THE RED ERA BEGINS
Heavy footfalls, accompanied by not so heavy footfalls, echo throughout the hallways of the Enterprise Center, and yet something far more loud threatens to drown them out.
The deep, bass voice of Ivan Stanislav and the tenor of Alexei Ruslan reverberates through the halls and bounces into various rooms. The truth is that the duo sounds quite good together, and clearly they do have a gift for singing. And they are happy in their song, for so many reasons, tonight.
“Советские республики, объединившись в свободе,”
(The Soviet republics, in freedom united,)
They turn a corner, moving with a certain expediency that denotes a specific goal in mind. Stanislav has the Universal Title firmly around his wide waist, no doubt the straps were extended for that expressed purpose. Ruslan, meanwhile, carries with him a duffel bag.
“Собрали свою силу, свою славу, свою гордость”
(Have mustered their power, their glory, their pride)
“И так они создали великий Советский Союз,”
(And thus they created the great Soviet Union,)
Stanislav pauses the singing as the duo arrive at a large, steel door. Ruslan’s eyes gleam with playful wickedness, as Ivan thumbs at the nameplate.
With barely contained glee, the two Russians positively bellow the last portion of their song. Stanislav, in particular, makes a great show of ending the stanza with a dipping, earth-shattering low note…
“Воля народов распространилась повсюду!”
(The will of the nations that spread far and wide!!)
….and then reels back with his fist and SLAMS it into the door with a tremendous CLANG!!!
The door bends slightly, but doesn’t move and Stanislav is left blinking. He looks over at Alexei.
Ivan Stanislav: Неужели эта дверь тоже не из русской стали? (Surely this door isn’t also made of Russian steel?)
Ruslan says nothing, but just shakes his head with shock. Ivan growls and takes a step back from the infernal door. He narrows his eyes, pulls a huge boot back, and SLAMS it into the section where lock meets door jam.
To no avail.
For all that noise, there’s stunned silence now. Ivan stares at the door as if it must be made out of some unbreakable material. He blinks and snaps his fingers. Ruslan hops into action. He puts down his bag and produces several small tools from his overcoat and immediately begins picking the lock. Stanislav paces with frustration, and freezes when…
…the pick breaks. Ruslan frowns and furrows his brow, holding his poor, broken lock picking tool. He eschews Russian for English. He is clearly at a loss. After all, all logical options have now been exhausted.
Alexei Ruslan: Now what, Starshy Praporshchik Universal Champion?
Ivan exhales. He certainly didn’t want it to come to this, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He lifts his hand calmly towards the door…
…and knocks three, equally measured times.
A handful of seconds later, the Steel Door o’Doom swings open and Lindsay Troy’s beaming face greets the Russians.
Lindsay Troy: Ah, he can be taught. See what happens when you act like a human and not like a neanderthal?
She looks from Ivan to Alexei.
Lindsay Troy: Or a weasel.
The Queen opens the door wider and crosses the room to return to her desk, motioning them both inside.
The Universal Champion fills the doorway, and then moves forward, pushing himself into the office with Ruslan in tow. He glares back at the Steel Door o’Doom for a hateful moment, and then looks around the office itself. He watches Lindsay Troy carefully and Alexei? He remains in the doorway, with eyes filled with hatred, rage, and vitriol. Ivan’s scowl quickly shifts to a big, broad smile.
Ivan Stanislav: I did not receive any formal congratulations from you, Lindsay Troy. Rather than have you try to find me, I feel it best I come find you. After all, it cannot be denied that you have me to thank for bringing so much prestige to Universal Title. Why, your title run is made more important thanks to my victory.
Lindsay Troy: On the contrary, I’d say you holding the Universal Title places you in elite company with me and so many others.
She settles down in her chair and throws her long legs on top of the desk, crossing her feet at the ankles.
Lindsay Troy: Want me to start naming them?
Stanislav crosses his arms over his barrel chest and shakes his head.
Ivan Stanislav: No. But even you cannot deny truth, Lindsay Troy. I battled Brandon Youngblood one on one in that cage, and I beat him to pulp. PRIME’s golden boy was left in pool of his own blood. No trickery for anyone to crow about. No “cheating” for them to assume occurred. Just Ivan Stanislav and PRIME’s Diamond. And he shattered. I must ask: are you too proud to admit truth that was in front of millions of people? Can truth pass through your lips that I bested that fool?
Lindsay Troy: I don’t make it a habit of engaging in Russian propaganda games where I pretend that losses don’t happen and spread lies and misinformation amongst my followers. That’s your and Alexei’s schtick.
Lindsay reaches over and retrieves a bottle of water. She takes a sip and continues.
Lindsay Troy: Yes, you beat Brandon for the belt. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna beat him or anyone else the next time you have to defend it.
Ivan Stanislav: I have wonderful habit of making good on my promises, Lindsay Troy. Think what you wish, but do not think I will not hold onto this belt for long time. Despite your best efforts, how it must grind your gears to see Universal Title around my waist, eh? Did you ever think in million years I would come into PRIME once more and one year later, beat them all and be on top? DYAAHAAHAA!!
His laugh booms through the room, but Ruslan still does not laugh. He has murder in his eyes.
Lindsay Troy: Despite your high opinion of yourself and your low opinion of me, we’ve had worse around here.
Luckily for everyone, the Queen leaves those “worse people” unsaid.
Ivan shakes his head, but he speaks more conversationally.
Ivan Stanislav: Lindsay my dear, you project upon me my opinions. I do not think lowly of you. Had I, then I would not have had you represent me in past. Yes, you do try to get in my way when it is not warranted. Yes, you impede my heroic mission. Yes, you insult me from time to time. But I mean what I say about your tenacity, annoying and misplaced as it is. But eh, no one is perfect, Lindsay Troy!
Ivan thumbs at himself and squares his shoulders.
Ivan Stanislav: But I am Universal Champion. There is no denying it. And with it comes certain things that must be done. First: for whatever reason, I am not listed as number one member of PRIME roster in ELO rankings. I am Universal Champion. This must be changed.
Lindsay Troy: I know I declared math dead along with taco chain buddy comedies and using Kanye West for entrance music, but 1703 is still a bigger number than 1693. If you manage to move past the Glue Crew’s Le Petit Lézard en Colère in the rankings, then you’ll be ranked number one. Until then, keep plugging away, lil’ trooper.
Ivan Stanislav: I am the best member of this roster, Lindsay Troy! What more is needed?!
Lindsay Troy: More wins, for starters.
Ivan Stanislav: Fine. Wins, I can generate. (he stabs his finger into his palm) Second: I will be Universal Champion for some time. I want Colossus to be moved to Moscow. Third: I want member of announce team to be Russian announcer of my choosing. I know of very fine woman who can fill this position.
Lindsay Troy: Colossus isn’t going anywhere other than New Orleans. The first one was held there, and this is its 10th anniversary. As for the announcer, I will not be instituting a three-person commentary booth, however if you want your own announcer to interview you I might be willing to entertain a conversation about that.
Stanislav growls and places his hands on his hips.
Ivan Stanislav: Hmm… very well. I will consider it I guess. (he shakes his head) Sometimes I think you are difficult to work with for no other reason than to be difficult, Troy.
He pauses for a moment and glances over his shoulder. If Alexei Ruslan’s eyes were heat rays, the entire room would be barbecued.
Ivan Stanislav: Finally, and perhaps most important: it is time to release this stupid ban you have on Alexei and Jabber. It has played itself out. I want it lifted. Immediately. Pull your phone out and get this over with!
Lindsay looks at Ivan first, then Alexei. She takes another sip of water.
Lindsay Troy: What’s the magic word?
Ruslan explodes from behind Ivan.
Alexei Ruslan: NOW!!!
Stanislav actually jumps slightly at the outburst and whirls his huge head around at Ruslan, and then back at Troy. The wall of sound from the collective Russians is tremendous. There’s gesticulating. Roaring. Screaming. Finger pointing. Palm slapping.
Ivan Stanislav: ThishasgoneonlongenoughLindsayTroyIamUniversal…
Alexei Ruslan: Goddammitimperialistcapitalistbourgeois…
Ivan Stanislav: …gallofyoutodothistomyfriendIdemandthispettinessstop…
Alexei Ruslan: …careeristpowerhungry…
The Russians continue their ranting and raving, while Lindsay simply leans down to retrieve a pair of earphones from her bag. She slips them over her head, turns them on, and reaches for her phone.
Soon, the sweet sounds of noise-canceled music fills her ears. She smiles at Ivan.
Lindsay Troy: CAN’T HEAR YOU, DID YOU SAY THE MAGIC WORD YET, I DON’T THINK YOU DID?
Ruslan seethes in the doorway, and Stanislav’s expression is that of a very, very Russian scowl while he glowers down at Troy, still reclined with her feet up on the desk.
Ivan Stanislav: This is getting nowhere. I was fool to think you would actually listen, Lindsay Troy. Fine. It matters not.
Ivan smirks to himself and stares at a still-smiling Troy, who is now tapping her feet against each other to some unknown rhythm.
Ivan Stanislav: Regardless, The Red Era of PRIME starts tonight. We have work to do. You sit back and relax.
Stanislav looks coldly at the camera.
Ivan Stanislav: This is our show now.
Ruslan turns on his heel and leaves briskly. Stanislav follows, but stops for a moment and stares at the Steel Door o’Doom for one hateful moment. He grabs the handle, strides through the doorway, and swings it closed with a WHOOSH and a SLAM!
No door in the building, except the Queen herself, is able to blot out what comes next.
More Russian singing.
Welcome to The Red Era.
We then cut to ringside for our first match.