LESSON SIX: No Enemies

“He’s obviously not fit to be champion!”

Matt Pickstock, the CEO of EUWC couldn’t agree more. Especially if it’s coming from the one person who’s successfully taken the World Title from Sean Taylor in the past. “Classy” Mike C, the reigning International Champion is poised to get double gold, and his confidence has only increased tenfold ever since Taylor’s recent troubles.

“I know where you’re coming from Mike, but here’s the deal; you’re not the only one who wants a piece of Taylor. Granted you’re the only one with the most bragging rights, but if you get a title shot, I’ll have Kincaid coming in here asking for a rematch. Then you’ve got the usual suspects like Sevyn, AOD & Grayson… Then I’ll have to come up with some kind of solution that satisfies all of you, and take into account the fact that Taylor might not be able to handle that kind of pressure in one night. I DO have to draw the line somewhere.”

Both men stare at each other for a few seconds of still silence. Then, in unision…

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA!!!!”

“Haha… you almost had me there boss!”

“I know, right? I do crack myself up.”

“So anyways, now that you bring those other guys up, what have you got in mind?

“Well seeing as the time is ripe, tonight we’re going to have ourselves a World title match alright! It’s going to be monumental, and you know what? I think I’ll head down to the ring and break the news to our World Champion myself.”

“Good plan boss. Ready when you say so.”

“I say so now. Pad up!”

——————————————————————————————-

Sean Taylor arrived barely 15 minutes ago into the arena when a stage-hand informed him of his surprise match. Given his state of mind, Taylor feels as lousy as he’s ever been. Still, if he knows Pickstock’s timing, this is either vindictive or brilliant. Maybe both… especially both. Taylor can’t spare his thoughts on anybody else right now, despite how many times Pickstock has embarrassed him Not right now, not after all this…

Ever since he walked out of Superiority victorious, he’s forgotten what happiness has felt like. True, he did retain his title and also proposed to the woman he loved, but everything after that has gone straight to hell. He was forced to watch his love fall to injury and a coma in front of his very eyes and there was nothing he could do about it. He was forced to come to terms with his past in which he may have betrayed the trust of his only friend and mentor. His will has been tested to the extreme as he tries to find his bearings. All because of one person. One psychotic, twisted individual who has rattled Taylor to his core. Ironic though, because in another time and another place, Taylor could have been more to Tommy Trevor.

“Would you bring your attention to me please! I have, an important announcement to make here tonight.” The ever so confident CEO Matt Pickstock now stands in the center of the ring, microphone in hand and in the midst of his audience, who spare no opportunity to let him know of their displeasure at his arrival.

“Keeping in view of all the recent events that have taken place, it’s the opinion of many backstage, and in my better judgment, that we have a problem involving the World Heavyweight Championship. You see, the World Title should be around the waist of someone who is confident, able, talented and above all, in the perfect state of mind to exert dominance over the rest of the superstars. Unfortunately, as we all saw before, that is no longer the case. So tonight…”

Before another word is uttered, Pickstock is interrupted by familiar music and the fans are on their feet for the World Heavyweight Champion Sean Taylor. With no expressions, no microphone, Taylor carries his World Title belt as he heads to the ring.

“Whoa hold it right there Taylor! Before you do something you regret…” Pickstock quickly utters as Taylor gets in his face. “Look let’s be honest here. You’re a mess! You need a break. You’ve had a lot on your plate lately and that can get to even the best. And really I understand that. I really do, even though for some reason it’s because of you that I’m out 3 talents. It’s because of you that three people these fans want to see are in the hospital But still, I’ll make this a once in a lifetime exception for you; hand the belt over, relinquish the title. Go home, get some rest, stay with Kandi. Get away from it all. What do you say?”

Taylor does not back down. Not for one instant. All the pent-up rage and he can’t even channel it out on someone. Well, not in this particular instant anyway.

“Okay tough guy, you had your chance. Don’t say I was never nice to you. Since you think you can take punishment and humiliation, I’m not going to take the easy way out and strip you of the title. Oh no, you deserve much worse. Right here, right now, the World Title is going to be on the line. And your challenger…”

The speakers blare once again as Taylor finally budges to turn around. His opponent from Superiority, the young upstart Braden Kincaid comes down to the ring, looking determined as ever. AS “The Thriller” enters the ring to stare down Taylor, Pickstock interrupts.

“Wait, wait… did I say ‘challenger’. My bad, I meant, challengers!

Just then, the crowd is confused as from behind the barricades, four superstars jump the rail and enter the ring, surrounding Taylor and Kincaid. Taylor looks around and sees Sevyn, Cobris Grayson, Angel of Death and the International champion ‘Classy’ Mike C, forming a deadly circle along with Kincaid. Taylor spots Pickstock squinting out of the ring and making an announcement.

“This match is a special 6-pack free-for-all challenge, with one fall to determine the NEW World Heavyweight Champion! Gentlemen, have at it!”

Taylor’s face is full of contempt not just at Pickstock but everyone surrounding him. Everyone in this ring has a bone to pick with him, and all aspiring to be the next World Heavyweight Champion. Taylor, like a cornered animal, looking around him now looks determined to pounce.

“Come on then. All of you!!!”

Taylor leaps up at Grayson and knocks him down with a flurry of lefts & rights, but the others pick him off and start pounding on the champion. Taylor does his best to get his hands of each of his opponents but the numbers don’t agree with him. Shortly, AOD holds Taylor’s arms from behind but Taylor uses this as a chance to dropkick Classy Mike C and toss AOD away! Taylor comes face to face with his nemesis Sevyn who’s just tossed Kincaid out of the ring. Sevyn hits the champ with a headbutt and whips him into the ropes. Sevyn runs at him with a body splash but Taylor moves out of the way and Sevyn crashes into the corner. Taylor grabs Sevyn and hits him with a reverse neckbreaker, but eats a kick to the face from a recovered Kincaid! Kincaid goes for a cover but is kicked in the head by Grayson, after which AOD hits Kincaid with a DDT! AOD, Classy and Grayson join in to stomp away at the fallen champion while Sevyn gets back up. Kincaid gets back up and gets into a fistfight with Classy, while AOD and Grayson hold Taylor up. Sevyn recovers and kicks Taylor in the gut. Sevyn grabs Taylor at the throat, but gets hit from behind with a steel chair!

MINE! You had your chance! He’s mine!

Sevyn turns around as Brett Force hits him square in the head with a steel chair, knocking him out cold! AOD runs at Force who simply kicks him in the gut for a chairshot to the back. Grayson manages to pull the chair away from Force and goes for a right hand but Force chops at him on the chest repeatedly!

I’ve planned this for a while now. I profiled all of you. Even you Grayson.

Force grabs Grayson in a rear naked choke hold and continues talking to him.

You’ve always felt inferior. You always thought less of yourself than your mentor Jay Smash. Not as smart and certainly not as special.

Grayson tries to fight back with a few elbows and goes for a right hand but Force grabs it and wrenches his arm.

You feel special now… now that he’s gone. Powerful, stronger. But not more powerful than ME!

Force finally finishes of Grayson with a backcracker! Classy Mike C, who has disposed of Kincaid at ringside, now re-enters the ring and confronts Force as both men lock up.

“Whoever or whatever you are… you’re way out of your league mate!”

You really think so? Anyone ever tell you you’re a real piece, Mike? You and I are a lot alike… both of us fought to get to the top, but you just can’t stay focused long enough. You get distracted too easily.

Force kicks Mike in the gut and hits him with an uppercut.

That’s where I’m better than you Mike. You don’t recognize that this is MY TIME! Not Yours!

Force finally hits Mike C with a body slam, knocking him out.

So stay out of it!

With all challengers incapacitated, the referee has no choice but to call for the bell, as Taylor gets back up. He surveys the scene around him as all his opponents are down & out. He turns to spot Force looking intently at him.

It wasn’t their time Sean. They’ll all be stronger though. Someday, when it’s their time. Right now… it’s all about you.

================================================

Advertisements

Lesson Five – No Lies

Why does he get talked into this?

Leo Silver should have thought of that earlier before getting knocked down. The last thing he remembers is getting hit from behind and fading out. Fading back in and he sees Sean Taylor and Brett Force going at it in the parking lot, with Brett getting the upper hand. Just what is it about this guy is what’s bothering him. Over the last 3 nights he’s successfully taken out some of EUWC’s finest and rattled the nerves of one of the greatest of them all. Well, Silver can admit ‘greatest’, but that would make him sound more generous considering he’s friends with Taylor. The real problem here is just how is this person untouchable, even after finding out who he is.

“No way! NO WAY!” did Taylor yell only moments ago when he threw away Briggs’ file on the floor. “It can’t be. It’s not possible… I would have known Briggs!”

“I can assure you I’m pretty thorough when I get intel, which is why it took so long. The photo STEALTH got is undoubtedly of one Tommy Trevor, resident of Oklahoma. Dropped out from Oklahoma U when he found out he was adopted. Tracked down his mother’s grave in Rochester and the adoption center where the Trevors found him. Discovered who his father was, tracked him down, had a paternity test done but it wasn’t necessary. Just looking at the kid and you knew who the father was. Brett Force.”

“Yeah that’s thorough!”

“I’m sorry Sean, but it is the truth.”

This is too much information as Sean Taylor drops into a nearby bench. As if the last 48 hours haven’t been the most traumatizing of his life, Taylor is now left to come to grips with the fact that he practically abandoned the son of his best friend and mentor. Not that there was any obligation, but considering he’s never even been at Brett’s funeral speaks volumes of how dissociated he’s been over the years.

“He was a good man Briggs. A good man! He never told me… he never would have…”

“Sean”, Silver interjects “I know you’re probably feeling guilty about this boy. Had you known and maybe you could have been there for him. Maybe he is blaming you for abandoning him, but there was no way you could have known.”

“Maybe,” Taylor gets up “but that doesn’t absolve him of what he did.”

That’s the last thing Silver remembers before being knocked down. He followed Taylor into the parking lot of the hospital where he’s now been ambushed.

You didn’t call the cops. If you wanted her safe you would have. Goes to show how much you care.

“Tommy. I know who you are Tommy. You can’t do this… you’re not well.”

He’s fine. Tommy Trevor is just fine.

Brett Force hits Taylor with an uppercut but Taylor stands still and manages to grab his shoulders.

“I know what happened to you Tommy.” Taylor tries to keep a straight face, even though he’s burning up inside. “You’ve been doing this out of some misplaced sense of revenge. I didn’t do anything to help you, I know… but that doesn’t give you the right…*gkkkk*”

Force clutches at Taylors throat…

Ignore Tommy! LOOK AT ME!!!

…and hits Taylor with a front kick which sends him crashing into parked bicycles!

You’re still not learning Sean. You’re not helping me to help you. You can’t control your anger. Let it out! Or I’ll…

You’ll do nothing!

Force only starts to turn when his shoulder is grabbed. Not even time for shock as Force is thrown towards the pavement!

Oh good. You.

Silver looks in shock. Not this, anything but this. What did you do Sean?

Force gets back up to face Lord Alucard, the other one; the one that can kill. The one now standing between him and Sean Taylor.

This is good Sean. I didn’t think you had it in you. Finally we’re getting somewhere.

You must answer for your crimes. I’ll see to that.

You can try.

Force leaps at Alucard with a flying kick but Alucard deflects it mostly because of the gauntlets.

I’ve had a chance to study you too, just in case… pretender.

Force’s gloved fist hits Alucard on the mask, who doesn’t feel it at all.

Not amused.

Force lets out a small groan of agony as Alucard slashes him with the claws.

So you’re here to protect him? He thought to end this once and for all. But I’m guessing he didn’t know the truth before. Perfect.

You’ve endangered many lives. You followed the coward’s path by hurting a woman. Like a rabid dog, you need to be shut down.

Said the pot to the kettle

Force starts with a flurry of punches to Alucard’s chest, who simply fazes them off once Force is done.

Don’t DO that.

Let me tell you a story though. It starts with a boy who steps into a man’s shoes, puts on a man’s clothes, is forced into a man’s world, and even manages to win a man’s war. But the problem is, he’s still a boy…

Force continues with his attack using elbow jabs on Alucard, who doesn’t seem to be too shaken.

…a boy who’s being lied to and who in turn lies to himself, and to everyone else.

Alucard goes for a right hand but Force manages to block it.

You’re not Lord Alucard. You’re a liar.

Force attempts a clothesline but Alucard ducks and hits Force with a lower martial arts kick to the jaw. Force crashes into the pavement far off as Alucard menacingly approaches him.

“NO! Stop!” Taylor steps in between and shoves Alucard away. Taylor turns around to see that Force has disappeared.

Explain!

Taylor now faces an angered Alucard as Silver momentarily joins them.

“The situation has changed. I know who he is now. Taking him out your way isn’t happening anymore.”

“But it was such a good idea before, huh?” Silver finally speaks out. “How could you Sean? Losing your cool is one thing, but bringing HIM into the picture?” as he points to Alucard, “What were you thinking?”

“I didn’t know, okay? I didn’t know who he was.”

“So that made it perfectly alright to bring this guy out? And you!” Silver now turns his ire towards the man who attacked him just a few weeks ago. “You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face again. I thought you were taken care of.”

Little man, remember your place.

“Okay stop! I’m taking care of ‘Force’ my way Alucard. And I don’t need you, or your kind of help.”

My kind of help…?

Alucard turns around and starts walking but halts…

He’s self-hypnotized.

“What?!”

He believes he is Brett Force, even though he’s not. He’s programmed himself to believe so.

“You’re talking about auto-suggestion?”

More than that. It had to be something traumatic that happened to him. Given his mind the slightest push to take on another persona entirely.

“That would still take him a lot of time.”

The real Brett Force has been dead for five years. He’s had all the time in the world.

Alucard finally walks away as Taylor looks at Silver for his expert opinion.

“Is what he said even possible?”

“It has happened before. And judging by claw-boy’s knowledge about it, I’ve got a hunch that he’s a pretty good expert on it too.”

“You mean…”

“Why not? Explains a lot about him doesn’t it. In fact now that he mentioned it, it’s very likely what his deal is.”

“You can focus on him later. Right now we’ve got problems of our own.”

================================================

LESSON FOUR: No Saviors

Blitzkrieg was a military strategy adopted by the Germans during World War II. It involved a huge concentrated attack by using every single military force available to overwhelm the enemy with brutal force and high speed. The beauty of the plan was to keep the attack so fierce & fast, the enemy would remain off-balance and not be able to respond.

Blitz. Brett used to call it blitz. Brutal, remorseless and relentless.

Sean Taylor can feel his world breaking apart at the seams. He hasn’t moved for hours as he’s watching Kandi Reed through her hospital room window. It took 5 hours to make sure that all the splinters were out of her body while trying their best to evaluate her overall condition. Despite their best efforts, Kandi Reed is now in a coma.

He’s been through hell.

The past 24 hours have been the worst of Sean Taylor’s life. As if dealing with the injuries & conditions wasn’t bad enough, he’s now in a conundrum of what to think of his other situation. For now it seems that his past has caught up with him. He’s tried to evade it as best as he could, but not only has it caught up, it’s stared right at him at the face and rattled his very being. Brett Force is back, from the dead. And he just gave him blitz.

Taylor’s mind is so rattled that he can’t think rationally right now. He was just attacked by his deceased mentor, someone who he left when he started out in EUWC. He still remembers the last time he saw him, when he packed up his bags and left. He didn’t want to stay in Brett’s shadow forever. He wanted to be his own man.

“Rules? Are you serious? Kid, the only rules you need in this game are this: the first bell rings, you go blitz, the bell rings again and you’re the last person standing. How complex is that?”

“Maybe that works for you since you don’t want to be caught in a tight spot at your age. But me? I can take a hit and still keep on coming. I can show the best of the best that Sean Taylor is no slouch. Just watch me next year and you’ll know that the rules… the REAL rules… they work!”

“Yeah? Let’s see if that’s what you still think ten years from now. Good luck.”

Ten years. Has it been THAT long? Is this his way of proving his point? Is this Brett Force’s last Ha-Ha? But why now? And more importantly, how? Brett Force is dead, there’s no doubt about it. So who is this person that has rattled Taylor now? An impostor? A crazed fan-boy?

But the worst thing to wonder is just how does he know everything Brett Force invented?

——————————————————————————————-

Since Silver & Briggs made the call, STEALTH has been on the move. The veteran EUWC Superstar knows of Silver’s fondness for Taylor, but right now even he’s feeling sorry for what’s happened. To him, Sean Taylor is someone he holds respect for, but also the man who has the World Championship. Still, champion or not, no one deserved this.

It was only an hour after Mainframe ended that he started driving around Saint Paul to find answers. All throughout the time, he pondered excessively over the whole scenario and can’t come to a conclusion till he sees it for himself. The only thing Silver and Briggs mentioned is that Taylor thinks its Brett Force, but it’s completely impossible. Then again, picking a time when Mainframe was being held in Saint Paul, the city where Taylor trained was well planned.

Which is why a visit to the infamous ‘Dojo’ is in order. The old training center which Force used to run and where he took six years to groom Taylor into becoming a fine athlete. The Dojo has definitely seen better days, but with Force dead it’s been left a derelict monument. While it’s understandable that the streets would be empty at this time of night, this building is now a rotting corpse. No one even bothered locking the door as STEALTH entered. It’s all been pretty much abandoned as STEALTH flashes a light on all the old equipment, rotting away in dust. Yet he feels dread, as if he’s not the only one here.

I’m only going to say this once…

Just then, he’s bathed in white as a giant spotlight shines on top of STEALTH, almost blinding him.

…Old Man…

Out of nowhere, someone leaps at STEALTH but STEALTH manages to flip him over.

…STAY AWAY!

STEALTH heads over to the fallen figure but finds out it’s just a stuffed dummy that was thrown at him. Suddenly, another one is shot right at him but this time STEALTH ducks.

“Is this your idea of sparring? Why don’t you come out where I can see you?”

You shouldn’t be here. Sean Taylor is about to face more tragedy.

Another dummy is shot right at STEALTH which he simply kicks away.

Will you be a part of that tragedy?

Just then, STEALTH is knocked down as Brett Force elbows him in the back.

I hope so.

“Hehehee… for a moment, you even had me fooled. You made me actually believe you are who you say you are. But Force never attacked from behind. And Force is dead.”

Not anymore… to both.

Force attempts a soccer kick but STEALTH blocks and flips Force, however Force lands on his feet. STEALTH gets up and goes for a right hand but Force simply evades.

Sloppy. You’re losing your edge old man.

“You’re one to talk. You stopped breathing 10 years ago. So cut the crap already. You have a lot to answer for and I’m taking you down with me.”

STEALTH manages to grab Force in a bearhug and tightens his grip.

That’ll be a problem. Because first, I’m not finished with Taylor yet.

Force headbutts STEALTH who then has to loosen the grip.

Second, you should realize by now that you can’t beat me…

STEALTH tries to recover but Force back tosses him to the floor.

And finally, you won’t be there to save Taylor.

Force picks up STEALTH and suplex’s him to the concrete floor. He then looks at him in the face.

No saviors. There’s no saving him from me. He needs this. If he needs to break free of the bonds he’s put himself in, he needs this badly.

——————————————————————————————-

“Embarrassed?”

It’s been a while since Taylor moved away from the window. Now in the infirmary, Taylor is listening intently to STEALTH, along with Leo Silver & Michael Briggs.

“You have no idea how much I wanted to beat that punk’s face in Briggs, but really there is something weird about him. It almost feels like a haze around this guy. And there was something else, but I really can’t put my finger on it.”

“So what’s the verdict then? I hope you have something we’re not aware of.”

“Look if you want an expert on Brett Force, you got the wrong guy. I went there for answers only and duked it out with him to see what makes him tick. He’s good, but he’s also using something to get an edge.”

“Like what?”

“Beats me. Anyways, after he left, I did manage to find this among the stuff there.”

STEALTH hands Taylor a small desk photo of a young man who Taylor recognizes instantly as Brett Force when he was young. Problem was, the photograph date on the corner was a little more than 5 years old.

“This… it is him.”

“Are you sure?” STEALTH asks. “If the date on that thing is right, that’s right about the time he was ill. And he couldn’t have looked like that then. Seriously this is getting much too weird for everyone and we’re nowhere near the answers.”

“Let me…” Briggs starts as he takes the picture from Taylor. “I have a few contacts that can help me figure something out. If this isn’t the same person you knew 10 years ago Taylor, then we’ll find out just who exactly he is.”

STEALTH’s right. This hasn’t answered anything for him. Looks like he’ll have to press a lot harder. And why not? It’s not like Taylor’s had any ease so far.

Unfortunately, as Taylor turns to leave, he realizes what he’s about to do is not only desperate, but something he may never forgive himself for.

================================================

LESSON THREE – No Distractions

Sean Taylor rushes to the make-up room, gasping for breath soon as he heard the news. He enters the room to find it full with officials and medics, who are tending to a bruised Staci Seymore. He looks around and finally tries to approach Staci when he’s stopped.

“What the hell did you do now?”

Nero steps in between Sean & Staci, obviously irate at what’s happened as much as Sean is.

“I don’t have time for this Nero. Where’s Kandi?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. All I know is that someone gets a kick out of beating up ladies, and last I checked Texas Lightning is gone. And since you’re here after the stunt you pulled last night…”

Taylor grabs Nero by whatever piece of his shirt he could grab, as Nero’s fashion sense has never included collars or sleeves, “Listen you ingrate, be thankful I don’t make an example out of you right now!”

“Oh yeah, like you did last night with Waring?”

“It wasn’t him.” Both Nero & Taylor look at Staci, who’s started to regain herself and speak. “It was someone, I don’t know who. He was dressed in black and had paint on his face. Like soldiers, when they go in camouflage, only his paint was black. And he had brown hair.”

“Great, that really narrows it down huh?”

“He said something about taking out Waring, but he was so fast. He took me out first, and then knocked out Kandi and took her.”

“Took her?! Took her where?”

“I… I don’t know. I’m sorry Sean, I tried to stop him.”

Taylor is angry, but not at Staci; not after what happened here. There was nothing she could have done. But whoever did this, whoever was responsible; there would be hell to pay. Taylor is thinking as he looks around the room when he spots it: the engagement ring he gave Kandi on the dresser. He picks it up and clutches it in his hand as he walks out of the room. He’s contemplating and wondering just what to do next when Nero brushes past him.

“Where are you going?”

“Get myself a sammich or find that b@$tard; Pick one! I’ll find that lowlife who did this and give him a piece of my mind. Don’t worry; I’ll leave you a few scraps after I’m done with him.”

Nero charges off as Taylor scoffs, “Not before me you’re not!” and heads off in the opposite direction of the corridor.

——————————————————————————————-

Wandering around the arena, Sean Taylor has one purpose on his mind, to find out just who is it that’s been responsible for turning his life upside down. Till only an hour ago, he had everything he could hope for. Now, he’s being accused of aggravated assault and the love of his life is missing with no telling what condition she’s in. He’s almost exhausted roaming around the halls when he spots a familiar face.

“Silver! Thank God. Look I talked to Staci, she knows the guy who took Kandi and he also got to Waring. We’ve gotta find him and fast.”

“That won’t be too hard, have a look.” Silver says as he brings Sean Taylor to a TV monitor. Taylor is aghast when he sees Nero in the ringing pummeling on a stranger just like Staci described. “Nero found him near his room and they both started duking it out. Eventually Nero got the upper hand and that’s where they are now.”

Taylor looks intently at the screen as he watches Nero stomping away at the stranger. He watches as the stranger does not show any hints of pain on Nero’s onslaught, and is simply staggering.

“He’s bluffing.”

“What?”

“I said, he’s bluffing!” Taylor quickly runs off leaving Silver behind.

——————————————————————————————-

Inside the ring, Nero has the stranger on the ropes as he pummels him with right hands. While Nero has only operated with a single minded agenda most of his time in the EUWC, assaults on women are something he does not take kindly to.

“NOT SO TOUGH NOW WHEN YOUR OPPONENTS HIT BACK, HUH?!” Nero screams as he kicks the stranger down.

You’re a distraction.

“Say WHAT?!”

Suddenly, the stranger gets back up and spits black mist at Nero’s face, blinding the flamboyant superstar. Nero clutches his face and screams in agony while the stranger watches him repulse in pain.

You do nothing to benefit HIM. You only make him lose focus.

Nero is blinded. He can’t see anything, not even the clothesline that takes him down.

You’re irrelevant, you don’t factor into his greatness. You’re just an annoyance, a cockroach!

Nero makes the mistake of getting back up, as that just leads him to a belly to back suplex all the way outside of the ring! Whoever the stranger is, he’s taking out another former champion superstar in just 24 hours with superb prowess.

You don’t help him like I do. You can’t even imagine doing what I do. You don’t contribute to his growth. You’re worthless.

Blinded and in pain, Nero is picked up by the hair.

“Www—why?”

Like I said, you’re just a distraction.

The stranger grabs Nero and delivers a thundering Jacknife powerbomb into the steel chairs at ringside. Nero is motionless.

You won’t get his attention again.

Just then, the stranger is taken down as Sean Taylor finally arrives. Taylor emerges from the audience and flies off to take down the man that’s caused him so much misery with a shoulder block.

“Well you got mine now you @$$hole! WHERE’S KANDI!?”

No! Not now, not so soon.

“Stop yammering. Simple answer. Where is Kandi Reed…? TELL ME NOW!!!”

What is a lover?

“Wrong answer!”

Taylor hits the stranger with a roundhouse kick, delivering all his fury & frustration to the stranger’s neck!

A lover makes one complete. A lover cares for one which one can’t for oneself. A lover gives joy, happiness, and so much more!

“What is it with you!?” Taylor is irate as he kicks the stranger in the chest.

But the one thing a lover must do above all else, is protect. Protect from all dangers and evils there might be.

Taylor has had enough as he grabs the stranger up by the shirt.

You are about to fail as a lover.

“What?”

The stranger kicks Sean Taylor in the gut and hits him with an uppercut that causes Sean to bleed from the nose.

You failed to protect her. You WILL fail to protect her now.

Taylor instinctively tries to fight back as the stranger grabs him and hits a Russian leg sweep. Taylor appears dazed as he can’t figure out exactly what’s going on around him.

Just like you failed me.

“Who… are.. you?” Sean can only mutter as he grabs the stranger’s face and tries to rub off the face paint.

Who else? I’m the one you left behind all these years.

Despite the haze and confusion, Sean’s expression can tell just who he’s looking at as the face paint is removed.

“Brett??”

You remember.

The stranger grabs Taylor by the arm and whips him into the steel steps near the ring. Taylor writhes in pain and agony as he recoils from the impact.

Come on Sean, you were trained better than that! I should know.

“You can’t be Brett. He’d never do this to me. Brett Force was my friend!”

That’s right Sean. I’m your friend.

The stranger, revealing himself to be Sean Taylor’s friend and mentor; the legendary Brett “The Crippler” Force, simply watches as Taylor staggers towards him, staring at him in disbelief.

“How dare you! Brett Force is dead. How dare you defile his memory?!”

Believe what you will. I’m only here to help you be better.

Taylor tries to go for another attack but he can feel his movements are too strained, as if the confusing state he’s in is affecting his motor functions. Trying too hard to make a move, Taylor is too slow for Brett Force, who grabs him and hits a DDT.

I’ll help you Sean. Like they can’t. Like Waring can’t. Like Nero can’t. Like SHE can’t.

Its only when he mentions it does Taylor realize there’s too much to process. Events happening since last night are overwhelming his mind. First Waring, then Kandi, and now his dead friend & mentor is here in front of him, ruining his life.

You abandoned me Sean; I’m not holding it against you. But you abandoned her. There’s a price to pay.

Its only when the crowd surrounding them reacts in awe when Taylor realizes something is wrong. Taylor manages to get up and look towards the universatron when he looks in horror. Right next to it above the stage, a wooden cage hangs with an unconscious Kandi Reed inside.

“NO! GET HER DOWN FROM THERE!”

You can still save her Sean. You can still try.

Taylor musters up all his remaining strength and runs across ringside towards the ramp. He tries to be fast enough, but can only watch in horror as the cage is released and it crashes down below the stage in a heap of wooden crates!

But you won’t.

Taylor is too late to try and save Kandi from her fate, as she fell from at least 20 feet with wood breaking around her. As Taylor removes the debris from around her, he falls to his knees in devastation of the sight before her. EMTs arrive to carefully and slowly pick up the battered and bruised body of Kandi Reed, as she is in a mess. With broken shards and splinters of wood all around her, she’ll live but it will be a while before she can be conscious before even move. Taylor looks completely hopeless and has no idea what’s happening around him when Brett starts choking him from behind.

You were supposed to protect her. You left her to get caught. What did you think was going to happen?

Taylor tries to struggle out of the chokehold but Brett has him caught pretty hard.

You leave her exposed to any threat. You should be there for her always. You’ve got to learn such carelessness has consequences.

Brett releases the hold and turns Taylor around to grab him by the throat.

Here’s something else you don’t know. She didn’t stop me when I took the ring off her. Why do you think that is?

Taylor’s eyes are a boiling pot of emotion. Rage, sorrow, fear, hopelessness; he really can’t keep them altogether. Brett releases his throat but hits Taylor with the ultimate embarrassment, the Bloodrush. The crowd falls silent as they witness the coup de grace to such a horrifying experience.

No friends. No lovers. No distractions. But I’m not done with you yet!

================================================

LESSON TWO – No Lovers

As he enters the arena for MainFrame, Sean Taylor feels like the happiest man alive. Last night, he retained his World Heavyweight Championship and took the next big step of his life when he finally popped the question to Kandi Reed. To think that these two remain at odds with each other ever since they came to EUWC is a huge understatement, but it’s obvious that both just can’t stand to be without each other. And what better way to be together than commiting to each other forever.

“But we can’t get married!” Taylor recalls Kandi telling him last night when he presented her the ring. “We argue all the time, we can’t stand each other, and half the time we never agree to each other’s point of view!”

“Well, that’s what a marriage is supposed to be!” Taylor responded confidently, but deep down he remained nervous, more nervous than he’s ever been all his life. And for once, he was happy that Kandi agreed with him when she said yes.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face here!”

Taylor snaps out of his dream and groans. It takes him a fifth of a second to realize that the voice could belong to none other than Matt Pickstock, EUWC’s resident pain-in-the-ass, and CEO when he’s not busy. He’s flanked by EUWC Directors Michael Colin Briggs and Leo Silver. That’s a group you never see together.

“Just when my day couldn’t get any happier, you have to come up and ruin everything by just showing up. And why wouldn’t I show up Matt-o? In case you’ve forgotten again, I’m still the World Heavyweight Champion around here, so…”

“Don’t get cute with me!” Pickstock interjects quite angrily, “You know damn well what you did, and if it were up to me you’d be in jail right now, getting what you deserve for what you did!”

“Taylor, please pardon this whole thing,” Briggs finally speaks out, “but apparently you’re not aware of what happened. Last night, T. Waring was viciously assaulted next to his car in the parking lot after Superiority.”

“What?! Are you serious?”

“I do not kid. He’s in a hospital right now and in really bad shape. However when the medics crew got to him, they were able to hear him mutter “Taylor” before he passed out. And we’ve also been informed that you were the last person to meet Waring in the locker room.”

“Let me guess, it was that moron Nero! You really going to take his word for it?!”

“Then let’s hear it from you” Briggs asks politely, “Didn’t you meet Waring last night in the locker room?”

“Well yeah, I did, but we just talked about how our matches went and stuff. It was nothing antagonizing; we just talked.”

“Yeah, I bet you were all chummy!” Pickstock smirks as he speaks. “All I know is that I’ve got a talent out of commission because someone took him out really bad. And right now you’re suspect number one! So don’t you leave this building, because if Waring manages to press charges you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

Taylor looks at Pickstock in disgust, who just walks away with Briggs while Silver stays behind.

“Look Leo, I honestly don’t know what happened. Waring’s a good guy, and I do feel bad about what happened to him. But believe me, I did not attack him.”

“I do want to believe Sean.” Silver finally speaks. “But you will have to cooperate if the cops ask you. So you might as well tell me first, what happened after you two ‘talked’”.

“Sure, we talked and he headed out with his bag.”

“And you stayed in the building?”

“Well yeah, I went and met… Kandi…”

Silver raises an eyebrow for Taylor’s hesitation. “Kandi Reed? And then?”

“We went out.”

“So you headed to the parking lot?”

“No my limo came up front, so we went out the front entrance. You can ask Kandi if you want.”

“I will. Let’s hope for the best.”

Silver leaves Taylor behind as Taylor is now concerned. Is this another one of Pickstock’s stupid schemes? And who could possibly have taken Waring out this badly?

——————————————————————————————-

Kandi Reed is sitting in the make-up room, admiring her new prize; the diamond engagement ring that Sean Taylor presented her just last night. Words obviously can’t express what she’s feeling right now when Staci Seymore enters the room.

“Oh my God!” Staci exclaims, “Is that what I think it is?”

“I know!” Kandi replies, overjoyed. “I can’t believe it either! It finally happened after all these years. It took him long enough but he finally came around.”

“So spill already! Who’s the lucky prince charming?”

“Well, don’t tell anyone just yet because we don’t want it to be public yet. Its Sean.”

“Sean?” Staci’s expression turns from happiness to despair. “Sean Taylor?”

“I know, right?”

“Look Kandi, this isn’t the best idea…”

“Oh come on Stace, I know you obviously have the raw end of your deal with Nero, but maybe the pink pants are a sign really…”

“No it’s not that. I don’t think you’ve heard.”

“Heard what?”

Staci painfully informs her colleague of what happened to T. Waring, and how Taylor is currently suspect number one. Kandi is horrified at what she hears, but doesn’t believe it at all.

“No it’s not true. Sean couldn’t have done it. He was with me the whole time last night.”

“The whole time?” Staci wonders, “You mean…”

“Well, yeah.”

“Oh,” Staci realizes, taking a deep breath, “Well if that’s what happened, then you’ve gotta go talk to Pickstock or Briggs. They’re holding off the cops from getting to Taylor.”

“Well then let’s go!” Kandi gets up, as does Staci, “I’ll tell them that Sean couldn’t possibly have done anything to Waring.”

No, but I did.

“What?”

Staci turns to see the stranger dressed in black shoving Kandi into a chair! Staci is shocked but tries to tackle the stranger anyway, who simply shoves her away towards the door.

Sean Taylor lacks the strength to do what I did. I’m here to fix that.

Kandi gets up and tries to throw a bottle at the stranger, who simply evades it. He quickly catches her wrist.

Precious. Jewels are precious.

He twists her hand and wrist, while leering right at the ring on Kandi’s finger.

You are precious to HIM. You love him. And he loves you. You can cause him great joy. But you cause him great pain.

Staci leaps behind the stranger and grabs his neck from behind. However he simply pulls her from her hair and tosses her into the coffee table, knocking her out!

You WILL cause him great pain. And the pain will make him stronger.

He slaps the face of Kandi which hits a nearby vase, knocking her out.

Lesson Two is almost over.

================================================

 

LESSON ONE – No Friends

What is a hero?

If a child reads a fairy tale, it’s the handsome prince which saves the damsel in distress, and they all live happily ever after. If there’s a building on fire, it’s a courageous fireman who’ll make sure that no soul is left behind. If there’s a country in apartheid for nearly half a century, it is a man that resolves to combat poverty & inequality.

People look up to heroes. They admire the courage, the bravery, the will of heroes. To them, heroes are symbols. They are symbols of hope. Heroes are brave, courageous, strong-willed, and above all else, incorruptible.

I’m not the hero of this story…

——————————————————————————————

Superiority has come and gone. Another night, another successful title defense for Sean Taylor. Sitting on a bench, he gazes into the World Heavyweight Championship, remnants of sweat still dripping from his forehead. He knew Braden Kincaid was going to be hungry, because this was a one in a lifetime opportunity to shine on the grandest stage of them all. So he’d have to be hungrier, he’d have to want it more than anyone else, and especially Kincaid. Now that he’s retained the title, Taylor will live to fight another day while Kincaid will bounce back, because the heartbreak of losing on the first try will make him want it more. But that’s all for another day.

“Marvelous, isn’t it?”

Taylor looks up to see “The Commander” T. Waring enter the locker room area and sit himself down at the bench next to him. No longer the International Champion, this visit does pose quite a few questions. While he and Taylor aren’t adversaries, they don’t seem to be friends either.

“Yeah it is. Sorry about your match though…”

“Yes well, it won’t bother me long. Classy isn’t getting away with my title just this easily. Still though, congratulations on retaining the big one. Maybe someday though, you and I can finally have a chance to compete for that very same belt.”

“This isn’t a challenge, is it?”

 “Oh don’t get me wrong. I have had nothing but utmost respect for you since I joined the EUWC. In fact, you were one of the deciding factors for me when I signed the contract. Everything you’ve done, and every insurmountable challenge that you’ve overcome here is an inspiration to many young up-and-comers, myself included.”

 “I appreciate that…”

 “And yeah, it is a shame that we haven’t had a proper match, but do know that when given the chance, you can count on me bringing everything to the table. It is the World Title after all.”

 “You know what, I’d expect nothing less. And I’ll hold you to it.”

Both men shake on it, a mutual agreement between two colleagues if not friends.

 “Anyways”, Taylor gets up from his bench and opens his locker, “I’ve got something else that I need to take care of soon…”

As if on cue, a small blue box falls from Taylor’s locker and makes it way between the benches. The rolling causes the lid to prop open.

 “Oh whats this?” Waring says as he bends over to pick it up.

 “Oh it’s nothing…” Taylor replies, trying to grab it before Waring does but fails. Waring picks up the box and holds it up to Taylor, who looks flushed.

“Is this an engagement ring?”

No sooner as Waring holds up the box when a shadow falls between them. Both look to see Nero leaving with his gym bag, mouth agape at what he sees.

“No… more… purple pant jokes… and I’ll forget about this.” Nero manages to say before he turns around to leave.

“Whoa wait! It’s not what you think you moron!”

“Let him be,” Waring remarks coolly as Nero has left, “why waste your breath. Besides, what’s the worse he can do?”

Taylor calms down, “You’re right, it’s pointless.”

 “So, let me guess. A high school sweetheart? The love of your life?”

 “Actually,” Taylor replies as he takes back the box, “don’t mention this to anyone but it’s someone I’ve been working with for a long time now. I know we can’t stand each other, but it seems like the perfect thing for me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strongly about something in my whole life.”

“Ah, I get it. Well congratulations again my friend. And don’t worry,” Waring gets off his bench, “my lips are sealed.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that too.”

Another handshake and Waring departs, as Taylor ponders. Friend, that’s one thing he doesn’t have too many of. Taylor smiles as he looks at the ring.

——————————————————————————————-

You’re a friend.

“What?” Waring replies, as he turns around, looking for the voice that called here in the shadows of the parking lot.

But what is a friend?

Waring puts his bag down next to his car while he looks around intently.

“This isn’t funny. Whoever you are, show yourself.”

You didn’t answer.

Waring turns towards his car when he faces him. A man nearly his height with short brown hair, dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans with black gloves. And the face of contempt.

What is a friend?

“What are you blabbering about? Who are you?”

I’ll tell you.

Waring gets a knee to the gut and the stranger punches him right in the face. Waring tries to fight back with a punch, but it’s effectively blocked.

A friend is someone to trust, someone to confide in.

Waring thrusts the stranger and shoves him to the ground, however the stranger rolls on his back and flips Waring away.

A friend watches your back, and helps you get up when you fall.

Waring appears dazed and almost blinded as he looks around for the stranger, who hits Waring with an elbow to the neck.

But that definition is flawed. Instead of picking one up from a fall, a friend should make one strong enough to keep standing.

Waring is whipped right into his car, causing a huge dent in the door and a scream of agony from “The Commander.” The stranger stands over the fallen Waring.

You’re a friend. You’re HIS friend. But you will not be by his side. You will not stop me. Sean Taylor will learn. I will teach him.

“Ttt—Taylor?” Waring slowly gets up against his car, trying to catch his breath, “I won’t… let you hurt… him…”

Hurt?

The stranger kicks Waring hard in the gut into the car, inflicting more pain on a bruised Commander.

I’m not going to hurt him.

The stranger opens the car door and puts Waring halfway inside.

I’m not going to hurt him at all!

With immense force, the stranger slams the door right at Waring’s ribs, with his back hitting the car pillar! The stranger does this again and finally for a third time till “the Commander falls, bleeding from the mouth.

I’m going to help him. I’m going to make him stronger.

Waring is unconscious, bleeding and breathing heavily but not moving at all. The stranger turns around to leave.

You won’t be there for him. You won’t be his friend. Lesson One is done. Time for Lesson Two…

================================================