CROSS-EXAMINATION (1)

CROSS-EXAMINATION (1)

Posted on April 14, 2022 at 4:05 pm by Conor Fuse

CROSS-EXAMINATION (1)

“As a mental exercise, I have often planned the murder of friends and colleagues.” Sherlock Holmes, a line now recited by The Video Game Kid

… … … … …

The room is full, the tension is high and there I sit, front and center. She moves gracefully, mixed with an anger I haven’t seen in a while. She’s trying to bring me down. They all are. Conor Fuse has changed. He’s no longer lovable. He’s no longer noble. Hey, he no longer has David Noble. Let’s crack the dummy in the side of the head. Feed him to a furious Texan of their choosing. Stevens. Clay. It doesn’t matter. Now throw Fuse his ex-partner. Get your popcorn ready for this one ‘cause it’ll be good. For added shits and giggles, let’s put a live mic in David’s hand and he can throw the gamer under the bus, without David even asking Fuse beforehand what really transpired. The Board wins regardless. Clay was right. This is their strategy. Divide and conquer. HOW is a family run business and if you don’t have the last name Best… it doesn’t matter. Wind you up and let you wreck havoc on each other. Bottomline.

Back to the reality in front of me. She paces, sometimes eyeing the crowd, other times peaking at me with an icy stare, as if I committed the most heinous act imaginable. Perhaps I did, clearly the majority of observers inside this room think so. I suppose this is why she’s representing The People. Her exasperated demeanor only lasts for a few seconds before she turns to the mob and makes a dramatic performance out of what she’s going to say next. Her mind is working hard but she can do it. It is her 15 minutes of fame.

“I ask of you, grand jury, how can this man be trusted when he had The Board help him retain the World Championship!?”

Rabble, rabble, rabble, the onlookers discuss in a haste amongst themselves, everyone trying to raise their voices so their comments can receive the most attention. Then again, maybe it’s because they actually can’t hear themselves speaking.

“Traitor!”
“Some teammate!”
“Noble forever!”
“Asshole!”
“What a loser!”
“Fuse is a fraud!”

The “plaintiff’s” attorney nods. She soaks in the ruckus of the spectators and faint whispers of the jury. No impartial attitudes here. Most of the jurors’ body language suggests they are on her side. Heaven forbid a fair hearing.

WHAM!

She slams both hands on the table, staring a hole through my skull.

“And then Mr. Fuse said HE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT!”

Rabble, rabble, rabble!

Kill me.

“He took us for fools!” She bellows, engaged in her performance with many eccentric hand gestures. “What a sack of shit!”

Freeze frame.

So, uh, you’re probably wondering how I got myself in this position.

Lol, fuck right off. Everyone’s aware how I got myself in this predicament. Here I am, The Video Game Kid, #97, about to answer for my sins, sitting behind the witness stand. Jury to my right, judge to my left and crowd in front of me, enjoying the show… this worthless idea I was told I “had to go through”.

It’s Kangaroo Court at its fucking finest. Elders surround me, in the middle of the Dearness Living Community’s common room and it’s a bloody bedlam. Apparently I need to stand trial for the things I’ve recently done… such as accepting The Board’s help against Clay Byrd (I didn’t accept shit!), my change in attitude (there’s been no change!) and the most important issue… the one which has everybody talking…

I didn’t draft David Noble (okay, okay, ya got me there).

Fuck outta here. If I could only get an opportunity to explain myself but Margo represents The People/Elders. She hasn’t stopped frothing at the mouth since I took the stand. She’s fuming, as she’s known to do. They picked a good Elder to represent “the everyman”. She’s always hot under the collar and while she struggles with dementia, I can’t help but feel it’s a clever ruse. She knows exactly what she’s doing. The excuses people make for her merely allow the woman to be absolutely reckless. True freedom without repercussion. Must be nice, wish I was her.

“Mr. Fuse is a joke of a teammate! He complains about what the Grapplers Local 214 did to him. Mr. Palmer, Mr. Martin and Ms. Troy walked away from High Octane but LOOK WHAT MR. FUSE DID TO DAVID NOBLE!”

These pricks like to tell me how to live my life and what’s the ‘correct’ context. Meanwhile, I’m World Fucking Champion because I don’t subscribe to this bullshit. If I listened to the average person, I’d be out on my ass.

Anyway, really would love a moment to speak. David Noble already tore me to shreds inside the middle of the squared circle, revealing his own true colours. Swell guy. Wrestling’s filled with softies.

“Mr. Fuse drafted the man who cracked a video game controller OVER HIS HEAD! And who was there to come to Mr. Fuse’s rescue when this happened!?” Margo stops, robotically turning in my direction.

“The man who saved Mr. Fuse from Mr. Pleasant’s attack was none other than…” pause for dramatic effect. Of course. Keep burying the good guy. Pile on. “Mr. Noble!”

A massive GASP sweeps across the court like they never watched Refueled and don’t remember what happened. SMH. Everyone’s aware Noble came to my aid. Let’s quit the theatrics.

“David was late, he didn’t save me in time!” I wail, instantly shot down with a plethora of boos. Nothing piped in here. Real, authentic hate coming my way.

Eh, I’ll be real with you, I haven’t thought all of this through yet. I’m in hot shit, I’ve made some bad choices.

But I am not a bad guy.

I don’t care if David was late to save me. He didn’t know The Provocateur was lurking. I deserve the jeers for what I said. I do not, however, believe I deserve the jeers for my complete body of work.

Again, if I could have the floor for more than a second…

Doesn’t matter. Margo lowers her head, expressing a sense of shame. “Mr. Fuse selected a bitter rival on his team FIRST. He dismissed his own HOW brother! I ask everyone in this room… WHY? Why did he do this? Well I’ll tell you why…”

This ought to be good.

“Because he’s no better than the rest of them!” She stops to let the words sink in. “The Board. The murderer, Jeffrey James Roberts. Cult leader, Xander Azula. The Vintage is no pure, ‘lovable hero’. That ship sailed A LONG TIME AGO.”

I’ve had enough.

“OBJECTION your honour!” I say, turning to Judge Adley, 90, sitting on the big chair.

He doesn’t register my complaint. Instead, he stares blankly at Margo, until my representative or “lawyer” if you will, Walter, waves his hands and captures Adley’s attention. Finally, the greybeard acknowledges me.

“I’m sorry, what did you say, son?” He asks.

My patience is thin. “I said OBJECTION!”

Adley winks at me with a look admitting he heard me all along. “OVERRULED!” And points to Walter. “Only he can say objection!”

Bullshit. I lean back in my chair and stand down to Margo. Might as well let the hate be thrown my way before I can configure a reply. Oh, I will be replying. Soon. But I have decided I’m gonna wait and hear every last sentence. And then I’m gonna do something I don’t do often.

I have the last word.

Call it Champion’s Advantage if you’d like. I simply want my fair shake.

“Conor Fuse is a dingus!”
“Down with the champion!”
“#NotMyGamer!”
“Anyone but Conor!”

Sometimes I wish Mike Best really did sacrifice me to that cross…

… … … … …

Maurako Cup Tournament Finals
Noble Gaming vs. John Sektor & Adam Ellis
Best Arena
Chicago, IL
March 27, 2022 – 23:43

It fell apart with the deadlift saito suplex. Noble hits it on Sektor. And it’s a good move, don’t get me wrong. David’s got control of the match. I don’t think he has full control but he’s in the driver’s seat.

He turns to me and points to the top rope. Honestly, I’m reluctant. I’m not sure performing a high flying move is a good call here… but David is my teammate. He hasn’t steered me wrong yet. We’ve gotten this far. We’re almost there. I’ll do it. I trust his judgment.

From -1 to World Tag Team Champions. Hell ya, bro.

I take my eyes off the ring for a second. Dumb move. I basically intend to leap blindly to the top rope because I already measured where Sektor was positioned. Full credit to Adam Ellis. The rookie outplayed… me. I knew he had something special. I see the end of a superman punch to David.

Thump.

Noble collides into me.

I crotch myself, which is hard enough to work through but in an attempt to quickly find a way off the turnbuckle, my right foot becomes tangled in the top and middle rope. The rest is a blur as I desperately try removing my foot. Sektor and Ellis exchange ideas and then The Gold Standard comes over and smacks me across the cheek (twice)…

I realize there’s nothing I can do unless I lift myself from dangling. My weight keeps my right foot stuck in the ropes. Sektor climbs to the top buckle.

David lays there, motionless.

Fuck. I can’t remove my foot, it’s trapped. My only hope is to try sitting up.

Sektor’s at the top. For an older dude, he’s still got it. I knew he would.

Nothing’s working. I’m hanging from the apron. My last chance… the only thing I can think of… is to see if I can untie my boot and slip my foot out.

How many laces do I HAVE on here? I knew wrestling in sneakers would’ve been the smarter call.

Our lives are on the line. C’mon, Conor. Let’s go! For David! He deserves these titles! He should have his moment! He’s been a good friend… a great friend! Don’t give up… rip those laces out!

SLAM!

It’s too late.

Sektor hits a shooting star press. He stares straight at me as I continue raking at my boot. Yeah, you still got it, John. I’m WELL aware, you arrogant nimrod.

Sektor drops to his knees and hooks a leg.

No quit until the three, Conor.

NO.

FUCKING.

QUIT.

The referee slides into position as my heart skips a beat. I look up, seeing more than half my laces still in my boot. I pull away.

ONE.

Can’t go any faster!

TWO.

It’s no use. Can’t even wiggle my toes.

THREE.

I have failed my partner.

I’m sorry, David. I really am.

I’ll be okay, I’m World Champ. You’ll be okay, too. You’re incredibly talented. But our journey comes to an end… one slip up short. Maybe you shouldn’t have told me to go to the top rope but I most certainly shouldn’t have taken my eyes off the ring. We’ll get ‘em next time, friend. Credit to Sektor and Ellis, who put aside their differences and completed their campaign. John maintains the title of best wrestler in the world and Adam’s a hell of a rookie, maybe the best I’ve ever battled. If they can work through their real life challenges, David and I will persevere moving forward.

I finally finish untying my laces and referee Matt Boettcher helps ply the ropes off my ankle. I crawl inside the ring, not allowing the cameras to catch me so the champions can have their moment. I pat David on the shoulder.

We’re gonna be a team for a while, buddy. We’ll win the gold.

Nothing will stand in our way.

… … … … …

Dearness Living Community – Commons Room
Kangaroo Court
The Trial of Conor Fuse vs. The Elders
Chicago, IL
April 12, 2022 – 08:26

To be honest, I haven’t been paying attention for the past ten minutes. Yes, Margo rambles on and everyone’s eating outta the palm of her hands.

My mind is elsewhere… running through David and I’s fall from the top. After watching the Tag Team Championship match on film, I continue to berate myself for taking my eyes off the action, unable to warn Noble about the intercepting Adam Ellis.

I failed David. I haven’t forgiven myself since the bell sounded.

“And Mr. Fuse has NO heart!” Margo screams into my ears, waking me up from the trance. “How do you NOT take Mr. Noble before you choose born LOSER Mr. Pleasant! He’s not even the LSD Champion anymore. Some title reign! He lost to that con artist, thumbs-downing whore of a milkman, Steve Harrison!”

Margo laughs uncontrollably.

“Steve HARRISON, people!”

There’s headshakes abound. Disgust from every angle. Christ, plenty of other Steve’s who are worse than Harrison.

“Hmmmm. Harrison said he’s the ultimate tag team specialist…” Margo snickers in my direction, knowing it’s a moniker I also pride myself on. “Maybe he should’ve been David Noble’s tag team partner…”

“Fucking Harrison WISHES he was #97!” I interrupt, clearly losing my cool again, although I’ve got a lot more fire for this rebuttal.

“See?” Margo points at me. “He’s cracking under the pressure. He knows I’m right. Conor Fuse is a bad man, who does awful things and is a poor teammate. A HORRIBLE teammate. Arthur Pleasant over David Noble. For shame, Vintage. You are a worthless representative of #97.”

“OBJECTION!” Walter intervenes from his chair, so nice of him to FINALLY have my back. “Invalid information! Mr. Fuse being the champion has nothing to do with his choices!”

Actually, Walt, it has everything to do with my recent draft picks but I digress. Whatever helps my chances. At least somebody’s in my corner.

Adley takes a moment to contemplate Walt’s words by putting a finger to his chin.

“Sustained.”

Honestly, at this point, I don’t even know if anyone here has studied law. The Elders do love their Law & Order reruns, though.

Margo isn’t phased by Walter’s intrusion. She has an angle and she’s sticking to it. She looks at me with her beady little eyes as if to say she’s been waiting for this moment. I never knew she hated me so much, I thought we were cool.

Maybe this is how David Noble felt.

“No bother,” Margo smiles at Adley before continuing her performance in front of the jury. “I will stay on track. Jurors, spectators… Conor Fuse did not draft his own partner. He drafted an enemy first. And now he will pay. High Octane is behind David Noble. Mr. Fuse will be left in the dust for his wrongful decisions. In wrestling you are supposed to stand beside your friends no matter what, particularly if you’re a ‘true’ warrior like Mr. Vintage believes he is.”

Margo stalls, allowing her words to sink in.

“I ask The Elder’s in this room… is this man worthy of your friendship? After the events of this past week, I most certainly would think he is not. If Walter was on the board, Mr. Fuse would pass on drafting him. The defendant stands trial today for believing he is a good man, a loyal teammate and a trusted combatant who doesn’t cheat to win. Believe it or not, we are not here to tear Mr. Fuse apart. This will happen at the hands of David, our newest hero.”

Fuck off.

“We are gathered here this morning to provide a dose of reality to #97. He is guilty of breaking his own ‘Gamer Code’. Mr. Fuse is no lionheart. He’s a selfish brat who deserves to lose the World Championship on Sunday.”

Ouch.

Margo turns to the judge.

“That will be all, sir,” she says sternly, taking another glimpse in my direction.

“Excellent work,” Adley replies, not showing any bias whatsoever. This fake court shit is stupid. “We’ll break for a quick breakfast and reconvene in thirty minutes.”

Commotion, commotion, commotion, The Elders slowly stand while conversing with each other and collect their belongings. Meanwhile, Walter finds me sitting at the witness stand. I haven’t bothered moving.

“Hang in there, boy,” he sends a smile my way but I can see through it. There’s not a lot of confidence in his appearance. “I know you have your reasons.”

“Does it matter, Wally?” I reply, glancing around the room. Everyone in here has shot a look or two of distain my way. Even the judge. He’s supposed to be THE impartial dude. “I’m DOA. It was a dick move, not picking David…”

The old man pats me on the shoulder.

“I was GONNA draft him, man,” I plead.

“I know, son,” Walter smacks me on the shoulder again before turning to the defendant’s table and collecting his paperwork. “You’ll receive your chance to explain yourself…”

But will anybody listen?

That’s the real question.

… … … … …

Dearness Living Community – Public Bathroom
Kangaroo Court Recess
The Trial of Conor Fuse vs. The Elders
Chicago, IL
April 12, 2022 – 09:10

I splash tap water on my face. We’re about twenty minutes away from the conclusion of kAnGarOO cOuRt. I don’t know what else can be done. There are no further witnesses. It’s just a consistent rip on The Vintage.

Big deep breath in the mirror before I make my way out. Spinning around from the sink to the exit doors, I hear “the voice”.

Hey, buddy. What’s good?

I knew he’d show eventually. It’s the perfect opportunity to strike. New-Age Conor, AKA NAC, dying for his opportunity to turn me to the “dark side” forever. I bet he jumped for joy the second I didn’t draft Noble.

“Make it quick, okay?” I give a heavy sigh. “What evil shit do ya want me to do?”

The older version of myself cocks an eyebrow, then a nefarious smirk crosses his face.

It’s time, Conor,” he notes.

“Time for what dipshit?” I ask in reply.

Time to accept your fate. You already completed step one, tossing the no good, overrated David Noble to the side. WTF has David done here? Been a part of a tournament and attached himself to YOUR success,” NAC’s pearly whites shine through my reflection. “Sounds like you made the right call. David Noble, GTFO! You gone! Bahahaha!

I don’t know why I humour this guy but I stand there, shrugging my shoulders. “Cool. Can I go now?”

NAC shakes his head, not exactly in response to my question. He’s disappointed in general.

Where’s the fire?” NAC wonders out loud. He glances down at my gym bag. Since I no longer reside in Dearness, I brought a change of clothes with me and the championship belt. One of the straps hangs out of the bag, I guess I forgot to zip it up. New-Age eyes the colour 97 and waves goodbye to it. “See ya later, World Title. Your owner isn’t too keen on standing up for himself all of a sudden.

I give my eyes a roll. “This is a different context, man. I have my reasons for not drafting David off the top. I went in there with a Gamer’s Code, champions come first, everyone else after. Maybe this was the wrong answer, NAC. Perhaps I deserve what’s coming to me, turning my back on Noble.”

NAC doesn’t move. His eyes don’t blink, his facial expression is stone cold. He’s frozen in time, as if his mind needs to process what I’ve said.

Finally, after what seems like eternity, he carries on. He didn’t hear a word I said.

“You disappoint me. You really, really do,” he conveys. “I would’ve thought after these events, you’d have learned how to play the game. You call yourself The Ultimate Gamer and now you’ve leveled up to a ‘War Gamer’. There are no friends in wrestling. You proved this by not selecting David Noble. Choosing the LSD Champion over him or not, you didn’t take your buddy first. And you and I both know the many reasons you didn’t. The overarching one…

His eyes wander in every direction.

To ensure your survival. You’ve earned the World Championship. Twice. You work just as hard as the next guy and you know what Conor, you work harder. You fucking GO when you lace up those boots, which by the way, switch to running shoes. You bleed 97 shades of red and rarely complain about who or what stands in your path. If you lose, you suck it up and deal with it. Honourable stuff.

NAC pauses, this is where his attitude changes. He grows a serious tone, much different than the usual sly pitch.

But honour can only take you so far when the entire roster is lining up to push you down. When you have to rely on other people to walk out of War Games as champion, all bets are off. It’s why you’ve failed in tag team wrestling. Any of those tag matches you’ve lost… Conor Fuse has NEVER taken the pinfall. You wanna tell me there’s not something inside your head gnawing at you, reminding you of the fact Conor Fuse frequently DOES NOT find himself on the winning side of a multiplayer battle? You and Noble failed, as did you and Dan Ryan, you and Ray McAvay. Hell, your entire 214 group at last year’s War Games. It was time to move on from Noble.

I may be in denial. Perhaps he struck a chord. Regardless, I don’t like Clay and I teaming, after the Texan knocked me out when The Board interfered without my knowledge. I don’t like facing my ex teammate. I don’t like any of this shit.

“I’m done, NAC. Excuse me while I go get my ass handed to me by a bunch of seniors.”

My subconscious is having none of it. He doesn’t vanish.

Yeah, Fuse, you’re a real good kid. You’ve had your moments as the righteous warrior. You’ve overextended yourself to others. You overextended yourself to David. You didn’t have to join him. And now, because of your good graces, The Video Game Kid is the enemy. Instead of facing some BOT this week, you’ve got a gut-wrenching opponent… due to the fact you went the extra step for him. You care, buddy. You have a big heart, wearing High Octane on your sleeve. Too bad you cared so much. If you didn’t tag with DN, pretty sure you’d be facing an easy target on Sunday. Instead, you might be out on the street. Out of War Games entirely.

I plan to leave.

You deserve everything coming to you, Conor.” NAC announces as I shrug, accept his words and almost exit the bathroom.

Or do you?