexpected surprise!
Other Guy: That’s the truth, I wonder what the bossman has on his mind?
Audio static cuts in as Real Deal taps the microphone to check whether or not it’s live.
Real Deal: Gonna keep this short and sweet, and I know some people aren’t going to like it, but we’ve been in consulting with some neurologists and psychologists ever since we brought the Iron Fist Championship back. With the way that the SHOOT Project now offers full benefits to its workers, we wanted to mitigate some of the risk that comes with having a match that requires you to knock your opponent out for a full ten count.
There’s some uneasy sounds and a couple of boos, and Real Deal nods his head.
Real Deal: I get it. Some of the most violent matches have come from the Iron Fist division. Hell, it’s a division that I have absolutely loved for my entire career here in the SHOOT Project, but with a change in the science and a change in the times, we must evolve with it. So, starting tonight, with the Nate Robideau/Azraith DeMitri match, the Iron Fist Championship will be defended under a new stipulation. Two out of three falls!
There are cheers spread through the Epicenter, but it’s a little uncertain and a little bit muted.
Real Deal: The logic is, it takes an incredible amount of grit to pull two wins off on an opponent. An iron will, if you will. Oh yeah, that reminds me… the next pay per view? That’s coming on April 11th, and it’ll be the SHOOT Project Presents: IRON WILL.
There are definite cheers for that.
Real Deal: Right, sorry. Got distracted. Anyway, we feel that a true test of will comes in the form of a two out of three falls match, and so when Azraith DeMitri goes to defend his title tonight, it will be the first time in the SHOOT Project’s twenty year history that the Iron Fist Championship will be defended in a two of three falls match! That’s all! Thank you!
Eryk Masters: Short and sweet, just how he likes it!
Other Guy: I’m STUNNED that they’re changing the stip, but the reasons make sense to me. Should be an excellent contest between DeMitri and Robideau tonight, but first, we’ve got NC-17 in his return to the SHOOT Project, taking on Devan Derbyshire! That’s next!
NC-17 Vs. Devan Derbyshire
The door to Josh Johnson’s darkened office opens, casting the hallway light into the room. Real Deal flicks on the switch—then steps back a moment in defense, his eyes wide.
Avarice: Hello, sweet man.
the former Avarice sits at the Real Deal’s desk. His hair cascading over most of his face. His backpack sits upon the desk, looking heavy with who knows what manner of mayhem. He interlocks his fingers and smiles at the man who he, effectively, attempted to ruin.
Real Deal: …Adrian.
He strides across the floor and settles into a chair normally reserved for his guests. He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes for a moment, while Avarice looks at him, head slightly cocked, an animal trying to figure human behavior.
Avarice: I spoke to your son. You saw?
Real Deal: I did. That doesn’t precisely explain why you’re in my office—or in my chair—but I’m willing to listen.
Adrian Reyes leans back, letting his hair cascade away to reveal his face. In office fluorescents, it’s incredibly clear. He has had a lifetime of abuse, wounding, and scarring. Some could be self inflicted, but likely most are the result of his upbringing. Lines criss cross in places, including a particularly lumpy scar that extends from the outside corner of his left eye almost down to his jawline.
Avarice: It’s funny. I go over and over these moments in my head. How long did you and yours know my parentage? Was it when I first arrived? Was it before that even? Hahahaha, did you let me just rot and suffer because I was an inconvenient, hahahah, oh my goodness, because I was an inconvenient footnote?!
Real Deal: Look, I don’t know–
Avarice shoots forward, slamming his fist on the desk. He punctuates each word with another hammer blow, hits so hard that some family photos cascade to the office floor.
Avarice: You don’t!! You! Don’t!!
He lowers his head and holds up both hands, shaking.
Avarice: I…am sorry, sir. It just sticks in the back of my skull like a long needle digging into my brain. I was inconvenient. Then I was convenient, when you and the other one realized you could knock out a pillar of my adoptive father’s plan. Now that he is in the rearview, well…I’m inconvenient again, aren’t I?
He stands. Gathers his bookbag. Walks around the desk. Gets very, very close to Josh Johnson. He leans in, sighing deeply, his voice going from manic joy to a raspy whisper once again.
Avarice: Were you so conceited that you thought I could just have my entire world shredded and just…be okay? Are you that foolish? I was foolish once too.
He reaches into his backpack—Real Deal braces himself to move—and pulls out a collection of golden masks. Some pristine, some bloody, some broken. He presses them into Johnson’s grasp.
Avarice: He was a sweet boy. You killed him like you would a common animal. Now he’s still here but he’s a shadow, a pallor, pub window glass warping everything I see. A sweet boy who only wanted to do what he believed in. You hacked him and his entire church to bits. Now he has nothing to believe in and he’s not so sweet anymore. And that’s a problem for him. And a problem for him means a problem for you.
He shoulders his bag and grasps Josh Johnson’s shoulder, his smile returning, all teeth and dead eyes.
Avarice: All I ever wanted to do was love. But you’ve pierced my heart so much I don’t know if I can anymore. And I’m so anxious to find out what’s left in my ribcage now! Hahahaha.
He begins to walk, leaving the Real Deal holding the masks. As he reaches the door, he turns back, holding up a peace sign with two fingers.
Avarice: I’m dead. I’m reborn. But I don’t know what that means just yet. God bless!
He bolts from the room, leaving Real Deal holding the masks, looking to where he just left. He stands and tosses them onto his desk–then heaves a sigh as we cut away…
We’re backstage with Abigail Chase standing in front of the SHOOT Project banner, holding a mic and smiling.
Abigail Chase: Ladies and gentleman, my guest at this time… “Black Out” Pat Cassidy!
The fans respond positively as Cassidy moves into the frame. He’s dressed for competition in his usual blue tights and black taped wrists. He smiles brightly at Abigail Chase, placing his hands on his hips.
Pat Cassidy: Abby Chase! My old, dear friend. Always a pleasure! What can I do for ya?
Abigail Chase: Tonight, you’ve got another match in the Sin City Championship tournament. With all due respect to your previous opponents, you’ve got yourself your first big challenge tonight in the series. This is a high stakes tournament, and I was wondering if you’d share your thoughts going into this big time match.
Cassidy frowns. He looks confused and scratches his beard.
Pat Cassidy: What… wait? What are you talking about?
Now it’s Chase’s turn to look confused.
Abigail Chase: Um… what part of that don’t you understand?
Pat Cassidy: Well, it’s just… (searching for the words) who exactly am I facing tonight?
Abigail Chase: You’ve got Teresa Ames tonight.
Cassidy blinks twice.
Pat Cassidy: …who?
Abigail looks confused. She’s not sure why this interview is going off the rails. She looks to be struggling for what to say next, so Cassidy jumps in.
Pat Cassidy: Look, I know I’m still fairly new around here, but I do my homework, Abby. I’ve got a good handle on the SHOOT roster, but I’ve never heard of this… Ames, is it? Is she making her debut?
It now clicks in Abigail’s head what Cassidy is doing. She shakes her head and goes to speak again, but Cassidy cuts her off.
Pat Cassidy: Now, now. I appreciate you trying to give some of the up and coming talent some shine, but if this Tabitha Ames person wants to make a name for herself, she’s got to do it on her own. Maybe if she works really hard she can someday gain a little bit of notoriety, but we all have to spend some time in obscurity, know what I mean? It’s called paying your dues.
Cassidy motions politely for the mic in a “may I?” gesture. Abigail shrugs, clearly giving up on this interview going where she expected, and hands it over. Black Out raises the mic to his lips and looks directly into the camera.
Pat Cassidy: Now, no-name talents aside, by my count I’ve gone undefeated here in this Sin City Championship deal. As I fully expect that undefeated streak to continue, it seems to me that one Mr. Joshua Breedlove might do well to start getting a little nervous right about now.
The fans let the jeers fly at the mention of the Sin City Champion.
Pat Cassidy: And hey… I know that a lot of people around these parts have been looking for a shot at shutting Breedlove up for a long time. And I know here I am, Mr. Johnny-Come-Lately, looking to step ahead in line. But you can’t argue with results, Abby, and I’m kicking serious ass in the Sin City Championship Series. And truthfully, punching guys like Breedlove in the face is more or less my mission in life. It’s more than a job… it’s a calling. It’s what gets me up in the morning! Or early afternoon! Whenever, really. What gets you up in the morning, Abby?
Momentarily caught off the guard by the unexpected question, Abigail blinks twice before answering.
Abigail Chase: Uh… I really like my job, I guess.
Pat Cassidy: And you’re damn good at it, too. Never change. Look, it comes down to this: at two in the morning, some guys are hiding under their sheets and running their mouths on Spitter, and some guys are in a dark alley behind the pub bare knuckle brawling. If you had to bet on one of those guys in a fight, I know who I’m picking.
Cassidy beats his chest three times.
Pat Cassidy: So whether it’s Tessa tonight or Breedlove down the line, and whether it’s in the ring or in the previously mentioned dark alley… SHOOT Project: eventually, you’re looking at YOUR new Sin City Champion. Cheers, boys.
Cassidy hands Abigail back the mic before flashing her one more smile and exiting out of the frame.
Sometimes marriage can be an interesting situation. You find yourself suddenly thrust into a situation where you’re not just no longer alone, you’re also thrust into a situation that no matter what shows you watch or books you read of advice you get from a quiet old man feeding pigeons on a park bench, you’re never prepared for in your life. So it was with the SHOOT Project World Champion Buck Dresden. He lives in a mansion. He is rich beyond numbers he ever counted to in his life. He is in love. He has a fucking dope ass dog. He has faced the hardest competitors in the SHOOT Project and emerged the World Champion still. It is something he had never thought about.
He sits on the edge of a weight bench in the bowels of the Epicenter, sweat dripping from the tips of his brown hair. It’s longer now, the blonde long gone and having given up the fight against the darkening of the auburn. He is wearing a sweat soaked shirt that simply says “CJH Did Nothing Wrong” across the chest. He rubs the scruff of his stubbled face with his taped hands before he finally starts to unroll the adhesive.
Buck: I used to believe in happy endings.
He smirks as he stares straight ahead. Without glancing down, he reaches down and brings the SHOOT Project World Heavyweight Championship into view, placing it on his shoulder.
Buck: So when I look at this company an’ what we’ve accomplished in the last year or so, it hits me. Ya know, right here.
He pats the faceplate of the SHOOT World Championship.
Buck: I think about the things I’ve gotten to do. The fights I’ve had. I sit here still yer World Champion. Still the man who represents the very best in professional wrestling. When I managed to defeat Jonas Coleman, my brother, an’ claim this title…the credits coulda rolled on my career. Happy ending.
Buck: When I stood toe to toe with Charlie Jay Hitchens an’ put it all on the line after she buried me alive in the desert an’ I retained this title…the damn credits coulda rolled on my career. Happy ending.
He inhales sharply through his nose as he continues.
Buck: When I had the chance to defend against X-Calibur an’ finally get what basically amounted to my dream match…the credits coulda rolled on my career. Happy ending.
He pauses for the briefest of moments before he continues.
Buck: When I stood face to face with that psychopath CK Butcher who underestimated me or overestimated himself, I don’t know which, an’ I knocked him out? When I was able to end Reckoning Day not by pinning this demon of a person, but by forcing him to fall to the Buck Shot an’ cement myself as World Champion? Credits coulda rolled. Happy ending.
Buck: But we don’t get happy endings. We don’t get sad endings. We just get to be continueds. We get the next day, the next day, the next day, the next day, an’ so on. So what does that mean? What does that mean for the World Championship? I sat there the night of the Revolution after Reckoning Day an’ I talked to Real Deal. I asked him that. Thing was…he was at a loss. Same as me.
Buck: I was angry, you see. I was angry that CK Butcher, after winnin’ the Rumble, after bein’ this big award winnin’ monster, got cold cocked an’ finished so definitively. You’d think I’d be happy, right? That I’d be content knowin’ I shut that son of a bitch up, that he’s out there shavin’ his body hair an’ tryna reinvent himself because the head wound I gave him jarred some shit loose in there. But I’m not.
He shakes his head, his face contorted in disgust.
Buck: I’m not satisfied. I’m hungry. I’m still fuckin’ hungry. I got this title, I fought fer this title, I bled fer this title, an’ what did I get at the biggest show of our history? What did you, the fans in attendance an’ watchin’ at home get?
He looks off screen, rocking quickly back and forth as the fury bubbles underneath his quickly tensing demeanor.
Buck: We all got a disappointment. An arrogant checkers player bouncin’ his pawns on the chess board an’ pretendin’ behind his veneer of bullshit that his haughty presentation meant somethin’ when in reality it meant this was a stupid prick who got lucky by eliminatin’ a legend in a Rumble.
He inhales and exhales once, catching himself for the briefest of moments.
Buck: This fuckin’ guy. This fuckin’ guy who thought himself a Lord of the Flies only to be Piggy now thinking a quick rebrandin’ is gonna help the fact that he’s nothin’ but a fake paradin’ out here wantin’ desperately to be respected despite offerin’ none in return. I know yer watchin’. So listen. Watchin’ an old Nate Robideau match don’t make you no cerebral mastermind an’ buryin’ me don’t make you no badass. All it did was prove fer all the tape you watched, you couldn’t beat Nate an’ fer all the shit you talked, you couldn’t beat me.
He looks off for a moment, thinking about his most recent challenger.
Buck: Way I see it, you got two paths to take here. Because at the end of the day, you can cut yer hair, you can shave yer face, you can change yer tights, you can do anything you want to the package. What’s in that package is what counts. Not yer production values. Not yer frilly bullshit. Nothin’ else. It don’t matter what you do in front of that camera or in that ring if the contents of the package are the same. I see you out here wantin’ to fight the world. You want a rematch, am I right? Then prove yerself. Take the other path. Don’t sit here an’ tell the world yer stronger. Just be stronger. Don’t tell people you got yer ass kicked an’ the Lord is dead so now yer a King because if you lose again yer just gonna call yerself the Duke of Dumbasses or maybe some other royal title you dig out of a thesaurus.
Suddenly, Buck is deflated. He sinks down, slouches, the World Championship sliding from his shoulder to his arm.
Buck: I didn’t beat you because I’m better in the ring than you. I beat you because you ain’t ready to beat me. You ain’t champion now because you’ve survived off of the theatricality of this Blue Ridge bullshit you put out there. You ain’t champion because this…this Lord, this King, this Butcher…he just ain’t real enough to be champion. An’ if you were to ever get another title shot against me, the result’d be the same again an’ again. Until you realize there is somethin’ special to this company, to this title, to those fans an’ how every single person that’s been where I am right now can see right through you…an’ I mean really see it…you’ll never get here. You can win a million matches, but you’ll never hold the throne. You’ll never be the King you claim to be. Oh, you can sit on the throne. You can put the crown on. You can even act like you belong but you won’t…ever…know…until you know.
He laughs an empty, almost saddened laugh.
Buck: Right now, CK, you are the last person I care to face in the ring again. I don’t give a damn who you face. I don’t give a damn what kind of stage play you put on with your Butcher family. You can cut a scathing bullet point promo against me. You can call me every name in the book. You can get the script to my promos, print them the fuck out, an’ then copy/paste them with cutesy edits an’ you can even deepfake my face to say the dumbest shit you can think of. I don’t care, man. Until you really an’ truly get it…you can walk right back to the back of the line. I’ll wait until a worthy challenger arrives. Someone who gets it. Who cares. Who wants it. Maybe more’n me. Right now, yer royal slip is showin’ an’ you’re out here tryin’ to rewrite the lines to a play nobody’s watchin’ anymore because the lead actor is less Tommy Lee Jones an’ more Tommy Wiseau.
He stands up now, the camera following his face as he rises up.
Buck: Prove you belong or get the fuck out of the way for the ones who’re willin’ to do the work.
With that, he walks off screen.
Producer: Wait, Buck, that’s all?
Buck’s voice can be heard in the distance.
A door is slammed. The camera fades.
Pat Cassidy Vs. Teresa Ames
Backstage is where the warriors prepare for battle. Most listen to music to hype themselves up, either blasting it across the concrete halls or in their own worlds via headphones.
Nate Robideau has neither.
Dressed in his gear and in total silence, his long mohawk bound to his skull tightly, he shakes his arms and hops from foot to foot, working the stiffness of life and age from his limbs. His style demands fluidity, which is a tough balance with the brawn of his frame. So involved with his preparations, so deep inside his own skull is he, that he fails to take notice of the opening door or the steps of a man who has come into his locker room. Doesn’t even notice until he speaks up, a voice steady and smooth, soothing or unsettling depending on how you listen to it.
The warrior turns and takes in the towering Jacob Mephistio, dressed in his street gear. He smiles slightly, genuinely, and extends a massive, scarred hand.
Robideau: Jacob! It is good to see you.
They lock palms for a moment, not a business shake, but a warm embrace. Upon release, Nate begins rummaging through his threadbare, duct-tape patched gym bag.
Mephisto: So, you have Azraith tonight?
Robideau: I do. And I am glad you are here. I feel like…there it is…I could use some pointers.
His hand emerges clutching a roll of sports tape. He sits down on the bench and looks to the standing Mephisto, his face calm.
Robideau: Some advice.
There is a long moment of silence. Nate props his foot up on the bench, reaching over his knee to begin taping his ankles. Almost gliding across the room, Mephisto takes the tape from his hands and settles onto his knees. With a smile, he reaches out a hand in expectation.
Mephisto: Let me, please.
Nate turns slightly, presenting his foot to Jacob, who grasps him by the achilles and begins applying strips of tape. His work is meticulous, his fingers deft. For some time, neither man says anything–Nate looking at Jacob, Jacob focusing on the foot. Proper taping is careful work, and soon strips are crossing in a proper basket weave before he starts to apply the long anchor from ankle bone to foot arch. Smiling to himself, he pats Nate’s taped foot, indicating it’s time for the other.
Mephisto: Azraith is… well… he doesn’t calculate in the ring. He gameplans before, sure. But, when he’s out there, he just knows one direction… forward. He’s going to keep coming at you. Drop him on his head? He’ll keep coming. Knees? Elbows? Headbutts? He’s going to push through that. The way to beat Azraith… any DeMitri really… is to outthink them.
Mephisto begins to go to work on the next foot, taking care to make sure the tape is applied in the proper way, applying each new strip with practiced motions.
Mephisto: You’re going to have to out think Azraith. If that doesn’t work? You’re going to have to do something few people can… out-brutal him. That man has a monster inside him, regardless of what he says.
Nate considers this. Lost in thought or searching, it isn’t clear. His eyes cast down to the floor.
Robideau: I would like to say that I can out think him, but I am unsure. So much of what I was trained in was reactive, it is hard to gameplan a fighter when you are essentially waiting for them to slip up so you can gain an advantage. As far as the monster? Well, I know that fear. I have that, too, but…it feels different. I spent so much time worrying I would revert to the man–the boy, really–that I was. That I would just fall back into a life fueled by rage and fury and end of back there again. Caged. But when I lost it on Breedlove it was not that. And I have been…
He looks up. His eyes meet Jacob’s, who is absently smoothing a strip of tape across his lower shin. They look to one another for a long moment.
Robideau: I have been wondering what to do with that, I guess.
Mephisto holds his gaze, pale grey eyes piercing into Nate’s.
Mephisto: You use it. You harness it. You draw power from it and you point it at Azraith DeMitri tonight. Own it. Evolve, Nate. You’re not reverting. You’re becoming. When I say come and see, Nate, it isn’t just some catchphrase.
Mephisto double checks the tape, making sure the work was done properly. He takes his time, ensuring every strip of tape is in its proper place.
Mephisto: Outside of the ring? You learn from those feelings. You become something more than just a SHOOT Project Soldier. You become an army unto yourself. The Codex is here for you… I’m here for you.
Mephisto stands, taking one of Nate’s hands. He begins to wrap the hand, no more words escaping his lips as he goes to work. Nate watches this. Studies the precision–the care–in the motions. There is silence in the locker room as Jacob finishes with the left and moves onto the right, cradling the large, battered mitt with tenderness.
Robideau: Jacob, I do not know if I will ever be a believer.
As the hand is taped, Nate places it on the man’s shoulder.
Robideau: But an army unto myself? That I can be.
He smiles. Both men stand and engage in another handshake as the scene cuts back to the announce team…
Eryk Masters: Is Jacob Mephisto…trying to recruit Nate Robideau?
Other Guy: I mean I don’t know that I agree with the codex, but you can’t blame a guy like Nate for seeking something. He’s had it worse than most, and we’ve seen guys get attacked with carpet knives and buried alive within the last year!
Eryk Masters: We’ll see how being an army treats Nate Robideau as he faces one of the toughest competitors in SHOOT Today–Azraith DeMitri, for the Iron Fist Championship!! That action is up next!!
Nate Robideau Vs. Azraith DeMitri (c)
Eryk Masters: New champion, folks!! Nate Robideau dug deep and–wait, what?!
The ref gathers the IF Belt and begins to walk towards Robideau to present it to him. Nate eyeballs this for a moment. Then, he steams past the referee and takes a small leap, raising his leg high–then DRIVES his heel into the back of Azraith’s neck with a curb stomp!! The crowd begins screaming as the big man reels, rolling to his feet and clutching the back of his head, eyes filled with confusion that turns into cold rage! Robideau sizes him up, raising into his classic muay thai stance.
Eryk Masters: What the hell is he doing?! The bells been rung, the match is over!
Other Guy: Forget his conduct, this is a new Nate Robideau, but does anyone think cheap shotting Azraith freakin’ DeMitri is a good idea?
Nate rushes him, attempting to place a big kick into his ribs, but Az catches the foot and leans into a MASSIVE elbow strike, right into Robideaus mush! His head snaps back violently, and he stumbles onto his knee, clutching his mouth. There is a long moment where Robideau looks effectively done, cowed, not making an aggressive movement. Azraith cautiously approaches him, extending a hand. In a flash, Nate seizes the hand and vaults from kneeling, skull first, headbutting DeMitri with such force that he actually falls flat onto his back!! Nate stands, sneering, blood positively pouring from his nose and mouth, running down his chest in sweaty rivulets.
Eryk Masters: I know you can hear me back there, get Grimaldi and his guys out here!
Azraith is blinking his eyes, trying to clear his head from being positively bell rung. Nate grabs his arm, smiles showing his teeth through the crimson, and hooks him into a textbook armbar!! He hauls back, and Azraith growls, snatching the middle rope and pulling himself to his feet, unsteadily standing and hauling up every solid pound of Nate Robideau! Just as it looks like he might power the man into the air, Nate hooks his ankles together and WRENCHES back, his shoulders on the mat!! Azraith screams in fury as his forearm and bicep begin to bend at the severe wrong direction at his elbow–and at that moment, security finally rushes the ring, ten men strong.
Other Guy: They need to get them separated quick, or else Nate’s gonna snap his arm!!
The men with a combination of threats and numbers finally succeed in getting Nate to release the hold. Three tend to Azraith, who’s right arm hands limply at his side, while the rest restrain and block the advance of Robideau. Both men’s eyes meet, and its murder between them. The camera then cuts to the entrance, far from the fracas.
Jacob Mephisto stands. Jacob Mephisto smiles.
Cut to black.