CWF Tag-Title Match, Paradise
The Boardwalk, Atlantic City
Dean Coulter is face down on the ring, having fought off Duce Jones and Freddie Styles. Before the entirety of the Atlantic City crowd he begins his crawl towards his Sam Braxton, desperately reaching out to make the much-needed tag and keep the Lost Boys in the fight at this critical juncture. Time seems to slow as he pushes himself to move inch-by-agonizing-inch until he is a mere hair’s breadth away.
In the blink of an eye Sam Braxton’s hand is pulled back. Dean and the entirety of the CWF Universe watch in shock and horror as Sam looks at his friend and partner, his hand no longer outstretched for the tag. With a shake of his head Sam drops down from the apron. He tears himself away from the sight of Dean on his knees, begging Sam to return to his place and tag in. Sam continues his advance up the ramp and further away from the ring, it is clear he hesitates with every step. With one final look to Dean, left in the ring, Sam disappears behind the curtain, Dean’s eerie cry for Sam carrying across the beach.
But Sam Braxton does not come back and in that instance Dean’s world is shattered even more than it was before.
He is easy pickings for the Smokin’ Aces…
The Lost Boys were no longer the tag titles…
But more profoundly. The Lost Boys were no more…
The Epicentre, Makhnovia
It comes as no surprise to Dean that the Epicentre would possess a subterranean dungeon, a new level of Ouroboros’ base of operations that the Aussie Battler occupies for several days immediately following the Paradise pay-per-view event. Under normal circumstances he would not shy away for opportunities of solitude, however it means he is left to the mercy of his memories, a deluge of mistakes and regrets replaying over and over.
That is on top of the systematic beatings he cops at the hands of the OSA, as penance for losing the tag titles to the Smokin’ Aces, and for his tardiness in coming to the aid of Ouroboros when brawling with the young Impakt. There is one thing certain in all this, despite all the disdainful glances and messages sent his way, there was no one currently living that hates Dean more than how much he hates himself. As far as he is concerned he deserves everything he is getting. He pushed his dearest friend away and was directly responsible for the near crippling of a promising young talent. Sure, it was the Moonchild who had dealt the finishing blow, but Dean had actively contributed to the beatdown. He knew it was all wrong but did nothing to stop it. He couldn’t, he was powerless before Elisha and Ouroboros.
The door to Dean’s holding cell opens with a resonant creak, echoing down the corridor of the dungeon level of the Epicentre and pulling Dean from his introspective thoughts. Standing in the doorway is Elisha’s premiere Disciple, Choronzon.
“Our Glorious Leader has erred on the side of mercy and will see you.”
“Yeah, that’d be right…”
With a sigh Dean complies, resigned to his fate. Before he can get too far, Chrononzon catches him by the arm for one final poignant reminder.
“Just remember. We’re all you have left now.”
And that is a sad, irrefutable fact. Even if he wanted to get away, there would be no one to welcome him, to save him, nor could he ever look them in the eye and face them. Not after what he had done.
Flanked by Choronzon and a couple of members of the OSA, Dean is led through the many hallways and corridors of the Epicentre to effectively an interrogation chamber, sans the two-way mirror. It is a stark, featureless room with nothing minus a utilitarian table and a set of seats situated around it. Sitting in one of those said seats is the Moonchild and leader of Ouroboros. Elisha.
“Didn’t realise I was getting the guided tour.” Dean says scathingly. Chonronzon slams his face into the table for the trouble. Elisha raises his hand and halts any further accosting from his erstwhile disciple.
“That is enough. Now leave us.” With one final venomous look Choronzon leaves the room, disappearing to stand on the other side of the door.
“He takes insubordination very personally. He is after all my lieutenant, the leader of my Chosen.”
“Then give the cobber a bloody medal.”
“Do you know why you have been treated as such?”
“Cause I got six of one, and half a dozen of the other.”
“…Because you continue to resist and hold onto the shackles of your past. I have been more than generous toward your kin and I do not think I ask for much in return. If I am not mistake, you, yourself once espoused a better way for these sycophantic wastrels. Surely you can understand and appreciate my vision, my promise for an enlightened future?”
“So I was a little late to your party. I didn’t realise the big bad Ouroboros would need my help against a bloody ankle biter! Unlike some others I’m still a little uneasy with toying with the mortality of another living being.”
“An obstacle we shall help you overcome. But understand that I will not abide such efforts being in vain. If I feel for even the slightest moment that you are a waste of my time, or worse a threat to my initiatives, you will be begging for the sweet release of death.”
Dean tries to summon the smallest slither of defiance and stare directly at the Moonchild, but he is too exhausted, too pained and too defeated to maintain the front. Elisha smiles at the feeble attempt, relishing in the Aussie Battler’s struggle.
“So what, you gonna give me a gobful, send me back to the naughty corner and that’s that?”
“No. It is clear you require more conditioning. But more to the point, come Evolution, you face Mariella-Jade Flair.”
“Wait. What? You better not be coming the raw prawn with me mate?”
“…I know not what you are saying.”
“Ugh. I’m saying is my match against the former World Champion legit? Dinky-Di? Fair Dinkum?” Still nothing. “Are you bullshitting me?”
“I have no need to deceive you. You will face Miss Flair.”
Dean is blown away by that revelation. As far as in-ring competitors are concerned MJ Flair is considered one of the best. Not just because she is the child of an incredible wrestling legacy but the mere fact she has proven herself time again in the ring to just be one of the top tier talents. A match that under normal circumstances Dean would be enthused for. But as with all things now Dean doesn’t feel like he deserves such an honour.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”
“But you shall be the one to rise. This is a golden opportunity for you to make up for your transgression and short-comings. When Ouroboros stands victoriously above the former Paragon of the CWF, then the rest of the worthless rabble such despair and fall into line.”
“So no pressure huh.”
“I give you this time to prepare accordingly. Do not abuse my leniency.”
Elisha leaves the room, Chornonzon falling into line a mere step behind. There is never any rest for the wicked, especially when the wicked are in the midst of a campaign to subvert an entire country. Elisha may consider it a punishment leaving Dean out of those efforts for the moment, but he was thankful for the small, unintended mercy.
Life had been so much simpler back home before agreeing to Sam’s crazy idea of stepping back into the ring together. How desperately Dean wished he could take himself back to that moment and trust his gut instinct of trepidation. Then he wouldn’t be here consorting with the vilest villains known to the modern world and could be spending his time with his girlfriend, idling away the hours in some menial job.
If he were to be honest, Dean hadn’t been enjoying himself or having any fun since stepping back into the ring, completely contradictory to the Lost Boys’ original ideology. It just wasn’t the same. Now the Aussie Battler was expected to find the drive somewhere within himself to step toe-to-toe with MJ Flair and somehow actually be competition for her. For a brief moment Dean considers deliberately injuring himself to post-pone the match to a time Dean felt he was up to the challenge (if such a thing is possible).
If there is one thing to be said of Ouroboros, and by association the Institute, is they aren’t ones to spare any expense, so the training rooms within the Epicentre are very well equipped with bleeding edge fitness equipment and a host of trainers knowledgeable in all forms of fighting styles and conditioning. Nothing more fitting for a training montage. But as impressed as Dean is by it all the fact of the matter is his heart isn’t in it. Just one of a plethora of conflicts Dean mulls over, as he takes a break from his tokenistic effort (or lack thereof) towards his training. Unbeknownst to him is the presence of a spectator, the Prophetess of Ourboros, Cassandra, watches his routine with bemused curiosity and comes to join the former tag-team champion.
“So what’s the John Dory?”
Cassandra cocks her head, looking at Dean quizzically.
“Come to berate me as well?”
“You are not happy here?”
Bit of an understatement.
“Bloody oath. What gave it away?”
“Are things really that horrible here? Surely you must know what we do, we do for the betterment of humankind. Many would give up everything to be in our position, at the forefront of this global change. But change does not come without cost, and we have taken it upon ourselves to pay that cost. Our gift if you will.”
“Cassandra I don’t need the rhetoric. The only reason I’m here, is because I’m indebted to Elisha.”
“In time I am confident you will not only understand but willingly espouse our tenants and participate in our undertakings.”
Silently Dean prays that day will never come. Under different circumstances Dean actually sees himself standing beside the Shadow, Caledonia and the rest of them, OPPOSING Ouroboros.
“If you prefer we could discuss your match against Mariella…”
“The Boss already gave me enough pep talk to last me a life time.”
“But you isolate yourself here, when you obviously require kindred to talk to, to bare your soul to. You are one of us Dean, and we are here, collectively and collaboratively. So please, I urge you to unburden yourself.”
Be it exhaustion or submission Dean forgoes any attempt to resist. It is against his better judgement and part of him feels like he is cheating but he is tired and worn out by his on-going moral crusade of defiance and Cassandra is right, he does need someone to talk to. So he caves. Outwardly Dean just shrugs.
“What is there to say. I’m gonna get stonkered. MJ Flair is considered one of the best the CWF has to offer, if not the world, and she has that adage for a reason. She earned it and then some. I’m not anywhere within coee of her level of talent. I got buckley’s against her.”
Cassandra pauses, takes the time to process Dean’s words and even looks at the Aussie Battler with what could be considered sympathy.
“Do you know why this is?”
“Cause she’s bloody good?!”
“Because you revere her so. Your deference towards Mariella is why you will fail. Your perception influences your body and heart. You believe you stand no chance, therefore you lack the will to persevere and the determination to push yourself.”
“Couldn’t the same be said of Elisha, relying on the illusion of the fear he instills?”
“Caution Dean. Do not speak so lightly of our Glorious Leader.”
“Alright. But ‘perception’ or not, you can’t argue with MJ’s win/loss record. Surely that is evidence enough of her superiority. I’m in no way ready for a match against her. Not in my current state.”
“Of that we have an accord. But you do not give yourself enough credit. You are not without your own talents, your own skills. This is why you are still with us. You just need to let go, embrace your future, and not even I could foresee the heights of your potential.”
If there is one thing Dean struggles with, its letting go. He’s the kind of bloke who likes to have a plan, a clear path and understand all the variables and contingencies.
“I’m-I’m scared…” He whispers, his face dropping into his hands.
“That is good. In order to instill fear, you must first conquer it. Your match at Evolution is not so much about defeating Mariella. But instead it is about defeating yourself. Come…”
Slowly Cassandra stands and offers her hand to Dean. Slowly he looks up at her. Inside his mind Dean is raging, screaming in defiance. He denies Cassandra and decries Ourboros. But in reality Dean once again feels powerless and with great trepidation he accepts her hand and follows her out.
Ankle Biter: Child
Bloke: Man/Male. Generic masculine identifier
Bloody Oath: Damn straight!
Bloody: Used for emphasis
Buckley’s Chance: No chance/No hope
Cobber: Friend (interchangeable with Mate)
Come the Raw Prawn: Mucking around/Having a laugh/Joking around
Gobful: Berate/Dress down
Not within cooe: Nowhere near, far off
Six of one, half a dozen of the other: Similar to ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ Means no matter what you choose, the result is the same.
That’d be right: Go figure
What’s the John Dory: What’s the story