Shane sat, still and stoic, on the throne at the edge of an open-plan room. It had once been a gymnasium, within which the staff led the building’s residents in various forms of exercises and sporting activities. Since the inmates had literally taken over the asylum, however, the room and equipment had been repurposed. And any exercise undertaken within was of a very different kind. In that vein, celebration raged all around him. Celebration regarding Shane’s victory over Bobbinette Carey, over his retaining and reclaiming his HOTV championship, and over having finally returned home.
None of that jubilation managed to pierce Shane’s psyche, however. His body felt drained, completely wracked with pain and fatigue. His heart felt empty, only beating because of the question that kept returning to his mind. What now? His mind echoed the words once again as he cast another cursory glance around the room. At the orgy currently taking place within, filling the vicinity with depraved sexual energy from wall to wall. The throne was perched on a raised platform, allowing him full visual access at the excess of fornication. Some had left their masks on, but most had discarded them for now. All, however, were in various stages of undress and working various bases – filling the air with groans of exertion and moans of pleasure.
“What now?” Shane unconsciously muttered under his breath, as the question once again plucked at his brain cells.
The action of the room continued unabated and blissfully unaware. The combined number of his followers had whittled themselves down to groups of two or three or, in one case, four. That particular group were in full motion. A petite blonde named Chloe (aka Domino) was laid naked on the floor, her legs stretched up and resting on the shoulders of the still-masked Jigsaw. As he continued working between her legs, she herself was working steadfastly between the legs of the woman sitting on her face. Shane couldn’t make out which follower she was, turned partially away from him. The way her toned back arched and her hips shuddered, however, told him what expression her face would be wearing. All the while, she was putting her mouth to use on another male disciple named Dean (aka Harbinger).
“What now?” Shane said again, this time contemplating the question more consciously.
At that moment, a familiar moan cut a jagged path through the others and into Shane’s ears. He looked immediately, staring out from behind his mask and all the way across the room. Past those making use of a pommel horse and the ropes that hung from the ceiling to where Riley was stood. Unlike everyone else, she hadn’t shed a piece of clothing, still wearing a black tank top and matching jeans. It was clearly part of her teasing, as Jill (aka ) reached a hand out to try and touch her in return. Riley immediately grabbed the hand and pinned it alongside the other one above her head.
“Do that again and I’ll stop!” Riley informed her, though Shane could scarcely hear her.
Jill pouted but promised to comply. On that word, Riley continued with what she threated to stop. Her hand moving back and forth, in and out of Jill’s underwear as her fingers went back to work. But only teasingly, getting Jill more and more excited but not giving her what she truly wanted, not giving her full release. Like a true brat, Jill lunged for a kiss. Riley deftly moved away and responded by letting go of Jill’s pinned wrists and, instead, wrapping her fingers tightly around her throat. All the while, the fingers busy downstairs didn’t miss a beat.
“Now you aren’t allowed to come for another five minutes,” Riley reprimanded.
Shane watched for a few more moments, but even that didn’t seem to provoke any feeling or interest. As a result, he gripped the arms of the throne and pushed himself up. Shane immediately felt the energy of the room change, the tension going from sexual to something far more boring. He didn’t even have to look to know that the frolics were starting to slow down. And that more and more eyes were slowly but surely turning their attention to him.
“As you were,” Shane barked authoritatively, still without looking. He didn’t need to look; he could feel the energy tentatively shift back to their previous business.
He walked and then stepped down off the platform and made a swift beeline for the double doors. He pushed them open with all the might he could muster from within his aching muscles. He stepped out as they crashed against the corridor’s walls and disappeared from view before then swung back and closed again. Although most had followed orders and paid Shane’s exit no mind, Riley had watched him go. And, with Jill feeling more and more neglected and growing more and more impatient, Riley’s gaze remained fixed on the doors her master had left through.
Shane forced another door open, this one much heavier and requiring more effort. For the thousandth time that day, it made Shane wish he had some morphine to hand. Instead, he tried to mindfully focus everything currently pressing up against his various senses. He felt the cool breeze drift over his forehead as he stepped out onto the rooftop. He could hear the gravel crunching under his heavy black boots and the sounds of sirens over the top of people partying in the distance. Those sounds continued to permeate as he strode across to the edge. With the same fearlessness that define his youth and a painful creak that defined his present, Shane hopped straight up to the raised edge. He lanced straight down to the empty sidewalk that loomed many, many storeys below.
“Just do it,” Shane vocally urged himself. “You’ve done what you came back to HOW for. Bobbinette has been punished. She may not be dead but the defeat was emphatic and should have hammered home that her time trying to be a success is done. She had her final taste at a championship and I finally got to snatch it away from her this time. So, just do it!”
Shane pondered that self-imposed order for a few moments but still didn’t make even the slightest of movements. Not because of fear but because he had yet to studiously decide what would be wisest course. Beneath him, as trio of friends (two girls and a girl) passed by oblivious, laughing at some private joke as they went. Shane sneered and suddenly pictured landing on them as he fell. Crushing bodies, breaking bones, and spilling blood with his final act – one last fuck you to a world he despised and that the three of them embodied.
He still didn’t move, though, and the nameless trio eventually disappeared from view. If it wasn’t somebody from High Octane Wrestling, it just wouldn’t be as fun. Shane then started to run through a list of names of those from the HOW roster – both familiar and unknown. None of them, however, drew the same level of ire that Bobbinette Carey did. The last name he came to was John Sektor. Shane’s memory had muddied with age, but he still felt there was no reason to hate the man. The feeling might not be mutual, but Shane held nothing but indifference in his heart for the supposed gold standard. That being said, the idea of Sektor taking his title and ending his undefeated streak made Shane sick to his stomach. Either that or the morphine withdrawal was kicking in.
“So, just do it,” Shane repeated. “That way Shane Reynolds ends his final era and solidifies his legacy as an undefeated champion.
Granted, it wouldn’t be the World Champion but the HOTV but still… How many people of his advance years and increasingly injured state could achieve such a feat? Next to nobody. Not even the aforementioned John Sektor had proven himself capable of that. Regardless, if there was even a one percent chance of Sektor taking away what he’d gained and destroying what he’d achieved, Shane knew he had to take it as an absolute certainty. As he pondered these, Shane ran a hand over the cool surface of the gold-plate, tracing the carved letters of his name with the delicacy of a blind man reading brail.
The thought of it being replaced with John Sektor’s name provoked another twinge in his stomach. It wasn’t withdrawal symptoms after all. As a result, he knew, without doubt, what he had to do. He inhaled deeply and exhaled with equal strength. As he did so, he slowly raised his left leg and stretched it out ahead of him, as though towards a surface he already knew wasn’t there. As he started to lower it again, he felt his body tilting incrementally forward. He was so focused on this action, Shane only faintly heard the heavy door reopen and once again slam closed.
“Don’t try to stop me,” Shane immediately commanded before Riley could open her mouth.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” came the reply, not from Riley but the mysterious man Shane had encountered in Australia. The man that had set fire to the building he and Riley had been training in. The head of an organization known as DASH that had sworn vengeance against Shane for his “ableist actions towards Evan Ward” – by any means necessary.
Shane turned his head suddenly and glanced back over his shoulder with a look that was equal parts rage and confusion. The man was dressed in an expensive, three-piece Armani suit. It was all-black in a way Shane might appreciate, if he wasn’t so consumed with hatred. The suit was accentuated by a pair of red converse sneakers, adding a splash of color to proceedings.
“What are you doing here?” Shane demanded.
The man immediately answered the question by hurling an egg directly at Shane’s face. The shell shattered instantly against the forehead section of Shane’s mask, sending rotten York oozing down over the rest. The stench hit his nostrils with just as much force, overwhelming him to the point that his eyes watered – even the missing one, somehow. Worse still, Shane felt the world suddenly shift as his balance suddenly failed him.
Tilting backwards, towards empty air and the solid concrete below, Shane flapped his arms in circles as hard as he could, grasping for purchase that wasn’t there. He flapped until his arms felt about ready to pop out of their sockets. By sheer luck – or perhaps even a miracle – Shane’s efforts paid off. Able to steady himself, he quickly leaped down from the raised edge, so that whatever attack came next wouldn’t have such potentially fatal consequences.
“Coward!” The man spat with utter contempt.
“Says the man who won’t even tell me his name,” Shane spat back, trading spite for spite.
“Why do you wanna know?”
“So, I can piss on the right grave!”
The man smirked, with more than a little hint of sarcasm. “It’s Blake.”
Blake smirked again, this time with much more sincerity. “Please, give me at least some credit!”
“What the fuck do you want?”
“If you haven’t figured that out yet, you’re even dumber than you look…”
Shane scowled but said nothing, sensing that he had more vitriol to unleash.
“…We want you punished. The death penalty is preferred but we’ll settle for a good crippling. Or abject defeat and humiliation.”
“What the hell kind of anti-discrimination activists are you?”
“The proactive kind,” Blake illuminated. “The vengeful kind. The kind that knows real change in this world is only achieved through sacrifice.”
“Bullshit,” Shane argued. “This isn’t borne from noble intentions. You’re working for somebody, aren’t you? Is it John Sektor?”
“Careful,” Blake replied. “That paranoia is a slippery slope towards QAnon territory.”
He chuckled at his own pithy comment, a sentiment that Shane predictably didn’t share. His lips not so much as twitching in an upward direction. His foot, however, took a sudden step forward. Unfortunately, another egg left Blake’s hand before gravel even crunched beneath Shane’s boot. This time, it smashed against Shane’s chest, doubling the vile smell and staining his top.
“That’s right,” Blake said, as gleeful as Jatt Starr at an alpaca petting zoo. “And there’s more where that came from.”
“First foghorns, then actual arson, and now eggs,” Shane recounted. “Your methods make less sense than your supposed motive.”
“Well, we don’t want to become as predictable as you.”
“You’re nothing but bored children desperately trying to give your lives meaning,” Shane continued, choosing not to register that latest insult. “And you’re hypocrites along with it.”
Blake seemed to brush off the comments like lint from the shoulder of his suit jacket. He merely just shrugged.
“What does it matter?” Blake eventually said. “The end result is still going to be the same. You may have eked out a victory against Bobbinette Carey—”
Shane scoffed. “I destroyed her!”
It was Blake’s turn to carry on with little thought or care to what was just said. “—But you aren’t going to survive John Sektor.”
“So, you do work for him?!?”
Blake rolled his eyes. “About as much as we work for whomever you battle against the week after Sektor – if you somehow fluke a win – and the week after that. Unlike your cult members downstairs, we don’t serve any master. We’ll be happy with whoever is finally able to destroy you. So, you better get used to us, because we aren’t going anywhere until that happens.”
“You think I care if I lose to Sektor?” Shane countered. “I’ve done what I came back to do, nothing else matters.”
“Of course, you care,” Blake argued back. “It’s written all over your…well, not what remains of your face…but everywhere else.”
“I should just throw you off the roof.”
“Off the roof of a building you own, with several witnesses down on the street ready to point the finger at you before I’ve even hit the pavement?” Blake mocked. “Even you aren’t that stupid.”
He suddenly took a step forward of his own, closing the gap between he and Shane.
“So, I’m afraid you are stuck with us,” Blake nodded towards the edge of the rooftop. “Unless you want to reconsider taking the quick way out.”
Shane merely glared at him and sneered. He eventually went to speak when suddenly the rooftop access door opened for a third time. On this occasionally, it actually was Riley. She strode out into the cool late-night air and her eyes immediately widened.
“What’s going on?”
Shane ignored the question for the moment and fired out the word that came immediately to mind.
She immediately did as she was instructed, narrowly avoiding the egg that had been soaring for the pale yet beautiful features of her face. It smashed harmlessly against the wall of the stairwell just before the door closed again.
“What the fuck?” She yelled…
…but Blake’s attention was once again directed back at Shane. He smiled a broad and toothy smile.
“Wow, look at you!” He exclaimed with a tone of faux pride. “I guess you are capable of learning after all.”
Riley didn’t take the ignorance very well, anger flashing in her eyes as she lunged forward and grabbed Blake by the shoulder. Unfortunately, Blake responded with blistering speed, catching Riley off guard and surprising Shane in a way he didn’t think was possible for somebody so jaded. He clasped her hand in his own, before twisting her arm and wrenching her whole body around. He pulled her into him, her slim yet toned back colliding with his chest. With one of his hands now pinning hers between them, he rushed his around her neck and trapped her in a headlock. She furiously struggled but it was to no avail. Blake looked over her shoulder towards Shane.
He continued with what he was saying with nary a missed breath, as though none of that just happened. “Hopefully you can finally learn that you are doomed, so you may as well just bend over and let it happen. Whether it be against Sektor, or somebody else, or that little leap of faith over there.”
“Not gonna happen!” Shane made clear.
“Well then, I guess that means we’re destined to do this until the bitter end.” Blake smiled again. “We’ll be seeing you.”
Blake concluded that statement by rapidly releasing Riley from the dual grip on her wrist and throat. He pushed he savagely, so that she practically glided through the air until she collided with Shane. Both of them looked back towards the door, just in time to see it close in the wake of Blake’s sudden departure.
“How did he get in here?” Riley asked as she stood back up straight and composed herself.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Shane snapped back. “As well as where he learned such moves. He may claim to be part of some activist group and simple protesting me, but I don’t buy it. There’s more to his story, to this whole mess, and I’m going to find out what it is.”
Riley took in what Shane was saying, but it was actually something that Blake said that was plucking at her concerned curiosity. “What did he mean about a leap of faith.”
The question startled Shane. “What?”
“What was he talking about?” Riley was now looking towards the rooftop’s edge.
“It doesn’t matter,” Shane said, shrugging the question off as he headed towards the door.
“Of course, it matters,” Riley snapped. “Why were you up here in the first place?”
Shane wheeled savagely back on Riley, his eye now ablaze with a multitude of emotions.”
“It…does…not…matter,” Shane reiterated with added emphasis, “because it is never going to happen again. It was blip, nothing more. And, ironically, we have him to thank.”
“What do you mean?”
“What I mean,” Shane parroted, “is that spite is powerful motivator. I was feeling lost, directionless in the wake of defeating Bobbinette. I wasn’t sure what was supposed to come next, that maybe it would be best to bow out as the undefeated HOTV champion. Solidify the final era of my legacy on my terms before John Sektor had a chance to defeat and take it all away from me.”
Riley unconsciously rolled her eyes a little, before getting a little authoritative herself. “Have some confidence!”
Shane glared at her and the impudent stance she was taken. She immediately withered beneath the stare and shrank back into herself.
“I did say ‘was’,” Shane continued. “Now, I’m more fired up than ever. I have knew purpose now, to shove my victories in that bastards face! I need to defeat John Sektor – by any means necessary and no matter the cost. I need to treat him as I did Steve Solex and Jatt Starr. He’s as tough as a proverbial nail – and practically The Terminator on occasion – but he’s not unbeatable. I can overcome him…I just need to figure out how.”
“Go for his knees,” Riley replied in an off-the-cuff manner as though she didn’t just solve the whole problem like Will Hunting at MIT.
“You were focused preparing for Bobbinette but I watched all the matches,” Riley clarified. “The legs are his weak point. Every time Rhys Townsend attacked that area or locked them in a submission, it provoked the biggest reaction. Plus, I heard whispers that he got a state-of-the-art brace for them. So, in my humble opinion, you just need to find a way to counter the effects of the brace and cut him off at the knees. Literally.”
Shane had no words. Instead, he just silently absorbed everything he just learned. He first thought about how Rhys Townsend had still somehow lost despite Sektor having such an obvious weak point. Given that Rhys was also undefeated before stepping into the ring with John Sektor, he knew that he could still not take his challenger lightly. However, there was a part of him that hoped Sektor was still reeling from what was no doubt a much more gruelling and time-consuming match. If that was the case, he could target other areas as well as his legs.
“Okay,” Shane eventually said. “I need three things.”
Riley stood quickly to attention, ready to take down mental notes as to what her master may need.
“One,” Shane began. “I want a copy of Sektor and Townsend’s submission match. I want to see what you saw, as well as what mistakes Townsend made so I can avoid them. And I want to see which areas of Sektor’s were strained by Townsend or his own use. Also, find out everything you can about this brace. I want to know just how cutting edge it is and everything it can do.”
Shane’s thoughts wandered back to when he described Sektor as a part time Terminator. Little did he know how true that unconscious thought as been. The notion both worried Shane, thankfully keeping his confidence from turning to arrogance, and excited him. To be able to defeat Sektor when on this kind of form would be another feather in his proverbial cap – making his undefeated status even more impressive.
With tactics increasingly connecting to form an outright plan, Shane felt his confidence growing. He tried to restrain it a little, lest it become outright hubris. But, still, Shane couldn’t help but smirk to himself over the fact there was at least a shot that he could out technician the master technician.
“And number two?” Riley said, tugging Shane out of his revelry.
“We need to cross out a certain Bobbinette Carey’s name and add John Sektor’s.”
Shane had anticipated the darkly joyful smirk that now presented itself on Riley’s lips. As well as the bloodlust shining brightly in her emerald eyes. The ritual Shane had adopted was as fun for her as it was important for him. As such, Riley’s impatience rapidly began to show in her movements. Regardless, she knew better than to push for it – especially since there was still a third and final task that her master had yet to reveal.
“And the third thing?” Riley said, her voice betraying her eagerness to tenderly cut into her master’s flesh and watch the blood trickle down from wherever John Sektor’s name was to go.
Shane immediately lunged forward, tilting his mask up onto the top of his head as he went. He reached Riley in moments, her expression unsure whether to be worried or aroused. She eventually settled on the intoxicating mixture of both as Shane grabbed her by the hips and hoisted her up. She immediately knew how to respond, wrapping her legs around him a split second before he slammed her against the brick wall. His hands free, he immediately gripped her throat tight with one hand and pulled her shorts aside with the other. He could feel that she was ready for him already, and, his libido having steadily returned in time with the conversation, Shane was the same.
“Please, sir,” Riley begged breathlessly, prompting Shane to choke her harder in time with him giving her what she had been asking for. Once again filling the air with pleasurable moans.
Meanwhile, across the street, on the rooftop of the opposing building, Blake watched the action unfold through a pair of binoculars. Behind him, his own group – the members of DASH – stood waiting around or sorting through a bunch of bags. One of them, a woman that Shane would soon come to know as Olivia, tentatively approached Blake. He felt her presence, though didn’t look back.
“Are you sure we should be letting him off with just a few eggs?”
“Are you really doubting my plan?” Blake answered, still not looking back.
“Of course not, I just don’t see—”
“Then I guess it’s good that I’m the one with the binoculars,” Blake yelled, now lowering them and turning to glance back over his shoulder. “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. For now, we are just toying with him. But when you see how all the pieces fit together, you’ll be apologizing for ever doubting me. Shane Reynolds is going to get what’s coming to him, I promise you.”
“Okay,” she replied demurely.
“Now get back to work,” Blake commanded, once again raising the binoculars to watch the rest of Riley and Shane’s frolics on the roof, a crooked smirk creeping over his face.
Shane awoke with a start. The sun had not yet fully risen above the horizon but it was beating down on the rooftop nonetheless. It wasn’t the heat that had stirred Shane awake, however. It was the smell. Unbeknownst to him as he slept, the surrounding area had been pelted relentlessly with more rotten eggs. Looking around, they seemed to cover every inch while conveniently missing them. If he had to guess, they had been hurled from an adjacent rooftop. Each that he could see, though, were completely empty.
“Son of a bitch,” Shane muttered, just barely getting the words out when a painful feeling rose up from his stomach. “No, not now!”
Shane sat up and then tried to stand, but he couldn’t make it. The smell was somehow growing worse and worse and his stomach started to churn more and more. Turning over, he managed to get on all fours, albeit just barely. As his hands touched gravel, Riley’s eyes slowly flickered open.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, stifling a yawn in the process.
“It’s starting,” Shane muttered.
Riley knew immediately what he meant. His morphine withdrawals were finally kicking in. That belief was solidified as Shane suddenly threw up and then collapsed fully to the ground. The gravel scratched and cut his exposed face as he fell, his arms and legs trembling before giving way entirely. His eyes closed and he fell silent, though he continued to shake. Riley grabbed her clothes and covered her previously naked self. Looking down at her master, she wondered what the hell to do – and what would be best given that his match with John Sektor was now only days away.
“Well fuck!” she explained, before running over her various options.
For the second time in however many days it had been, Shane awoke with a start. The questions of when and where he was immediately ran through his mind as he sat straight up. Looking around, he saw that he was back in his padded room, nestled between some covers. That answered one of the questions but left the second. Before he could speak it out loud, however, Riley appeared as though from nowhere. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she took him by the shoulders and eased him back into a horizontal position.
“Easy,” she cooed. “Take it easy!”
“Chaos,” Shane muttered, suddenly becoming aware of just how sandpaper dry his throat felt. “The show. Sektor. Did I miss it?”
“No,” Riled consoled him. “You still have a few days. How do you feel?”
Shane pondered that question, quietly assessing every part of his prone body.
“Fine,” he said, with more than a little surprise. “I feel fine. What happened?”
“You’ve been out of it for a few days, but I guess the worst is over.”
“I don’t remember anything,” Shane replied, his surprising giving way to utter confusion.
“Well, you were delirious for the most part, but we took turns watching over you.”
“So, just like that, it’s over?”
Riley shrugged. “I guess so. Do you want me to get you something to eat?”
In that moment, Shane’s stomach rumbled, answering the question on his behalf. Riley immediately stood back up. “And, after that, maybe we can train.”
“Yeah,” Shane replied, unable to shake the feeling of being totally perplexed. “We need to make up for lost time.”
“Exactly,” Riley concurred, as she headed towards the door. Before she could reach out and open it, however, Shane called out. The sound of his voice startled her and, for a split second, Shane thought he could detect fear in her stance. With his head still foggy, however, Shane dismissed it.
“I do remember a dream I had,” Shane followed up.
Riley gripped the door handle and visibly tensed, though Shane was still too foggy to notice it.
“Really?” She asked.
“Yeah,” Shane answered. “I was a rock star and had just released a new album. Everybody thought it was going to flop and not even achieve gold record status. But guess what?”
Riley looked back over her shoulder. “What?”
“It went platinum,” Shane elaborated. “I’m not only to take much stock in dreams but I’m choosing to believe that was a sign.”
“Without a doubt,” Riley said with a smile, before pulling the door open. “I’ll be right back.”
She exited into the hallway and took a few steps before stopping. She took a deep breath to steady herself before looking up and down the corridor, making sure Shane hadn’t followed her and that nobody else was in sight. She then turned to the garbage chute and pulled it open. Straight away, she took a variety of used from her pocket, along with the vials of morphine and sedatives she’d used to get Shane through the last few days.
She shoved them inside and listened to them rattle away into the dumpster far below. Though he believed himself now clean, Riley had decided that he needed them if he was going to take on Sektor. They could deal with proper withdrawals in due course. For now, however, she figured that it was a necessary evil – and that, as long as she could help him win, against Sektor and everybody else that comes along, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him…