The games…the games we play…
…are you ready for your turn?
The camera opens up to unveil the massive Void. His head is bowed. His face is unseen. His hair is white, black, and blue. He slowly lifts his face to stare at the camera. He isn’t smiling. He isn’t happy at all.
Void: I have had my fun. I have pawed at you. I have teased you. Tossed you about. Threw you into the air. Watched you flounder under the gravity and the weight of that which lies before you. I’ve taken no pleasure in watching you squirm. I have only taken pity on you.
He inhales, closing his eyes as he smells the hot air around him.
Void: I am become death, Daniel. I am become the destroyer of one world. I am become your fate. I am yours now.
His voice hisses behind his gritted teeth.
Void: I want you clear, Daniel. No distractions. No defenses. Just you playing your turn. Conquest. You want me. I want you. You want my blood. I want yours.
His grimace twists into a grin.
Void: I offer you no stipulations. No. I am here to see your final failings laid bare. I want Molly’s head to be open, split like a cantaloupe bashed upon a stone. I want to taste every part of her, Daniel. I have tasted more of her than she will ever tell you.
Void: I have tasted enough of her to know her inside…and out. But now comes the part where I come to place my mouth upon you. When I press my lips to your skin. When I gnash my teeth against your flesh. When I hear you groan in ecstatic agony.
He begins to rub his chest, biting his bottom lip as hard as he can. He pops it open quickly and the blood pools until gravity drags it to his chin.
Void: I want you to taste me, too, Daniel. I want you to know how deep I can go. Believe me, Daniel. Molly knows how deep I have gone. Your passion does not equal hers. It does not equal mine. Her child, Daniel, does not deserve whatever you’ve added to the broth to bring it to life. But that’s fine, Daniel. Know that every time you look at yourself, you will see me. When you look at Molly, you will see me. If you ever have the chance to look at her child, you will see…me.
He brushes his hair from his face.
Void: At Conquest, Daniel…you will see…me.
Jamie Johnson Vs. NEMESIS
Mike: I’m just sayin’ we woulda been here a lot earlier and a lot more warmed up if you aint hold us up saying goodbye to that girl, damie.
Dave: Bruh don’t throw disrespect at Thermador, she’s a fine woman– gotta romance that.
They find the locker room and open the door. Stepping in, they unshoulder their bags—then both take a jump when they notice that Kitsune is waiting for them.
Well, a version of Kitsune. Wearing a wool beanie over his mask, with a towel around his shoulders, he shakes his fist as he approaches them, his voice taking on a gravelly affectation.
Kitsune:Is you boys ready?! Is you boys killers?!
There’s a long moment. We imagine our friends in the masks are all blinking.
A pause as the engines rev, the gears flip into action, and the computers start ‘puting.
Dave: Bruh is this ‘The Professional’?
Mike: Yeah dude are you Leon, the Professional?
Dave: You gonna kill Gary Oldman?
Mike: You gonna hang around with Natalie Portman?
Dave: You French now?
Mike: You out here dual wielding because it’s 1996 and people stay dual wielding?
Kit shakes his head.
Kitsune: What? Nah…I’m supposed to be Mickey. From Rocky??
There’s a pause here that feels like minutes, before the Skeletal motormouths slowly nod.
Mike and Dave:Ohhhhh…
Dave: Bruh you shoulda said like, one of his catchphrases
Mike: Yeah like “You’ll pay for this, caped crusader!”
Kit pulls the hat off and waves his hands under the barrage.
Kitsune: Whatever, whatever, whatever–you guys are like talking to a gatling gun. The question is, seriously though, if y’all ready.
Mike: “Ready” this Vulpes askin’ us like we ain’t the two piece and the biscuit here, full red beans and rice, Bo’berry fresh from the microwave. Chico we stay ready. What’s more important is if you is.
Dave: Yeah straight up bruh we need you to bust that dude to component pieces.
Mike: Full Bernie Mac.
Mike and Dave:“Hit ‘em in the throat or the stomach!”
Kitsune: Oh…oh I’mma show everybody tonight. Everybody. I’mma get my socials back, I’mma get to book a dope ass match, I’mma put this down.
He stops for a moment.
Kitsune: I have to.
Mike: For you.
Dave: For us.
Mike: For America.
Dave: For the world.
Mike: For Starfleet.
Dave: ‘Bout to hit ‘im like the Reapers every 50,000 years, son.
Mike: Straight Omega Relay on his ass.
Dave: Make him wish he was Asari.
Mike: He IS Asari. Asari excuse for a professional wrestler.
Dave: We ain’t goin’ too deep for you, is we?
Mike: Like the other side of the pool, my dude.
Mike and Dave stop, listening to him. He shakes his head, fuck the words. Kitsune pushes Mike. He pushes Dave.
Kitsune: It’s time.
He pushes them again. They push him back.
Kitsune: IT’S TIME.
Mike: Murder his ASS.
Kitsune: Fuck Ben Bronson!
Dave: FUCK Ben Bronson!
Kitsune, Mike, and Dave: FUCK BEN BRONSON.
Kitsune starts nodding his head, slapping hands with both members of the Bone Brigade. He counts it down one more time.
Kitsune: I said…I said…I SAID…
Kitsune, Mike, and Dave: FUCK BEN BRONSON!
The Bone Brigade Vs. Lindsay Troy and Pat Cassidy
The camera cuts to a hallway somewhere in the Epicenter where Lindsay Troy and Pat Cassidy stand together, just shortly after their encounter with the Bone Brigade.
Suddenly, stepping into frame is Ayumi Seppuku, causing her fellow VALOR associates to stop their discussion and meet her gaze.
Lindsay Troy: Well shit. Now it’s a party.
Ayumi smirks and shrugs.
Ayumi: Good match out there, you two. It was a blast to watch.
Pat Cassidy: Right!? Got a good couple shots on the Huevos of Senor Huesos and Senor Muertos; gonna feel that in their…. BONES.
Ayumi blinks, unamused, while Lindsay chuckles at her tag partner’s corny joke. Cassidy holds his “ready for the laugh” position for about five seconds too long and then gives up, folding his arms.
Lindsay Troy: Enough about us. What’s on your mind, Ayumi? Come to pick my brain about Teddy?
Ayumi lets out a short laugh.
Ayumi: That obvious huh?
Lindsay and Pat both nod.
Pat Cassidy: Doesn’t take a genius.
Ayumi: Well, if I’m being honest, I’m still a bit raw that I had to go through seven other people to get my shot, including Teddy, and now he gets a do-over. I know it wasn’t Teddy’s decision… but damned if I don’t feel like this is a fucking punch to the gut.
Lindsay puts her hands on her waist and sighs, stepping forward and putting her hand on Ayumi’s shoulder.
Lindsay Troy: Look… nobody’s gonna deny you earned a crack at Breedlove last week by winning that match, but let’s not forget that pompous douchelord started shit with Teddy months ago. First he sent his buddy KIMO after him, then the Sin City Scoundrels, and then he blindsided him after the main event a couple weeks ago. Teddy’s got a fistful of receipts he owes Joshua Breedlove, and the fact that Real Deal is making him earn the right to fight him in the first place is dumb as hell.
Ayumi sighs and takes a step back, letting LT’s hand fall off her shoulder.
Ayumi: I get it. I do. I just…
Ayumi throws her hands up in frustration.
Ayumi: I feel like… I feel like I’m doing EVERYTHING being asked of me and I’m being tossed aside as some sort of stepping stone to something greater. I’ve been in everyone else’s corner and I just need someone – anyone – to be in MINE.
Pat Cassidy: Ain’t that why we all came together as VALOR? To have each other’s backs? It’s the pitch LT gave me when she said you two were talkin’ about gettin’ a group together. That, and fightin’ back against the scumbags in this place. As far as I’m concerned your fight my fight now, kid.
Lindsay nods and casts a sympathetic look Ayumi’s way.
Lindsay Troy: I understand how you’re feeling. I do. We are in your corner. We’re in Teddy’s too. Cass is right, though. VALOR, as new as it is, is only as strong as we all are together.
Ayumi takes a breath and lets out a heavy sigh.
Ayumi: You’re right. As long as one of us is able to kick the shit out of Breedlove for what he’s done, then that’s what truly matters.
Ayumi points at Lindsay.
Ayumi: But come hell or high water… if I lose tonight and Teddy beats Breedlove for the title down the line? We’re getting a rematch. That’s a damned promise.
Ayumi’s finger turns into an extended palm that she lays out in front of LT and Pat Cassidy.
Ayumi: VALOR. We stick together. Even if we’re on opposite sides of the ring.
Lindsay smirks, then drops her hand atop Ayumi’s.
Lindsay Troy: A unified force to be reckoned with.
Pat slaps his hand on top of Lindsay’s with a grin.
Pat Cassidy: Let’s fucking do this.
With that, Revolution moves elsewhere.
The Epicenter suddenly comes alive with cheers as “Gnarly” by Kodak Black hits the PA system and the cream of obscene, NC-17, emerges at the top of the ramp. There’s no denying that he looks worse for wear; his face is covered in a thicker sheet of black stubble than usual, and there’s deep bags beneath his eyes. Nevertheless, he appears resolute. His SUAF championship belt is wrapped around his waist, and he’s wearing his regular pink wrestling tights, white boots, and white tassels.
The Other Guy: Well look who’s back from the dead, Eryk. Where the hell has this guy been? The SHOOT Project management team was just about ready to put this man on a milk carton!
Eryk Masters: A relief to see the Shut Up and Fight Champion alive and well, OG. I dunno what happened down in Mexico, but even NC-17’s own manager has said the cream of obscene hasn’t been quite right since his foray south of the border.
The Other Guy: I dunno if you can say the guy’s ever been right, Eryk, he’s always had a few screws loose. Ultimo Muerte might have scared him straight, maybe that’s what’s wrong.
Eryk Masters: Well whatever the case is, it looks like we’re about to find out. NC-17’s calling for a mic.
The king of crass rolls into the ring under the first rope, and an official throws him a mic. He waits for the crowd to quiet down and for his music to cut off before he finally decides to speak.
NC-17: Now I’m not usually easily spooked. I seen a lotta crazy shit in my life-time, mannn. Had std’s that hadn’t even been discovered yet…sniffed whole rails of cocaine outta places you shouldn’t EVER stick your nose!
The crowd pops. You can almost hear Other Guy facepalming. But NC-17 isn’t laughing. He’s wide-eyed and animated. He looks one hundred percent serious.
NC-17: But I gotta admit…Ultimo Muerte…ya got me, dude. I get it. You win. Ya got me shakin’ in my booties…
NC-17 hangs his head shamefully and there’s a mixed reaction from the crowd.
NC-17: He’s in my DREAMS, mannn! Follows me everywhere I go. He’s like hpv dude…he follows me EVERYWHERE. EH-VER-EE-WHERRREEE, mannn. And I’m TIRED of it. I don’t wanna waste another second thinking about this fuckin’ creepazoid. I want him OUT of my fucking HEAD. You hear me, Muerte? I WANT YOU OUT OF MY HEAD.
NC-17 screams the last part into the mic almost psychotically. The crowd is murmuring, unsure exactly of how to process this appearance. Other Guy sounds skeptical.
The Other Guy: What the hell is this looney toon on about? SHOOT really needs to start administering drug tests…
Eryk Masters: It sounds like Ultimo Muerte is living in NC-17’s head rent-free.
NC-17: I’m waiting, Ultimo Squirte’. You big dumb “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” villain. You fuckin’ taco-eating cadaver, get your spooky ass up outta your coffin, and come face me man to man! No more of this Jedi mind-trick bullshit!
The Other Guy: Jedi mind tricks, huh. Woo boy.
Eryk Masters: And it appears to me as if the SUAF champion has gone off the rails, OG. Is there something I’m missing here? What jedi mind tricks is NC-17 talking about?
The lights in the arena cut, loudly. The fans in attendance leap to their feet, just as a bright yellow glow emanates from the Epicenter. The instrumental version of “Voodoo” by Godsmack begins to play over the speakers.
The Other Guy: What the…
NC-17’s attention turns toward the lines of figures walking down the staircases between the pods housing the fans. They hold candles that illuminate their paths as their bodies are covered with brown robes. Pouring out from the backstage area, the robed figures line the entrance ramp, turning inward with their candles.
Eryk Masters: Some sort of…druids, I’d say?
All at once, the figures untie the ropes around their waists and the robes fall off, revealing all of the druids to be raven haired hispanic women surrounding the ring and lining the entrance ramp. NC-17 spins around the darkened ring, absolutely stunned by what’s happening around him.
Eryk Masters: The aura in the arena right now is hard to explain. Maybe NC-17 isn’t so crazy after all.
The Other Guy: I got goosebumps, Eryk!
The fans are awestruck by the sight in front of them, and even more so when Ultimo Muerte and Pandora step out onto the entrance platform, accompanied by two women behind them carrying torches. Ultimo Muerte wears a black mask with golden trim, while Pandora wears a black pantsuit with red lapels. 17 takes a few steps back once he sees Ultimo Muerte walking toward him.
Eryk Masters: Looks like the cream of obscene wasn’t ready for what he was asking for!
The pair continue to walk slowly down to the ring in time with the song, passing all of the druids. Ultimo Muerte’s eyes are fixated on NC-17 while he walks up the ring steps and onto the apron. Pandora follows Ultimo Muerte up the steps and stands next to him as he peers in at 17. Muerte turns his body and sits on the second rope, using his right hand to lift the top rope, and Pandora steps inside the ring, slowly. Ultimo Muerte then steps into the ring between the middle and top rope, still staring at 17. Slowly, Ultimo Muerte turns his back on 17 and looks out at the druids around the ring. He leans back, puts his hand up to his mouth palm up, and blows all of the candles out from inside the ring.
Darkness befalls the arena.
Ultimo Muerte stands IMMEDIATELY in front of NC-17 when the lights all turn back on, causing 17 to fall to the mat and cower away into a corner. The druids at ringside have disappeared. Pandora looks over at the cowering NC-17 as she takes a microphone from someone at ringside, and as she steps back into the middle of the ring. The crowd is in a fervor at this point.
Pandora: How wonderful to see you again, Mr. 17.
The Other Guy: That’s quite a parlour trick they got going there, Eryk.
Eryk Masters: I wouldn’t want to be in NC-17’s shoes right now.
Seventeen looks terrified, but he somehow gets to his feet and forces himself to address the pair.
NC-17: H-h-how did you do that? Is anybody…is anybody else seeing this goofy shit? I gotta-I gotta be going fuckin crazy here. Priest! PRIIIEEESTTT! Is there a priest in the arena tonight? I need an exorcist…STAT.
The Other Guy: And just like that, the cream of obscene became a Christian. Unbelievable.
Ultimo Muerte stands in the middle of the ring still, eyes still fixated on NC-17. Pandora shakes her head slightly and lifts her microphone to her mouth.
Pandora: You wanted Ultimo Muerte in the ring, did you not? ‘Man to man’, was it? Well, here he is. Say what you need to say.
Pandora gestures to Ultimo Muerte, pointing NC-17’s attention toward the monstrous man. The crowd pops at the hint of conflict, emboldening 17 to continue.
NC-17: You’re right. No, you’re right. I’m better than this. I’m the king of crass….the little banana from Indiana…the CREEEAAAM OF OBSCEEENE…NC-17! And for the last couple weeks I’ve been tossing and turning and having nightmares and-and-and being followed by poltergeists and shit…like I’m in a bad horror movie. I DON’T LIKE HORROR MOVIES, God dammit! And I don’t like YOU, Ultimo Muerte. Sometimes…sometimes you gotta just…shut up and fight.
At this suggestion the crowd pops again. The cream of obscene looks to have suddenly regained his composure again. He’s standing tall and looking Muerte square in the eyes this time, though he’s still noticeably pale and shaky, and he’s drenched in sweat.
NC-17: And at Conquest? That’s just what I’m gonna do. I WANNA PIECE UH THAT MIKE MYERS ASS.
The arena is going nuts again. NC-17’s strutting around the ring like a sweaty rooster.
NC-17: I’m gonna put this Tijuana roadside freakshow to bed once and for all. You and me, Squirte! For the belt! Ya hear that Pandora? BOOK THIS MOTHAFUCKA.
Ultimo Muerte stands still in the middle of the ring, his eyes not following NC-17 as he struts. Pandora, however, allows NC-17 to strut for a few more seconds before putting the microphone to her mouth.
Pandora: He cares not for the riches of men and women, Mr. 17, but he knows there will be others, people who need to fear Ultimo Muerte, people who lust over the gold. If you wish to put your championship on the line against Ultimo Muerte, he gladly accepts…
The fans in the arena EXPLODE as Pandora announces their position. Pandora drops the microphone slightly, but then puts it back to her mouth.
Pandora: On just ONE condition.
NC-17 stops dead in his tracks, turning toward the two people in the ring with him. Pandora smiles at him.
Pandora: For weeks now, Ultimo Muerte has been searching for you. Across Mexico, across the United States, you’ve felt him searching. Yet, all you seem to do is run away like a scared bunny. At Conquest, Ultimo Muerte searches no longer. You run no longer. The only way you’re ridding yourself of Ultimo Muerte, Mr. 17, is if you face him man to…man in the middle of the ring, surrounded…
By a CAGE.
The cream of obscene takes a big gulp, clearly thrown off. But at this point the arena is going nuts. The people want blood. NC-17 looks like he doesn’t know what to do.
Eryk Masters: I don’t think 17 was anticipating the counter-offer, OG. And I don’t know how apt he is about stepping into a cage with that monster. I mean look at the size of him!
The Other Guy: Too late to say no now, Eryk. 17 brought this on himself.
NC-17: Done. Hit my music!
Ready to be out of the ring and away from Muerte, NC-17 drops the mic and rolls out of the ring with the quickness, wiping the sweat from his face in aggravation. He wasted NO time getting out of there, and starts walking up the ramp backwards, talking shit and pointing at Muerte on the way up. Muerte turns slowly around as NC-17 is already nearly up the ramp and simply stares at the man. Pandora smiles, placing a hand on Muerte’s shoulder.
Eryk Masters: NC-17 giving Ultimo Muerte no opportunity to attack, though I don’t think that’s how he operates, OG.
The Other Guy: At Conquest, he’ll have no choice BUT to feel the strength of that massive beast in the middle of the Epicenter right now, Eryk.
Eryk Masters: Huge announcement tonight as NC-17 agrees to defend his Shut Up and Fight Championship against Ultimo Muerte in a Cage Match at Conquest.
The Other Guy: Career defining moments don’t happen every show, but this is definitely one for NC-17. Can’t wait to see how this one plays out!
Kitsune Vs. Mr. Ben Bronson
Kitsune slides away from Bronson and bumps himself against the turnbuckle. He watches the entrance as “Devil Inside” begins to play. Victor Thane, RAIKO, Kintaro, Mike, and Dave all step out from the back. The Bone Brigade move faster than the others, rushing to Kitsune’s side. Bronson holds his hand out to be helped up, but Mike hops over him and Dave just looks at him as the two of them get to Kitsune. The fans grow quiet as “Devil Inside” dies off. The Proper Villainz, sans Arthur Pleasant and X-Calibur, are in the ring now. Bronson reaches for RAIKO, who slaps his hand away. Thane doesn’t notice Bronson, watching Kitsune instead. Kintaro finally reaches down and helps Bronson to his feet. Bronson pushes Kintaro away once he’s on his feet and he glares at Kitsune.
Eryk Masters: A sentence I never thought I’d utter: Kitsune has his Spitter back!
Other Guy: Just the mental image of that…
Eryk Masters: He also has booking power over the Villainz! We could see any number of potential matches! He gets to make one match come true!
Dave takes a microphone. Thane motions for Dave to give it to him but Dave hands it to Kitsune. Mike has helped Kitsune to his feet and the rift is evident.
Kitsune: Hey. I got…two things to say.
He chuckles a ragged, exhausted little chuckle.
Kitsune: One…y’all can follow me @DatBoyPurp, feel me?
The fans POP as he nods his head. Bronson covers his face, frustrated and ashamed and generally just being Bronson.
Kitsune: Two…I know what I want. I know what I want to book for my little dream match for the Villainz.
Thane says nothing, his face is stern.
Kitsune: I thought…I thought I’d want to face Vic here one on one…nah. Maybe RAIKO…nah. Maybe…maybe I wanna shut Arthur or X up…nah.
He shakes his head, laughing again at his position.
Kitsune: I’m nobody, man. We nobodies over here. Me…Dave…Mike…we ain’t ranked, we ain’t contenders to nothin’, we barely get booked. We ain’t shit. But…one thing we are…one thing we is…is loyal. Loyal to each other, loyal to those who be loyal to us, we…we loyal.
Kitsune steps forward, standing alone.
Kitsune: I stand by my boys because they stand by me.
As if on cue, Dave and Mike both step to either side of Kitsune.
Kitsune: An’ we ain’t ranked or contenders for no belts…but we want those Triad titles.
The fans ERUPT as Kitsune looks over to Mike and to Dave, who are nodding their skulls in approval of this decision.
Kitsune: So, Victor, at Conquest…how do you feel about puttin’ them Triad titles on the line against the three of us?
Bronson is LIVID, shouting at the three of them. Kintaro’s head drops. RAIKO stares at the three of them and almost seems…as though she respects Kitsune’s gumption. Thane reaches for the microphone and Kitsune stops him.
Kitsune: Just kiddin’, Vic. I don’t give a fuck how you feel.
Kitsune: See y’all at Conquest.
“Crisis” by Jasiah kicks in as Kitsune motions for Mike and Dave to come with him. He stops, looks at Bronson, and holds his two fingers up. A strange hissing sound emanates and Bronson’s eyes go blank. He walks over to the ropes and holds the top and middle ropes open. Kitsune, Mike, and Dave leave the ring. Bronson suddenly starts shaking his head, clearly woozy. RAIKO glares at the three masked men as Kintaro tries to talk to Thane. Thane, meanwhile, is looking off into the crowd as they cheer Kitsune’s decision.
Eryk Masters: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s gonna be Proper Villainz versus Proper Villainz for the Triad Championship! Kitsune, Mike de los Huesos, and Dave de los Muertos are going to get their wish and challenge for the Triad Championships against RAIKO, Kintaro, and Victor Thane!
Other Guy: Dude, that’s crazy. I’m thinking I would hate being Ben Bronson right now and facing X-Calibur and Thane after such a disappointment like how he just dropped the ball here.
Eryk Masters: I’ll be honest, I would hate to be Ben Bronson anytime.
Other Guy: …that’s fair.
The scene in the arena focuses the lights down on the entrance. Cory Marks’ “Outlaws and Outsiders” begins to play. Smoke begins to emanate from the entrance as the singing begins.
As the chorus comes in, out from the back comes BUCK DRESDEN. He stands tall, dressed in blue jeans, black work boots, an old, faded, black unbuttoned shirt billowing behind him as he begins his march to the ring.
Eryk Masters: With Conquest around the corner, Buck has been relatively quiet since Iron Will.
Other Guy: He got relegated to riding bitch behind Nate Robideau, dude, I’d be seething in quiet rage myself.
Some call me a renegade, the enemy
Throw your hands up if you feel the same
Whoa, living life at the edge
Just say what you wanna say or walk away
I’ll stand tall when there’s hell to pay
Ain’t no power higher
We’re the outlaws and outsiders
He rolls underneath the bottom rope and runs his fingers through his hair before he takes the microphone. He stands firm in the center of the ring and motions for his music to stop. Nodding his head at the fans in attendance and to the camera.
Buck Dresden: After Iron Will I came out to the ring like a man and I admitted I got beat. At Iron Will, I faced a group of men who flat out took me to task an’ I walked outta that show not just empty handed…but I couldn’t even beat a single man in either match. I came out here gracious, thankful, happy to be here, aw shucks, all that shit.
Truth is…I was pissed off then an’ I’m pissed off now.
The fans pop a little bit but go quiet quickly as he continues.
Buck Dresden: I’m pissed off I couldn’t get my shit together after my shit with CK in time to defend the title against those guys in that match. I’m pissed off I couldn’t beat a single goddamn soul in either of them matches. I’m pissed off I tapped out in both them matches. I’m damn angry, y’all, I’m pissed off…
Buck Dresden: I gave everything I had as champion. I gave EVERYTHING to this company, to each an’ every one of you, to that title…an’ it just wasn’t…enough. Wasn’t enough to retain in the biggest test of my career. Now I get to see that title defended by another guy against another great challenger an’ don’t get me wrong, both of them deserve to be where they are. But I need to prove that I do, too. I’ve withstood demons, devils, gods, angels, an’ everything in between to get where I am and I’ll be DAMNED if I sit on my ass another minute and let the world pass me by!
The fans POP.
Buck Dresden: Conquest is comin’ up mighty fast an’ I don’t pull rank often, SHOOT Project, but I don’t sit in reserve when a show like this comes along.
The fans are getting heated, excited as Buck continues to nod his head, feeding off their hype.
Buck Dresden: So who in the back wants to cash a check an’ catch an whippin’?
He turns to the entrance stage.
Buck Dresden: I don’t give a damn who you are, I’m offerin’ you a stage to come out to this ring at Conquest an’ take a solid Buck Shot, Trigger Warning, or an Adios fer yer troubles.
Buck stands in the center of the ring, arms outstretched, glaring at the entrance stage.
Eryk Masters: Very interesting challenge sent out by the former SHOOT World Heavyweight Champion.
Other Guy: With Conquest right around the corner, one has to wonder if anyone will step up to the challenge without much time to pr-
Without warning, the lights go out.
On the SHOOT JumboTron, two letters appear in strokes of blood against a white backdrop.
Soon thereafter, just as the fans begin to clue themselves in on what those letters might mean, the Epicenter lights rise gradually to a very low dim and a spotlight shines on the entrance.
With the light tapping of cymbals and gorgeous strumming of violins comes Arthur Pleasant, the Hand of Calamity, slowly making his way to the center of the stage as the Metallica and San Francisco Symphony version of “All Within My Hands” plays to the excited crowd.
Eryk Masters: Oh… shit.
Other Guy: Not what I expected. This… okay. This is interesting.
The crowd comes unglued with their specifically aimed derision as Arthur waves his hands in an almost taunt-like manner as conductor batons. Several moments later, as Buck patiently waits for Arthur to “get on with it”, the music dies down and the crowd continues launching their hatred at the Provocateur.
Eryk Masters: If Arthur has come out to challenge Buck, he’s not exactly making a fan out of him.
Other Guy: Seems like Arthur knows this, too. He’s the master of sensing someone’s dislike or annoyance and exploiting the SHIT out of it.
With a microphone in his hand, Arthur smiles, holding his hand out to Buck with his neck cranked in a cockeyed manner.
Arthur Pleasant: Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. How the fuck are ya, man? Been a long time since you and I locked up in that ring, hasn’t it?
Buck looks at Arthur in a VERY confused manner.
Buck Dresden: Uh, what in the hell are you talkin’ ‘bout? We never locked up an’ you know it. You’d remember such an ass beating.
Pleasant simply laughs at Buck and conks himself on his own noggin’ with the microphone.
Arthur Pleasant: OOPSIE DAISY! DUUUUUH! Silly me, Buck. SILLY ME! You’re right! We haven’t actually… faced each other… before. In fact, I don’t think we’ve even had a conversation with one another before now!
Arthur shakes his head, narrowing his eyes.
Arthur Pleasant: So. You know what, you motherBUCKer you?! I’ve been sorta kinda maybe looking for my inroad to Conquest since it was announced. With THAT factoid in mind?! Why don’t we simply accept that the stars have FINALLY aligned right and change the conversation from “What would happen if Buck ever faced good ole Uncle Arthur?” into “Poor Butthurt Buck just lost at a PPV again!”.
Buck, despite having a sense of anger attached to him, smirks. He even stifles a laugh. Arthur, meanwhile, holds up his hand as if to say “I’m not finished.” and continues before his counterpart can respond.
Arthur Pleasant: But I have to warn you, Buck. I’m sorry to say I don’t write OR cash checks. You might, because you seem to be a proponent for the old and outdated way of doing things around here. But me? I’m Apple Pay, Buck. All I have to do is stand in front of you… and collect my fucking payment.
Arthur cackles as the fans boo at his play on Buck’s earlier words.
Arthur Pleasant: So what do you say, BUCK-a-roo? Are you ready to take the hand of calamity and dance in its righteous ruin?
Buck Dresden: Apple Pay, huh?
Buck Dresden: Tell you what, Artie. Since you made the mistake of comin’ down to this here ring an’ you seem hellbent on givin’ me what I want, that works just fine fer me.
Eryk Masters: Oh wow! For the first time ever and JUST LIKE THAT at Conquest we’re going to see Buck Dresden lock up with Arthur Pleasant!
Other Guy: That’s insane! More than Arthur usually is!
Once the fans die down, Buck continues.
Buck Dresden: Let me tell you now, Arthur. I’m angry. You don’t give a damn about that right now an’ that’s fine but when that bell rings, know this. I don’t care if a Proper Villain runs in or your Daddy comes to try’n save you…because ain’t nobody comin’ that I can’t handle.
As if a lightbulb popped in Arthur’s head, he cocks his head to the side and smiles at Buck, taking a few steps back towards the ropes.
Buck Dresden: See you at Conquest, young’n.
“Outlaws and Outsiders” kicks back in and brings the fans to their feet as Buck drops the microphone at Arthur’s feet. Arthur starts to grin as Buck passes him and exits the ring, leaving the Hand of Calamity to stare at him and continue to grin at him. Buck turns back to Arthur and his eyes narrow for a moment but he dismisses it, nodding his head to the Faithful audience and pointing to them before he exits the arena.
Ayumi Seppuku Vs. Teddy Palmer
As the bell rings and Ayumi’s hand is raised she pumps her fist in the air, streaks of grease paint smeared across her face, which has broken into a huge smile.
She turns around to see a recovering Teddy Palmer pushing himself up off the mat and quickly walks over to help him up.
Palmer looks up, cautiously, but then takes Ayumi’s hand as she helps him up and puts his arm around her back, helping stabilize him.
Ayumi motions for a microphone.
Other Guy: This may be the first time in the two months she’s been here that we’ve heard Ayumi speak in front of a crowd, Eryk.
Eryk Masters: She’s let her actions speak for her, Guy, but knowing the struggle she’s been going through this last week she may have a lot to get off her chest. She may also have a few choice words for the emperor of the Breedlove Empire now that they are on a one-on-one collision course.
Ayumi looks around at the crowd, and takes a deep breath.
All the lights in the Epicenter go out and the crowd roars.
Eryk Masters: Hey! Hey! Can anyone hear us? Is the power out or just the lights?
Other Guy: Is this Breedlove looking to get back at these two VALOR members for what they did to him last Revolution?
Eryk Masters: Guy! Look!
Up on the video screen is a live video moving down the halls of the Epicenter towards…
Other Guy: That’s… that’s Ayumi Seppuku’s dressing room.
The door to the dressing room is not just opened but broken open and as the camera rounds the corner the audience audibly gasps.
Not only is the entire dressing room trashed, lockers turned over, mirror smashed, and clothing strewn about the floor, but in large, jagged painted letters:
BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS.
ADMIT WHAT YOU’VE DONE. ADMIT WHO YOU ARE.
Other Guy: Who… she is?
Eryk Masters: What she’s done?
As video feed abruptly cuts, the lights in the arena go back up and a collective gasp echoes through the arena.
Eryk Masters: Oh. Oh. God.
Still holding a microphone… and Teddy Palmer… Ayumi Seppuku is standing in the middle of the ring covered in what looks to be gallons and gallons of thick, viscous, red liquid.
Almost as if on autopilot, Ayumi closes her eyes and pushes Teddy Palmer gently away from her and then hands him the microphone.
She reaches back and combs her hand through her hair and then flicks her hand violently down to the mat, splattering… whatever it is… everywhere. Looking up, she opens her eyes, wide with a ferocious energy that betrays her calm actions as she purposefully steps through the ring ropes and then begins making her way up the rampway.
Meanwhile, Teddy, still injured and also covered in blood splatter, looks around, horrified and confused, as the show’s feed cuts to black.