FWA 'The 18th Anniversary Show' || Promo Thread.

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SupineSnake

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Promo Deadlines:

Sunday 27th August, 23:59 Pacific Time.
Monday 28th August, 03:00AM Eastern.
Monday 28th August, 08:00AM UK.
Monday 28th August, 17:00PM Melbourne.

No extensions. Good luck!​
 
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TRUE NORTH
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Chapter One: Battle Rope
Madison was drenched in her own sweat, and there was no doubt that the cardio workout she was currently undergoing was one of the most challenging sessions of her entire life. The Young Lioness was dressed from head to toe in Under Armour training gear, so much so that you would assume she had some sort of sponsorship deal, but considering her current position it was more likely that she was simply just a fan of the product and what it provided to her.

Sydney Northstar
“Push! Keep pushing Madison! This is not the time to stop, push through the pain and don’t stop till the timer runs out.”

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Sydney had not been Madison's personal hiring choice. Instead, she had been chosen by the head office to motivate Madison in enhancing her performance and reaching a level where she could compete more effectively. Despite being just over twice Madison's age, Sydney was in incredible shape and served as a prime example for her client. In a matter of days, she demonstrated her commitment by adopting a relentless and rigorous approach to help Madison get back on track.

Madison's arms were growing increasingly heavy, yet she summoned all her stamina and strength to conquer the Battle Rope workout. With each passing second, it seemed as if a demonic hand were clawing up from the depths of hell, relentlessly striving to drag her into the underworld. Despite the timer displaying all zeros, Madison continued to push forward, as if awaiting permission to stop.

Sydney Northstar
Drop the rope Madison, you’re done! Take on some fluids and take a well earned rest.

As Madison lowered herself onto the mat and began rehydrating, the camera continued to capture her exhausted and thoroughly soaked appearance. Madison would proceed to deliver a narrator’s monologue, one that had undoubtedly been recorded at a later date.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"To put it frankly, my first few months working with FWA had proven to be massively disappointing. Despite my anticipation of a challenging transition from Karate and Taekwondo to professional wrestling, to be blunt, I was thoroughly beaten up before being thrown down a flight of stairs. With each step, the pain increased, becoming not just a physical ordeal but also a blow to my ego.

Portsmouth is where I grew up; it's where I learned everything that shaped me into the person I am today. Without the love of Nanny Pam and the guidance of Sensei Nakajima, I would never have encountered this life-changing opportunity. To stumble off track so swiftly and leave hardly any impression at all, I couldn't help but feel disheartened and disappointed in myself. Each time I looked in the mirror, a sense of embarrassment washed over me. I had never felt like such a loser before, and when I injured my ankle, a peculiar sense of relief washed over me. I had been handed an escape route; an excuse to exit stage right without actually quitting. I could attribute my shortcomings to a medical injury and never confront my failures again.

Then the guilt took over. Night after night, the nightmares arrived, making it evident that I would inflict endless torment on myself if I opted for the coward's escape. It dawned on me that I had to return from injury with an entirely new attitude and a genuine hunger for success. It also became evident that management desired my success as well. If I were to attend a Thanksgiving Dinner this year, I already know what I would be thankful for. I am thankful for this second chance."


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"The narrative monologue came to an end as Sydney concluded her stretches. Meanwhile, Madison polished off the remaining contents of her water bottle before grabbing a fresh, crisp white towel. She draped the towel over her head, using it to mop up the excess sweat that had pooled there. In a state of complete exhaustion, the sound of Sydney's voice acted like a key turning a lock, snapping Madison out of a trance-like state that had resulted from her energy levels being utterly depleted.

Sydney Northstar
So Madison, I’ve not worked with a wrestler before - so I was curious. Why did you decide to go down this route, considering your fighting skill set, couldn't you have pursued the more traditional fighting route and made a name for yourself on the continent?

Madison Gray
Honestly - I need to escape. I need to take myself somewhere completely different, with a totally different environment. As much as I loved everything I learned from my Sensei, I really felt that this line of work would really offer me a challenge. Maybe there is something wrong with me, but swimming in shark infested waters just seemed like the best option. Jumping in the deep end without even knowing how to really swim.

Sydney Northstar
Sounds brave.

Madison Gray
Or stupid

Sydney Northstar
Not what I was thinking at all.

Madison Gray
Professional or polite, you can lower the veil when you feel more comfortable. I know I’m young, but I’d rather you just give it to be blunt and brutal. Otherwise, I might have to talk to the head office and find myself a better trainer.

Sydney Northstar
You cheeky bitch!

Madison Gray
There you go! There you go!

Madison had developed a genuine comfort level with Sydney. Her past experiences with trainers had been awkward and ill-fitting, but this new partnership was showing immense promise. Surprisingly, this second attempt at training was turning out to be significantly better, even before stepping back into the ring. Just a few days of training, and with her live television appearance still pending, Madison was already sensing a marked improvement. Content with her progress, she felt she was in a much better place.

Sydney Northstar
So the real question I suppose is, what made you want to come back?

Madison Gray
Well that - that all started with a great journey.

+ + + + + + +

Chapter Two: Starting The Great Journey
Madison had grown to value that which was not fully understood, and not rely on the hopeful explanations that science was only able to offer theory rather than a definitive answer. The view that there was only one understanding of life had always seemed close minded and that if but one wild belief was real then the whole world around her could scatter like a deck of cards being thrown off a building at a great height, scattering like butterflies upon a spring breeze.

Sensei Nakajima had opened a window in Madison's mind, creating a mental clearing that allowed her to center herself and find a focus that others often lacked. However, despite the strength in her character, she struggled when it came to choosing her company. So far, she had felt lost and isolated as a member of the traveling wrestling circus. After her most recent loss, Madison decided to disappear into the nearest dive bar. Amidst the sea of bodies, she woke up with two new friends she had no recollection of meeting.

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The woman roused her with a gentle pat on the head, then extended a glass of scotch. She remarked that there was no better remedy than 'the hair of the dog,' before strolling off to the kitchen. She hummed a nondescript 80s pop song while exuding an air of confident coolness. Madison took a moment to sit up and realized she had slept on a bear rug with her head resting on a soft, red pillow. Before dwelling on the events of the previous night, she decided to take a hearty sip, embracing the natural herbal benefits that the grain-based drink offered.

Madison: Any chances of finding out where exactly I am?

The woman lifted a steaming kettle off the stove and poured the piping-hot water into a large mug, her humming continuing as she looked directly into Madison’s eyes. With the scotch beginning to work its magic, the song became more recognizable. Instead of what Madison initially thought, it was actually 'Wine, Beer, Whiskey' by Little Big Town. This realization brought a sense of comfort, even though she knew very little about country music. As a concept, country music seemed to offer solace, despite its unfamiliarity at its core.

Woman:
Seems you don’t remember much of last night then. I would have thought you would have been able to handle your drink a little bit better, especially considering how tough you were talking last night.

Madison: I don’t suppose you are actually going to give me an actual answer then?

Woman: You really don’t remember at all do you? That just makes this situation that much more cuter considering where we are or rather what we are on.

The woman walked over to one of the curtains and pulled it apart, revealing a scenic landscape that sped past at a considerable pace. As Madison approached for a closer look, the surrounding sounds and vibrations began to make sense. It dawned on her that she wasn't inside a house at all; instead, she appeared to be traveling on a train. Gazing toward the train's front and observing a bend in the tracks, she noticed steam billowing out from the locomotive's engine. This sight indicated that she was aboard a classic steam locomotive.

For some inexplicable reason, this view triggered a memory that had been obscured by last night's drunken haze. The name 'Horatia' resurfaced in her mind."

Madison: Horatia.

Horatia: Seems you’ve remembered my name.

Madison found herself being handed a large mug of black coffee.

Horatia: But I don’t think I am the best person to explain your own plan to you. You would be best drinking the rest of your coffee and then waiting for Drusthalva to wake up.

Madison: Drusthalva?

Horatia’s laugh was beautiful and to Madison’s ear she imagined this would be a similar sound to that made by sirens tempting sailors to step off their ships and explore undiscovered coves. Perhaps patience was the best option. Certainly considering the only other option to her involved jumping off a moving train at high speed and if video games alone had taught her anything it was fall damage that hurt a lot more in real life.

Horatia: Why don’t we reintroduce ourselves to each other first. Drusthalva will enjoy doing this dance a second time much more than me I feel.

+ + + + + + +

Chapter Three: Reaching For The Lights
Madison stood outside the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, sporting a smile on her face and a pair of stylish shades to shield her eyes from the intense sun. The Anniversary Show was still a few days away, but Gray had arrived early to grant herself ample time for preparation ahead of what would be the most significant wrestling match of her career.

Madison Gray:
In a few days time, I am going to find myself walking into the Kensington Oval knowing that the difference between winning and losing is a chance of challenging for title gold. An actual championship belt that could be in my grasp, that I would be able to present to the world and be given complete validation that taking this direction was the correct and that coming back from injury was the correct choice. But, I have got to be realistic and realize that just because I have the potential of becoming a champion, that doesn’t mean I am going to become one. And it doesn’t mean that I am even the person most deserving of the belt, but I am slowly starting to learn that in this industry. It doesn’t matter how much work you put in beforehand and that a perfect training regime is irrelevant. All that matters is ‘the here’. All that matters is ‘the now’. When I step into the ring, I have to wrestle like it is the last night on this planet and there will be nothing more important than my performance. This isn’t just the anniversary for the Fantasy Wrestling Alliance, this is going to become the anniversary for the first victory in my career.

The scene shifts abruptly in a swift screen wipe. Madison is now seated on the ring apron of the same ring used during the Beach Brawl event. In the background, the FWA backstage crew is dismantling the makeshift facilities that were set up for the show held at Hellshire Beach in Kingston, Jamaica.

Madison Gray: I must admit when I had made my way from the back earlier tonight - I hadn’t even been looking for a fight. I hadn’t been looking to create a violent situation for myself, but rather I just saw an opportunity present itself and I thought that perhaps some sort of program with myself and Jack the Clipper would tickle the interest of management and perhaps earn myself a future card. On the advice of my new trainer, if I want something I need to go out of my comfort zone and actually take control of a situation and make it my own. And that is exactly what I did. I didn’t come out with the intention of starting a fight with The Scissor Sisters, but when Barbara and Dyeanne charged at me I had no option left but to defend myself. I try to avoid violence, but I will use it if it means the difference between me remaining on my feet or having the absolute shit kicked out of me and being left with the taste of my own blood in my mouth. That was the moment when it became personal. That is when I knew that this Lioness wanted nothing more than to crunch that old London Bastard and deliver The Disappointed Master and bring some finality to this situation.

The scene transitions to a replay from the night when Jack the Clipper delivered a double sledgehammer strike squarely to Madison's back, catching her completely off guard. Following this, Jack shoved Madison into Blake Taylor and then exited the ring. This action sparked a brawl between Taylor and Gray, prompting backstage officials to intervene and prevent the altercation from escalating further. As the replay concludes, we return to the scene of Madison standing outside the Kensington Oval once more.

Madison Gray:
Blake you were an accident. You were never someone I planned to be involved in my story with Jack - but just like The Witcher, I suppose you are sort of a gift of surprise. We never envisaged you being part of this journey, but the powers that be have drawn you into this triangle and now I know that I need to get past yourself and Jack to be handed the opportunity of a lifetime. Heed by words. Even though I love the fans and I fight with nothing but honour, I am not going to allow anyone to steal this opportunity. This is my time. This is the era of the Young Lioness.

Madison makes a cheeky “GRRRRR” sound at the camera, before there is a fade to black.
 

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EL VENGADOR

IN

Wgjg3PcmUUgCoJkfEUgz16IpnPAd3--09dn7mbi0OXhpOVsP6M9N4BLwQtJH5WD0jIhUeqdxr7LzhmSZMrH1eAvPPCC1rc0MzyioF7d0ENE5g7Vx8Tr6ekXJO454omh9u3kZ2gVf6BbEJNK6VIxZPrc


THE DUNES OF SHRAA
Part II


“Back in Business did go as planned.

But I remain undeterred.

My journey continues.

And now I face not just one opponent…

But two?

I fear not.

I have faced more dire circumstances in my travels…”


EL VENGADOR

IN

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THE DUNES OF SHRAA
Part II
  1. The Humbling


"This is quite the haul."

Vengador waited patiently inside a simple tent at the rendezvous point as the heavily armored Clunati soldier examined his bag of bvanos pelts. "All genuine. Very nice. Well done... stranger. Where's the rest of the Squad?"

He didn't respond. Vengador simply answered with a shrug. He could've explained that he had left his partner, the Moonlight Bandit, high and dry in the dunes. Buried under the overbearing weight of a bvano caracas. He highly doubted the soldier would care one way or another.

"Heh, I think I can connect the dots. No bother... you've earned this." The soldier closed the bag of pelts and tossed over a different bag in the direction of Vengador. The masked bounty hunter caught it and untied the ribbon that sealed it. Inside was a plethora of silver coins. Clunati lunarites. This would come in handy as he ventured back into the Dunes of Shraa.

Vengador and the soldier parted ways with a simple nod as he walked back out.

Shraa's unique triple moons cast an eerie glow across the evening desert landscape. With another chapter closed in his journey, it was time to begin the next.

Except... perhaps it wasn't.

As he would quickly find out, he was not alone.

Emerging from the shadows, the Moonlight Bandit had returned. Vengador's hand instinctively hovered near his sidearm as he himself stared down the barrel of her blaster. "Hand over the bag," the Bandit's voice carried an unmistakable air of authority, her firearm steady in her grip.

A knowing smile tugged at the corner of Vengador's lips beneath his mask. A lesser man perhaps would've been fearful in this situation. Worried about the vengeance of a scorned partner. But he was calm. Somewhat proud of the Bandit’s resolve. After all, Vengador knew a thing or two about vengeance... but this wasn't what this would be about. "Impressive," he responded calmly.

Bandit tilted her head, clearly not sure what to make of Vengador's cavalier response to being moments away from being shot down for his transgressions. "I said, hand it over. I deserve that bounty just as much as you."

Vengador looked down at the bag of lunarites. "I suppose I've underestimated you, kid."

Bandit's stance remained unyielding, her attention solely focused on Vengador. "You're damn right you did. I'm not some rookie you can walk all over."

Vengador chuckled softly. "Very well. Here, have it." He tossed her the bag. The Bandit lowered her weapon in order to catch it with her free hand.

Still cautious, she lifted the weapon back up. "That's it? You're just giving up that easy?"

He shook his head. "I'm not giving up. I'm just man enough to know when I've been beat. You're right, kid. You've earned that just as much as me."

As the tension began to ease, Bandit lowered her weapon slightly. "This didn't quite go the way I expected..."

"Trust me, things rarely do. You have to learn to go with it."

"So what, you're just going to go now? No currency to your name?"

"Don't be so sure," Vengador responded as he opened up his hand to reveal he had pocketed three of the coins for himself. "I'm always prepared."

"You're just full of surprises, aren't you?"

"My mission isn't about the money... but it certainly comes in handy at times. But this should hold me over."

Bandit finally holsters her weapon completely before tossing the bag of coins into her own bag. "This doesn't mean we're allies, you know."

Vengador simply nodded.

"But... I imagine our paths will cross again someday."

"The multiverse is vast... yet quite small at the same time. One way or another... I think we'll be seeing each other again, Bandit. I'd offer a word of advice, but it appears you are quite capable of taking care of yourself."

Under her own mask, the Bandit smiled proudly. "Damn right I am."

"Until next time," Vengador tilted his head in a sign of respect to the other masked bounty hunter.

"I'll be prepared for it," her eyes met his with a hint of intrigue.

With their wary truce established, Bandit turned and disappeared into the night just as quickly as she appeared. Vengador watched her fade into the shadows. During his travels across the realms, very few had bested him the way Bandit just had. And for that, she had earned his respect.

But for now, there was more work to be done. His mission remained. As determined as ever, Vengador began his trek through the dunes of Shraa once more.







  1. The Prophecy

The suns blazed overhead, casting long shadows across the dunes as Vengador continued his slog through the sand. Each footstep felt heavier than the next. As he moved forward, a curious sound reached his ears. It was a voice. Raspy and coming from every direction.

Vengador reached down and retrieved his blaster from his side, pulling it forward as he scanned the surroundings. Soon enough, a figure came into view, sitting atop a small sand dune.

It was a man. His clothes tattered and torn. His eyes clouded a milky white as clear indication of his blind condition. Despite his lack of sight, the man seemed to immediately know of Vengador's prescense. Vengador lowered his weapon as he approached.

"Ah, the traveler has arrived," the blind man's voice was calm and reassuring. "I've been expecting you."

Vengador halted a face paces away, eyeing the blind man cautiously. "And who are you?"

"I am but a vessel of the future," the blind man's lips offered a serene smile.

Vengador shook his head, his skepticism evident. It would appear whoever this man is had clearly lost his mind being trapped out in this desert for so long. A known consequence for many vagrants who pass through these dunes. "The future? Really? My friend, I believe you've been out in the sun for too long."

But the blind mind simply laughed. A laugh that strangely seemed to echo across the desert. "I can understand your doubts, traveler. But I assure you. I see what others cannot."

"Okay," Vengador decided to humor him. "And what is it that you claim to see?"

"A great blizzard," the blind man's tone grew solemn. "A blizzard that will sweep across all of Shraa... destroying everything in its path! A tempest of ice and snow... LAYING WASTE TO THE ENTIRE REALM."

Despite the serious nature of the blind man's prophecy, Vengador laughed. "A blizzard? In Shraa? I know you're blind... but surely you feel this overbearing heat! Wake up man. A blizzard in this realm is as likely as both suns freezing over."

The blind man shook his head. His smile remained unchanged. "You doubt me. I understand. But you of all people... a traveler... who has witnessed many different worlds... you should know that anything is possible. To expect the unexpected. I assure you. I HAVE SEEN IT. AND SOON SO WILL YOU!"

Vengador's patience was wearing thin. "That's enough. I have no time for your prophecies."

"You are a man of action, I understand. But you have been warned, traveler. The blizzard is coming... and if you are not prepared, it will defeat you."

With that, the blind man fell silent, his milky eyes fixed in Vengador's direction even though they saw nothing. But Vengador simply scoffed and continued as he walked past the man and resumed his journey.







III. The Blizzard

Vengador's steps were steady, his focus fixed on the shifting sands of Shraa as he continued his solitary trek. Despite his skepticism, he couldn't entirely dismiss the blind man's words as they continued to weigh on his mind. But his thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a sensation that defied all reason.

A cold gust of wind brushed against his skin, chilling him to the bone.

"What?" He questioned himself. He couldn't possibly be feeling what he thought he was feeling. The Shraan suns were certainly playing a trick on him.

His eyes widened as he looked around in astonishment. It was impossible. Inconceivable. Yet... before his very eyes, the desert landscape was transforming.

Snowflakes had begun to fall.

At first it was just a few. But those few quickly grew into a flurry. The soft hiss of snow hitting the heated sands could be heard all around him, giving Vengador the proof that it wasn't just his eyes that were deceiving him.

The snowfall intensified, blurring the once familiar golden sandy horizon into a white, frozen landscape.

"This can't be happening," he muttered to himself. Almost as if in response to his own disbelief, the snowfall grew stronger and stronger. The persistent desert wind was replaced with a chilling howl.

The blind man's prophecy was coming true. The desert was quickly consumed by the relentless blizzard. Vengador found himself now navigating through a world of ice and snow instead of heat and sand. He quickly could feel the numbness growing in his feet as his desert gear was no match for the intensity of the cold. He knew he would not last long in these conditions.

In the distance, Vengador spotted a faint glimmer of light. It was a village nestled amidst the wintry expanse. With his instincts driving him forward, he trudged through the snow and made his way to the village looking for some shelter from the storm.

Upon reaching the village, Vengador was met with a scene that was both heartbreaking and surreal. The villagers, bundled in tattered cloaks and huddled together for warmth, struggled to adapt to their new reality. Buildings were weighed down by layers of snow, and frost clung to every surface.

Approaching the villagers, Vengador was met with cautious stares from the villagers. They were unsure of this strange man who had made their way to their home. But they were too cold to do much about it. Vengador approached a group huddled around a fire barrel where he was approached by a middle-aged man, his face visibly worried. "I come seeking refuge," he explained.

"These are dire times," the man said sadly, "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that, stranger. I'm not sure how much help we can be. We can barely take care of ourselves right now."

"Do you know what's going on? Have you ever seen anything like this?"

The man shook his head. "Shraa has never seen snow. In Clunati, sure... they get snow, but not like this. We've been cursed."

"Cursed? What do you mean?"

The man seemed afraid to even say anything further. "I've said too much."

"No," Vengador demanded, "tell me. What's going on here?"

"I can't," fear seemed to be overtaking the man's thoughts, "I can't... she will make it worse.."

"She? She who? Answer me!" A frustrated Vengador took the man by the collar of his frost covered jacket.

"Unhand him," another man approached, opening the doors of the village's center building. The man was clearly of high authority of the village, as he quickly got the attention of all those around. His clothes were well kept and untouched by the cold as some warmth emanated from his dwelling. "What brings you to my village, stranger?"

Vengador released his grip and approached the apparent head of the village. "Look, I mean your people no harm. I'm just passing through... I have my own reasons... my own journey I'm on... but this storm came on out of nowhere. Once it passes, I can be on my way again."

"I'm afraid this storm isn't going to just pass."

"How can you possibly know that?"

"Because... it's not natural."

"I'm afraid I don't understand. That man said the village had been... cursed?"

"Aye. I'm afraid so." The village leader turned, facing Ravenwood Rock - the mountain at the edge of the desert that overlooked the village. "Upon Ravenwood Rock lives the Weather Witch."

"Weather Witch?" Vengador didn't question the existence of witches. As the prophet had spoken, Vengador had seen a lot in the worlds he had traveled to. Witches were not new to him. And it certainly would take a dark magic to transform the dunes into hills of ice. So his exclamation wasn’t one of dismay but more of curiosity. He wanted more information about this witch in particular.

"Yes. She was once one of us. A villager who turned to dark magic in search of power. She resented our way of life, and now she seeks to make us suffer. She has unleashed this blizzard on us. It's killing our crops... our people are freezing... and she won't stop. We've tried to appease her but nothing has worked."

The leader sighed. While there was a hint of superiority to him, he clearly did care about his people and their plight. "I'm afraid if your journey requires a clear path... it won't be coming. Your journey may have reached its end."

Vengador shook his head. He didn't accept that as an answer. "No. This is not the end. I've encountered worse obstacles than this..."

The leader's eyes lit up. "You will help us?"

Vengador nodded. “I will defeat the witch and end this blizzard… your people will be able to go back to their life and I’ll get to go on my way.”

“We would be ever so grateful. We don’t have much but we would come up with a reward for your efforts.”

“A reward would not be necessary…”

“But it would be earned. It is the least we could do.”

Vengador nodded, accepting those terms.

With the villagers' plea for salvation echoing in his ears, Vengador set his sights on the looming mountain where the Weather Witch's cave awaited. Once again his journey had taken an unexpected turn but he was up for the challenge.







IV. The Witch

Fueled by the images of the villagers huddling together in search of what little warmth they could find along with his own desire to continue his own quest, Vengador made his way up Ravenwood Rock. The trail was treacherous but for him it was worth it. The hours it took to make his ascent felt like an eternity, but he would finally make it to the mouth of the cave.

Grabbing a torch light along the side of the wall, Vengador cautiously walked into the cave, following a series of paths that eventually led into an open chamber that contained the source of the curse.

The Weather Witch.

She sat upon a black throne in the shadows of the cave, her robes tattered much like that of the blind man he met before. In fact, exactly like those of the blind man. Her eyes beamed through the darkness a glowing icy blue. "Traveler, you have finally arrived."

"It was... you?"

"I tried to warn you! But your type never listens. Too proud and stubborn. Such arrogance. Just like those fools down below... I warned them... but they wouldn't listen!"

Vengador's voice remained firm as he spoke. "You've brought suffering to those innocent people. End the curse, now."

The witch's laughter echoed through the chamber, a sound that sent shivers down Vengador's spine. "Innocent? INNOCENT? You know nothing about their innocence. They turned their backs on me. They cast me out! Now they will know all about the bitter cold of isolation!"

Vengador grabbed his blaster off his hip. "I know all about vengeance. But you've gone too far. You turned to dark magic and it has corrupted you. The people you are harming aren't all bad people. They don’t deserve what you are doing to them."

The witch's eyes narrowed. "Don't speak to me as though you understand the depths of my pain! You know nothing of my pain!"

"I know of pain," Vengador's mask hid his expression, but his voice was resolute. "I know the pain of loss. But I also know the consequences of unchecked power. And your curse is bringing chaos to an entire realm. I will not allow you to destroy this place."

"You think you can stop me? You are even more foolish than I thought!"

Vengador lifted up his blaster, aiming it at the witch. "Lift the curse. Or else you leave me no other choice..."

The witch's laughter transformed into a hiss, her hands raising in an incantation. "You cannot fathom the strength of my magic, outsider."

His finger began to pull back on the trigger. "I don't need to fathom it. I just need to stop it." He pulled back, sending a blast right toward the witch, who quickly cast a barrier spell to block it.

The witch lifted up her arms, bringing about a huge gust of wind that caused Vengador to stagger backward, nearly falling down. He struggled to keep his grip on his blaster as the hurricane force gusts forced him back. But he found his footing, digging his boots into the dusty ground as he gripped his blaster tightly. He fired up three rapid blasts, each the witch was able to avoid as she began to conjure up a lightning storm.

"You cannot stop me! And now because of your transgressions... the curse will be even stronger! I will BURY THE VILLAGE COMPLETELY!"

The witch cackled as her eyes began to turn yellow to match the lightning that now struck down toward Vengador.

The masked bounty hunter rolled out of the way, narrowly avoiding electrocution as he rolled to his knees and fired off two quick blasts...

One striking the witch's right hand.

The other struck her left.

The cave trembled with a blinding light as the Weather Witch cried out. The lightning stopped. As did the wind. The clouds disappeared and from outside the cave, the sunlight began to come in once again.

The Weather Witch fell to her knees in front of her black throne, both of her hands rendered useless. Unable to use them to cast her black magic spells.

"I told you. The curse ends here."

Vengador placed his boot across her chest, and fired one last fatal blast from his weapon.







VI. The Reward?

Returning to the village, Vengador was met with awe and gratitude as the blizzard gave way to clear skies. The villagers rejoiced, their homes and fields slowly thawing.

The village leader approached Vengador with gratitude. "You saved us, stranger. We are forever in your debt."

Underneath his mask, Vengador couldn't help but crack a smile. The job had been done. The battle had been won. He had overcome both the witch and the blizzard.

His journey could continue.

Well... there was something about a reward.

"Oh..." the leader began to back pedal, "yeah.. about that reward... there's actually... one more thing you might be able to help with..."

Shit.

Here we go again.
 
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Static.

Darkness.

It's a cold summer's night in a vast, empty and dilapidating park in the east end of London, England; the grass sways with the chilling breeze that floats through the air, with the vibrant sounds of owls hooting and cicadas chirping, ringing throughout, the air whilst the light from the moon and stars shines from above. In the middle of one of the many open spaces within the park stands a man, surrounded only by the swaying grass and staring straight forward into the night. A large, heavyset fellow that stares down at us with a piercing stare that lingers on us for a little bit too long, unblinking... It's actually a little bit uncomfortable, actually.

"My name is Jack Anthony Noble, and all my life, I wanted to be famous."

The scene cuts abruptly to fan footage at a short-time British independent show, circa 2011; a much younger and clean-shaven looking Jack, Noble battered and bruised, stands in the middle of the ring, with his hands raised in victory, waiting for the adoration of his home town crowd.

Instead, he gets something altogether different.

A chant, loud and mocking and more than anything else-haunting. It's the type of ridicule that would follow any pro wrestler around for years like a bad smell...

"CLIPPER!"

"CLIPPER!"

"CLIPPER!"


We hear Jack's hardened, grizzled voice as we seem to flash forward through a decade and a half worth of Jack the Clipper's UK wrestling career. He walks down the ramp with comically oversized clippers and brightly coloured wrestling tights as he does a variety of fun little comedy spots.

"I knew I was made for better things. I had a calling; I just didn't know what as....it wasn't singing, can't fucking act....kind of running out of choices, ain't we?"

Suddenly, the bright, colourful, playful montage becomes a lot darker a lot faster, and the picture starts to turn black and white as the smiles on the crowd's faces at the fan-friendly antics of a fun-loving barber...quickly turn into horror at Jack's antics.

"OH MY GOD, JACK, NO DON'T-!"

"JACK THE CLIPPER HAS LOST HIS BLOODY MIND! SOMEONE TAKE THOSE SCISSORS OFF HIM"

"THIS MAN IS A VIOLENT LUNATIC! HE NEEDS TO BE LOCKED UP!"


As you can imagine, the clips have gotten more and more brutal as Jack the Clipper unleashes all his pent-up shame and humiliation on the wrestling world...before we go back to the park where we see Jack sitting on a graffiti-filled bench, he feels the air brushing against his clothing, consisting of a black leather jacket with a black t-shirt underneath, denim jeans with a metallic silver belt around his waist and black leather boots. She continues staring forward, her lips slightly curling upward into a smile as he runs a hand through his clearly thinning hair.

"Wrong Place. Wrong Time"

Jack growls those words into the camera, which is almost shoved into his face, the low volume of his voice not matching the aggression.

"But maybe I need to take a step back for a moment; maybe I need you fuckers to know where I'm coming from."

Jack pauses, sits back, and growls once again.

"Fifteen years. Fifteen. Shagging. Years.Fifteen years I've spent years hustling, Fifteen years of car trips, and thousands of rings I've helped set up in small bingo halls all around the world have paid off. Fifteen years of being made a FUCKING jokes. Fifteen years of hearing you wankers chant "CLIPPER. CLIPPER. CLIPPER" everywhere I go. Fifteen years, I've spent every morning of my life standing at the foot of the stairs leading up to my apartment, dreading the climb, knowing that every single step is going to be a record of my struggle, that every single time I move my legs, I'm going to get a sharp, painful reminder of what this industry is doing to me. And I climb... and I cl]imb... and I climb... and I feel like I'm eighty years old, and my legs are already broken and worn down, and my body is screaming at me with every movement, "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ALL FOR!?..." and I honestly thought it was for, this? An FWA contract....because that's what everyone wants, isn't it? FWA? The glitz and glamour? The big money? All that shit?

Jack leans back in his chair and rubs his face.

"Every time I went up and down those stairs, my body told me what this industry is doing to me. But what I kept telling myself is that I'm doing this because I have to make a mark. A mark that FWA couldn't ignore. And it may have taken years - goddamn years - to even be a small blip on this company's radar, but it's gonna all pay off because I'm here now, and I paid my dues. Now FWA and its fans are the ones paying for Jack The Clipper., and we're going to make sure they get their money's worth."

Jack seems to bitterly smirk to himself as he chuckles and shakes his head as if he can't believe how stupid that thought was...

So I finally get to Fight Night...Roll on to Jamaica, and when I get there, I notice something... I see all these punks bragging about their good looks and all the women they get and how rich they are....and then after I have my match...after all is said and done...I have my match..my big debut...my big moment. The moment I've been working for a decade and a half...and what happens? Two snot-nosed little punks come down to the ring and call ME out. Try to take MY moment...

Jack the Clipper practically snarls the words out as he leans forward in place.

"Like...I said...Wrong place...Wrong...time. See Blake fucking Taylor. Maddy, Fucking Gray.... you've become a victim of the 'wrong place, wrong time' saying because look at where you're endin' up this week? And it's not just because you both had the balls to try and trample over my debut and try to make your names on Jack the Clipper's head. That would be bad enough. You're standing between me and an opportunity….A SHOT. At the Television title. A chance at gold ! And trust me when I say: That's NOT a spot you want to be standing. You've both pulled the short straw; I guess management was playing Russian roulette. Who's gonna face Jack The Clipper for the chance at the big dance?' he said. So he was linin' up pictures of the roster on the wall, and I want you to imagine this with me- "

Jack The Clipper leans forward again and waves his hand around as if setting up the scene in front of us before

"A headshot of each FWA roster member sittin' 'round the locker room, trying to figure out who was due a trip to the Clipper's shop...Who they wanted to try and topple-"

Jack stopped mid-sentence, stopping himself and shaking his head as he reached into his leather jacket, pulled out a pair of scissors and started spinning them around and around on his forefingers...round and round faster and faster as he spoke.

"Wait, no, no, no. That's not the question they were asking. There was no 'Who do I want to try and stop Jack The Clipper?'; it was more like 'Who do I sacrifice? and the scissors?"

In one smooth, well-practised flick of the wrist, He stopped the scissors, leaving them to stop facing right at the camera.

They pointed towards you two...

He jabs the sharp and rusty point of the scissors at the camera to underline his point.

"Madison Grey, Blake Taylor. You were involved in a game of Russian Roulette that you didn't even know about, and you lost. Your life was put on the line, and now you both get tossed into the pit with the lion that's gonna rip you apart. You're gonna be lucky to just survive the pain I'm bringing your way because you need to understand, when you walk down that ramp come show time…. You're not walking into a ring where you've been honing your craft for the last year. Instead? You're walking into my house. My moment. That I've been working years to get to..and you think in one night either of you can take this moment from me? See ya gotta understand, both of ya think you're ya going be in for a fight, but you're not stepping into the ring; at the anniversary show, that ring is gonna turn into a place like this"

Jack motions around him and his surroundings, a broken-down street void of any and all light.

" And in places like these. it's where I was raised. Where girls and boys like Grey and Taylor don't go unless they're looking for a bad time, places just like this are what made me the way I am today. See, I was born on the streets of East London. I'm not like most people who got into this industry. I never got to be on TV because I had a supermodel's face and looked like I belonged on some billboard, and I never got to fall down to the ground on some padding whenever I got knocked down, breaking in. I ain't gotta be as looking as Maddie or Blake Taylor. No. No. Growing up, I got to hang around in barber shops and bars because people knew that alcohol and hair ran in the family's bloodstream. True story; I once saw my father get cracked upside the skull with a damn bat. When he ran into the wrong people-"

Her voice cracks; clearly, this reminiscing of her times back in Lonon isn't the most heartwarming thing for Jack to be doing in an alleyway that looks like it belongs in London, nonetheless. Jack's eyes are half open, his anger once again rearing its ugly head when he's supposed to be relaxed. He takes a deep breath, willing herself to stay calm. He prided himself on being a levelheaded spearhead of war. But that's not the Jack The Clipper he can be. Taylor and Maddie are going to find that out first-hand. Holding a hand over his mouth to try to calm herself, He would point directly at the camera as she spoke, only briefly.

" You either die in the gutter, or you fight and claw your way out. So that's what I did. But please believe me when I say I'm not bragging about how I deserve this, and I deserve that just because I survived the streets, the dirt and grim. There's no reason for me to try and let people know just how dangerous I am, or how much damage it takes to put me out. I couldn't even if I wanted to because nobody on the FWA roster can outfight me. Again. That is not bragging. It's a fact. It's a fact that I will back up again and again….So what makes you think you're different from the rest of them, Taylor? Maddie?"

Her razor-sharp eyes twitch in the direction of the camera. You could practically feel the heart bubbling from the fire burning in her eyes as you could just tell he was staring right at his opponents.

"Maddie Grey, You come out to the ring, playing dress up, in ya little karate gi. Do you think this is a game?! Listen to me, Maddy, loud and clear because I want something that isn't my fist to go through your head. This is not an anime. This is not a game. This is MY life. I don't play games. People like me have been through hell and back, not only in this business but in life. Why? After doing this since I was 15 years old. why? After all the janky promotors cheatin' me out of my money, why? After spending a decade getting slammed on broken glass and hit by chairs. Why do I keep doing this? I do it because it's not about the money or fame. It's about believing in pro wrestling. It's about my lifework. It's about keeping the respect and respect in this business. Don't you DARE make a game out of that, Maddy Grey? Do you think you can just skip on down to the ring after getting your ass kicked for months and disrespect me?! "So help me God, if you try any of that Judo shit. I will grab your arm, tear your arm out of your socket and BEAT you with it."

Jack pauses to make sure those words are empathized….Yeah, this bitch is scary... Jack's tone was somewhat chilling in a very matter-of-fact way. Like he was describing the weather, it was clear that he was not a fan of his opponents.

"But please don't misunderstand me…. That's just the side of you I DON'T like; I gotta admit, taking all those hits in the first year of your career and picking yourself back up? I see a lot of myself in that. We've both fighters; I've seen you the last few weeks; there's been a fire lit under you. I saw it when you stomped down to the ring and challenged me….You have PASSION. You have a point to prove. You're a fighter. Just like me….and with stakes like these. With a potential SHOT at the TV title hanging in the balance….A fight is what it's going to be. You're a girl on a mission. You're looking for redemption. To prove yourself...but at my expense……"

Jack frowns just a little and shakes his head at the mere thought of that before turning his face back to the camera, jabbing his hands towards the camera in rhythm with the words coming out of his mouth.

"I refuse to be a stepping stone for your quest for atonement. Not now. Not ever. Not when I have my own quest...My journey to glory…..And there's not a man walking the earth that can say that The Clipper never let an opportunity pass him by…..because who knows when I'll get this kind of shot again?"

Jack rubs his hands through his hair and takes a deep breath, not wanting to entertain the prospect of losing.

" Maddy, you may be a fighter….But you don't know the first thing about a real war 'cause you never got to fight a real warrior.But that changes this week because it's not just any warrior you get to go to battle with. I'm not just somebody they found on the streets; I'M JACK THE FUCKING CLIPPER. Winning the TV TILES means EVERYTHING to me. EVERYTHING-EVERYTHING-EVERYTHING! Because. No one is more passionate about wrestling than me! No one loves it more than me! And when the pressure is on when the stakes are high….I DON'T make mistakes."

Jack explodes with those last few words, no longer being able to contain this angry excitement he felt. His face slowly turned red with sheer passion, and his voice became nothing more than a Primal roar that would be enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. Eventually, he lapsed into silence, getting his breath back, his voice regaining its calm edge.

"But hey, I believe it or not, Maddie, I don't hate ya. I don't, hell I like you a lot more than that other wanker. Blake, what's his face..."

Jack trails off, and his brow furries just a little bit as he looks confusingly at the camera.

"Who the fuck is Blake Taylor? No, really, I want to know, who the hell are you? No one I've ever heard of, that's for damn certain, and it's not like I don't keep my ear to the ground; I know a lot of them bullshit wrestling schools, two-bit promotions and ass-hole trainers. I haven't heard any one of them ever say the name Blake Taylor. I never heard any tell of you cutting your teeth in some shitty bingo hall. If I didn't know any better, I'd say this triple threat match. That's your first match ever. But that CAN'T be the case because I know for a FACT no one in their right mind would try and cut their teeth at MY expense?"

Jack the Clipper can't help but laugh; he might not like Taylor Blake, but he is amused by his ego.

"You know, I should hate your kind Blake. I really should; some big dick from the world of boxing and MMA comes swaggering into the world of pro wrestling and expect to just dominate from jump street. That should really piss me off, but it doesn't...It makes me laugh. You ain't the first, and you ain't the last who thinks that just because they're fast with their fists and slapped around a few pinheads on Vegas. They can do what I can do better than I can. Here's the thing, though: In case you didn't notice, I ain't some brain-dead prick who paid six figures to dance around a ring once every nine months trying to avoid getting hit. I'm a goddamn pro wrestler. I don't come into your world looking for a payday. I don't fly down to Vegas, knock on Dana White's door, cap in hand, and say, "Golly Gee, Mr. White, can I be an MMA fighter? I promise to go on on all the shitty podcasts and listen to the host's stupid opinions like I give a shit about how much Joe Rogan hunts. I stay out of your world, but apparently, you ain't smart enough to stay out of my world. I get it; you're top of the world right now. Thinking you can just tap me with one of those lethal right hands, and I'll be down for the count, but let me tell ya something for nothing. You slap me, I'm going to slap you back...TWICE as hard, sunshine."

Jack growls those words out, a savage little smirk on his face as he squares his shoulders and grips his hands together.

" So I guess... It all comes down to whether Maddy wants her redemption more than I want my glory. Does Black Taylor need to feed her ego more than I need to prove myself? See, I feel like that's a misconception about me. People think I go out of my way to hurt people and cut hair. That I'm cold and heartless. No, I'm just willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I'm the one with my hand raised. In the heart of battle, I have no mercy….And Taylor and Maddie have to ask themself, are they willing to go as far as I am?"

Jack stands up in place and calmly walks forward and, without breaking eye contact with the camera, drags his foot horizontally in front of him….Before he leans forward toward the camera sharply and grabs it with two hands until his entire face fills the screen

"THERE'S THE LINE IN THE SAND YA MUGS! CROSS IT! STEP OVER IT! GIVE ME A BATTLE! MAKE YOURSELF FAMOUS! YOU WANNA CALL ME OUT? YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR NAME ON ME?! THEN DON'T JUST TALK ABOUT IT. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. PUNCH ME IN THE EYE. MAE ME BLEED. BREAK MY NOSE. GIVE ME A WAR! BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T?! THEN I'LL DO THE SAME TO YOU. I WILL PUT YOU IN MY BARBER CHAIR, CUT YOU DOWN AND MAKE YOU HUMBLE TO THE CLIPPER."

…..And just like that, like someone had just flipped a switch in his brain, his face suddenly goes eerily calm, his eyes tranquil…..and his parting words barely rise above a whisper

"....And I WILL get MY shot at the television title."

Jack shoots a devilish look into the camera as his upper lip curls and his teeth become barred like an angry hound straining to get off her leash.

" Wrong place….Wrong time…."

With those final words, Jack puts his hand over the camera lens to end the video. Spine-tingling words to end it as well, Jack was looking to send a verbal message to his opponents before he delivered the physical one this week. Who will prevail and move on to the number one contender triple threat?​
 
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Trios Match Promo:


Pokémon_Mystery_Dungeon_YOKAI_Rescue_Team.png



Pokémon_Mystery_Dungeon_YOKAI_Rescue_Team.png

S54HVYzh-lO17R1NvtDCx2ABBBEaAdsvgScHIT0aKgmYWvqV09W9FINap8Tug4LABsN-7PAbJaBjeq_VFgiZpyAjjTGENLKTMVY4svY9phBNXneNll9FJ_a0HXm05mYCiMNEZGJpD9DVXOZSKgigl38


We join our heroes making their way through the picturesque Beach cave, the home to many water type Pokemon. Though often used as a dungeon for many new teams to hone their skills, today’s adventures lead a more experienced team here, Team YOKAI. The three Pokemon walk with their paws through the sand, ready for adventure. No matter the challenge, big or small, Team YOKAI are always ready to help Pokemon in need.

On the left is a Pokemon often seen as the heart and soul of the team. Her eight tails flow behind her with her warm brown and orange fur. This mysterious fire type has no issues fighting through type disadvantages and considers the team to be her closest friends. She is:


ql2hWYsRKKbL6qzNRGD7KNVJQtDbq5WcV73HtuvvlcHJV0qHgl6a4XQN0YgFbNIzUPTMdOdroFMFzbn8Wb3E294ZG1bCtO1lCQhYeLu6VtwZpBv9rl3Db7Nyq6oMVEE02ZiMtIpxbe9lVKqg8cIpdg4


Katsu the Vulpix!

To the right is a bubbly pink Pokemon, bouncing happily while flicking her tail. She’s hyperactive and cheerful, but don’t let her disposition fool you, she’s the powerhouse of the team, ready to double slap all bad Pokemon into oblivion. She is.

fN2YLS0wb9GtyPXYGN0GHw4R3Jl4W-bJFQBbubV6fpQF9_vXWL2Vb8HQAD4CDrKb6YCibx3nn-UXxMd7nLnH9o-KEsnFZB47ppeGgvbSB3VRBIusrrjoNJBotM1ThBGPIMG0HpWr288YwargDIdKuWM


Ririko the Skitty!

In the middle is a Pokemon who, occasionally, acts as a leading voice of the team, though not officially the leader. She is daring and fast, running like a yellow lightning bolt as she heads into any challenge and to lift her team up. She is:

0-Q4lfImhAxRTURVo04kr9NPDBnLkY7-2vbgWYyA168UEj4i2RDoIQq8-U7Mxncg2287LaUgdIJ3qpHjleAVyDzfD9DKSgsgTd1jZHUtxocDDUkd0ivJHA8ctCwF1VQmkzstpFHcsIz-7msRk22prX0


Cali the Pikachu!

Together, they make up a rising rescue team. A rescue team is a team of three Pokemon who make it their mission to help Pokemon in need, exploring dungeons to help rescue Pokemon, find treasures, and so much more.

Entering the damp cave, water drips from the ceiling as they see some Pokemon in the distance, a Shellder and a Kabuto, seemingly a major challenge to the fire type of the team, Katsu, but the fire-fox seems eager for the challenge. The Skitty looks over to her teammate and tilts her head.

“Are you sure you should be taking on this dungeon with us?”

Katsu nods her head. She kicks up some sand with her paws.

“I should be fine, Ririko. I have Energy Ball in my moves for a reason. I have plenty of type coverage.”

Cali clarifies what her friend asks. She turns to the Vulpix and explains the actual concern.

“It’s not that. We know you can handle yourself, but we know you got challenged to take on Destiny Tower. It’s the hardest dungeon, and you can only take it on by yourself. Shouldn’t you rest? We can handle this.”

The Vulpix shakes her head. “No. I’m content helping my friends.”

“But this dungeon is SO easy!” Ririko groans and pouts. “Even a level five Pokemon can clear it.”

“Maybe I like spending time with my teammates? This team has always been us three.” Katsu looks off into the dungeon. “It does not matter how far and wide we are from each other, we are always going to work together to achieve our dreams and help each other to get stronger.”

The Vulpix flicks her eight tails and raises her nose. She is set in her ways.

“And did you read Dugtrio’s letter? It sounds like he’s being tortured down here by this group ‘Menage.’”

“They don’t sound THAT scary.” Ririko comments before she looks back at her tail.

The Pikachu sighs, her friend is clearly set on doing this rescue mission. She twitches her nose and sniffs.

“Smells like he’s at the end of this dungeon. I think. There’s also a lot of fish masking it.” Cali stretches. “Well, sooner we get through this, the sooner we can let you rest for the tower-”

Both Cali and Katsu stop as they hear the sound of panting. They turn around and their skitty friend is chasing her tail. They exchange glances before Katsu clears her throat.

“-Ahem, Ririko!”

The cat Pokemon stops spinning and turns to her friends. She is dizzy and practically falls down.

AsHNdDQJY1xh8efMmAigCHmZktCaBO7BJPY7xEn08lYldqlmFCUIADivV6lm0PrbZzURdPHPy5Q8W_OBla9nTSao2qqNxBh3RJIpr8c-nQZWPHPiSFLu4TGJhL3hWHZLligZV3yMo9IgBa-uY78GLlQ


“Hehe… Sorry. It was just standing there being funny, I had to chase it…”

Cali rolls her eyes and grabs her friend by the paw, pulling her up. Katsu motions with her head for them to follow and the trio head down into the dungeon. The challenge ahead is not daunting for the established rescue team. Most Pokemon who would fight them would go down easy. Whether to a thunderbolt from Cali, a surprisingly overpowered double slap from Ririko, or Katsu pulling from her type coverage with the grass type move energy ball.

As they get to a new floor, the adventurers explore, searching and finding various items on the ground. Berries, apples, some money, the usual for a lower leveled dungeon like this. But better to stock up just out of precaution in case the danger becomes greater than expected. The trio approach a new room in the dungeon and they see the sand and rock of the dungeon floor covered by decorative carpet. On it are various items. Ririko’s eyes practically sparkle upon seeing them. She excitedly runs over to look and play with them. Her friends follow. It’s a shop, and greeting them is a friendly lizard with his green scales along with a golden trim.

Kecleon.

_cMFIzZwVBg08s-40btjmstTdmwIvy7ob7tuvhZbfqyPvno7JKrLNGkGM9iBtOcA7ECC0qGtwPWZAMhGU7E4NJ-KiFyVYWw-UZL5LOBjITgHGeSN8ZK98gF-aYC2dMmEO1lu6wkp3Jj5yQdeX2QQnpY


“Hello there. Welcome to Kecleon’s shop! Feel free to take a look around! Just make sure you talk to me and pay!”

The Pokemon take the chance to rest in the shop, Katsu sniffs around the materials for sale. Some of it includes food, various orbs, and a scope item used to boost stats. Ririko sniffs at an apple and prepares for a bite, but Katsu puts her paw over her friend’s mouth.

“Wait, we need to pay for that…”

“Aww. It looked really yummy though.”

Rolling her eyes, the Vulpix chuckles and looks through the items. The Kecleon tilts his head and asks something.

“Say, are you three Team YOKAI? A silver ranked team?”

Cali the Pikachu turns her head towards Kelceon and shows a big grin.

“You bet’cha! I guess we’ve been earning a decent reputation so far then, eh?”

She scratches the top of her head with her tail.

“My brother, Kecleon, says you guys frequent his shop in town all the time.”

“That’s because somebody loves to eat our berry supply before missions.”

Katsu gives a sassy grin to Ririko. The cat pokemon pouts.

“Well you guys love to start missions around lunch time.”

“There are not many rescue teams that are capable of reaching a silver rank.” The chameleon pokemon mentions. “While there are some gold rank teams, most teams only get to bronze rank if they’re lucky and quit.”

“It takes a strong team to be a rescue team.” Katsu mentions sitting down. “Three Pokemon on a mission together, time in and time out. You need to complement each other beyond just types.”

Ririko nods.

“Nya! You really do. Like I can learn a lot of powerful attacks to cover my friend’s weaknesses. I’m also really fast and hit hard. I’m a strong Skitty!”

She flicks her tail, looking positively adorable. Ririko licks her paws.

“It’s not to say we haven’t had issues before. In fact, we lost two members of our team recently and they split off to form their own rival team-” Cali’s electric cheeks spark slightly in anger, thinking of that. “But I wouldn’t dare hurt Katsu or Ririko!”

“Easy there, Cali.” Katsu steps towards her friend. She flicks her tails. “We do not need to worry about them here. They don’t care about what goes on here.”

“Got it.” Cali breathes a sigh of relief. “Guess the schedule has taken a toll on me?”

“Tell me about it!” The Skitty rubs the pads on her paws. “My paws are killing me from all this travel. Just to one dungeon then the next!”


“I’ve worked this longer than you.” Katsu gives a friendly chuckle.


clH02gXQQLVvPTTom50po0lt2KK-c23KrGKqJt1HWT5sjk7zY8qC3yo2LcjxOzonECJonoJBN8BSnUe09RNIIbZWh2A8rF0Dd6OlDWwz30zgAk28AfzOGtBonNSowp0dF6atxHBXi950QJ-Bh2GP_Lk


“Now you know how I feel.”

“I guess it’s because we’re in a weird spot, you know.” Cali folds her arms. “We’re a silver ranked team. There’s not too many who are our rank so more people call on us, but we’re not gold rank so we’re not tasked with the ‘big missions.’”

The Pikachu looks off in the distance, kicking up some dirt with her paws.

“It would be amazing to be a gold ranked rescue team. I know we can do it. We got everything you need, but I suppose they don’t hand them out willy-nilly.”

“I think most rescue teams fail because they don’t have the patience to put in the time to rank up.” Katsu comments. “Or they don’t have the patience to co-exist with two people long enough.” She has a glance towards Ririko and the Skitty meows.

“So I guess that just means we need to continue to do missions, big and small, until the guild has no choice but to give us a gold rank!” Ririko has a determined look on her face before she sees a shiny item on the ground.

“Is that a scope lens!?” She leaps at the item and plays with it like any kitten would. Cali rolls her eyes and pats her friend on the back.

Katsu hums, she turns to the shopkeeper and asks him a question. “Say, do you know anything about Menage?”

The Kelceon tilts his head.

“Menage? Why do you ask?”

“They are apparently giving someone trouble here, hence why we have come. We tried to ask around. We tried to look, but we do not know their names, what Pokemon they are, anything.” Katsu explains.

The Kelceon hums.

“Now that you mention it, I have heard someone talk about their friends before, that interesting Ludicolo, XYZ. But I never saw them.”

“I’m familiar with XYZ. Heard a lot about him.” Katsu hums, her nose slightly twitches. “I suppose he has strange friends.”

“That doesn’t explain why his friends appear to be causing trouble.” After watching Ririko play with the scope lens, Cali looks up. “We’ve definitely heard a lot about fake rescue teams recently.”

Ririko looks up, the scope lens is on her belly as she lies down on her back.

“Fake as in what? Like evil teams disgusting as rescue teams or incompetent teams pretending they know what they’re doing?”

Cali raises her paw. She thinks about the answer…

“Surprisingly both.”

Ririko goes back to playing with her shiny item. Katsu stretches.

“I think we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there’s just a misunderstanding since XYZ does not seem so bad?”

The Electric-type scoffs at the idea.

“Come on. We’re getting close to that gold rank. If fainting them means we get there sooner, then I have no issues doing it. If they’re causing trouble, they’re causing trouble.”

“I suppose you-”

Katsu’s response is interrupted as the scope lens falls out of the paws of Ririko. It bounces on the ground and lands just outside of the carpet of Kecleon’s shop. The cat walks over and as soon as she touches it with her paw, the Kecleon turns as if he has a sixth sense and shouts in a rage.

ZTNTNuPW5exHA2yZYZCxVA0-SDjGI8M-iZ3D5mEaOVaJLTJ0UJNrUxLrzODrXDIOmg0BZwQ-XpRIPH8WKQCfALR7LgkSKKl026ZRe_a11py0KmmwTpo7iY50juZ3WL8OGMHHE3QemDq95eM27kZP9ow


“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

Team YOKAI all leap up in shock.

“S-Sorry mister!” The Skitty nervously says. “I dropped it! I’m never going to take it-”

“I’LL GET YOU THIEF!”

The Kelceon shoots a Psybeam at Ririko and the move narrowly misses. In a panic, Team YOKAI run, shouting-

“Let’s get out of here!”

HxBVin3mr0VSorltetgfTg8UDuTHDdad_DEUOj2sLAeaRtlr3EH1Ns5Wqhk58qz04MXJi9v4xLcdxJcSC25GSQ4GyxN47UYWSfuLB36qeD__BQuiTfvZDaZApvx5OKedz0Xhwedh8NDftHiNP0PTTG8


Ririko broke the number one rule of every dungeon by accident. Never take anything from Kelceon’s shop without paying. They may not look like much, but those Kelceon train hard to keep thieves out of their shops. Now the shopkeeper is now ruthlessly chasing the team through the dungeon. The wild Pokemon look and stand back, not wanting to get involved in this matter. Panting as they run, Cali shouts at Ririko.

“You HAD to play with the merchandise?! This is a repeat of the Oshawott incident!”

“It was shiny and I didn’t want to steal it! I’m sorry!”

Trying to play peacemaker, Katsu quickly tries to think of a solution.

“Ririko, you have sing in your moveset. Put him to sleep to calm him down!”

Ririko seems unusually panicked at the thought of singing. She cries out.

“No! It’s going to sound bad!”

Cali looks down a hallway and sees their salvation, a set of stairs leading to the next floor of the dungeon. She stops and points.

“That way!”

Team YOKAI run down the hall as the Kecleon fast approaches, firing off Psybeams to get them from a distance. The team quickly heads down the stairs and to the next floor, tumbling as they hit the sand. Thankfully, the Kelceon stops his pursuit.

Pouting on the ground, Ririko cries out an apology.

“I’m really sorry guys! I messed up again! I-”

Cali puts her paw on Ririko’s back. She slowly gets up after her fall.

“It was an accident. We’ll move on from it.”

The Pikachu shows a small grin, reassuring Ririko. Katsu stretches as she gets back up.

“I’m just glad we escaped that shopkeeper-”

“HELP! HELP US!”

The ears of Team YOKAI perk up as they hear the sound of three voices in unison, shouting in panic. They rush through the dungeon towards the source and see the Pokemon they are meant to save, Dugtrio.

G3P_JQ56II1R3aVHzb-UbBpfiEAxY2tG57sd3fE0-YMJQEOvn5xIJyFQQTgTVLu_guax7sq1CnEgWzcI2V-9h4o1_yqiUNvOEpAchZBnVUFSWbH5z-layQZaqxSw7w8qGMKrzbINXPfW5jXJdxSFirQ


Around the Dugtrio are three Pokemon running around shouting. They are-

A Magikarp flopping on the ground.

A Sunkern hopping around.

And an Azurill running on its tiny legs.

xxGOLRebwi_inoKryHlM4zIS7F8SfvcS_OBZ49O3_uwPRBvBwPCNHZtM19emfW7Yhzcbbl7gb8wVuTQ6ucvaWHCQPbZWXPTEkQ6vHhmTdDJPYNB87akLRNgwKSqnlkLVnYTSkHhbb3Bb7Y3MJjsyuJY


Magikarp flops.

“Pass me the shuttlecock, Jerry!”

The Sunkern, likely named Jerry, responds to the fish.

“I don’t have it, Christian! Sierra, do you?”

Azurill, who has a female voice, answers.

“We don’t even have the equipment here!”

Team YOKAI exchange confused glances. They approach the scared Dugtrio.

“HELP! THEY KEEP TALKING ABOUT BADMINTON! WE CAN’T EVEN HOLD A RACKET!”

“Team Menage?” Katsu tilts her head and asks.

Azurill nods her head.

“Yep! I’m Sierra. Magikarp is Christian, and Sunkerk is Jerry. Be warned, he can be pretty wild.”

“What are you doing?” Cali folds her arms and taps her foot. “We got a call that Dugtrio was in a panic.”

“We’re recruiting for a Badminton tournament!” The Magikarp answers as he flops on the ground.

“So, you’re here harassing a Dugtrio over it?” Cali shoots them a judgemental glare.

“You’re meant to be a rescue team!” Katsu shouts. “Not an annoying team!”

“Come on, lighten up!” Jerry the Sunkern shouts. “We’re forming the tournament with XYZ! We need people!”

“Why don’t you three join us?” Sierra asks. “We can always use more people! Nobody wants to team with us anyways.”

“There is a major problem you have.” Ririko tilts her head. “We can’t hold rackets.”

She holds up her paws along with each of her friends. No thumbs, nothing.

“How about you just stop this and leave Dugtrio alone?” Ririko asks nicely. The Dugtrio sighs.

“Please leave us alone!” The three heads of Dugtrio says. “We’ve been here for hours!”

“If you don’t want to play Badminton with us then we have no other option.”

Christian says with his fish lips.

“Fight us in battle!” Jerry shouts. Sierra continues on saying.

“For we are Team Menag-”

Sierra doesn’t even finish as Ririko leaps into action hitting a double slap repeatedly on the Azurill! She falls backwards with each slap until she slams into the rock wall!

“Great job Riri-... ko.”

Cali’s voice drags as she notices that Ririko is continuing her double slap. Azurill is clearly fainted. Team Menage looks at them.

“Sorry.” Katsu apologizes. “Our friend really gets into battles.”

“But can you fight me?!” Jerry turns to face Katsu. “The mighty powerful Sunkern!”

Katsu rolls her eyes and shoots fire from her mouth with a Flamethrower! It cooks the sunflower seed Pokemon, leaving him charred and burned. He flops over, faints.

“That was easy…”

The Vulpix mutters.

One member left of Team Menage.

“You leave me with no other choice…” Christian faces his two foes. There's a determined look on his face. “I will use my most powerful move!”

The Magikarp shouts.

“SPLASH GO!”

The Magikarp flops on the ground.

But nothing happened.

2uTq23mi0IG_g5de8Hao_qS--R7llefETS3Suyp-XNezXvtrHnjVzty9HOS75X5KhPcZuPmpk7FgMVTtjzs1XN-emaB-6gVLC_P9B1PSa-5n3qhbnz44-mz60QGUn3nmGIEWJXzXXBBuYrm6ifGgHIg


“That’s it?” Cali gives a long sigh. “How about we try again when you’re level 20?”

“GIVE ME YOUR BEST SHOT!” The Magikarp shouts.

Gathering electricity in her cheek pouches, Cali electrifies herself-

“Pika…. CHUUUUUUUU!”

And she lets out a huge Thunderbolt, striking the Magikarp and sending him back. All three of Team Menage fainted. Katsu goes over to Ririko to get her to stop her attack and the three approach Dugtrio. The dugtrio smiles with all three of its faces.

“Thank you! We couldn’t move! We were paralyzed!”

“Did the Sunkern use stun spore?” Katsu asks and the mole Pokemon shakes its heads.

“No, we were paralyzed with anger.”

Cali holds up the rescue badge, a tool which not just recognizes them as a team, but allows Pokemon in need to escape dungeons.

“This is for you.”

“Thank you! We will pay you handsomely at the Post-Office. See you!”

The badge flashes and the Dugtrio is transported out. Team YOKAI all exchange a big high five with their paws.

“Well, not a hard mission apart from the Kelceon thing, but another job done!” Ririko flicks her tail with joy. “What now?”

The three hear the screech of a Pelliper in the distance as the Pelican pokemon flaps its wings, doing its usual postal work. From his beak, a letter falls from the sky.

6EhA0_BetukebaPzTJPULN8nWok-cJen17lyjEWFud14OAUKH1hEMvEqeolJpnIsdCzaNEp5J3Hq0Q9rpKXyJIr7p4EMmBNFTBhM5yUFg86pWrKlWXM6S5uOtloe08YYhoI22na9RcO5Yb76Meed2Ds


Falling in front of the team, Ririko opens it with her claws and Cali pulls out the letter and reads it.

“Think you’re a tough team? Face us in battle! We Mismagius are the toughest and most magical around and with our protégé, Trixie the Misdreavus, we’re unstoppable! Fight one more rescue team, then maybe we’ll consider you worthy enough.

-Team Coven.”

i4yag_q7VaKkA2ghaB6RGamPpd6F5gzKq8btx8JoG_ulQ8PVBn6HTaR23JUpL5G6w-lRX8ejCGlGXKn6DtJB2j0VCKsq8lWDBCnhchRqjJDJb6pHssx0Hlk1D8dLAmOnm0sr1Ghm7tRAqp5FdDzoQeg


And thus, Team YOKAI have their next goal.
 
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Tommy Bedlam

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Tommy Bedlam in
“Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City”

TkRNyeVjydayAPKMj54jFepMAPKZM6ShCF23FBxWUQmOvet_sQBH_JfdbUPxnCNtT8Ztcvi7NCLNjTESii-0QKjYoQk1hBhGK9C1IT0ghqgtTrWMrcJn9-Sn-_dsR7i_wQTVbGPbicK5MtA3bBrskT8


Starring:
Tommy Bedlam as Batman
XYZ as The Riddler

Prologue:
The city of Xotham, formerly known as Gotham, had always operated under its own set of rules. While most cities at least claim to operate within the boundaries of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, Xotham had never been that way. The police force often offered their dubious servers to the highest bidder, which led to nothing short of anarchy.

For years, Bruce Wayne had valiantly served as a vigilante, a man who sought to restore some level of order within Gotham, but even he was willing to color outside the lines. Unfortunately, Mr. Wayne, and his alter-ego, “Batman,” was no match for the last foe that Gotham faced: Shawn Summers. There had been a lot of speculation about what had happened to Bruce Wayne. Some said he was dead, some said that Summers broke him and he had used his money to retreat to an island somewhere. The truth would likely never be known, but the fact remained that Gotham needed a new crusader.

One of the first things that Summers had done when he seized control of the dystopian city was to rename it “Xotham.” He considered it an honor to get to put an “X” through what the city used to be. He was certain that under his control, things would never go back to anything resembling a peaceful metropolitan. He not only embraced the chaos of Xotham’s “gray area,” but he helped to perpetuate it.

William Harris, the Chief of Police was one of the first city officials that Summers placed on his payroll. He knew with law enforcement on his side, he was relatively untouchable.

All of that changed when Tommy Bedlam was handpicked to take over the role as Xotham’s defender. The mayor, a man named Lucien Carpathia, had contacted him, asking him for help. Lucien was by no means a morally upstanding man. Living a virtuous life was the kiss of death in the political arena, but he also didn’t want his city to devolve into the chaos that it was under the tyrannical rule of Summers. He had been outvoted on renaming the city during a council meeting, but Mayor Carpathia was determined to not let the poison of Shawn Summers penetrate the rest of his city.

It’s not that Carpathia was passionate about Xotham. He simply had his eyes set on a higher political level, but losing control of your first city spelled doom for political aspirations. That’s why he called Tommy Bedlam. Xotham needed a new defender, and there was no one more suited for the task than Tommy.

Tommy believed in truth and justice, but much like his predecessor, he was willing to take some unorthodox steps in order to establish those things. That’s what made him the perfect foil for Shawn Summers, who Tommy had overtaken in a heated battle that lasted for months. Summers, the man who had sent Bruce Wayne into exile (or the grave), retreated from Xotham after being conquered by Tommy Bedlam, the new Batman.

Tommy didn’t mind the name of the city. He had no previous attachment to Gotham, so it being referred to as Xotham, or “X” by some residents who couldn’t figure out if the X was supposed to make a “Z” sound or not, didn’t really matter that much to him. He just wanted to defend it as best he could for as long as possible. No one’s reign lasted forever, and he knew someone would replace him one day. The goal was to delay that day for as long as possible.. He was fully committed to defending the city and his new title, by any means necessary. Tommy truly believed it was up to him to restore some honor to Xotham, and he was up for the task.

Shawn Summers was gone, but Tommy knew that there would be another foe. There always had been, and there always would be. There had already been a group of witches who tried to destroy Tommy and what he was trying to accomplish. Known only as “The Coven,” they had hoped to outnumber Tommy, but he was able to counteract their ambush by bringing in his friend, Chris Crowe, one of the few people in the world that Tommy truly trusted. With The Coven firmly in his rearview, Tommy was sure that he was ready for whatever nemesis came against him next. However, he probably didn’t realize that the first opponent who wanted to take over Xotham would be such a difficult adversary to figure out.



Chapter 1:
“A Mom and a Bomb”

“Tommy! We’ve got a situation here. You’re gonna wanna get here, and quick. It’s Randi. She’s in trouble.”

Tommy was still getting used to his newly appointed role as the defender of Xotham. He had overthrown the dastardly Shawn Summers in a hotly contested fight that left him battered and bruised, dealing with physical wounds and some scars that others simply couldn’t see. He knew that his new title as Xotham’s defender had put a target on his back, but he hadn’t fully considered how it would affect the people around him.

Tommy had also never considered himself as a superhero, but things worked differently in Xotham. The rules that differentiated “good” from “bad” weren’t quite as pronounced, as the town preferred to color outside the lines. That willingness to live life in the “gray area” is why Batman had long been such a trusted source of justice in the city. That’s also why Tommy was such a logical choice to replace Bruce Wayne as The Batman. Tommy had always been willing to take matters into his own hands and invoke some vigilante justice when it was needed.

The phone call had startled Tommy out of his sleep. He could hear Randi’s voice in the background. Her muffled screams caused his heart to beat in his ears while his stomach fell to the floor. He scrambled out of bed, and decided to skip the process of getting into the Batsuit. There was no time for that. He threw on his jeans, his black t-shirt, and jumped into his boots, pulling his ball cap low over his eyes as he ran out the door of the Batcave.

He grabbed the keys to the Battruck (replacing the old Batmobile with a large truck was the first, and largely only change that Tommy had made to Bruce Wayne’s way of doing things) and set out for the pinned location that Rocco had sent him. He zoomed through the streets of Xotham in the oversized vehicle.

The pin that Rocco had dropped led Tommy to the Xotham City Police Department, not a place that he would choose to go on his own, which was probably why whoever had taken Randi had chosen this location. After multiple run-ins with dirty cops, Tommy had vowed to stay away from police departments at all costs. None of that mattered now.

He burst through the front door of the GCPD, his presence barely stirring the overweight deputy who manned the front desk. The building reeked of stale cigarette smoke and day-old coffee. Tommy burst through a door on the first floor of the building, and raced up the metal steps, taking two at a time. As he reached the tenth floor of the building, he saw a fire exit on his right. He pushed through the door, causing the alarm to ring loudly into the night.

Things were worse than Tommy had even envisioned when Rocco called. He ran across the building as a light mist began to fall from the sky. Randi was there, tied to a metal chair, her hands behind her, and her feet anchored securely to the legs. She had a large briefcase strapped to her midsection with a series of wires running to a mask that covered her face. A small green light blinked intermittently from the top of the briefcase.

As Tommy ran towards her and slid to a stop on his knees, he could see the tears streaming down her face from behind the mask.

“Don’t worry, baby. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Randi couldn’t speak. Her muffled screams and constant sniffling tore at Tommy’s heart. Rocco spoke up.

“I got a text from a number telling me to meet you here. When I showed up, this is what I found. This note was on the briefcase.”
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Congratulations on your newfound fame, now it’s time to play my little game
I know she means so much to you, so start by cutting the wire blue
I don’t want you to think I’m mean, so then you should cut the wire that’s green
That leaves three, white black and RED, if you choose wrong, your girl is dead

Please don’t think I’m as evil as Summers, I like to have fun, you know, no bummer!
I’m not with the Coven, there will be no hex, but I want to take over the city, “X”
Save your girl, then get your gold, so the new Batman story can finally be told
Better act quick, I can hear her cries, let’s have some fun….The Dream Never Dies


“The Riddler! No one else would say so much without saying anything at all.”

In the same way that Tommy had assumed the role as Batman in Xotham, rumor was that there was a new Riddler, the most enigmatic villain that Xotham had ever known. Edward Nygma had filled the shoes of Xotham’s puzzlemaster for many year, but he had taken off his question-mark laden hat, and passed it on to another. The man who had assumed his role was known only as XYZ. There was constant speculation about what his initials stood for, it was just another layer of the mystery when it came to the man who spoke in riddles at every available opportunity.

Tommy pulled a multitool out of his pocket, his hands trembling as the rain began to pick up in its intensity. He cut Randi’s arms and feet free before turning his attention to the briefcase. There were five wires that connected the silver briefcase to the device that was around Randi’s face.

“What do you think I should cut first?” Tommy looked over his shoulder at Rocco.

“Go with the blue one, kid.”

“What if it’s a set up?”

“I’ve known this guy longer than you have. He doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I really don’t think he’d try to trick you into murdering Randi. Cut the blue wire.”

Tommy managed to control his trembling hands long enough to snip the blue wire first. When nothing happened, he assumed that the directions XYZ had left behind were at least somewhat trustworthy, prompting him to cut the green wire second. That left three: black, white and red.

Tommy traced the white wire that ran from the device around Randi’s face, realizing that it was connected to absolutely nothing. It didn’t even reach the handle of the briefcase. In contrast, the white wire started at the latch that held the briefcase closed, but didn’t go to anything. That only left the red wire. Had XYZ really tipped his hand in the note? He had clearly put an emphasis on the word red, as if he wanted Tommy to choose that one. With a quick snip of the red wire, the flashing green light on top of the briefcase stopped. The case flipped open as the device that was attached to Randi’s face popped loose, falling to the ground beside her.

For a moment, Tommy, Randi, and Rocco held their breath. Was the case going to blow up? Had this been a well-orchestrated plan to kill all three of them at once?

As the briefcase opened, the three of them realized there was no bomb at all. Randi’s life was never in any real danger. The entire thing had been a sick joke, a way to get Tommy exactly where he wanted him. Instead, the briefcase contained a single piece of brown paper, much like the note that directed Tommy through the process of cutting the wires.







UvasqUX3sJ0P_Yw9DFtE1oaKz4Hpv5Y9zb_QYYLfp0X_BDfFQggt_MBVXn6v0XteMRgq7_VzfydKy9UIhPWKI6vFxwdUWWAk4L0yxWuDboCOziRIVfQAmNhrP68ftLh8R4qASFTQrwDMuDo46XSEisA

Man of the Bat, Bedlam of Tommies, nice job saving your child’s mommy
I’m not sick enough to blow her away, after all, what would people say?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a dark side, but I didn’t want to harm your future bride
I just wanted your full attention, now that I have it, let’s drop the pretension

A series of challenges wait for you. How will you respond? What will you do?
Each feat you perform will lead to the next as you try to defend this city called “X”
What sort of cards do I hold in my hand? First you must kiss the lips of a hanged man
I’m sure Lucien will call with your light in the sky. I’ll be waiting, The Dream Never Dies



Tommy knew that taking on the role of a hero would put a target on his back, but if he was being honest, he hadn’t thought about what it meant for the people around him. He probably should have. It would have been naive to assume that Shawn Summers was the only person dastardly enough to target Randi in order to get Tommy’s attention. Could he really stand the thought of her constantly being in danger? He wasn’t sure, but he also didn’t have time to think about that.

Chapter 2:
“Doubt and Duty: Which One WIns?”

By the time Tommy, Randi, and Rocco got back to The Batcave, Tommy’s mind was racing. He had never faced a foe like The Riddler. XYZ, the new man behind the riddles was every bit as enigmatic as his predecessor. He spoke in riddles and was fluent in non-sense, but there was no doubt that he was intelligent. Somehow, he could weave words together in a way that both sparked terror and confusion in the listener. The Riddler could provide vivid details about how he was going to dismember and maim someone, while talking about fictional pink platypuses all in the same breath.

“I still don’t understand how he kidnapped you.”

“I’ve told you a hundred times, Tommy. He wasn’t even there. There was this group of weirdos who grabbed me when I was coming out of the store and threw me in the back of the van. I didn’t even see The Riddler until they got me onto the rooftop.”

“Randi, I’ve told you a thousand times that you have got to be more careful. Summers attacked you more than once, and now that I’ve taken on this role as the ‘Defender of Xotham,’ there’s an even bigger target on my back.”

Randi’s eyeroll didn’t go unnoticed, but Tommy didn’t have the time or the energy to argue about it anymore. He knew he couldn’t keep an eye on her around the clock, and she was certainly capable of taking care of herself.

“When he got you to the roof, did he say anything to you?”

“He talked, but you know none of it made sense. He said something about me being the princess who needed the knight to come and save her. Then there was something about a Queen’s Gambit, which I think some chess move. There was something about you not being worthy of the title that you’re carrying, and then some nonsense about a throne of leaves. It was really all just gibberish.”

“Of fucking course it was.”

The line about the princess and the knight made sense. Tommy knew that Batman was referred to as “The Dark Knight.” Even the comment about chess was somewhat logical. The best chess players are those who stay multiple moves ahead of their opponent, and The Riddler certainly had a head start on him that night. Thrones of leaves? Maybe he meant that Tommy’s reign as Xotham’s defender would blow away? Decoding what The Riddler meant was largely impossible.

Tommy stomped around the Batcave as he tried to find everything that he needed. Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth had worked out their system for getting Bruce into the Batsuit and onto the streets over the course of years. Tommy and Rocco were still working out the details.

“Rocco, where’s the belt? I need the belt with all the gear on it.”

“Where the hell did you take it off the last time? That’s probably where it’s at.”

“Let’s save the smartass comments, Rocco. I’ve gotta be ready to take off as soon as that light hits the sky. Just help me find my shit so I can get out of here.”

“Goddammit, kid. What do you think I am, your butler?”

“Sorry. You’re not Alfred, and I’m not Bruce. I just need to get all this together.”

Tommy and Rocco both ran around the Batcave, piecing together the supplies that Tommy needed. After what seemed like forever, Tommy finally had everything he needed. He stepped out of the bedroom that he shared with Randi wearing everything but the mask.

“You know you’ve always looked good in black.”

Randi was trying to lighten the mood, but Tommy barely noticed. He would never admit it to her, or anyone else for that matter, but he was scared. Was he really the right choice to defend Xotham? What if he failed the first time he had to do something like this on his own? He had managed to get by The Coven, but they weren’t coming after Xotham, they were just trying to create their own brand of chaotic witchcraft.

Not to mention, he hadn’t been forced to deal with them on his own. He had Crowe there with him, kicking ass and taking names. He had been texting and calling his friend since he returned to the Batcave, but there was no answer. Tommy assumed that Crowe was somewhere partying on the shady side of Xotham. Crowe was a helluva a friend and a damn good fighter, but he was never been one to turn down a good time filled with alcohol and women.

“You stay here until I get back. Don’t let anyone in, no matter what. Don’t answer any phone calls, don’t do anything until I’m back. The first bomb was a fake, but I don’t know what the hell this guy is gonna do next.”

“I’m staying put.”

“Any idea what that whole ‘kissing the lips of a hanged man’ thing meant, kid?”

“Not the fucking slightest, Rocco. May have just been more nonsense, but it may not. I really don’t have any clue how to read him.”

“Keep me posted if you can, kid. I’ll stay here with Randi.”

“Thanks, Rocco. If anything goes sideways, call me.”

Tommy shook Rocco’s hand and gave Randi a kiss.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m gonna go up to the roof. I need to clear my head and I gotta be sure I see the signal whenever it hits the sky. I don’t know what’s going on or how much time I’ve got.”

Tommy took the elevator to the roof of the mansion that sat atop the Batcave. He was relatively confident in his leaving Randi there. Even if someone managed to get into the mansion, it was nearly impossible for them to get into the cave.

As he stood there on the roof of a mansion he never expected to call home serving as the protector of a city he never thought he would call home, Tommy held the prestigious mask in his hand. The full weight of the moment wasn’t lost on him. He never thought he would be the defender of Xotham. He had read about the city, its history, and the brave men who had valiantly defended it in the past. Was Tommy on that level? Was he up to the challenge before him? In a moment of self-reflection and brutal honesty, he let out a heavy sigh. He didn’t know if he was truly equipped to defend Xotham. He wanted it. He wanted it as much as he had ever wanted anything in his life, but he had questions. He had failed at more than one thing in life, and he was terrified of this just being another item on an ever-growing list.

He didn’t have time to think about it much. Almost on cue, Tommy saw a familiar light in the distance. The Bat Signal lit up the night sky, its illumination drowning out those of the city skyline. He looked at the mask in his hands once more, and he pulled it over his face. The light hung high in the sky over the place where Tommy was needed when he was needed there. Without that mask, he was just Tommy Bedlam. With it? He was The Batman.

Tommy hopped back on the elevator, bypassed the main floor of the house, and went straight to the garage that held the Battruck downstairs. He was no longer Tommy Bedlam, at least not until the puzzles were solved and The Riddler was silenced. He was Batman. Unfortunately, nothing could prepare Batman for what he saw when he got to the old warehouse on Peter Street.


Chapter 3
“Kissing the Lips of a Hanged…Friend?”

The door was slightly ajar when Batman arrived, but he kicked it in for good measure. He had never been to the warehouse district before. Hell, he was so new to the city of Xotham that he had never been to most of it. He was fully aware of the fact that this could be a trap. In fact, he was almost sure that it was.

The warehouse reeked of filth. The smell of rot and decay permeated the air as the slow drip of water coming from any of the numerous roof leaks echoed around the empty caverns of the space. In the far corner of the warehouse, Batman saw a single dim light. As it slowly swung to and fro, it cast an ever-moving shadow across the room. Who was there? Was it The Riddler? Certainly he wouldn’t make things so easy. Could it be one of his little minions? He had a group of rejects that followed him around, doing his bidding. It would make sense that the same goons who had grabbed Randi in the parking lot were lying in wait. Fortunately, Batman was certain that he could handle a group that The Riddler only referred to as “The Mysterious Menage.”

As Batman inched his way cautiously across the concrete floor, he was cognisant of the fact that XYZ had likely already set up something to trap him. He looked up with each step, wondering if a giant net would fall from the ceiling. Each step was taken with great apprehension as though the next step could be onto a landmine. After stepping over a huge pile of rubble that had apparently fallen from the ceiling, Batman saw it.

There, hanging from a noose, was Chris Crowe, the same man who had helped overcome The Coven. Forgetting about the threat of potential peril all around him, Batman lept into action. He pulled a blade from his belt and quickly sliced through the rope that suspended his friend over the concrete. Suddenly, none of the chaos of the past couple hours mattered to him. He wasn’t thinking about the notes that he had already read. His mind wasn’t even on defending Xotham. He needed to save his friend.

As Batman gently lowered Crowe’s body to the ground, he began doing chest compressions. He certainly had no formal training, but he had seen CPR performed a few times, and there was no time to call for paramedics. Besides, what could he call them and say? “Hey, this is Batman. I need you to come and save my friend. There’s a crazy ass guy who speaks in riddles running around the city trying to terrorize me?”

Batman pressed on Crowe’s sternum once, twice, three times, before leaning down and blowing into his mouth. Crowe’s lips were already starting to turn blue. Was he too late? Was his friend gone?

He immediately went back to performing the compressions, lowering his ear to Chris’ mouth between the second and third. Nothing. No breath. He instinctively slid his hand toward his friend’s wrist, feeling for a pulse. Nothing. More chest compressions, another round of mouth-to-mouth. Still nothing.

“Goddammit!”

Batman started pushing harder and faster in the center of Crowe’s chest, almost falling into a frantic pace. As hope began to fade, he leaned down and began to breathe into his friend’s lungs once more. Suddenly, Chris Crowe took a large gasp and began to cough. His eyes shot open with a wild look.

“Jesus Christ, what happened?”

“You were hanging here, by your neck. I’ve been doing CPR like I knew what the fuck I was doing. How did you get here?!”

“Dude, you did CPR on me? Seriously? I’ve kissed some ugly women in my life, but you’ve gotta be one of the ugliest mugs I’ve ever kissed.”

Kissed. “First you must kiss the lips of a hanged man.” It was all right there in that fucking riddle. Of course it was. And of course, Crowe was already making jokes about the entire situation. Batman helped his friend to his feet.

“You're welcome, asshole. Again, how did you end up here?”

“Man, I legit don’t know. I was at that new bar on the other side of town. It’s called ‘The Dream.’ Anyway, I’m sitting there absolutely about to seal the deal with this cute red headed bartender who was pouring me doubles all night long. Anyway, she told me she was getting off work in half an hour and poured me a shot. I kinda remember getting dizzy, and next thing you know, I’m here.”

“She dosed you with something. Do you remember getting stuffed into a van or anything?”

“Yea, man. It was just like an episode of SVU. No, I don’t remember a fucking van!”

By this point, Batman and Crowe had made their way back across the warehouse to the same door that Batman had come through.

“I’m gonna take you back to my place. Randi’s there, so is Rocco. I need you to hang out there with them til I get this whole thing figured out.”

“What whole thing?”

“This all started a couple hours ago. The Riddler and his goons kidnapped Randi and strapped a fake bomb to her. He attached a note to it telling me how to disarm it.”

“The guy really doesn’t understand the whole blowing someone up thing, does he?”

“He does. He didn’t wanna blow her up. He wanted my attention. Anyway, that was just the first part of this game he’s playing with me. The note inside the briefcase that I thought was a bomb said that I would have to kiss the lips of a hanged man.”

“Aaaand you just gave me mouth to mouth. So what? I’m just the second part of the puzzle?”

“Yea. I’m not totally sure how many parts there are. The note said this would be the next part, but that I had to deal with a ‘series of challenges.’”

“You want any back up? You know I’m always down for a fight.”

“I gotta do this one alone. I’m the guy who has to defend X. Besides, you were dead five minutes ago. No offense, but I’m gonna do this one on my own.”

“Fair enough. Since I’m not going with you, you think I could borrow your fancy Batphone? I still think I’m gonna call this bartender.”

“She fucking drugged you!”

“But she was hot!”

Crowe dug into his shirt pocket and pulled out a folded up piece of paper. At first Batman thought it was a cocktail napkin from The Dream, but from the driver’s seat, he could see some familiar handwriting on the other side of it. He nearly wrecked the Battruck, reaching over to grab the paper from Crowe’s hand.

“Dude! You’ve got a girl! Gimme that number back!”

“She didn’t give you her number, Chris. This paper is exactly like the first two. And, there’s handwriting on the other side of it.”

As Batman pulled the Battruck back into the garage, he unfolded the note.

-C1aShMeurydmFIPRD0gl0ZQcNTKNjGD4o9Dx8Hiz5rfn9H2tux7DarffhZyGysdPoCL4ic2VAtiA98XkKVXKZgGzeRcQbDROomNxOlXJ-zcO_qktOwrHlIH8p8ScCeFCrAtOMR2-6mmjQ8N22Y1nM4


You did a nice job saving your friend, but this isn’t where our little game ends
There’s still more challenges waiting for you. You’ve conquered one, but there’s still two
I got to Crowe with the allure of sex, but you aren’t so easy, Crusader of X
You have good and evil living inside, but which one will win, and which one will hide?

Soon you will have a child of your own, but where will he live? Will X be his home?
Let’s turn up the heat, and really get wild. Cut the throat of an unbaptized child
Defending X requires blood to be spilled. That’s the fun. That’s part of the thrill.
How will you respond when you hear his cries? Can’t wait to find out. The Dream Never Dies



Batman’s stomach fell to his knees. Saving Chris’ life was one thing. He would have done that with or without the note. He would have done that with or without his new role as Xotham’s defender. But this? This note seemed much more sinister.

The Caped Crusader and Crowe emerged from the elevator and stepped into the Batcave to find Randi sitting on the couch with a look of sheer terror. Her mouth was gaped open with her hand covering it. Rocco was nowhere to be seen.

“What’s wrong?”

“The news. Saint John’s Cathedral is on fire. They were having a special ceremony tonight where they were baptizing some babies. They think it’s arson.”

“Where’s Rocco?”

“He went out looking for you.”

“Dammit to hell. Does nobody fucking listen to me around here?! Chris, stay here with Randi. I’ve gotta get down there.”

“Chris, nice to see you again. Where did you come from?”

“Your baby daddy saved my life. I got drugged and hung. He found me just in time. Did mouth to mouth and saved my ass.”

“You kissed the lips of a hanged man. Oh my God, Tommy.”

“Yep. And now he has to cut the throat of an unbaptized child.”

“He has to what?!”

Batman tossed Randi the note as he climbed back onto the elevator. She read it for herself, but understood as little of it as he did. He climbed back into the Battruck and set out for Saint John’s. Could he cut the throat of an unbaptized child? He didn’t know. But he knew that if Xotham was ever going to be safe, he had to figure out what the next clue was all about.

As he drove the Battruck up the slight incline that connected the underground garage to the road, he could see the Bat Signal in the air over Saint John’s Cathedral. The flames that had grown to astronomical levels lapped at the night sky. Batman whipped around the corners of the six city blocks that separated him from the cathedral. At least for a moment, the ominous orders found at the bottom of the last note were the furthest thing from his mind.

Chapter 4
“Dangerous Games and Flickering Flames”

By the time Batman arrived at Saint John’s Cathedral, the scene looked like something out of a war movie. The blaring screams of panicked parents drowned out the sirens that screamed from the army of Xotham emergency response vehicles that surrounded the crumbling church. As Batman threw the Battruck in park and started to make his way through the police barricade, William Harris, the Chief of Police who detested him, tried to stop him.

Without ever missing a stride, Batman moved the dirties of dirty cops out of his path with a swift shove and a, “Get the fuck out of my way, Bill.”

He made it to the front door of the church just as a massive wooden beam fell from the ceiling, barely missing the crying mother who was running for an exit with her baby in her arms. After realizing that the cathedral was empty, Batman went back down the stone steps that led to the front door, surveying the damage and trying to figure out what he was supposed to do.

“MY BABY! HE CAN’T BREATHE!”

The same mother who had just escaped the falling crossbeam was on her knees in the grass to the left of the steps. Armed with the confidence of resuscitating Chris Crowe, he assumed that he could do it again.

The paramedics and firemen who were on the scene were all tied up with others as Batman realized that no one was moving toward the woman. Initially, she looked a bit alarmed by the fact that Batman was walking in her direction, but her desperation quickly overrode her apprehension. Taking the gasping, screaming child from her arms, he gently laid him down on the wet grass. There was a light mist still falling from the sky, but not nearly enough to extinguish the flames. The water spraying from the hoses of the three fire trucks that were on site only added to the swampy feel of the grass that sank under Batman’s knees.

He placed his ear to the mouth of the child who had enough wind to scream but was obviously in distress. Grabbing a small light from his belt, he shined it into the baby’s throat as the little one let out a guttural screech. Tommy was able to make out something stuck in the back of the baby’s throat. He looked at the mother, who had slipped even further into a state of pure panic.

“There’s something in his throat. Do you know what it could be?”

“No! No, I don’t. I had him with me the whole time. The only time I didn’t have him in my arms was when I handed him to the priest, just before the fire started.”

“Listen, I’m gonna need you to try to keep him calm. I have to get what’s in there out of his windpipe. Talk to him. Sing to him. Whatever you need to do. But this isn’t going to be easy, and I need him to not squirm.”

The child’s mother wiped the tears from her face and pushed her rain-soaked hair back out of her eyes. She began to gently rub the child’s forehead.

“It’s going to be OK, Walker. Mommy’s here and this man is going to help us.”

Walker? The baby’s name was Walker. At that point, Batman knew what this was. It was the next part of this diabolical test that The Riddler was putting him through. The priest who the woman had handed her baby to was no priest at all. He knew it probably wasn’t XYZ, as The Riddler attending a baptismal ceremony would raise some questions. It was much more likely that one of the Mysterious Menage had infiltrated the service and put himself in the right spot at the right time.

“I’m going to have to cut his throat open to get what’s in there out. It’s too far down to pull it out.”

“Do you know how to do that? I thought you were a crimefighter, not a doctor!”

“Yes, I know what I’m doing.”

Batman was lying. He had no clue what he was doing, but he had seen enough medical TV shows to have a general idea. In his head, he knew that he should go get one of the first responders on sight to handle the procedure, but there was no time. Besides, all of this had been perfectly set up by The Riddler.

He pulled a small blade from his gear belt and managed to get his hands to quit shaking as he inched ever closer to the infant’s throat. He made eye contact with the mother briefly, her eyes the size of saucers.

Everso gently, Batman, who had taken off the gloves from his uniform, pressed the sharpest part of the blade against little Walker’s neck. As blood began to slowly stream down the side and onto his hand, Batman felt sick. A single flinch, a single miscue, and he would be responsible for taking the life of an innocent baby. Unironically, a baby that shared the name that he and Randi had picked out for their own soon-arriving bundle of joy.

Applying just the right amount of pressure, Batman pushed the blade slightly deeper into the child’s throat. As the falling water mixed with the blood, thinning it out, he was able to see the object in the child’s throat. He cautiously slid a finger into the slit, and felt something. Just as he suspected, it felt like paper.

Once he was sure that he had a firm grasp on the paper, he carefully pulled it out. The short, frantic breaths that the baby had been taking were replaced by a normalized breathing pattern that was only disturbed by his ongoing cries. Shortly after the rolled-up piece of paper was removed, an onlooking paramedic had finally arrived with a small plastic tube and a roll of bandages in his hand. He cautiously patted the Dark Knight on his shoulder and let him know that he would handle bandaging the child up.

“Oh my God! Batman just saved my baby!”

He could barely be bothered to process the gratitude that was coming from the woman. Instead, his primary focus was on unrolling the piece of paper that The Riddler had placed in the child’s throat.

He had never thought of the new Riddler as a sadistic individual. Confusing? Absolutely. Unorthodox? More so than anyone that he had ever come in contact with before. Frustrating? Maddening was a better description. However, Batman never thought that he would stoop to such a disgusting level. The case that was attached to Randi wasn’t a bomb, even if it was made to look like one. Hanging Crowe was certainly an escalation in his approach, but at least Crowe was an adult. Risking the life of a baby was a diabolical, heinous act that Batman had always assumed was beyond what The Riddler would be willing to do.

The desire to take over control of Xotham had apparently pushed into a new state, which was startling news for everyone involved. A man as enigmatic as The Riddler becoming a more sadistic version of what he had been in the past meant that everyone was in trouble. Batman had no choice. He had to stop him from taking over Xotham by any means necessary.

uGq-8TVqHs3880Xln7cSxz9QFk_BVqsQw_iWDyWdZwxFaxVkUh8wNvOLWL1gE5Uc5-hlwR2avhnq9Jc8dLGLJd9a5ZkhpIMyWDi_fgGEi3wSbRqDu7xaUyW0NDtli-Fm9XMW-mre5UKBZZU3CqTc2QM

Aren’t you the hero, Man of the Bat? Bet you never thought you’d have to do that
I’m sure little Walker will be just fine. Isn’t this fun, this little game of mine?
The fire was there to catch your eye. I knew you’d never let anyone die
Go back and rest up, there’s more to come. There’s another test. Don’t worry, just one

You’ve saved a Crowe, you’ve saved a baby. I guess you even rescued your lady
Rocco’s too old, he’s of no concern. He gets a night off, I think it’s well earned.
I guess there’s only one thing to do, the next life you save belongs to you
Let’s meet at your place, I may spend the night. I’ll be there soon. The Dream Never Dies


As ridiculous as it seemed, a sense of relief washed of Batman as he read the note. “The next life you save belongs to you.” If nothing else, it meant that the people he cared about the most would be safe. Randi was the first step in this hellacious process, and then there was Crowe. No matter how sadistic he had proven himself to be, The Riddler’s notes had been honest, at least up to that point. That meant that Rocco probably wasn’t going to be the next target. Tommy had to believe the note was true. The others had been, including the detailed instructions about how to disarm the fake bomb. Trying to understand what The Riddler actually said was a complex process. Trying to detect and decipher the amount of bullshit in one of these little puzzles would require more time than anyone had.

However, it was troubling that The Riddler had vowed to bring the fight to Batman’s doorstep. The trials that Batman had already gone through over the last few hours had taken him all over Xotham. The Bat Signal in the sky had directed him to every locale that he was needed at. There would be no need for it this time. Mayor Carpathia, wherever he was at such an ungodly hour could call it a night. Batman wouldn’t have to go looking for the next fight. It was going to come straight to him. He’d be ready. He was damn sure of that. He was Batman. He was going to defend X for as long as there was breath in his body.





Chapter 5
“Wise Words From a Wise Man”

As Batman put the Battruck in park for what he assumed would be the final time of the night, he looked at the clock on the dash. It was 5:00 AM. This entire chaotic adventure had started almost eight hours earlier with a phone call. He stepped onto the elevator, and for a moment, he considered stopping in the mansion to make sure that everyone was OK. But he didn’t want to alarm Randi. If she knew that The Riddler was coming to their home, she would slip into a panic. If Crowe knew about it, he would try to help, but this wasn’t his battle. Sure, he got dragged into it, but this wasn’t meant to be something that involved Batman and Crowe. This was about Batman and his role as the champion of Xotham.

He had hoped that everyone in the mansion was asleep. Randi could certainly use the rest. He knew they weren’t. He pressed the “R” on the elevator and ascended straight to the roof. As he stepped out of the glass doors, he saw someone on the roof waiting for him.

It wasn’t The Riddler, and it wasn’t a member of the Mysterious Menage. No, there was Rocco Sullivan.

“It’s already all over the news, kid. The mother of the baby you saved did a whole interview about it. How’d you know what to do?”

“To tell you the truth, Rocco, I really don’t know how I knew. Hell, I haven’t known what I was doing ever since I became the defender of this place. It’s like I just know. I can’t really describe it.”

“It’s because you’re the right man for the job.”

“I hope that’s true, buddy. I really do.”

Tommy was starting to believe he was up to the challenge. Was he completely certain of it? Of course not. But he was starting to think that there was a chance that it was true.

“I’ve been up here watching for the light. I like to know where you’re going.”

“There’s not gonna be another light, Rocco. Not tonight at least.”

“You mean you’re done? The whole test thing is over?”

“Nah. There’s one more to go apparently. But I don’t have to go looking for it. He’s bringing it here.”

“Bringing it here? You mean, The Riddler is coming to your house? For what?”

Tommy chuckled.

“Who the hell knows, Rocco?”

“Let me run down and get Crowe. The old Batman had a Robin. You have a Crowe.”

“No. He doesn’t need to know anything about this. There will be a time for he and I to work together again, but that’s not what this fight is. We worked together against The Coven. He basically saved me from Shawn Summers. Rocco, I can’t be Batman and constantly need someone else to save my ass. And for the love of everything, don’t tell Randi. She doesn’t need to worry. I’ve been doing a bad enough job protecting her lately.”

“Alright, kid. I’ll head back inside and leave you to this.”

And once again, Batman was alone. The old Batman, Bruce Wayne, didn't seem to mind it that much. Maybe it was a facade, maybe it took time, but he never seemed to be bothered by the solitude. This Batman, Tommy Bedlam, wasn’t so sure about it. As though he knew what was going on in Tommy’s mind, Rocco stopped just short of the elevator.

“Hey, Batman. You’re more ready for this than you think you are. You’re running Xotham now because you’re the right person for the job. Don’t forget that. Ever.”

“Thanks Rocco. If this doesn’t go the way I want it to, you know how to get Randi out of here. Take Crowe with you guys too. I’d feel better if he was watching your backs if this goes wrong, at least until you’re somewhere safe.”

“I know the plan. Been over it 100 times since you took over Xotham. But we’re not gonna need it tonight. It’s gonna take more than a guy who talks like a fortune cookie to take you out, kid.”

Batman hoped that was the case.

Chapter 6
“Here Comes the Dawn”

Batman looked down at his watch. It was a few minutes after six o’clock. The sun would be rising soon, and The Riddler still hadn’t arrived. Was the entire thing a hoax? Had he simply sent Batman from one place to another, keeping him up all night, pushing him beyond his preconceived limits only to leave him standing there alone? It would be the most Riddler thing imaginable to have the entire night be a pointless game that never truly ended.

It was then that Batman heard something coming from behind him. It sounded like a low, rolling thunder, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The misty rain that had been falling for most of the night had subsided.

It wasn’t thunder. It was a spluttering, smoking, magical school bus. Initially, Tommy thought this had to be some sort of hallucination that was a result of his lack of sleep. But no, it was real.He heard a voice coming from the driver’s side window as the bus hovered a few feet above the roof of the mansion.

“Bedlam of Tommies, we finally meet. I hope you’re ready to deal with defeat. You sit on a throne, but it just won’t last. You’ve saved others, but I’ll kill your ass.”

It was the newest iteration of The Riddler. Finally, he was there. Batman had chased him all over Xotham, or perhaps he had been the one doing the chasing. Whoever was the cat, and whoever was the mouse, they were both there, on the roof of the former Wayne Mansion. They still hadn’t renamed the place, as Tommy never thought of himself as the type to own a mansion.

“Riddler, I’ve had enough of these stupid little games. You want to take over Xotham? You’re going to have to go through me. Kill me? Take me out of the equation? This city is yours. There won’t be a damn thing I can do about it. But it’s you and me, Riddler. Right now.”

The exhaust of The Riddler’s magic school bus blew Batman’s cape in the wind.

“You think you can pick, you think you can choose. You think you can decide when I finally fight you. Before you have a chance to battle with me, you must go through the Menage, one, two, and three! HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

The Riddler let out a maniacal laughter that echoed throughout the streets of Gotham. It sent a cold shiver down Batman’s spine as he saw three unscrupulous characters hop out of the bus that had lowered itself closer to the roof. For the first time since taking over as the Caped Crusader responsible for protecting Xotham, Batman finally got a look at The Riddler’s face. His wild brown hair flapped in the breeze as he peered out the window as his minions charged at Batman.

The trio of goons who hopped off the bus looked like a merry band of misfits. Batman couldn’t be bothered to learn their names. He was too focused on the fact that they were charging him headlong, arms swinging wildly. One of them, a female, had a large spool of rope. He wasn’t sure what they had planned, but it certainly wasn’t good.


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As the first member of The Riddler’s little Mysterious Menage charged toward Batman, he let out a string of what could only be assumed was profanity in Spanish. Batman quickly grabbed him by the throat, picked him up in the air and delivered a mighty right hand across his jaw.

The man crumpled into the fetal position as he slid across the roof of the mansion, crashing into the chimney in a heap.



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“Put down that damn video game and get him!”

The command came from the window of the hovering, sputtering school bus, and the man who heard it responded in kind. He threw down the handheld video game that he had been focused on and jumped into the air toward Batman.

Somehow, the Caped Crusader caught the man by the leg that was extended toward him, swung him around in the air, and slung him into the first attacker.

sCY3l6iB7ShlvEFTf85AM0srMaApHJCzkNHb1HiVxwn2xvo_enPpShiSmwXaysjTt96hrml-8r5A_XKKyhIPj7Cwm5vnbAUbOzGt59qCrv1gk7vhCkvr_ieC9-raAFHknIrabgeHB6FFSVHOA8Lxt3E

The last of the minions who had come from the mysterious bus was the one who had a rope in her hand. Instead of charging in like her cohorts, she chose a slower, more methodical approach. She twirled the rope over her head, forming a lasso. A fatal mistake. It was obvious that she forgot that this Batman wasn’t like the last one.

Bruce Wayne was a businessman. Tommy Bedlam was a cowboy. A lasso may have worked on a tuxedo wearing, white collar individual, but she really should have known better than to think it would ever work on that particular night.

As she swung the rope, it’s loop widening a bit with every twirl, Batman saw his opportunity. He ran toward her, lowering his shoulder and planting it into her ribcage. She fell to the ground with a mighty thud, relinquishing control of the rope. By the time she realized what had happened, Batman was over her. He planted his foot on her neck, shooting her a look that dared her to move.

As her eyes widened, Batman grabbed her by the hair and dragged her over to her cohorts. He used the rope that she had tried to use on him, tied the three of them up, and tied a strong knot around the backside of the chimney. They weren’t going anywhere, and he would be contacting Xotham PD later to come and pick them up. He’d deal with the explanation later. In the meantime, there was one foe left: the maniacal whackjob who was sitting on the magical school bus.

As Batman slowly stepped onto the bus, he was greeted by the smell of cheap marijuana mixed with exhaust fumes.

“Finally! The guest of honor has arrived! I apologize for not doing more to tidy up the place, Man of the Bat. It’s just that I was tied up on other matters. Have you any idea how complex the process of returning an albino spotted owl to its nest when said nest is on Antarctia? HAHAHAHA!”

“Enough of the bullshit, Riddler. This is it. You have dragged me all over this city tonight, risking the lives of innocent people. You wanted this.”

“Oh, Man of the Bat, what is an innocent person? Is it one who hovers through life on the wings of a sea otter? Is it the one who gives life to the ancient stones of the Sphynx? Is it-”

rDi9jNZvN96L2f93sMuOv77EWeUnPYpVLJc7upnJo2oVkRDLyJSXXz1miBLhM6SAbZ9VKNNQzZI1kFNbqRoLi59F7waObknAFnwncf1zkCh070FqUXZMIMGUPw4kyFVDOJmXqvVLJxm7AwO2BPSWub4

Before The Riddler could complete whatever sort of inane, pointless spiel was about to come out of his mouth, Batman delivered a mighty boot across his jaw, knocking him out of the emergency exit at the back of the bus.

Not wanting to give his adversary an opportunity to regroup, he jumped through the suddenly-open door and perched over him. After two solid blows to the chin, Batman drew back to deliver a third, and hopefully final punch. Just before his right hand could land across the nose of The Riddler, Xotham’s enigmatic enemy managed to muster up the strength to flip Batman off of him. The two tumbled, head over heels closer to the edge of the mansion’s rooftop.

Suddenly on the offensive, The Riddler delivered a series of elbows to the side of Batman’s face. Four, five, six blows to the head led to the Caped Crusader’s eyes starting to close. Ever so slowly, he was losing consciousness. Was this how the first real threat to Xotham under his watch was going to triumph? It was getting harder to put together thoughts.

The Riddler stood over Batman and delivered a crushing kick to his temple. The blow knocked Batman’s mask partially off. Left with no way to truly defend himself because of the head trauma, Batman felt himself being dragged across the roof. As they neared the ledge, the sounds of the city started to grow quieter.

The Riddler reached down and finished ripping the mask from Batman’s face, exposing the battered and bloodied face of Tommy Bedlam. The mask was gone, and with it, so was his role as Xotham’s champion.

“The Man of the Bat is really a Boy of the Cow, isn’t he Bedlam of Tommies? Isn’t it remarkable what a man doth become when he places confidence in the lore of his youth? For some of us, we compose our own lore while others try to placate their own childish beliefs and dreams by becoming a hero. Unfortunately, they’re rarely up to the arduous task before them, and they soon become a footnote in the annals of history along with other unknowns such as Martin Alonzo Pinzon. Are you familiar with his work, Bedlam of Tommies?”

Did this guy ever shut the fuck up?! What was he even going on about?! There was no time to worry about that. As he dragged Tommy’s unmasked head closer to the ledge of the mansion, Tommy realized that he had to act quickly. Endued with a power that he did not know he had, Tommy somehow found the strength to grab The Riddler by the throat. The rambling came to a merciful end as The Riddler tried everything within his power to break the grip.

With most of his upper body dangling precariously over the edge of the roof, Tommy rose up. He delivered a crushing headbutt across The Riddler’s nose. Seizing the opportunity before him, Tommy pulled his foe in closer. As he felt The Riddler’s hot breath against his face, Tommy squeezed his throat a bit tighter.

As he got to his feet, he lifted The Riddler into the air by this throat. He took a step closer to the ledge holding The Riddler over the bustling streets of Gotham. Tommy didn’t speak. There had already been enough words, and the time for talking was mercifully over. He stared into the eyes of his nemesis and a small smirk came across his face. Then, Tommy let go.

He stood there on the edge of his roof watching The Riddler’s flailing body fall helplessly, hurling towards the unforgiving pavement at the bottom. Then, the unthinkable happened. The same spluttering, fuming magic school bus that had been hovering over the roof swooped down. With The Riddler mere feet from splattering across the pavement like a busted melon, the bus somehow scooped him up and carried him back into the sky.

Tommy could hear the disgusting laughter of his foe as the bus rode off into the night sky. A single piece of brown paper fell from one of the windows and landed just beside the mask that had been torn off in the battle. Tommy reached down and picked them both up.


oQpE8fVW3VRPx2YqyKNUeSYwgr117Iy7rLVtJo1EUmg8-xzsOBPAePrhqkPLihY6V9s6KtSPeinDedeAUH4l6Aqgqn5CCyYIlSek6llIS6aNlNrUgr4KjZ-m8q880rFkGr-QckVzQ0GAlByQdNPIpWM


You did a nice job, Man of the Bat. So please accept this tip of my hat.
You certainly are a respectable foe, but there’s one thing that you must know
You got me this time, you won this round. Nice job defending this terrible town
Keep on looking for the light in the sky. I’ll be back. The Dream Never Dies



Tommy knew the note was true. The Riddler would never go away that easily. Bruce Wayne had battled Edward Nygma for years, and this would be no different. XYZ had the power to be a thorn in Tommy’s side for as long as Xotham was his city.

As the sun started to come up over Xotham’s skyline, Tommy realized he’d done it. He had conquered his first foe since taking over the city. There would be others, but he knew he was ready for them, too. Rocco was right; he was the right man for the job.


Chapter 7
“A New Day, and a New Challenge”

Once The Riddler had ridden off into the sunrise, Tommy made a phone call to the Xotham Police Department and let them know that The Mysterious Menage were hogtied on the roof of the mansion. He stayed around long enough for the police helicopter to pick them up. The days of hiding the identity of Batman were over. William Harris was going to come after Tommy every chance he had anyway.

As Tommy stepped into the mansion’s living quarters, Randi was right there on the couch where she had been hours earlier. She jumped up from her seat and ran toward Tommy when he stepped off the elevator.

“Oh my God! Are you OK?! You look terrible.”

“You should see the other guy.”

Tommy gave her a sly smile and pulled her in close.

“Where’s Crowe? Rocco?”

“Rocco just fell asleep in the den. Chris got into the liquor cabinet a couple hours ago and passed out. Do you want some breakfast?”

“Coffee. I’d love a cup of coffee.”

Tommy tossed the Batman mask onto the coffee table and sat down on the sofa, still wearing the rest of the uniform. Randi handed him a cup of coffee and started wiping his face with a wet cloth. He wanted to act tough, not let her see how banged up he was, but he also enjoyed the attention from a beautiful lady. If nothing else, he’d learned that from his predecessor.

“You wanna tell me what happened?”

“Me and the Riddler just fought.”

“Where did he drag you off to for this one?”

“Nowhere. He was here. We fought on the roof of the mansion.”

“He was here?! What the hell, Tommy? Were you not gonna tell me? What would’ve happened if he had killed you?!”

“Rocco knew. There was no need to worry you about it. You don’t need to be stressing out so close to your due date. Rocco knows the plan if something ever happens to me, and you had Chris.”

“So did you get him? Is he in jail? What’s going on?”

“I threw him off the roof.”

“You did what?! So, he’s…he’s dead, right?”

Randi sounded more relieved than outraged. It was almost as though she and Tommy had had a similar conversation in the past.

“Nope. Not dead.”

“You threw him off the roof and he didn’t die? How does that work?”

“Randi, there was this magic school bus, and when he went off the roof, it- You know what, you would’ve had to see it to believe it. Let’s go to bed.”

As Tommy and Randi walked down the hallway to the master suite, he gingerly stepped out of the Batsuit. The fight with XYZ and everything that preceded it had taken a toll on him both physically and mentally, but that was the cost of defending X. Randi fell asleep first, but just as Tommy dozed off, there was a knock on the door.

“Hey kid, you in there? The Bat Signal is in the sky? I think you’re up.”

Tommy knew that there would be another threat after The Riddler was gone, but he didn’t realize just how fast it would happen. He kissed Randi on the head and dawned the Batman suit once more. He picked up the mask and put it on. Once again, at least for a while, Tommy Bedlam was put on the backburner, and Batman was ready to defend Xotham from whoever was next.























 
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Jimmy King

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My Own Worst Enemy


Fallout 032: "BEACH BRAWL"
Hellshire Beach in Kingston, Jamaica
Saturday August 12th, 2023


Another episode of Fallout is in the books, and it's another win for the trio known as The Undisputed Xperienx. The trio had suffered a setback at Back in Business XVII when they came up short in the trios battle royal. That's in the rearview for them, and now they have their sights set on becoming the second-ever FWA Trios Champions.

It's a time for celebration after a triumphant win over a trio of Longhorn Championship Wrestling stars. Nate Savage, Xperienx Xtacee, Monica, Antonio, and Bubbles the Clown are having a good time in their locker room. Sure, it's just a win over some nobodies from another promotion, but after their setback at BIB, a win feels good for the group. It's good vibes all around.

One person is conspicuous by their absence from the pleasantries. One man that's usually the life of the party whenever he's around.

Jackson Fenix.

Jackson Fenix had excused himself from the party, and he had gone into the bathroom attached to the locker room. Everyone was having a good time except for Jackson. Jackson was doing his best to decompress, but he was a bundle of nerves and couldn't find a way to relax. Jackson had the biggest match of his FWA career coming up at the 18th Anniversary Show at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Jackson earned the right to be in the Golden Opportunity after coming in fifth at the Carnal Contendership. He had thoughts telling him he didn't deserve it, but he did his best to block those out. As if that wasn't enough pressure on him, now the stakes have been raised after the FWA World Champion, Chris Peacock's announcement that he'd be competing in the Golden Opportunity and defending his world championship.

Jackson is plagued with more thoughts about whether he deserves a world championship opportunity. He would tell himself he did deserve it, but the trouble in saying that is that he couldn't find a way to bring himself to believe that. No matter what he told himself as reassurance, he didn't think he had any right to be in this match. Everyone else in this match deserves to be there, but not Jackson Fenix. At least, that's what he thinks.

Jackson is in the bathroom attached to the locker room, standing at the sink, looking at himself in the mirror. He's wearing a sleeveless Undisputed Xperienx shirt while remaining clothed in his wrestling trunks and boots. His long hair is wet from all the sweat he had from his match just moments prior, and some of his hair is hanging in his face. His hands are firmly gripped on the sides of the sink. He brings one hand up and brushes his hair from his face.

Jackson Fenix: "You deserve this."

He uttered to himself in the mirror.

Jackson Fenix: "You deserve this."

He could tell himself this all he wanted to, but he didn't believe it.

Jackson Fenix: "You deserve this."

"You can do it."

"FWA World Champion, Jackson Fenix."


"That has a nice ring to it. Yeah, I like that. See? You deserve this."

Jackson looks down in the sink before splashing cold water on his face. He looks back at the mirror, but what he sees looking back at him is not what he expected.

"Did you miss me, Jackie boy?"

It was his past self. The Jackson Fenix of old. The man who did unthinkable things with no regret for his actions. This version of Jackson had his hair slicked back and tied up in a ponytail, and he wore a shit-eating grin on his face as he stared back at present-day Jackson Fenix. Present-day Jackson's expression was fraught with shock. As if he didn't have enough stuff on his mind troubling him, now he has to contend with this.

"What are you doing here?" Jackson queried. He stared at his past self stoically.

"Aww, come on now. Is that any way to greet an old friend?" Bad Fenix said with a smirk.

Jackson Fenix: "You're no friend of mine. You're not real. This is my mind playing tricks on me when I already have a lot on my plate."

Bad Fenix: "Oh, but I am real. I'm as real as they come. You can't escape me, and you can't forget about me. Especially after all we've been through."

Jackson Fenix: "That's not me anymore, I'm not that person. I'm not you anymore."

Bad Fenix: "Yeah, yeah. You're different now. You're trying to atone for your past mistakes, but haven't you grown bored with the goody-two-shoes act? It can't be THAT great. Don't act like we didn't have fun times."

Jackson Fenix: "No, that's not me anymore. I'm trying to tell you that's who I am anymore. I don't want to be that person. I don't like who I was when I was…you."


Past Jackson feigns a look of shock and sadness. He clutches at his heart with his hands and pretends to cry.

Jackson Fenix: "You can make fun of me all you want, but it's true. I'm a good person now."

Bad Fenix: "Oh yeah, what's that got you?"

Jackson Fenix: "I have a world championship opportunity now. I never had something like that when I was you. I never got close to something like that."

Bad Fenix: "Oh yeah, that thing. The thing you stabbed a man in the back for. A man that just wanted to be your friend, but you repaid him with a kick to the face."


Present Jackson needs to learn what his past self is talking about.

Bad Fenix: "You look confused; I forgot how dense you are. I'm talking about Jeremy Best. Do you remember him? The man that you kicked in the face and that drove him so far over the brink of insanity that he kidnapped a man he idolized."

Jackson Fenix: "That… wasn't my fault."


Present Jackson stuttered before he completed that sentence. This is another instance where he didn't honestly believe the words coming out of his mouth.

Bad Fenix: "Keep telling yourself that it may be true one day! Now you get a title shot while Jeremy is six feet deep while worms feast on his corpse. All is right in the world. It's all hunky dory, right?"

Jackson Fenix: "I didn't ask for this title shot. All I wanted was the golden opportunity where I would've earned the shot fair and square."

Bad Fenix: "Yeah, you didn't ask, but it was handed to you thanks to Alyster Black exterminating the weasel, which allowed Chris Peacock to throw his name in the hat, and now he's defending his title in the very same match that he earned the opportunity for that title a year prior. If I were you, I'd be thanking Alyster Black for ridding FWA of the weasel because now you have this big title shot, but I don't think he'll be clamoring to speak to you because the man you drove insane affected him, too. That man kidnapped Alyster's best friend, so he'd every right to knock your teeth down your throat for what you did."

Jackson Fenix: "That… wasn't…my…fault."

Bad Fenix: "Repeat it, louder this time. Let the world know it wasn't your fault; maybe they'll believe you too. I know you don't believe what you're saying, like I know you don't feel like you deserve this opportunity."


Present Jackson was slowly starting to shake with rage. His fists were balled up, and his face turned red with anger.

Jackson Fenix: "I…deserve…this."

Bad Fenix: "Do you, though? Honestly, do you believe that? Even if you did, you probably won't be able to get the job done and win the big one. Everyone knows that when Jackson Fenix has the deck stacked against him and has a world of pressure on him, he'll fail just like he always does. That's all you've ever been good at. That's all you'll ever be is a failure…"


Jackson had enough, and he lashes out and smashes the mirror with his fist. The mirror shatters into tiny pieces now scattered on the bathroom floor. Jackson has blood dripping from his knuckles and punches the mirror again.

Jackson Fenix: "I DESERVE THIS! I AM NOT A FAILURE! WHAT HAPPENED BACK THEN WASN'T MY FAULT!"

Jackson hangs his head, and his eyes start tearing up.

Jackson Fenix: “I…deserve this…I am not a failure…what happened to…”

Before he can finish, there's a knock on the door, but Jackson doesn't answer. The door opens, and Xperienx Xtacee pokes his head in.

Xperienx Xtacee: "Is everything okay here?"

He notices the broken mirror, shattered glass, and blood dripping from Jackson's hand to the floor. Jackson looks over his shoulder at Xtacee. Jackson's eyes tell the whole story and all Xtacee needs to know. Xtacee enters the room, shuts the door behind him, and approaches Jackson. He rubs Jackson's back, and Jackson looks at Xtacee again before Xtacee motions for him to come in close. Xtacee wraps his arms around Jackson, and Jackson starts to sob. Xtacee hugs Jackson and holds him close while Jackson's head rests on his shoulder.

Jackson Fenix: "I…deserve…this."

*****


A few days have passed since Fallout and since the "incident" with Jackson Fenix. Not many folks are privy about what happened with him that day except those closest to him. He didn't tell them but didn't have to say anything. They can tell that something is off with him because he's usually boisterous and full of life and energy, but lately, that hasn't been the case. Jackson has tried to hide it, but he's never been the best at that kind of thing.

His closest friend, the man he shares the ring with, is like a brother to him, Nate Savage, who has become especially concerned for his friend. Nate had traveled back home stateside for a week or two before flying out again to Barbados for the anniversary show. Nate invited Jackson out so he could speak with him. Nate set up the meeting at Jackson's favorite fast-food restaurant, McDonald's. Nate arrived before Jackson and ordered Jackson's favorite items: McNuggets with/ BBQ sauce, french fries, and a Hi-C orange drink. Nate also ordered his own food and sat down at a booth with the food, and a few minutes later, Jackson arrived. He was wearing his usual Britney Spears t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. His long hair is usually tied back, but Jackson is letting it flow today. He looks like he hasn't slept in days, but other than that, he seems okay.

Jackson silently sits at the booth across from Nate, glances down at the food, then looks up at Nate.

Nate Savage: "I hope you don't mind, but since I know what you like, I figured I'd surprise you with it."

Jackson Fenix: "Thanks."


Nate sees that Jackson's hand is still bandaged from his incident a few days prior. Jackson sips from his drink and dunks a nugget in the sauce.

"What's this all about?" Jackson says before he takes a bite of his nugget.

Nate Savage: "What do you mean?"

"This,"
Jackson motions around the table. Nate finishes off his burger and washes it down with some Diet Coke.

Nate Savage: "What? I can't treat my friend to a meal? Does there have to be something?"

Jackson doesn't respond and takes a bite of another nugget. Nate sighs, and he leans forward.

Nate Savage: "Jack, I'm worried about you."

Jackson looks confused at this statement.

Jackson Fenix: "Why are you worried about me?"

Nate points at Jackson's bandaged hand, and Jackson looks down at it and shrugs.

Jackson Fenix: “This? I told you it was from our match when that guy kicked my hand. I'm telling you, there was a lot of force behind that kick."

Nate finishes off his french fries and shakes his head. He takes another sip of his drink and leans back in his seat.

Nate Savage: "Jackson, you have never been a good liar, you know that, right? How long have I known you now? Ten years, maybe longer than that. I know by now when you're not being honest, and right now is one of those instances."

Jackson doesn't look at Nate but looks down at his food on the table. He knows what Nate is talking about but has yet to want to speak about it with anyone.

Nate Savage: "Jackson, I know what you did in that bathroom in our locker room that night. I saw the shattered mirror, and I saw the blood on the floor…"

Jackson Fenix: "Yeah, so?"

Nate Savage: "So, I'm worried about you."

Jackson Fenix: "Why?"

Nate Savage: "What are you talking about? I'm worried about you because you're my best friend. You've been my tag team partner for years in two different promotions. You and I have been through a lot together. We've had our ups and downs, and you've been there for me as I have for you, and I want to be there for you right now."

"Look, I know you're scared. You're nervous about this match. Yeah, the Golden Opportunity itself was one thing, but now the added caveat of the FWA World Championship is on the line in the Steel Roulette. I get that it's a daunting task, but Jackson, do you realize how big of an opportunity you have? You have a chance to become the FWA World Champion. This shot was handed to you by the champ himself."


Jackson holds his hand up and motions for Nate to stop.

Jackson Fenix: "You don't think I understand that?"

Nate Savage: "That's not what I'm saying, Jax. I'm trying to say that no matter how much pressure you're feeling right now, know that I believe in you. Xtacee, Monica, Antonio, Hazel, the fans, hell, even that clown believes in you. What I'm saying is that I want you to believe in yourself as much as we do. Grab this opportunity by the balls, and don't let go."

"I get that you're nervous, that's completely understandable, I get that. I've been in that spot when my nerves got the better of me, but you know what I did? I fought through that and did my damnedest to fight for what I had earned. I didn't win, but that didn't matter. I was pissed off about it, but I was still grateful for the opportunity I was granted. The opportunity that I earned. No matter what you believe, you deserve this, Jackson. Don't let anyone try to tell you otherwise. Not even yourself. Anyone that says you don't deserve this is full of shit, and they're just jealous. Prove those people wrong."


Jackson had sat there and digested what Nate had said to him. He knew that Nate was right. He did deserve this, and he knows he can do this, but for some reason, he can't find a way to believe that, honestly, even when it's coming from Nate, his best friend. Jackson knows that Nate cares, and he's only doing what he thinks is best and looking out for Jackson.

Nate Savage: "Look, I'm sorry. I just wanted to bring you here today because I was concerned, that's all. I know you have a lot on your plate, but I hope you listened to what I said because I meant every word. You can do this, Jax, believe."

Jackson had finished his food and was sitting there in silence. He nods in acknowledgment toward his friend.

Jackson Fenix: "Thank you, Nate, thank you for everything. I get that you're just looking out for me. I appreciate everything you said to me, and I appreciate that you believe in me. I appreciate that everyone I've surrounded myself with believes in me. Now, if only I can find a way to believe in myself and believe that I truly deserve this. I think I can only do that by figuring it out on my own. Whatever that means, I don't know, but I have to do this myself."

Nate nods in silent acknowledgment, and the two of them sit in silence for a brief moment before Jackson breaks it up.

Jackson Fenix: "Hey, this will probably sound weird, but have you ever had…have you ever…has there ever been a time when…"

Jackson wants to express to Nate many things, including a particular dream he's been having as of late and him blaming himself for what happened to Jeremy.

Nate Savage: "What are you trying to say, Jax?"

Jackson Fenix: "Oh, uh, it's nothing. Forget it."

*****

The 18th Anniversary Show

Kingston Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados
Sunday September 3rd, 2023

Jackson Fenix is backstage with backstage correspondent Katie Baxter for an exclusive FWA.com interview just hours before the show commences. Katie is dressed to the nines in a beautiful dress to commemorate the evening's festivities, while Fenix is in his special gear for tonight's event with matching trunks, boots, and knee pads donning the Undisputed Alliance colors of blue and maroon, as well as the new Undisputed Xperienx t-shirt that can be found on ShopFWA.com.

Katie Baxter: "Jackson Fenix, you have a busy night ahead of you with not only a trios match, but you're also in tonight's main event in the Steel Roulette match where Chris Peacock will defend his FWA World Championship. You requested this time just by yourself because you'd like to address that match in particular, correct?"

Jackson Fenix: "That's right, Katie, and before I go any further, I know how important that trios match is for myself, Nate, and Xtacee, and I know that we will go out there and beat The Lumberjacks, but right now, my mind is on the Steel Roulette match. I know we learned not too long ago about Peacock putting his title on the line in this match, thus replacing weaselperson, and I know there have been weeks for me to prepare for this not only physically but mentally…as much as I've tried I can't seem to wrap my head around this and focus…"

"That's because you're weak!"


Jackson stops what he's saying and hears that voice but tries to ignore it.

Jackson Fenix: "Sorry, I lost track of what I was talking about…where was I? Right, the Steel Roulette…at first, it was a Golden Opportunity match, which was pressuring enough, but now the world title is on the line…I haven't been able to bring myself to focus…"

"That's because you know you don't deserve this, and you know that you have hope of winning!"

Jackson Fenix: "Shut up!"


Jackson's sudden outburst causes Katie to jump, and she looks petrified.

Jackson Fenix: "Not you, Katie, I'm so sorry…"

"You're sorry? What about you being sorry for what you did to Jeremy Best? He's worm food now, and it's ALL YOUR FAULT!"


Jackson does his best to fight back the urge to yell and to further prevent himself from looking like a crazy person.

Jackson Fenix: "Katie, I can't do this right now… I'm sorry…"

Jackson leaves the interview area and makes his way through the stadium halls. He finds an exit door, and he quickly leaves the stadium. He's outside for a breather and to collect himself.

"You think it's that easy to escape me? You can't escape me, Jackie!"

Jackson closes his eyes and holds his hands over his ears.

Jackson Fenix: "I'm not listening; I can't hear you!"

Jackson opens his eyes, and Bad Fenix stands in front of him.

Bad Fenix: "You can't run away from me because I am YOU, Jackson!"

Jackson furiously shakes his head, turns around, and heads toward the door to re-enter the building. Once inside, he sees that the place is empty. The halls were brimming with people just moments ago, but now they're all gone.

Jackson Fenix: "What's going on? Where is everyone?"

Bad Fenix: "No one can help you, Jackie."


Jackson runs to his shared locker room with Nate and Xtacee, but once he's there, he sees no one.

Bad Fenix: "Your friends can't help you, Jackie. You have no one left but yourself."

Jackson Fenix: "No, this can't be real! This has to be a dream!"

Bad Fenix: "Afraid not, haha!"


Jackson runs down the hall and sees the interview area from before is empty. He runs past that until he reaches the outer space of the stadium where the show will take place. The place is deserted except for a wrestling ring set up squarely in the stadium's center.

Jackson slowly approaches the ring and enters it through the ropes. He walks around it for a bit before pausing in the center.

Jackson Fenix: "What's going on? What does this mean?"

Bad Fenix: "It means that you must stop being a coward and trying to escape your problems!"


His evil past self is standing in front of him in the ring. Jackson takes a few steps back and shakes his head.

Jackson Fenix: "No, this can't be happening!"

Bad Fenix: "Oh, it's happening alright, and there's no escape!"

Jackson Fenix: "I can't do this! I have matches tonight! People are depending on me!"

Bad Fenix: "Do you mean your friends Nate and Xtacee? You'll just let them down like you always do. Do you remember what happened at Back in Business? You'll let them down again just like you did there."

Jackson Fenix: "No, that won't happen!"

Bad Fenix: "Speaking of stuff that won't happen, you winning the Steel Roulette match and walking out of Barbados with the FWA World Championship! What makes you think you have a hope in winning when you can't even face your problems like a grown-up instead of running away from them?"

Jackson Fenix: "That's what this is about. Me facing my problems and sorting them out."

Bad Fenix: "Oh, look who has finally caught up!"

Jackson Fenix: "I can't keep going on like this, thinking running away will help. All that does is make it worse."

Bad Fenix: "You're not as dense as I thought you were!"


Jackson approaches his past self and slaps him across the face. Bad Fenix holds his cheek and smiles.

Bad Fenix: "Oh, you've got some fight in you after all!"

Jackson Fenix: "That's right, and I'm going to end this right now by putting a stop to you. It's about time I face my problem head-on before I can focus on what is in front of me."


Jackson locks up with his past self, and right away, there's a standstill in their grapple. Neither one of them will budge.

Bad Fenix: "Are you sure you want to proceed with this? Do you think you have what it takes? Do you believe it?"

Before Jackson can answer, he's pushed back into a corner, and Bad Fenix releases himself from the grapple.

Bad Fenix: "Hesitation will get you nowhere!"

Bad Fenix starts to drill Jackson with rights and lefts. Then he lays into him with stomps and kicks.

Bad Fenix: "This is too easy!"

Bad Fenix takes Jackson by the hand, and he looks to send toward the opposite corner, but Jackson counters with an Irish whip and sends Bad Fenix into the corner. Jackson charges forward and nails a corner clothesline on Bad Fenix!

Jackson Fenix: "Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much?"

Jackson remains where he's at and starts to drill Bad Fenix with repeated elbows to the head.

Jackson Fenix: "Being cocky can only get you so far! Sometimes, you have to step back and change things up!"

Jackson drags Bad Fenix away from the corner and looks for a suplex, but Bad Fenix blocks that.

Bad Fenix: "I think YOU talk too much!"

Bad Fenix lifts Jackson, but instead of a suplex, he sends him crashing down on his head with a brainbuster!

Bad Fenix: "You called me cocky! Huh, that's rich coming from you!"

Jackson holds his head and rolls to his side on the mat.

Jackson Fenix: "That's the thing though…"

Jackson brings himself back to his feet and stands toe-to-toe with himself.

Jackson Fenix: “I am you.”

Bad Fenix: "Oh, so you finally admit it, huh? Took you long enough!"


Bad Fenix drives a boot to Jackson's midsection and then plants him face-first with a DDT!

Bad Fenix: "I'm glad you're starting to come around and see things our way. How things should always be."

Bad Fenix drives home some vicious stomps to Jackson's back, which causes Jackson to roll over, and Bad Fenix stomps away on his chest.

Bad Fenix: "I really didn't think you had it in you to see the light and come back around. I knew you wouldn't be able to get the job done in the Steel Roulette because you know you don't deserve it. You also know that what happened to Jeremy is your fault. You're the reason he's gone now."

"You're the reason he kidnapped Krash and held him hostage. Do you think Alyster Black will let that slide and forget you had a hand in that? It's all over for you once he gets his hands on you inside that chamber!"

Jackson starts to rise, but Bad Fenix sends him crashing back down with a curb stomp to the mat.

Bad Fenix: "Do you think that Katsu has problems believing in herself? What about Death Walker? Reagan Cole? Do you think they deal with the same issues you have? The difference between you and them is that they're not cowards. They don't run away from their problems like you. They have what it takes!"


"Do you see Chris Peacock running away? No, because he's the world champ, and he's not some bitch like you! You've gone soft, Jackson! It's time you realize that. Being a good guy will get you nowhere. Chris Peacock knew that, and look at him now, he's the world champ. He has what it takes to succeed. He has that killer mentality, unlike you."

"You run away and hide behind this facade that you've changed. You think that will help you, but it won't. Your past will always be there. I will always be a part of you, Jackson, whether you like it or not…"

Bad Fenix kneels close to Jackson, who is trying to get up.

"I AM YOU!"

Bad Fenix backs away and sizes up Jackson for a superkick.

Bad Fenix: "Come on, it's time. It's time to put this good guy schtick to rest, and you return to where you belong."

Jackson Fenix: "No…"

Bad Fenix: "Excuse me, what did you say?"

Jackson Fenix: “No…I won’t do that…that’s not me anymore…”

Bad Fenix: "Here I thought you had finally embraced it, but here comes your stubbornness rearing its ugly head! Tell me, why do you do it? Why do you pretend to be someone that you're not, huh? Come on, spit it out!"

Jackson Fenix: "I didn't like who I was…I didn't like who I had become…I wanted to change for…my Mom…my Meemaw…for the fans…for Nate…for myself…”

Bad Fenix: "That's it? Did you want to change for them? What a crock of shit! Newsflash: Nate doesn't care what you do, and neither do the fans. Your Mom and Meemaw, hate to break it to you, but what they think doesn't matter."

"As for yourself, I don't know what to make of that. You can try to change all you want, but it won't make a difference."


Jackson has since risen, and he's staring down his past self.

Jackson Fenix: "Do it…kick me…"

Bad Fenix: "You don't have to ask me twice!"


Bad Fenix goes for a superkick, but Jackson catches him by the boot, and Bad Fenix looks surprised.

Jackson Fenix: "Remember, hesitation will get you nowhere."

Before Bad Fenix can retort, Jackson spins him around, and he drops Bad Fenix with a dragon suplex! Jackson quickly follows up with a bicycle knee to the face!

Jackson Fenix: "You know what I hate to break to you? Nate and the fans, they do care. I know for a fact that they care…"

Jackson says with a stomp.

Jackson Fenix: "What my Mom and my Meemaw think does matter. Don't you ever say a bad thing about them ever again!"

More stomps until Jackson feels like he's had enough. Jackson then backs away and sizes him up.

Jackson Fenix: "As for me…I will make a difference…"

SUPERKICK ME BABY ONE MORE TIME TO BAD FENIX!

Bad Fenix is about to drop, but Jackson lifts him…

Jackson Fenix: "I believe in myself…"

SIN CITY HANGOVER!

A crowd is heard counting the one, two, three. Jackson stands tall over his bad self. There's no one there, but Jackson hears the crowd roar.

*****

Jackson looks up in the mirror and sees his reflection this time. No one else is there this time. It's just him. He smiles at himself and leaves the bathroom.

He enters the locker room and finds his crew waiting by the door. Jackson can hear the crowd's roar as they wait in anticipation of the main event.

Jackson approaches Bubbles the Clown, and he gives his clown friend a big hug. Bubbles let go and started to wipe away nonexistent tears.

Jackson shares a hug with Monica and Antonio. Then he finds Xtacee and gives Xtacee a big hug, and Xtacee also plants a kiss on Jackson's forehead.

Then Jackson meets Nate at the end and the two look at each other. No words are said, and they hug. It's a long embrace and becomes a group hug with everyone surrounding Jackson. Everyone then breaks up, and Nate has his head pressed against Jackson's head.

Nate Savage: "You got this man. This is your moment. You deserve this."

Jackson hugs Nate one more time before heading out. The group watches him as he walks toward the entrance area and waits for his music to hit.

Jackson does deserve this.
 

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I'M LUCY LUPONE, AND I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN!

Lucy burst back out of the wardrobe, crashing into the lumberjack locker room almost nose-to-floor. He had run frantically back through all the clothes, though the weird humming light, as far away from those two men as he could.

Her moose antler hat had fallen off, but she was in such a panic that she didn't even notice. She slammed the doors of her wardrobe shut, grabbed one of her feather boas, and tied the handles together to stop anyone from getting out if they came through to the locker room. She got another boat and wrapped that around, too. Another, another, until all the boys were wrapped around the door handles. But Lucy still didn't feel safe.

She rushed out of her locker room. She didn't want to be in there and be reminded of what she'd heard.

It was dark in the wood cabin. Lucy slammed the door of her bedroom and then sprinted to the giant shared bedroom of her twin brothers. She sprinted there. She had run faster than she had ever had before. She burst into her brother's room. "GUYS. GUYS. GUYS. GUYS. GUYS. GUYS." She threw herself into the middle of the room and started hitting her brother's shared homemade bunk bed.

The brothers Lumberjack had been dreaming. Dan was a world-famous jazz musician...who also lumberjacked on the side...Doug was a superhero...when he could find the time to do his lumberjack business. Really, it was more of a side gig from lumberjacking. Which he did frequently with his twin brother, the famous jazz musician. Yes, of course, they shared dreams; they were linked by their psychic powers. Their mother called it their shining, and it's a part of their reach and layered backstory between the two that they would have loved to bring up to make them seem more well-rounded and interesting...but they were too busy being Lumberjacks, in any case, their shared dreams were broken up by pillows being thrown in their faces.

"GUYS!"

"LUCY" in perfect union, the lumberjacks leapt up from under the covers and leapt down from their bunk bed,

"Lucy, what are you doing? It's-"

Doug checked the sundial they had in the corner; the sundial he carved himself for that was something a lumberjack would do, and he was, in fact, a lumberjack.

"Three-thirty in the morning! Three-thirty in the morning!"

"Yeah! Why didn't you wake us up a little earlier? We have lumberjack stuff to do!"

"Yes, General Lumberjack business, that we know a lot about because we are, in fact, lumberjacks, and we therefore know a lot about the job!"

"Thank you for clarifying that we are, in fact, Lumberjacks Doug,"

"You're welcome, Dan."

"They're trying to kill us!" Lucy cried, struggling up and clutching at the neckline of her brother's denim plaid pyjamas.

"Lucy, have you been dreaming?"

"No! It's real! Honest! I heard them!" Lucy's voice was rapidly increasing in pitch, in danger of getting so high only dogs could hear it. "They're trying to kill us."

"Who?"

"The Undisputed Xperienx! They're hiding in our wardrobe."

"The Undisputed-what?-"

"They're hiding in your wardrobe? What are you talking about? There's no one hiding in your wardrobe!"

"But there are!
"Lucy wailed, and the brother's lumberjack could feel she was shaking, possibly even harder than before.

"What would The undisputed xperience be doing in your wardrobe?"

"I mean, for one thing, they wouldn't have the same appreciation we do for fine wooden cabinets!"

"They were in there, trying to lure me inside with their sexy, sexy ways. They kept saying they love hardwood."

"....."

"....."

"....I don't get it."

"Yeah, doesn't that go without saying?"

"What's not to love about good old-fashioned reinforced lumber."

"Yeah. doesn't everyone love hard wood?"

"I know I do."

"I think they were making a joke, or maybe some kind of pun."

"WHAT?!"

"THE HELL YOU SAY?!"

"They can mock us, make all the jokes they want about us, but to mock wood?! To not respect wood?! That's a line you don't cross."

"Should we get together and discuss why we're going to beat them and how we're better to them in a meaningful yet entertaining way?"

"Naa, screw that; let's go chop up the wardrobe with axes."
 

Cyrus Truth

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Night has fallen.

Wrought-iron fences surround a massive field of overgrown grass and rampant weeds. Large gates swing open by a massive gust of wind. Gas lanterns illuminate walkways through the brush and shattered cobblestone paths.

Amongst the weeds, we see stones.

Tombstones.

An endless field of granite, marble, and slate monuments to the fallen, many of them nondescript and faded with time and neglect. But not all of them, as our gaze starts to focus on a central hill that juts out amongst the field of graves.

Through the gates, we see two figures enter the graveyard. Dressed entirely in matching black coats, faces completely obscured by drawn-up hoods, these two men take the first steps through this monument, this sanctuary of the fallen and the forgotten, their boots echoing on the stone.


“Eighteen years have come and gone…”

“Eighteen years of conflict, struggle, triumphs, and failures…”

“A time of great champions, immortal legends…”

“...and the shattered spirits they’ve left behind them in their wake.”


As the two figures continue to walk down the pathway, approaching the hill in the middle of this cemetery…we hear it first.

Baleful screams.

Tormented moaning.

The haunting cacophony of the dead and forgotten.

And as the duo start to get closer and closer to the hill that almost towers over the rest of the graveyard, we start to see the faded names on those headstones start to be less and less worn out.

More importantly? We see that each of these headstones has not just one name…but two. All of them do.

The duo of black-cloaked intruders continue their slow, purposeful march towards the hill, as just beyond the gaslight? We see shadows stirring. The sound of broken, lost, and forgotten souls is now accompanied by movement in the dark, irritated and riled.

But…is it because of these invaders coming into this space, this place where they were left behind by time and the machinations of man?

Or perhaps it’s something else…

Regardless, the duo continue their march, undeterred and unfettered.

And as they do? As they get closer and closer to the mountain, the names on the tombstones become legible.

The Friendship Wrestling Alliance.

dayspring/nightfall.

The Nephews.

The Lumberjacks.

And at the tombstone with the names of Aka Yurei and Keiko Hirabayashi, the duo of haunting joshi known as Aka Manto, the two men in black stop briefly, paying no heed to the sounds of the damned around them.


“It’s a shame, really. To know that so many over the course of history had the talent, the desire, and the temperament needed to assert themselves as champions, as legends.”

“We’ve seen them come in droves, seeking the adulation of the crowds and the prestige that comes with chasing and achieving glory.”

“But…no glory is ever achieved without sacrifice. Not just personal sacrifice either.”


“Because those who chase glory? They must try and take it from those who seek it as well.”

“And history has shown one universal Truth.”

“Not everybody who chases glory does so in a way that honors the sacrifices made.”


Movement in the shadows. Shambling shades start to draw close. The sounds, the wailing and fury of the forgotten becomes a chorus of sound and rancor that surrounds our two interlopers.

But…the two intruders in black aren’t the target of their ire..

It’s the hill.

As the two men continue walking towards the hill, the names continue to get clearer and clearer. Name of duos from FWA’s past, legendary tandems that challenged for the championships, and many that did.

It starts with duos that reigned for a short period of time. But then, markers denoting the more reputable tandems and champions are passed by as the duo in black start to make their trek up the hill.

Aut Pax Aut Bellum.

Vodka and Venom.

Sunrise Sunset.

Golden Rock.

The Gang Stars.

The Grayson-Horrowitz Connection.

Countless other championship pairs have their monuments on the hill, as the restless, bitter souls of those teams that had their aspirations for championship glory continue to shamble up the hill.

But there is one that approaches the monument at the top. Ghastly, haunting specters resembling two young women, feverishly clawing at that tombstone that has been planted atop the others.

It’s all for naught, though.

No matter how much they claw, no matter how much they scream in anger? They cannot shatter the stone, mar the monument. As the duo finishes their climb, the two specters turn to face them, their once human faces twisted into a contorted amalgamation of monstrous fury and indignation.


“It’s almost pitiable, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps, but it doesn’t change the facts.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t. They failed in the end. Not once, but twice.”

“They were humiliated, and when they had the chance to get their revenge? They failed then, too.”

“Because they underestimated the depths their targets would sink to in order to cling to the dying embers of their ill-deserved glory. Their willingness to have others preserve their claims to the top.”

“And in the end, they condemned themselves to join the rest of the fallen and forgotten. Just another soul to the call and another body in the ground.”

“A truly tragic end to such a bright, prospective tandem. But, nothing for it. They’ve had their chances."

“But those chances are now lost. Vengeance will no longer be theirs to taste. And now? It’s our turn to set things right.”


The two specters scream like banshees as they see this defiance, this dismissal from the living…this utter disinterest in their suffering. They lunge at the figures, presumably to condemn them to the same torment that they have endured.

The spirits of Aka Manto don’t get that chance.

With the ease one swats away a pesky fly, both figures in black swipe at them with a wave of their hands. They cut through the ethereal ghosts like a burning sword through butter. With no effort, no hesitation, the men in black cast these spirits back to the depths of their unrest, their forms scattered to the winds.

The other spirits that haunt this ground back away. The sound of distant thunder rumbles as rain starts to fall. The intruders in this space, the sole living figures in this graveyard of tag teams past and present, of the legends who achieved their glory and the poor, unfortunate souls they crushed on their path there, reach the peak of the hill as they stand on either side of the tombstone that stands above them all.

This marker is newer than the others, clearly freshly carved and placed. However, the light from the gas lanterns doesn’t reach this high, and we can’t quite read the names carved on this tombstone.


“Eighteen years of strife and conflict. Of camaderie and duplicity. Bonds of blood and iron, acts of treachery and arrogance.”

“It’s almost incredible just how many have made their names by the most deplorable of actions, truly. I’m almost impressed.”

“But there’s nothing to admire about the ones who now stand at the top of the mountain.”

“Indeed…a trio of figures committed to the constant, persistent stroking of their own egos at the expense of their dignity and the prestige of the titles they hold.”

“If you’re going to be arrogant, you’d best not be so comfortable with your victories being so tainted, nor revel in triumphs not earned with your own power.”

“If you’re going to be duplicitous? Then do it under your own power, instead of relying on feeble-minded sheep ready to throw themselves upon your altar as a willing sacrifice.”

“It’s been too long since FWA has had Tag Team Champions that understand the weight that comes from being the best of the best.”

“Truly, yes. Too long has the throne of kings been occupied by jesters, pretenders, and cowards. Shall we remedy that?”

“Nothing would make me happier.”


The thunder grows louder…louder…LOUDER as lightning starts to streak across the sky, giving us brief flashes of light that almost reveal the faces under the hoods, and the names etched on the tombstone that had been placed above the others.

“We will storm the battlefields, whether we’re welcomed as heroes or decried as invaders.”

“To the false kings who demand loyalty and eschew respect in turn? We’ll break your crowns and condemn you to execution.”

“To the charlatans who think their actions will have no consequences? We shall expose you for the frauds that you are and leave you with NOTHING.”

“And to the two men who have allowed their arrogance to fester and boil over into delusions of grandeur and divinity?”

“To the would-be gods who think their bonds are unbreakable, unassailable?”

“The Dark Roads Alliance will rise up, and become the God-Shattering Star…”


BOOM!

A deafening crack of thunder. A streak of lightning strikes at the headstone between the duo, splintering it into pieces.

But neither man is harmed.

The same cannot be said for the tombstone.

And as lightning continues to crackle and flash around them, striking at more and more headstones throughout the graveyard, it’s finally enough to see things clearly.

The manic, mirthful grin of the Mad Wizard.

The stoic, determined countenance of The Exile.

And what remains of the tombstone bearing the names of the reigning Tag Team Champions between them…


Cyrus Truth and Konchu Hao Presents…

The Dark Roads Alliance in…

“The Rising of the Shadows That Devour The Condemned”
 
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Jimmy King

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Undisputed Xperienx


"Everything will be okay."

Xtacee says as he cradles Jackson Fenix close to his chest after Jackson's sudden outburst. The shards of glass from the broken mirror and blood from Jackson's knuckles remain on the floor. Xtacee releases Jackson, gently placing his hand underneath Jackson's chin and looking at him.

Xtacee: "You do deserve this, baby. You'll knock 'em dead in that chamber."

Xtacee takes Jackson's bloodied hand and holds it in his hand.

Xtacee: "We can't have this."

Jackson looks down at his bloodied hand.

Xtacee: "We need you at one hundred percent if we want to beat those Lumberjacks."

Jackson: "I'm…sorry."

Xtacee: "Don't apologize, baby, you're okay. I can take care of this for you."


Xtacee gently touches Jackson's cheek to reassure him it's okay. Xtacee wipes away a tear from Jackson's cheek.

Xtacee gets up and finds something to wrap up Fenix's hand with. Xtacee cleans up the wound and bandages it up nicely. Afterward, Xtacee embraces Jackson again. The two remain embraced in a hug for what seems like an eternity. Xtacee takes Jackson by the hand and leads him out of the room.

Jackson and Xtacee rejoin their friends, who seem to be sharing laughs, but they stop when Jackson and Xtacee return. Monica sees Jackson's hand and is about to say something, but Xtacee calmly motions for her to shush. Jackson sits next to Nate, who looks concerned for his friend but doesn't say anything. Bubbles is on the other side of Jackson and hugs him at his side. Xtacee sits with Monica and Antonio, and the friends go back to sharing stories and having a good time.

From an outsider's perspective, everything seemed okay within the group, but not everything is as it seems. It's okay; they'll get through this.

The Lumberjacks will Xperienx the Xtacee, which is Undisputed.
 
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Rosie

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STEEL ROULETTE MATCH​



LockedInTitleCard.png




Vampress.jpg

The slam of a cell door echoes through the halls followed by the sound of a buzzer. Chains rattle as prison guards move a new inmate into the confines of the prison. The walls are dingey, the lights flicker, barely keeping on. In between the guards is a woman in an orange prison jumpsuit. Her hands are cuffed and connected to the chains. She is short, likely not as violent as the scene would indicate. Across her chest is the number “22383.” The woman has a black and orange mask with fox-like ears on it. Her dark hair flows down with silver tips. A choker is around her neck, somewhat wide compared to normal. . Dread is in her eyes. Hope has almost faded from her. In front of all of them is a guard who looks to be somewhat important. He has greying hair and a greasy moustache, and a flat prison hat out of a movie with a county jail. The badge on his chest reads “Warden.” Grabbing his police baton, he places it under the girl’s chin.

Warden: “These are your new digs, little kitty.”

There is a look of disgust on her face as she responds.

Katsu: “It’s a fox. Kitsune. And my name is Katsu-”

The guard slaps her across the face with his baton. She goes down to a knee as the guards pull her up.

Warden: “Forget your damn name! Look at those numbers on your chest.”

He pokes her chest.

Warden: “That’s your identity now. 22383.”

Katsu groans in pain after the baton shot, slightly dazed. The Warden leans in closer to Katsu. He speaks with a maniacal coldness in his voice

Warden: “You’re not a human. You’re not a person here. You’re our property. We will treat you how we want to. So if you want to survive here, I suggest being a good little kitty and doing what you’re told… Understand?”

Not looking the warden in the eyes, she is disgusted by the corrupt policeman. Aggressively, he grabs her by the chin and looks at her intensely in the eyes. He grinds his teeth as he talks.

Warden: “Say yes. Say yes you dumb bitch, or I will make your life here even more hell than it already will be…”

Realising she doesn’t have much choice in the matter, the masked woman slowly nods.

Warden: “I’m glad we have an understanding. Take her away, boys.”

The Warden steps aside and follows his guards as they push Katsu through the halls. The woman looks down on the floor, trying to hold back tears. There is no hope here.

“Prison Song” By Graham Nash

Katsu and Fantasy Wrestling Alliance Present:

Katsu walks down the hallway, head down. Along the beaten down walls of the prison are various cells. Several inmates look up as the masked woman is carried down the hallway, though others aren’t bothered by it. She is just fresh blood. The new plaything.

“One day a friend took me aside
And said I have to leave you
For buying something from a friend
They say I've done wrong”

Looking up from a cell, a man with slicked back long black hair looks up and sees Katsu walking by. He’s somewhat skinny, with his prison jumper sleeves cut off, showing some arm tattoos. With the look in his eyes, you can tell he’s still got some warmth left. His prison number tag reads “69420.”

Starring:
6v1riMG-4QIPDXY2bGab5XPyGu97loBwvpzxnRAnKWLyLAOBH34uvcG8zJYLuEP5Hwxk73VtFgRK2ZMJoPLyYdRjtytxfUDJxbo5Kt2PcxZusg8O33pLik9JNjPPN_Cq3jtkrHwHfH2RqvcX9StbWaw


“For protecting the name of a man
They say I'll have to leave you,
So now I'm bidding you farewell
For much too long.”

Leaning against the cell bars, the camera gets a look at the numbers “77340.” He has short hair and a scruffy beard. In his hands is a silver locket with a picture. It is of him with a family. A wife, kid, all seeming happy. He sighs and tucks it into his jumper as he sees the new girl walking past him.

jOBDigQdMziFfvqsefYBZ99U2uoo_yrv3dJWtNxbwFSBHgQcQSg-40KfSq9kqJdIyON2u_ZxEJOzt7ObYXrCYB5u8bfYLezxiP80iw2gdtrS2xx3PZfhFS4Ad2oYTa8W9rn91B4ZDS1Tbv0laJALolY


“And here's a song to sing,
For every man inside,
If he can hear you sing
It's an open door.”

A hooded figure stands in the cell. The shadows cover his face as he sees Katsu being led off to her eternal damnation. He doesn’t say a word, but he turns to see a muscular, large man sitting in the corner. His dark skin is contrasted by his bright orange jumpsuit. Chains are on his wrists, as if he is a caged beast. Covering his face is a skull shaped mask. His eyes tell of a world of pain. He glances down at his numbers. “61616”
yqn2_ht6wU1QOt6Jk3vNJAblPLlud4OSYZjayWPxUqpvF8UWsC3l0J8FLFgWdWbVhyf7F0hMCX-TAMs4puOKESKK5V1Ry9meoig0U8tME9vBl39B29Py4WpfOpu-KQF1nA3t7zUOOAx0SVdarg2lslg


“There's not a rich man there,
Who couldn't pay his way
And buy the freedom that's a high price
For the poor.”

There’s a small amount of reflective light coming from a nearby cell. A man with an orange jumpsuit, tight to his muscles, dances to himself. He has a moustache on his face, long greasy hair. On his… very TIGHT jumpsuit is the number “00001” and a golden chain is around his neck which shakes as he grooves. Despite the hell he is in, he appears to be in his own world, grooving under a personal disco ball in her cell.

JE4yFg5mabgqGc1MmCTfHuZmd2An-Xnj71-viHMKIwBpFZ8pYFV84PG3oAsie2AQW1lbiP00y5uvb_Ce55iQ5s5mC_XbGnO-sT9XngG72eGs7kNBXdqrIfPTaA03LntZ8NWOhKp6z4buSupXOvZti7I


“Kids in Texas
smoking grass,
ten year sentence
comes to pass
Misdemeanour
in Ann Arbor,
ask the judges
Why?”

As Katsu is led to a more open area, a prisoner watches from above. His face is obscured with a black mask, only having a slight head tilt of curiosity. “66613.” The camera zooms in on his face, mask hiding his expressions.

DSefGALFpRZgkLKuFQT370mNCq4aMgV90dCGis0xbnbGHggznGeiFC2chuWRvEiPqxwRr__HGUQ9-oHsFxqFosf8kDJW6QTogFBXmRIEd6gmtSNAFeJkYGJoo7Qpwfi8VMDgM_H7162uZXmOZlH7Vn4


“Another friend said to her kids
I'm gonna have to leave you
for selling something to the man
I guess I did wrong”

Katsu is led further down the hall. She keeps her head down.

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“and although I did the best I could
I'm gonna have to leave you
so now I'm kissing you farewell
for much too long.”

Produced by:
Cyber-Kay Productions

Finally getting to her cell, the prison guards remove her cuffs and push her to the floor of her cell. Someone is lying in the top bunk of her head. A woman. Her face is obscured, but all we can see is some silver hair.

“And here's a song to sing,
for every man inside
if he can hear you sing
it's an open door.”

Katsu looks around her cell. Just a small toilet, and bench. Drops of water are on the floor. Carved in the wall is the word.

HELL

Not even a single window to let in light. Just a dimly lit lightbulb. Katsu looks up at the guards and a tear rolls down her mask. She gets up and looks at the guards.

“There's not a rich man there
who couldn't pay his way
and buy the freedom that's a high price
for the poor.”

The guards chuckle as the warden grabs the door. The Warden looks at his new prisoner.

Warden: “This is where the sharks are.”

There is a sneer from him. He looks down on her.

Warden: “Try not to bleed.”

And he slams the cell door shut, the steel creating a loud clang.

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Sitting down on her new bed, it creeks slightly, worn, likely with broken springs. . Looking at her new bedsheets, they are stained, disgusting. The first day of the rest of her life, if you can even call it that. Katsu stares at the concrete floor, a feeling of dread beginning to wash over her. No, worse than dread. Hopelessness. Numbness. The world on the outside of these cold walls will move on without her. She’ll make no impression on the world. Tossed away like the rubbish they treat her. All while others get off scot free for doing more harm than she ever did. Rubbing her neck, she feels a sharp pain before letting out a great sigh.

???: “You had a rough intro day too, eh?”

She hears a voice above her that catches her off guard, surprising her. She looks and a woman peaks down to look at her. She has silver hair, appearing to be of Asian descent as well, but her voice is clearly of someone from North America. Under one of her bangs, we can see an eyepatch. Despite the rugged appearance, she feels somewhat friendly. Katsu looks up, not saying a word. Her cellmate jumps down and looks her in the eye.

???: “Yeah, the warden’s a real douche…”

Katsu: “Tell me about it…”

Katsu says quietly. She’s feeling awfully timid after the rude introduction she received in the cell. Her cellmate jokes, sitting down next to her. “

???” “Eh, come on, I don’t bite. Well, not unless you deserve it.”

She pats Katsu on the back and the masked woman just ceases up.

???: “Got a name?”

9ANknFitdQmbYmOQk6x_n_5uVNn-FNcd9ZOHA1tlQDFSizhkiSwc8p0B5Rih21z6co8usuodCgBdJhVqMM-9z6en2tzAeXU1Du3-lccTwy65CkvU-Yp5fdFKCIfuzKymhrEv5WL81OPB1iOGXWGjJIo
Katsu: “Katsu…”

She once again doesn’t raise her voice. She’s a bit scared.

Cali: “You can call me Cali, or your cellmate. Whatever.”

Katsu pulls her legs up on the bed, holding her knees close to her chest.

Cali: “Yeah, first night jitters. Happens to anyone who gets mistaken for half the shit that gets thrown in here.”

She slowly turns her head to Cali. She’s confused.

Cali: “Listen. I read you like a book the moment you walked in. You’re not some crook. You’re not some bloodthirsty murderer. I doubt you’re some tax evader because they’re in the cushy cells. Just, I’m not sure exactly what you are.”

Katsu: “And I like it that way…”

Katsu mutters to herself. She gets defensive.

Cali: “Aww come on. You’ll get awfully lonely here just trapping yourself in your own personal cage. I’ll start.”

She turns her head to her masked cellmate.

Cali: “Go on, ask me anything.”

Katsu thinks. She is in prison with the total scum of the earth, and yet the first person she meets in here is trying extra hard to be on her side. What’s going on? Is there a motive? Or is she just here to help? She asks the question probably on everyone’s mind when they see that they’re locked up.

Katsu: “What are you in for?”

Cali: “Oh why did I expect that?”

She claps her hands together, giving a small snicker.

Cali: “Okay. I was bored one day and I was playing Pokemon HeartGold. I played it dozens of times, did challenge runs of it, and everything. So I wanted to mix it up. I downloaded a rom of it and made it so I got random Pokemon each encounter. That way I can do a challenge run of the game with it-”

Katsu: “-And how on Earth does that lead you to prison?”

Cali: “-Well, when I streamed it on Twitch, some police showed up, arrested me for copyright violations and using an ‘illegal copy,’ and long story short, I’m in jail for life.”

The absurdity of Cali’s story causes Katsu to burst out laughing. A near-by police officer clangs the bars of the cell.

Prison Guard: “Lights out, fuckers!”

She jumps from the sound of metal clanging. Cali covers her mouth, trying not to laugh.The masked woman settles herself, lowering her voice, and asks.

Katsu: “So, you got in prison because you played a video game?”

Cali: “Yeah, a game that’s worth hundreds on the resale market… Fucking hell, Mario’s a vicious fucker in court.”

Katsu sighs, rolling her eyes. The absurdity of the story. Cali then asks her a similar question.

Cali: “So, how about you?”

Katsu looks up. She blinks and doesn’t respond right away.

Cali: “Come on. I won’t judge… Depending. We don’t like people who get touchy with kids. That’s a pretty common line here.”

Katsu: “God no, not that. NEVER that…”

Cali snickers. Katsu sighs.

Katsu: “Long story short, a lot of past mistakes caught up to me it seems. Actions I did while under the influence of...”

She tries to find the right words. Cali fills in the blank.

Cali: “Alcohol? A bad bender?”

The masked woman facepalms.

Katsu: “No… Just, the influence of bad people. Bad things. I didn’t even feel like myself. I thought I repented for them, but… Just…”

Sinking her head into her bed, she groans in frustration.

Katsu: “I can’t believe I'm here. No trial. Nothing. Left alone to rot…”

Cali: “You don’t have to be alone.”

Katsu’s eyebrows raise. She hums. Cali explains.

Cali: “This place is full of shit people who have done shit things. You fuck up, you may end up paying for it. That’s why you need some people to have your back. It isn’t negotiable. You need it. Not just for protection, but to maybe save whatever sanity you have left.”

Putting her hand on Katsu’s knee, she feels an odd sense of calm. She glances up and Cali gives a slight smirk. Guess she lucked out with a half-decent roommate?

Katsu: “I suppose it is better than the alternative.”

Cali: “That’s the spirit. Tomorrow I’ll introduce you to my friend. She’s a few cells down. Be warned, she seems like a bit much at first, but she grows on ya.”

Cali climbs back up to the top bunk and Katsu sighs. Her first night in the slammer, and while it seems like she’s at least on good footing to begin. A sense of dread still looms over her. She’s in a hostile environment. A place full of hardened criminals. Even with backup, what will become of her? Will she end up leaving in a body bag? Or, will the isolation cause her mind, body and spirit to decay? Again?

Katsu turns over onto her “luxurious” bed grabbing her neck as she does, feeling discomfort. This will be likely the first sleepless night of many here.

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A familiar clang of silverware repeatedly sounds through the large room mixed with several conversations between inmates. It is the only cafeteria filled with more dread than the one you would be in High School. A visual glob of orange filled the otherwise grey and cold room with a long line of prisoners with treys, looking for what little nutritional value they can get from food. Katsu follows Cali in line, keeping her head down, not looking to make any enemies on her first day in Prison. Heading to the front of the line, the cafeteria workers plop down what can be best described as “meat” of some kind, along with a glass of water, some stale looking bread, and apple slices looking to be past their freshest date. Katsu looks at the meal in discomfort. She’d almost wish she had a death sentence now, then she’d get a decent final meal…

Cali motions for her cellmate to follow and she leads her to a specific table. Already at the table is a girl with her hair in pigtails. She’s obviously Japanese in descent with her hair dyed blonde with various streaks of colour. Despite the setting, she obviously still has some positive energy. A huge grin is on her face as she sees Cali approach with a new friend.

???: “Hello Cali! And this must be your new cellmate?”

She speaks Japanese. Katsu’s eyes peer open.

Cali: “Yes. Meet Katsu. Ignore the Fox ears. You’ll get used to them.”

0XXYsbCchBbNP0t3wVZ2tmcUdIg_KHp06OYs4MUExRNAp_0Rc8oEKUiefERfijeKEBl9Kn16z4IzHAjGVEg5_gAw3AAzZNHqAtSvEQM_YXoCaNZTEiVyz0B-4jzHXjeZ_CqxwcNYzhh1Kyj1vUrDF8E

Cali responds back in Japanese, poking Katsu in her ears as she rolls her eyes at the quip. Cali’s grasp of Japanese is respectable, confident. Katsu sits down and speaks in their language.

Katsu: “So I suppose I am not the only Japanese woman here…”

The girl in pigtails shakes her head.

Ririko: “Those ears are SO cute! There has been a large influx of Japanese women recently. But not all of them are nice. I’m Ririko!”

Katsu: “Nice to meet you, Ririko.”

Katsu nods her head before looking at her food. The meat on her plate looks about as appetising as wet cat food.

Ririko: “It is nice to have people from Japan here too. N-Not that we want to be in here to begin with, but nice to have people like me I can talk too. Cali has been teaching me English, but I still have a way to go.”

Cali: “But at least us speaking Japanese means we can talk shit about anyone and get away with it.”

Cali smirks, taking a very careful bite of her apple.

Ririko: “So, tell me about yo-”

Ririko is about to ask Katsu but she is interrupted by a-

CRASH

The doors of the cafeteria swing open as a man in a mask that completely obscures his face walks into the room. The dark mask is contrasted by the orange jumpsuit he is in. The room turns to him as he walks to the middle of the cafeteria.

Katsu: “Who is he?”

She whispers.

Ririko: “Alyster Black. Treated like a big deal here.”

Cali: “I personally think he’s over-hyped.”

Cali sips her water with her extremely hot take.

Cali: “Just likes to dick around with his buddy, Chris.”

The masked man shouts so that everyone in the room can hear him and that he can have their

Alyster Black: “Alright, Aly Black is here and I have to address some stuff! As you know. A lot has changed as of late. I used to be the man around here. And you treated me with respect…”

Random Prisoner: “RESPECT!”

Someone shouts randomly. Alyster looks around, and instead, his eyes get on another man. He looks to his side and sees a man with spiked hair.

Alyster Black: “Was that you?”

He asks the guy who nervously shakes his head.

Alyster Black: “Are you sure? I’m sure you’ve done something wrong. Where are you from?”

The guy stutters.

Prisoner: “N-New Orleans.”

The masked man pushes him to the ground. Obviously, it was premeditated, someone Black has history with. Despite doing no wrong there, that man lives rent free in Black’s head.

Alyster Black: “MAN FUCK THAT PLACE!”

The person scampers off and Katsu covers her mouth, holding a snicker. Alyster Black looks in her direction… But ignores her and continues on.

Alyster Black: “Where was I? Oh yeah, a lot has changed here. I was king around here. Nobody wanted to mess with me. But a lot has changed after some bastard decided to knock me off my perch. He took everything from me! We all know who he is!”

Alyster’s mask turns to a man sitting in the corner. His hair is slicked back, hands folded. He has a somewhat square face. Truthfully, this person looks like a right prick.

Alyster Black: “I can destroy you… I should destroy you… It’s what EVERYONE here wants even though I’ve fought you plenty of times before. But fuck it! There’s nothing of merit here for me! Looking around, I see nothing… NOTHING! I don’t want charity. I don’t want pity. So unless you give me something, I will be transferring to the Cosmic Penitentiary this instant!”

The prisoners look around, confused. Katsu mutters.

Katsu: “This man is… angry, at everything.”

The masked man shouts.
Alyster Black: “That’s right! You will NOT SEE ME AT ALL unless I’m given something of substance. Thank you, and fuck you!”

The rest of the cafeteria looks on in shock as Alyster Black storms out of the room. The three women exchange glances as they sit over their inedible meals.

Katsu: “Isn’t that the Cosmic in Japan?”

Katsu asks.

Cali: “No, he’s referring to the one in space that came after. Easy mistake.”

Cali corrects her.

Ririko: “Maybe he needs a hug…”

Ririko tries to answer. But Cali has zero sympathy, rolling her eyes.

Cali: “Probably woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning… What a fucking baby…”

Unlike Cali, there’s some heart from Katsu. A sense of empathy.

Katsu: “I don’t know… I know sometimes if you have been through a lot, you need to take a moment to step away. Collect yourself. I know I need it sometimes.”

???: “Excuse me? Ladies?”

Interrupting their conversation, a man with a beard and long hair stands next to their table. He’s lanky in his build and has a bit of nerves.

???: “Mind if I sit down here? I don’t feel comfortable at other places…”

Cali shrugs, eating her bread, and motions to a spot on the bench. He sits down next to Katsu.

???: “So uh… Do you guys speak English?”

He nervously asks.

Cali points to herself then at Katsu.

Cali: “English is my primary language. Katsu’s fluent.”

Ririko speaks up, trying to speak English. She’s somewhat slow as she talks.

Ririko: “I am learning… I will be hard!”

The man next to them breaks out in laughter. Cali and Katsu cover their mouths. Ririko realises her mistake and corrects it.

Ririko: “I mean, I will try hard!”

Cali pats her friend on the back.

Cali: “Girl, keep trying. You’re doing a lot better than most. Trust me.”

Katsu grabs her neck, wincing. This goes unnoticed by everyone at the table. Cali gets casual conversation going with their guest.

Cali: “So Jackson, I assume you haven’t met Katsu yet.”

Jackson shakes his head and turns to Katsu

Jackson Fenix: “I’m Jackson. Jackson Fenix… And say, are you named Katsu after the dish?”

Katsu rolls her eyes.

Katsu: “We got a funny man…”

Ririko shouts.

Ririko: “He’s very funny!Like when he fights the bird!”

Jackson raises his hands.

Jackson Fenix: “We’re on good terms now. And don’t even get me started on you and the Otter incident-”

Ririko: “I was trying to be friends!”

Ririko defends herself.

Katsu exchanges glances with the two dolts with history with mascots. She blinks.

Katsu: “I will not ask…”

Cali leans forward.

Cali: “Jackson ain’t bad. Not exactly the most liked here, given his history, but the guy means well.”

Fenix nods as he eats up his mystery meat, even including a hair… Disgusting. He gulps the food down and continues.

Jackson Fenix: “Yeah, uhh, I’ve gotten on more than one or two bad people’s sides here before. I got in here after getting a bit too close to Brittney Spears… God knows my dancing didn’t help…”

Katsu: “Please do not dance…”

Katsu says as blatantly as possible. Her mind is already running rampant, thinking of the possibilities of what visual monstrosity Jackson Fenix Dancing would be.

Jackson Fenix: “-I won’t make any promises…”

Fenix winks and keeps explaining. “

Jackson Fenix: “My buddy Nate and I were the master pranksters of the prison. We knew just how to get under people’s skin for the longest time. Honestly, it was a lot of fun. I thought I was just having a laugh, but it turned out all I was doing was pissing people off. I got wedgied on the fence… I nearly got thrown off a roof. Genuinely, I was hated…”

Katsu: “What made you change?”

Katsu asks. She seems curious.

Jackson Fenix: “My meemaw.”

Katsu: “Meemaw?”

Jackson Fenix: “My grandma.”

Ririko snickers to herself…

Ririko: “Hehe, Meemaw. Silly words.”

Jackson Fenix: “She visited me in prison not too long ago. Nate’s in solitary confinement for a month and I haven’t had anyone to talk to me…”

Jackson’s voice catches a little. Thinking back is hard on him emotionally.

Jackson Fenix: “I missed her a lot. But she was not happy about me ending up the way I did. A lot of us don’t know when it is the last moment we’ll see someone we care about. And I didn’t want to make what can be the last moment she sees me just be me down in the dumps. So I told her then I’ll try to be better.”

The story seems to strike a bit of a chord with Katsu. She listens intently.

Jackson Fenix: “It may be too late given where I am, but I guess it is a matter of just doing what is right now.”

Katsu: “And how has that worked for you?”

Katsu continues to dig. She feels some connection with the story, likely through different parts of her own life, wanting to undo her own mistakes and others.

Jackson Fenix: “Well, I ended up meeting a new friend. He’s a little… Hehe, affectionate. But he’s cool. You may have seen him around here. His jumpsuits got rhinestones on, he’s always with one guy and girl-”

Cali makes a quip.

Cali: “Ah, one of those… I think I get it. I support it.”

She winks.

Jackson Fenix: “He’s a free spirit like me. I mean it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, you know, but it’s kind of nice to actually… Look at myself in the mirror and be happy with myself. In that respect, I’ve already won.”

Jackson has a small grin on his face. Katsu sits and doesn’t respond verbally. Someone in this prison, like her, maybe a bit misunderstood. Jackson scarfs down the rest of his disgusting food, letting out a loud burp.

Jackson Fenix: “Ah, that hit the spot.”

Ririko: “Scared to see your spot…”

Ririko mutters in her English, which is still a work in progress. Even she can’t stomach some of the food here.

Jackson gets up from the table, grabbing his tray.

Jackson Fenix: “Now, if you’ll excuse me, ladies, I’m going back for seconds! Nice talking.”

Jackson walks off, with his tray, eagerly awaiting more food. Katsu stares off and watches him. Her mind races. Jackson drops his tray and slips on it, causing some laughter from the near-by prisoners. Cali and Ririko snicker as Jackson picks up food scraps off his jumper and laughs off his trip. Ririko looks to see Katsu, not saying a word. She asks her in Japanese.

Cali: “Are you okay, Katsu?”

The masked woman blinks.

Katsu: “I am fine. Just not used to it yet.”

Despite Katsu’s words indicating she’s okay, Cali exchanges a glance to Ririko, not buying it. Despite only being her cellmate for a day, she appears to be a good judge of character and emotion.

Cali: “Anything you need to ask?”

Cali asks her cellmate. In the distance, as Jackson Fenix is getting his ‘second helping’ he is in a shouting match with an aggressive prisoner, pushing him to the ground. Guards step in to try to apprehend both of them and prevent the situation from escalating.

Katsu: “Is it always like that here?”

The masked woman asks. Ririko sighs. She answers this time, speaking in Japanese to ensure it is understood.

Ririko: “This is not a kind place. It seems the good in most people, even the misunderstood, fades over time. For many, all their life dreams are dead. So many people who have been here longer than us lose that hope. That is why I talk to Cali. We try to keep that…”

Ririko tries to find the right word.

Ririko: “Human in us. Prevent ourselves from turning into monsters.”

Katsu: “But maybe someone who has become a monster can come back?”

Katsu asks a strange question. Her newfound prison friends look. They don’t give an answer, but the silence is enough to know their stance. Katsu sighs, trying to ignore the commotion going on in the background, and does her best to attempt to stomach whatever food is in front of her.

She’ll need all the energy she can to survive here.

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Prison Guard: “Alright you out of shape bastards! Hit the weights!”

A guard shouts as various prisoners walk into a gym area with guards patting each of them down. The paint on the walls is chipped and the equipment is far from the most up to date.The padding on the benches is ripped with stuffing sticking out. Punching bags have various patches on them to keep them in one piece. The treadmills squeak as they are used. Katsu gets patted down, thankfully by a female guard, before being let in the exercise room. It is packed with orange jumpsuits of prisoners. You can practically smell the sweat and testosterone from entering the room. A room full of people who fancy themselves as alpha males letting off steam in here rather than on each other. Ririko stands next to Katsu, Cali notably absent. Katsu asks her in Japanese.

Katsu: “Say, where is Cali?”. “I thought this is exercise time for everyone.”

Ririko: “Only half the inmates have it right now. The room can’t fit everyone.”

Ririko explains, motioning to get a good glimpse of the room. With the amount of prisoners rolling in, there is a cramped feeling.

Ririko: “She used to be part of this time slot, but she asks to switch with someone.”

Katsu: “Why is that then?”

Katsu and Ririko walk around the room, looking at the equipment, what is taken and what is available, which characters to ignore.

Ririko: “I think there is someone she likes there.”

Katsu shrugs.

Ririko: “Guess we all could use some companionship here… Though most of the men here do not seem all that appealing. She says this person is ‘different’ than the others. But hopefully it works out, I could make more friends.”

Ririko smiles, speaking positively. Katsu looks around the gym. Far from many trusting individuals.

Katsu: “I am one for quality over quantity of friends…”

She mutters to herself and she turns her attention to Ririko.

Katsu: “So what do I do?”

Ririko: “It is up to you. Find something open, keep yourself busy, don’t upset the big scary people.”

Ririko looks around and she grins.

Ririko: “Perfect, the good treadmill is open. Good luck Katsu!”

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The bubbly girl waves to Katsu and heads to another part of the room, leaving Katsu for the first time in the prison alone. She keeps her head down, trying to avoid any confrontation as various prisoners grunt as they lift weights. Machines creek as they are being pushed beyond what they can accomplish in their worn state. Looking around, she sees an exercise bike unoccupied. There is some rust on it and the seat has little padding. She walks over to it and steps onto it. The bike shakes as she sits. This does not meet any safety standards. But it is better than nothing. She moves the pedals on the bike which creek as she moves them, providing more resistance than they probably should.

A large man next to her looks at his new neighbour. He has tattoos on tattoos, a caricature of what you’d expect from an average ‘hardened’ criminal. He barks at her.


Prisoner: “Get the fuck away from me, freak!”

And his loud voice causes Katsu to almost fall off her bike. She glances at the man and there is a scowl on his face, bald head, thick beard, tattoos all over his body. A true muscle headed idiot. His eyes cut through her mask. Not wanting any problems, she carefully steps off the bike.

Prisoner: “Yeah, that’s what I thought, bitch! That’s what I thought!”

He shouts, clearly either trying to scare the new prisoner, or even antagonise her into a fight. Katsu opts not to cause any issues as she backs away and leaves.

Looking around, she feels like she is on an island to herself. An inescapable island around a sea of bloodthirsty monsters. But this is what it is like in the steel enclosures of this place. People’s darkest tendencies show as they slowly lose hope, connection to what is outside. Looking around, she sees a man in the corner going ham on the punching bags. He has short hair and a beard. He has some pent up anger as he hits it with repeated punches, elbows, and knees. He mutters to himself.

???: “Fucking Mason. Fucking TYLER…”

Putting the faces of people who wronged him mentally on the punching bag, he throws several punches at full force, landing with a thud each time. Katsu slowly approaches, keeping some distance from him as she keeps a close eye.
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During his various rage filled strikes, something falls out of his pocket and bounces off the floor. It rattles as something silver falls. Something pops open as it lands near Katsu.

Picking it up off the ground, it is a locket. In the middle of it is a picture. It is the man she sees in front of her, beard less thick than now, hair more kempt, and he is with a woman and kid. The woman looks like his partner. Blonde hair, the man’s arm around her hip. At their feet is a kid who looks to be no older than six or seven. He has a huge grin while holding a Henry Danger action figure. Etched on the other side in cursive is ‘The Cole Family.’

A wave of curiosity goes over her, but she is snapped back to reality as the man at the punching bag approaches her. He has a British accent.

Cole: “Give that back!”

He rips it from her hands, not amused.

Cole: “What? Did you pickpocket that off me to sell it to someone to later mess with me?”

Katsu blinks, surprised at the man’s coldness. She raises her hands.

Katsu: “Sorry, sir. I just picked it up off the ground. It fell while you were working out.”

The man gives a long look at her. He doesn’t know if he can trust her, but even with his limited knowledge of her, he can tell, at least this time, she’s telling the truth.

Cole: “Okay… But I got my eye on you…”

He puts his locket in his pocket and turns back around to continue his sparring with his greatest enemy here, the punching bag. He throws some punches, but Katsu’s curiosity gets the better of her.

Katsu: “How old is he?”

She asks and the man stops. Slowly, he turns to her.

Cole: “Nosy, are you?”

He leans against the bag. Looking up and down at the new girl.

Cole: “What’s so important to you that you have to know? Because the last person who got ‘close’ to my family fucked me over multiple times over.”

He takes a step over to her, trying to get some level of intimidation on her. She tries to clarify, giving her best answer.

Katsu: “I am just wondering. You seemed so different in that picture than now.”

The man takes his locket out of pocket and opens it back up, looking at his family. The joy he had on his face.

Cole: “I’m not sure his father exists anymore.”

He says, stress on his voice. “

Cole: “When you’ve had the amount of people stab you in the back like I have… You start to lose hope. That’s why I’m here now. I was protecting them and…”

He stops. Thinking back to what brought him here is hard on him mentally.

Katsu: “Mr. Cole.”

He gives his first name.

Reagan Cole: “Reagan.”

Katsu: “Reagan Cole, what happened?”

Katsu asks. While part of Reagan wants to smack her for asking so many questions, he can tell that, from her voice, she has no ill intent.

Reagan Cole: “-I was given an ultimatum from a former friend of mine who got in the wrong crowd with one of my biggest enemies. His mind was almost warped by him. They said ‘roll with us, and your family won't get hurt.’ So, I had no other choice. Some ways I thought they may have changed a bit… Even if it led to me getting repeatedly punched in the dick…”

He mutters, covering his groin area, thinking back to the infamous “peepee punching” incident.

Reagan Cole: “Figuratively and literally… But they abandoned me, sold me out. Now I’m here to suffer why? They think I ‘need it.’ The fuck they are… They basically said ‘Fuck Reagan Cole,’ and now I’m here.”

Katsu: “I am so sorry to hear that.”

Katsu tries to be sympathetic, but Reagan Cole cuts her off, anger returning under his voice, while still trying to keep hush.

Reagan Cole: “Your sympathy isn’t going to do anything…”

His rough history fuels a bubbling anger. He’s simmering, ready to boil. But the gentleman, older, likely in a bit better control of his emotions than someone young like Katsu, takes a deep breath.

Reagan Cole: “I’m not going to get out with people saying sorry.”

Katsu: “It’s all I can do-”

Reagan Cole: “And it isn’t enough!”

Spoke too soon. Reagan raises his voice as some people near-by turn to watch.

Reagan Cole: “It won’t change the fact that I’ve been a failure of man! A failure to his family! A failure as a Father! My son can’t see me anymore and I can’t reach in and tell him ‘Hey! Jason, I’m sorry. I love you!’ I can’t change that! But if there’s one thing I can do is finally grow a spine…”

He approaches her. Getting in Katsu’s face, he stands his ground, keeping his fists down, but clenched, ready just in case.

Reagan Cole: “I’m stuck here, I’m not going to need a shoulder to cry on… I’m going to survive here and once I get out, I’m coming for them…”

Putting his forehead on Katsu’s mask.

Reagan Cole: “So stay out of my way…”

Strain is on Cole’s voice as he clenches his teeth. The Reagan Cole locked in prison is a far cry from the man outside. Patience running thin after betrayal after betrayal and being cut off from the very people who give him purpose. There’s no reasoning with him. Katsu, realising the situation could end up worse, backs up, putting her hands up. She shows restraint.

Reagan Cole: “Good… I suppose you never did me wrong. Would be a waste to knock you down here. So one more thing… since you’re maybe a decent kid-”

Reagan takes a deep breath, letting his anger fade, trying to remember some of the good still left in him.

Reagan Cole: “Take it from someone who has been around the block. Your little ‘personal therapist’ routine isn’t going to help you. Not everyone wants the help. I should know. I’m the same way. Sometimes you may need to show a necessary evil…Take care.”

Reagan Cole turns around to get back to his sparring practice. He keeps his eyes off Katsu who stands there. Trying to digest his words.

Ririko walks back, having worked up a sweat. She pats Katsu on the back, speaking to her.

Ririko: “That treadmill works like a dream.”

Katsu doesn’t look at her. Ririko asks.

Ririko: “Are you okay? I saw you talking to that man.”

Katsu: “He was… interesting.”

She mutters, saying something which has likely never been said in reference to that man before.

Katsu: “I am fine. Just got to keep myself busy.”

Katsu walks off, looking for something to do, but her mind sticks to what he said. ‘Necessary evil.’ What does he mean? Katsu winces and grabs her neck, feeling the sharp pain again.

sFNLv7-4Li3Ogkllz0Y0vxaXrLM_1C43qJYmEbawD3taaNL7p2KH7oiKEThn-LLaXkvzUbvEWqv-7NxStOksy7ycRL_FVvXVu0DsPsOQdDQ6Dea5lnMLSB38pdCz-oms3HpPO59E0JJG8CIFyqttKZ4


Exercise period comes and goes for Katsu. She exits the shows, still drenched from a cold shower with her hair still damp as it hangs out of her mask. Ririko follows, trying to put her hair back in her pigtails. The halls are somewhat packed with guards and prisoners. A sea of blue and orange, several more troublesome prisoners rattling chains around. The lights of the hallway flicker, continually appearing they’re about to burn out, but somehow they keep on. Ririko talks to Katsu in Japanese.

Ririko: “See? That shower isn’t so bad. Good way to cool off.”

Katsu: “We only cool off because there is no warm water.”

Katsu mutters.

Ririko: “It could be worse. You could have dropped the soap.”

Ririko mentions, shuddering.

Ririko: “Just saying there’s some people who do bad things to you if you do that…”

Katsu puts two and two together and shakes at the thought.

Katsu: “I will keep that in mind…”

Cali: “Done pumping iron?”

Cali walks up to them after her friends have finished their gym session. She has a slightly stained towel over her shoulder, likely the most clean it will be with the subpar equipment to clean it. The eye-patched woman then switches to Japanese.

Cali: “How did your first session in the gym go?”

Katsu: “A lot of muscle headed… idiots in there.”

Katsu folds her arms, thankfully, none of those “idiots” can understand her speaking in her native tongue.

Ririko: “She talked to someone though who was not that.”

Ririko clarifies and Cali, interested, asks.

Cali: “Who was he?”

Katsu: “His name was Reagan Cole.”

Cali’s good eye opens wide. The name rings a bell.

Katsu: “He was very protective of his locket. Did not seem like a bad person but someone with… trauma as they say.”

Nodding, Cali sighs.

Cali: “He’s been through a lot. I’m a bit familiar with him, though I have heard more about him from someone else. Just don’t worry about him, it’s up to him to get better… Emotionally anyways.”

The conversation gets halted as a large man shoulder barges through Katsu, knocking her to the ground. Several people turn around as the man who ran into the much smaller Katsu stands there, skulking. He has dark skin, his prison jumpsuit has its arms ripped off to show his chiselled muscles, someone who clearly fuels his workouts with a large amount of rage. Most strikingly, rather than having a human face, his head has a visible skull. Is it a mask? We hope it is a mask. The skull has horn-like features. The only thing that can be seen behind it is piercing tortured yellow eyes. Behind him stands a man in a cloak. It is orange with a black hood. His face is not visible. He looks at Katsu and there’s a sinister tone in his voice.

???: “What’s wrong, dear? Is my Lord interrupting your story?”

Katsu rubs the back of her neck and looks up at the two dark figures in front of her. Ririko helps
ugkDKxHti96_HC3NVuR_xQ6aPGNuCl4gPnk2RIFM54T66Kpdcfngs_Z6o_paawLs8Ia9e654dm2yo3dwJSJdN1ZkPuQM8jx59tHaXk10_02hy83Ij4uAcpCegEa-gfox1MgEziuK8FiMeZVmCGvAiSc
her up as the hooded man continues.

???: “Should you not watch out for the mighty Death Walker? For when he walks by… You step aside or pay the price like you did.”

Katsu looks at the Death Walker. This demonic force is oddly familiar to her, like she’s dealt with it before. Both directly and dealing with something like him. Someone who has become more monster than human. Cali, unlike Katsu, isn’t thrown off by his hulking frame. She folds her hands and plainly says.

Cali: “Sup Darius? Having fun with your Dark Guardian I see…”

Dark Guardian: “SILENCE YOU FOOL!”

His words shoot like venom as Cali raises an eyebrow. Katsu looks up at Cali.

Katsu: “You know him too?”

Cali: “Heard a lot about him. Let’s just say that some roads he travelled I went on after.”

Ririko, attempting to speak English, adds.

Ririko: “Arrested for… possession.”

Katsu: “Possession of what?”

Ririko shakes her head.

Ririko: “No, he’s possessed. By demon.”

Under his hood, the Dark Guardian has a very slight… sneer. He motions to Death Walker and says.

Dark Guardian: “Darius is simply not a factor anymore. This is Death Walker. The master of the Pits of Hell. What you call a possession, I call a gift. I have been training him for this position for years-”

Cali whispers in Ririko’s ear, just keeping hush enough where the Dark Guardian doesn’t notice.

Cali: “Looks like we got Emperor Palpatine here…”

Dark Guardian: “-And now it is his time to rise-”

Katsu: “I have met him before…”

The masked woman interrupts the Dark Guardian. She takes a step closer to Death Walker. She tries to get a read of him and likewise for the Dark Traveller. Katsu attempts to look through the mask and into Darius himself, if he even remains in there. Though, unlike a Reagan Cole or even Jackson Fenix, there seems to be little sympathy from her. The Dark Guardian stands between them, trying to get a read on both his ally and to the woman standing across from her.

Katsu: “It has been a while, Darius…”

She says trying to show some restraint.

Katsu: “Or I suppose it is the Death Walker now… The last time we properly met you were getting involved in a matter which did not concern you, all for your dark cause. Am I correct?”

Death Walker takes a step forward. Katsu, despite the size difference, stands her ground. Her finger has a slight twitch, some nerves still involved.

Katsu: “Long I have remained agonised by what happened. It did not end well for the both of us. I could remain bitter at you, those involved.”

She doesn’t get into specifics of what happened. But, between both Death Walker and her, they both know what she is referring to.

Katsu: “And part of me will for some time. I’ll wake at night with those memories in my mind… But that isn’t healthy. Letting things weigh on you.”

The fiery eyes of Death Walker glance over towards the neck of Katsu, covered by the choker she wears. The masked girl winces slightly.

Katsu: “Yes, scars remain. But I have come to grips that it was on me in the end. I am the one who needs to do better. What I will say to you is this. I know you hurt. I know you have pain. Now you have this mask. This identity was given to you by someone else. I know that all too well. How does it make you feel?”

Dark Guardian: “He is all powerful now, he-”

Katsu raises her hand, stopping the Dark Guardian.

Katsu: “Darius feels powerful, but is he? I’m not too sure…”

Slowly, she points to her face as the Death Walker approaches. She has a feeling of nerves over her, but this is a monster she’s experienced before. Not just Death Walker. She has been in his shoes before.

Katsu: “This mask is my creation. This is not something to hide behind. Death Walker is his creation…”

She motions to the Dark Guardian. Both he and his monstrous creation feel anger over them.

Katsu: “That name may feel empowering to you… But it does not solve all your problems… You’re not invulnerable. In the end you will still be Darius Wright-''

She has used his ‘dead name’ one too many times. Enraged, the Dark Guardian shouts.

Dark Guardian: “Get her!”

Katsu has stepped over a line with the dark duo and Death Walker immediately clutches her by the throat pushing her against a wall! Katsu squirms as she is held up, the wind being squeezed out of her. Several guards rush in with batons! It takes several hits to fell the big man but he gets to a knee and a guard has to use a taser to keep him down. Death Walker lets out a yell of pain and the guards even cuff the Dark Guardian, knowing he was involved. It takes multiple guards to chain up the Death Walker.

Prison Guard: “Alright, time for you to have a time out, bastard.”

They pull Death Walker up as Katsu lies against the wall, coughing. She looks up and Death Walker’s demonic eyes are glued to her. Rage is in them. The worst part of it is to him, deep down.

He knows she may be right.

The police take them away. Cali and Ririko rush over, the crowd preventing them from getting involved right away. Ririko helps Katsu get to her feet and Cali shouts at her cellmate.

Cali: “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING!? TRYING TO REASON WITH THE BIG SCARY DEMON!? YOU’RE NOT DR. PHIL!”

Katsu winces, looking away. She feels slightly embarrassed. Cali continues on.

Cali: “There’s no reasoning with any of these people! You do that again and I’m certain you’ll not be in the infirmary, but in a body bag! Hey, look at me.”

Cali gently grabs Katsu’s chin and makes her look her in the eye. She calms her voice down so that her cellmate can listen, but there’s still some frustration.

Cali: “This place, these steel walls, it’s a shoot to kill mentality for a lot of people. You’re nice. You genuinely are, but here, you can’t let people see that. They’ll eat you up!”

She lets out a long sigh. She softens her tone slightly.

“I have your back because I trust you a lot more than anyone else here, but for the love of God, not everyone wants to have their ‘spirit’ saved or whatever. They’re beasts. Monsters.”

Looking at Cali, Katsu thinks. She responds.

Katsu: “But I don’t want to be dragged down into their ways…”

She says with some fear in her voice.

Cali: “There’s a way you can stand up for yourself while not losing yourself. Don’t pick fights you don’t have to. But if you have no choice, make sure these people are left with the choice to either respect you or fucking fear you. Of those two options, I think there’s one that is easier here and I think you know what I’m referring to...”

The silver haired woman pats Katsu on the shoulder.

Cali: “You’ll figure it out. Now if you’ll excuse me, I got a date in the exercise room. See you later, please don’t die.”

Cali gets up and walks down the hallway towards the gym, swinging her towel along, remaining calm. Katsu takes a deep breath, sighing. She really messed up, and God knows that here-

She can’t afford to make many.

M9SWMDZEiC-KPjn7fd6nuqm3ec3d1qgGEddUooBqrB5BTMWEEdyFduHhvvMloCE6ID-SSIQ866hTCvrLnbkrvTgyucD9pOIvcfPk1_oxoQV4FoT44kuVwme7WugK5a0F-HCoBp1trcYEC50YRNzllqg


Katsu walks through one of the common areas of the prison. There’s some dilapidated furniture about, books which appear to be more suited for children rather than fully grown adults, chess boards with missing pieces, and other forms of “entertainment” for the prisoners. Sitting on the floor, Ririko looks through one of those books. Cali’s sitting next to her, helping her out as she’s learning English. It is a literary classic “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Suess. Katsu stands in the room alone as her two friends already have their time occupied. She stands near a board which has events listed. A 3 v 3 Basketball tournament? Maybe she can team up with Ririko and Cali for it? A warning message about someone stealing the Warden’s shoe-laces. “Couldn’t happen to a more deserving person.” Katsu thinks to herself.

Sticking out on the board in the middle is a poster advertising something to do with a cage. The cage looks unique with a dome shape in its low quality drawing. Six silhouettes appear, all blacked out. In bold letters on the top, it reads “THE ANNUAL STEEL ROULETTE.” Otherwise it appears the graphics guy was not paid enough to care about making it look high quality.

Appearing behind Katsu is a man who’s prison jumpsuit is just a bit too tight. The different shapes of his body can be clearly seen, including ones you may or may not want to see. His hair goes down to his shoulders and his moustache looks something straight out of a comedy about news anchors in 2004. He approaches Katsu, but doesn’t say a word as a loud slam is heard from the doors swinging open.

Once again returning is the man in the black mask which obscures his entire face. Alyster Black. But, rather than his usual prison suit, he has a costume on. It is green and has a reptilian tail behind him and wings. A dragon. He shouts so that everyone in the room can hear him.
NbnfANcXZhQGdLc5jujTgaCj5Gs3oYnZfqkaPYzPksRCLprRI_WPI99ZYvirDln46Mb9DNZyWL8Qd2rPIz9Px0oOn3RKg6vwUqCqIqSywWKbwsXjrvfFsHEzOHyDIUgLOPmGkSgULyLvSZ8KeWkX3uw

Alyster Black: “RAWR!”

He ‘roars’ with all his might.

Katsu: “What the fuck…”

Katsu mutters to herself, dropping a rare F-bomb. She looks and she’s confused as she sees an intimidating man pretending to be a dragon in the middle of the room. Yet everyone is treating it as normal.

Alyster Black: “RAWR! RAWR! RAWR! RAWR!”

He yells out loud and some people in the room even give applause.

Katsu: “Why is that man pretending to be a dragon?”

Alyster Black: “RAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWR!”

The man in the dragon costume shouts as half the room breaks out in massive cheers. Katsu blinks. For a woman who dresses up as a fox, this is just TOO weird to her.

Katsu: “-Has everyone gone mad here?”

Clearing his throat Alyster Black paces around in the middle of the room. He drops his dragon act.

Alyster Black: “Alright. Listen up all you fucks! Because I got something to get off my chest. I’ve been the Goddamn man around here! Keeping everything in line while people have been going off and I’ve been doing whatever I can to keep all you fucks here in order. Whether it is ruling the X-wing, and then going in the World wing when someone else was down and out. Man, I was doing it all!”

The masked man shouts passionately as others watch on. Katsu, slightly confused, tilts her head.

Katsu: “Didn’t he leave earlier today? And say he wasn’t coming back? Why is he back in that outfit? Did they give him what he wanted or?”

Alyster Black: “THEN some fucker kicked me out of the X-wing! I threw my heart and soul in it, but it’s all gone! I could wreck and destroy him, but nah, forget it! Why would I do that, when in reality I just haven’t been given my fair shake here! I haven’t been given the respect I deserve here at Fantasy Penitentiary!”

Random Prisoner: “RESPECT!”

Some random person shouts. Katsu looks on with a crossed look.

Alyster Black: “I’m not this place’s favourite son. Instead they took someone who transferred here from Clique Prison just before me and they have a hard on for him. Do you think he could have done what I have done? No! He’s been handed everything here and I’ve been tossed aside as its saviour! This place has stolen from me and-”

Looking around the room, his eyes catch a glimpse of Katsu. He stops for a brief moment, looking at someone else with a mask. He shrugs her off and continues on.

Alyster Black: “All my sacrifice has been for nothing. So, what I’m saying is…”

He holds up both his hands, or rather claws due to his costume and flips the double bird.

Alyster Black: “Fuck this place and fuck all of you!”

The masked man in the dragon costume draws out with his fingers the word “COSMIC” and darts off, seething. Despite his tirade, a portion of the room mindlessly cheers for him. Katsu is in a state of confusion.

Katsu: “That would have had far more impact if he didn’t just announce he was not coming back… What was the meaning of all that-”

???: “Hahaha, that’s my partner!”

The man with the moustache laughs and claps. Katsu blinks, and asks him.

Katsu: “That man is your friend?”

He turns around and looks at Katsu. He looks at the small masked Japanese woman. There’s a slight bit of confusion on his face, not knowing who Katsu is. Or even thinking much of her.

Chris Peacock: “Come on, how can you not know FTN, the men who rid this place of those annoying Nephews? Large and in charge Aly Black and the king of dong style himself, the cock with the walk, the big man around here, Chris Peacock!”

Raising an eyebrow at the man’s choice of nicknames, Katsu looks at the sleazy and arrogant man in front of her.

Katsu: “My apologies if I am new here.”

Chris Peacock: “Well, I’ll give you a formal introduction then.”

He pats her on the back, and grabs her shoulder tight.

Chris Peacock: “I’m kind of a big deal around here. The triple threat on my own, with my main man Black, and in the bedroom…”

There’s a shudder down the spine of Katsu.

Chris Peacock: “And it’s been a long road to get here. God knows I didn’t always get the respect I deserve. Hell, I’m not even sure people like me here. But nobody can deny the fact that in this prison, I’m the king.”

Katsu: “Then what about your ‘friend?’ He seemed upset about stuff.”

Katsu tries to get some clarification on the dragon fueled tirade Black went on.

Chris Peacock: “Black’s just being Black. He’s like that sometimes. I’m not concerned.”

Katsu: “It sounds like he was in your ‘spot’ before, was he?”

She continues to ask questions, trying to unravel the mystery of Alyster Black.

Chris Peacock: “He was. It just didn’t work out. But don’t worry. I took care of that Cyrus guy and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s in the psych-ward now, too heartbroken to continue, thinking he’s talking to magic wizards. I’m sure Black’s having a great time as my main pal. You know how we ended up here? We rode this big truck and ended up being charged for ‘indecency’ or something like that.”

Katsu: “How would a truck cause that?”

Chris Peacock: “Well, it just wasn’t any truck…”

Chris nervously grabs the collar of his tight suit and gulps.

Chris Peacock: “It was…”

He leans in and whispers the exact kind of truck it was. Katsu reels back with a horrified look on her face.

Katsu: “That is… HORRIBLE! It’s DISGUSTING!”

Chris Peacock raises his hands, defensive of his past decisions.

Chris Peacock: “It was all in fun! So what offends people? As long as we’re being creative and having fun! Hell, they probably liked being doused in-”

Katsu: “So, how did you become such a big deal here?”

Katsu asks, trying to change the subject from him and his truck which ejaculates everywhere.
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Chris Peacock: “You want to know?”

Chris points to behind them on the board of advertisements. Looking at the poster which caught Katsu’s eye earlier, he points to it.

Chris Peacock: “That. The Steel Roulette. A fight that happens here every year. We put six people in a cage in order to fight it out. Last one standing wins. To survive it you need heart, endurance, and that killer instinct. Succeed, you get a Golden Opportunity to take yourself to the top.”

Chris grabs his gold chain and flexes it for a moment, letting it shine somewhat under the lights of the room which flicker slightly.

Chris Peacock: “I was in there and I earned a bit of a reputation for coming up short beforehand. But not that night. That night I jived…”

Chris does a slight motion with his hips which unsettles Katsu.

Chris Peacock: “-And thrived. After, many fall, not being able to handle the infamy. As for me, I danced my way to the top and stayed there. Now, love me, hate me, girl, people can’t deny me. Not anyone can do that, but I’m not just anyone.”

He winks, there’s a growing cockiness in the Peacock. Katsu mutters “Impressive,” to herself, giving him some props which, like him or not, he’s earned. She looks at the poster and thinks. Peacock notices and he leans down next to her.

Chris Peacock: “I see you. I know what you’re thinking. As the man around here, I’ll give you a word of advice. Not just that, but there’s something about you. I think you have upside. Genuinely do think that. But if you enter that structure, you’re not living…”

There’s some coldness in his voice. Katsu turns her head slowly.

Chris Peacock: “You’ll enter with people who are bigger than you, meaner than you. Not just that, but there’s so many more people other than you who frankly would ‘deserve’ that opportunity. People with more time on the clock, people more respected here. You don’t really deserve that opportunity. Hell, maybe I can enter it for the fun of it? I won it before, I can win it again. Even if I fall, I can bounce back. I’m not some newbie with a lot to lose.”

He leans in closer to her. His disco warrior routine is toned down. There’s a sense of contempt in his voice, a feeling that this woman is under him.

Chris Peacock: “So why get hurt for nothing? I see you hanging with those other two Japanese girls. Why don’t you do something with them? Stay in your lane…”

Katsu takes a deep breath, trying to keep herself calm.

Chris Peacock: “Maybe you can transfer to the Television wing, do something there? Because I know if you somehow luck your way into winning, nobody will care. They won’t care about you…”

The grip of Katsu’s fist tightens. The sting in her neck is back.

Chris Peacock: “Save it for the real fighters… Save it for champions among men like me and my buddy Alyster. Nobody will care about a masked Japanese girl…”

Katsu turns to Chris. Her breathing has become heavy. Anger’s building in her. Chris seems a bit curious about her response. Maybe she has a bit more fight than he expected? Still, he sees this as his chance to back off.

Chris Peacock: “Nothing personal. Just think about it…”

Chris Peacock has a small smirk on his face and he turns away, leaving Katsu alone. She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes, calming the beast within her.

Katsu: “No… You’re better than that.”

Cali and Ririko get up from their spot to check on their friend.

Cali: “What was that about? Pissing off SOMEONE ELSE here? This time you’re doing it to the big cheese?!”

Cali asks.

Ririko: “Was he rude? Punch him next time!”

Ririko encourages Katsu on, but the masked woman sighs.

Katsu: “Just… Leave him be for now…”

Katsu brushes off her two friends and she walks out through the doors of the common area. She needs privacy.

Heading down the halls of the prison, she passes by several prisoners and goes back to a familiar place. Her cell. The door is unlocked since it is free period and she sits down on her bed. It creeks slightly as she crosses her legs. Her fists shake slightly as a tear rolls down her cheek onto her mask. Those words echo in her mind.

“Stay in your lane.”

“Nobody will care about a masked Japanese girl.”

Opening her eyes, there’s a slight purple tinge to her pupils before the colour fades back to normal. No. That’s not needed. It will never be needed again. Katsu closes her eyes and begins to take deep breaths in and out, beginning to meditate. She lowers her heart-rate, but she thinks about all the characters she’s seen here. The seemingly innocent, the wrongfully accused, the monsters who changed. The bitter and disrespected. Then someone who is seemingly untouchable in his mind. She appears there isn’t a place for her-

But she knows differently.

And she knows exactly where to show it.

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Warden: “Alright, you bunch of rejects of society! It’s time for you to fight for my entertainment once again in the Steel Roulette!”

The voice of the warden booms out as, in one of the open areas generally reserved for roll-call in the morning, has a host of the prison’s inmate population. The “honourable” Warden stands on a platform as he looks across a sea of orange jumpsuits. In the crowd is Katsu and her mask, standing next to Cali and Ririko, the only two people she can really trust here. Behind the warden are multiple police officers with cattle prods, batons, and riot shields. On the platform next to the warden is a large print out of the poster for the Steel Roulette in its low quality goodness resting on a canvas. The Warden examines it and nudges a near-by officer.

Warden: “For fuck’s sake the graphics gone down hill. Who the fuck made this one?”

Prison Guard: “The new girl. I think she was on a triple shift.”

Warden: “Need to give her a quadruple for that. At least she got the date right. Need to stick to our normal graphics guy for this shit.”

Looking at the crowd of prisoners, the warden slaps his baton in his hand. He looks on with a slight smirk, eagerly anticipating the violence.

Warden: “You know the drill! We need six bodies and we’re going to put them in a cage. And no, we’re not doing seven this time. It was a logistical nightmare when we did that last year. So go on then. Step up, we’ll decide if you qualify.”

The crowd looks around at each other. Not one steps up yet. The warden gets mildly impatient.

Warden: “Well, what are you waiting for? Can someone here grow a set of balls and step up into-”

“I’m in…”

A man is heard from the somewhat quiet crowd. British accent and all, it rings a bell to Katsu. Reagan Cole. Walking up to the platform, he is separated by some guards.

Reagan Cole: “I need this.”

He reiterates.

Reagan Cole: “I know I have had a rough go as of late, but getting involved in this feels like life and death to me.”

Warden: “I don’t know…”

The Warden looks up and down at Cole, he is given an iPad, likely one of the few somewhat up to date pieces of technology in the entire building. He looks at Reagan’s number.

Warden: “77340. An import from the UK? I don’t know. We’re looking for the most infamous people in here… Who can remember how many major fighters there were in last year’s?”

Reagan Cole: “Let me in…”

Reagan Cole looks the warden dead in the eyes.

Reagan Cole: “I need to show I am not scared. I don’t want to be stepped on anymore. You know I’ll give everything even if it is my last breath…”

The Warden considers his options again. He looks around at the crowd and back at Reagan Cole. He lets out a hearty laugh.

Warden: “I’d like to see that happen! Worse comes to worse, we can laugh at you like usual. Haha! Go ahead. 77340, first one in.”

The guards step aside, leading Reagan Cole on the stage. He stands in place, firm, unflinching. The next person steps up soon after. Chains rattle as the man moves. Freshly out of solitary confinement is a large powerful monster. Death Walker. Behind him is his guide, the Dark Guardian. The Warden types the number in.

Warden: “Ah, back from Solitary Confinement, 61616. Are you going to behave yourself before this?”

Death Walker’s Guardian speaks.

Dark Guardian: “Assuming there’s nobody making foolish decisions, I can assure he is fine… Ready to carve his path of destruction.”

Warden: “From the airport test alone, he’s in. Are you fighting too, Voldemort?”

The Dark Guardian shakes his hood.

Dark Guardian: “I’ll be an observer from outside. I too will revel in the blood shed.”

Warden: “Then I’ll have you pull up a seat near me…”

The Warden looks at the Dark Guardian as Death Walker is let through on the stage.

Warden: “Just not too close.”

Reagan Cole looks at the Death Walker with animosity in his eyes. A bit of history between the two, perhaps unseen by most prisoner’s eyes. The third person makes his way through the crowd Skinny, beard, long slicked back hair, Jackson Fenix. The Warden almost laughs.

Warden: “This clown!? I know you. Prisoner 69420! You chased the birds out of my office! They were my treasured pets!”

Jackson Fenix: “I know I made a mistake then.”

Jackson raises his hands. Apologising.

Jackson Fenix: “I’m sorry. But I assure you I’ve been changing for the better. But I also want to show I can still fight if I have to. Just give me-”

Warden: “Don’t give me your sob story.”

The Warden interjects.

Warden: “You’re in, I want to see you bleed for what you did! Take him on stage!”

The guards open up and practically push Jackson Fenix who awkwardly gets on stage. He looks in the crowd and sees his friends.

Jackson Fenix: “Nate! Xtacee! Monica! Antonio! Look at me! I made it! I made it just by BEING here!”

Warden: “Shut the fuck up before I send you in there with a pack of wolves and a meat suit!”

Fenix, not wanting to piss off the Warden any more, shuffles into his place. Looking off into the crowd, the Warden scans through and doesn’t see anyone stepping up. He taps his foot and shouts at the crowd.

Warden: “Come on, nobody’s got balls!? Step up!”

Looking at this display, something comes over Katsu. She takes a step forward and Ririko grabs her hand.

Ririko: “What are you doing?”

She asks her in Japanese. Katsu takes a deep breath.

Katsu: “Seizing an opportunity. I’ll be fine.”

Ririko looks with fear in her eyes, scared of what can happen to her friend. Cali gently touches Ririko’s hand and gets her to release her grip.

Cali: “We’ll be rooting for you. Go get ‘em.”

Cali smiles and that’s all the encouragement Katsu needs. She walks through the crowd and towards the stage. The Warden looks confused.

Warden: “When I said nobody’s got balls I didn’t expect this…”

He gives a sick laugh. He goes through his iPad.

Warden: “I remember you kitty from a few days ago. New prisoner. 22383. Glad to see you have some claws, trying to make a name for yourself.”

He then looks to the crowd.

Warden: “Anyone else? Come on… We don’t want this new girl in with a load of men. She could lose one of her nine-lives.”

The jokes do not sit well with Katsu, but she has gone too far to back down now. She looks dead at the Warden, unflinching. This unnerves the warden. There is no fear in this woman. Eventually, he broke down.

Warden: “Fine! Prisoner 22383 is in. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Katsu steps past the guards and onto the stage. Jackson gives a small wave, trying to make peace with someone he seemingly hit off before, someone who may have respect for him, but Katsu doesn’t acknowledge him. She’s focused. Any sympathy she may have for him is irrelevant.

Warden: “Anyone-”

The Warden doesn’t even get to finish what he is saying as a second masked person comes on the stage. Alyster Black. Despite his recent calls, claiming disrespect and hating this place, wishing for a transfer, he remains. Katsu rolls her eyes. The guards let Black by, as if his reputation precedes him. He’s a lock in for this fight in the cage.

BAYeaJpqPOVV7TWDMHO_vT0FSXCSr91ML95JVvFlvk9HesnpiNSWCzTIw_oVmJbwGl8TvhZewVMcBbq7XfXZKqOdLca0ZCDYH06BCoBJ5IjdjIriBGkmqXAXYGWwClJ8tnG4Pow7QZeq9W35Vfq2uPM
Warden: “Look who comes crawling back? I guess Cosmic didn’t pan out for you?”

Alyster Black: “Had to kill a weasel.”

Reaching in his jumper he tosses the carcass of a dead weasel on to the stage. Alyster stands next to the dead rodent. Katsu looks next to her at Alyster Black. “This would have had more impact if he didnt’ just tell everyone to fuck off and he was gone yesterday…” She thinks to herself.

Warden: “And with that we have our six!”

A guard taps his superior on the shoulder.

Prison Guard: “Sir, that Weasel is dead. We can’t let it participate. Besides, a Weasel in a cage fight? How would THAT make any sense?…”

The Warden rolls his eyes and orders the guards to sweep the rodent off the stage.

Chris Peacock: “Looks like we need a champion to solve your problems!”

The voice of the winner of last year’s Steel Roulette bellows out to the crowd. There is a decidedly mixed reaction from everyone, leaning towards negative. They’re getting tired of him on his high horse… or truck filled with you know what. He walks on stage with his TIGHT jumpsuit, rattling his gold chain, flexing.

Chris Peacock: “When there’s nobody worthy to step up, trust me to fill in!”

Warden: “Prisoner 00001, you won it last year. Are you sure you want in?”

Chris has a coy look on his face.

Chris Peacock: “Me being in this is a blessing. I can show everyone in this what a real winner is. Maybe lasting even five minutes against me can be enough of a ‘rub’ for them to break out of whatever irrelevance they’re in.”

Alyster Black: “That’s enough from you…”

Alyster Black steps up and approaches his “friend” in the face. Peacock doesn’t know what to make of this.

Alyster Black: “How much have I been playing second fiddle to you as of late? You run around like you own the place, treating me as just your background guy.”

Chris Peacock: “Well, when you’re as good as me, someone like you has to come in second. It’s not a bad thing, if anything it should be an honour-”

Black snaps back at his supposed partner.

Alyster Black: “See!? That’s what I mean! I’ve been disrespected so much here, and now I’m getting no respect from you-”

Random Prisoner: “RESPECT!”

The entire room looks to a random man in deadlocks. He sheepishly peeks his head down.

Chris Peacock: “That was disrespectful-”

Alyster Black: “Not as much as you’ve been doing-”

Chris snaps back at Alyster Black, shouting. The disagreement between the two seeming friends. Their shouting has become non-distinguishable as the two shout over each other, their friendship not as rock solid as they expected. The Warden sits back and watches, excited at the thought of these two ripping into each other. But one person shouts out. Reagan Cole.

Reagan Cole: “Why don’t you two finally stop acting like children!?”

The Brit shouts. He steps forward.

Reagan Cole: “I have waited far too long for an opportunity like this for it to turn into a shouting match between two idiots! People are tired of you two running around. And I’m going to-”

Death Walker’s Dark Guardian speaks up, cutting off Reagan Cole.

Dark Guardian: “Fool, nobody believes you can do anything. My lord has already crushed you long before. What makes you think that you, or these two, can stand up to his might!? Soon he will bring his path of destruction THROUGH all of you!”

Chris Peacock: “Nobody cares about a dude in a Halloween mask.”

Chris points to Alyster.

Chris Peacock: “Ain’t that right, Aly?”

Alyster Black: “Yeah-”

Alylster realises what connotation can be taken from that and he shouts at Chris Peacock.

Alyster Black: “Hold up. What the fuck is wrong with wearing a mask!?”

Death Walker steps forward as the two “friends” bicker and now Alyster, Peacock, and even Cole join in the shouting match with Death Walker remaining silent and strong, seething under his breath. Jackson Fenix steps forward, trying to play peacemaker.

Jackson Fenix: “Guys, guys. We can settle this all in that cage-”

All five, including Death Walker who says his first words at all in the prison, turn to Jackson Fenix and shout-

All Five: “SHUT UP!”

Falling down on his rear, Jackson Fenix is taken back by his opponents shouting at him. The participants continue to bicker while Katsu, who has remained silent on the stage, has been watching. She’s been letting these feelings bubble and now she’s ready to release it.

Katsu: “ENOUGH!”

The smallest woman here lets out a loud shout with force. The five men arguing stop and turn to the masked woman. Jackson Fenix looks at her and mutters.

Jackson Fenix: “Thank you-”

Katsu: “Quiet…”

Jackson Fenix: “Seesh, someone woke up on the wrong side of-”

Katsu cuts a glare his way and Jackson knows to pipe up. She looks at the others involved. Alyster Black is the first to speak up.

Alyster Black: “This story isn’t about you-”

Chris Peacock: “Yeah, it’s about me and my best friend dominating this-”

Black turns to Peacock, still annoyed at his supposed ally.

Alyster Black: “Cool it with the best friend talk! I’m talking about me getting back to the top and out of this shadow you put me in.”

Death Walker’s Dark Guardian steps forward. He defends his lord.

Dark Guardian: “No, this is about my Lord’s path of destruction. His emergence as the true dark ruler of this place! You will be-”

Reagan Cole: “I’ll be what? Sacrificed?!”

Shouts Reagan Cole. He takes exception.

Reagan Cole: “I got nothing to lose. I’m not scared!”

Chris Peacock: “Nobody cares, Cole.”

The dancing man with gold draped around his neck scoffs. He looks at the people around him.

Chris Peacock: “In fact, nobody cares about you guys! Why don’t you all take a hike, get better, then come back. And that especially goes for you-”

He steps towards Katsu, the short masked woman.

Chris Peacock: “I thought I told you to stay in your lane? You’re not ready for this. What on this Earth makes you think you’re ready for this? What have YOU been through, huh?!”

He leans down and goes forehead to forehead with her. Katsu takes a deep breath through her nose. She reaches for the choker. She unclips part of it and it slides off revealing, on the side of her neck a nasty scar. It looks as if something bit her as there are fang marks along with other tissue damage. Some of the prisoners gasp looking at it. Chris blinks, getting a look at it.

Chris Peacock: “-Well shit. That looks disturbing. What? Did a rabid rat bite you?”

Katsu shakes her head. She says nonchalantly.

Katsu: “Just a monster… I managed her, though her scars will remain.”

Inhaling, she tries to control her emotions, relaxing herself. She speaks with a bit of tension in her voice.

Katsu: “Let me ask you, all of you. Have you been rejected for who you are? For being different…”

Pointing to her eyes and then mask, she clarifies.

Katsu: “Looking different, forced to hide part of your life and feeling as though you need to do everything perfect or else you’ll never amount to anything? Or that failure will prove all who doubt you right?”

Looking over her shoulder, her eyes meet Reagan Cole. He stands there as she addresses him.
NZopUzYx4kArqfC4Ghflp_1z6cqGMLRDQ0jv5YeA9hSwdKRIbSkNZt3ay1CRkhrqi8jZqmCPzsmYqfGLX5iTYbhYwDx9iSQXApbQBA73_dl01JgirQ_Lu8wkTpHt9oNKFkjNW6MYz7q7FHnzPlp1Xeo

Katsu: “Have you felt that your family would never love you if you were authentic? Be shut away from them because you couldn’t be honest with them?”

The message strikes a chord with the family man. He doesn’t respond, but he imagines. Even with the distance between him and those he cares about, he knows that there is this unconditional love. Sadly, not everyone has it. Katsu’s eyes look to the ground at Fenix.

Katsu: “Have you ever been alone? Not having someone to comfort you when you need it? Put yourself in exile from everyone else because you had nobody?”

Jackson looks to the crowd at Nate, and Xtacee. One person who has been with him for a long time and a new friend.

Katsu: “I have made so many mistakes and I have had many times where I fell down. I was weighed down so much. I put myself down to the point where a doctor had to intervene, doing whatever he could to make sure my own mind didn’t make me suffer.”

Glancing around, Katsu sees Death Walker and his Dark Guardian, a monster, and the man who led him to become one.

Katsu: “-But I didn’t let that lead me down a dark path. I’m not the puppet of another. I wanted to learn from my life even if that process feels like it will go on forever-”

Alyster Black takes a step forward. It appears that he is about to say something but Katsu notices and turns her attention to him. There is a hint of venom in her voice as she talks to her fellow masked person.

Katsu: “All because I didn’t blame everything else but myself…”

She alludes to the recent speech he made. Black clenches his fist. His mask hides his expression, but from body language alone, you can tell he’s furious.

Katsu: “I didn’t blame ‘the system.’ I didn’t blame someone else, I looked deep down and even if I grew to hate myself I knew I had to make changes. And as soon as you came back…”

She gets directly in Black’s face.

Katsu: “Just to lash out, you lost any sympathy, any respect… And I say that knowing I’m not perfect. I’m going to be doing this even if it is more dangerous than anything I’ve done in my life. It will not be a magic solution to all my problems, but I need it… I need to go through this. If I survived this long, I’ll survive here and I swear…”

Turning to the arrogant man at the top, Chris Peacock, now Katsu is the one to get in his face, looking directly up to his eyes.

Katsu: “Someone needs to knock this Peacock off his perch. Not everyone can handle power and you’ve lost control. I am not the one people expect, but I will be the one to take you down. You want me to get better?”

Katsu grits her teeth. She says this next line, not with a level of arrogance or dismissal, but a self-belief.

Katsu: “I… am… better. And if there are people who won’t care about this Japanese girl with a mask, then that is fine because after I knock you down they all will fucking care…”

In the crowd, Cali and Ririko exchange glances, surprised. Katsu isn’t backing down. The monster inside of her, may be gone, but its memories remain. The killer instinct of it remained dormant for some time, but now, it is coming out. Katsu says slowly with great emphasis.

Katsu: “I… belong… here.”

Katsu practically shakes with anger. The Warden, having had his dose of entertainment, orders the guards to step in and in turn, they cuff and chain each of the six competitors in the Steel Roulette. The Warden lets out a hardy laugh.

Warden: “Haha! I can’t wait to see you all kill each other! Prisoners! It is time for the Steel Roulette! Six will enter, only one will survive…”

The guards move each of the competitors off the stage and through a hallway. At the end are two doors leading to outside where the cage will be. The chains rattle as all six people are practically being led to death row. In the end, nobody will truly be the same after this experience. Cali and Ririko rush through the crowd to get a last glimpse at their friend before she enters. At the end of the hallway, as Katsu steps through the door, she turns back to see her two friends. She shows a small grin.

Ririko and Cali nod in support. Katsu looks and sees in the distance a cage made of steel chains. It looms over the rest of the prison. Crows caw in the distance. Above the cage, two vultures circle it, signalling an incoming death. The place where she’ll either prove she’ll belong.

Or die trying.

Two guards grab the doors behind her, slamming them shut, cutting her off from the others. All that is left-

Is her-

Five others-

And unforgiving steel.

 
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Blizzard Boi

Al F'N Blizzard
Joined
Apr 15, 2016
Messages
1,311
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219
Points
63
Age
23
Location
England, United Kingdom
Favorite Wrestler
sethrollins
————————

“Would you believe me if I told you there was a place where we stay, an infinite loop with no night or day. We act at the forefront of his mind, we have become the embodiment of evil and kind. We are stuck in the imagination of a lost soul, we exist only to keep him whole. Only scraping at the walls, only watching when he falls. We are the past, watch.. as we forever last.”

Suddenly, we see Al Blizzard, jolt out of a deep sleep. Next to him, his girlfriend wakes up and places her hand on his chest. “Are you ok hun?”

Al heavily breathes. “Yeah.. yeah I’m fine. I think.”

Sophie adjusts herself, she wraps her arms around him. “Another nightmare?”

“Yeah.. just, that voice again.” Al’s breathing slows down.

Sophie kisses him on the cheek. “It's just a voice, it's only in your mind.”

“I just can’t escape it, it’s always talking to me.” Al wipes sweat from his brow.

“I’m sure there’s someone who can help. Maybe go visit some sort of.. psychiatrist?” Sophie cuddles closely into her partner. Al leans his head into hers and they both close their eyes.

————————

[11 hours later]

————————

We see Al Blizzard walking toward a very modern house. White clad walls, large panes of glass and a large black door. He gets up to the door, takes a deep breath and knocks on the door.

The door opens to reveal a middle-aged man. Short dark grey hair, a moustache and a goatee. “Ah, my favourite Tea drinker!”

Al smiles at the individual. “My favourite weird uncle.”

The two embrace each other.

“What can I do for you, my old friend?” The man joyfully asks Al.

Al takes a deep breath. “Well Simon, I’ve been having these very real and very mentally destructive nightmares.”

Simon frowns at this information. “Well, come on in and I’ll see what I can do for you, Alex.”

Al enters the house and the door closes behind him.

“So tell me, what’s been happening in your life?” Simon asks as the two walk down a corridor

Al smiles slightly. “Yeah I’m okay, I went through a divorce. I got severely injured. Had a kid. Retired. Found out the injury wasn’t as bad as expected. Went through rehab. Returned to in-ring competition. Lost to my brother in the most brutal match I’ve ever competed in. And now.. now I roam with my brother and best friend on a path unknown to us. But I’m still, I still feel lost.”

“A rollercoaster shall we call it.” Simon smiles at Al as they approach a large door. Simon grabs the handle and pushes the door open to reveal a fairly empty room. Inside it is inhabited by two chairs and some bookshelves. “Please, take a seat.” Simon points to a long angled seat, the type you’d see in a dentist's practice. Al sits on the seat and in front of him, Simon sits on the other.

“Al I want you to take this.” Simon hands Al some pills. “These pills will slow your heart rate and calm your mind, allowing you to open your mind up so that I can see everything.”

Al takes the pills off Simon and throws them down his throat, swallowing them. “How long will they take to kick in?”

Simon grabs a book from the bookshelf and turns to Al. “It depends on the person, 5.. 10 minutes?”

Al nods as he lays his head back onto the chair. Simon sits on his respective chair. “Now Alex, I just need you to close your eyes.”

Al closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. “I’m ready..”

“Alright. Imagine you’re in the place you hate the most.” Simon flicks across a page in his book.

“I’m in.. that house, the playground.” Al twitches slightly.

“Good, we have to find the root of these nightmares. Tell me who is in this ‘playground’?”

“Myself and Robert.”

“So who is the root? Yourself or your lifelong buddy?” Simon flicks across another page in his book.

“Robert's fading out, just leaving me. Me, it’s me. It’s always been me.” Al twitched some more.

“Good. So you are the root.” Simon flicks across another page.

“It’s always been me... I’ve been the problem. Controlled by my own mind, it’s always been me.” Al says in a distressed tone of voice.

“Al, you may open your eyes.” Simon slams the book shut.

Al opens his eyes, but Simon is nowhere to be seen.

“Hello? Simon?!” Al yells out. He tries to get up but can’t, he is somehow tied to the chair.

“Simon can’t pick up the phone right now, he’s busy.” We hear an unknown voice, similar to Al’s but seemingly more sinister.

“It’s you... You’re the voice I’ve been hearing!?” Al attempts to free himself but can’t.

In front of Al we see someone phase into existence. First, we see black work boots and a long brown trench coat. Then as we get to the head we finally see a masked man. "I guess I have been..."

“You?! How the fu-“

“Ah ah ah, watch your language. We don’t want Father hearing it, he’ll punish us.” The masked man says.

“But, the mask. I.. I ripped it. I despelled you for good. How did you-“


“Oh, you poor naive little boy. He hides it from you, the real me. The real... Blackjack.” Blackjack smirks at Al as he gets really close to him.

“What do you mean he hides it?!” Al says angrily.

“Why should I tell you that? Defeats the whole point of what I’m trying to do.” Blackjack disappears after saying this. “I’m trying to get you to find the truth, our truth. You need to understand it.”

“Understand what? What do I need to understand?!” Al shouts angrily.

“Your purpose Al. You need to understand your purpose.” Blackjack says in a sinister way.

“What do you mean purpose?” Al tries to sit up but is still held down to the chair.

“Your purpose is to embrace me. Become Him. They didn’t tell you, did they? Put on the mask… become him. The him is me. I am Blackjack, the psycho king. The true heir to the Quinn throne. Blackjack is not you, blackjack is anyone. I am the mask, and the mask is me.”

“I can’t do it. I cannot do that. For my safety, for my family's safety. Hell, for the other competitor's safety. I’ll kill them if I become you.” Blizzard cautiously says whilst still struggling.

“Listen to me, win the opportunity to fight for the TV Championship. With the victory, you can finally break me free.” Blackjack reappears and smirks as he kneels next to Al.

“Why would winning a title grant you power?” Al stops struggling and looks at Blackjack.

“It doesn’t. But it gives us reason to go at it alone. No Jason, no Robert. Just us. Just me and you Alex. We have never needed anyone else. We never ran away from anyone when it was just us. We fought the world. But whenever you had anyone by your side, you became soft.” Blackjack stands back up and turns away from Al.

“I... I don’t know what you mean. Maybe you are right. Maybe I did go soft. And I am soft, you think I want to run around being Jason’s lapdog?” Al frowns at Blackjack.

“You don’t even know what he is doing to you. The mask you ripped up, wasn’t the real one. The real one is hidden, away from everyone. Why do you think Robert turned on you so easily?” Blackjack crossed his arms as he walks toward the other side of the room, toward a window.

Al stutters for a moment, thinking. “How… why would he do that?”

“Because he wants this power. He always has.” Blackjack puts one hand up against the window. “They’ve arrived.” Blackjack clicks his fingers.

Al is suddenly released and sits up. He stands out of the chair and walks toward Blackjack. “Who’s arrived?” Al pushes past Blackjack slightly.

“You have.” Blackjack says as we peer out the window to see the old incarnations of Al Blizzard.

“Where the fuck are we?” Al asks as he turns toward his masked memory.

“You’ve gotten so naive with age. We’re in your mind. This is the prison as I like to call it. Why do you think we reside here? Because you’re still stuck with the past. Burning that place down made it worse, it was a strong attempt but.. something more dire is needed.” Blackjack says whilst not looking at Blizzard

Al turns, with a slightly quizzed look on his face. “What do you mean, something more dire? What do you think I’m going to do? Sacrifice myself? Sacrifice someone else? You’d be mistaken.”


“No, don’t be outrageous. You just need to let go.”

“Well, that’s easier said than done, like c’mo-'” As Al turns around, we see that Blackjack is no longer present. “Hello? Blackjack?” Al looks around the room with no Blackjack in sight.

“Alex Quinn, the bearer of the Quinn Legacy. A mantle bestowed upon you with no choice in the matter. We do feel awfully sorry for you.”

“Who the fuck are you?” Al looks around the room but once again no one is around.

“We overlook everything you do. We’re the watchers. We’re the observers. We are You. To put it simply, we’re the fragments of your past Al. Piece together the puzzle, and you may free us.”

A bright white light flashes and before long we see Al waking up in the chair.

We see Simon approaching Al in the chair. “Hey, you’re finally awake!”

Al rubs his eyes. “What happened, how long was I out?”

Simon takes off his glasses. “Well Alex, you were out for a good two days..”

Al looks at Simon, incredibly confused. “Two fucking days?! What kind of pills did you give me?!”

Simon turns to him and chuckles. “Well, the same pills I give all of my clients. But you... You’re harrowed. You’re dark. You’re very different from everyone else. Whatever is in your head, maybe listening will be smart. He is the only one who can help you now, I’ve reached my ceiling.”

Al stands up and looks at Simon kind of angrily. “So you’re just saying I should listen to my nightmares?”

Simon smirks. “In basic terms yes. But listening may be a good thing in your case. You need help… and it sounds like he is offering.”

“I... I’ve got to go.” Al says as he picks up his jacket and storms toward the door.

Before Al can leave Simon halts him. “Before you leave, just remember. Trust yourself.”

Simon allows Al to leave and Al storms out of the door, leaving Simon to pick up a book and go back to reading.


————————

[3 days later]

————————

We see Al, Jason and Robert all in a room with a large table.

“Right Al, I’ve prepared something for you. It’ll be crucial for you to take notes okay?” Jason says gleefully as he holds a remote control and looks toward a monitor. He clicks a button on the controller and the screen turns on.

“Ladies and Gentlemen! This is your oh-so-important KNOW YOUR OPPONENT podcast. Hosted by yours truly, Jason Quinn! On today's episode, we have a double header! First off, the awfully ominous and, well, quite dull... EL VENGADOR! So this guy is just.. well I don’t know he’s kinda-“ Jason on the monitor pauses for a second and looks to the right as if he is being spoken to.

He looks back at the camera. "Sorry, I forgot to introduce the second person. Uhh… It’s Kleio De Santos, everyone! Uh yeah, that’s it.” Jason looks to the right again. “Well I’m sorry but do I look like fucking Nardwuar? I don't know everything about these fools!”

Jason looks back toward the camera. “Ok sorry about that. But uhh… yeah I don’t know FUCK ALL about this Kleio person. I don’t know if I’m just not looking in the right places or if they’re some sort of enigma. Spooky..”

The screen flickers for a second, seemingly skipping some of the video but whilst it flickers, we see Blackjack front and centre.

“Piece of shit thing..” Jason exclaims as he hits the controller on the table.

“Did you two see that?” Al says as he stands to attention.

“See what?” Jason asks as he turns around, a little concerned for his brother.

“N... nothing. Don’t worry.”
Al shakes his head as he sits back down.

“So listen to this, someone told me that Mr Vengador is hunting for someone that killed a family member or something. My source has no clue who did it, or if he ever found them. But ya know, if Vengador would hunt himself some bitches then we wouldn’t have to deal with his edginess. Am I right or am I right?” The monitor Jason awkwardly pauses before continuing.

“Enough about this edgy skull dude who is a worse hunter than Locke.” Jason winks. “Listen, this is my advice to you Al. You’re the underdog. You go out there. You bide your time. This is YOUR time to prove what you are. Time to put a strap around that waist. We’ll all be cheering you on. Remember, the favourites aren’t necessarily our favourites. We love a good underdog story.” The monitor then shuts off.

“Soo… what do you think?” Jason turns to Al looking hopeful.

“I think it was the perfect thing, brother. Thank you. Time to prove what I’ve been trying to do for years.” Al stands up and hugs his brother.


————————
 
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Bellatrix Bordeaux (Featuring The Coven) in…
w34Knf5YqN6Dn46AMl6yC_WsW88J0NmrIf1Q8dVOY1o72dAzFi2_l5SvAqrGrfMkUnSb_dG1kN9Efxez6D6Py6os3PdmiUrhMYjZDDSVivwbDX45UuYSQ6u_H3Z6zCoZsUZCkSJyxnG14OC45nC4iDs


September 3, 1823

Prologue.

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Fantasyland is a charming-looking village, far from the troubles and wars of the wider world. Founded in 1805 by Mr Matthew Robinson, over the past 18 years, it has become a haven for the outcasts of other lands, both earthly and otherworldly alike. Each and every being who calls Fantasyland home plays a vital role in the survival and prosperity of the village, as they work tirelessly, giving their blood, sweat, and tears for the betterment of the community…

…well, not quite.

Unfortunately, over the years, the village had been plagued with in-fighting, and still is, for that matter. Many factions, tribes, and unholy alliances have formed over the years, all vying for dominion, each wishing to rule as the one true power in the land. Most fail in their quest to rule, their alliances collapsing due to treachery and backstabbing. A few succeed in ruling for a time, only to crumble under the weight of responsibility. None, however, not even the Nephews, who are the biggest of these factions in terms of sheer numbers, have managed to remain in a position of power for very long.

Nowadays, there is one faction that stands above the rest. One group that has separated themselves from the others as a true force to be reckoned with. They don’t yet rule over the entire village, but the witches of Knockdrin Castle are the faction that all others strive to overcome. In an epic battle that involved members of most every faction in Fantasyland, it was these witches, this…Coven, that won out.

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Looming large on a hill in the distance, Knockdrin Castle makes for an imposing sight, with its tall stone walls and intimidating presence. It is unknown exactly when the castle was built, nor when exactly this Coven of witches decided to make it their home. One thing is for certain, though…the citizens and factions that make up Fantasyland know to steer clear…well, most people did.

A little while ago, a dotty young woman named Trixie ventured to Knockdrin Castle, hoping to convince the evil witches to spare her friends. She was terrified, sure, but she knew she had to try, for the safety of her friends means more to Trixie than almost anything else in the world. Much to her surprise, the “evil” witches of Knockdrin Castle were not anything like what the people of Fantasyland had described. Trixie found them to be kind, welcoming, a touch intimidating, but also, she felt as though for the first time in her life, she had met someone who understood her…Kleio De Santos, the leader of The Coven.

Despite Kleio seemingly having taken an interest in Trixie, her underlings, Blair and Celestia…but mostly Blair, had rejected the prospect of associating themselves with someone as pathetic and weak as Trixie. They felt as though Kleio’s interest in Trixie was a sign that their leader’s judgment had diminished, for why would someone as powerful and wise as Kleio De Santos even so much as take an interest in someone like Trixie, let alone actually consider having this weak little creature join their ranks! Surely Kleio had lost her mind!

…well, on July 23, 1823, Blair and Celestia were relieved that they had severely underestimated the young blonde woman. For on this day, a great and brutal battle had been waged. An all out war between most every tribe and faction in Fantasyland. An axe-wielding tribe, The LuPone’s, who’s name strikes terror in the hearts of trees. A clan of female warriors from the east, as brave as they are beautiful. A band of male sirens, who’s song makes those who listen want to gouge their ears off. These are but a sample of the formidable factions that partook in this epic battle.

Despite putting up valiant efforts, Blair and Celestia would eventually fall victim to injury and make their escape, thinking the battle was lost…but it wasn’t. As members of all clans fell on the battlefield, it was Trixie, of all the mighty warriors and mages, at the center of it all. As Blair and Celestia looked on from a distance, unable to fight, they saw not a weak and pathetic little girl as they had thought, but a strong and courageous young woman, powered by a force that the Ravenwood sisters knew all too well…Love.

…but why? Why, after they had done nothing but reject and talk down to her, why did Trixie care? If the roles were reversed, the sisters would have let Trixie die as opposed to risking themselves to save her, and yet Trixie had put her body between the Ravenwood sisters and their enemies, and she fought to save and protect them. She had fought as the sisters had done so many times before to protect the other…and even when the sisters managed to get to safety, Trixie kept on fighting. She would not yield. She would not give in. And it was Trixie, in the end, who was left, exhausted, yet standing, as the other factions fled, choosing to live, and to fight another day.

Trixie had won the day for the witches of Knockdrin Castle, and the Ravenwood Sisters, struggling with their own injuries, helped carry Trixie…home.



Part 1: “Flip the Switch”.

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A few weeks removed from the epic battle, Trixie can be seen exploring Knockdrin Castle, looking for nothing in particular, except for the fulfillment of her unlimited wonder and curiosity. She skips merrily through the halls, her luscious blonde hair bouncing excitedly after every hop, only stopping occasionally to snoop about any rooms and drawers she comes across.

We find her exploring one such room, one filled with all manner of tomes and stone tablets containing writings written in long since forgotten languages, and each giving off a mystical glow, as though the knowledge and power held within them are screaming to be released into the world.

Mesmerized by all the pretty colors resonating from the tomes and tablets, Trixie reaches out and chooses a book at random from one of the shelves. It gives off a greenish glow, which intensifies as Trixie fingers touch its cover. Trixie, her beautiful brown eyes wide and unblinking, opens the book. Almost instantly, a flash of light blinds the young woman, startling her. She drops the book and begins to fall backwards, when she is enveloped by the blinding light and finds herself staring at what, to her, is an unforgivable scene…

She sees her friends, Blair and Celestia Ravenwood, engaged in a battle…a losing battle. They put up an admirable fight, but are unable to defeat their imposing adversaries, as they are pushed onto the back foot, fists and kicks, knees and elbows striking them in the face and torso. They fire back defiantly, but the assault becomes too much for their battered bodies to bear, as they crumble to the floor. Their adversaries approach, towering over the young witches. Two nasty looking men, one with a thick mustache, and the other a full beard and a strange hat.

“FLIP THE SWITCH.” The men speak in unison, as they raise their boots, ready to stomp the sister’s heads into the dirt…


Suddenly, the impact of Trixie falling butt first onto the floor snaps her out of the vision. She has a look of horror and immense concern as she tries to comprehend what she just saw…it only takes a moment, before she scurries to her feet and darts through the doorway.

“KLEIO!!!” Trixie calls out panickedly as she sprints through the halls and up the stairs, trying to find her new friend, and leader.

“KLEIOOOOOO!!!” She screams once more as she reaches the top of the stairs and bursts through a door at the top, her sheer momentum causing her to lose her footing and go crashing face first into the stone floor…

“Trixie?” A calm voice calls as Trixie rolls onto her back, only to find Kleio De Santos looming over her, a curious expression on her face as she looks down at Trixie.

It takes a moment for Trixie to regain her wits, having tumbled herself into a loop, but soon enough…

“Kle-Kle-…KLEIO!” Trixie scrambled up to her feet, the panic returning as images of Blair and Celestia being beaten mercilessly flooded her little mind. “KLEIO, it’s Blair and Celery! They’re in trouble! WE NEED TO SAVE THEM!!!”

Kleio stares at Trixie confused, before placing her hands on the young woman’s shoulders, trying to calm her down.

“Okay, take it slow. Breathe.” Kleio says in a soothing voice.

Trixie does as instructed and takes a shaky breath, trying to calm herself.

“Good. Now, what’s happened?” Kleio asks calmly.

“I-It’s Blair and Celery!” Trixie says, the young woman becoming increasingly frantic as she speaks. “I saw them! They’re in Fantasyland and they’re in major doodoo. We need to save them!”

“If they’re in Fantasyland, and you’re here, how could you possibly have seen them?” Kleio asks, staring at Trixie with a disbelieving look, clearly thinking that this is just Trixie’s overactive imagination playing tricks on her, but not wanting to say as much and upset her childlike friend.

“I-…” Kleio’s question stumps Trixie momentarily, with the young woman trying to find the best way to explain herself. “I-…was in a room with loads of pretty books. And when I opened one, I saw Blair and Celery.”

Kleio nods, making Trixie feel like she understands her, before asking, “and what were they doing?”

“”They were in a fight with these mean looking bullies! One had a mustache and the other one had a cool beard, and they were beating up Blair and Celery!” Trixie, her concern for her friends’ safety bubbling over, yells “WE GOTTA SAVE THEM!” before storming past Kleio and making a b-line for the large door that serves as the entrance to Knockdrin Castle.

Kleio, while still unsure about the validity of Trixie’s story, chases after the young woman. “Trixie, wait up-“

Kleio’s call is suddenly interrupted by the entrance doors of Knockdrin Castle flying open, with the one door hitting Trixie clean in the face, causing her to yelp “OWW!” in pain as she doubles over, clutching her face.

Kleio, seeing Trixie injured, raises her hands, ready to confront the intruders at her home, when…

…Blair and Celestia, looking as though they just went to war with a pack of wolves, limp through the archway and into the castle, each helping to carry the other, until they slump to the floor, looking exhausted and defeated.

“What happened!?” Kleio says, storming over to the battered sisters, looking wholly unimpressed.

Looking up at her leader with contemptuous eyes, Blair responds. “We’re fine, by the way.” She says, scowling.

“WHAT. HAPPENED.” Kleio asks, demanding an answer.

Before Blair could respond, Trixie chimes in, her voice bunged up and muffled as she clutches her bleeding nose. “Ar-are you okay?” She says worriedly, as she knees down next to her friends, hugging them both, covering them in even more blood. Despite the fact that they may have just broken her nose, Trixie doesn’t seem in the slightest bit angry. Her only feelings seem to be concern at seeing her friends in such a state, and relief, as at least they were alive, and safe, now that they’re back home. “I’m so glad you’re safe.”

“We’re okay, Trixie.” Celestia says, wincing as Trixie’s tight hug sends shooting pains throughout her battered torso.

Blair, her eyes still locked with Kleio’s, speaks up. “We got word that some sort of carnival had come to Fantasyland, hoping to make a profit during the town’s Anniversary celebrations. Me and Celestia went to investigate…and to seek payment for us graciously allowing them to bring their business to our town.”

Kleio shakes her head disapprovingly. “So you approached these carnival people, without my prior knowledge or approval, as representatives of The Coven. You demand payment in return for The Coven allowing them to conduct their business in Fantasyland…let me guess, they refused to pay you?”

Blair nods, staring a hole through Kleio.

“And then what happened, hmm?” Kleio asks, knowing full well what the answer is.

Blair’s head dips slightly, looking embarrassed.

“Tell me.” Kleio demands, staring a hole through Blair.

“M-maybe we could help Blair and Celery get better first?” Trixie asks timidly, having never seen Kleio be this heartless and cold.

“Trixie, go see Ethel and get your nose fixed up.” Kleio says, sternly but calmly.

“Bu-but what about Blair and Cele-“ Trixie attempts to ask, but is interrupted.

“They do not have my permission to be healed. Not until one of them answers my question.” Kleio responds coldly. So coldly, that a literal chill rushes through Trixie’s very core.

Trixie, too intimidated to make eye contact with Kleio, looks at Blair and Celesta, who remain on the floor, suffering both physically and psychologically from their grueling defeat at the hands of the carnival folk. Stuck between the orders of the woman that brought her into The Coven, and the welfare of her adoptive sisters, Trixie makes a decision.

“I-…I’m not gonna see Ethel until Blair and Celestia are healed.” Trixie says, courageously defying the orders of her leader to stay with her injured friends, as Kleio’s eyebrows raise, surprised at Trixie’s defiance.

Blair and Celestia look at Trixie with a mixture of shock and gratitude, clearly appreciating the sentiment. Staring at the three young witches bleeding before her, Kleio exhales an annoyed breath and shakes her head disapprovingly.

“Fine…Trixie, help your idiot sister’s to Ethel’s room. Once you're all patched up, I expect an answer to my question.” Kleio orders begrudgingly, before storming off toward the staircase.

Trixie helps Blair and Celestia to their feet, and the three make their way through the castle to grandma Ethel, with the blood dripping from the three of them leaving a trail in their wake.

Part 2: Dinner.

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A couple hours had passed since Ethel had quite literally worked her magic and patched Trixie and the Ravenwood sisters up. Their wounds weren’t fully healed, but whatever concoction that grandma Ethel had used to treat them was working wonders. Trixie, having suffered a broken nose mere hours earlier, could already breathe near perfectly through her nose, though a small cut remained.

As for the sisters, their wounds were a touch more severe. Each of them had suffered broken and cracked ribs, black eyes, swollen, bruised and gashed open faces, with Blair also suffering a broken wrist, likely from a badly thrown punch on her part. As a result, their recovery would take a touch more time than Trixie’s simple fix. Still, it only really hurt when they walked, talked, moved, and breathed.

As the three of them sat at the dinner table, along with sweet, old, recently resurrected grandma Ethel, it became clear almost immediately that neither of the Ravenwood sisters were hungry, as they poked and prodded whatever dead animal laid atop their plates, looking completely dejected all the while. Well, at least Trixie seemed to be hungry, as her teeth tore through the meat as though she were a starving hyena.

“Mmmh, I love leg of cow.” Trixie says, as she sinks her teeth into it once more and rips off another mouthful.

Watching Trixie’s piglike table manners at work only further ruins the sister’s appetites. Seeing their plates still full, grandma Ethel speaks up in her weak old voice.

“Come now, young ladies, you won’t get better on an empty tumtum!” She says with a warm, caring smile, her green, rotting teeth on full display, which churns Celestia’s stomach.

As at least some of the Coven eat, Kleio walks into the room, looking as furious and cold as she had hours ago as she sits at the head of the large table, far from any of the other ladies. Her eyes fix upon Blair and Celestia, who do not meet her gaze. Trixie, who’s appetite seems to have suddenly vanished, dips her head, hoping that Kleio doesn’t turn her attention to her.

For a long moment, Kleio just stares scowlingly at them, before finally raising her voice to speak.

“So, are you ready to tell me what happened next, hm?” Kleio asks sternly.

Blair and Celestia’s heads dip as low as Trixie’s, but unfortunately, there is no hiding from Kleio De Santos.

“Need a refresher? Okay,” Kleio says, clearing her throat. “You hear that a carnival has come to Fantasyland for the 18th Anniversary celebrations, and you decide, without my permission, to investigate. THEN, without my permission, you confront these carnies and demand payment for us allowing them to bring their business here…sounds about right?”

Kleio glares a hole through the two sisters, who’s heads remain dipped. It is Celestia, this time, who nods.

“Yes, Kleio.” Celestia responds subserviently, as Blair scowls in anger and frustration.

“Good.” Kleio says patronizingly. “You care to finish the story, Celestia?”

“You already know what happened next, Kleio.” Blair says frustrated. “There’s no point in recitin-“

“Oh, but there is a point, Blair,” Kleio interjects in a menacing tone, “I wish to watch you suffer as you relive your humiliating defeat at the hands of a couple of carnival folk. So, if you don’t mind…entertain me.”

Blair’s eyes lock with Kleio’s once more, each looking as though they’re about to come to blows, when a timid voice speaks up.

“I-I…I can tell the story,” Trixie says nervously, hoping to help her adoptive sisters to avoid having to recite the humiliating story. “I know what happened…I seen it.”

Celestia looks at Trixie, as neither Blair nor Kleio refuse to break up their staring contest.

“How?” Celestia asks, confused. “You weren’t even there.”

“I-…I had some sorta weird dreamy thing, and I saw you and Blair getting beat up by the mean carnival people.” Trixie responds, recounting her vision. “I was gonna come save you, but then you came home.”

Celestia nods in understanding.

“That’s why you were by the castle door when we burst in.” Celestia responds, staring at Trixie with a grateful smile, and a touch of guilt. “Sorry about your nose, Trix.”

“It’s okay,” Trixie responds, returning Celestia’s smile with one of her own, “I’m just so glad you're both safe.”

Through Trixie and Celestia's heartwarming moment, Kleio’s gaze turns to Trixie, and her fury subsides ever so slightly. She was right, of course. The most important thing is that Blair and Celestia are alive and on the mend. She sighs deeply, as her mind switches from humiliating her followers, to avenging them…

“Despite your incredible levels of stupidity, and your refusal to ask my permission before attempting one of your schemes, I too am relieved to see you both safe.” Kleio admits begrudgingly, causing Blair and Celestia to stare at her, eyebrows raised, surprised. “However, our little meeting has not yet concluded, as there is the small matter of retribution. These carnival folk refused The Coven. They didn’t just attack you two, they also attacked the very name and reputation of our order. They beat you. They made examples out of you, and as a result, there will be people in Fantasyland who now believe that The Coven are weak. That we can be defeated. That we can be destroyed…we must quell this foolish belief.”

…and once more, Kleio’s eyes fall upon Trixie.

“Trixie, my dear, the last time you were called upon to fight in the name of The Coven, you showed great valor…and you emerged victorious.” Kleio says with great pride. “We call upon you once more to fight in the name of The Coven. Will you fight for us?”

Trixie, with no small amount of fear in her heart at the prospect of another battle, nods bravely. She turns to face Blair and Celestia with a raging inferno blazing in her eyes.

“Those big meanies will pay for what they did to you,” Trixie says passionately.

The sisters, despite having previously witnessed Trixie’s prowess on the battlefield, look upon Trixie with concerned eyes, before Celestia turns to Kleio and speaks up.

“But Kleio, we can’t send Trixie alone. These men are formidable, and they will have numbers on their side. I will accompany her, and fight at her side.” Celestia says bravely.

“Me too.” Blair interjects immediately.

Kleio stares at the three of them, and shakes her head, no.

“Neither of you are in any condition to fight. You will remain here.” Kleio orders.

“BUT-“

“But nothing, Blair.” Kleio interrupts. “Those are my orders and you will follow them.”

Blair and Kleio lock eyes once more, before Celestia speaks up.

“Then you must accompany her, Kleio. Trixie cannot defeat these men alone.” Celestia says.

“YES I CAN!” Trixie exclaims in a burst of confidence, seemingly taking exception to Celestia’s comment.

“I believe you,” Kleio smiles at Trixie’s confidence and bravery, “but you won’t have to. While you were getting patched up, I did a little investigating of my own. Fortunately, you two weren’t the only ones to have taken exception to these carnival folk’s arrival…XYZ, leader of The Ménage, has drawn the attention of one of your attackers, a Mr Bedlam.”

The Ravenwood sisters nod in understanding.

“So, while this Mr Bedlam is distracted by that simpleton, XYZ, Trixie has an opportunity to enact revenge upon the other one.” Blair says, nodding her approval.

“Precisely.” Kleio responds with a cunning smirk. “Trixie, your target goes by the name “The Showman” Chris Crowe. He is one of the performers in this little carnival…he challenges members of the public to fight him for money. If they defeat him, the reward is quite handsome…you will accept his challenge. You will fight him in front of a live audience, and you will make an example out of him.”

“I’m going to punch him in the pee-pee.” Trixie says, her eyes fiery and set on vengeance.

Kleio chuckles. “Do be careful, Trixie…there is an official that oversees these fights. There are rules. Should an official catch you assaulting the man’s testicles, you will surely be disqualified. I do not want you to just beat him up, Trixie. I want you to BEAT him. I want you to win his little contest, understand?”

Trixie nods in understanding.

“Good.” Kleio smiles. “Go and get ready, Trixie. The show will begin in a couple hours…and oh what a show it will be.”

Kleio smiles villainously as Trixie, eyes filled with determination, heads to her room to prepare for her fight.

Part 3: Showtime.

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Excitement fills the air in Fantasyland, as townsfolk young, old,and everything between explore and play the various games and shows on offer at this magnificent carnival. Everything from games like horseshoe toss, to puppet shows, magic shows, fortune tellers, sweets and treats stalls, pony riding and other fun activities for families to enjoy, this is truly a great way to celebrate Fantasyland’s 18th birthday. If this were any other day, Trixie would be having the time of her life in a place like this. She’d be playing, skipping, and giggling like all the other kids…except she’s not a kid, and this isn’t any other day.

Today, Trixie had a very important job to do. She must battle and defeat a man who had, in her eyes, committed the single greatest crime anyone could ever commit…he messed with Trixie’s friends, and beat them up. Snap images of her vision play on Trixie’s mind as she marches through the crowd, searching for an ugly man with greasy long hair and a vulgar mustache. Images of Blair and Celestia, her best friends, her adoptive sisters, being beaten mercilessly by Chris Crowe and his ugly friend Tommy, flood Trixie’s mind, only serving to pour gasoline on the fire raging within her.

As she passes by the happy families and the fun games, Trixie hears a gruff, menacing voice.

“Is there anyone else in this pathetic little town brave enough to challenge me!?” A masculine voice calls out, drawing Trixie’s attention as her head darts to find its owner…

…THERE! There he is. Trixie’s blood boils as she spots the man, standing in the middle of a massive 14 foot squared box with ropes surrounding him, and a sign painted on the sides of the box.

_OCs8KhQ042Ij-O-7b9o6i12ngSgDMllg3lghM-QyAhJUmaOMkBi7Rl75SpZZpkbUSey-ZG_MeRKdiLpYfsU3B2ZDoRkWoH8oLmqQBl7MHDKgibq5IFr6Btl-psnHvVO2uU2_JBtoigHZvSRxQDVeU0


The hideous man, shirtless and wearing a pair of trousers held up with a black belt, and a pair of worn black boots, stands amid a sea of onlookers. He rolls a battered young man out of the ring under the bottom rope with his feet, discarding him like trash.

“Is that really the best that this shithole has to offer!?” Crowe says laughing triumphantly, his arms outstretched, and looking as imposing and scary as anyone that Trixie has ever seen…

…but, despite her fears, she will not back out. Her friends are relying on her, and she would never let them down. Trixie pushes her way to the front of the crowd and climbs bravely into the ring.

Chris Crowe’s eyebrows raise as he watches the slender young woman enter his domain.

“Are you lost, little lady?” Chris Crowe says laughing.

Several members of the audience joined in with the laughter, but others…those who had been witness to Trixie’s prowess in the massive battle of factions that had transpired a few weeks earlier, did not laugh. They knew better than to underestimate this young woman.

Crowe’s comment only served to anger Trixie further.

“You hurt my friends.” Trixie says bluntly, her eyes damn near burning a hole through those of Chris Crowe’s.

“Did I, now?” The ugly man laughs yet again. “Well, if I were you, little girl, I would scurry away before you suffer the same fate as they did.”

The crowd “oohs” and cheers at “The Showman’s” comment…Trixie, however, doesn’t “scurry away”.

“No.” Trixie responds, deadly serious. “I don’t care what you do to me. You can laugh at me. Poke fun at me. Beat me up. Kill me…I. Don’t. Care….”

Chris Crowe’s smile slowly erodes as Trixie speaks, as he sees a fire in her eyes…a fire that he himself knows all too well.

“You hurt my friends, and for that, I’m going to hurt you back.” Trixie finishes, and proceeds to raise her shaky fists, ready for war.

Chris Crowe stares into Trixie’s eyes. He no longer laughs and snickers. There are no taunting or snide comments…seeing this young woman standing before him, ready to take whatever he has to give for the honor of her friends…Chris Crowe simply nods in respect.

“Well then…let the show begin.” ‘The Showman’ says, raising his fists.

With the crowd cheering in anticipation, and their eyes lock on each other, the bell rings to signal the start of the fight. Trixie, powered by her love of her friends and her sole desire to avenge them, charges at “The Showman”, who raises his fist, ready to strike…



…for THE END of this story, please tune in to FWA’s 18th Anniversary Show on Sunday, 3rd September 2023, LIVE on PPV!​
 

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A cameraman in the Kensington Oval, in Bridgetown Barbados, shows Blake Taylor sitting at table ready to make a huge announcement regarding his career, reporters from all over including FWA are there to ask the newest acquisition questions. Before questions commence Blake Taylor Begins to speak.





Blake Taylor-The Prodigal Son

Tonight I come before you, to make a announcement regarding my MMA and Boxing career, and say after winning 2 titles in each sport, I am retiring from boxing and MMA, FWA wrestling gave me the biggest contract Ive ever seen and I took it and ran with it. I have broken so many souls in those rings, and now its time I become the top dog in another avenue of sports and that’s pro wrestling, as I seek to become the first man, ever to win a title in Boxing, MMA, and Pro Wrestling, its never been done before and wont ever be done again after I get my hands on the Vacant Television Title. In FWA. I try to always tell you people nobody, can fight like me, talk like me or even back it up like me. Im ready for questions, you filthy neanderthals. I just wanted it to be know that, the greatest attraction boxing and MMA has ever seen is done and is onto greener pastures.


A News Reporter Stands up to ask Blake Taylor a question.

Shake Meltzer : PWoutsider



“ Blake you’re a champion where ever you have been, what makes you think that you can beat 2 great adversaries like Madison Gray and Jack the Clipper?


Blake Taylor-The Prodigal Son

I grew up fighting as a young boy I had to fight to get what ever I wanted as I grew up from poverty and never had anything growing up, I know what its like to have nothing, so the fact that I come in this match hungry tells you all you need to know, Ive never lost a championship fight, this makes it know different at the anniversary show Ill win the triple threat and do what ive done all my life and that’s fight, Jack and Madison cant beat someone like me they have never faced someone like me, Im more hungry then Ive ever been In my life, they cant talk like me, they don’t walk like me and they most certainly cant fight like me. At the anniversary show they just become 2 more wankers in the foot prints of professional wrestling that Ill once again prove isn’t enough for the Prodgical Son Blake Taylor.



Blake Taylor sets the mic down as he prepares for another question from these inbread reporters.


A reporter stands up as he begins to ask a question he is cut off, by Blake Taylor


Blake Taylor: The Prodigcal Son

“All you people will bend the knee at the greatest athlete to ever grace this company. Before I got here, Madison and Jack was wrestling in small town gymnasiums trying to make a name for themselves meanwhile, I was in MMA selling out arenas, and beating Legendary fighter after Legendary fighter, when, I was in boxing it was the same thing, Ive touched gold where ever I went this isn’t the story that these 2 wanted, and because of me, they are now Co Main Eventing one of the biggest shows this company has, Your Welcome Jack and Madison its just to bad your parade will be short lived after I the most decorated combat athlete ever wins the Triple Threat match and goes on to become the Television champion of the world, and theres not a damn thing anyone in that god damn locker room can do about it. Now the soon to be champ will take more questions”



A reporter stands up and prepares to ask a question


Ty Johnson: Nuances of Wrestling


“I just want to ask what kind of training have you been doing for this upcoming triple threat match as Im sure the action is a lot different from pro boxing and MMA? “


Blake Taylor: The Prodigcal Son

“The training I have done hasn’t changed, I still train as I always do, I normally train for 12 round, or 5 round master classes, and those go up to a hour long or so at times, So my training is better then anything these 2 have seen or done, can I also point out how much of a chicken shit, Jack the Clipper is the moment he seen me he ran, like the coward he is, but come this Sunday Jack you cant run, and win I get my hands on you it might be the last time your ever allowed to wrestle in a ring again, and Madison Im going to show you exactly what happen when you put your hands on me. You got away with it before you wont get away with it again Ill promise you that. My debut was incredible and it should tell you, how much faith this company has in me, a man of my stature was given a opportunity to be world TV champion in their first match, Madison and Jack are getting their biggest pay day ever because of me, and that’s a co main event spot in one of the biggest shows, they both need to be kissing my ass right now and just giving me that title shot because of this opportunity.”


Blake sets the mic, down and quickly picks it up again,


Blake Taylor: The Prodigal Son

“Is there anymore questions, from any of you filthy wankers? Or are we finished because I am a very busy man, I got woman to do, money to make and film to watch. Its like I said Ive spent my whole life fighting I grew up in a broken home, and the only way that I was going to get by was fighting when I had nothing else. So I fear no man, nor woman walking this earth, as my whole life Ive been doing this, its called humble beginnings and learning to have survival instincts to make it in life something none of you people have or Jack or Madison have. They don’t have that do or die attitude willing to do wha”t ever it takes at all cost. And after I win the triple threat match you will see exactly what Im made of when I go on to become television champion of the world.”


Blake quickly slams the mic down in frustration as he relives his rough up brining of having to fight to get what ever he needed in life.


Another report slowly stand up nervously to ask a question as they can tell, that Blake is clearly frustrated, they hesitantly ask their question.


Katie Baxter: FWA Backstage Commentator

Blake how did all this come about, how did it come about you being signed by FWA and being booked in the Co-Main event to potentially determine who will become the new TV champ? Care to elaborate more with us on the process of all this?”


Blake Taylor: The Prodigal Son



How do you think it happened Katie? The needed me to come and sell out some shows and to line his pockets with money, so of course he reached out to sign me, John Russnow knows my value he has seen my highlight tapes he reached out because he knew my MMA contract was coming to a halt and he offered me a deal I couldn’t turn down even if I didn’t want to be here. What led to me coming here? The fact that I was bord I was tired of dominating both boxing and MMA, and Movies couldn’t afford me or the roles they would offer was garbage Hi production companys who I turned down to be here. What lead up to me co-main eventing the show? Well John said he needed someone who can sell tickets because, obviously the shmucks in the main event and Jack and Madison couldn’t do it with out me, they needed that money maker on the card with them, now this is the biggest show the company has had because I was able to actually add something to it, other then the same talk in dance, the best talker, and most charismatic superstar on this entire card, if these other losers did their jobs right, I wouldn’t of had to be here, to sell this show out, but because Im already a house hold name it sold out the moment I was announced for the Card, Your Welcome FWA, my check better be in the mail.



Blake chuckles into the microphone with a huge cocky grin on his face as he sets the mic down and gets-ready to ansewer another question from a reporter.

Another Reporter stands up


Jim Kratz: With the Wrestling Journal

Blake what do you think of your 2 opponents? Madison and Jack The Clipper are both very successful in the werestling world while you are having your first wrestling match tonight, does that make you nervous at all?”


Blake Taylor: The Prodigal Son



"Jack and Madison are just that opponents Im going to do what I've always done win and control the pace of the match, I don’t care that this is my first time in a wrestling ring, because I know nobody can do what I can do in this company that’s finish matches, when I put my hands on Madison and Jack it might be the last time they ever compete again in a ring. Im tired of being humble its time for me to start kicking ass and taking names, Jack and Madison and the rest of the FWA roster remember this when your scared at night, remember the thing that’s going to haunt you the most is going to be that you couldn’t achieve the greatness you seek but was only able to nibble at mediocrity. Im done with these questions I have a match to prepare for"



Blake sets the mic down and as he stands up, he lifts him arms up, and tells the world that hes going to fulfill his prophecy

 

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"You lost. We all lose, sometimes."

This time, we catch up to Sawyer, sitting on a couch of a hotel room alongside the coast of the beach. His hands were shaking slightly, as he viciously clicked a pen he had on his person. Oliver Kemp, the FWA Official who (for some unknown reason) took a gamble on him, was sitting at a desk, watching Sawyer's movements. He had tried to get the FWA Ministar to cheer up over these past few weeks. Sawyer, never seemed to be phased by these attempts.

His mind was deadset on the prospect that he lost. When he went to the gym, he exercised with the mindset that he failed and there's nothing he can do to even make that loss up. Kemp's short brushed attempts to bring up his moral were met with disgust and a vile look from the underdog who could never play his cards right.

"I mean, so what? You lost, big fucking deal. You got your nuts kicked in, we all get our nuts kicked in at time."

"Not funny Kemp. You can't be talking anyways, it's not like your career relies on my success."

Sawyer had chucked the pen at the face of Kemp, letting some ink dampen around his nose and cheekbones. Sawyer stood up, walking over to the window, viewing the beautiful ocean in his sights. It was a moment he wished he could cherish. Yet, enjoyment is for winners. If you can't win, who says you deserve happiness? If you don't win, why should anyone let you enjoy the luxuries of life.

"Besides, Kemp, you put your bet on a guy who's not even liked by a single piece of shit in that audience. You know how TAXING it is to go out and just hear radio silence? That fucks your head up, knowing that no matter what you do, it'll never be enough."

At this point, Sawyer had gotten up close in Kemp's face, a scowl dressed on his face. Kemp backed up slightly, not wanting to be on the recieving end of a potential assault from his crackbag of emotions he decided to take in. After a few seconds of tense silence, Sawyer backed away from Kemp, sitting down on the side of the bed.

"I'm stuck fighting this wannabe surgeon. Do you think this is the 90s anymore, Kemp? The days of evil cashiers and evil surgeons are over. That's the level of SHIT I'm stuck with? I'm having to put my body on the line to fight this kid who wasted thousands of dollars just to steal MY MOMENT? Hell fucking no I'm not."

Sawyer walks over to Kemp, grabbing him by his short stub of beard-hair, forcing him to look directly in Sawyer's eyes, full of hatred and disdain.

"Kemp, I want you to look at me. I want you to tell all your little buddies in the back, Smythe is my chewtoy. I will BREAK him down and make him regret at least THINKING he can stand in my path. I don't care about the lines anymore. If nobody wants to appreciate me, I won't let them appreciate me. I'll rip anyone I can to shreds, because I'm DONE being an underdog. Kemp, welcome to the new era of Malice. Take a good look at me, because if you're gonna bet on me, you better get ready to watch me rip open anyone who even THINKS of taking my spot."

Kemp would nod, shakingly, as Sawyer pushes him back down into the chair at the desk. Sawyer gives him a smile, but it was irregular. It was, dirty, it was the one of a man who's lost everything. Why should he care about what he does anymore. There's no more consequences. If there's nobody to lose, why worry about the brutality of his actions? He's not anyone's friend or ally anymore. He's only got himself, and that's ok. Himself is the only man alive that can contain the true malice boiling to the surface. And when he finally shatters that glass, he'll make sure everyone rues the day that the former Sawyer Xavier died.​
 
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