Ivan Stanislav sat quietly in his office, save for the dripping of the insidious water that leaked through the roof. The water spattered into a pail that was rapidly filling once more. Outside, rain was splattering against the windowpane. The Russian Bear was bent over his desk, staring down at several papers which were strewn about the top of the oversized surface. So many thought Stanislav to be nothing more than a brute who lashed out with his bulk and size with little thought, but those individuals would be wrong. In his own right, Ivan Stanislav was quite intelligent, and well versed in philosophy and theory. One had to be to survive the bloody regime he so loved. His computer was turned on, but he wasn’t focusing on the screen. One could not see specifics regarding what was being said on the computer, but The Russian Bear had Jabber open.
Ivan seemed quite content. He hummed to himself an unknown song. Stanislav’s singing voice matched his speaking voice: a thick, powerful and precisely bass tone that rumbled through his thick chest. He drew his large hand along a comparatively small piece of regular sized paper and leaned back in his chair. It creaked as he crossed his arms over his chest and pursed his lips in thought.
His eyes were drawn to the monitor once more. Jabber was a strange program, that was certain, but like any sort of technology, it could be used to his advantage. It was a far more useful tool than he had expected. He had turned inward, and allowed his mind to wander.
He moved to his own memories of the past. PRIME was slowly becoming his home, but it certainly was lacking. First off, the respect of the roster and the deference they should have granted him was sorely subpar. But also he thought to the schedule. PRIME was going to start moving to the road once more, and that meant potential international stops. It reminded him of the many international tours he had taken in the past. And also some of the domestic stops. At least, they were domestic stops to Ivan.
Ivan gazed along the concrete walls of his office. The naked, peeling walls that struggled to hold the residual paint of yesteryear were becoming filled with photos of Ivan’s memories. At this moment, he gazed at one image in particular:
The date: October 21, 2001.
The place: Moscow, Russia.
The event: Red October.
Kid Wonder, a plucky high flier in PCW, had thought a hurricanrana would somehow work on The Russian Bear. The image told another tale. The young boy had his legs firmly around Ivan’s huge neck, but instead, Stanislav had gained control and was powerbombing the hapless fool directly down into the mat. Wonder’s fearful face was the perfect juxtaposition to a decidedly different looking Russian Bear, who bellowed winningly at that moment.
Ivan was much younger then, though to the roster he was considered “old” by their foolish standards. At that time, his hair was dark and not a gray strand could be seen. His grizzled beard was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he was clean shaven and much more organized in his appearance. Outside of the ring, he could see his countrymen cheering him on. Signs praising The Russian Bear, Russia, and even the Former Soviet Union were plentiful in attendance. Alexei Ruslan was mid leap on the apron, cheering on his enormous friend and reveling in Wonder’s destruction.
Ivan smiled wider. It made him consider just what ever happened to Kid Wonder and his girlfriend, what was her name, Jessica? He pursed his lips in thought as he considered what brought this memory to mind. You see, Ivan had offered a fine idea to Lindsay Troy: bring back the Red October event. He knew his superiors would support it and it would bring the Bear in front of his own people once more.
His computer “dinged” loudly as he saw her response:
@LT: “We won’t be going to Russia because of the aggression against Ukraine and the numerous human rights violations that occur there.”
His inhalation was sharp and the humming in his voice caught in his neck. What exited next was nothing short of a frustrated growl. He leaned forward rapidly. Beneath him, his chair died inside. The Bear ground his teeth and his jaw surged. How dare she respond with such a blind lie?! His country was fighting for their security. She truly was an ignoramus!
Stanislav clearly had a custom made keyboard, because it too was comically large. But when one saw his fingers and considered how many normal sized keys they would press on a regular keyboard, it made a whole lot of sense. His rose-colored memories of yesteryear had been shattered by the annoying woman and he boiled. He pushed some of the documents on his desk to the side, but before his hands could reach the keyboard, his door swung open and a soggy Alexei Ruslan walked in. He had a folder under his arm which he protected from the Russian rain.
Immediately, Ruslan saw the frustrated look on his friend. He saw the documents placed across the desk, but more so, his eyes were on Ivan, “What is the matter, Ivan?”
“That stupid woman, Lindsay Troy, that is what it is!” He boomed. He hadn’t typed, but slammed his fist on his strong desk. It jolted and lifted several pages a few inches, only to gently fall atop one another again, “Look at what that stupid harpy writes to me. To me!!”
Ruslan’s eyes bulged as he scurried around the desk, “Calm down Ivan Sergeiovich…” He said as he leaned forward and manipulated the mouse. He scrolled up and read, and then clearly read her response. He shook his head. By this time, Ivan had risen from his chair and had stomped a few steps away from the desk. He turned and pointed at the computer.
“She has no right to be so disrespectful to me. I’d like to throw that wench straight through a window and off a balcony!”
Alexei pursed his lips as he looked back at Ivan and nodded, “Let me just respond to her, eh? Take a break.”
“Take a break. Take a break…” Ivan growled and paced. “I am simply trying to make this federation something worthwhile! Come to Russia, see my people, let those fools on the roster see how wonderful our land is, and this is how she responds?! Not only that, she interrupts my study of Lenin’s writing!” His voice was growing in volume as he motioned to the documents on the desk. His large boot splattered a bit of water that was resting on the floor and he stared up at the incessant leaking roof and exploded, “And why is this damned roof still leaking!?” His roar was seismic. The pail of water, which collected the crafty leaking raindrops, was minding its own business on the floor. Ivan sent it into the stratosphere with his massive boot. Water sprayed everywhere as the pail was obliterated into the ceiling. For just a moment, it rained in the office.
Ruslan was quick to lean over the desk and shield the documents. To hell with the computer. “Ivan Sergeiovich!” He chided as he looked over at his seething friend. Ivan shrugged his shoulders.
Ruslan turned his attention back to the monitor. He had no idea he was walking into such a powder keg. He shook his head and started to type, while under Ivan’s name, a reply. He hadn’t even released the folder from under his one arm, but with a flourish, he hit the enter key and sent away a very diplomatic, and somewhat neutral response. Alexei sighed and turned in the swivel chair, still sitting as he looked up at his old friend, “She is too big for her britches. She cannot manage all of this, Ivan Sergeiovich. She fancies herself some big deal, but she’s just a little fish in big pond. And we are both much larger than she will ever be. Do not let her prattle get to you. She is just puffing up her chest and strutting for her children.”
“If I had my way she would be in traction! I do not know how young that woman is, but I am sure when she was getting her ass wiped, I was busy killing Mujahidin!” Ivan grumped. The truth of the matter was that Ivan did yearn to wrestle in front of his countrymen. It wasn’t that he disliked being boo’d or dealing with an unruly crowd. In many ways, the more unruly the crowd was, the more he felt he was making his point known. But still, there was nothing more euphoric than wrestling in a ring surrounded by his Russian people. Stanislav did, however, believe Red October was a great idea to boot. It was a big deal. At least to him.
Finally, Ivan shook his head and worked to dispel the focus of his frustration, “So then, what brings you here Alexei? Surely not to jabber in my place.” Ivan’s mood was foul and showed no sign of rehabilitation.
Ruslan frowned. The truth was he didn’t have very positive news, and seeing his friend in such a state did little to make him want to reveal such information, “Eh, it is not that important, Ivan Sergeiovich. Perhaps another time, hm?” He smiled wide, but it wasn’t very genuine.
“Stop with the bullshit, Alexei. You know you cannot pull the wool over my eyes.” He smirked. He wasn’t directing his rage at Alexei. To Ivan, there was no one closer or more reliable than his old friend. He moved back to his desk as Alexei stood up and removed himself from Ivan’s oversized chair. “You can tell me what this is about. I suspect it has something to do with that folder anyway.”
Ruslan put some distance between himself and Ivan, though not out of fear or concern. He placed the folder on the desk, atop the copies of Lenin’s writings, but left it closed, “This has what scant data I compiled regarding possible Red Army members.”
Ivan’s suspenders stretched as he lifted his shoulders and pressed his large fists into the small of his back and stretched, “Scant data? What do you mean?”
“Well…” he said quietly and held his breath, “…the truth of the matter is, Ivan, there are not that many quality candidates on PRIME’s roster.”
Stanislav furrowed his bushy eyebrows and tilted his head to the side, “What do you mean? There are not one or two?”
Ruslan sighed and looked down at the file folder. He opened it and shuffled a few papers, “From what I could find, there are approximately forty members of the roster. Of those, only one is from an eastern European country: Julian Bathory, and he is some sort of religious cult leader type.”
Ivan was dismissive, “Hmph. I have no need for a religious type. They’re too simple for my taste and have no place in our movement. And let us not think about how Lenin took Bogdanov to task with such silly nonsense? Communism and religion have no place together.” Alexei nodded, he knew precisely what Ivan was talking about. Ivan continued, “Who else? There have to be other possible members, hm? Other non-American’s? Other people who have the intellectual fortitude for revolution?”
Ruslan pursed his lips and stammered, “Well, there are a few Canadians…”
Ivan scoffed and placed his hands on his hips. “Canadians? Come now, Alex.” Clearly, Ivan thought Alexei was joking.
“There is a Japanese wrestler. We have someone from Scotland..”
Ivan shook his head. None of this sounded acceptable and his annoyance was returning, “No… no no, there has to be a better option, Alexei.”
Ruslan raised his voice as Ivan seemed unwilling to bend, “Ivan, this is what little we have to work with. You sometimes cling too tightly to theory, hm? Remember what Lenin said: ‘A Marxist must recognize living life and take notice of reality, not to cling to the theory. Theory is gray, but green is the eternal tree of life.’”
Ivan seemed unimpressed, “Do not throw Lenin in my face, I have him right here on my desk, Alexei. Green might be the eternal tree of life, but rotten are all the individuals you consider thus far! I will not have a rotten tree in our midst. And you should not either.”
Alexei and Ivan enjoyed these philosophical debates. It kept them adroit in their thinking and did sometimes produce results. However Ruslan knew that his obstinate friend was in no mood to concede anything. He inhaled deeply and then exhaled as he continued. “There is one female. Name: Anna Daniels. It says she is from a place called Gallifrey. But I admit, I have not been able to find it anywhere.” Alexei shrugged thoughtfully, “There is a boy from France. His name is FLAMBERGE.”
Ivan blinked, “Sword? His name is sword?”
Alexei cleared his throat, “I believe it’s a pseudonym, Ivan. You know how the French are. Very artistic, very…avant garde.”
Ivan brought his hand up to his face and rubbed his eyes. He didn’t look at Alexei, but spoke while he was rubbing, “Fine, all right, I’ll see what I can figure out with those two, I guess.” He removed his hand from his face and scratched the side of his head. Suddenly, his face grew stormy as a thought crossed his mind, “You know what this is, Alexei?” He slapped the back of his right hand into the palm of his left with a crack, “I knew it from the start. This is a conspiracy by PRIME. They do not have decent wrestlers from former Communist Bloc because they always knew we might return!”
The bulb exploded over Alexei’s head and he nodded enthusiastically, joining in, “I was thinking the same thing, Ivan! It reeks of cowardice!”
Stanislav put his hands on his hips and sighed, “Fine, so we will work with what materials we have, eh? Like good communists.” He turned and walked toward the window and stared out at the rain. Ruslan followed behind him and stared at Ivan’s broad back for a moment.
“It feels good to be back, eh Ivan? To be doing our work once more, hm?”
Stanislav nodded and exhaled as steam covered the window, “Indeed Alexei. Even if so many on the roster are numbskulls.”
“They always are, Ivan. We just have to find the ones who are worth enlightening.”
Stanislav rubbed his chin and let the beard bristles crackle, “Not that many by the looks of it, but so be it.” He was quiet for a long while before he spoke again, “I miss the Walczak’s and the Morozov’s. The Krieg’s and yes, even the Sloboda’s.”
Ruslan spoke again, “Before he got too big for his britches.”
Ivan chuckled, “Yes, when that happened we took care of him.” He sighed again as he quieted and gripped the front of his pants. He pulled the waist up higher and ran his hands along the inside of the waistband. Finally he turned and rolled his shoulders, adjusting the slack that formed along his suspenders.
Ruslan felt the natural mood of the room relax. Ivan’s stormy temper had subsided. Not many people would like to be in the same room as Ivan when he lost his temper, but Ruslan finally was glad he had walked in when he did. He reached over and squeezed Ivan’s enormous elbow, “I should get going, my friend, but I’ll look at the French “Sword” and this woman from… who knows where, eh?”
Ivan nodded his head, “Indeed, Alexei Gregorovich. Thank you.”
Ruslan nodded and turned and made his way out the door. Stanislav watched him go, and then returned to his wall of accolades. He smirked to himself. Kid Wonder was such an idiot. He tried to represent PCW and he was witty and cute with his opponents. In the ring, he was wily, but guile only got someone so far. Up against a superior opponent like Ivan Stanislav, Wonder always found himself lying on the mat staring up at the lights.
It pained Ivan Stanislav to consider such a truth, but perhaps the Walczak’s and the Morozov’s were indeed gone. The Red Army was not just a union of wrestlers for protection and security, but a brotherhood of goodwill amongst one another. The Warsaw Pact made manifest. His list of possible members was indeed small, but it wasn’t his only list in his mind.
These were not ones who were to be brought into the fold, but rather to be put down like the dogs they were. The Luchador, Nate Colton, and Brandon Youngblood were but three on the ever-growing list. He smiled thoughtfully once again. The sea of faces were no longer unrecognizable. Now he was putting names to those faces, and choosing those who were worth his time and those who were not.
Ivan’s mood lightened as he walked back to his desk and stared at the monitor. It was still on and the roster had transitioned into a different asinine conversation. Jabber had other advantages too. As he sat down, he flicked off his monitor and shut off all those morons. Whether The Red Army was but Ivan and Alexei, or if it grew to include more able-bodied members, Stanislav knew he would prevail. His mind went back to his picture with Kid Wonder at Red October. It was not Ivan’s main match at the show. He wrestled multiple times that evening, but Wonder had stood in his way and paid a dear price for it.
He could not help but wonder where Wonder was now, and his girlfriend, Jessica. Did they endure? Probably not. Not like Ivan could. It brought a smile to his face. With a thoughtful sigh, Ivan turned himself away from the pictures and back to the writings of Lenin on his desk. He narrowed his eyes to read, before putting his glasses on his face. He no longer squinted. Something about how Lindsay Troy was running PRIME reeked of cowardice. Her self aggrandizing way of handling issues told the tale of someone woefully inept, in his mind. She tried so hard to be the good girl, but he knew she wasn’t. Maybe to the face she was, but he knew she was still making money hand over fist at their expense. Not to mention being part of the elitist PWA. Maybe there was something there? Perhaps she reaped benefits from that relationship that shielded her from looking too greedy? He exhaled. Maybe there was an imperialist side to his theory.
His eyes searched the room thoughtfully and Ivan yearned to be with his heroes. What would they think? As absurd as it would be to consider his heroes giving him opinions on something like a wrestling federation, he yearned for their wisdom. He exhaled and turned back to the passage he was reading, written by Lenin so long ago. It brought a smile to his face and he picked up the paper and reclined.
“We are marching in a compact group along a precipitous and difficult path, firmly holding each other by the hand. We are surrounded on all sides by enemies and we have to advance almost constantly under their fire. We have combined, by a freely adopted decision, for the purpose of fighting the enemy, and not of retreating into the neighboring marsh, the inhabitants of which, from the very outset, have reproached us with having separated ourselves into an exclusive group and with having chosen the path of struggle instead of the path of conciliation.”
The office was silent, save for the dripping of the ceiling. Be it just Ivan and Alexei, or others, they would weather the barbs and gibes of those who would reproach The Red Army. He would never take the tactic of conciliation. In the struggle, Ivan Stanislav thrived. Let the Troy’s, Luchador’s, Youngblood’s, Coulton’s, and all the other fools live in their marshes. He would walk the path of a hero. They would all buckle and break under the Red Scare he would create. He would relegate them to the dustbin.
Ivan Stanislav smiled and chuckled softly to himself. His deep, bass voice reverberated again.