Win at all Costs

Win at all Costs

Posted on March 8, 2024 at 8:20 am by John Sektor

Sektor found himself wandering down a long, sterile white corridor. He couldn’t remember why he was there, but a sense of dread filled his chest. The only sound was the muffled tapping of his own footsteps on the cold marble floor. As he passed an open doorway, he paused and peered into a large room. Rows of tables and chairs were occupied by men and women dressed in all white, their faces expressionless as they stared into space. The room was consumed by an eerie silence, with even the TV screen showing nothing but a red light indicating it was on standby.

Suddenly, the dim atmosphere was shattered by a cacophony of voices, as if a thousand people had all shouted in unison. The scene before him was drowned out by the deafening noise, and Sektor was left with nothing but a sense of confusion and disorientation. He tried to scream, but no sound would come out. His throat felt tight, his eyes wide with terror as he clawed at his neck, desperate to make his voice heard, but to no avail.

As abruptly as it had started, the sound stopped, leaving behind only the silence of the room and a feeling of dread that clung to Sektor’s very soul. He found himself slowly backing away from the doorway, staring wide-eyed at the figures in white as they remained frozen in their seats, their faces still devoid of emotion.

Sektor averted his gaze and continued walking, determined to find an exit and escape from the unnerving surroundings. As he made his way down the corridor, he passed by another room with a closed door. This one had a small glass window, reinforced for added security. Despite his inner pleas, Sektor couldn’t resist looking through the glass and into the room.

Inside the room, a man sat at a desk, staring into a computer screen. Sektor could see that it was his old rival, Mike Best. Mike seemed to be completely focused, his face a picture of determination. He was typing frantically and muttering to himself, peppered with curses and threats of revenge.

As Sektor watched, Mike suddenly paused and looked up, locking eyes with him through the glass. The expression on his face was one of pure malice, a chill running down Sektor’s spine. Mike stood up, walked over to a door at the far end of the room, and opened it. He disappeared into the darkness beyond.

Sektor shook his head and continued on his journey. It didn’t take long for him to come across an identical door to the one he had just encountered.

With a lump in his throat, he cautiously approached the glass, keeping his eyes tightly shut. When he finally opened them, a horrified gasp escaped his lips and he froze in place, feeling a chill run through his body and causing him to shake visibly.

Huddled on the frigid floor of the room was his daughter, Chloe. She wore the same all-white attire as the others he had seen earlier. Her long black hair draped over her face like a veil, but there was no doubt that it was her.

Sektor’s heart raced as he frantically searched for a way out. He couldn’t leave his daughter there, alone and trapped in the cold, empty room. He banged his fist on the door.

“CHLOE?” he yelled without reply. “CHLOE!”

She remained still and unaffected by the chaos outside, as if she couldn’t hear a single sound. He grabbed the door handle and pulled with all his might, but it refused to move. He could sense that the door was unbreakable, which only heightened his fear.

Sektor’s eyes widened in terror as he realised the gravity of the situation.

“No,” he whispered, his voice shaking with fear. “This can’t be happening. Chloe! I knew I should have never left you alone!”

He slammed his fists against the door, anguish and fear coursing through his veins. He felt helpless and alone, surrounded by this nightmare.

As he continued to relentlessly pound on the door, a figure materialised from a hidden spot in the room. The person was dressed entirely in black, causing Sektor’s heart to sink as they joined Chloe and slowly turned to face him. It was Jace. Sektor’s emotions were a mixture of fear and rage as his hands and fists clenched tightly. His teeth ground together as he stared at Jace with intense hatred. However, that expression quickly shifted to terror as his eyes landed on the object in Jace’s right hand

– a Jerry can.

“Get away from her!” he demanded, eyes zeroed on Jace as he tried to make himself as intimidating as possible.

Jace continued to smirk at him.

“I’m not the bad guy here, Sektor,” Jace explained, raising his eyebrows.

Sektor opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Jace pointed a finger in his direction with his free hand.

You’re the reason she’s here,” he continued, shaking his head slowly at Sektor. “Nobody else to blame except for yourself.”

Sektor shook violently as he watched Jace turn and hold the Jerry can above Chloe’s head. His eyes bulged as Jace tip the can over and began pouring the gasoline, drenching the raven hair of his daughter.

NO! STOP! STOP IT YOU SICK FUCK!”

Chloe didn’t even flinch as she just allowed herself to be soaked from head to toe in the flammable liquid.

“FUCK! OPEN THIS DOOR!” he continued to scream, desperately yanking on the handle of the door.

Jace finished pouring and just as he did, Sektor heard the familiar sound of the door’s locks releasing. Feeling a brief moment of relief, but still filled with panic, he pushed open the door and took a determined stride inside. To his surprise, he collided with another man’s chest. Gazing back at the man’s face, Sektor was taken aback to see Darin Zion blocking his way to his daughter and Jace.

“Gotta get through me first, champ!”

Shocked and confused he looked at Zion and then over his shoulder at Jace as he heard a feint ‘click.’ His eyes widened once again as he saw Jace yielding a zippo lighter in front of his daughter. Jace ignited a flame with his thumb and Sektor’s rate of breathing increased.

Please,” Sektor pleaded, tears beginning to form in his eyes. “Don’t do this.”

Jace feigned a sympathetic smile and shook his head.

“I’m not the one doing it.”

With that he dropped the lighter –

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO..”

Sektor jolted awake, drenched in sweat and gasping for breath. He looked around his dark room, trying to shake off the remnants of the nightmare that had just haunted him. He had never been one for dreams, but this…this felt different. It felt real. It felt like a warning.

He leant his head back against the headboard and ran his hands through his drenched hair, calming himself.

As his breathing began to normalise he started to process the nightmare. He had been worried about his daughters mental well being from the moment he had been reunited with her. He worried that she may have abandonment issues as well as, God knows, what untold lasting damage was done during her time with the Kael family.

The nightmare symbolised his journey to getting what he wanted. Mike represented the World championship. Jace represented his vengeance. Chloe represented his redemption.

He got out of bed, refusing to let the nightmare linger in his mind. He needed to focus. He needed to make sure that he could dominate his next match, that he could navigate the treacherous waters of HOW without getting swept away. He couldn’t afford to let his mind wander, not with the stakes so high.

As the sun crept up over the horizon, Sektor found himself in the gym at his academy, pouring sweat as he pushed his body to its limits. The weights clanked, his breaths echoed in the space, but his mind remained blank. He

focused solely on his task at hand.

Sektor’s training routine was gruelling, but he knew that if he wanted to conquer his fears and protect his daughter, he needed to be at the top of his game. His dedication paid off as his muscles began to scream for mercy, but he refused to stop. With every drop of sweat, he was etching himself closer to his goal.

As he collapsed onto the mat, panting heavily, Sektor knew he had achieved something today. He had found focus on the path he needed to take to get to the World championship and, most importantly, to get to Jace.

It was Darin Zion who was currently standing in the way and he wasn’t going to slip on any banana skins when he was so close to the next step. He had fought Zion many times in his career and had mostly been victorious. This didn’t provide anything other than reassurance that he was more than capable of beating him once again, but Zion was equally as capable of pulling off an upset. This was a new time and a new match and Zion would be eager to prove that he had learned from his past failings and finally overcome the challenge of the Gold Standard. Not only that, the HOTv title was on the line and that alone was more than enough incentive to give any challenger the motivation they needed to go up a gear.

As Sektor stood in the dimly lit locker room, he couldn’t shake off the feeling of dread that lingered with him. He knew that his next match against Darin Zion would be pivotal, not just for his career but for the safety of his daughter. He had to make sure he did everything in his power to win.

The voice of his personal trainer, Simon, pulled him back to reality. “You’ve been zoned out for a while, Sektor. We’re almost done here. Just a few more sets left,” he said, placing a towel around Sektor’s shoulders.

Sektor nodded, pulling himself together. He needed to focus. He didn’t have time to dwell on his nightmares or his fears. As he followed Simon back to the main part of the gym, he couldn’t help but feel a glimmer of hope. A win against Zion would bring him one step closer to making sure his daughter was safe. And one step closer to exacting his vengeance against the man who had tormented him in recent weeks. He knew Jace well and he knew the second he declared war against him that it put, not only himself, but his daughter at risk.

As he continued to push the machine like parts of his body to their limits under the guidance of his trainer, he kept those motivating thoughts present in his mind.

With the days training complete, he nodded his thanks to Simon after he had given him a sincere debrief of what he had achieved that day.

A commotion from the other end of the gym caught his attention. His apprentice, Eve, and his daughter Chloe seemed to be embroiled in some kind of debate. Curious, he heaved his aching bones and muscles of the incline bench he had been resting on and reached for a towel. Wiping the sweat from his face as he walked he tried to listen into the conversation as he approached.

He only caught snippets of what they were arguing about but the context seemed to be the LBI and who progresses if this or that happens.

“What are we talking about?” Sektor asked, causing an awkward blush from his apprentice whilst Chloe remained unphased.

“Sorry, John,” Eve began, looking embarrassed. “We didn’t mean to distract you from your training.”

“It’s fine, I’m all done for the day,” he reassured her. “So?” he again probed.

“It’s nothing, honestly,” Eve replied, trying to dismiss their conversation as trivial and uninteresting.

Sektor raised an eyebrow and looked at his daughter.

I was trying to tell Eve that this match with Zion will decide whether or not you advance to the finals of the tournament. But she, is arguing that you are already through, win or lose.”

Sektor smirked at his daughter before looking back at Eve who looked like she just wanted to ground to swallow her up.

“Thank you, Chloe,” she replied, giving his daughter a look. “I’ve been trying to explain to her that, even if you lose, which you WON’T. Like, I don’t want you thinking that I’m considering that to be an actual possibility I’m just talking hypothetically – “

“Eve! Relax,” he reassured her, cutting her off from her awkward rambling.

She composed herself and took a breath.

“Anyway, as I was saying, I was explaining that even if you did lose this week, that you would finish the group level on points with Drew Mitchell. And that, because you’ve already beaten Drew? Per the head to head rule, that would mean that you would advance to the finals.”

Amused, Sektor nodded slowly and turned to look at his daughter.

“And as I was trying to explain to Eve, this news post basically states that every LBI match on the next card will determine who advances. Meaning that you have to win.”

“That’s crazy!” Eve argued, finding her tongue. “Why the hell would someone on less points than your Dad advance over him to the finals? It makes no sense!”

“Well you show me where on this website it states that the so called ‘head to head’ rule is a factor,” Chloe argued back, holding her smart phone to Eve.

Sektor held up his hands to silence them both.

“Okay, I’ve heard enough,” he said, allowing a relaxed sigh to escape his mouth. “First and foremost, giving you a phone was clearly a mistake,” he said, shaking his head at his daughter.

“Would you both like to hear my thoughts on the matter?” he asked, stroking his moustache calmly.

They both nodded, eagerly awaiting to see which one of them he agreed with.

He paused for effect as he glanced at them both in turn.

“It doesn’t matter!”

He allowed them to both digest this statement as he watched and enjoyed the looks of confusion forming on their faces.

“You see, you are both forgetting one crucial element of this match,” he continued, allowing them both a moment to think. “My HOTv championship is on the line. And there is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to allow Darin Zion to take that from me.”

Both held looks of regret in that moment, realising how trivial and pointless their debate was.

“So you see? I have to win. And I told you both at the beginning of this tournament that I would have to win every single match to guarantee my place in the finals, because in HOW? Nothing is for certain. Now more than ever.”

Both of them nodded with understanding.

“Truth is neither or you is right or wrong. Nobody knows officially what the tie-breakers will be if there are ties in the groups. Lee always keeps things like that close to his chest because he learned along time ago that mystery not only sells tickets, but it gets the best out of his wrestlers.”

He sighed with frustration as another thought entered his mind.

“And now? With Jace thinking that he’s pulling all the strings? Well, I’m pretty sure that he will grasp any chance to screw me over with both hands. Which is why, once again, I cannot lose.”

Straightening his back he looked at them both sternly.

“There is a lesson here for both of you. In life? Whatever challenges you face? Don’t focus on the consequences of failure,” he explained. “Focus on succeeding and then deal with the fallout of failure when it happens.”

He instantly felt proud of himself as he said this. He considered these to be wise words and ones which he hoped would resonate with the two young women who he was trying to be a role model for.

“Now, with that settled,” he began, placing his hand on each of their shoulders. “You-” he said, looking at Chloe. “- need to stop distracting my apprentice. And you-” he continued, looking at Eve. “-need to stop letting my little girl get under your skin and get back to work.”

She nodded.

“Sorry boss,” she said, turning and walking away to resume her training.

Sektor smiled as he watched her until Chloe forced his attention towards her.

“John?” she called.

His heart sank every time she called his name. He longed for her to call him Dad or Daddy, but he didn’t want to force the issue. Instead he lived in hope that it would one day happen organically.

“Yeah?” he muttered, turning to give her his full attention.

“Can I please come with you to New Jersey?” she asked, her delicate eyes sparkling at him adorably.

He paused on this for a moment, trying to think of a way to let her down gently. He was well aware of how desperate she was to attend one of his matches. Her interest in his career was both rewarding and concerning at the same time.

“It’s not a good idea Chloe,” he explained, letting her see the concern on his face.

Her shoulders sagged as the Frustration bubbled inside her like a pot left unattended on a stove, simmering dangerously close to boiling over.

“You say that every time,” she whined. “I don’t see what the big deal is.”

“It’s just not the right time, kid,” he replied.

You said-,” she began, voice strong and firm. “- that if I did good at school and stayed out of trouble that I could come and watch one of your matches. I’ve done that, I’m doing well and I’ve stayed out of trouble so now you need to uphold your end of the bargain.”

It always astonished him how mature and wise she sometimes sounded. At her age he could even imagine being able to articulate such an argument.

“You have been doing well, and I’m really proud of. Seriously. But it’s just too dangerous right now for you to be anywhere near me when I’m in the ring.”

Her face screwed up as she found this to be a ludicrous statement.

Why?”

He questioned himself as to how honest he was prepared to be with her. It was clear that she wasn’t the innocent little girl that he wanted her to be. Perhaps being fully transparent with her was the best approach, he thought.

“Look, I’ve made some enemies. The kind of enemies that would look to exploit any kind of weakness that I have. If you are at ringside there’s no guarantee that I can protect you.”

“A weakness?”

He instantly regretted this description as she repeated it to him.

“Is that what I am? A weakness?”

He sighed and squatted down in front of her so that he was on her eye level, equalling himself to her as much as he physically could.

“You’re my weakness,” he explained. “They will look to hurt me by getting at the one thing that is more important to me than anything else in this world.”

He smiled at her and brushed his hand down the side of her cheek.

“That’s you -”

“What sort of person would want to hurt a kid?” she asked.

Sektor could feel his blood boiling with anger, not because of Chloe but because of the thought of Jace touching her. The images of him pouring gasoline over her and grinning played on a loop in his mind.

“The sort of person who has no morals when it comes to defeating a rival.”

Chloe considered this, feeling the honesty in her fathers words and accepting that he wasn’t making up excuses for why he didn’t want her to be there. Her defiance, however, continued to drive her to get what she wanted.

“Well I’m not afraid,” she said firmly, straightening her back and holding her chin up high. “Can’t you just get those EPU guys to protect me?”

Sektor closed his eyes, realising that he was fighting a losing battle with her.

“Chloe, I can’t trust anyone at the moment. Without Lee around I don’t know who’s on my side and who’s against me. I have to look over my shoulder constantly and I cannot go into this match worrying about your safety. If I take my eye off Zion for one second to check on you then that may be all it takes for him to strike and ruin everything for us.”

Her face was like thunder as he crossed her arms defiantly.

“When things calm down and Lee’s back in charge I’ll make sure you can come and watch my matches,” he explained, placing a reassuring hand on her delicate shoulder. “I promise -”

She immediately pushed his hand away and stormed off in the opposite direction. He let out a deep sigh and lowered his head in defeat.

Sektor sighed as he watched his daughter storm away, feeling a pang of guilt for disappointing her once again. He knew he couldn’t allow her to come to the match, but he couldn’t help but feel a sense of failing as a father. He watched her walk across the dojo, feeling his heart ache for the girl who only wanted to see him fight.

A hand gently tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to see Eve standing there, watching Chloe’s retreating form with concern. She said nothing, simply offering him a comforting smile. Sektor gave her a small, grateful nod, aware of the unspoken understanding that passed between them. He knew she had been through her own share of disappointment and pain, and that she understood the complexities of his position.

As he watched Chloe’s figure disappear through the door, he couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before he could fulfil that promise to her, and if things would ever truly calm down.

All he could do for now was what was in his immediate control.

Defeat Darin Zion.

Retain the HOTv championship.

Advance to the finals of the LBI –

-and win at all costs!