Nova runs a hair trimmer at a curved angle under a dangling 60-watt soft white bulb. Chunks of thick brown hair fall to the floor.
He lights a cigarette and takes a deep drag. Smoke swirls around and above his head.
He nods and runs the trimmer in a different direction. More brown hair, thick at first but then fuzzier, lands on the tiled floor.
Friday, September 16, 2022
MGM Grand Hotel
Sometime Before Sunset
“Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!”
“The Queen of the Ring” Lindsay Troy stomps into Nova’s hotel suit white-knuckling a batch of legal papers in her right hand.
Nova and Wade Elliott are playing Rummy. Nova lays down four 4’s and a sequence of 3-7, leaving the Bad Dog speechless.
“I…you…,” Elliott stammers before his face reddens, “YA DON’T PUT DOWN TILL YOU’RE GOING OUT! THAT’S NOT FAIR!”
Nova shrugs, shuffling a cigarette out of his pack. “I don’t have to lay down till I want to.”
“Hey!” Troy shouts. “Assholes! We have a problem!”
She waves the crumpled papers in uncharacteristically panicked fashion.
Nova lights his smoke and takes a long drag. “Whatcha got there, boss?”
Troy’s toothy grin in no way conveys either humor or mirth of any kind. “Ummm, what I ‘have here’ is a court order for your competency evaluation, Caes.”
“Oh,” Nova’s eyebrows raise, “when did they schedule that for?”
“Pretty fucking soon,” Troy responds, running a hand through her legendary curls, “and that’s beside the point.”
“What’s the point?” Nova absently asks, still staring down at his triumph over his babysitter.
“YOU AREN’T INCOMPETENT, CAES!” Troy roars, doing all she can not to throttle the manchild in front of her.
Troy takes a breath. “You know, and I know, and we all know, that I asked for a competency evaluation to stall you making the – still drastic and terrible – decision to serve out the remainder of your to-serve sentence in jail. It was a stall tactic.”
“It was fucking brilliant is what it was,” Nova says with a nod.
“Brilliant,” Elliott agrees.
“Well that’s all fine and good, and thank you,” Troy replies, “but now we’re sitting here with a court order for a competency evaluation, and I feel like we’re in over our heads.”
She gestures towards their card table.
“You can sit here burying your head in the sand and playing cards,” Troy starts, choking up, “but do you remember the letter I left in your suite after I got you out of jail? Do you remember what it said?”
Nova takes a drag and hangs his head. “It said, ‘Jail is not your home. You are home.’”
“Yeah,” Troy replies, “you are fucking home, okay? And I’m doing everything I can to keep you here, and now I’m freaking out because we actually have to follow through on my batshit request to have you evaluated. And that could mean you go back…”
She turns away, wiping a tear and shaking her head in frustration. “And then we lose you all over again.”
Nova stands up and walks over to Troy, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Listen, I understand what’s at stake. And I appreciate everything you’ve done.”
He takes a long drag and blows the smoke away from her face. “I have a plan.”
“What’s the plan?” Troy asks.
Nova looks away.
Troy looks at Nova.
Still looking away.
Troy looks to Wade.
Wade averts his eyes.
Back to Nova.
“You’re probably better off without the details,” Nova replies.
“Jus’ trust him, boss. Over,” Dametreyus’s voice crackles over the baby monitor situated next to the cards on the table.
“Why is Dam still on the baby monitor?” Troy asks.
“Jus’ like bein’ able to check in. Over,” Dam replies.
“He just likes being able to check in,” Nova confirms. “Big guy is actually headed out on a date, if I’m not wrong…”
Wade and LT’s faces whip towards the monitor.
“Dam, are you going on a date?” Troy asks, her eyes lighting up.
“That was said to Nova in confidence. Over,” Dam barks back through the monitor, “...but yes, there is a woman who is interested, and interesting, and I’m headed to meet her for dinner, over.”
“Damn, Dam,” Troy says, grinning, “I don’t mean to keep you…”
Immediately her smile deteriorates as she looks back at the Risen Star. “This shit is serious, though, Caes. I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Nova takes a last drag and snuffs his cigarette in a nearby ashtray before looking back at his comrade.
“I hope so too, Lindz.”
Nova ashes his cigarette off to the side and then runs another direct line with the hair clippers.
“Almost,” he says, his eyes scrutinizing his work.
A few swipes later, he surveys the landscape…thinks for a moment…and gives a nod of approval.
He spins Garbage Bag Johnny around in the chair, and they stare at the mirror together. GBJ is bald now, shaven to the scalp, and his beard is reined in a bit to resemble that of his tag team partner.
“I think you did a really good job,” GBJ says with a wide grin.
Nova puts a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “Thanks, buddy. I appreciate you doing this for me.”
GBJ looks back at him, eyes wide and sparkling with excitement.
“Of course! All I have to do is tell the truth, right?”
“That’s right,” Nova replies, “All…”
His voice catches in his throat, and he looks away for a moment. When he looks back, tears are forming at the edges of his eyes. He grips his friend’s shoulder and nods.
“All you have to do is tell the truth.”
I was so happy when Nova reached out.
I knew what he wanted before he said a single word.
It was time to tell the truth. About everything.
So I met with the doctors. Smoked some weed first. Lovely people. We made introductions. They explained the limits of confidentiality to me (I already know that). Got some basic background.
Then it was time. To speak truth to power.
It was all real.
It was all true.
Future versions of ourselves came back in time because they needed to help us…
…to warn us.
War was coming.
Yeah, the Future Us got a little caught up in Survivor. We all lost our minds for a little while there, but there was a bigger purpose.
Future GBJ and Future Nova were victimized by Past-Future GBJ and Past-Future Nova. Those guys had seen their share of the shit, too! Somewhere along the line we all lost the plot, and that led to a past-future no one predicted…
…a fucking GBJ/Nova Apocalypse.
A Holy War.
We both saw it. They showed it to us.
Thousands and thousands of Future Novas and Future GBJs, locked in a violent struggle that would determine the fate of humanity.
We knew the truth of what was to come. But Nova said “Let’s focus on our opponents, blah, blah, blah, we should win a wrestling match, blah, blah, blah…”
I was like, are you kidding me, bro? When the world, and maybe the universe, is at stake?
Who gives a flying pan-fried fuck about PRIME, or wrestling, or anything else?
We had a mission. We needed to see it through.
And we didn’t.
It felt so good to be able to just explain that to someone.
To tell the truth.
I feel like they really got it.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Clark County Probation and Parole
The front doors to P&P swing open and two well-dressed nerds exit. A young man turns to his superior.
“Yikes,” he says with a chuckle.
“Yeah,” she says with a wry grin, “sometimes it just is what it is.”
“So I’ll take lead on writing up the report?” the young man asks.
“Yeah, I’ll sign off on it,” his superior replies. “We know where this one is going.”
“Right,” the young man, “I’ll just make sure to dot the ‘I’s’ and cross the ‘T’s’.”
“Yeah,” his superior nods, stopping as she places a hand on his shoulder.
“Bill your time, then it’s on to the next one.”
The camera zooms in on a wood-paneled television screen, which displays grainy black-and-white footage.
On-screen, in a wrestling ring, Nova hangs onto the legs of Amy “Aimz” Campbell as she attempts a hurricanrana off the top rope. Instead, Nova plants her on the mat with a short powerbomb, then rolls off to ascend the turnbuckles again. He reaches the top rope and the fans in the arena rise to their feet, roaring as the Rising Star executes a high-arching moonsault that ends with an elbow drop across Aimz’s chest.
“CTRL-ALT-1337!” Nick Stuart screams into his microphone.
Nova rolls over and goes for the pin as the ref starts the count…one…two…and then Aimz shoots a shoulder up. Nova lands a few shots to her face before rolling away to ascend the turnbuckles again as the crowd springs to their feet, roaring their approval.
“Nova going to the top rope for the second time now!” Nick shouts.
“He’s gambling here,” Richard Parker responds.
“He’s calling for the Shooting Star!” Nick pronounces.
The Rising Star raises arm and takes flight…
…but as he follows through with the arc, fully vertical with his legs overhead, Brandon Youngblood rips away from Angelo Deville and lunges in, pushing Nova’s back and causing him to fall directly on his head, his body folding like an accordion as a result.
Youngblood steps back, horrified. Except for trying a pin attempt.
He’s ripped away by Angelo Deville, who takes a knee next to Nova’s crumpled body as Aimz rolls away to safety.
The crowd has gone silent. Deville turns back to Youngblood, pointing a finger, his eyes glowing with rage.
“Don’t touch him!” he shouts, “you’re not eliminating him!”
Deville looks up the entrance ramp, desperately motioning for help
“COULD WE GET SOME FUCKING EMTS OUT HERE?! WE NEED HELP!!”
The TV screen shuts off, and the camera pans over to Nova, hunched over in a chair on a balcony in front of the setting Nevada sun, smoking a cigarette. He ashes it and takes a long drag before turning his eyes to the camera.
“That was August 28, 2005. Tropical Turmoil.”
“Honestly, I think I forgave you the moment my head hit the mat, Brandon.”
Nova takes another drag.
“I knew that you meant it, and you also didn’t mean it. You didn’t want to ruin my career, but you hated the weathervane that told you which way the winds were blowing. I was coming up…”
He ashes his cigarette. “…and you just couldn’t get out of your own way.”
Nova takes a drag and snuffs the cigarette in an ashtray. “So you cut me off at the pass to clear the lane for yourself…and ultimately were cast out because you didn’t understand that a theater production requires more than a demanding lead.”
The Risen Star shuffles another cigarette out of his pack and stares out at the sunset.
“Oh how far we’ve come,” he says with a grin. “Do you remember the marquee, Brandon? How they sold the Almasy Tournament, bless that Sephiroth-looking brilliant motherfucker?”
Nova lights his cigarette and takes a drag. “‘Cuz I had no clue that it was going to be you and me at the top…I guess in a way because I had no clue those over-eager idiots would essentially spring me from a Washington State prison to head down to Vegas, but that just leads me to my next point…”
He pauses and takes a breath. “…we live in a much different world now.”
“PRIME is home,” Nova goes on, “and you’ve been in charge of the homecoming by virtue of running roughshod through anyone in your way to establish yourself at the top of the pecking order. The old days are over. Brandon Youngblood is the main event.”
Nova raises his free hand towards the camera in a toast-like gesture.
“I’ll just speak for myself, I always knew you could be ‘That Guy,’ but you needed to figure your shit out. Fast forward, and now, um…things are different.”
He gestures down towards the blinking bracelet around his left ankle.
“You’re on the main page of the website, and me…,” Nova starts before taking a drag and shaking his head, “…I’m a fucking liability, bro.”
The sunset is creeping beautifully over the mountains and the Risen Star pauses to stare at the horizon for a moment. He takes a drag.
“Lindz is betting the farm even having me here. Things go pear-shaped…I could cost her, and this place, my home…everything.”
Nova shrugs. “So I panicked. I did. I said ‘let’s just throw it away, do the time, get it done, then figure life out when I get out.’ And Lindz, to her credit, didn’t let me do that.”
Nova grins into the camera. “Turns out I don’t get to leave home so easily.”
He takes another drag. “And I think that’s right, because there’s more for me to do here. I know that. More to fight for. And I admit I have stumbled out of the gate…”
Nova snuffs out the cigarette and puts his hands together over the bridge of his nose for a moment before placing them back on his thighs.
“…but this chance, that Lindz set up for me, for us, really means something. This chance to reset and use UltraViolence to focus on what comes next…it means a lot.”
Nova shrugs and grins.
“So thank you, Brandon…”
The camera pans away from Nova’s face to the sunset over the valley.
“…thanks for everything.”