HOW MANY RUSSIANS CAN YOU FIT IN LINDSAY TROY’S OFFICE?
Universal Champion Ivan Stanislav has since left the broadcast position and stands with his hands on his hips as he glowers at an unseen source of frustration.
Alexei Ruslan is next to him. He removes his hat for a moment and runs a hand through his short graying hair and looks up at his comrade expectantly.
And next to him is Arina Timofeyevna. The young girl’s dark hair is pulled back in a ponytail and she wears a striking red uniform with green lapels and gold accents, complete with a red hat. She blinks her vibrant blue eyes and, admittedly, the uniform is a bit too large for her. Her lips are painted red as she purses them together and looks down at the floor.
Alexei Ruslan: Best course of action, Starshy Praporshchik?
Arina glances pensively between the two Russians. She looks, in a word, nervous. We finally see what Stanislav is staring at:
The Steel Door O’ Doom with Lindsay Troy’s name upon it.
He hadn’t expected the same door to move from location to location, but that dent definitely was high enough to have come from only Ivan himself in the past. He growls.
Ivan Stanislav: We knock.
Ruslan, crestfallen, nods as he places his hat back on his head and steels himself while Arina quietly looks between the two of them again then down to the floor again. Ivan knocks with three powerful slams of his fist which are perfectly spaced and in perfect rhythm. If one was to describe it the sound and cadence? “Bang” or “Boom” just wouldn’t suffice. “Ivan Stanislav Knocking,” however, seems perfectly accurate.
He waits. But not for long.
The Steel Door O’ Doom opens slowly and the grinning face of Ami Troy gazes up at The Russian Bear, whose scowl only seems to intensify. Behind him, Ruslan’s eyes grow murderous, while Arina twists her lips and remains silent.
Ami Troy: Hiya!
Ivan Stanislav: Great. Hello Ami. I have a meeting with your… mother?
He blinks as he easily looks over her head into the room.
Ami Troy: I know you do.
She grins, mischievously, then looks at Alexei.
Ami Troy: I don’t think we have any lightbulbs that need replacing, though.
Rapid Russian muttering burbles from behind Ivan as Alexei speaks to Arina. The Universal Champion clears his throat.
Ivan Stanislav: All right let’s get this over with then, who all do we have in here?!
He lurches forward to make his way into the room, gazing about with a perma-scowl on his face.
It’s not just Ami Troy. Oh no. Seated behind the desk is, of course, the owner of PRIME, and to her right is The Bad Dog, Wade Elliott. This audience is certainly not what Stanislav expected, and the surprise on his face registers for just a moment before he growls.
Ivan Stanislav: I did not expect to walk into zoo. (nodding at Wade) We have dog. (nodding at Lindsay) We have goat. (completely ignoring Ami) But they all pale in comparison to bear, eh? DYAAHAAHAA!!
Stanislav places his hands on his Universal Title, which is secured around his thick waist. Wade, meanwhile, shifts slightly from his place against the wall. He is wildly unimpressed.
Ivan Stanislav: I thought I take time out from commentating duties to stop by, Lindsay. First and foremost, why was that idiot commentating with me for Hayes and Freeman? Surely that was not sanctioned by you?!
Lindsay Troy: Who else would have sanctioned it? Last I checked, your boys Kenny and Randall are engaged in Gentlemanly Combat with the Glue Man Group, and as such someone needs to be promoting it. Even if that someone is Joe Fontaine.
The Queen pauses for a beat.
Lindsay Troy: And don’t call me Shirley.
Stanislav waves a dismissive hand before the entire room as he clearly tries to keep his temper to a slow boil.
Ivan Stanislav: Shirley? It… it does not matter. What does matter is why I am here. You want to finally lift this stupid situation with Alexei and Jabber, yes, I agree. So here. I show you. Arina?
Stanislav motions for Arina to stand next to him. The shy Russian woman slides past Ruslan and stands next to Stanislav, gazing up at him with a hint of trust for a moment but doesn’t make eye contact with Troy or the gang. If anything, she looks intimidated by them as she dips her head and her red hat nearly falls over her eyes. She fixes it and keeps her eyes downcast silently. Stanislav pats Arina’s shoulder reassuringly.
Ivan Stanislav: I want to introduce you to Arina Timofeyevna. You know, she has been calling your office for weeks about this whole Jabber thing, and you ignore her. I think it best to put face with her fine name and realize this poor girl is just trying to do her job. What do you have to say for yourselves?!
Ami Troy: Oh my gosh, you’re super pretty.
The merry little mischief maker skips over and stands next to Arina. This time, her smile is warm and genuine.
Ami Troy: Is that the new Dior Forever glitter lipstick? Deb and I are obsessed with it. She obviously likes the pink but the purple’s more my style.
Wade can’t help but snort, arms across his chest. Ivan closes his eyes tightly and grits his teeth for a moment. Arina’s cheeks redden just slightly as she turns her eyes upwards toward the Universal Champion. She opens her mouth but Ivan’s booming voice rolls over her own.
Ivan Stanislav: Okay we are busy tonight and have business to tend to. So everyone who does not matter: That means you (pointing at Wade) and you (pointing at Ami)?
He thumbs at the door over his shoulder.
Ivan Stanislav: Out!
Lindsay can’t help but laugh. Wade, however, cannot, and the Bad Dog takes a hard step forward.
Wade Elliott: You (pointing at Ivan) better go on an’ fuck yerself ‘fore I make a fuckin’ mess out’ve you an’ yer whole god-damned parade!
Lindsay Troy: (calming Wade with a gentle wave) Alright, everyone take a breath. Ivan, I know you didn’t forget whose office you’re in, so I don’t know why you think you have the standing to dictate who stays and who goes. And before you hit me with the “But I’m the Universal Champ” line, I’m the one who runs the show and signs your checks and books your matches.
The Southern Sparkplug, eyes still burning, opts to stay put. Alexei’s brown-clad shoulders rise as he prepares to speak, in unison with Ivan as the two Russians are poised to protest, but Arina yelps and speaks up instead, her voice soft but angled and her English is not nearly as polished.
Arina Timofeyevna: Please! Uh, Ms. Troy. Starshy Praporshchik… he just want to fix issue with Mr. Ruslan and Jabber. Please. We travel very very far around globe and this very important to us.
Ivan frowns inwardly and rests his hands on his hips. Lindsay offers a soft smile to Arina.
Lindsay Troy: Хотите сесть?
Arina’s eyes widen in shock as she looks up at Ivan, clearly not expecting to hear her native tongue from Lindsay Troy’s lips. Ivan shrugs and nods to her as she looks back at Lindsay with a nervous smile.
Arina Timofeyevna: Yes. Please.
The Queen rises from her seat, walks around the desk and pulls one of the chairs out for Arina, motioning for her to make herself comfortable. As Arina settles in, a beeping goes off from Ami’s phone. She presses the screen and gives her mother a wink.
Ami Troy: I need to go upstairs and check on the thing for the thing.
Lindsay Troy: Alright. Tell the Boys I’ll stop by later.
Ami Troy: OK. It was nice to meet you, Arina! You should come hang out after the show, it’ll be fun!
With that, she bounds out the door, giving Alexei a nasty look as she does.
Lindsay returns to her chair and crosses her right leg over he left. Ivan glares at Wade for a moment before he cuts his eyes back down to The Queen. Alexei shifts over to take Arina’s place at his side, but Ivan seems to be at his wits end. He winces and huffs.
Ivan Stanislav: Listen. I have had enough of this. I’m tired of dealing with this situation. I am Universal Champion. Alexei is my manager. He is also my friend. I am tired of his consternation. I am tired of Arina working on this issue. I am tired of having this conversation with you, Lindsay, as I am sure you are with me. This has gone on long enough. Since September!
Lindsay Troy: August, actually.
Lindsay Troy: It was my birthday present to myself.
Alexei nearly jumps out of his shoes.
Alexei Ruslan: BIRTHDAY PRESENT?!
Ivan Stanislav: We sent you fruit basket!!!
Lindsay Troy: Yes, that was very nice of you, thank you. But haven’t you ever heard of treating yourself on your birthday?
She looks at Wade.
Lindsay Troy: They do that in Russia, right?
Wade Elliott: Th’hell should I know?
Ruslan’s face turns as red as his tie. He wags his finger at Troy and steps towards her desk.
Alexei Ruslan: I didn’t even bug that fruit basket, Lindsay Troy! And DON’T THINK I DIDN’T WANT TO!!!
Ivan reels Ruslan in by the collar and pulls him back with a bellow.
Ivan Stanislav: Enough!! Lindsay. Entire roster is clawing each other’s eyes out in order to see who challenges me. Whoever has Golden Ticket will have match with me on journey to Culture Shock. I want an end to this! I am sick of all this static!
Lindsay Troy: Alright, alright. Fine. You’re right, Ivan. As much as I’ve enjoyed this – and believe me, I’ve enjoyed this very much – it’s starting to become a distraction. Mainly because I’m tired of you whining about it on Jabber. And, to your point, it shouldn’t be Arina’s responsibility to have to ask me to unban Alexei.
Lindsay Troy: Of course, if Alexei wasn’t an annoying little gnat, I wouldn’t have had to ban him in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there. Arina, I’m sorry I made your job more stressful than it already is as a government employee. You shouldn’t have been put in the middle of this and I apologize for my role in that.
Arina looks up at Ivan for a moment and simply asks for clarification in Russian from Ivan, who translates it quickly to her. She thinks and smiles shyly and nods towards Lindsay.
Arina Timofeyevna: I very much like working for government. But. Thank you. Ms. Troy. It is appreciate.
Lindsay Troy: Good. Now. My Universal Champion would like his friend and manager unbanned from PRIME’s chat platform. And I have PRIME’s biggest show of the year coming up next month and I need my Universal Champion promoting it. I think we can kill two birds with one stone here, because earlier this week I had a unique opportunity come across my desk for some cross-promotional marketing with a huge global brand. The name at the top of their list that they’re most excited to work with was yours, Ivan.
Ivan narrows his eyes carefully and measures Lindsay from on high. He crosses his arms over his barrel chest and inhales as his suspenders audibly creak.
Ivan Stanislav: Well… it makes sense that you would have your biggest champion in Universal Title history doing this for biggest show of year. I’m listening.
Lindsay Troy: I understand that you’re going to have doubts, however this is an opportunity for you to not only continue reaching people around the world as PRIME’s Universal Champion, but to also represent a literary Russian hero. There is nobody else who can do this but you.
There’s stunned silence between the Russians as Ivan looks over at Alexei and smirks.
Ivan Stanislav: Once more, PRIME comes crawling to us to save them from fire. All right, Lindsay, who is it?
Lindsay Troy: Ivan…
She leans forward, slowly.
Lindsay Troy: You are the only person in all of PRIME who can dress up as Colossus for Colossus.
You could hear a record needle scratch. Stanislav narrows his eyes and looks over at Alexei, who shrugs, and down at Arina, who is already tapping on her phone. She pulls up a picture of Piotr Rasputin, better known as the X-Man Colossus, and shows it to Ivan. The Russian Bear blinks.
And blinks again. Meanwhile, Lindsay Troy has an absolute shit-eating grin on her face, while Wade Elliott is pursing his lips together and trying not to laugh.
Alexei Ruslan: I think I just leave…
Alexei frowns as he slowly slinks behind Ivan and disappears from the frame. The Steel Door O’ Doom opens behind Ivan and the top of Alexei’s hat can be seen exiting the room while he shuts the door behind him. Ivan tilts his head to the side, still staring at the picture.
Ivan Stanislav: He is… strong Russian literary figure, yes… and handsome to boot. And I do this, then this is over and done with?
Lindsay Troy: You do this, and I will unban Alexei from Jabber.
Ivan Stanislav: And… how much of me must be… painted?
Lindsay Troy: Everything.
Ivan Stanislav: Everything?
Lindsay Troy: Everything.
Ivan stares not at Lindsay, nor at Wade, but at the wall over their heads. Arina’s eyes remain downcast. It’s awkward. Wade is about to burst, and that’s saying something for a dude who never laughs at anything. Ivan’s breath whistles between his nostrils. Arina fidgets. Ivan clears his throat and then, after about twenty seconds of soul-searching, he swallows. Alexei would take a bullet for him, after all, what was this compared to that? Right? Sure.
The Universal Champion shifts his thick jaw from left to right as he grinds his teeth before finally looking down at Lindsay Troy. He then cuts his eyes over at Wade and smirks as he looks him up and down.
Ivan Stanislav: First of all… you’re going to need a lot of paint…
Ivan grunts and looks back at LT.
Ivan Stanislav: Secondly. Lindsay Troy. I say this with utmost sincerity. My skin is like virgin earth of Siberian tundra and upon it, the hairs are much like erect, untouched trees which dot her glorious Russian landscape. Under no circumstances will THIS…
Stanislav grips the neck of his shirt and tears it open, revealing a verdant forest of black and gray chest hair which billows forth for the world to see.
Ivan Stanislav: …be shaved!
Ivan is breathing hard. Arina stares wide eyed at the floor.
Ivan Stanislav: Understood?
Lindsay Troy: That’s fine, Ivan. I know it’s been awhile since a woman’s seen you shirtless, but this is the 21st Century and generally, we don’t tell men what to do with their personal grooming.
Ivan rests his hands on his hips and digests Troy’s words. His creased eyes narrow slightly in thought as he imperceptibly chews his lip.
Ivan Stanislav: Perhaps so.
He shakes away a thought and shifts gears with a grunt and a grin at Wade.
Ivan Stanislav: Do not be jealous, dog.
Wade Elliott: Keep walkin’ ‘fore I rip all that mess outta yer skin an’ make a pillow with it.
Stanislav chuckles, but his eyes stare at LT the entire time. He starts to leave while Arina stands.
Ivan Stanislav: Arina. Have Alexei get me one of my backup shirts, please.
Arina mutters to LT.
Arina Timofeyevna: Thank you. Ms. Troy.
Lindsay Troy: Пожалуйста, Арина.
She looks fearfully at Wade but does offer a small smile to Lindsay Troy before scurrying out. From down the hall, Stanislav bellows, unseen.
Ivan Stanislav: The 20th Century was better!!!
Arina shuts the door, leaving Lindsay Troy and Wade Elliott in relative peace.