Through the window, and with the help of the coast guard search spotlight, Clay saw The Swarm covering the deck of the USS Octane. They were working rapidly, making room for the Coast Guard helicopter. Inside the chopper Clay sat surrounded by an entire coastguard rescue team, each one running through a number of checks. His internal temperature had begun to dip from the exposure of the water, he hadn’t felt the bone chilling cold until they had placed the foil blanket over his broad shoulders.
Once they had activated the heating component, Clay had pulled the blanket around himself tightly. His sopping hair and beard were being dried by people behind him at the same time someone was trying to check his blood pressure. The Behemoth wasn’t the easiest man to work on, his enormous frame taking up more space in the tight confines than the average man. Everything and everyone in the helicopter moved quickly, someone dilating eyes, someone else communicating with the Octane.
It was chaos, absolute chaos.
Clay caught himself speaking for the first time since he had first been emancipated from the big drink. “Thank G…GOD” was the whisper that exited his lips as the descent had begun. The chill that had come over him had caused his voice to shake. As the chopper descended into the deck lights of the Octane, shadows flashed across the inside of the helicopter.
“We’re gonna get you inside big fella…” One of the coast guard said as the aircraft finally landed. The door swung open and the rescue team exited rapidly onto the deck. The Monster from Plainview stepped through the door, his soaked boots finally squishing onto dry land. One of the team members ran over trying to help The Behemoth, but he palmed the man’s face, shoving him away he sent him ducking and reeling below the rear propeller.
Soaked, cold, and angry Clay Byrd marched towards the bowels of the USS Octane. The Swarm clad in full riot gear scrambled to direct Byrd to the medical facility, they cut him off in the hallways directing him further into the bowels of the boat. Finally a group of men and women in lab coats tried to pull Clay into the medical bay. Clay tried to walk past, but The Swarm had rounded the corner with clear plastic shields and helmets, forming a wall to stop Clay.
Clay shoved one man to the ground, but the adrenaline from the situation was finally passing through his system, and the exhaustion of the evening finally took over. Clay tried to push through the guards and their riot gear, but gradually the big man was pushed into the medical bay.
He felt the needle enter between his shoulder blades, and the warm feeling of the Midazolam coursing through his veins before he could react. Clay spun and he swung his arms wildly as his vision slowly began to blur. Clay took a few labored steps towards the doctors and nurses before dropping to a knee.
The faces of the doctors and nurses rapidly became a blur as they moved in to drag the enormous man to a table while he could still assist them keeping his massive frame upright. His flailing had ceased as they placed him on the steel bed. Clay dug deep and tried to thrash against the chemicals assaulting his body, but his arms barely moved as the medical machine kicked into gear around him.
The last thing Clay saw clearly, the last thing his brain processed before he took the scientifically assisted nap was an elderly man watching from the back corner of the medical bay. Their blue eyes locked together for a moment, the same blue eyes. Then, it was all darkness.
Clay awoke, confused. The fluorescent medical lighting was disorienting causing him to rapidly blink trying to identify his surroundings. He clawed at the oxygen mask resting on his face, ripping the cup around his mouth off. His next target was the IV, he pulled at the tubing and began to pull the needle out when a group of white coats once again surrounded him.
“Clay, Clay, Calm down… You’re on the Octane…” one of the masked men said as they tried to restrain a rejuvenated monster. Quickly one of the nurses slipped a needle into the device on his hand. The Behemoth realizing his predicament ended the struggle as the Oxygen mask was placed back over his face.
“Sorry ya’ll…” Clay mumbled through the mask, as the cool Oxygen had a calming effect.
“You’re fine Clay… just dehydrated from your time in the Pacific…” The Doctor stated matter of factly. Clay nodded his head, the realization of last night had finally started to hit him. The absurdness of everything had hit him as the doc had said ‘Pacific.’
He’d lost a match by being launched from the deck of The Octane. All his careful preparation, concern for the weather, the seas, he’d forgotten about the obvious, the blue water he had stood watching the morning of Refueled.
“Lee gonna take my eye for losin’ or somethin’?” Clay asked as he lay still. Enjoying his last hours of depth perception. For the first time he had noticed all his gear piled neatly on the bed beside him with his Cowboy hat placed on top. The hospital gown was neatly tied behind his neck, and he was naked underneath.
“Oh, nobody told you?” The Doctor said as he moved an instrument table closer to Clay and began to run the similar tests the Paramedics had ran on the chopper. “What’s the last thing you remember Clay?”
The Doctor’s question was fishing for concussion symptoms, Clay had been in the business long enough to know the line of questioning. “Almost pushin’ that Coast Guard feller inta the rear of that chopper…” Clay said, once he had begun storming through the belly of the Octane everything had become a haze.
“That’s good, That’s good…” The Doctor said as he flashed his light pen into Clay’s eyes again.
“What do ya mean ‘bout nobody has told me yet?” Clay asked, as he scratched his hand above where the IV had been inserted. He hated the feeling of the needle under his skin.
“Oh, you didn’t lose. They threw it out when Harrison tossed Palmer overboard…” Clay nodded to the answer, at least he’d keep his eye for now he thought to himself. “Lee made a comment to me this morning… You and Teddy would be doing it again to start War Games…”
Clay grasped the doctor’s hand firmly. His colossal hands wrapped around the doctors wrist effortlessly. “Whaddya mean startin’ War Games?” Clay said, his heart rate became elevated and was evident through the EKG beeping away beside him.
The doctor’s eyes were wide, shocked by the power of the unrestrained and unsedated behemoth. “He said to have you ready because you two were starting War Games for the LSD title… something about you taking Teddy Palmer out first…”
The Monster from Plainview released the doctor’s wrist, the doctor recoiled backwards giving his forearm a massage to alleviate the pressure Clay had put on it. Clay’s mind immediately went into overdrive, Teddy Palmer had shown him something different last night. He had managed to continue fighting after being leveled with The Lariat… Maybe it was luck that Palmer’s hand ended up unconsciously placed on the rope, but Clay wouldn’t leave it to chance.
He had to get the fuck out of here.
The Behemoth continued through the check up, the entire time watching the staff of the medical bay filter in and out. Finally the doctor finished and pushed himself away from Clay. “I want to keep you for another day, make sure you aren’t concussed and you don’t have an…”
The long drone of the EKG machine caused the doctor to panic, he turned back around to find Clay Byrd on his feet. His cowboy hat on, and his bare ass showing through the medical gown as he marched through the doorway. Clay turned around for a moment his hand still on the IV pole. “Thanks for errythin’ Doc,” The Monster stated as he tipped his cowboy hat.
“Son of a bit…” The doctor started to say as he ran for the phone dialing security as fast as he could. Losing one of Lee’s prized assets meant the doctor would lose a prized asset of his own. He looked down at his left hand, specifically at the pinky finger missing the last knuckle. He grimaced as he shouted into the phone. “Clay Byrd is on the loose… I repeat Clay Byrd is on the loose…”
The Behemoth stormed through the hallway and into the stairwell, his pasty white ass in view for the entire world. Clay marched into the hallway containing the crew quarters and the mess hall. As he entered the cafeteria area he ripped the IV out of his arm, but continued forward now armed with the most dangerous weapon in High Octane history.
He approached the television that was playing ‘Solex’s Greatest Hits.’ Of course there weren’t many, but giving the new hall member his due was important to Lee. The Swarm watched The giant almost naked man walk up to the television confused. Many of them were transfixed by the television until suddenly it wasn’t there.
The Monster from Plainview yanked the corner mounted television out of the wall, he grabbed the discs laying on the table underneath it and began his trek down the hallway towards the crew quarters. He carried the IV in his other hand just in case…
“Where the fuck are you going with our TV?” Clay heard the bravest member of The Swarm shout down the hallway. Clay sat the television down, and turned around with both hands wrapped around the stainless steel of the IV pole.
Clay was on him before he could blink, the giant naked Texan took a left handed swing that made Ken Griffey Jr. jealous. Blasting the #97RED t-shirt and black short wearing storm member in the stomach with the pole. The man doubled over on the rod, gasping for air as Clay took the heel of his foot and smashed the man’s face into the floor. The sickening, wet sounding smack, the blood spraying and then pooling around Clay’s feet left a hideous macabre of gore.
The Behemoth looked into the room, brandishing the pole, “I swear to Christ, if any of you fucks say one fuckin’ thing ta me the rest of this fuckin’ boat ride, I’ll make what Mike Best did ta Kael with a rod like this, look like a wholesome family holiday event.”
The crowd was deathly silent, so quiet in fact that The Swarm riot team members could be heard amassing on the deck above. Clay shook the pole at the men menacingly. “Stay.The.Fuck.Away.From.Me.”
The Behemoth marched back down the hallway to the crew quarters making sure to stop and claim his raiding booty. The bloody footprints he left in his wake, a grisly trail for the following Swarm members. Clay finally made his way to his room, opening the door hurriedly, Clay tossed the television on his bunk, and began ripping the steel beds off of the other wall.
By the time Clay was done, everything that was, and wasn’t bolted to the wall was carefully piled against the door. He sat for a bit, letting the Swarm tire themselves out trying to bludgeon their way through the doorway.
Clay sat the television up across from him, and rummaged through the pile of discs he had taken from under the television. After a few moments he found the disc with the handwritten marker, the disc he was looking for. RF63. Clay tossed the best of Solex DVD to the side and placed the disk for refueled 63 into the player mounted on the back of the television.
He turned off the lights in the cabin and began his vigil.
The Monster from Plainview still had the dried blood caked between his toes. His hair and beard had become matted as he laid on the bed watching the match through from start to finish. This was the 32nd time he had watched it. Each time, thinking through different alternatives, each time trying to work through the millions of possibilities in the match.
His eyes stung, he’d only slept fleetingly. Each time he closed his eyes he was greeted by thoughts of flying off the USS Octane. Falling, reaching, not being able to grasp the side of the boat and Teddy Palmer watching his own handiwork. Then Clay would wake up, and relive the entire match, over, and over, his thirty eight year old body still ached from the week before.
He had subsisted on a box of crackers, and a few cans of tuna that he had put in his room to avoid the cafeteria. The case of water was almost gone, and the bucket in the corner… it stunk worse than Clay did. His matted hair and beard reeked of the ocean, his constant reminder of how close he came to losing his life on May fifteenth.
In Clay’s hand sat one of his fifty pound dumb bells he left in his room, he curled the weight in his lefthand as he watched Palmer evacuate him from the USS Octane. Clay snarled as he watched it, his hoarse voice uttering a brief phrase.
“Fuckin’ coward…” he said as he curled the weight again. He was exhausted, his pained eyes staring at the television in the dark watered. But Clay couldn’t stop, the puzzle wasn’t solved yet. He hadn’t figured out how to kill Teddy Palmer yet.
The Behemoth pressed rewind and began to count. 86 seconds rewinding… would put him exactly at the point the match starts. One set of 10 and switching to the other arm, with a sip of water between.
Clay pressed play again and wiped the moisture from his eyes, they begged and pleaded for sleep, they needed sleep, but Clay pushed on. The start of the match was a huge opportunity, Palmer had been on the offensive early in the match. Much of the damage Clay took happened within the first five minutes.
He felt his eyes growing heavier, and dumped some of the water from the plastic bottle on his face. The water seemed to make the smell of salt worse as Clay kept his eyes fixated. He could feel the bruises and pain that each shot had left him. His dopamine receptors firing with every heavy handed punch he landed on Ted.
Clay blinked, he fought the sleep that would come for him. He switched arms with the weight, trying to work through the exhaustion. On the screen Clay had Palmer reeling, choking him with the ropes.
“Why’d ya yell at Hortega here?” A voice asked Clay and he responded quickly, out of habit. “I was tryin’ ta explain the match was no disqualification… but he ain’t exactly the best with English…” Clay mumbled… he paused with the weight, letting it crash to the floor.
Clay looked at the man now sitting on the bed beside him. A brown cowboy hat, the typical 80’s fu manchu style mustache, and the same blue piercing eyes The Behemoth himself had. Clay stood up shocked, his sweat stained hospital gown twirling.
“I didn’t mind seein’ yer bits when I was changin’ yer diapers Clay… but were a little old fer that now…” A younger Robert Byrd said to Clay as he tried to look beyond his son at the match on the television.
“So, why ya tryin’ ta choke the life out of that feller,” Robert asked pointing to the television.
“Yer fuckin’ dead…” Clay spit out as Robert paused the match on the television.
“Am I now?” He laughed while he said it, and Clay shook his head back and forth. “Well Clay, I reckon yer prolly right. But judgin’ by my bein’ here I’m figurin’ ya need me ta be.”
Robert Byrd had been the scourge of the territories. Moving place to place when Clay was younger, dragging his son along for each excursion. The life of a single parent and a professional wrestler was almost impossible, almost. Robert had sacrificed his career for his son’s future, settling down and opening up a wrestling school so Clay could have consistency. So Clay could have it better than Robert had. He’d meticulously crafted Clay’s career. From trying to make it as a football player, to sending him to Japan Robert had been there every step of the way. Constant advice, constant encouragement. Robert Byrd loved his son more than anything else in the world.
“I… fuck it…” Clay stammered as he sat down on the bunk beside his father.
“So Clayton… why ya tryin’ ta choke the life out of this Teddy feller…” Robert asked again after letting The Behemoth catch his bearings.
“Take every advantage we can, win at any co…” Clay repeated the mantra Robert had repeated to him thousands of times.
“Ya know what the fuck I’m talkin’ ‘bout boy,” the fatherly inflection in his tone made the thirty eight year old Byrd feel like he was twelve again.
“I took a short cut” the younger Byrd said, he prepared himself for the tongue lashing that he knew his father was about to deliver.
“Why?” Robert asked, as Clay took a few moments to gather his thoughts.
“Cause the school needed the money Pa, Claude and I were on life support…” Robert nodded his head listening to his son talk.
“I told ya ta always do the right thing… Generally speakin’ that means not takin’ any short cuts Clay…” Robert stroked his mustache, he looked at his son. He could see the hard lines under Clay’s eyes, the dark circles, the injuries that hadn’t healed.
“I’m an old man now Pa… I ain’t got much time ta make a mark…” Clay stumbled through his justifications as Robert nodded along.
“I get it Clay, but do ya think it’s what’s right?” The original ‘Big Tex’ asked. Clay shook his head, the answer was obvious. He’d aligned himself with demons and scoundrels. One of which had just graced the television.
“Bald feller’s one of yers?” Clay nodded again as Robert watched the match unfold.
“Ya in too deep ta just walk away, right?” Robert asked, knowing the answer. His son nodded, and Robert nodded back with understanding. He watched as Clay flew off the boat and cringed.
“Ya gotta do what ya gotta do Clay, ya made yer bed. But it ain’t ever too late ta do the right thing,” Robert said as he stood up. “By the way, that cover was fuckin’ sloppy, tuck his fuckin’ arm in next time.”
The banging on the door shocked Clay awake, he looked around the room franticly looking for his father. On the screen Clay was still choking Palmer, the weight on the ground was still warm from his hand as he picked it back up.
“Hermano… open up… it’s Sek!” Clay heard from the doorway. The Behemoth gradually moved all the garbage, and steel from in front of the doorway. He slid the lock out of the way, opening the door for Sektor.
“Boss sent me down here to let you know your going first in War Games against Te…” Sektor paused for a moment, not crossing the threshold of the door frame. “You look like fuckin’ shit… and smell like it too… What the fuck…”
“Long story,” Clay mumbled as he walked into the hallway. “I’m goin’ first against Teddy… I heard… Doc told me Monday…”
“Must be nice being the favorite” Sektor said with an eye roll. “Can’t believe we are counting on your psychotic ass to start us off… Get your shit together Hermano.”
“You wanna tell Bobby and Dooze ta come clean this shit up?” Clay said with a forced smirk as he began to lumber away from Sektor.
“Jesus Christ Clay… I need ta see Ryan fuckin’ comin’ your white ass is fucking blinding!” Sektor yelled down the hallway.
“I’ll take that as a yes!” Clay shouted as he continued to lumber down the hallway. Sektor had already seen The Behemoth in the worst possible state, he had to walk away from him. He couldn’t let Sektor see the tear roll down his grime stained cheek.