THE LOGICAL EXTREME
Suddenly, the PRIMEview flickers to life showing the visage of one Arthur Pleasant.
Arthur Pleasant: Helloooooo there, MASK! What an incredible, but wholly unsurprising tough break there. But hey, scoop the sweat and softened ear wax out for a second, would you? I know that you’re probably exhausted, but I have just the thing that’ll put some pep into your step!
Nick Stuart: What the heck is he talking about?
Richard Parker: Hey, let’s hear him out, he’s been nothing but helpful towards the luchador even though he’s been met with nothing but rudeness in return.
The PRIMEview static cuts to a house, clearly older footage since the shot is during the day. The camera zooms into the door, where two adolescent-aged boys walk out of the house to wait at the curb.
Arthur Pleasant: Oh look, here are two people who might cheer you up! You see that? It’s Lorenzo and Vincenzo! Your children! How studious and prompt they are getting out for the schoolbus.
The PRIMEview static cuts to the picture window where a man with salt-and-pepper black hair sits on the couch with a blond woman.
Arthur Pleasant: I couldn’t really get the audio too good here, but I wonder what you and your wife are talking about here.
Nick Stuart: How did he get this footage?!
Richard Parker: You know I really can’t stand the luchador but even I think this is unsettling.
The luchador stands in stunned silence. At this point, even Sykes and Calvin look uneasy at what’s going on. The PRIMEview static cuts to another overhead view of the house, this time at night.
Arthur Pleasant: Oh, let’s get a live look, shall we? Maybe we can catch a shot of your lovely wife tucking your children into bed. Wouldn’t that just be lovely?!
It’s here that the luchador has had enough. He shoots out of the ring and books up the ramp.
Nick Stuart: What the hell, this is sickening, Richard.
Richard Parker: I, I’m at a loss for words here. Let’s go back to talking about Jared Sykes. I feel better slandering him, at least nothing bad is happening to him right now.
Nick Stuart: That’s… wait, what the hell is this?
But as one man leaves, so does another enter. Randall Schwartz appears at the entrance as if shot out of a cannon, gleefully wheeling down the ramp towards the ring and almost barreling Justine over. She manages to dive out of the way at the last moment, and Randall slams on the brakes before crashing into the side of the ring. Of course, he’s just the vanguard for the larger force, and we mean that quite literally.
Ivan Stanislav and the omnipresent Alexei Ruslan make their way down the ramp. The reception they’re given by the fans in attendance is less than kind.
Richard Parker: Call it a hunch, but I don’t think this is going to be a civil conversation like they had two weeks ago, Nick.
Nick Stuart: A man was threatened with murder, Richard. I wouldn’t really call that “civil.”
Richard Parker: Oh that’s nothing. You should see what happens at my family reunions.
Jared, now back to his feet, turns his attention to the force advancing on the ring. That’s when the next shot lands.
Nick Stuart: Kenny Freeman from behind!!
The sound of the chair is unmistakable. A blindside shot to the back of the head puts Sykes back on the canvas. Freeman takes a step back and takes in his surroundings. There’s hesitation in his eyes as he glances between the man in front of him and the titan taking his first step onto the ring apron. Ruslan cockily removes his hat on the outside and spies Justine Calvin. He waves his hat in her direction.
Alexei Ruslan: Hello dear Justine! So nice to see you again!!
Justine pulls herself up and rushes to the ring apron, but there’s hesitation there, too. In any other situation she would already be in the ring, trading blows with whoever dared try and take her future away. Hell, she charged the ring at Colossus and put herself in front of Paxton Ray knowing damn well what that could cost her.
But this is different. This is personal. The implied malice of her exchange with the Russians now manifests before her. She freezes, unsure of what to do next.
Nick Stuart: The Red Army on parade to the ring, while Kenny Freeman snuck in from behind. And with Arthur Pleasant getting involved earlier to keep the Anglo Luchador occupied…
Richard Parker: Say it, Nick. We’re all thinking it.
Nick Stuart: This was premeditated! They planned this!
Jared begins to stand again, but Ivan’s intent is absolute. A single order is given in the booming voice of a soldier, and no matter his feelings on the matter Kenny Freeman has no choice but to obey.
Ivan Stanislav: Again!
Another crack resonates throughout the arena and Jared collapses back to the ground. Freeman looks at the weapon in his hands, the chair now bent from the second impact. It wasn’t that long ago that the Masters and Eminence stood across the ring from each and wrestled for the tag team championships. It would be naive to say that things didn’t get out of hand that night for any number of reasons, but that was months ago. Professional wrestling has no statute of limitation on grudges, but is that what this is? Is this really the next stop on the voyage across the multiverse?
Freeman steps back and lets the chair fall from his fingers. And as Kenny can only stare at his hands and wonder, his partner has no such doubts. With his good arm, Randall Schwartz waves the flag of his adopted motherland.
Ivan steps over the top rope and stands over the fallen Sykes. Such a tiny man, a pest; not much bigger than a mouse or a rat but just as deserving of the same treatment. Extermination. But there will be nothing humane about what comes next. Stanislav bends down at the knees and waist and rests his hands on his knees. He buries Sykes under a cacophony of roars.
Ivan Stanislav: Pardon the interruption, you крысиный ублюдоk (rat bastard)! Was it worth mouthing off?! Was it worth the jokes and the jabs? You could not leave well enough alone, could you?!
A massive hand grabs Sykes by the neck and pulls him to his feet with the ease of a child handling a toy.
Nick Stuart: Iron Curtain!!
The short-arm clothesline powers through Sykes and sends him spinning in the air. He crumbles to the canvas in a heap as if this universe has a busted physics engine driving it.
With both Russians now in the ring, there is no one on the outside to prevent Justine Calvin from joining them. No one except herself. She stayed still as Kenny Freeman wielded his weapon against her partner, but seeing Ivan escalate this to another level she slides under the bottom rope. She has seen this movie before. She knows how it ends. Whether she can do anything to change it remains to be seen.
She is not aware that her presence has been noticed.
Nick Stuart: Calvin in the ring now!
Richard Parker: Oh, I don’t think I like where this could go, Nick. I don’t like it at all. I will give you fifty dollars if you can find a way to make sure it doesn’t happen.
Nick Stuart: I don’t like this either, Richard, but…
Richard Parker: FIFTY DOLLARS!
She stands against her better judgment. Balls her fists knowing what the outcome might be. She taped them for this reason. Left her ring in the locker room knowing damn well it could come to this.
Each breath comes faster than the last, nostrils flaring with each pull of air. At last she charges, bolting from the corner ready to strike.
Except she doesn’t.
Nick Stuart: Goddammit, Alexei!
Alexei Ruslan had never taken his eyes off of her. He watched as she tried to fight through the indecision, as every emotion was laid bare in the expression on her face. That’s when he went into action, sneaking into position and making use of a set of handcuffs to bind her left wrist to the ropes.
Justine’s body snaps back as she hits the limit of her range. The cuffs almost pull her off of her feet, and she has to quickly adjust to keep from falling on her ass. Her next move is just as fast. Now fully aware of her situation, she pivots in the direction of Alexei and uncorks a right hand. The roar of the crowd is deafening as the blow catches Ruslan flush, sending him tumbling between the ropes to the outside. He crashes into Randall Schwartz and knocks the wheelchair over.
Richard Parker: Why? Why would you do that? Don’t you know what that’s going to do?
Schwartz quickly stands, rights his wheelchair, and sits back down.
The Russian Bear glares across the ring to where Justine stands in the corner, and then looks down to the man at his feet. He looks back at Justine and grins broadly as he bellows in her direction.
Ivan Stanislav: Now? I take your boy and I BREAK him, Ms. Calvin. In front of you! In front of crowd. And in front of every idiot who ever DARED to consider getting in my way! Watch your fiancé’s destruction!
Nick Stuart: Red Scare!!
The ring buckles as Sykes is launched a solid ten feet through the air before crashing upside-down into the turnbuckles and slumping to the ground. Stanislav whirls around and looks to Justine, while pointing at the crumpled body of Jared Sykes.
Ivan Stanislav: So! Ms. Calvin. The one with witticisms to spare. The one who was too GOOD to show proper appreciation for my gift. You offended me without proper thanks, little girl! What do you say, eh? Are you sorry now?!
Justine Calvin: Sorry? Am I sorry? Fuck. Off.
Ivan Stanislav: So be it.
No sooner do the words leave her mouth does Ivan turn on his heel and march back across the ring. Sykes has only just rolled onto his side and begun to use the ropes to get his bearings when a massive hand grabs him by the face and pulls him away from the buckles. The massive Russian barks another order at Kenny Freeman who immediately springs into action and begins removing the turnbuckle pads from that same corner.
Across the ring, Justine’s eyes grow wide. She pulls against the cuffs desperate to free herself, but the steel is unforgiving.
There is no salvation for Jared Sykes as he is once again thrown through the air with ease. There is a gasp from the crowd as his body falls to the mat once again. The steel of the exposed buckles is just as cruel. Stanislav spreads his massive arms wide and stomps closer to Justine.
Ivan Stanislav: Does pride go before the betrothed, tiny girl?! Does the sweet princess choose herself over her darling groom?! Or are you ready to voice your regret? Is it that hard?
Justine Calvin: Y-you’re… you’re insane… you’re fucking insane.
Ivan Stanislav: If you say so…
There is no masking the rage of The Russian Bear as he pulls the Dragonslayer off the mat. Jared’s body is limp in his hands, but still he lifts the man with ease. A third Red Scare is out of the question, there’s no way he can control that much dead weight, so instead a running military press sends Sykes again into the exposed buckles.
Richard Parker: Oh my god!
Nick Stuart: We need to get somebody out here and we need it right now!
Richard Parker: Did… did you see how close he came to hitting that post? Couldn’t even get his hands up, Nick.
A few spots of blood now stain the mat near where Justine stands, the result of her trying to pull her hand free of the restraint that holds her at bay.
Ivan doesn’t bother with another conversation. Both Sykes and Calvin have insulted him in their own way, and now each will suffer for these offenses. Again he drags Sykes’ body out of a broken heap, and again there is no attempt by Jared to defend himself.
Justine Calvin: STOP!
Even without a microphone the word is loud enough to be heard in the stone dead silence of the arena. The crowd hushes as Stanislav, with his back to Justine, freezes.
Justine Calvin: Okay… okay… You win, just… just stop.
The monstrous Russian Bear, with gleaming eyes, turns to face her. He blinks his eyes and turns his huge head to the side, and points his ear toward her.
Ivan Stanislav: Say it again…
Justine Calvin: You win. (softly) You win. Y-you’re right… I’m sorry. We… we both are. Just stop, okay? Just stop.
Stanislav nods his head. Her words reach him, and he knows they were coming eventually. He actually frowns and nods his head to her and his eyes, for but a moment, show a certain degree of softness and humanity. But it’s too much. They’ve made their jokes. They’ve disrespected him. They’ve even belittled him and his people. They’ve poked the bear too many times and now, he’s out of his cave. The thoughtful look turns to a sick, twisted, and wholly uncaring grimace.
Ivan Stanislav: Too late, my dear.
Often forgotten is that in addition to their size and strength bears also possess incredible speed, capable of running as fast as a horse across uneven terrain. It’s that speed which catches everyone in the arena off-guard as Ivan, only seconds removed from getting his wish, bolts to where Jared lies still on the mat.
What happens next occurs too fast for most people to process, save for Nick and Richard who’re only able to get out of the way because of the distance between them and the ring.
Nick Stuart: He’s not…
Richard Parker: Nick…
Ivan again lifts Jared over his head, only now he gets a running start towards the ropes before heaving his smaller foe out of the ring with one massive hand.
Richard Parker: RUN!
The announce desk collapses under the impact.
Wide-eyed and despondent, Justine falls to her knees in the corner. Her free hand covers her mouth as her other arm dangles in the air. Thin rivulets of blood run freely down her arm from where the cuffs have bit into her flesh. Jared is gone, there’s no question of it. Tables like the one where Richard and Nick sit are built to collapse on sudden impact, which would help lessen the blow that Jared sustained, but that doesn’t negate the damage he took from those exposed buckles. Everything they had built together, everything they were going to build… It all lies in ruin.
But there’s no time to grieve, not with an angry mountain lumbering towards her. She sees him approaching in her peripheral vision. A blurred stormcloud of destruction. In seconds she’s hidden in the shadow of Ivan Stanislav. Instinct alone is why she manages to get back to her feet, though it’s that same instinct that causes her to brace against the corner. The Russian Bear stands resolute above her.
Ivan Stanislav: Do not cry for fools, Justine Calvin. Jared brought this upon himself. You cannot say I did not give him ample warning. And as for you…
He clenches a fist bigger than her head as his forearm bulges. Then, he reaches into his back pocket and, of all things, produces a red handkerchief.
Ivan Stanislav: Dry your tears.
He dabs her cheeks with the handkerchief, which causes her to recoil. With his other hand, he reaches for her bound arm as Justine clenches her eyes tight. It’ll be her turn next.
There is a loud snap and then the force that held her arm to the ropes is gone. She opens her eyes, slowly at first, and sees that she is no longer bound. The cuff is still attached to her wrist, the other end hangs loose from the rope, but the chain that connected them is now severed.
Nick Stuart: He just snapped the damn chain in half!
Below her are Ivan’s massive combat boots, the shadow still over her as The Russian Bear looms on high. Just a movement was all it would take to stomp this insect into the floor.
Ivan Stanislav: Do not say I have not been merciful, beautiful Justine.
With a motion akin to an afterthought, The Russian Bear drops the red handkerchief at her feet as the chorus of boos grows louder.
Nick Stuart: This is sick. An absolutely disgusting display from Ivan Stanislav, once again.
Richard Parker: Jared Sykes hasn’t moved at all, Nick. You want to check if he’s breathing? I would but you’re closer.
Before Nick can do that, or yell at Richard, or both, a wave of cheers ripples through the arena as PRIME medical personnel, led by Drs. Astrid Fihlguud and Graham Erly, hurry down the ramp and make their way over to the demolished announce booth and the broken body of the Knight-Errant of PRIME.
Nick Stuart: Finally, help has arrived.
Richard Parker: They didn’t come alone either, partner.
No they sure didn’t, because Lindsay Troy is powerwalking to the ring and she does not look happy.
The Queen shoots a menacing side-eye toward Alexei and Randall before entering the ring and storming over to where Ivan towers over Justine. Without a word, she grabs the back of his red suspenders and yanks him away from the corner as hard as she can. It doesn’t move Ivan much, but it moves him enough to put some much needed distance between him and Justine. An extra shove for good measure, and Troy is able to put herself between them.
As Stanislav turns and moves, it looks for a moment as if he might brain whoever put their hands on him and yet when he sees it’s Lindsay Troy, he raises both of his hands and grins down at her. He says something to her, in Russian, but it’s inaudible. A terse reply follows and, after a brief staredown, Ivan motions to the rest of his cronies and bellows.
Ivan Stanislav: Our fun, comrades, is done!
He gathers his troops and, without fanfare, leaves the emotional, physical, and structural wreckage behind him.
Nick Stuart: Fans, I’m sorry. We’re… we’re going to try and get the situation here under control. We’ve still got more action to come here tonight, but for now…
The last thing we see amidst the chaos is the stretch being wheeled to ringside. And then, finally, we fade.