“You’re awake. Good.”
Diego Reyes slowly opens his eyes, looking at the world around him. He is bound to a bed: his forehead, arms, legs, and midsection buckled down. His mouth has a belt tying it open, locking his entire body to the bed. He manages to look down at his feet and sees a man wearing a black hood. The voice is familiar. Once the man steps into the light, he sees where he is. He knows who he is. He is still in Mexico.
And he is with the Herald.
Herald: I am stunned, Diego, that you have come so far.
Diego says nothing. How could he?
Herald: You came to Mexico looking for answers. You came here looking for me, correct? Looking for something to do with me or something to do with our Master. But, you see, Diego, that’s the thing.
Herald reaches down, cupping Diego’s cheek.
Herald: You don’t know me. You certainly don’t know our Master. I am everywhere. I am nowhere. I am everyone. I am no one. I am the Herald, Diego Reyes. I am the Herald to our Master. Our Master that leads this company we call the SHOOT Project. He is our God, our messiah, our savior. I am his messenger, his trumpet, his scion.
Herald: You will notice you can’t feel your appendages.
Diego looks around frantically, growling and grunting behind the belt that has buckled him down and locked his mouth open.
Herald: That’s so you don’t pass out. You see, Diego, tonight, there are five points I would like you to understand.
Herald stands over Diego’s head, dropping something heavy, somewhat wet.
Herald: Number one…you, Jonas Coleman, the Soldiers, the Faithful, you will all only know what we want you to know when we want you to know it.
He drops another object onto Diego’s face. It bounces off and lands on the floor near the first.
Herald: Number two…Diego Reyes is not as important as he thinks he is. You are a fat, useless, pretend detective stepping down the wrong dark alleyways looking for the wrong clues.
He drops another.
Herald: Number three…Jonas Coleman and all who follow along with him are going to suffer for this useless transgression. It is important for all to understand our control.
He drops another.
Herald: Number four…in case you haven’t noticed, Diego, I have been dropping your right hand’s fingers on you.
Diego’s eyes go wide. He looks down to his right hand and sees each of his fingers have been removed, the wounds cauterized shut.
Herald: Number five.
Herald takes Diego’s index finger, pressing the tip in Diego’s forehead as Diego begins to grunt, the fear settling in.
Herald: Tonight you will understand why you don’t question your betters, Diego. Tonight, you will bleed for your stupidity.
Diego begins to scream violently, only for Herald to turn his back on the PERDITION tag team member, best friend of Jonas Coleman, and SHOOT Project Veteran. Diego screams until his throat cracks and he stops, looking at his feet as four men garbed in total black step into the room. Herald turns around and looks back to the men and to Diego. Herald nods. Each of the four men pull six inch blades from their belts.
Herald locks eyes with Diego.
Herald: Take whatever you want from him.
Diego’s eyes go wide as tears begin streaming down his temples. He howls as he watches the blades penetrating his flesh, sliding deeper into him. He looks up for one last glimmer of hope to Herald that is quickly diminished with the slamming of the door.
The feed on the SHOOT Project jumbotron flickers. From idle darkness comes a different shade of black, which fades to dark gray, then back to black again, repeatedly.
Can you hear me, now? Goooood.
The voice is recognized immediately by the historically knowledgeable SHOOT faithful, though it doesn’t take more than a moment or two for the rest of the crowd to pinpoint its owner. Boos echo throughout the Epicenter briefly, but the most identifiable reaction is a dramatic increase in the onlookers’ tension. Eyes are glued to the screen, which now features a video feed of a black shirt, which jumps in and out of the visage of a posh, presumably highly expensive stainless steel refrigerator, covered with to-do lists, various magnets, and predominantly, crayon scribblings of Mommy, Daddy, and Brother. Within the Epicenter, it seems as if the oxygen has taken sabbatical, and all that remains is the dread-laced calm that exists just before a tornado occurs. If there was a sky to be seen, it would have taken a slightly greenish hue.
Alright, Erik Boyer’s Reascension, Act One. Annnnnnd- ACTION!!!!
The crowd gasps, their fears confirmed.
The black shirt is removed from the body it covered, and what’s left to examine is the shredded, yet damaged torso of the man who has terrorized Cronos Diamante for a couple of years, now. Semi-healed scars accent a two reddish purple scars, each about six inches in length, that line the obliques, leading up to the ribcage.
Erik Boyer: A little mood music seems fitting. Very fitting, as a matter of fact. Remember my old theme music, Cronos? Remember what I used to walk out to that ring to while I donned my fiery mask? It was a long time ago, and I’m sure you’ve since discarded any memory of me- but, it doesn’t matter. You’re a smart guy, you’ll get it. I wasn’t sure if you’d even have a portable CD player in this day and age, being as affluent as you’ve so wonderfully become, so I brought my own.
Two drum beats are swiftly followed by a fast, almost menacing guitar riff. Judith, by A Perfect Circle sounds over the video feed, while scar tissue bends and shifts to the harder hitting portions of the song. The words ring out, eerily.
You’re such an inspiration for the ways
That I’ll never ever choose to be
Oh so many ways for me to show you
How the savior has abandoned you
Fuck your God
Your Lord and your Christ
Erik Boyer: Now, if I’m going to get back in shape good enough to take down the devil, I guess I’d better get to training…better yet, get back to practicing. Tessa- TESSA!!! HEY, TESS!!! Tell me about you and Cronos’ sex life! He never told me anything! I thought the fucker was asexual! Do you like to be choked? Do you like it rough?
Boyer spoke over the song, but his torso is gone, and the poorly hand drawn pictures of a family are all folks can see. Audio extends much more description of this scene.
He did this
Took all you had and
Left you this way
Whimpers lead to cries lead to screams, all of which ultimately lead to the sound of gagging.
Erik Boyer: Ehhh, you don’t seem to like that too much.
Pl-eagghhhhh, cauck, cauck, uhmmmph- PLEASE, GOD, WH-
Boyer: SHUT THE F- YOU, Y- you know what?! I’ll bet Cronos saved the Dragon Sleeper for the ring. Stand up. I’ll bet you’re a bitch that likes a quick shot to the face before a full load to the face- I know he used to beat the shit out of all the whores we desecrated on the road- OOPS- well, listen, hey, how’s- hmmmm- how’s- hows about a SUPER-mmph-Super…KICK?!?
The sound of a jaw popping out of its socket and spit swaddling around in and spewing from a mouth is heard, as strands of long hair pass before the camera feed, followed by a lifeless thud. The action forced the refrigerator housed imaginations of a child to flap and flail in the air for a couple of moments, before peacefully fluttering back down to rest upon the steel.
Still you pray, you never stray
Never taste of the fruit
You never thought to question why
Erik Boyer: I still got it, Cronos! DID YOU HEAR THAT THUAP-SLPISH, BUDDY?! DID I HIT THAT ONE RIGHT, OLD PAL?! Fuck you.
It’s not like you killed someone
It’s not like you drove a hateful spear into his side
The scarred abdominal region of Cronos Diamante’s ultimate tormentor flashes back into view. The protruding mauve lines, created by medical incision, bend toward a horizontal axis briefly.
Praise the one who left you
Broken down and paralyzed
He did it all for you
Erik Boyer: C’mon, slut. C’mon Tessa, I know you’re not unconscious, I heard that little gasp. C’mon, Tessa, I know you’re a good mom, Tessa, picking up the slack for Cronos all these years while he sodomized sluts and hookers in the locker room. I was his best friend, Tessa. I know what he did, Tessa. You had to be mom AND dad, Tessa. Get up, Tessa, or I start practicing with Junior, over there. Do you think his father’s socks taste good to him, Tessa? Do you think he finally feels close to his old man, now, Tessa? You’re welcome, Tessa. Now, get up, Tessa. Here, I’ll help you.
He did it all for you
Dark hair whisps across the bottom of the screen, before falling out of sight. Half of the crowd continues to watch in terror, the other half tries to look away. The announcers are dead silent.
Erik Boyer: This one’s called a power bomb, Tessa. Your husband loved this one- then, I’m sure you knew that.
The scar on Boyer’s side becomes vertical, then horizontal, then vertical, then diagonal between the two axes. A sickening thud is heard, followed by another one, equally as cringeworthy.
Oh so many many ways for me to show you
How your dogma has abandoned you
Erik Boyer: Jackknife powerbomb, Cronos! It was supposed to be through the kitchen table, but you- well, you musta’ carved that thing outta oak! Jesus! Her neck and skull bounced right off and she slid off the back, buddy- head cracked- did it cra-YEAHHH, sure did, blood on the marble tiles, buddy. Got a lot of blood on the floor, buddy. I would advise you to grab a mop, but- it doesn’t matter. Blood burns, too, buddy. It even boils. Is it- is it boiling, yet, Devil?
Pray to your Christ, to your god
Never taste of the fruit
Never stray, never break
Never—choke on a lie
The undisturbed refrigerator is all that can be viewed from the feed, at the moment. But the screams of terror from a child circumvent the music, still cursing Christ, and the eternal divinity from whom he was created.
NO!!!! NOOOO-DAAAADDYYYYYYY!!!! DADDYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!! DAAAAD-gauwup
Even though he’s the one who did this to you
You never thought to question why
Erik Boyer: Listen to the words, kid. He did this to you, not me. They call this a triangle choke. Your father uses this one ALL-THE-TIME, kid. Bet he hasn’t taught ya, yet. Never bothered to teach me. I learned it my goddamn self.
Not like you killed someone
It’s Not like you drove a spiteful spear into his side
Minute shuffling can be heard, and a female voice eeks out the words, Jesus, Lord, please, please help-
Erik Boyer: LISTEN TO THE WORDS, TESS!!!!
Talk to Jesus Christ
As if he knows the reasons why
He did it all for you
Erik Boyer: This one, Cronos, this one’s kinda new. It’s called the curb stomp.
A loud, crushing THUP resonates throughout the Epicenter for what seems like an eternity.
Erik Boyer: Oops. Somebody’s dead, Cronos. One member of your family has passed on, before they’re forced to feel the flames of my- I would say hatred, or angst, maybe retribution, but that’s just dramatic. That’s not what this is about. Let’s be real. They’re gonna feel flames, because after a quick jaunt to the gas container and propane tanks in your garage, I’ll be covering them, and what I can of your lovely home, in gasoline. Then, I’ll light a couple of matches…and blow the joint. Just like in Goodfellas. Except, instead of no one dying, it’ll be your whole fucking family.
Did it all for you
He did it all for you…
As the song plays out its remaining chords, a stillness in scene prevails…until the unsteady sound of liquid pouring in broken sequences pervades the arena, until the incendiere agent is splattered across the refridgerator, knocking a child’s portrait from a magnet’s forceful grasp. It flips up and over, around and around, until it drifts out of view.
Erik Boyer: What’s it like to kill your family, Cronos? You tell me. Because, you did this.
A thwack is followed by a sizzling, before silence. A flame, burning wildly on the end of three matches blocks the refrigerator’s spotlight.
You did this. Heh…toodles…or whatever.
The opening match. The pacesetter. The beginning of the bloodbath. It’s important to note that the fans in attendance don’t know what happened prior to this match. As far as they’re concerned, this is where the show opened.
Both CJ Nelson and Eric Rohkar needed this match for different reasons, both CJ Nelson and Eric Rohkar wanted this match for different reasons. Both men looked tenderized, CJ’s face still blistered and red from Dominion, to go along with the swelling from beatings both men had taken this season and yet their appearances only added to the Faithful’s interest in the match. Their respective careers had been littered with matches not unlike the one they were about to witness, and the Faithful knew this match could be the bloodiest of them all.
And yet, the match began with a handshake, a strange occurrence for the SHOOT Project Faithful, but neither man held any ill-will for the other. As soon as they met in the middle of the ring, the attack was on. Two of the largest men in the Arena locked up in the middle of the ring, but Rohkar was able to get the upper hand by digging his thumb into the side of CJ’s face. CJ reeled back and Eric was able to clothesline him over the top rope and to the ground. From there, the battle spilled to the outside.
Neither men brought weapons with them, but the Arena provided enough for both men. As Rohkar joined CJ on the outside, CJ speared him into the steel steps, knocking them over sending Rohkar flailing. CJ would pounce on the man, and the two would roll about. CJ’s Marine combat training would give him the upper hand, but in a Hardcore match, anything could happen. The Faithful weren’t cheated of the blood, in fact, it was Eric that drew first, digging the claw end of a hammer into CJ’s forehead. From there, the bloodletting began.
CJ wouldn’t be incapacitated for long, and took the fight back to Eric, by throwing him over the guardrail and into the Faithful. The collection around the battle would scatter, and CJ would find a steel chair to swing at Eric, completely dismantling the man and busting him wide open. With Eric thoroughly out, CJ was able to suplex the man over the guardrail and onto the mat next to the ring.
The two men would dig under the ring when they had the opportunity and bring out kendo sticks and setting up tables along the outside of the ring. They’d find fire extinguishers, and rope fasteners, and anything they could find, ending up completely smattered with blood. Both men would find themselves through tables, suplexes being an integral part of both men’s repertoire.
Eric fought back, finally taking CJ down with a spinning crescent kick that he perfected once upon a time. CJ would be down and his eyes in the back of his head, but Eric wouldn’t take the opportunity to make a cover, instead falling back against the ring apron to gather himself, much to the Faithful’s dismay.
With CJ coming to, Rohkar made his way to the man, only to be cracked over the head with a kendo stick. With Rohkar off kilter, CJ was able to capitalize and absolutely destroy Eric with the Crucifix Escapist, obliterating a table along with Eric’s chances to win the match. CJ collapsed on top of Eric, but was able to drag both himself and Eric back into the ring for the cover, and the victory.
WINNER: CJ Nelson (10:23)
The sprawling doors at the back of the epicentre are lit by a single bulb hanging above the entrance way. A moth hovers close, bumping into the glass over and over, as if transfixed by the glow within. Below this stands two of The Herald’s finest, side by side, armed to the teeth, comms-radios crackling around their waist; and eyes poised and ready.
Before them stands a young woman, alone and uninvited, but surprisingly stern; as if her reasoning for being here tonight is driven by pure heart and determination.
She approaches, tucking a portion of her chin length black hair behind her ear, exposing her pale skinned neck and the tips of a tattoo. Unabashed she raises both of her hands as if to say “I want no trouble here” before offering a kind smile.
Guard One: Halt. No trespassing! *His tone emotionless and unsympathetic*
She stops, quickly reaching to the inside pocket of her leather jacket and producing a small piece of paper emblazoned with the SHOOT Project helmet. The guard ushers her in close with a gesture of his hand and then snatches the invitation out of her grasp.
Guard One: Ma’am, this invitation is for Zack. E. Xavier. How did you come by this?
The second guard leans in close, whispering into the first’s ear; his words inaudible to the woman standing before them.
Guard One: Are you Rain?
Guard One: You’re not on the list. Leave.
Rain: But, I need to see him. I need to see my husband.
Guard One: You’re not on the list.
Rain: But you don’t understand, I need to see Zack, I have to talk to him…
Guard One: You are unauthorised to be here. I will remove you by force if I have to.
She steps forward, keeping her hands raised.
Rain: Please. You don’t understand…
The guard steps forward, unclipping his weapon from his holster as his radio continues to crackle with static. Rain stops in her tracks and readies herself to run when the air is suddenly filled with the distant sound of laughter…
What first sounds like one voice is suddenly doubled, tripled, quadrupled then more. The laughter echoes off the walls of the epicentre, bouncing in all directions, cascading down upon Rain and the guards.
Rain: Please, just let me in. *she begs*
Both guards raise their weapons, their eyes flicking around, looking and searching for the laughter of which grows louder with each beat of their hearts, louder and louder, harder and harder.
The voices now give way to shadows and silhouettes, five, ten, fifteen, twenty men step out of the darkness and into the single dim light of the entrance, the guards instinctively aim past Rain and to the gathering of tattered souls before them.
Guard Two: Who the hell are you, back the fuck up! *He yells as the first guard pulls Rain toward and behind them.*
Guard One: What do you want!? Answer me or I will open fire.
A scraggly hand lifts from the ragged congregation, fingernails long and stained, hand cracked and blistered, extending an index finger and pointing directly at Rain.
Rain: I… please. Don’t… Let me in. *She implores the guards. Her eyes filling with water, her words almost lost in her throat.*
Guard Two: And if we give her to you will you leave?
The pointed finger returns to it’s owner; an old wretched little man with a whiskey stained beard and long crooked nose. The man smiles widely, his brown teeth visible in the dim light.
Coyote: Yessssssss… *His voice a sly slither, with nothing but cruelness behind it.*
Without hesitation Guard Two takes Rain by the crook of her elbow and shoves her out in front of him, ready to throw her to the wolves… Or in this case the Coyotes.
Rain: Please. Please don’t. Let me in, please. *Her voice now broken and words jumbled and pained.*
The Coyotes all step forward, their laughter rising up once again from their bowels, when the comms-radio of the first guard blurts out a single word.
The laughter hushes down to a whisper and the guards freeze like a paused video.
“Let her in… Heralds orders.”
The door opens behind Rain, lining her with the glow from within the epicentre… Panting back the sobs and with her head hanging low, she doesn’t dare look back and instead disappears within the walls, leaving the guards alone with the howling jackals.
Coyote: Sss…she’ll find no sss…sanctuary in there.
His words the last thing Rain hears as the door slams behind her.
Samantha Coil: The following match is a haARdcore match scheduled for one fall! Already in the ring, DESPAIR!
"Almost Famous" by Eminem starts up then and Cade Sydal slowly makes his way through the curtain with Cassi Ryan right behind him, and not far behind them is the Suicide Test Dummy carrying a golf bag. STD hands Cade a pair of crowbars from the bag while Cassi starts talking into the mic in her hand even while the faithful in the Epicenter boo loudly at them.
Cassi Ryan: Well, well, well…we thought for sure Despondent wouldn’t show up, but there he is!
Cassi points at the large masked man in the middle of the ring as Cade tucks the crowbars into the front of his kickpads. The trio then begin to make their way down the ramp.
Cassi Ryan: You fiends and degenerates are here to witness violence in all its sincere glory, and tonight you came to the right place. Allow me to introduce to you, the Minister of Mayhem! The Cardinal of Chaos! The Archetect of Assault! Weighing in at 172 pounds and hailing from League Headquarters! He’s the Savior of SHOOT! The Guru of Gore! He’s God’s Favorite Wrestler! CADE! SYDAL!
The trio make it to the bottom of the ramp with STD and Cade laughing to thermselves about something before Cade runs the few steps to the ring and slides under the bottom rope, only to be met with rapid fists from Despair!
Eryk Masters: Whoa! Despair is wasting no time in laying into Cade with some heavy hands!
Other Guy: That’s already a huge improvement from the last time we saw him!
Despair peppers Cade with rights and lefts, backing him into a corner before sending him tio the opposite one and following in with a running body avalanche style splash, driving Cade’s spine into the turnbuckles. Cade stumbles out of the corner while Despair runs to hit the ropes to build up momentum and comes charing back on the rebound with a clothesline but Cade side steps and throws a crowbar-assisted kick up into his chest! Despair doubles over, clutching his ribs as Cade turns his body and kicks up into his face, dropping Despair in a heap!
Other Guy: So much for that!
Eryk Masters: Look at the sadistic smirk on Cade’s face!
Cade does indeed smirk nastily at Despair while rubbing his own cheek while STD pulls a kendo stick from the golf bag of belligerence and slides it into the ring to Cade, who picks it up and nods slowly at his hardcore caddy. Cade turns his attention back to Despair and cracks the kendo stick down across Despair’s back and neck repeatedly before twirling it in his fingers while Despair tries to push up to his knees. Cade steps back and swings the stick hard into Despair’s face and makes him collapse back down to the canvas, splintering the kendo stick in the process.
Eryk Masters: He swung that like he was trying to hit a low pitch! Holy shit!
Other Guy: And he killed that boy with it! Hahaha!
Cade pushes Despair over onto his back with one foot before putting his foot on Despair’s face for the "cover."
Despair shoves Cade’s foot off of his face, who looks down at him, just a little impressed before calling out for the next toy from the Dummy, who pulls out an actual golf club. A sand wedge, specifically.
Eryk Masters: Oh, this is going to be bad…
Other Guy: You mean your heart isn’t peeing?
Cade slowly twirls the sand wedge between his fingers as Despair starts to push to his hands and knees. Cade squares up with Despair’s shoulders and grips the club as if he were in the actual sand trap. He looks at Despair and back down to the end of the club before pulling it back over his right shoulder and then swings through with a full golf swing, driving the wedge right into Despair’s forehead with a disgusting crack! Despair drops as a pool of blood begins to roll out of the eyeholes in his mask!
Cade grins and says something to the Suicide Test Dummy, who smiles back and nods before pulling a small pair of scissors out of a side pocket on the golf bag. He passes those to Cade, who lifts Despair off the canvas by the top of the mask, bringing him up to his knees before using those scissors to cut open the top of the mask, exposing the wide gash from the sand wedge before stabbing the scissors into Despair’s forehead!
Other Guy: Holy shit!
Eryk Masters: Come on, just pin him now, this is vile!
Cade just grins down at Despair as the blood flows more freely, wiping some of the blood from his hands onto his chest. He turns and says something to Cassi, who moves around ringside looking under it until she finds a pair of chairs. She slides them into the ring to Cade, who nods his appproval. Cade grabs the first of the chairs and wedges it into a coenrer between the top and middle rope before grabbing Despair by the hair under his mask and helping him to his feet. He points at the chair before grabbing the back of Despair’s tickts while keeping his hair, he starts to run Despair right toward the chair. But Despair spins around in front of Cade to switch sides and shoves Cade by the back right into the chair, chest first!
Eryk Masters: This could be the opening Despair needs!
Despair grabs the other chair slowly, with bloods pouring down his masked face and the front of his body suit.
Other Guy: Not if he can’t capitalize on it!
Despair starts to turn toward Cade sloiwly, entirely too slow, though as Cade rushes out of the corner and dropkicks Despair in the knee forcing him to drop the chair even as he clutches his own ribs. Cade grabs the chair off the ground and spins around full circle to bring the chair crashing down on the top of Despair’s head, who collapses to the canvas motionless once more.
Cade grins down at his handiwork, but is having far too much fun and decides against going for the cover at this time. He instead opens the chair ion his hands and sets it up as if he were about to sit in it, but he grabs Despair by the hair and places his head limply on the seat of the chair. Despair doesn’t get to rest on the chair for llong, though, as Cade kicks his right foot high into the air and brings it crashing down on the back of Despair’s head with an awful thud!
Other Guy: He just killed that man with an axe stomp!
Eryk Mastyers: This is too much…
Cade kicks Despair’s face off the chair before sitting in the bloody chair seat. Cade stretches his arms out wide with a malicious grin, receiving a chorus of boos as he does so. The referee moves to check on Despair, but Cade shouts to stop him.
Cade Sydal HE’S FINE!
Cade pushes out of the chair and gets into the mount position to start hammering punches down on Despair’s exposed forehead, splattering blood with every punch. He pushes off of Despair and waves STD and Cassi into the ring. STD grabs a pair of small bags from a side pocket of the golf bag before dropping that and sliding into the ring while Cassi climbs up onto the apron.
Eryk Masters: Oh, so now they’re just going to outright mug him too?!
OTher Guy: You don’t know that, they might be about to help Despair up…maybe he’s had enough fun?
Other Guy is wrong, though, as STD opens one of those bags and startys pouring huindreds of thumbtacks out onto Despair’s body! Cade closes the chair and throws it down on the thumbtacks and Despair’s chest before moving to get the one out of the corner.
Other Guy: Or not.
The Suicide Test Dummy opens the second bag and dumps its contents, more thumbtacks, onto Despair’s FACE!
Eryk Masters: This is bad…
Cade puts the chair on Despair’s tack-covered face. STD climbs up to the top and Cade steps back with a grin while holding up the Just Us League hand sign. Cassi sudden;y springboards to the top rope and flies off with a shooting star press! STD jumps off the top turnbuckle and turns his body for an elbow drop! Cassi crashes across the chair on Despair’s chest, driving the thumbtacks into his body! The Suicide Test Dummy crashes down onto Despair’s face, driving the thumbtacks into his face!
HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!
Eryk Masters: What the fuck?!
Other Guy: He’s dead!
Cassi rolls off holding her ribs while STD bounces off, clutching his side and elbow, while Cade kicks the chairs off Despair’s body and face to show off the human pin cushion he just created before putting a foot on Despair’s chest.
And mercifully the bell sounds, even as Cade bends to collect some more blood on his hands before wiping his hands on his chest in an X pattern.
Samantha Coil: …here is your winner. Cade Sydal…
Cade throws up a bloody Just Us League hand sign while the other two follow suit, completely unconcerned with Coil’s lackluster announcement of the winner as "Almost Famous" by Eminem starts back up. Slowly the three make their way out of the ring, all seem pretty proud of their actions even as they head to the back.
“Hey there, Diego…how are you?”
Diego slowly allows his eyes to drift down to the doorway where he sees Herald standing there, his arms behind his back. He walks in and smells the air.
Herald: Goodness, Diego, you’ve really stunk up the place.
Herald looks around at the floor.
Herald: And you’ve done one nasty number on our floor. For shame.
Diego squints as he glares at Herald.
Herald: I’d ask how you’re doing, but it seems one of the men wanted to pry loose a few teeth and a chunk of your tongue. Sorry about that, I should have told them to keep your face out of it. The anesthesia was never administered above your collar bone. You’d feel every bit of that. At least we got that doctor in here to vacuum out the blood from your mouth or otherwise you might drown and, truly, we can’t have that.
Herald shakes his head, clearly amused with himself.
Herald: You’re one tough individual, Diego, I’ll give you that. But don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon. At least once we get the message across.
Herald turns to the door as more men pile in. They begin to cut open Diego’s pants and shoes, ripping his clothes from his body.
Herald: Gentlemen…if you cut something else off…maybe break a bone or something. We don’t want this to get tedious.
He slams the door shut. Diego looks up to the men in the room around him. They begin speaking to one another in Spanish. Diego watches as one of the men place something that looks similar to a rail spike on his kneecap. He screams as another man drives it in, one centimeter at a time, into Diego’s knee.
Cronos Diamante and Lucy Blaylock stand across from each other for a moment. Chronos is grinning, while Lucy Blaylock stands clutching her fists in anger. As Scott Kamura signals for the bell, Lucy Blaylock and Chronos Diamante charge across the ring and begin throwing blows at one another, which proves to be a mistake for Diamante, as Blaylock uses her size and strength to get the upper hand. Diamante is clever though and rolls out of the ring before Blaylock gets on too much of a roll. Blaylock looks incredibly frustrated, and she follows Diamante out of the ring, but Diamante gets his hands on the ring bell and CLOCKS Blaylock with the bell! Blaylock is heavily rocked, but she does not go down! Diamante takes a few steps back and runs at Blaylock, but Blaylock SLAMS Diamante in the face with a boot to the face! Kamura begs the two to get back in the ring, but the hardcore rules do not force Blaylock to do so, so she doesn’t. She grabs Diamante by the throat and TOSSES him into the steel steps! Diamante clutches his back and tries to make distance between him and Blaylock, but Blaylock stays on the attack. Blaylock grabs Diamante by the shoulders, but Diamante reacts quickly by catching Blaylock in a drop toe hold, Blaylock’s face slamming into the guard rails!
Diamante takes a second to catch his breath. He sees a camera wire and gets a twisted idea. He grabs the camera wire and leaps on Blaylock’s back, wrapping his legs around her waist and the wire around her throat. Diamante uses all two hundred and ninety pounds of his body to yank back on the wire, Blaylock’s eyes going wide and wild. She tries to scramble to her feet, but even her large frame can’t handle such a solid mass of muscle on her back. Diamante has a sick grin on his face, but the pressure of the strength has caused his nose to bleed, largely because of the boot that Blaylock gave him earlier. The crowd is getting excited, and Kamura has left the ring in order to see if Blaylock taps out, but the cheers quickly turn to boos as Eric Boyer comes charging down to the ring with a chair in his hands. Diamante doesn’t see or realize what is happening! Eric Boyer reaches Diamante and leaps, placing the chair between his knees and slamming Diamante in the back of the head with the chair! Diamante instantly releases, and Blaylock clutches her neck for breath. Boyer quickly gets back on the attack, slamming Diamante in the head with a soccer punt! Diamante goes down hard, more blood spilling from his nose. Blaylock gets back to her feet, clearly winded and unsure of what saved her from blacking out. Boyer, meanwhile, stomps the hell out of Diamante, with Cronos barely able to defend off the blows, much less do something to counter.
Blaylock, now realizing what has happened, walks over to Boyer and pulls him off of Diamante, beginning to argue with Boyer about interfering. Boyer backs away for a second, not truly looking for an altercation, most certainly not with such a giant woman. Boyer motions to Diamante, saying something about “easy pickings”. Cronos lies on the ground, half unconscious. Blaylock looks unhappy with the circumstances, but she is definitely considering what Boyer has said. Scott Kamura is telling Eric Boyer to leave, but since it is a hardcore match, he is not obligated to listen. Boyer backs away, though, telling Blaylock that it is her choice. Blaylock takes one more look at the fallen Cronos, and then she looks over at the chair Boyer brought. Blaylock reaches down, picks up the chair, and brings it down HARD on Cronos Diamante! She slams him with the chair a few times. Then she throws the chair in the ring, picks up Diamante, and rolls him into the ring. Blaylock enters the ring, lifts Cronos into the air, and drops him onto the chair with the Gorilla Press Slam! Blaylock covers!
Samantha Coil: Your winner, at a time of EIGHT MINUTES and THIRTY SEVEN SECONDS…LUCY BLAYLOCK!
Lucy Blaylock raises her hand in the air, but her body language clearly shows she is disappointed with her win. The crowd boos. Eric Boyer laughs, though, staring at the fallen body of The Devil.
Erik Boyer stands over a battered and defeated Cronos Diamante, laying punch after punch into his jaw and body. The entire time Boyer continues his assault, he’s jawing at Cronos. The fans lay down a chorus of boos as Boyer continues his assault on Cronos, letting him know what side they’re firmly on.
Eryk Masters: Why isn’t Cronos fighting back? All he’s doing is trying to cover up.
Other Guy: Rope a dope maybe? It is odd indeed to see Cronos not fighting back.
As if having heard the announcers, Cronos fires a quick punch to Boyer’s stomach and trips him. Cronos goes to stomp on the downed Boyer but he rolls out of the way and out of the ring. Cronos follows but is instead met with a chair to the face that knocks him silly. Boyer rears back and hits Cronos with the chair again and clearly knocking him unconscious this time. Boyer takes the time now to cuff Cronos’ hands together and grab a microphone from ringside area.
Erik Boyer: This is the man you cheer? Seriously!?! HE IS THE DEVIL! He is a fiend. He is Judas. And it’s time for his punishment!!!!
Boyer delivers another chair shot to the downed Diamante for good measure and heads to the locker room. The crowd boos him loudly as he leaves the ringside area and the entire time he’s gone.
Eryk Masters: Where in the world did he go? I wouldn’t leave Cronos alone like that for too long. He’s just going to get back up again and…
Other Guy: I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Look at what Boyer has in his hand. This just got a whole lot worse of a scenario for Cronos.
Cronos stirs slightly as Boyer returns to ringside with a winch cable in tow. The moment Boyer gets to ringside, he attaches it to the handcuffs then kicks Cronos in the stomach. Cronos recoils and begins coughing from the heavy force behind the kick and notices Boyer with his thumb on the button to the winch. He goes to say something only for Boyer to press the button and off Cronos is dragged, right through the steel steps.
Eryk Masters: Oh God. Did you see the way he hit the bottom of those steps? There’s blood pouring out of his head. This is just wrong.
Other Guy: Erik Boyer was never a good guy. This proves he’s even worse than he was before. I shudder to think what he has in store for Cronos tonight.
Cronos smacks into the entranceway with his ribs and slightly loses any amount of control he had over his body before that. As he is pulled into the locker room area he’s then ran through some metal boxes and into the Coke and Pepsi machines with such force they almost tip over on him.
Erik Boyer: What a wild ride this has been, Cronos! Oh my bad… was that too punny?
The crowd reacts immediately with more boos and a few things being thrown Boyer’s direction. A fountain drink missing him by an inch. Boyer simply laughs at the crowd and begins walking to the locker room as the tron shows Cronos literally stuck on a corner, his body being stretched out. Boyer makes it to him after two long agonizing minutes and gives Cronos a running kick that allows him to become unstuck but by this time the damage has been done to his body.
Eryk Masters: Never thought I’d say this but can somebody please go help Cronos Diamante?
Other Guy: Never thought I’d agree with that but I don’t think anyone is going to help him no matter how much he’s changed, Eryk.
Finally the bloody and broken Cronos Diamante is dragged outside after hitting his head on the edge of the doorway, an even bigger cut appearing on his head now. Cronos is a bloody, broken mess as his bare back is grated against the asphalt of the parking lot. He comes to a stop at a truck parked facing the exit to the Epicenter and soon after, Erik Boyer is there towering over Cronos.
Erik Boyer: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once upon a time you would have seen something like this coming a mile away and prevented it, Cronos. But now, you’re dull. You’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer anymore and you’re mine to torment. And what fun we’re going to have!
Boyer hops into the back of the truck while Cronos is half lifted off the ground from the winch cable. Boyer lifts off the tarp that was covering the back of the truck to reveal a coffin. Boyer opens it with a vile grin on his face.
Erik Boyer: You see Cronos, you and I are going to go for a little ride tonight and it’s going to be a bit of a bumpy ride.
Boyer jumps off the back of the truck and lifts Cronos into the coffin. He takes the winch cable from the handcuffs and removes a cellular phone from his pocket.
Erik Boyer: Remember that recording from earlier? Well here. You get to watch it again while we take our little ride. I’ve got cameras all over in that coffin so I get to see the agony on your face each and every time you watch it. Nighty night, Cronos!
With that, Boyer hits Cronos over the head with a krobar and slams the coffin shut. He attaches some metal cable to the coffin to make sure it doesn’t open on the ride and enters the truck then speeds off out of the Epicenter parking lot.
Eryk Masters: This may be the end of Cronos Diamante as we know it, folks. I… I honestly don’t know what to say.
Other Guy: I’ve never seen Cronos handled in such a way. This is indeed a dark day in The SHOOT Project when the Devil himself is out done like that.
We come back to Kenji Yamada pacing back and forth in the ring, his lips peeled back from his teeth in a permanent snarl. His facial expression seems to contort randomly, waves of rage passing across the eternally scarred features. His thirst for blood remains unquenched. This murderous, unstoppable machine of war has fed on appetizers week after week…but he has been denied the main course that he truly seeks.
He wants that fucking albino. That sly, conniving piece of swine shit. The fury that the World Champion feels seems to empower him even more, an actual FORCE that thrums through every part of his body, the muscle, the sinew, even the marrow of his bones. A great portion of the crowd stomp their feet for the beast that is our World Champion, a sort of ritualistic sounding of the war drums. Despite his monstrousness—or perhaps BECAUSE of his monstrousness—the more bloodthirsty fans in the crowd have come to relish his dominant reign.
Kenji brings the microphone to his lips, those icy opaque eyes scanning the masses.
Kenji: Week after week, I have shed the blood of every single entity that has been placed before me. I have systematically KILLED the competition in this Master’s new conception of SHOOT Project…but the one that still eludes me…the one I want the MOST—
Kenji abruptly stops speaking, some commotion backstage catching his attention on the SHOOT video wall. We pan into the back to see a rumbling eighteen wheeler truck slowly arriving beneath a garage door, the grinning savage known as Valentine Lionheart leaning over the wheel with wild, tangled hair framing his feral features. Lionheart grinds on the steering wheel, managing to turn the eighteen wheeler around and back it up into the Epicenter, the brake lights glowing a deep, dark scarlet.
Other Guy: What the hell are we witnessing right now? That’s Lionheart behind the wheel of that tractor-trailer…
Eryk Masters: I don’t like this, OG. Something about this feels…wrong.
Valentine puts the tractor-trailer in park and opens the driver’s side door, swinging himself down from the cab. He calmly heads to the back of the truck and takes hold of the clasp, lifting it up in one smooth motion and allowing the rolling door to slide open. We see the freight Valentine is hauling now.
Eryk Masters: Oh my god.
Other Guy: I….there are no words.
The detestable, stinking horde pours out of the back of the truck, their numbers uncountable, it’s a deluge of men and women, draped in rags, painted in filth, gibbering and howling and screaming together—some horrid cacophony that threatens to burst any eardrum that hears it. Some of them are corpulent man-children with drool pouring past their chins. There are women with breasts like shapeless bags, their faces harrowed and hungry. There are men so bearded and long-haired that they have ceased to resemble human beings at all, just slouching, shambling scarecrows with fingernails as long as ragged daggers.
The Coyotes scramble and claw over each over to exit the back of the tractor-trailer, a scene like starved holocaust victims emerging from a lightless box car. They swarm from the truck, bees buzzing from a hive, so many—TOO MANY—and in the center of their ravenous horde is a white, emaciated horse with eyes as black as dirty oil. Isaac Entragian sits atop this pale horse, no saddle, no reins, just a handful of wispy white mane grasped firmly in his hand.
The most repugnant scene of all is the fact that Isaac holds a long leather leash in his other hand, a Coyote collared like a bloodhound, his body nude save for soiled linens to cover his privates. The Coyote’s eyes are bloodshot, the corneas shit-brown and seeking, the track marks decorating his arms like holes made by burrowing worms. This “pet” scrambles along on all fours, his head and limbs twitching, Isaac carefully guiding his horse down the metallic ramp leading out of the truck.
Other Guy: This is madness. This…is absolute MADNESS.
Eryk Masters: Is this what SHOOT Project has become, OG? This smeared, nightmarish scene out of a back alley grotesquerie…is this what the Master ALLOWS?
Other Guy: I don’t know the will of the Master anymore than you do, E…but if Isaac Entragian is left to his own devices, if The Pale Rider is left to do what HE wants? This is what SHOOT Project will become.
Eryk Masters: Entragian said on Dominion that this place is just the Wild West now. I didn’t realize how literal that statement was. I never…never…imagined this.
Entragian and Lionheart are leading their pack of shrieking, gibbering jackals through the backstage corridors, attendants fleeing from the army, the stench of these putrid souls signaling the arrival of the pestilence they bring along with them. Creeping rot, diseased, weeping wounds, limbs putrefying with gangrene from too many needles and too much dirt in the festering sores.
There is no theme music as Isaac and Valentine lead their army through the curtains. A hushed, revolted silence even falls over the crowd. Music is not required. The howls of the Coyotes provide the jagged melodies from their own tortured throats…all of them singing some funeral dirge that sounds eerily like “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Even Kenji Yamada seems slightly taken aback at Isaac’s level of insanity in assembling this collection of scum-encrusted wraiths, but the anger still bleeds through, the beast slavering now that he’s in sight of his adversary. Isaac guides the horse to the head of the ramp, simply remaining there, his pet imbecile straining against the leash and snapping broken brown teeth in Kenji’s general direction. Isaac sits atop his horse surrounded by his army, no expression at all on the albino’s countenance. He brings a microphone slowly up to cold, deathly lips.
Entragian: You’ve wanted me for a long time.
Kenji’s teeth grit, the fury building, every single muscle in his body tensed and ready.
Entragian: I think you’ve waited long enough.
Isaac turns to Lionheart and offers him a nod. “General Lionheart” grins from ear to ear, bellowing out “FIRST WAVE” at the top his lungs. Kenji doesn’t expect what happens next, an entire horde of Coyotes hiding in the crowd immediately start to leap the railing, body after stinking body, each of them making a beeline for the beast. Kenji reacts like a practiced assassin, smashing headbutts into every Coyote that comes for him, lashing out with kicks to the groin; horrifying uppercuts that crunch beneath jaws and leave his attackers limp at his feet. They keep coming from the crowd, tearing at Kenji, gripping at his flesh with torn fingernails and biting at him with nasty, unbrushed teeth. Kenji receives a few minor flesh wounds, but he takes no notice, dispatching EVERY single Coyote that makes the mistake of touching him.
He spike heads into the canvas.
He strangles wretched scavengers into unconsciousness.
He drives boots into faces so hard that bones crack and noses burst like crimson flowers.
When the first wave ends, there are at least fifteen to twenty bodies lying sprawled across the ring or thrown to the outside. Kenji stands alone and defiant, taking just a moment to crack his neck to the side while glaring up the ramp at Isaac.
Isaac himself bellows this time, the words “SECOND WAVE” exiting his lips as he releases the leather leash, allowing his gibbering pet idiot to scramble down the ramp with the remainder of the Coyotes at his back.
They spring into the ring like feral dogs, and Kenji meets them head-on, all fists and fury, but soon the numbers start to get the better of him, shards of broken bottles scratching at his arms, sharpened plastic toothbrush shivs tearing down against his legs and shoulders, a few Coyotes simply crawling like snakes on their bellies to sink teeth into Kenji’s ankles and calf muscles. After a long fateful moment, Kenji disappears beneath the mound of fetid humanity; the Coyotes literally dog piling him beneath their crushing weight.
All hope is lost for a few moments, but then a baying ROAR emerges from beneath the pile and Kenji Yamada literally BURSTS up from beneath, bodies flying everywhere. The crowd roars right along with the World Champion, willing him to keep fighting, willing him defy the odds and just shred these diseased jackals.
Isaac holds up a hand, signaling to Lionheart and the remaining Coyotes that cluster at the head of the ramp to remain where they are for now.
Kenji is so embroiled with his battle with the Coyotes that he never even notices Isaac leading his horse slowly down the ramp, the ominous sound of hooves clicking against metal pinging throughout the Epicenter. Kenji does not hear Isaac dismount from his horse. Kenji does not notice when Isaac enters the ring, carefully removing his bone cudgel from the leather sheath along his hip.
Isaac slams the bone cudgel down across the heads and faces of his OWN Coyotes, their bodies falling boneless at his feet, giving him a clear path to the World Heavyweight Champion. Kenji is grappling with a Coyote, smashing fists into the tattered woman’s gut over and over again, his back to the approaching albino.
Isaac lashes out hard and precise with the bone cudgel, the head of it CRACKING Kenji in the lower back, his spinal cord sending up waves of pain as he drops down to one knee. Entragian sweeps his hands from side to side, calling the Coyotes off. They scramble from the center of the ring in a mixture of fear and fealty, creating a sort of fighting pit, a circle where now only Isaac and Kenji remain.
Kenji struggles to rise, stumbling up and swinging wildly for the attacker behind him—someone he presumes is just another Coyote—but Isaac catches his arm and CRACKS him on the ribs with the bone cudgel, a baying sound of extreme pain exiting Kenji’s lips. Kenji sees who is in front of him now, his rage renewed, and he reaches for Isaac with murderous hands….but Isaac goes low and SNAPS the bone cudgel into Kenji’s kneecap, hobbling the beast, forcing him to fall to the canvas with a loud, fateful crash.
Isaac places the cudgel back within his sheath, leaning down on the canvas to just PISTON rights and lefts into Kenji’s face, fist after fist, and when he tires of this he raises both fists up simultaneously and starts to just CLUB Kenji in the face and chest, mashing his lips against his teeth, yellowing his cheeks with bruises, blackening his eyes…Isaac just POUNDING his former blood-brother with that same pitiless expression on his pallid face.
When the assault finally ends, Isaac rises up, taking a deep breath into his lungs. He reaches back down, holding up the World Heavyweight Championship…and with his free hand he LATCHES Kenji across the throat and lifts him up into the air, showing unfathomable strength and just HOLDING Kenji by the throat, his feet dangling above the canvas. Kenji’s body is a mess of lacerations and bruises, yet still that rage lives on in his eyes, and even in his weakened and wounded state he claws at Isaac’s forearm, leaving deep furrows in the porcelain flesh.
Isaac seems not to notice, bringing the faceplate of the title up close to Kenji’s face.
He speaks to the beast he holds by the throat, no microphone needed, just loud, booming words that drift up from the barrel of his chest.
Entragian: Did you ever truly believe that I would let you…HAVE this?
Froth bursts from Kenji’s teeth, one of his eyes swollen, his air constricted as he’s held aloft by the throat.
Entragian: KEEP this?
Isaac shoves the belt a little closer, grinding it up against Kenji’s already scratched and lacerated cheek.
Entragian: BE this?
Those eyes meet, icy opaque blue fury locking with toxic green lunacy. The moment seems to last forever between them, the hatred a livewire that connects them on a deep, lasting level.
With that final word, Isaac tosses Kenji across the ring as hard as he can, Kenji’s battered, war-torn body smashing down rudely across the canvas. Isaac drapes the World Title over his chest, the Coyotes whistling and grinning and dancing like mentally lobotomized satyrs all around the fallen Champion.
The announcers seem lost for words. They have nothing at all to say.
For the FIRST time since SHOOT Project reopened its gates and ushered in this new, lawless era…the dominant, infallible Kenji Yamada…has been laid low.
The indestructible beast, the unstoppable juggernaut…
Now a bleeding, desecrated body lying across the SHOOT Project canvas.
With the Iron Fist Championship on the line; the current, reigning and defending champion “The Artist” Zex raises his championship in the air as the challenger, Markus Pascal stands poised for the road ahead.
The journey to this match and the importance of tonight’s Main Event are not lost on either man; Pascal is fighting to prove himself, to show the world that he belongs in the same ring as the SHOOT Project elite; wanting nothing more than to see his name side by side with legendary Iron Fist champions such as; Diamond Del Carver, Corazon, Kenji Yamada and of course his rival… Dan Stein.
While Zex is fighting for something else entirely; his personal life is in tatters, his wife filing for divorce… SHOOT Project is all “The Artist” has left in his life; and now the sanctuary of the ring has been invaded by Isaac Entragian, Valentine Lionheart and their rabid pack of wild dogs, the Coyotes.
After Referee Lorenzo presents the championship to both men, he calls for the bell.
With a front elbow tie-up, a headlock by Zex and a shove off to the ropes by Pascal; the two SHOOT Soldiers jockey for position early on, with the veteran Xavier taking advantage of a mistimed step, thrusting himself into Markus with a hellacious forearm.
Pascal reels into the ropes clutching his mouth as Zex fires off an intense flurry of chops, kicks and a knee; a combination of which heats up the blood thirsty crowd who cheer and applaud.
After an Irish Whip and a drop kick Pascal rolls to the outside, taking his time to catch his breath and climb back onto the apron, catching Zex with a harsh punch when “The Artist” races towards him.
Zex staggers away and Pascal unloads a combination of his own, followed by a Belly to Belly Suplex. Pascal is quick to keep the pressure lifts Zex back to his feet and avoids a kick by turning it into a Dragon Screw.
“The Artist” hits the canvas giving Pascal enough time to exit the ring and return with a steel chair.
With a baited pause, Markus waits for Zex to stand, but before he can swing the chair he is dropped with a spin kick, sending the weapon into his own face and dropping him to the mat.
With a quick unfold of the chair and a dart to the opposing ropes, Zex runs up, placing his foot on the seat and then springs onto the top rope flipping backwards, down onto Pascal with a springboard moonsault.
Once Zex raises Pascal the two Canadians hold nothing back, clubbing each other with fists, elbows and kicks. Back and forth they trade blows.
The knuckles of Pascal catching Zex in the jaw rocking him into the ropes.
A harsh kick from “The Artist” connecting right to the gut of the Vancouver native, doubling Markus over onto his knees. Zex follows this up with three kicks to the chest and then a forth, of which is ducked.
Pascal hops up and then fires three forearms to the chest and neck of Zex, knocking him into the ropes; where he dumps “The Artist” to the ground below with a clothesline. Now outside, the beat down continues; Zex is whipped into railings, over the ring steps and even into a member of the stage crew.
But it’s not over for Zex, whose will to continue and battle on regardless of odds or who his opponent may be, begins to fight back from underneath; kicking, punching and throwing his body at Pascal with reckless abandon; most notably by running across the barricade and launching himself into the challenger.
Zex doesn’t let up, he knows he is in the ring with a hungry competitor and so “The Artist” reaches under the ring retrieving a can of soda. In a move which costs “The Artist;” Zex poses with a cocky stance for the snapping of cameras and phones and pours the soda down onto Pascal.
Pascal doesn’t take too kindly to the jest and sucks up the pain of the match charging into Zex and sending both guys over the barricade and into the SHOOT Faithful.
Once standing, the two men trade blows once more as the fans surrounding them pass them inanimate objects. Pascal now clasps a selfie stick in his hand, while Zex holds a make-up mirror.
In unison the two Canadian’s crack each other with their makeshift weapons, the mirror smashing into the temple of Pascal, busting him open; while the selfie stick jabbing into the throat of “The Artist.”
Both men then clash into each other trying to trade blows but instead tumble back down to ringside, scrapping with each other, both not willing to give an inch.
Markus is to his feet first, blood dripping from his temple; he takes the empty Soda can and hurls it down into the face of “The Artist” cracking Zex across the nose and splitting him across the bridge.
It doesn’t take long for the two to find themselves in the ring once more, Pascal takes control with a series of well executed Suplexes.
Upon lifting Zex to his feet, Markus eats a Superkick straight to the face, knocking him away. Zex falls back to his knees and then springs up with another Superkick, the second knocking Markus to the ground…
With a cheer from the crowd, Zex takes the chair and cracks it down on top of the Challenger, not once, not twice… But three times. Zex lays the chair on top of Pascal and scales the top rope screaming for his patented manoeuvre the “Zex-Appeal.”
Within seconds of ascending the ropes Zex’s aerial assault is thwarted by the sudden wave of humanity, five, six, seven men cascade over the barricade and up the apron, moving sharp and swiftly they throw themselves into “The Artist” knocking him from off the top rope.
The men, a collection of vagrants and vagabonds cling to Zex, digging nails into his flesh, biting down on his limbs, punching and kicking at him as he struggles to free himself from their grip. Zex yells and screams as the men subdue him, wrapping themselves around him, clinging to him and preventing him from moving.
A relieved Pascal rolls to the other side of the ring, watching with wide eyes as the collection of filth hold his adversary in their tattered clutches; as an eighth man slowly and methodically climbs over the barricade with an ice-pick in his hand.
The attackers instantly shift gear, bringing Zex to his knees before his nemesis… Valentine Lionheart.
With a sickening smile and almost no hesitation Valentine rushes forward smashing his knee into the face of “The Artist” in a move so hellacious that Zex all but blacks out from the unprotected blow.
With a clump of Zex’ hair in his hand, Valentine pulls back, exposing the face of his former friend momentarily before slowly poking the ice-pick into his forehead.
As the point pierces the skin, the dazed and battered Zex screams with pain; blood pouring down his face, running into his eyes, into his mouth and down onto the mat. Valentine tosses the weapon away and then hammers down punches into the wound, his knuckles splattering with blood, his face that of pure lust and exhilaration.
Zex’ blood pours, it puddles and pools, soaking into the canvas as Valentine continues his unrelenting assault. Over and over his knuckles connect with the laceration, turning his very skin a deep crimson… Lionheart steps away lifting his bloodstained hands, slowly licking the claret from the back of his knuckles, his tongue and lips now covered in Zex’ blood.
Pascal stands in the corner, watching as his opponent lays motionless on the ground. Valentine turns sneering at Markus before shrugging and pointing down at the fallen Iron Fist Champion.
Pascal not wanting to win by the hands of another man ushers for Zex to stand, Valentine nods and the Coyotes lift “The Artist;” and Pascal absolutely destroys him with “The Black Sheep” lung blower.
Zex lies motionless on the ground as Pascal screams at Lorenzo to begin his ten count.
Zex doesn’t move, not even a twitch… Just lays there in a pool of his own blood.
Valentine looks at Pascal and then raises two fingers mothing “only once?” To which the young Canadian reaches in lifting the limp body of Zex off the floor, pulling Zex by his blood-soaked hair up to his knees.
A roof blowing cheer erupts throughout the crowd when suddenly Dan Stein slides into the ring at high speed clutching a steel chair and instantly cracks Valentine over the back with it. Stein then slams the chair into the face of the first Coyote, then the second before darting at Pascal and tackling him to the ground with a series of punches.
The cheers in the arena are now deafening as Stein unloads everything he has onto Pascal. The Coyotes rush in, grabbing Stein by the ankles and yanking him away, Stein turns kicking away at them when Pascal leaps on top of him and begins his own attack.
Referee Lorenzo attempts to stop the attack on Stein, but is met with a thunderous big boot to the face from Valentine, knocking Lorenzo out of the ring.
Now, Valentine, Pascal and The Coyotes stomp down on “The Golden Boy” nine on one, surrounding him completely and delivering an unrelenting beat down. Stein struggles, but the blows come to often and too fast…
Pascal steps back and screams “Pick him up!” and with another nod from Valentine the Coyotes oblige, lifting Dan Stein up from the ground, exposing a bloody nose and split lip.
Much like with Zex, Markus Pascal levels Stein with “The Black Sheep” Lung Blower…
A bloody Stein falls down to the mat, slumping into the puddle of Zex’ blood next to the limp and motionless body of “The Artist.” Pascal staggers back into the ropes, his eyes wild and wide; looking down at the bloodied Stein and Zex in the centre of the ring… Valentine shrugs the whole ordeal off with a chuckle and he, along with The Coyotes, simply exits the ring.
The crowd still reels from the decimation of one of the most dominant World Heavyweight Champions that SHOOT Project has ever had on the roster. It is loud up there, but here in the empty chambers of the Epicenter casino, it is puritanically silent. Something pervades this sanctum of glowing slot machines though, a wicked sound like the marching of so many stained, scum-smeared boots.
Herald senses what is coming. The voice of the Master has assembled a formation of his armed guards, all of them standing in an unbreakable line, most with firearms drawn and red laser sights pointed forward. A second battalion of guards stand behind that first line, armed with ASPs and tasers that crackle with electric blue light. The faces of the guards are stony, trained professionals capable of military precision.
Herald glides out in front of his battalion, all dark, shapeless robes and the mask that keeps the man a veiled ghost, just some anonymous, mysterious specter waiting for what marches now through his domain.
He turns his head towards his guards, his voice as light as wind, totally unrecognizable.
Herald: Whatever happens, hold this line.
They’re coming now from between the rows of slot machines and abandoned table games. A feral, stinking mass, all hunched abominations that sneer through broken teeth and faced pimpled with sores and personal pestilences. They carry all manner of crude weapons, rusty pocketknives, shards of bottles, pipes pulled from the sewer tunnels some of them call home. The reek of them hits Herald’s men, creatures of lost and forgotten humanity—just vessels of hopeless hate and indelicate violence.
The Pale Rider leads them, his emaciated horse clopping slowly across the carpet of the casino. Lionheart stands beside Entragian, grinning and savage, his tongue slipping out to lick his teeth. The Coyotes are seemingly limitless at their backs, a hunting party of the grotesque and the forgotten.
The two “armies” simply regard each other for a moment, finally Entragian guiding his horse out a little ahead of his ranks, hooves digging into carpet. Herald glides out to meet him a few feet away, that faceless mask pointed up at the albino.
Herald: You never cease to surprise, Isaac. Endless machinations, warped plots, manipulative power plays that always seem to give you leverage. What brings you to me? I hope you have no ambitions to overthrow the Master…
Herald pauses, Isaac saying nothing in response. His serrated grin speaks for him.
Herald: You’re outgunned, Isaac.
The guards at Herald’s back squeeze a little tighter on the hair-trigger, their red laser sights spanning across the ranks of Isaac and Valentine’s hideous hobo soldiers.
Isaac: You’re outnumbered, Herald.
The tension seems to linger, a sort of stalemate. Stone-faced guards stare across the aisle at animalistic wretches. Leather gloved hands grasp tighter to ASPs. Grubby claws caress makeshift shivs and lengths of broken chain.
Isaac: I’m not here for that. Not yet. Your World Heavyweight Champion currently lies immobile on your Master’s canvas. His beastly blood will leave a nasty stain. Did you see, Herald? Did you watch the belittling of the beast?
Herald: What do you want, Isaac?
Isaac leans overtop his horse, staring down into Herald’s void of a face.
Isaac: I want to finish the job. Give me Kenji Yamada on the next episode Revolution. Ensure that the World Heavyweight Championship is on the line. Those are my terms…will you be a sweetie pie and carry them to your Master, messenger boy?
Herald seems immune to Isaac’s taunts, his robed form not moving an inch.
Herald: You want Kenji on the next episode of Revolution. After you’ve nearly killed him tonight…you want him on the next show?
Isaac offers Herald a salacious wink.
Isaac: Timing is everything, messenger boy.
Herald is silent for a long time. Isaac remains on his mount, the pale horse digging front hooves lightly against the carpet. The stench of piss and filth wafts off of Isaac’s ranks, even a few of the trained guards flaring their nostrils at the awful aroma.
Heralds glides backwards, his robes flowing.
Herald: The match is yours.
We fade on Isaac sitting atop his pale horse in the barren casino.
We see a pickup truck driving recklessly in the desert in the dead of night. It barrels far away from the lights of the world behind it. After traveling for what seems like hours, it finally comes upon a row of four black Lincolns. The truck slams on the brakes, dust billowing throughout the scene. We see several men standing in front of the headlights for the Lincolns. The four men in the truck pile out, saying nothing to the men they have driven to. They open the truck bed and throw out a bloody and broken body. For a moment, it looks as if it were dead. Then…slowly…a groan escapes Diego Reyes’ bloodied mouth.
The men pick Diego up, dragging him to the feet of the men standing in front of the Lincolns. One of the men is the Herald himself. He stands there, looking down at Diego. His eyes dart up to the men.
Herald: Is he dead?
One man shakes his head no.
Herald: Can he speak?
Herald grabs Diego by his hair.
Herald: Can you speak, Diego?
Diego Reyes: ….f.fffff.f…..f.ff….
Diego Reyes: …..ffffff…ffffuuuck…fuck…you.
He chuckles, proud of himself. Herald sighs.
Herald: Did Jonas Coleman really put you up to this, Diego?
Diego Reyes: …fuck…you.
His words are stronger. He looks up at Herald. The men keep his broken arms wrapped up. His knee is bleeding on the sand. One foot is gone.
Herald: It’s been a long week, Diego. Don’t make tonight any longer.
Diego Reyes: Where…where is he?
Diego Reyes: M…M…Master.
Diego looks past Herald to the growling, booming voice behind him. A man garbed in all black, similar to Herald, with blazing orange eyes, glaring down at Diego Reyes.
The Master: You have come closer than any before you, Diego. I decided it was only fair we meet.
Diego Reyes: …hey.
Diego laughs, blood pouring from his mouth now.
The Master: Your brother, Jonas Coleman, has sealed your fate as well as his own, Diego.
Diego says nothing.
The Master: SHOOT is not a place for someone like you. It is mine. I had shown your ilk kindness, Diego. I allowed your kind to come to my paradise. I did not extend that kindness to all. Instead, you and yours spat in my face. That is what you want to do? Burn my paradise to the ground?
Diego Reyes: No…no…no…not…no…
The Master kneels down, his masked face leveled with Diego’s bloody face.
The Master: I will not let your ilk burn my paradise to the ground, Diego. No. You see, Diego, if you want a war, if you want a revolution, if you want to stand against me, you need to know two things. One, what you are fighting for. Two, what you are willing to lose.
The Master stands behind Diego, whispering in his ear.
The Master: Do you think Jonas was willing to lose you?
A thin, sharp blade erupts from Diego’s throat. Diego feels the cold metal in his hot throat. He feels everything. He can’t speak. He can’t react. His eyes grow wide and a tear finally falls from his eye, mixing with the blood pouring from his throat.
The Master: Before you bleed out, Diego, I want you to know something.
The Master slowly pulls back his hood and removes his mask. He pushes Diego over onto his back, forcing Diego to lock eyes with him. Diego reaches out uselessly. He wants to throttle the life out of the Master, but he sees the world fading from his eyes.
The Master: Your hands, feet, and head will be burned to ashes, Diego. Just like your hopes and aspirations to revolt against my will. Your body will be left out here in some pit we will dig. No one will know what became of you, Diego. You will not matter, you will not make a difference, and soon…all you love, all you believe in, will burn right along with you.
The Master steps over Diego’s body as it twitches its last few moments of life away.
The Master: They are close, my Herald. Tell the others.
Herald: Yes, my Master.
The Master pulls the hood back over his head and slides into the back of one of the Lincolns. The Herald gets into another. Soon, all of the men leave the men from the truck behind as two of them begin to dig, the other two begin to carve.