CROSS-EXAMINATION (2)

CROSS-EXAMINATION (2)

Posted on April 15, 2022 at 11:38 pm by Conor Fuse

Unknown Parking Lot
An Hour Before Kangaroo Court
Chicago, IL
April 12, 2022 – 05:00

Neither of us wanted this to happen, particularly me.

A figure stands in the distance, the morning light reflects a shadow across the building behind him, covering the man’s face down into his torso but of course, I know who it is. No birds chirping, the streets are vacant. It’s too early in the year and far too soon in the morning for anything other than a mild wind rustling the odd dead leaf across the space between us. Wide open location, only my car on one side of the lot, his at the other. This industrial area hasn’t been occupied in years.

I approach, hesitant and yet, it’s my plan.

“Let’s make this quick and painless, okay?”

The man in the shadows slumps his shoulders as if to say he doesn’t care. I’m sure he doesn’t. I already have the envelope out of my pocket and I don’t get too close. Instead, I reach far across and hand it over, then I take a few steps back.

“Everything’s there, unsealed, if ya wanna check.”

The man doesn’t bother. He simply puts the envelope into his pocket.

“I believe you,” he says, removing car keys from his jacket and casually strolling to his vehicle. “Besides, it’s not like you’re hard to find… champ.”

“I never wanted it to get this far, you know?” I raise my voice, watching as the man approaches his car and opens the driver’s side. “I didn’t want shit to end this way.”

He snickers and doesn’t look back. “That’s what they all say.”

And he slips into his car, closes the door and drives off.

… … … … …

CROSS-EXAMINATION (2)

Dearness Living Community – Public Bathroom
Kangaroo Court Recess
The Trial of Conor Fuse vs. The Elders
Chicago, IL
April 12, 2022 – 09:20

PREVIOUSLY.

Can’t believe this is still going on. NAC’s done with the small talk. He’s gonna let his agenda fly.

You, uh… you see what David said about you last week on Refueled?” New-Age Me inquires, his tone of voice becoming slightly more annoyed. “That asshole marched himself to the ring and proceeded to go ballistic on The Vintage’s name. Ripping The Video Game Kid limb from limb. Is that cool with ya!? Could David have… oh I dunno… maybe gone to you first and expressed his disagreements MAN-TO-MAN!? I’d like to think so. What a schmuck move. Subjecting himself to the fans first instead of knocking on your door. This is shit morons in your discord do. Insecure little nimrods who need the fans to cheer and coddle their every word.

I’m trying to breathe easy but it’s hard not to get wound up. I had a feeling NAC would go for the jugular.

“Look,” I start. “I suppose David’s actions weren’t cool. I didn’t care for them. You’re right.”

Kneeling down to zip up the gym bag, my subconscious keeps ranting.

Additionally…” NAC tilts his head to the side, as if pretending to be in deep contemplation, even though he’s not. “Didn’t David Noble… um… didn’t he TEXT YOU saying he’s totally cool if you don’t take him early!?

If I had my phone on me I would check but I left it in the courtroom.

“I doubt it. David and I don’t text a whole lot.”

NAC winks. “Pretty sure it sounds like he did. Let’s just go along with it anyway.

“I’d rather not. If it’s not true I would-”

My subconscious keeps rolling. “Whatever. So he rips you apart inside the squared circle but the reality of the situation is he’s still cool with ya?

“I’m not sure, man. Most nice guys would try to backtrack from their original outbursts. He probably didn’t mean it-” NAC cuts me off, again.

Oh, so he’s a Karen? Say one thing but mean another.

I give a hard huff. “Hey man, jokes like that can fly with Steve Solex but not-”

With cOnOr fUsE,” NAC finishes off my sentence as I stare straight into his dead eyes. “David’s playing you for a fool.

Alright, I can see the older version of me is spitting fire. It’s best for both of us to chill out and for me to exit this bathroom.

ADDITIONALLY…” NAC cries. “Didn’t David also give you vibes he’s rather… unsure of himself!?

I don’t provide a response. NAC, however, pretends to wipe a tear from his face.

Poor David Noble had no confidence only to suddenly find all of the confidence. What a clown.

I can feel my pulse rise and my neck muscles tense. This level of rage is something indescribable.

AND FUCKING ADDITIONALLY!!!” NAC gets back into it. “Where do these Elders and fans get off telling you whom Conor Fuse should’ve picked IN THE FIRST PLACE!? Doing the right thing by claiming David Noble doesn’t mean shit. If Clay has a problem with drafting Arthur Pleasant… hey, tough fucking shit, he’s not World Champion! He did not beat YOU. If David Noble has a problem with drafting the LSD Champion… hey tough shit. He’s not World Champion! These asshole armchair quarterbacks.

NAC is red hot with passion.

So many ExPeRts. They don’t play your campaign, Conor. They aren’t Player One and required to defend the title. So step up your game, Fuse! It’s time you marched to the ring MOTHERFUCKING BLOODTHIRSTY! You talk about respecting your name!? You get so pissed off at Scott Stevens for downplaying your first victory title defense against him… furious at Clay Byrd for rambling on about Mike Best and NOT Conor Fuse… but yet you’re OKAY with David Noble shredding The Vintage’s image apart!?

No. I never said that.

Fuck off,” NAC adds, clearly reading my mind.

New-Age Me takes a moment to calm down. His face is beet red. I haven’t seen him angry. He typically acts coy… clever… tries to go the roundabout way to lure me in. Not this time. This time my subconscious is direct. It’s like he knows the future and realizes if I don’t take a different approach, I’m done for.

Mike Best didn’t even draft Jace Parker Davidson!” NAC screams in my ear, saliva spraying everywhere. “And ya know what… NOBODY CARES! Jace will happily eat Mike’s shit. Jace, who passed on you and Simon Sparrow. He contacted you too, didn’t he? Moments before he made the jump to The Board, telling you and Simon he had an offer by Mike and Co. and how he was gonna take the position, recognizing by doing so he would turn his back on the AoA.

NAC chuckles and slithers his way off the counter, standing and moving in my direction. My subconscious walks around me, shaking his head, keeping his eyes locked to mine.

So where’s The Board’s kangaroo court!? Does Jace need one?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

“JPD is a big boy, he can look after himself,” I reply to NAC. “If he doesn’t want to make a big deal of being passed over, that’s on him. He’ll look like the fucking simp. Not my problem.”

NAC tries to hold back a smile. “Oh, he is a simp, no doubt about it… but you’re changing the topic here. I’m finalizing your dose of reality BEYOND those Elders. What they said don’t matter.

NAC stops in front of me and places both his hands on my shoulders.

What I say counts.

And leans in, whispering into my ear.

Cause I’m you, mother fucker.

Pulling back his face and removing his arms from my shoulders, New-Age stands directly across from me.

Fuse, you’re gonna have no choice but to listen to me. You’re too nice… and you’re gonna allow David Noble’s sob story to work you over and push you down. Then he becomes World Champion.

NAC eyes the title belt in my knapsack.

“Last I checked it’s YOUR strap, Fuse.

He grins sadistically, kneeling down, placing his right hand onto the nameplate of #97.

It’s… our title?” He inquires and yet also states this in a factual tone, as if I’ve already accepted the dark journey.

“Leave me alone, man,” I command. “I’m gonna deal with David myself. No matter what he said, he’s a friend.”

You know I’m right this time!” NAC beckons as I power-walk out of the bathroom, his voice strong enough to still be heard. “New-Age Conor, the evil, sadistic, manipulative voice inside YOUR head isn’t wrong! Put David Noble in the spot he belongs! Below you! FOREVER below you! EVERRRRYBODY is beneath you! Hail CONOR FUSE, who is no longer the gamer… he’s no longer the player… he IS the campaign! The whole system!

By now, I’m long gone from the bathroom, making my way to the commons room for the conclusion of kangaroo court. However, NAC’s voice is crystal clear.

From today forward, you are THE MOST DANGEROUS athlete in this promotion! Nobody slanders their ‘friend’. Not if they wanna avoid a hospital visit! Show the fuckface disrespect! Bury Karen Noble to the ground! He joins Clay… Stevens… the other losers in your wake! Long live CONOR FUSE, the 8-4 FINAL BOSS!

… … … … …

Dearness Living Community – Commons Room
Kangaroo Court
The Trial of Conor Fuse vs. The Elders
Chicago, IL
April 12, 2022 – 09:30

Minor commotion from every location as we are told by Isaac to “please rise” for Adley, who enters the room soaking in the attention. The dog and pony show continues. Everyone finds their seats and Adley files paperwork in front of him.

“We have spent this morning conversing about the trials and tribulations of Mr. Conor Fuse. I have looked over the material impartially.”

Sure you have.

“And in consultation with the jury over breakfast, we have come to a verdict,” Adley turns in my direction. “Nevertheless, we should let Mr. Fuse have the floor.”

This is definitely not how this shit works.

“Mr. Vintage, the floor is yours,” The Judge affirms.

For the first time since convening, the room is quiet. All eyes on me.

I walk to the front. It’s only a few steps and yet it feels like centuries. I run through the events of the past two weeks in my head. Defeating Clay Byrd “with help”, not choosing David Noble and this newfound anger I’ve recently had, directed at anyone who’s wronged me.

Except for my ex-teammate. I hated the others.

I take a moment to stare every single Elder in their face. These were my friends, too. I moved to Dearness a year and a half ago. I moved out when I failed them against Mike Best. I still visit a lot. I’m unsure why they’re holding me so accountable.

“Hmmm…” I laugh off a bit of stress. “It’s easy for you to point the finger. I never asked for assistance against Clay Byrd. I didn’t even mean for Mario, Jace and Simon to help me win the World Championship.”

My pulse has already skyrocketed.

“And where is Mario now? Where’s Jace?”

Not on my team.

“People come, people go. It’s wrestling, I get it. I have spent so much effort looking out for others. A main reason I hated Scott Stevens so much was because he threw JPD outta the battle royal.”

I take another hard look around the room.

“And all of you, I thought we were cool…”

Shaking my head. At myself. At everybody who’s throwing shade at me.

“Mike bypasses selecting his own Board member for a tiny dick powerlifter and nobody says a word. Ya know why? I know why.”

I crack my knuckles.

“The people fear Mike. As they should. Ten time world champion. Alpha male of alpha males. Well, Conor Fucking Fuse is The Video Game Kid,” I take a deep breath to calm myself down. “I am also the current representative of this company.”

My eyes meet Walter. Not sure how he feels about these comments. I also don’t care.

“And I have to do what I think is correct. If David gets his panties in a bunch because he wasn’t drafted ASAP, then he wasn’t the guy I wanted on my team to begin with. I have my reasons, many reasons, for not choosing Noble off the bat. And I’ll tell them soon. David said he ‘didn’t ask for this shit’. You clowns assume he’s innocent and I’m guilty. So be it. Whatever. But he asked for this shit. Oh, he definitely did.”

Shaking with anger, I storm over to the defendant table and snatch my belongings.

“I’m outta here,” I snap. “I won’t put up with this anymore. I am different now. The next time I make a choice in my life, everyone is gonna tiptoe around ‘broken glass’. Ignore it happened, too scared to speak a word. I play video games, I’m high strung and entertain a bunch of dumbass greybeards in a retirement home. But above this nonsense…”

I march to the exit door and place a hand on the doorknob.

“I am THE threat of this company. It’s time I 100% act like it.”

I open the door, take a step outside and look back.

“By the way, I plead not guilty.”

— — — — —

David,

Well fuck me eh. Everyone thinks I’m the brat who’s wronged his teammate, even my teammate.

Point, judge… whatever. So easy to sit there and tell me what I should’ve done and what went through my head. Everybody’s got the right answer. Everybody loves to be a part of the fucking peanut gallery.

“Conor Fuse should’ve chosen his teammate first.”
“Conor Fuse should’ve done this.”
“Conor Fuse should’ve done that.”

It’s all I’ve heard since ICONIC.

Maybe you pricks need to look in the mirror first and ask yourself questions before coming after me. You too, David. Until you or anybody else is in my shoes and holds the weight of the World around your waist, nobody should say a word about what I should or shouldn’t be doing.

Or continue judging while I pile up the victories. This works, too.

People believe the moral decision is the “right” decision. Drafting David Noble was obviously the only correct result and I am scum for not doing it.

Yeah, it’s a nice little story. Choose the guy who I reached the finals with.

We still failed.

Maybe it’s all we had and it was time to move on. Nobody is owed a god damn thing in wrestling. No, I didn’t make the moral choice. I didn’t make the “right” decision. Instead, I made an EXTREMELY difficult call, a heart wrenching verdict, to step away from my former tag team partner… a choice where it might ruin the future of us teaming together. I don’t plan to walk into the War Games chamber without anything less than the absolute TOP tier talent here. I’m sorry bro but picking the LSD Champion (at the time) was a solid idea.

I beat that winey fuck Clay Byrd, therefore earning the right to make the hard choices others only dream of but don’t have the balls to pull off. You know what I’ve finally realized? I have to make the hard choices. It’s a job requirement. If I don’t want to captain a team, I can sit alongside the BOTS who nitpick others. If I don’t want the ultimate pressure on my shoulders, then I can ask to be drafted instead of being a drafter. It’ll come with significantly less accolades, though. The role in the 8-4 castle is stressful, endless and has me running on fumes. If you get to this level, David, it’s the hardest thing you’re ever gonna do.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I finally understand. Conor Fuse as a nice guy does not translate to Conor Fuse as the top guy. If my goal is to be the BEST wrestler in this company and uttered in the same sentence amongst Hall of Famers… if I want M.O.B. to pop his fucking joystick because he puts CONOR FUSE in a tag match with Simon Sparrow and an outta retirement Mike Best for a orgasmic vintage display in 2030, then sorry buddy, I HAVE TO make choices with my head instead of my heart.

It’s not that you weren’t good enough. We went to the Maurako Cup Finals. You just aren’t quite good enough when compared to the men I picked before you.

Let’s continue with hard truths. After all, I’m under oath.

Who scored the majority of Noble Gaming’s pinfalls? Who got pinned in the Tag Team Championship match?

News flash buddy, this is a RESULT sport.

OH RIGHT. Those matches weren’t as big of a deal. Imma get David Noble’s BEST EFFORT on Sunday now because it’s for the greatest strap in the land. Where was your BEST EFFORT while we were a team? I gave you mine every tag match. I mean, you’d be a moron not putting your last ounce of sweat into an opportunity to be the king of this castle. I merely think it’s a back-handed, bullshit, two-faced, dickhead move to say “I will give you everything in our World Title match, Conor Fuse” as if insinuating you weren’t giving me everything beforehand.

You’re a nice guy masquerading as a dick.

I bled for you. I put endless pressure on myself to wrestle and team FOR you. Not for me, I didn’t have to pick up another direction while others begged for #97 matches but I did. I could’ve said PASS on the tournament when Jace left. I did not. I thought you got shafted when the rapper with the invisibility power-up, SURPRISE SURPRISE, didn’t do shit in your corner. Maybe you deserved him, maybe you didn’t. Wasn’t my place but being the good soldier I am, I didn’t wanna see you drown. I wanted to help David Noble recapture a name for himself. I burnt myself to a crisp in the tournament, treating it like the main event. Others would shout at me, saying “focus on the world title” and I screamed back, demanding both directions are important. There is no hierarchy.

Because that’s what I do. And a friendship is* as important as any singles accolade.

*Was.

David Noble meant a lot to me and I put THREE SOLID months of full blown effort into our team.

But it’s “What have I done for you lately!?” Instead of being the loyal man you claim to be, you walked to the center of the ring and ripped into Conor Fuse without coming to me first and hearing an explanation.

Thanks for showing me who you really are.

Yeah, I asked for this upcoming David Noble beating when you’re the guy who opened up the can of worms. So let’s cosplay and say you are on the exact same level as the LSD or World Champion…

You’ve been here for a total of three months. How can I fully trust a fellow wrestler after three fucking months? Everybody’s talking about me screwing over my friend but nobody looks into it further. A few days before the draft, I visited your locker room. David Noble sits there, hemming and hawing over signing a HOW contract. How can I commit to somebody who MIGHT NOT be here? Was our tournament run not good enough for you? What else did you want?

Sign the fucking contract.

Reality is you didn’t want to commit. And if you don’t wanna commit to HOW, the company I am currently the headliner of, the promotion to which I represent on the highest level…

Then you don’t want to commit to me.

Simple.

As.

That.

Oh ya LFGGGGGGGG now, huh. David Noble got his little World Title shot so NOW he’s a sure thing to kick around in the H O W. Yay! Go David! Give him the contract, where does he sign!?

Sounds pretty self-serving to me.

And yet I’m the bad guy.

It wasn’t good enough to say you’ll stick around while we were teammates and I was pushing myself to the highest level, helping to reestablish your name since coming back to wrestling. Naa, who gives a shit. I did this to myself. I didn’t draft you RIGHT AWAY so I’m the dbag.

Get bent.

If you didn’t receive a title shot this week, your contract would still be sitting there unsigned in the middle of our former locker room and you’d be milking the attention for every last drop.

Sorry for choosing the LSD Champion and my idol before the partner I was randomly assigned to team with three months ago. Excuse me for placing some historical context first and attributing picks to those who are gonna be around for the long haul. It would be dumb to pass on another champion, regardless of whom it may be. Even dumber to pass on the HoF legend, the most loyal wrestler in the history of HOW. Don’t worry though, in our War Games redraft league I’ll choose you Pikachu, first overall, the insecure pisshead who a week ago had cold feet, unable to devote himself for the next year, only to suddenly man up in TOUGH GUY mode, mic in hand, when given this unearned title opportunity because The Board wanted both of us to suffer.

One minute you’re stressed about John Sektor and rookie Adam Ellis. The next you’re whipping your dick out, waving it in my face, telling me I’m in the fight of my life.

“CONOR FUSE ASKED FOR IT!” David Noble screams. Crowd goes wild.

I’ll RAAAHHHHH you up.

Reality of the situation: it’s my fucking title, David. I have to assemble the best team in a War Game almost impossible to play. No one else will be there for The Vintage when he picks up the pieces of an unsuccessful reign. Not you. Nobody.

Can I ask why you’re telling me that you, David Noble, needs this victory more than I do? Because you said it… so then it’s true?

Well I need this victory more than you, David. I also need a million dollars and a hooker. Not sure this means it’s gospel.

I’m War Games CAPTAIN. I represent this company and intend to for YEARS to come. Sounds like I would need the win. I’m not saying you don’t need the W, either. I’m simply saying don’t speak for the situation.

Then again after I pound the fucking shit outta ya, you can go back to contemplating your spot in the big league’s. I’ll show you first-hand who carried our team, who scored the pinfalls and who took the finals loss. Thanks for listening to me when I said Bobbi was a good person, too… by mangling her face into five different places and yet I specifically asked you NOT to.

No worries, after Sunday you won’t have to listen to me again.

Because you won’t be 97.

You won’t even be in the War for it.

I brought you into this game, David. You’re god damn right Imma take you out of it.

Christ. Putting the LSD Champion and my mentor over you, it’s a tall group to crack.

And you are DIRECTLY under them. Third on my cheat sheet. Overall. Above “BFF” Bobbi, Christopher America who will fizzle out harder than every other throwback hoping to rekindle fame of yesteryear and Joe Bergman returning for the 598384897th time, all of whom were taken before I could make a choice.

I’ll show you on Sunday where your fucking spot is.

David, YOU asked for this when you proceeded to obliterate my name outta nowhere. Instead of coming to me like a man, you pandered yourself to the crowd, throwing my name and reasoning in the mud… revealing yourself as the scumbag.

Guess I expected MOAR from the guy who prides himself on always having his friend’s backs. Pretty sure not selecting you is actually doing wonders for your status ATM. You have a World Championship opportunity. As a result, you should be THANKING me. You’re as stupid as the others. Another desperate BOT attaching himself to the unparalleled work ethic of Conor Fuse.

When I defeat you on Sunday and cave your two-face skull into the ground… I want you to do some self-reflection.

You are no hero. You’re as loyal as the rest of them.

After I Weapon Get the shit outta you, I want you to ask yourself “Was it worth it?” Because March 27th you think you’re the weakest link of Noble Gaming vs. John Sektor and Adam Ellis and April 10th you’re an overconfident prick… standing in MY ring, speaking to MY fans and getting them fired up over MY campaign, not yours. The campaign I am going to steamroll, straight in and outta War Games with #97.

I guess our friendship is more paper thin than the Paper Mario RPG I just finished playing.

Imma pound you, David. I’m gonna show you why I am the most lovable, adorable hero HOW has ever seen. Your jaw will be so mangled you won’t be able to go on that radio show anymore.

However, I do have to thank you. I have finally come to understand what it takes to be at the absolute top of the ladder… to be in the castle and hold the privilege of playing World 8, Level 4 over and over.

What it takes to succeed at the top is not relying on your morals. It’s not putting your friends first, either. There is no way to have everything. I can’t be friends with you AND succeed in High Octane. In the end, it is nothing personal. Claiming the top spot and being a good gamer to everybody isn’t compatible. I can’t coddle Clay Byrd’s PTSD and expect to beat him on the same day. I can’t pat David Noble on the back and say “I love you man” while choosing to go in another direction.

All I can do is ask myself what is the MOST important part of my life. Teammates? Respect? Fans chanting my name?

You wanna know my answer. I finally get it, I really do.

The most important thing in the journey of Conor Fuse is being World Champion.

So if it means I don’t draft David Noble first, or NEVER again, so be it. If it means I have to crack my own mother in the head with a steel chair, fly the stunned cunt down from Toronto, I’ll bust her fucking skull so good my dead grandmother will roll over in her grave and scream for mercy, while I maintain a shit eating grin. If I gotta play the War Game and make sure I walk out in one piece because The Board has finagled its way around the system, placing the most insurmountable odds in The Vintage’s path… then I’ll throw my big boy pants on and weather their storm.

At the end of the day, it’s a very simple concept.

Keep my World Title.

But it comes with a lot of difficult choices and can feel impossible to navigate.

Thank you for making me understand kicking you to the side was the right choice. Thank you for making me understand the final piece of the puzzle… what I absolutely need to do to ensure my CONTINUED success…

After all, it’s what separates MJ from the pack… it’s what puts Tom Brady in a whole other realm.

And it’s what will make Conor Fuse the FIRST person since 2009 to enter War Games as World Champion and leave War Games the same.

Do whatever it takes.

…Even if it means breaking my former teammate in half.

Say whatever you want about me. From here on out, The Vintage games on his own.

Now, the main question throughout this whole ordeal has been… is Conor Fuse the bad guy? Was I in the wrong? Am I guilty?

As I sit here clutching my world championship, I have the definitive answer.

Who the fuck cares.

Stand in my path, I’ll make you sorry. I’ll make you contemplate the meaning of life.

I rest my case.