DRAGGED THROUGH THE MUD
Instead of going elsewhere, we get a close-up shot of Richard Parker and Nick Stuart at the remains of the broadcast position while the desk is pieced back together around them.
Nick Stuart: Fans, we’re getting word that something’s happening backstage. From the sounds of it, things have broken down once again between Paxton Ray and Jared Sykes.
Richard Parker: Colossus can’t get here soon enough, Nick. These two are going to tear each other apart if they have to wait much longer.
Nick nods to the camera, and it changes perspective.
There is a cacophony of competing voices as a legion of Enemigos tries to keep Paxton and Jared separated. For his part, Sykes appears to be perfectly fine with being escorted away. Not so for the Lafayette Bruiser. Paxton is a mad dog, snarling as he pulls at his chain. The first link is broken as an Enemigo catches the point of an elbow to the side of his head, which gives Paxton just enough space to get his left arm free.
One by one the members of security who surround him are felled, most on the receiving end of a series of violent blows. A few others are sent tumbling as one of their smaller compatriots is turned into a human javelin and thrown at them.
Nick Stuart: He’s like a man possessed! If he gets through that group, then it’ll be bedlam all over again.
Richard Parker: If he gets through that group, Nick, then who’s going to be there to keep these two in check?
The Enemigos around Sykes shift their focus to trying to control Paxton, but he’s a tornado of violence. Enemigos are hit and shoved aside to give him a clear path at his target. Despite what he’s witnessing, and despite all the years of experience that say these situations never end well, Jared doesn’t retreat. Instead he moves to close the distance between them.
A production crate thrown deliberately low clips him in the thigh, which gives Paxton the chance to capitalize. He swings down with his right hand, pairing gravity with momentum to catch Sykes’ just above the ear. He grits his teeth through the mask, the world suddenly buzzing around him.
The next shot comes before he has a chance to blink away the spots he sees, as a left to the body drives the air from his lungs.
Richard Parker: This is gonna be real bad, isn’t it?
Paxton pulls a chair from a nearby stack, and tests its weight. He glances down to where Sykes gasps for air on one knee and flashes a wide grin, all teeth and malice like a shark. There’s a loud crash, and the chair is bent into a perfect L over the back of the Blueberry.
Despite his reputation as a brawler, the way he’s robbing Sykes of his senses and ability to breathe is almost surgical.
Paxton pushes forward, grabbing Jared and twisting as though the two are locked in some strange dance, before he uses the momentum to send his target back first into the door jamb of the conference room. Jared’s body contorts, bending around the frame and spinning into the empty room. Instead of going in after him, Paxton turns his attention towards the camera.
The next thing the audience sees is a nausea-inducing rush of scenery as the cameraman turns and tries to run, the fans now seeing the world through his eyes. There’s a sudden jerk. The camera bobs up and down for a second before it slowly turns. The image vibrates, shaking on the screen as the sinister visage of Paxton Ray pans into view.
Paxton Ray: Y’all are gonna wanna see what’s ‘bout t’happen.
The view spins again, now aimed at the conference room door. We speed towards it, the image bouncing as we advance. Later, the cameraman in question will reveal that he was shoved into that room, and that he wondered whether he would leave it in one piece.
With the cameraman now huddled in the corner, the crowd gets a proper shot of the conference room layout and Jared Sykes leaning against the table and breathing heavy.
Nick Stuart: Is that the same room as…?
Richard Parker: That’s definitely the one, Nick.
The door to the room is slammed shut, and in the far corner of the room, watching all of this unfold through uncaring eyes, El Hijo del Super Cool Guy teeters on his perch.
Richard Parker: I would rather watch a thousand hours of Mega Job instead of what I think we’re about to see.
Sykes grabs the closest thing he can find, and hurls a large speaker phone at his attacker. His aim is wide, and Paxton watches as it sails through the air and shatters against the near wall. He was never in any real danger. A wicked grin crawls onto his face as his left hand reaches back into his pocket.
Paxton Ray: Nice shot. Now lemme try.
The camera catches a glint of silver as he draws the object into his hand.
Jared pushes himself to his feet and turns just in time to be leveled by a thunderous left hand across the brow from a chain-wrapped fist.
Nick Stuart: Where the hell is security?! Why in god’s name are we still broadcasting?!
The first punch doesn’t draw blood, but the links of chain catch in the fabric of the Blueberry mask and carve a gash across the fabric on the right side of Jared’s face. Strands of pink hair fall across his eyes as more of the man underneath is revealed to the world.
The second shot lands, finding purchase in the same spot and now the blood comes in a thick crimson torrent. The blow sends Jared spinning into the table, before he slides to the floor leaving a trail of red on the table behind him.
Paxton unwraps the chain from his hand and flexes the knuckles, seemingly unaffected by the force the impact had on his own hand. He cooly strides to the door, and once he makes sure it’s shut tight, wraps the chain around the handle to prevent anyone from getting in or out.
Nick Stuart: Fans, I need to… I’m sorry. This is… on behalf of PRIME I feel like I need to apologize for what we’re showing right now, and…
Richard Parker: Jesus Christ, is he still trying to stand?
Jared plants a hand on the floor and starts to raise his head. A fountain of blood pours from the wound on his brow, leaving a puddle on the floor where his head rested only a moment ago.
Nick Stuart: God, just… just stay down, Jared. Stay down and maybe this will all be over.
Paxton doesn’t break his stride. As he casually closes the distance between them, he unbuttons his shirt to reveal a tee beneath it with custom lettering. Five words in block letters.
REMEMBER: HE ASKED FOR THIS
Sykes is pulled back to his feet by Paxton, who drives a headbutt into the bridge of his nose. Jared collapses back onto the table top.
The Bayou Butcher takes a moment to scan the environment before his eyes settle on his new toy. In a flash, the left arm of Super Cool Guy is torn from its socket and brandished like a club. With his free hand, Paxton palms the mannequin by the face and drags it over behind him.
Instinct kicks in when the arm is swung for the first time, and Jared tries to raise his hands to deflect the blow. But they’re sluggish, uncoordinated, and the strike slips through without much effort. Then another lands. A third. By the time Paxton swings the arm the fourth time, Jared’s hands don’t even come up to protect himself. The strike connects with his chest, and a gurgling wheeze escapes his lips.
Nick Stuart: Someone get in there and stop this, goddammit!! Break the door down if you have to!
The blow fractures the length of the mannequin’s arm, and splinters it at the elbow. Shards of fiberglass and plastic scatter across the table as Paxton is forced to find a new weapon. The right arm of Super Cool Guy is torn away, and the strikes begin anew.
Paxton Ray: Ever seen someone turn on their tag partner this bad, Jared?
All Jared can do is to weakly try to roll onto his chest, but it’s not enough and it’s certainly not in time to dodge a two-hand swing that obliterates the last arm of Super Cool Guy over his shoulder. Once again the plastic framework shatters on impact, and three deep gouges are torn into Sykes’ back as a result.
Richard Parker: Nick, I swear I’m not trying to be funny right now, but are we witnessing a murder?
The door behind Paxton buckles as a chorus of angry voices gathers on the other side of it. Throwing down the broken hand of the mannequin, he glances over his shoulder and sneers before escalating the situation even further.
Paxton Ray: Not much time left. Let’s make it count.
With a hand around each ankle, the mannequin is torn off the floor. The first swing gets as much of the table as it does Jared, and the blow turns the neck joint into dust. The head of Super Cool Guy skids across the stained wood surface before falling to the floor.
Another strike against the door causes the chain links to clink together. In response, Paxton draws the body of the mannequin back up before swinging down. With every blow more and more of its form breaks away and falls to the floor. By the time the torso has been reduced to dust, Jared’s own body looks like a map drawn in blood. He slides helplessly from the edge of the table and collapses to the floor.
With a leg in each hand, Paxton begins to pound out a drum solo on the fallen, broken body of his enemy.
The door to the conference room thunders again. The wood around the handle cracks, splinters, and then breaks inward. The door flies open. First through are Coral Avalon and Sid Phillips, the latter of which is no doubt the group was able to muscle their way in. Joe Fontaine and Justine Calvin are next, but they’re unable to get far before a horde of Enemigos storm the room.
Nick Stuart: Thank god! Finally, we can get some help!
The masked men surround Paxton, who immediately drops the last bits of the mannequin and puts his hands up. Pushing herself through the fray, Justine weaves her way through the chaos and carving a path for the medical team. The expression she wears is a mixture of concern and anger, the latter blooming into full-blown rage when Paxton tilts his head forward and offers her his chin.
Paxton Ray: Want another shot?
She lunges to her feet, but is caught by a swarm of security members before she can get close. Paxton laughs and walks away, sending one last shot.
Paxton Ray: You wanted the Mud Pits.
Mercifully, we go elsewhere.