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Location: Where the English people live.
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DJS

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Jun 11 2018, 02:38 AM




San Diego. Morning.

The sky is grey but it's not rainy or bad. Just very, very early. The streets are almost bare, and quiet enough is the world that the rustle of wind on the trees is the only real sound we can hear. Soon, though, another noise accompanies it. Footsteps. Rather rapid foot-steps, too, belonging to not just one but two people. Dressed in work-out gear, Amy Taylor leads a run followed by her client, the Worst of the Pavees, Emery Layton. The King Cobra Champion of Union Battleground is nearly out of breath, feeling the burn. Amy, however, is right and ready.


EMERY LAYTON:
Okay...okay...


They slow down until eventually, they stop. Em doubles over, panting for breath. Amy drinks her water, leaning on a bench as she watches Em.

AMY TAYLOR:
You good?

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah. Yeah I'm okay just...whew.

AMY TAYLOR:
I had expected you to keep up more.

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah, me too. Won like a million titles or something and I can't even keep up with my manager. Losing my touch.

AMY TAYLOR:
Oh, you kept up fine. Lets sit down. You bring water?

EMERY LAYTON:
Nah, forgot it.


Amy passes the water bottle over to her and they sit. Em downs it like it's a bottle of wine and hands it back to Amy.

EMERY LAYTON:
I ain't had a running partner for a long time. I like to keep it at my own pace, y'know? Forgot how much attention you gotta pay to someone else while you're doing it.

AMY TAYLOR:
On the subject of running partners, I've er...I've had a look. Reached out to a few people about your friend.

EMERY LAYTON:
And...?

AMY TAYLOR:
Nothing. No one's heard the name 'Aki Yasuko' that I know of. You sure she didn't have any other names? Wrestling's full of that sort of thing.


Em sits back, curling her lip.

EMERY LAYTON:
Not that I knew of. I'm starting to think she had more secrets, though. I can tell you she definitely doesn't wanna be found. If she knows we're looking, she'll be making it difficult.


They pause for breath. Amy takes a drink of water.

AMY TAYLOR:
You never told me about the last time you saw her. I know Chelsea's story, I know Serena's. I don't know Yasuko's. Mind if we talk about it? I mean, we don't have it, it just might make it easier if I knew from your point of view...

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah, yeah, it's fine. It's just...three years, y'know? Long time ago. Long time...




Much has changed for the Runaways. A year ago, a Faustin deal pulled the tormented Serena Maxwell into madness. Several months ago, Chelsea Ray fled Tokyo to escape a group...but paid before she could.

Now, only two remain in the Winter.

Emery Layton and Aki Yasuko- best friends, life partners- have made moves in the Joshi leagues, finding work as a tag team recently since Yasuko was able to get her knee fixed...but even the functional still have demons.

But right now, they're not wrestling. Rather, they're climbing. Step by step, Emery- with an oversized rucksack on her back- leads Yasuko up a pathway. Snow is splattering in their faces and all around them. It's Winter, and they're fighting the cold to conquer Mount Fuji.

"Come on! Comeoncomeoncomeon," barks Emery, like an excited Golden Retriever, "they said 'six hours'. I already tried this last year and I didn't even make it this far. I wanna see the world from the summit!" Yasuko- with a big old stick to help her up those steep, steep hillsides- tries her best to keep up. 'Six hours?' she thinks. It's been four already! "Yeah okay...I'll be there. Just gimme a few moments..." Though Yasuko is up for anything, she wishes she could go back to the safety of the tea house. Em, positively bouncing away, shows a little restraint as she watches Yasuko sit down on a pile of rocks. "Say you tried to climb this once before yeah?", Yasuko calls, "well there's a saying- a wise person will climb Mount Fuji once in their lifetime, but a fool climbs it twice." Em grins. "Well, I never reached the top, so the first time don't count! I got a good feeling, though."

The young Pavee turns her attention to the world below them. They're not even at the top, but they're already up so high. Another big push, Em reckons. Just another big push and they'll be at the top. But right now, as they look down, Emery can't hide the grin. "Look at that. When I was a kid, I had a little scrapbook. Loadsa different places I wanted to visit. Not to live there, just...just to see 'em, know what I mean? Loadsa different places..." Emery looks around her, sitting down cross-legged and just touching the ground on the mountain. Experiencing it. "Canada, Florida, Australia, all over the place, really. Came here last year, just on my own, not Chelsea or Serena or anything, managed to scrape together the money myself. Tried to climb this mountain and just couldn't. Too young. Too daft. Guess I wasn't ready. Wasn't ready for a lotta things. Still ain't really...but then again, who is, eh?" She taps her knees. "But this time I got you! How's that for--"

Em stops. Yasuko is doubled over- hands over her abdomen, head down to the ground- spluttering and coughing like her lungs are trying to escape. Emery, eyes wide, runs across. Yasuko looks up at her, shaking her head, but she is literally almost purple in the face. "Leave it," she demands, but Em isn't having it, as she fishes in her bag for something- anything. Pulling out a bottle of water, Em presents it to Yasuko, but she doesn't take it, once again telling her "leave it!" She pushes the bottle away as the coughing stops. Pushing the hair out of her face, Yasuko's eyes are red-raw, streaming like Niagra Falls. Emery looks up to the summit...and then down to the ground. The safer, forgiving ground. The snow and the cold are waiting for them at the top.

Emery looks back up.

"Next time."

She grabs Yasuko's hand and pulls her up to her feet, linking arms with her. She can feel how weak she is. How frail. Yasuko, begrudgingly, obliges. Through the falling snow, Emery helps her friend.

Even the functional have demons.




In Melbourne, a clock chimes in the distance to signal midnight has arrived. Stood out on her balcony with a glass of wine is Chelsea Ray- alone, contemplative, watching the stars as they begin to flicker. A few moments later, she hears a knock at her door and turns. It's midnight- who on Earth could this be? It's twelve. Best not be that weird guy from upstairs again. She decides to leave it. Couldn't be important.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Finally, rolling her eyes, Chelsea turns on her heel and approaches the door, but not without muttering several four-letter words under her breath. She checks her security system, a little camera installed at the side of her door, just to make sure it's not some idiot kids. Oh, but it's not. It's so not.


CHELSEA RAY:
Oh my God...


She drops her glass on the floor, which smashing the glass. Wine goes everywhere. She opens the door to be faced with a ghost from the past, leaning on her door frame.

YASUKO:
You would not believe how long it took me to find you.


Chelsea is stunned silent. Yasuko raises her eyebrows.

YASUKO:
...Can I come in or...?


Chelsea nods slowly, stepping aside. Yasuko steps over the broken glass, pointing to the the puddle of wine.

YASUKO:
That's gonna stain your carpet.

CHELSEA RAY:
Never mind the bloody carpet!


Chelsea embraces Yasuko immediately. Yasuko returns it, but only after a moment of hesitation. It's been a while since anyone has shown her this sort of affection and she's taken aback. Chelsea lets go, stepping back.

CHELSEA RAY:
I can't believe this. I actually can't. I always said you'd come back. I need to call Emery and let her know know you're--


Yasuko raises her finger.

YASUKO:
No. Don't call Emery.

CHELSEA RAY:
I don't get it. Why not? What happened to you, Yasuko?

YASUKO:
I need somewhere to stay. Promise you'll leave Emery to me and I'll tell you everything. Promise me.

CHELSEA RAY:
Okay. I promise.

YASUKO:
You're gonna wanna sit down for this...




"We need to do something about this."

Em and Yasuko are no longer up Mount Fuji. Now, they are back at a small Tea House, belonging to a small, kind old man called Akihiko. He sets down two cups of steaming tea for Em and Yasuko, who sit opposite each other, on the floor, with a table in-between. "If they find out you got this," Em begins, "no one's gonna book you. There's gotta be something you can do to get over this div..dov...thing you got." Yasuko takes a swig of Tea. "Diverticulitis. My mother had it. Could be genetic. Although I only really read Wikipedia, I dunno if that's a real thing. All I know is I need surgery for it. And loads of medication. Can't really do that right now. Can't afford it." Emery raises her eyebrows.

"Okay...well...we'll fight this. I mean you got your leg fixed up. We can get your diverticulations fixed up too." Yasuko shakes her head. She never quite knows when Emery is being serious or trying to make her laugh. The Worst of the Pavees leans forward, "and then, we'll go climb that mountain. We'll climb EVERY mountain!" Yasuko cuts in, "are you about to burst into song?" Em puts her hand on Yasuko's forearm, which is sat on the table. "We'll fight this. You and me. We'll fight this. You said we'd rule the world and we're gonna do it." Yasuko blinks. "Is there ever a moment where you're not sickeningly optimistic?" Em shrugs. "Not in your life."




Em and Amy are still sat on the bench.

EMERY LAYTON:
Diverticulitis. Took me three years to learn how to say that. That's what she reckons she had.

AMY TAYLOR:
And you reckon that had something to do with it?

EMERY LAYTON:
I dunno. What I do know is Yasuko never liked being 'weak', know what I mean? Like, she was the kind of person who thought that you should make things happen for yourself no matter who gets in your way. Think it's cos of how her parents used to treat her. They wanted her to be something else, get a real profession, don't go down the 'wrestling route'. She cast them outta her life, never thought about them again. Guess she thought, in a way, the illness was something from her Ma, passed down to control her all over again.

AMY TAYLOR:
But she couldn't have helped that- it was a sudden illness.

EMERY LAYTON:
She knew about it already. I don't think it was so sudden.

AMY TAYLOR:
So what happened next?

EMERY LAYTON:
Well, we went out that night...probably shouldn't have, to be fair. And that was it. That was where we had our last conversation. Wish it had gone another way...




The dark and the snow isn't enough to deter the bright, vibrant lights of Tokyo. It's like a city from the distant future, but happening now. There's hustle and bustle from it's people, but right now, we focus on a small club in the middle of all of it. Martika's 'Toy Soldiers' plays in the crowded, somewhat futuristic-looking establishment. It's like Blade Runner jumped out the screen and shoved it's self into a small building in the middle of Tokyo, but with more Martika playing, obviously. As we walk in, we follow Emery as she has small albeit rather meaningless conversations with people on her way to the bar. A little 'what's the craic' here and an 'oi oi, looking sharp' there, nothing too fancy. It's been a few hours since they came out, so naturally she's not managed to avoid the clutches of the monster they call 'Tispy'.

Sat at the bar with a big bottle in her hand, generally moping around, is Yasuko. She too has had a bit to drink, and unfortunately it's not had the same effect on her as it has on Emery. Instead, Yasuko thinks. She remembers, and not necessarily in a sentimental way, more out of spite. She's almost as bitter as the drink she's got in her hands. Em reaches the bar, sitting next to her. "Here's trouble! How's everything?" Yasuko doesn't respond. Emery turns around on the spinning stool, being discreet. "If you're feeling brave, there's a blonde over my shoulder who's been eyeing you up all night. Small thing, cute, probably all yours if you go over and have a chat." Yasuko takes a massive swig of her bottle. "I'm not in the mood for guys tonight, Em." Em shakes her head. "Oh no, not a guy." Yasuko slams her bottle down, looking up at Emery. The young pavee shrugs- "what? I known you a year. You think I didn't know? Ain't no flies on me." Yasuko laughs, "so that's what kept around..." Em is silent. There is a pause. Yasuko shakes her head, grunting. "Either way, not in the mood for people right now. No thanks."

Em watches as Yasuko pours her drink down her throat, quite violently too. Emery can drink with the best of them and is all for a good time, but this seems different. Before Yasuko takes her final swig, Emery reaches forward and grabs Yasuko's wrist, keeping it in place. "Maybe that's enough, yeah?" Yasuko looks up. She is slow, lumbering and numb. "Actually," she begins, "I think I'm good. Everyone else here is drinking, why can't I?"
"You know why," Emery retorts, quickly.

Yasuko pulls her arm away, smacking the bottle onto the bar and turning around to watch them. The dancing masses. The drunken gaggle. She smirks, which quickly turns into a sneer. "Look at them. Look at this lot. All they're gonna care about after they've left this place is the next time they can come back. Their normal little lives. Meanwhile, there's a war going on underneath their skins." Yasuko brings her drink towards her, swinging it back. "People spend life fighting themselves, Em. And then they spend their lives fighting each other just so they can go off and fight themselves in peace. How silly is that? People can be so much more...and they choose not to be." She turns to Emery. "I won't be like them, Emery. I wasn't put here to be like them!" Em places her hand on Yasuko's shoulder. "Oi, take it easy," but as soon as she's got her hand on her, Yasuko pushes it off in a manner Em has never seen before from her. "I'll take it easy when the rest of the world wakes up and realises it's changing. I'm sick of walking into promotions full of people who are just 'glad to be there' when I'm going outta my way to get my leg fixed so I can be at the top of it all and then boom, I'm sick. I gotta get more surgery. I might even have to go back to..." Yasuko stops herself.

Em considers everything she's said- clearly it's the drink talking. And yet, if she's learned anything about being around drunk people, it's that they don't often lie about how they feel. Embellish, maybe, but not lie. Em looks out to the same crowd of people. "Y'know who I see out here? People who just wanna have a good time. People who wanna make the most of their lives. Maybe they are thinking about the next time they'll come here but that don't make it wrong. Sometimes, you don't have to fight people off to rule the world, you just gotta see it. Be IN it. I also think maybe we've had a bit too much to drink and we should go ho--"
"No!"
Yasuko cuts Emery off immediately. Standing up and nearly stumbling, Yasuko's glazed eyes try as hard as they can to fix on Em's, as people now begin to take notice. "This...this is your problem. Emery, love you to death but you just don't get it. You're an optimist and I'm a realist. You think 'you'll get there' is enough but it's not!" Yasuko wipes her forehead and points at Em. "You left your family behind cos you wanted to be something better and so did I! All I wanted to do was wrestle, but instead, I ended up in a world where the only way to get ahead was to get rid of people in your way, and y'know what? You should know that first hand, Em. Last year, Serena got rid of us and she's better off for it. Whisper's War got rid of Chelsea and she's worse off for it while they thrive! We go out there, we 'wrestle really well' but no one wants a piece of us!" Em stands up. There's no smile, no twinkle in her eye, no trace of her usual cheer. "Lets. Go. Home." Yasuko shakes her hand. "No, cos I want you to know something- the world is changing, and it's people like us who are gonna have to lead it. One day, Em, one day you're gonna be somewhere. You're gonna be somewhere new and the old guard aren't gonna like that you're there. They're gonna wanna put you out before you can take away what they've 'built' and the only way you're gonna get by is by taking them out yourself." Yasuko coughs twice. Her voice gets hoarse. "I know I'm gonna beat this, because when that day comes, I'm gonna be there, I'm gonna fight whoever doesn't want me around and you'll either be with me or against--"

She has to stop. Doubling over, Yasuko coughs and splutters like a broken machine. Looking up at Em, Yasuko's blood-shot eyes water. Brushing her hair back, she sits up. She feels weak, which only frustrates her more. "I can't do any of this while I am the way I am." Em puts her hand on her back but Yasuko pushes it away, again. And for Em, that's the last straw. "I get what you're saying," says Emery, "but I just don't agree with you." Finally, she's had enough. Em stands, dusting herself down. "Catch you later. You should really go talk to the blonde over there. Maybe she'll understand you." And Emery Layton leaves Aki Yasuko to her own devices, pushing her way through the crowd of people.

She looks back, one last time, as the vision of Yasuko fades away into the night.

Gone.

***


Emery hadn't gone home last night, and neither had Yasuko. Woken up down an alley-way by a cat licking her fingers, Em sits up. Her head feels like it's been whacked by a million hammers and her stomach, ooh her stomach. Nevertheless, Emery has felt this before and knows how to deal with it. Time to go home, get some tea and proper sleep, maybe sit on her camper-bed feeling sorry for herself. But above all else, she needs to talk to Yasuko and smooth things over. So off she goes, journeying to Akihiko's tea house. Alone.

Once there, Emery struggles not to crawl through the door like a wayward stray. Her head pounds. Akihiko is brushing away the dust on the floor. He looks up. "Thought you leave." "No," Em says, "just out for the night. Yasuko been back yet? We gotta have a chat." Akihiko brushes away. "She come. She take things. She leave in night." It takes a few moments for Emery to process what she's just heard. But rather than press answers from Akihiko, she darts across towards her room.

Emery bursts in. Everything on her side is still there. Yasuko's side is bare, except for her bed and her beanie hat, which she must have left behind. She's gone.

The remainder of the day is the most frantic Emery has ever been. She calls Yasuko, but receives no response. She looks through the room for clues, but finds nothing. She leaves the tea house and goes back into Tokyo, back to the bar. They cannot tell her where she went- they don't know. No one in the world knows where Aki Yasuko is, and if they do, they're not telling Emery.

She visits all the old haunts but does not find her. In the evening, as Emery sits on a wall and through the tears, she finds herself having to accept it as fact now- Aki Yasuko has gone, and she never told her why. Maybe it was the argument. Maybe she gave up. Maybe someone took her. Maybe she went to get help.

Emery has no answers, and it seems until she speaks to Yasuko herself, she never will.




Em is sat, resting her jaw on her hands and her elbows on her knees. Amy listens, intently.

EMERY LAYTON:
And that was it. I didn't know what else to do. She'd gone and...I didn't know whether I felt responsible for it. I still don't.

AMY TAYLOR:
But she left of her own accord, it seems? You didn't send her off, she left.

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah but at that point, I'd let Serena go nuts without doing anything and I'd let Chelsea go off to face Whisper. I just felt like this was another where if I'd have said or done something else it would be different. I coulda helped her. I wanted to help her.


She pauses for a moment.

EMERY LAYTON:
See it's different with Yasuko. I can talk to Serena. Might not get much sense out of her and she might try to kill me, but the option's there. I still see Chelsea whenever I can. I haven't a clue where Yasuko is. I dunno how she feels about me anymore. And the thing is, you move forward as much as you want but just cos you don't look back don't mean you can't have closure.

AMY TAYLOR:
And we'll get it. We'll keep looking. She's out there somewhere and we'll find her.


Em nods.

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah. But one thing I did know- I still had to make a living. if I was gonna be on my own, I'd need to work harder. I had to keep on running. See one of the first things Yasuko ever said to me was that 'belief' was all some people need. Well I believed in myself. I know she did...and far as I cared, that was all I was gonna need.




And then there was one.

Emery Layton used to have Serena Maxwell. She had Chelsea Ray. And now, Aki Yasuko is another 'used to have' for her collection. Alone in the world with nothing to remember her friend but a hat and memories. She took everything else. She wants nothing to do with her.

Well, fine. Five years ago, Emery Layton ran away from home to become a wrestler and be someone in this world...but then she got complacent. She put too much of herself into other people.

Time to live by her own mantra 'Always Forward.' If she's going to be on her own, if she's going to have to fend for herself then so be it. If she's the Last of the Runaways...then time to show the world how fast she can go. Emery takes Yasuko's beanie hat. She places it on her head and from this day forth, she begins to run and, if she can help it, she'll never, ever stop.

The eyes of the wrestling world very rarely pass over you, unless you're very lucky. And it takes a lot. It takes her a while, but after a few months in Japan, they start to notice.

And Emery continues.

QUOTE
"--lost to some tiny thing called...Emily, was it?"
"Emery. I've not seen a lot from her, she seems good. Bit nervous, but eager. She got the win over--"


It's not always wins. There are losses along the way too, but that's not enough to deter her. It's like Chelsea said 'Be Someone.' With every passing match, Emery grows in confidence. No one's cheering yet, but they will. Just keep grinding. No one's noticed yet, but keep fighting.

And Emery continues.

QUOTE
"--had a brilliant match with that Irish girl."
"Yeah, the crowd literally went 'wow' when she back-flipped under that girl's arm to dodge a clothesline- never seen that before!"


Emery is bruised. More bruised now than she's ever been, stitching her own wounds. And yet, she keeps going. Slowly, but surely, people begin to recognise her. Those who know what she can do support her greatly, and those who don't know begin to. Little by little. At a show in Osaka, she pounces off the rope, grabbing the neck of her opponent and driving their head into the ground. It's the first time she'll do it. It's not the last. A phone raises in tha air to capture the moment.

And Emery continues.

QUOTE
"It's been going around on Facebook, have you seen this girl fly through the air, it's amazing--"
"--never seen anything like--"
"--On commentary they said she called it the 'Prikasa'--"


It doesn't go un-noticed. Soon, a promoter in Mexico flies her in to work with the luchadores. The first time anyone has ever flown her into another country. She fights all sorts- lucha libre vets, high flyers and death-defiers, good men going to war and bad people trying to start one, the strong and the weak and even a man who wrestles in a sheet trying to look like a ghost. As they learn her name, Emery Layton hears it chanted in arenas across Mexico. Like a familiar rhythm, it flows its way through her body, a song she must always dance to.

And Emery continues.

QUOTE
"--Absolutely making waves in Mexico now, Emery Layton."
"I keep hearing her name, it's gotta be a matter of time till a big company sees her potential and--"


Emery comes back to Japan months later- red hair, leather jacket, fingerless gloves, still with Yasuko's beanie- a returning hero. She's faster now- tougher, crisper, more agile, more inclined to take risks. And something else? Never turning down the option to get a mic in her face.

"--And lemme tell ya, man, you wanna step in there with me, you got yourself a whole new problem...you got yourself an--"

QUOTE
"--'Emery Layton problem', she said. And a problem he most certainly had. The girl came out to a song by VAST and didn't let up once after it finished."
"Is she signed yet? Come on, she's just gotta get signed."
"Well yeah, y'know, ya gotta think they're watching. The feeling is something's coming for her but, I mean--"


And Emery continues.

She continues and continues and continues. In all weathers, all conditions, under every circumstance. The wrestling world was looking elsewhere before, but she's nigh-impossible to ignore. While the ELITE dominate the wrestling business and Survivors try to steal it back, on the outskirts, this young girl absolutely Will Not Stop. Concussion? Broken wrist? Dislocated finger? Doesn't matter. She never stops. Prikasa after Prikasa after Prikasa on any person who bothers to exist in the same ring as her.

QUOTE
"WHEN is someone gonna sign--"


Prikasa here. Wuthering Heights there.

QUOTE
"--Will Someone SIGN--"


An 'Em had your Da' shirt here and a dancing entrance there.

QUOTE
"--Why has NO ONE signed--"


One last push.

QUOTE
"Sources say they're close to signing--"


Bang.

The contract slams onto the table. Emery stares at it for a few seconds- more in disbelief than anything- then looks up. She can hear the hustle and bustle of traffic in Chicago's streets through the walls of the office. Bella Quinn holds out a pen.

Emery signs. Bella Quinn smiles.

"Emery Layton, welcome to the XWA."

They shake hands. Emery Layton, for the first time in twenty four years, is someone.





Emery sits up.

EMERY LAYTON:
I became who I am cos I lost everyone else. And yeah, there were other friends along the way like Christina and whatnot but I had to lose to gain, and one day, just one day...I want her to see what I became like the rest of 'em did.

AMY TAYLOR:
And she will. I promise you, we'll make sure that happens. The minute I hear anything.

EMERY LAYTON:
Anyway- we stopped too long! We're supposed to be running, ain't we? Let's go.


And Emery and Amy take off into the morning mist.

-------

Chelsea Ray has poured herself another glass of wine. A larger glass, this time. Aki Yasuko has told her the whole story we've just heard, but from her point of view...and with a sandwich full of things she's nicked from Chelsea's fridge.

CHELSEA RAY:
Em told me about the argument. But you were ill and, well, you look fine.

YASUKO:
Thanks. I do my best.

CHELSEA RAY:
So...I mean, how? What happened?

YASUKO:
You can't tell Emery. Say it now for me. Say 'I won't tell Emery'.

CHELSEA RAY:
God, I won't tell Emery. Yasuko...what happened to you. Where did you go?


Yasuko dispondently finishes her sandwich, cleaning peanut butter off her fingers with her tongue. It looks as disgusting as you're imagining it.

YASUKO:
Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea...I was sick! Where do you go when you're sick?


Yasuko pauses.

YASUKO:
I just wish I hadn't. You wanna know who wronged me? Wanna know where I went? I'll tell you...


2015


"I can't do any of this while I am the way I am."

We're back at the bar in Tokyo. The last night, again. But this time, from Yasuko's side.

"I get what you're saying," Emery says, "but I just don't agree with you." Em stands, dusting herself down. "Catch you later. You should really go talk to the blonde over there. Maybe she'll understand you."

Emery Layton leaves. Yasuko watches her walk away and takes one final swig of her drink, listening to Martika jabbering on about 'step by step' and 'heart to heart' through the medium of song before she finally looks in the direction of the 'blonde' girl. When she spots her, Yasuko, somehow, goes paler. Their eyes meet.

Yasuko looks down at her knee. The knee she had fixed. She looks back up at the blonde girl. She knows her.

Her name is Isabella.

She looks to the exit, but Isabella's brothers are stood guard. If she leaves, they'll follow. Yasuko closes her eyes. She thought she'd escape them. She thought this day would never come. She thought it was just rumours. But you don't escape them.

Minutes later, she's followed them outside, down a dark alley. There are no bright lights or huge crowds of people. Only one man. A man in a cloak. The man who fixes you for 'a favor in the future'.

"I hope you appreciate the effort we went to..."

He walks towards her.

"...but it would appear we've finally found you, Yasuko. Perhaps in future, when going into hiding..."

The man approaches, step by step.

"You should Try Harder."

Dr. Adam Fenric and his family surround Yasuko.


To Be Continued...
Jun 3 2018, 11:57 PM

Previous Part: "Special"



A lovely, luxury penthouse apartment is the scene we begin on. As we open the door, we notice the lights are out until Richard J Maxwell illuminates the room with the hallway lights as he holds a bag of groceries. In his other hand, he has a phone pressed to his ear, and we catch him mid-conversation.

RICHARD J MAXWELL:
Yeah, yeah, and what we need is...I know! Shut up a minute, this wedding has got to have ALL the trimmings. Well no he's--he's not gonna be there but she is, and that's all that's important to me.


He pauses, listening.

RICHARD J MAXWELL:
I do not care if your boss thinks you 'can't marry' spectral energy, this is my sister you're talking about. I am not paying you for your opinion, I'm paying you people to plan this! Look, I've just got home, can we talk about this tomorrow? It's late. Yeah, whatever, bye.


With a beep, he hangs up. Putting down his bag of groceries on the side, he fumbles around trying to find a lamp when--

TAP!

The light appears to turn on independently. Except it doesn't.

???:
Well...this is familiar, isn't it?


Maxwell turns around to see someone sat in his chair, her hand coming away from a lamp. She has her hood up. We cannot see her face too well and neither can Maxwell.

RICHARD J MAXWELL:
Who the-- look, how did you get in here, I--

???:
Questions for later. Don't bother calling anyone, I'll be out of here as quick as I was in, you just watch me. I won't tell you who I am. You can call me Autumn for now. But I'll tell you why I'm here...




This isn't how you meet people. Not normal people.

Not unless you're in some sort of weird espionage film. She'd have been safer if she'd have found some scalpers outside Tokyo Dome, but still Chelsea Ray continues on with nothing but a text saying telling her to come to a car park three hours before the show and 'listen'. In any other profession, she'd have turned away from this, but in a business full of heroes and villains, this sort of thing is almost the norm. She made her choice- this is her life now.

Hearing nothing but her own footsteps, Chelsea stops to listen. Only a few moments pass as she stands alone on the ground floor of this two-storey car park, surrounded by silence. Some few seconds later, it's like her presence is felt as violins begin to play immediately followed by a voice...



Chelsea immediately begins to look up, hearing Etta James' voice echo. They're upstairs. Her phone vibrates to attention. She checks it. It's a text, and it says only one thing- 'do you hear it?' Suddenly, Chelsea gets it. It all makes sense. But why her? Everything in her brain tells her to get out, to just tell her friends Emery Layton and Aki Yasuko that she'd been deceived. They'd be crushed they wouldn't get to be there tonight, but at least they'd be safe. And yet...her curiosity is too much. She'd never know what they had to say to her, she'd live wondering for the rest of her life why they called her out of everyone. And for that very reason...Chelsea Ray ascends up the stairs. She follows the music.

When she reaches the second floor, Chelsea Ray is almost in disbelief of the fact they're stood there. Leaned up again a flash car stand two men- one quite average-sized but nonetheless still quite flash and the other in a completely black suit, completely dwarfing the other man with his height and build. He's like something out of a nightmare, but real. The smaller man, now clearly revealing himself as Richard J Maxwell, steps forward, removing his shades and holding three tickets in his hand.

"Chelsea! Aw, don't you just love Etta James? Gotta love the classics. Beyonce butchered this, I think!" bellows Maxwell, "I was worried you wouldn't show up, didn't wanna have to waste these tickets on someone else! Here..." He holds out the tickets. Chelsea cannot take her eyes off the larger man. She knows exactly who he is- she's heard the stories. If you gathered a load of normal people around a campfire, they'd tell stories about ghosts. Gather a load of wrestlers round one, they'd talk about him. They'd talk about Whisper. Chelsea looks at the tickets. 'Winner Takes All' they read, and they're front row seats. They're real and right there for her. She reaches out...but Maxwell snatches them back, that horrible little snort he calls 'laughter' coming out as he shakes his head and raises his finger.

"Actually...now I think about it, I've a little job for you." Chelsea's stomach drops. Oh no...not her. "What job?" she enquires. "Attagirl, asking all the right questions!" Chelsea's heart is beating harder than it's ever beat before. Maxwell looks to Whisper, who nods. Maxwell clasps his hands together. "Chelsea Ray," he begins, "welcome to Whisper's War. Now, listen very carefully..."

***


"So lemme get this staight..."

A waitress walks past carrying a tray of drinks, passing a pair of considerably natty-looking young girls; one Japanese with a beanie sat on top of her black hair and a blonde streak, the other- currently in mid-sentence- with dark red hair, longer than it was last time we saw her in 2014. She's not quite there yet, but Emery Layton looks more like the girl we're used to seeing as she continues to speak to Yasuko.

"They got three titles," Emery says with curiosity, "and they're combining them all into ONE?" Yasuko nods, tap-tap-tapping away at her phone. "Yeah, I dunno why you're so confused about this." Emery hesitates, "oh no, I ain't confused by it. It's just...I thought Jericho Shaw was the big champ these days. I dunno if anyone can beat him. Like, you're just giving the guy a new reason to call himself the best." Yasuko shakes her head now, turning her phone around. "Nah, nah, Shaw ain't your guy. He's good but he ain't your guy here. Trust me, THIS is who's winning..." Em looks into the broken screen of Yasuko's phone, where she sees a young woman fly around a ring- ferocious, predatory, nigh-unstoppable. Emery takes the phone from Yasuko, mesmorised. She's seen women wrestle before, she's part of a Joshi league for goodness sake, but she's never seen another human being, let alone a woman wrestle like this. "Who IS that?", she asks. Yasuko smirks. "Laurel Anne Hardy. And one day, I'm gonna beat her." Emery snickers as Yasuko takes a swig from her glass. "Yasuko, this girl's...I ain't never seen anybody wrestle like this! You're outta your mind." Em hands the phone back.

Aki Yasuko has been called many things in her years-irresponsible, juvinile, unyielding- 'out of her mind' is just another one for the list. She sits forward as she takes the phone back. "Oh no...I'm gonna beat Laurel Anne Hardy. Then I'm gonna beat Jericho Shaw, then Razer and when I get bored I'm gonna drop in on a few others- maybe Blyss Lockhart, Angelica Layne, Smith Jones, whoever...know why, Em?" The Worst of the Pavees looks to the side- she's heard this so many times. "Because I want to. I didn't leave home to settle for less, and neither did you." Emery considers this for a second. "Imagine that though," Emery muses, "being in the biggest match, having everybody know your name. It's..." Em exhales and shakes her head, "ah, who'm I kidding? They didn't want us in Manchester anymore, they barely want us here in Tokyo...we're a long way from home and an even longer way from where we wanna be."[/i][/color]

Yasuko sits back, arms crossed. To you or I, she's not really looking at anything in particular. In her head, she's looking off into the future. "I told you we were gonna rule it and we are. You and me, Em. I'm telling you, there's a day coming where we're gonna look across the ring from someone else and I dunno what ring it's gonna be in- XWA, VoW, WARPED, I dunno, somewhere big- but when we're in there, we're gonna get the chance to show everybody who the hell we are and we're gonna get rid of the ones who can't handle it. Times are changing, Em. It's a new world where people like Laurel Anne Hardy can main event Tokyo Dome, and if she can do it, so can we. People like us are the future, Emery. It's up to the world to get used to us." Emery curls her lip. She wants to be that person. She wants people to care about her, she wants to get to a destination that was worth the journey...but she doesn't want to get rid of anyone. Yasuko goes on these tirades sometimes. But Em understands. Especially in Yasuko's current condition, probably just keeps her going.

A thought then occurs to young Emery, which she hesitates to even blurt out...but the Pavee's never exactly been the best at controlling her impulses. "If it came down to you and me in a ring, one on one...would you be tryna do the same thing to me?" Yasuko doesn't respond initially, instead she half-smiles. But as Em sits, expecting an answer, she feels herself fumbling an answer out. "There's no one I want fighting by my side more than you, Emery. As long as we stick together, it'll never come to that. 'Runaways' isn't just a name, that's what we [b]are
. I didn't think there was anyone like me until I met you...I wouldn't wanna lose you for the world." Yasuko looks down at her phone, noting the time. "Anyway, we should go meet Chelsea. She's got the tickets." Em smiles, getting out of her seat to lend a hand to Yasuko, who pulls herself up...and reaches for her crutches. "Are you sure you're okay?" probes Em, but the injured Yasuko raises a hand. "Don't worry, it's a work in progress, but I'll get there. Then we'll be right back in the ring together!" Emery shrugs. "Hope so. I mean we got a loada people to 'take out' and I ain't gonna do it all. Who knows- maybe we'll get Chelsea in on our secret plan to take out Laurel..."

***


"I don't know..." Chelsea Ray looks down at the ground, contemplating the idea she's just had put to her. Maxwell looks down to see if there's anything interesting there she could be looking at, but apparently not. Mostly, this is an attempt to cover his discontent. "It's quite simple. Big people. Important people. They see just how massive this night is. Three champions are about to become one in the XWA...but it's important that the right one wins it." He points to the heavens. "People pretty high up, right up there, bigger than you or me, they have instructed us to make sure that happens. The problem is everyone knows me, they know my sister," he turns to Whisper, "they'll never forget him," and now he walks in close to her, putting his hands on her shoulders, "but they don't know you, sport!" Chelsea considers what's being offered to her. Richard squats down, getting right in close. "Oh Chelsea Ray, leader of the Runaways. The girl who left her rich family in London and a life of fencing and horses and whatever it is you upper class Brit-twits do, dreaming of becoming something unforgettable. Well now you can be our very own little sleeper agent. they'll never forget you after this."

Maxwell holds up the three tickets, right in front of Chelsea. "Take these tickets. Get into the event. Wipe out Laurel Anne Hardy. Stop her from unifying the titles and I promise life will be much better." The Londoner looks at the tickets and they're almost glowing. "What if I refuse?", she asks. Maxwell wipes his brow, but before he can say anything, a monotonous, Swiss-flavored growl utters, "You will see us again." Whisper stares into Chelsea, like he's peering into her very soul. She feels the sweat pour down her forehead. She should've known this might happen. Never trust someone who knows a friend of a friend who can get you something in wrestling, it's almost always bad and this was the worst possible outcome. And yet...Laurel Anne Hardy might be a hero today, but what if she isn't tomorrow? Could she have that on her conscience if Laurel does something horrific as champion in the future, knowing she could've done something to stop her and didn't? What if the villains aren't always the villains?

Slowly, with one hand, she reaches out and takes the tickets.

Maxwell smiles. "Welcome aboard, Chelsea. We'll be at Tokyo Dome, waiting for you!"

Chelsea turns and walks. She feels sick.

***


There's a huge crowd spilling into the Tokyo Dome. In the midst of them are Emery and Yasuko, kind of loitering around, really. Em is bouncing a ball and Yasuko has taken to flirting with people- both men and women- using nothing but fascial expressions as they walk past, if you can imagine that. Em bounces the ball and then catches it in mid-air, shoving it into her jacket's inside pocket. "Sooo...is Chelsea gonna show up or what?" Yasuko blows a rasberry "oh she's British. They all love queuing. The more people show up, the longer the queue. She'll be right at home."

And as if on cue, Chelsea Ray shows up with three tickets, shoving her way through the crowd. After exchanging hugs, the three of them stand in a triangle as Chelsea hands the tickets to them. "Chelsea!", says Yasuko, "we were beginning to worry you weren't showing up!" Chelsea tilts her head. "You're not the first person to say that to me today actually, Peg Leg." "Well," Yasuko starts, "you missed it. Em and I have a secret plan, wanna hear it?" Chelsea listens in, as Yasuko says in a stage whisper- "...We're gonna take out Laurel Anne Hardy!" Chelsea is speechless. "Its our secret plan though, so you gotta be really quiet about it!" Yasuko winks. "Okay," Chelsea mutters, "lets just get inside, yeah? Em, you coming?"

Em just stands there, wide-eyed, staring at the ticket. She's never actually held an actual ticket for a huge show before. She's like Charlie opening a Wonka bar. Looking across the top, she sees all the billed names- Hardy, obviously, but also Razer and Shaw. Actual world-class stars, and she's about to be front and center, watching them do their thing. And for one moment, one moment in time, Emery just imagines. Yasuko grabs Emery's hand, pulling her along, back to reality and, well, into the massive queue.

Winner Takes All is here.

***


One. Two. Three.

"It's over! We have a unified champion - and it's Laurel Anne Hardy!"


The world has changed. In only three seconds, everything is different. Jericho Shaw, the man who no one could beat for nearly two years, has been dethroned as World Heavyweight Champion. There is only one reigning Supreme, and her name is Laurel Anne Hardy. The world has just witnessed a match that will be regarded in years to come as one of the best in XWA's entire history, and the people in Tokyo Dome know it. There are people literally crying tears of joy because of what they've just witnessed.

And Chelsea Ray continues to agonise. This has been the worst few hours of her life. She has never questioned herself as much as she has done tonight. After seeing Laurel rip through two of the toughest men in all of wrestling, her dialemma has been whether she'd make any difference. Would the plan even work? What would Yasuko say? Or Emery? They've been enthralled all night. She promised to get them to this show...would they be ashamed or understanding if she explained herself? Laurel holds up the titles to a loud response. It's so loud Chelsea nearly goes deaf. Yasuko cheers the Final Boss on, while Emery is in awe. She gets it. Lately, she hasn't felt she's been getting anywhere...but now it's different. She's determined. She's inspired. She's...she's gonna have to catch Laurel!

The newly-crowned champion creates an iconic visual as she bounces out into the first few rows, crowd-surfing. Emery feels the war-paint transfer from Laurel's bicep to her hand as she passes her by. The young Pavee looks down at her hand and then at Laurel's body, which is covered in the paint. For one moment, one shining moment in time, she feels an instant connection. She turns to Chelsea, showing her the hand, beaming. "She's like us," Emery begins, "and if she can do this, so can WE!"

Chelsea looks over Emery's shoulder, watching Laurel get set down in the midst of the fans. She's already won. This would be her only chance- beat her to a pulp so she can't defend the title. Turning her body, she begins to step forward, eyes fixed firmly on Laurel. There's just so many people in her way. She could become the Woman Who Destroyed Laurel, live in history forever. But then, in the midst of the crowd, she walks into a small child. When she looks down, the small child is decked out in Laurel-based gear. Head to toe. When she looks back up, she can barely see her target. She is engulfed in a hurricane of adoration.

Men. Women. Children. United in their love for this one person.

But if she doesn't do it, Whisper will come for her and do what he does to everyone else.

Chelsea looks over at Em and Yasuko, comparing war-paint like a pair of giddy teenage girls. The cheers and applause are deafening. Finally, some one has come along and defeated Shaw. Finally, after years of the likes of Whisper and Jericho and Sabbath and the Three-Headed Dragon, these people have someone. Laurel Anne Hardy inspires Hope. It's like Em said, if she can do it, so can they.

Wrestling has may things, but not enough of it is Hope.

She leaves.

As Chelsea hastily makes her exit, Emery notices. The Lethal Lackeen gives chase, which Yasuko doesn't seem to pay any attention to, joining her fellow fans in the celebrations. "Chelsea!", Emery calls, as she runs through the crowds. Chelsea Ray closes her eyes for one second as she exhales. She's getting really sick of her own name being called tonight. She turns to Em, who stands there confused. "Wh--what's going on? You been distant all night. What's the deal?" She gives her a comforting smile. "You can tell me. We're friends. You're the oldest one I got." Chelsea pauses and nods. In a way, she is. She met Emery years ago, gave her a place to stay during her training when no one else would go near her. "Yeah. Look I...I had to promise to do something tonight that I thought I could do...and I couldn't. So I have to go." Em, with furrowed brows, shakes her head. "Well no, tell us what it is. I can help. I'll get Yasuko, we'll figure it out!"

Chelsea raises her hand. "No."

After a sharp-intake of breath, Chelsea continues. "Emery, I got involved with some people and they're not the type of people who let things go that easy. If I keep going, they'll chase me to every show. Anyone could be part of them at any time. They'll chase me forever like they do to everyone else who slights them." She sighs, looking to the side and running her fingers through her hair. "I'm thirty-two years old. You might think that isn't old but I've been doing this since I was fifteen. Every single bone in my body has been broken, every time I move, my limbs makes a 'snap' noise. I'm not charismatic. I don't do flashy moves. I'm never gonna be anything huge. Started this whole thing out of spite to fucking get one over on Mum and Dad, now look where I am!" She wipes away tears. "Its time for me to stop, Em. You don't need me dragging you down."

Emery stands, defiant. "I'm coming with you. We're going after whoever the hell it is you're fighting. I ain't even care who it--" Chelsea cuts Emery off with three words. "It's Whisper's War." Em is silent. Still. Pale. "We wanted to get tickets for this show tonight, but we had no money. I don't like to see us go without so I went through a few different channels. I got an offer, it seemed legitimate. Turns out it was them, looking for a scapegoat for some twisted plan of theirs. Price I pay for knowing dodgy people, eh?" Emery shakes her head. "I'm coming with you." Chelsea looks her dead in the eye. "Then I'll fight you off, too. They're like leeches, these people." She grabs Emery's hand. "Em...you're gonna be something, okay? One day, we're all gonna look at you and be proud of what you've become. The last thing you need is some group tailing you too because I screwed up. I would never wanna put you through that." Em puts her hands in her pockets. There's clearly nothing she can do. Chelsea isn't budging on this. "Where will you go?" asks Emery. Chelsea asserts, "I'll tell you when I get there. But be someone. Do that for me, yeah? Just Be Someone."

Chelsea turns on her heel and begins to leave. Emery tries to think of something to say. "Chels..." She stops and turns. Em hasn't really considered what she wants to say to her yet, she just lets her mouth go. "travelling with you...it was the best." Chelsea forces a smile. "You too."

Now she turns to make good her escape from the wrestling world.[/b]



Maxwell is restless now. Pacing back and forth, he stops.

RICHARD J MAXWELL:
Okay, so what? So I drove some no-name out of the business, but who cares? There are a million Chelsea Rays out there we could've picked. Wish we had, they might've done it.

AUTUMN:
Oh no. You didn't just drive her out, did you? You made sure she'd never be able to come back. That was the thing about Whisper...he didn't wrestle, did he? He ended careers.




Chelsea blasts through the door of her apartment, grabbing as much as she possibly can that's hers and slinging it into a bag, shoving her passport into her pocket. She scrambles around her draws. She had money. Where is the money? She needs money. She's not even turned on a light.

TAP.

A lamp turns on, independently. Except it doesn't.

Chelsea turns around. Whisper is sat in her chair. He looks at her, disapprovingly.

"You really should've done as you were told."

There is a long pause.

All Chelsea has to do is twitch and Whisper leaps up like an animal.




'Autumn' has now risen from her chair, circling Maxwell, who is sat at a stool.

AUTUMN:
You sent him round there. You had him beat her within an inch of her life. If she was gonna go away, you wanted to make sure she couldn't come back. Ever. And then, you sent off Whisper to tackle Laurel Anne Hardy himself anyway. If you'd have done that in the first place, Chelsea Ray may still be wrestling.

RICHARD J MAXWELL:
So what? You gonna attack me too 'Autumn', if that even is your real name.

AUTUMN:
It's not. And no.


She steps away.

AUTUMN:
Because while you put her out, you did enable us to witness history. What we saw that night inspired us. If Laurel could do it, so could we. You're a smart man, Richard J Maxwell, but I'm smarter than you. I'm better than you. It's a new world and people like me were put here to replace the archaic ways people like you would use. You're going to help me.


Maxwell, confused, scrunches his face up.

RICHARD J MAXWELL:
Wh--why? What do you need me for? Who even ARE you?

AUTUMN:
You're sister's right about one thing. It is nearly the end. The 'stars go out in Winter', right? Well the Autumn comes before the Winter. Someone wronged me. You're gonna use your contacts to get me to them. I've let them have their success, but no more. They forgot about me and that's unacceptable.


'Autumn' removes her hood.

Her hair is black with a blonde streak.

Autumn is not Autumn.

Autumn is Yasuko.


YASUKO:
I'm the future, Maxwell. It's time the world to got used to me.


May 6 2018, 03:10 PM



Tap. Tap. Tap.

The water drips every four or five seconds from the ceiling of an old gym at the heart of Melbourne. You'd think it's been abandoned for decades if there weren't boxing posters on the wall from at least the last five years. It's what you'd expect- punching bags, speedballs, a big ring in the middle on a dusty, wooden floor. Nothing lighting the path but the brightness exploding through the windows. The door squeaks open as Adam Fenric, in gym gear- primed and ready, leads a quizzical and bright-eyed Emery Layton in. She looks around, one hand in her pocket and a hefty backpack slung over her shoulder in the other.


EMERY LAYTON:
Maaaaan. How old is this place?

ADAM FENRIC:
It closed down within the last two years. I feel it fit our criteria well. It'll make an excellent training facility for our tag team-related endeavors in Australia. I felt we needed somewhere easily accessible to only us while we're here.

EMERY LAYTON:
You hear the echo in here, though? HELLOHellohellohello...


Adam glares at Emery.

EMERY LAYTON:
Sorry. No, I like the place. Could do with a bit of a clean, though...

ADAM FENRIC:
Cleaning most certainly will not be my department.

EMERY LAYTON:
The most mannish thing you've ever said, right there.

ADAM FENRIC:
Get prepared- plenty of stretches and bridging to start. Training in ten minutes. Big day ahead of us. Eight hours minimum.

EMERY LAYTON:
That's a joke, right?

ADAM FENRIC:
I never joke, Emery.


Adam carries his things to the other room, leaving Emery to her backpack. She begins to pull out a pair of kneepads and a boot. The other gets stuck. She pulls once- nothing. She pulls twice- nothing. She pulls one last time and it comes out, but not without spilling everything out onto the floor. Muttering expletives to herself as she packs it all away, among the stuff is her journal. She carries it everywhere. It's not big, but still looks rather stuffed, full of pictures, one of which is poking out of the page more than the others. Daring her to look. Not one to turn down a challenge, Em takes it out and looks, sitting down cross-legged.

It's an old photograph, clearly having been taken on a digital camera. Four young girls- the lights of a club behind them, huddled together in days long gone.


------


The snow trickles as a cold breeze moves through the world. The floors and roofs are coated in white and the skies are black, even though it's still early.

We're in Manchester and it's winter.

On a weekend, the freezing temperatures aren't enough to deter the city's population from finding something to do. Some go out for drinks. Some enjoy the nightlife. But somewhere, if you're in the right place and you look very closely, some are finding a different sort of entertainment. In a small, damp little building on the outskirts of the main city, the rowdiest bunch of misfits gather around a small, dusty ring. They're banging on chairs. They're chanting horrible, inappropriate things at the female ring announcer, who tuts when someone throws a ten pound note at her. She deserves more than that to do this job in front of these people and she bloody well knows it. But inside the ring, two big, burly men who really look like two guys you wouldn't want to meet down a dark alley are literally throwing around two small girls.

One girl is brown-haired, heavy-built but with a cutesy face and big, sad eyes. The other girl- slightly smaller, paler and sickly-looking but with auburn hair, heavy black eyeliner and a gypsy head-scarf around her bicep. They are both especially young-looking and they are not holding the attention of this crowd, who are more than pleased to see the bigger men throwing them into turnbuckles and the mat. When one of the bigger men finally hits the brown-haired girl with a piledriver and pins her for a three-count, the place erupts with cheers. They bask in their fame, throwing their arms up in the air as they leave. The smaller, paler girl leads the girl with the brown hair off to the back. As they leave, they are being heckled. Shouted down. As the brown haired girl turns, a glass bottle full of some sort of alcoholic beverage travels through the air and socks her right on the eye. She feels a small cut on the side of her nose. She feels it tear through her skin.

She is confused, upset and disappointed.

She looks around. The other girl is already gone. The brunette gives one last, longing glance at the ring before she turns to leave.

She could be so much more.


------

Emery flies off the ropes, knocked down only moments later by the elbow of a focused Adam Fenric.

ADAM FENRIC:
Be aware of what's coming and throw it back at me.


Emery pushes herself up off the mat and runs back at Adam. The Futurist throws a clothesline but Emery rolls under, standing back up, but with a wobble. Adam pivots his entire body round, seeing the wobble. Showing as much satisfaction as a cold, emotionless technician like Adam possibly can, he kicks the back of Emery's leg, causing her to drop onto the ground.

ADAM FENRIC:
Footing.


He plants his foot on top of a downed Emery, who looks back up at him- frustration.

ADAM FENRIC:
I thought you'd held titles. Hardly befitting of a 'multi-time champion' to not know her footing following a roll.

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeahyeah, I get it.


She pushes his foot away and sits up on the mat. Adam takes a step back.

ADAM FENRIC:
When you're ready.

EMERY LAYTON:
I'm not.

ADAM FENRIC:
Fine. You do not seem to be focused, anyway.

EMERY LAYTON:
I know I know it's just...you ever get the feeling like you started something? Like, you were responsible for everything that happened to somebody even if what you did was something you weren't thinking about the time?

ADAM FENRIC:
No. But clearly you do. Perhaps getting it off your chest would work...

EMERY LAYTON:
It's about Serena.

ADAM FENRIC:
Serena Maxwell.

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah.

ADAM FENRIC:
We don't think about Serena Maxwell.

EMERY LAYTON:
No, YOU don't think about Serena Maxwell. I do. You said your piece about her a while ago now. I wanna tell you mine...


------

"Oi. Oi...Serena!"

Serena Maxwell isn't aware of what's going on around her, right now. Not really. With a plaster over the bridge of her nose, she's spaced out in her own little world. She likes her little world. It's nicer. People appreciate her more. But here, in reality, she's nothing special. She doesn't think so, anyway.

"Oi!"

A hand clicks in her line of vision and suddenly a face appears. It's dirty and unwashed but with sparkling, shiny eyes and a warm, reassuring smile. Emery Layton, way before everything that's happened to her, sits down in front of Serena, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Off with the fairies there, weren't you, eh?" Serena has no retort. She has nothing to say. Em exhales. "Hey- you did nothing wrong. We did nothing wrong. They kicked that guy out, he's barred from ever coming to see another show here again." Serena shrugs. She knows they only did that because this company can't afford to get sued. But still, Em continues- "and lemme tell ya- if I'd have seen what he did, huh, well...anyway, you'll get it over it. Always forward." The proto-Pavee stands up, but as she moves, suddenly Serena pipes up.

"You always say that..."

Emery turns around, an eyebrow raised. Serena continues, "you always say next time. How can you be so optimistic when people are so vile?" Emery considers this for a moment. Brought up in a family of Travellers, anything's better than that as far as she's concerned. "Look..." Em stands up, leaning against a wall, "I know we ain't had much luck lately, but we can change it! We just gotta get our names out there a bit more. Come on- we'll crack this! You and me, Serena. They'll all know who we are. Just you watch, yeah? You'll be fine." Serena doesn't move a muscle. She doesn't change expression at all. Emery, never good with this sort of thing, feels there's not a lot more she can add to this.

*Knock knock!*

The door opens and in walks Chelsea Ray, looking considerably healthier and happier than she will when Emery goes to see her on New Years Eve in three years time. "Alright, guys? You guys get paid yet?" Em scratches the back of her neck. "Well...yeah. We got a fiver each so that makes it ten quid from us. Least we got paid though! Sometimes that don't even happen. We can all at least stop by a takeaway!" Serena rolls her eyes. "This sucks. I want real food, Emery. I'm sick of this. I didn't come here for ANY of this." Chelsea curls her lip and looks at Emery, who shakes her head and raises her hand. Slowly, she ushers Chelsea out of the room, not wanting to cause a scene. "They were pretty bad out there," Emery starts. Chelsea raises her eyebrows. "Yeah, I heard about the thing. Sure she'll be alright though. Weird because they were pretty okay out there for me so...hey, did you guys get asked back for the next show?" Emery pauses. No one has even spoken to her about that. In that moment, she realises the promoter hadn't spoken to her since he told her who she and Serena would be facing, after that he sort of ignored them. But she's seen that before. She knows what that means. "...nah. I don't think they saw us as anything special." With a disappointed gaze, Chelsea looks to her side...but then forces a smile. "Right. Come on then. I'll show you lot the Northern Quarter- makes a great night out- even on twenty quid! Actually no, more than twenty quid. Girl I faced tonight is tagging along. Em, you'll bloody love her..."

With her ear to the door, Serena- dejected and silent- slides down the wall into a sitting position.

Nothing Special. She travelled so far and her head is a mess, all to be 'nothing special'.

With her knees to her chest, she buries her head in-between them...quietly beginning to sob to herself.

Why is she even here? What is she waiting for?


------

Sat on the apron of the ring, Emery and Adam's legs dangle over the side. The Lethal Lackeen is more restrained.

EMERY LAYTON:
We shoulda given her more support. All I had to say after the doctors looked at her was "you'll be fine" and then off we went. I just feel like...like if I coulda stopped it from happening...

ADAM FENRIC:
Then YOU would have been harmed by that fan, not her.

EMERY LAYTON:
I can take it. If someone had done that to me, you know what'd have happened. I'd of done something...but Serena was always a bit more emotional. We coulda done more.


------

Pharrell Williams' "Happy" echoes through a crowded bar full of people, the nightlife alluded to earlier on, and it appears Emery, Serena and Chelsea have joined them, with another person having been added to the group, albeit in different places. Chelsea Ray has attached herself to a rather well-off-looking fella in a suit in the corner, Serena sits at the bar alone while Emery sits with this new person, the one Chelsea wrestled earlier, who seems to joined their little group. The girl is small, sweet-looking with black hair and a blonde streak and a black beanie perched on the top of her head. They are quiet for a few moments as Emery enjoys a glass of rum. She gives the new girl a sideways glance. She doesn't react, she just sits there- still.

"So..." Emery begins... "Japan, yeah? That's what Chelsea told me. You're a long way from home." Em takes a swig of her rum. The girl does not respond. "Yeah well...me too." The girl still doesn't speak. Emery downs her rum, pulling her legs up onto the big, sofa-like chair they've occupied and putting her glass down on the table in front of them. She's reflective, though, looking to the ceiling. "We all are, I guess. We do a lotta travelling, us lot. I ain't done Japan yet but I wanna. Went to Mexico a few times, that's where I met Serena. Y'know that Richard J Maxwell guy? That whole Whisper's War thing last year...she's his sister. Kinda fucked when you think about it, huh?" The girl still doesn't respond. Emery takes this as an opportunity to keep going "I don't feel like it's paying off, though. There's so much more we all want and we just we ain't getting there. Me and Serena, we wanna rule the world, be a real tag team and stuff, we just...it ain't a thing that's happening right now. I can tell it's really getting to Serena right now. And the glass thing tonight really hasn't helped. I don't think she wants to talk to us too much at the mo. But I keep going and saying 'always forward' cos I really do believe it'll happen for us." After a few more seconds of non-response, Emery sighs. "I dunno why I'm telling you this..." There are only a few more seconds of Pharrell in the background before Emery finally hears a new, soft voice.

"Sometimes belief is all a person needs."

Emery looks up. The new girl is facing her. "I ran away from my family based on belief. I thought that I could be something more. They didn't agree." Now she has Emery's full attention. "I do a lot of travelling now. Once I learned English, found out I could go where ever I wanted to after that. I needed to be more than I was, so I went after it." Em nods in both agreement and impression. "Yeah. Yeah, me too. I used to be...so, my family were Travellers. 'Pavees', that's what they call 'em selves. You're not supposed to really go off like I did, really. You're supposed to start a family. I didn't do that." The girl shakes her head. "Well, that's no good. Not the best pavee if you can't even do what you're supposed to..." Emery laughs. "Not the best, no. Maybe even the worst. 'The Worst of the Pavees' Emery Layton. Actually that ain't half bad..." The newly-christened Worst of the Pavees curls her lip. "Look at us lot. Just a loada runaways, looking to make it big. Here's to the Runaways." Emery raises her glass. The new girl raises hers now, clinking it with Em's, and they both gulp down. It's at this point the scatty Irish runaway realises something. "Yknow, you just gave me a new name and I went ahead and let you when I didn't even get yours..." The girl smiles, warmly. "Yasuko." Emery waits. "...you got a second name or...?" Yasuko smiles and winks. "Yasuko will do for now. Very pleased to meet you, Emery Layton."

While Chelsea gets even more cozy with the man she's met and Emery and Yasuko yammer on about the mad places they've visited and compare experiences they've had, Serena sits alone at the bar, still.


------

We haven't really moved very far- Adam is still listening.

EMERY LAYTON:
I spent so much time with this new girl- girl I'd never even met before! Spent so much time with her that I never even went up to Serena. Never included her.

ADAM FENRIC:
Who was this girl, Emery?

EMERY LAYTON:
Doesn't matter, you wouldn't know her anyway. The point is Serena needed someone and we weren't there for her. I don't think a lotta people ever were- you think Richard J Maxwell's the kinda guy who'd look after his sister? No wonder she's turned into what she is...

ADAM FENRIC:
So you said she left the bar. You don't know where she went?


------

The music is pulsing louder than ever before. The constant chatter of people infests the airwaves. It's like a million people are talking at once- shouting, stuttering, singing, screaming, scheming- and none of them are talking to her. She has to get out. It's almost involuntary as she stands up out of her seat, like something is guiding her away from the madness as she shuffles through the crowd and leaves the bar. Stopping by a wall, she closes her eyes. The world is moving past her. This intoxicated, uncaring world. The resentful, mean-spirited people in it, and not one of them even bothers to acknowledge her existence. She closes her eyes. She can't bare to look at them. Just go to her world. Go back to Serena's World. A world where she is the best. Where she's something to care about.

"Hey."

Serena's eyes snap open. She feels a tap on her shoulder and a voice. Probably just one of her friends.

"Excuse me."

Oh. Some guy with a Mancunian accent. Probably drunk and after a quick night of fun. Attention's one thing, a leering thirsty creep is another. She's not in the mood for 'another', right now.

"Alright, come on. I've been polite, this is just a load of bollock now, this. You know how many bloody people I had to ask at that atrocious venue you wrestled at tonight if they knew where you were going?"

Serena turns. She looks up. The man is tall, well-built with a disciplined stance. His hair is cut short, his eyes are snake-like, his teeth are...quite bad and yellow, actually. She knows who he is, so do you, and yet he puts his hand out, offering a handshake and an introduction because he just loves saying his own name oh so much.

"Hello. I'm Diamond Jack Sabbath. I know your brother. He's a twat."

Serena is speechless. Jack leans down, eyeing the plaster. He tuts. "Bad business, that. You wanna get that checked over, gonna need more than a plaster." Serena slides down the wall into a sitting position, and the Innovator of Anarchy follows, sat next to her. "Serena, do you believe in destiny? That's not a dodgy chat-up line, by the way. Anyway, do you?" Serena looks down at the ground, then to the sky. She's never really considered it properly. All she can manage right now is to shake her head. Jack exhales. "Well, I do. I used to think things just happened. Like life was a random sequence of events with no rhyme or reason. But the world's connected, Serena. We're all just part of one big story. Case and point- learned a few days ago Trace Demon has a new position for me in XWA. Gotta go back in a few weeks. Gonna be running things! It's gonna be a new world and I have ideas. They're not ideas that are gonna make me popular. I'm going to need backup, I think. But it's been a few months since I've been home, so to get my mind back on wrestling, I decided to quietly sneak into a local show- not make a big fuss about it, just stand at the back- and who should I find but...YOU. Just simply you!" Serena smirks. "Popularity doesn't make something good." Jack raises an eyebrow as he thinks about this. "You're not wrong. Very true, actually." Serena wipes her nose. "I never was very popular. It was always someone else getting the attention. Even my mom and dad preferred my brother." Jack shakes his head. "And why would they do that?" Serena shrugs. "Suppose I'm nothing special."

That's when it hits Jack like a lightning bolt. He's got it. His moment to strike. His moment of genius. "Oh no. Oh nononono, Serena. That's not true at all. I've met your brother. He's a nuiscence. You're special. You're more special than he'll ever be." Serena's stomach does backflips. She's not quite sure how to process the information she's just received. "Like I said, I believe in destiny and Serena Maxwell, if you don't believe in it too, you should start. I went to that show tonight to see an old friend but from the moment I saw you, I'd figured out who you were. After the match, I knew I had to meet you. I knew it was destiny." Serena is almost taken. She's almost on-board with what she's hearing, but that little voice in her head tells her otherwise. "I'm nothing. I not worth your time." Jack turns his entire body now. "No. No, Serena, you are worth my time. You are worth the whole wide universe's time, they're just too bloody stupid to see it. Look at them..." they both watch as the drunk, disorderly people shuffle from pub to pub on the streets of Manchester. "Look at them, all so normal. All they're worried about is who's gonna win the match on Wednesday or where they can get a kebab right now or what's on telly tonight while there's Gods walking amongst them. They're so slow, Serena. And that's THEIR problem, not yours. They can't see it. But I can. I see it in you. You look like a person, but you're an entity. A real destroyer. A being beyond the comprehension of these simple human beings. They could never understand YOU. To me you're a titan, to them you're unexplainable. And that's why I want you to come with me when I go back to the XWA."

Serena looks up. She cannot believe what's happening. What she has just been offered. This has seemingly dropped from the sky, right onto her doorstep, and yet there's only one question she has- "What about my friends?" Jack turns his nose up, scoffing at the idea. "Reeeally, Serena? Friends who drag you out to the Northern Quarter for a night out after everything you went through tonight? Pfft. And where are they now, eh? Nah. Ditch 'em. I don't want them. I want you." Serena pulls her knees to her chest as Jack rises to his feet. As he does, he reaches inside his inside pocket. "Tell you what...just had these printed today. You get the first one. Think about it, when you know what you're doing, gimme a call and I'll get you flown over to Chicago," he says, as he hands Serena a card- 'Jack Martin-Sabbath, XWA General Manager', a corporate email address and a number. "If you ever fancy living up to your potential, give that number a call." And with that, Diamond Jack Sabbath leaves, and fades into the night.

Serena sits alone, once again. But now, in her hand, she holds something that none of her other friends have- a way out. The keys to the castle.

She's special. He said so.


------

Emery is now sat with her legs crossed on the apron, while Adam Fenric paces backwards and forwards.

ADAM FENRIC:
Well...that would certainly make sense with the timeline. If this happened when you say it happened, Sabbath would go back to the XWA only weeks later to become General Manager, with Serena Maxwell part of his security.

EMERY LAYTON:
Hey, I'm only going off what people told me when we went to look for her and my own ideas, man. Not hard to put two and two together. People knew he was in town. They knew he was friends with the promoter.

ADAM FENRIC:
I see. And what next? You did not see her until she appeared in XWA?

EMERY LAYTON:
Well. Not exactly. One nice thing Poundshop Liam Gallagher did for us was convince the promoter to give us another shot. Don't think he knew who I was at the time and don't think he even remembers now, he just knew Serena wouldn't go back alone. We went back and...

ADAM FENRIC:
And?

EMERY LAYTON:
...And that's where it happened.


------

ONE!

TWO!!

THREE!!!


Serena Maxwell lies prone on the mat, at the same dirty venue we visited earlier. Emery Layton is inches away as their opponent rolls off Serena and raises his arms, joined by his partner. Serena looks to her side to see Emery looking back. The Worst of the Pavees hangs her head. She was a millisecond too slow. Serena's shoulder burns in agony as she sits up, eyeing Emery.

She looks out to the crowd. Some teams get adolation just for the effort. For the attempt. Not them. Once again, in front of this angry crowd, they are jeered. They are losers.

About twenty minutes later and Serena's sat there with a bag of frozen peas on her shoulder in lieu of an ice-pack and she's off in Serena World again. A world where she's not forgotten. A world where she's the best. A world where she's 1000 years old and given a task in this universe. A world where belief rules. A reality we don't understand. It's always been there in her head. A world where she's a winner. But she is briefly returned to reality as she hears the door creak open. Emery Layton- with a black eye- raises an apologetic grin. "Hiya. Only me." Serena neglects to respond. The proto-Pavee nods, pointing to her eye, "guy hit me so hard I couldn't see straight. Walked into a door. Uh..." She scratches the back of her head, looking for the words. "I...yeah, y'know what? This one's on me. I was a second too late. Next time, eh? Always forward." And just like that, Emery leaves the room, having seemingly moved on. Just another day.

No.

Throwing the shitty bag of peas on the floor, Serena grabs her hair in clumps and pulls down, balling her hands into fists and just pulling. The pain isn't enough. She pulls so hard her eyes go shut and she screams. She screams and screams and screams until her throat goes hoarse.

Emery launches back into the room, her eyes wide and horrified until she finds herself taken down by a manic Serena Maxwell. Serena clobbers Emery over and over and over again with forearms and punches and scratches and claws. Pulling her up to her feet, she tosses Emery into the wall, the Lethal Lackeen smashing against a mirror and shattering into it, ear-first. Serena straddles Emery, her hands around her neck.

"NEXT TIME?!" Serena bellows, "What about THIS time?! Or LAST TIME?! WHY DON'T YOU CARE?! Why is it always about YOU? It's never MY NIGHT! It's EVERYONE ELSES or NO ONES! I'm MADE for BETTER than this! I'm made for BETTER THAN YOU! I'm...SPECIAL. You people won't admit it but you know it's TRUE! Tell me! TELL ME I'M..." She pauses and looks down at her friend, her partner, gasping for air and has a moment of conscience. She lets go, looking at her own hands. For a moment, she is disgusted. She is terrified by what she has done as Emery's ear begins to be trickle blood and she almost coughs her lungs up. But after a second, while her face doesn't show it, she is somewhat impressed. She did that. She made it happen. It's power. And if she can do it to a person she'd call her best friend, her partner...who can't she do it to? This is it. This what he saw.

By this point, everyone has heard the spat. Wrestlers, both male and female, rush into the lockerroom. Chelsea Ray and Yasuko are among the many wrestlers who flock to the scene as Serena makes a quick exit, making sure to grab her phone before she does.

As she leaves the building in haste, Serena pulls up a number she was given over a week ago and puts her phone to her ear. There is a second's pause. She is shaking. "H-hi. Hi...I'm in. I ditched them. I DITCHED them. Ditched my team. I wanna accept your offer. I wanna be special..."


------

And for the final time, we join Layton & Fenric in the present. Adam has now elected to sit on a chair instead of pace back and forth.

EMERY LAYTON:
And that was it. Didn't see her again till last year, during the whole Survivors fiasco. And she got worse, too. There was none of this 'Great Foretold' bollocks.

ADAM FENRIC:
That must have developed over time. Appears to be a hard-wired belief now. It's fascinating what belief can do to someone.

EMERY LAYTON:
Well sometimes belief is all a person needs. Someone told me that once.

ADAM FENRIC:
Wise words.

EMERY LAYTON:
Wise person.


There is a pause.

EMERY LAYTON:
I look back on all of that and I feel like we shoulda treated her better. All the stuff recently with Katie Hanley and the girl at the academy and the daft wedding stuff, all those people she's targeted...we coulda stopped it.

ADAM FENRIC:
From the sounds of things, her insecurity would've prevented that. The Serena Maxwell you teamed with was an untouched mold of clay. Fairly unstable clay, too. She wanted to be more. She always wanted to be more. I think she was waiting for someone to come along and validate her, and she got it. She resented your optimism, because she felt she needed to be better. She felt there was no cause for optimism in a world where Serena Maxwell was 'nothing special'.

EMERY LAYTON:
Maybe. Still...guess a lotta things couldn't have happened if she'd stuck around.

ADAM FENRIC:
You may not be here for a start. Anyway, we've neglected training. Let us stop thinking of the past when the future is so, so near.


Emery nods, raising a little fist.

EMERY LAYTON:
'Always forward', yeah?

ADAM FENRIC:
Indeed. Now then, get back in the ring. Lets get this footing issue ironed out...


------

"Ow. Owowow..."

In a hospital bed, young Emery Layton sits with her her shoulder bandaged up and her left ear covered. Sat at the side of the bed are her two friends Chelsea and Yasuko, the former of whom has brought a fairly big boquet of flowers.

"I'm not even gonna bother asking how you're doing," Chelsea begins, "you don't look good." Emery snickers. "Oh I look fine, you're just not seeing my good side, that's why. Doctors reckon I mighta gone deaf in the ear. So I guess I always got that to remember her by... I also think this is true cos I can't hear shit outta it. You could scream 'Em is a gee-bag' in my left ear right now and I'd have no idea." Yasuko sits forward. "So when do you think you'll be wrestling again?" Emery hesitates. "Well, they'll probably say I need to take a few months off or something when I get outta here which means...three weeks? Why?" Yasuko smiles. "Because I think you need a new partner."

Yasuko extends her hand. Emery looks down at it for a few seconds. She lost a friend, but to lament on that goes against her very ethos. Always forward. Here's a chance to go forward.

"Lets go rule the world."

Emery Layton shakes hands with Yasuko.


Jan 1 2018, 06:43 AM


The night is only young, but already the world is being lit with big, bold and bright flashes in the sky.

Many countries are celebrating at different times, but one is ahead of all of us. Yes, on this New Years Eve, bars across the world are filled. Beer is being swigged and spilled...but we're not going to a bar. We're going somewhere all the quieter and more tranquil...apart from the music that's playing.

Inside a rather swish-looking apartment complex at the heart of Melbourne. Our attention specifically is one one apartment in particular- rather big and swish-looking and crawling with people tonight. People and balloons. And alcohol, obviously. Stood in the very middle balancing conversation and a glass of wine is a short, brown-haired girl. She's quite skinny- clearly she does some workout, but perhaps not as much as she used to. Bit like this, actually. Her name is Chelsea Ray, and she's the host of this New Years party. Suddenly, in the midst of all the people and the music playing- currently "Gypsy" by Fleetwood Mac- she hears a knock at her door. Pushing her way through everyone, she finds her way to the door.


CHELSEA RAY:
Hold on! Hold on a sec!


She says in her Southern English voice with a twang of Aussie attached to it, as she opens the door, greeted by a gaggle of people. Dontel Porter, Jason Moana, XWA interviewer Laura Stark, A.J. Morales and Emery Layton, all with huge, cheesy grins on their faces.

ALL:
Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!


Chelsea looks to Emery, who maintains the cheese.

CHELSEA RAY:
You said you were bringing your boyfriend. I didn't expect this.


Em snorts and barges in, patting Chelsea on the shoulder as she drags a bottle of rum in with her.

EMERY LAYTON:
Ahhh, the more the merrier, eh Chels? What's a new year party without a loada people you don't know to chat with, yeah? Plus, the place is busy already, why not more?

CHELSEA RAY:
Fair enough. At least introduce us, though!


EMERY LAYTON:
Oh yeah, yeah, course. So, Chels, this is Jason and Dontel, they're a tag team...


Hyphy Machinery give a nod of approval in unison.

EMERY LAYTON (Cont'd):
...this is Laura Stark. Her boyfriend's a bit under the weather so I asked her to come along...


Timid Laura follows this up awkward wave as Em throws her arm around A.J, proudly.

EMERY LAYTON (Cont'd):
....And this is A.J. He's my guy! He's the best guy! I told you about him!


Chelsea looks him and down. She clocks the blonde streak instantly...then looks at Emery, with a side-smile. Em maintains the stare.

CHELSEA RAY:
...Yeah, with a streak like that he's really your type, Em.


Em's quiet for a moment, awkwardly smiling as A.J. looks at her, quizzically. Yeah...there's more to this, and he knows it. But not wanting to draw attention, he speaks.

A.J. MORALES:
So...er, how do you guys know each other, anyway?

CHELSEA RAY:
Emery and I used to travel together. Long time ago, before I retired. We met in England when she asked to borrow some gear from me because she left her bag in a toilet at a McDonalds. Knew she was gonna be a task to deal with. She started a punch-up between two Scots in Glasgow, y'know.

EMERY LAYTON:
You're remembering it wrong. I got into a punch-up WITH two Scots. They spilled my drink. We were all bladdered. I wasn't pleased.

CHELSEA RAY:
No no, I remember it. It was December. You got up on a table and declared yourself champion of Christmas and tried to get everyone in a rousing sing-along of Fairy Tale of New York but you didn't know the lyrics so you got down. And then you fell into a bin.

EMERY LAYTON:
No one knows the lyrics, though. It's a load of bollocks.

CHELSEA RAY:
I don't think your accent helps.

EMERY LAYTON:
Oh just cos I don't sound like I fell out the arse of Oxford Uni like you.

CHELSEA RAY:
At least we're not American though!

EMERY LAYTON:
Oi! I got friends who are American. Step down.

CHELSEA RAY:
That's cos you know everyone, though. Dunno how you do it.

EMERY LAYTON:
It's a talent.


Chelsea looks behind Em, looking over the shoulders of Jason and Dontel.

CHELSEA RAY:
No Adam, then?

EMERY LAYTON:
He doesn't really like this sorta stuff.


Chelsea tuts, disappointed.

CHELSEA RAY:
Shame. I was gonna put all this wine down him then who knows what would've happened.

A.J. MORALES:
Wait...Adam Fenric, that's who we mean here, right?


Em leans in, lowering her voice.

EMERY LAYTON:
She's seen a few IYH shows. She's met Adam a few times when we've been up here and she's got a bit of a crush on him.

A.J. MORALES:
Oh God.

CHELSEA RAY:
He's smart. I like that. Gonna happen one day, though. He'll come round to my charms. So anyway, heard you two had a match in town earlier tonight...


***


A few hours have passed. And many, many glasses of wine. And rum too, obviously. We're not long until the New Year of 2018 rings in. Everyone's mingling, some even getting a little friendly with each other and other absolutely avoiding getting friendly with one another at all. In the middle of the room, on big, cream couch sits Emery and Chelsea, who we join mid conversation, in fits of laughter.

EMERY LAYTON:
...And so I'm there in the kayak like 'what's so bad about this anyway? Why do the police even care?', but then I look up and I see a sign saying 'Lincoln Memorial Pool'!

CHELSEA RAY:
Oh my God! How'd you get outta that one?

EMERY LAYTON:
I can't really remember! So much stuff happens these days, I try not to think about it. Not even told you about how I won a title in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

CHELSEA RAY:
Okay, now you're just taking the piss.

EMERY LAYTON:
Wish I was. This has been a weird year.

CHELSEA RAY:
And Supreme XWA Champion now, too!

EMERY LAYTON:
Man. Think of who we used to be. If those kids could see us now...

CHELSEA RAY:
See what? I quit, Em!

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah but you live here and besides, you could still do it! You could be out there delivering the Chelsea Dagger all over again!

CHELSEA RAY:
God what a lame finisher. It was only a DDT, too. Nah, people leave and come back to this business all the time. I'm enjoying not being sore all the time.


Chelsea and Em are silent. But its not an awkward one. It's the sort of silence two friends can have. A calmness. Well, until...

CHELSEA RAY:
So...you keep up with anyone else from the old group?

EMERY LAYTON:
I dunno. Christina and I talk a lot, she's a tag champ now in Seattle. Serena's...well...

CHELSEA RAY:
I know about Serena. She ran off and joined that arsehole's group, right?

EMERY LAYTON:
Basically. It's a long story.

CHELSEA RAY:
Yeah. Hear he's gone now, though. Good riddance. One less psychopath in the sea.


Now they're quiet again. But this time it's not the calmness. It's the quiet of two people who both want to ask the same thing, and yet don't.

CHELSEA RAY:
Is-

EMERY LAYTON:
Are-

CHELSEA RAY:
Oh. You first.

EMERY LAYTON:
Nah, you go.

CHELSEA RAY:
I was just gonna ask...any sign of Yasuko, yet?

EMERY LAYTON:
Chels, I--

CHELSEA RAY:
Because I have a number, I just dunno if it's still the same one. I keep trying and it's nothing but her answer phone's still accepting messages so the number's active it's just--

EMERY LAYTON:
Chelsea.

CHELSEA RAY:
--And I thought if anyone would know where she was, it'd be you.


Em wipes her brow.

EMERY LAYTON:
If I knew where she was she'd be here right now, Chelsea. But she's not. Face it- she left the business. She never said why. We don't gotta know more than that, do we? Besides, when would I get the time to go looking? I spend so much time travelling.

CHELSEA RAY:
Come on. You can't seriously believe that.


Em leans in, and the two begin to talk in hushed tones.

EMERY LAYTON:
Can...can we not do this? I'm here, I'm having a good time. We're all having a good time. I ain't thought about Yasu--that person in over a year.

CHELSEA RAY:
Y'know, I'd believe that if you weren't parading round in her beanie on every show I ever see you at.

EMERY LAYTON:
No one knows where she is and she don't want us to know, clearly. So lets move on, yeah? Let's move on.


Chelsea curls her lip.

CHELSEA RAY:
Okay, we'll move on. So long as you answer me this question...is the blonde streak deliberate or by accident?


And this. Just...this. Whatever this means, it reduces Emery to a state of total and utter berevement. Chelsea looks down with instant regret. She knows she just crossed a line.

CHELSEA RAY:
I'm sorry.

EMERY LAYTON:
No. Don't be. It's not, by the way...listen, I'm gonna get some air, yeah? Back in a bit.


Emery rises from the couch and walks off, leaving Chelsea alone.

***

"Three! Two! One!"

"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"


Fifteen minutes pass as we reach 2018. Fireworks-a-Plenty and Auld Lang Syne for all! Stood out on a balcony, Emery- who has now removed her hat and it fiddling with it in her hand- leans over. She's looking down. It's only now she realises just how high up she is, as she looks down at everyone on the ground. So small. So far away from her. They wouldn't hear her if she tried to speak. She looks up, at the fireworks. The sky is changing colour every second. It's hard to predict what colour comes next. As she's mesmerised by it all, she nearly jumps out of her skin as she hears a voice behind her-

???:
It's like the world is trying to out-noise each other, isn't it?


She turns. Stood there, in a suit, is Adam Fenric. Despite their battle in the Showgrounds earlier tonight, he is looking quite clean.

EMERY LAYTON:
Oh. Hey! I didn't know you were coming...

ADAM FENRIC:
I wasn't. But Isabella wanted to come. Spending time with others outside our family seems to have had an effect on her. I feel after everything that has happened, my sister should be afforded some level of normality.

EMERY LAYTON:
Huh. Cool. How's your neck?

ADAM FENRIC:
Workable. Your arm?

EMERY LAYTON:
Eh, I've had worse.

ADAM FENRIC:
I'm sure.

EMERY LAYTON:
Man...what a year, eh?

ADAM FENRIC:
Are you aware that it has been exactly a year since our first meeting?

EMERY LAYTON:
I busted my lip open fighting your brothers and your other Bridgett Neilssen-looking sister. You took a look at it.

ADAM FENRIC:
Indeed It took splitting from my immediate family to lead me to you. We've teamed ever since. Were I a sentimental person, I suppose this would be somewhat of a landmark night for our team.

EMERY LAYTON:
Bollocks, fella! You dedicated your career to avenging your Da. You're the most sentimental person I've ever met.

ADAM FENRIC:
Well in that case, happy anniversary.


Emery looks up, as does Adam. They watch the fireworks, side by side.

EMERY LAYTON:
Look...er...I should probably say. Like, I know we lost the XWA Tag Team titles cos of me this year and with me being Supreme XWA Champion now, it's...I dunno when we're gonna get our next opportunity.


Adam shakes his head and waves his hand.

ADAM FENRIC:
Time enough.

EMERY LAYTON:
Oh. Good.

ADAM FENRIC:
You can make it up to me by helping me win the IYH Tag Team titles instead. Our battles with the Survivors and the Bad Omens have caused our focus to slip. We have taken our eye off the ball. Lets get back to what we set out to do.

EMERY LAYTON:
Hey, I'm game for that.

ADAM FENRIC:
I anticipated you would. I've been researching our opponents in preparation for the new year. I've some interesting observations on a few of our esteemed colleagues.

EMERY LAYTON:
Seriously, is that what you do when you're not wrestling? Been a month, dude.

ADAM FENRIC:
I detect you are somewhat agitated.

EMERY LAYTON:
What, me? Naah. I'm cool.

ADAM FENRIC:
Lying is not your strongest skill. Seeing things through is. Whatever is troubling you, rectify it.

EMERY LAYTON:
Worried I'm gonna get in your way again, eh?

ADAM FENRIC:
As long as something continues to agitate you, you have lost the battle. Don't lose battles you know you can win.


Inside the apartment, the music has started up again, presumably because everyone's got sick of old acquintance being forgot. Instead, "Don't Dream It's Over" by Crowded House bursts to life from the sound system.

EMERY LAYTON:
Hey, you sticking around for a bit? We should just get a drink and...y'know, chat.

ADAM FENRIC:
I only came to drop Isabella off. I have arranged with Laura to take her back to Chicago. I have work to do.

EMERY LAYTON:
I'll get you one of these days.

ADAM FENRIC:
Also I have deliberately avoided all contact with Chelsea since my arrival and would prefer she does not know I am here.

EMERY LAYTON:
You heartbreaker. Go on then. She's had a few drinks already. She might look small but you try taking a Lou Thesz press from her.

ADAM FENRIC:
I'd prefer not to. We'll speak again soon.

EMERY LAYTON:
Yeah, sure. Thanks, by the way.


Adam doesn't acknowledge this. He simply turns and briskly walks through the crowd of partying people inside the house. Until he's stopped...by Laura Stark.

LAURA STARK:
Hey Adam.

ADAM FENRIC:
Evening. Is Austin also here?

LAURA STARK:
No. About that, actually...I wanna talk to you about something...


Outside, on the balcony, Emery holds her phone. She looks down at the screen, judging. Wondering. Should she? Shouldn't she? The number's right there. Her face is right there, looking back at her.

*Click*

EMERY LAYTON:
Hey. It's me. Happy new year. Lemme know when you get this, yeah? Don't even know if this is still your number. Probably isn't. Listen...I dunno where you are right now and I guess that's cos you want it that way. Or maybe you don't, and we've all been crappy friends. Either way...I'm gonna see you again. Promise. It's been too long.

A.J. MORALES:
Hey Em...


Em clicks the phone off and her head's up like a meerkat, as A.J stares back at her.

A.J. MORALES:
What are you doing out here? Come join the rest of us!

EMERY LAYTON:
I just needed some air. Nevermind me, what's going on with you lot? I been away too long!


And off she goes, back into the apartment.

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch a deluge in a paper cup


...But Emery's left her phone on a table right next to the balcony. It's not been locked and the screen's not gone off yet.

There's a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road while you're traveling with me


Walking out in Melbourne streets, Adam Fenric passes drunks and people celebrating a brand new year. The Futurist walks with brand new purpose, a better man than he was a year ago. Plague Doctor no more.

Hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now, when the world comes in


But as we end, we close in on Emery's phone. The Crowded House continue on as we see three things.

A number.

A picture.

A name-
Yasuko.

The image fades out and the phone locks, but we fade out also.

The new year begins.
Sep 3 2017, 11:52 AM




The bar's at it's busiest on a Friday night. That's generally the rule no matter where you go, even in Australia. A jukebox in the corner emits the White Stripes' "I Fought Piranhas", all while people are playing darts, chatting it up, men trying it on with women with which they're massively punching above their weight. It's the general stuff you'd expect, but in an Australian accent.

She touched down in Perth a few hours in preparation for this weekend, but with her hat on the bar, Emery Layton sits there- too short for her feet to reach the bottom of the stool- as the bar-tender brings her a glass with a black liquid in it.

"Oi...leave the bottle, yeah?" And so he does. A big bottle of rum sits next to Em's head as she downs the entire glass of rum in three seconds, and it feels for a moment like her brain has just slopped out of her ears. She closes her eyes, scrunching her face up- the rum was so cold...but then she stops. Slowly, her brain aligns and the coldness subsides. She hates it. She doesn't know why she does this to herself all the time. Well, sort of. That little voice in her head always tells her nights like tonight like a good idea...as she pours another one. Even an optimist has her vices. The Worst of the Pavees looks to her side, greeted by the vision of a man sat next to her. His head appears to becoming one with the bar as he lies there. He looks how she feels, she thinks.


Perhaps a proper introduction is in order, as I have been unable to do so since my arrival within In Your House Wrestling Federation. It will hopefully explain a few of my...values. Some of which others have taken offence to.

My father was a professional wrestler just like I was. Aldus Fenric.

If you know him, you are aware of his story. If you do not know him, then perhaps it shall lend context to why I choose to speak and act in the way I do.

Aldus was a resilient and authoritative man. A dynamic talent who would try to stimulate audiences with his agility. Known for his crossbody from the top rope- nothing particularly special nor interesting, but effe. A 'superhero' to the small village in Austria in which we lived. Every night, he would come to the ring and no matter who his opponent would, he would go out of his way to be remembered. The difficulty he faced, however, was that he never planned.

Never.



"Hey", she calls. Nothing. "Hey, man?" click, click, click and wave. Nothing. He's out. Em shrugs. "Fair enough. Long as you let me talk, I ain't got a problem. That's all I need tonight, really. Y'know, I was gonna do what you're doing. Truth be told, I ain't feeling too good right now, which I ain't a fan of. Only on my fourth rum though so...progress, I guess!" she holds up her glass, looking to his half-empty glass and clings it together with hers. "Cheers!" she says, as she downs the rum again. No ice-cubes this time- not as cold, but we're not at the part where it starts to taste like liquidised rubber so we're good so far. "Look like you're enjoying yourself, at least. Rough time, eh? Gotta be rough if you're at that point of your night. I mean, like, I ain't been in that position for a bit where I had to do that. Last time I woke up the next morning in Central Park in New York wearing a Superman costume. I'd been in San Antonio the night before. Never worked that night out, to be honest. But in the end, I just went with it as I do with everything else that I do. Didn't have a plan." She stops at this. In light of recent events, the significance of this statement isn't lost on her.

Em pours herself another glass of rum. "Plans are a load of old shit," she begins, beginning to spin her full glass around in place, "I never plan too much. I heard something once, don't remember who said it- 'we've not got a plan so nothing can go wrong.' Stuck out to me, y'know? Like, life's so unpredictable. Wasn't that statement that was the only reason I say that, though. Think it comes from a few things why I think that. Thing about me, man, I'm a traveller." She coughs, putting her hand to her mouth. Looking at whatever's spat out, she wipes it on her shirt. "Ugh. Bad habit. Anyway, yeah, traveller. Proper what they'd call a 'black-blood', me. We used to move around all the time when I was growing up. Couldn't get too attached to things or places, you just had to keep moving. Kinda aimlessly, really. Never knew when my Da winning or losing a fight would rub people the wrong way, so you had to be prepared to run at any time, know what I mean? Some people ain't good with that. I got a friend that--" Once again, she stops...reflecting on what she was about to say...



My father subscribed to the theory the his life should be dictated by 'the moment'. This lead to a vast number of problems. You see, as I have discovered over time in my research and inquisition, wrestlers are often rather insecure creatures. Perhaps this is due to their prior life circumstances, but that is pure conjecture and speculation that I cannot verify is the case for the majority. It is an opportunity to hide behind a persona. A window into a world where people come to them because they adore their talents. Where they have no need to speak of private affairs because it does not matter. It was a world that was all too attractive to that of my father. My mother left us at a very early age. I am not privy to the reasoning nor am I interested why, but professional wrestling gave him an outlet. It gave him something to strive towards.

My father's ultimate goal, one of which he would frequently repeat, was his intention to win a world championship. In fact, as I recall, he had never received an opportunity at any title. The unfortunate fact was that thirty years prior to now, were you to talk as I do, you would be painted as 'the villain' by the promoters, and in spite of his athletic prowess, he did not posses the charisma to overcome this or enough of a radical to try.




"Friend...yeah." Now, finally, she downs the entire glass. Once again, it feels like her head's been pulled through the floor and then flung into space. "Agh...oh God. That's bad." It feels like the blood has rushed to her head. But she's got the whole bottle now. She asked for it, so now she has to finish it, no matter how punishing it may seem.

"See, I'm in a bit of a shitty situation this weekend, man. Really shitty. I'm in a big match for the Tag Team Championships at IYH. Six teams, one of 'em is us." He lies there, still. "You might be thinking 'wait Em, why is that so bad?' and you're a man after my own heart, asking the questions that no one else does. I'll drink to that," she feels the bulge in her head, and the though of 'Nah' goes through her mind, "well, later, I will. But here's why, Mr. smarty-pants-with-your-questions. For the first time in a very long time, I'm gonna be in there with someone I know, in a legit match. Serena, her name is. Oh yeah. Not a lotta people know this, but we tagged for a bit on the indies. This was years ago, though. And she was nice. Quiet, bit shy to start. Or maybe I was just loud. Anyway, one day she just turns on me. Just like that. Friend gone. In fact, reason I can't hear outta my left ear is cos Serena hit me with a chair real hard." She removes her hat. She often does this when she's antsy about something, but she doesn't realise this and hasn't even in the amount of years she's done it. "Few months later, I find out she went off and joined this group called 'Whisper's War'. That's a whole other story right there for another day. But I seen a lotta stuff she done over the years and especially here and I can't let her win. I can't let her get further ahead than other people by being a liar and a cheater. Cos that's all she is. Behind the 'crazy' act. But the best way for me to stop them is by winning the whole match. That proper makes sure the titles away from them, know what I'm saying? But that gets us to a different problem..."


One day, my father faces a man. An American. My sister and I were in attendance. I am three years old.

As it turns out, this opponent was rather proficient at being able to catch high-flying opponents in mid-air. My father did not know this. It turns out this opponent was rather adept to piledrivers. My father did not know this. Instead, he passively stood in front of a camera and told the world that he "wasn't threatened" and his intent that night was only to entertain spectators, in spite of the fact he would almost definitely be disliked due to his ethnic origins. But undeterred, he went out to that ring and he performed no better nor worse than any other match prior, and all was going well for him...until my Father takes it upon himself to pounce upon the middle rope and jump at the American.

He is caught. In mid-air. The American lifts him for a piledriver, however my father makes a rather ill-advised attempt to escape it. He is unsuccessful, but enough to the point that my father's opponent loses balance and drops my father on his neck. The pressure shifts up his spine. He is not moving. In moments, Aldus Fenric- Vienna's superhero who can do anything is no more. The immortal is proven to be very much mortal.

I watch as they carry him away, past me. I watch his leg twitch. I bare witness the final movement of the nerves in his ankle. He never walks again.

I spend the next twenty-seven years caring for my father. I watch him slip into a deep depression. The persona and career he used to escape his less-than-satisfactory life outside of wrestling is gone and never returning. He never achieved his life's ambitions. He never will. He is known only for his accident and the aftermath thereof.

Had he known his opponent, he may have avoided this.



Emery wipes her face. It's been a hard, hard month, not only because of the big matches elsewhere adding to this next one, but especially given the run-ins she's had since she came to In Your House. "See if we win this match- and I ain't gonna put all my eggs in a basket here cos there's five teams and they're all good- that brings us a different problem, cos we got a team who say if they don't win the titles, they're leaving. They ain't had luck on their side lately, to be honest, I feel like I sorta made it worse. I should keep my trap shut sometimes, I know, you don't gotta tell me that. Landed me in trouble one too many times, and I tried to apologise for that before Adam barged in and dragged me off. But you mean to tell me if me and Adam win, we're gonna be seen as the ones who 'got rid of the Uncanny Socialites' for the rest of our careers?" Now she pours an full glass of rum, filling it all the way to the top. It's barely even in there, it's actually trying to escape to the outside world. "I mean, like, what the hell, man? I don't want that on my head! And on top of all that, if I lose, Adam's gonna be annoyed when Adam Fenric's pissed off with you, you should act like a comet and make sure he only sees you rarely and from a long distance away."

Emery downs the entire glass and now, finally, she puts it to one side and just holds the bottle in her hand.


When I am old enough, I study to become a doctor. I tell everyone this is because it has been my ambition for a long time. I am being disingenuous.

My ambition is to learn of regular injuries regularly incurred by athletes, much like my father, and how they are caused. How soon, in the future, I may be the one to cause them. How I, in the future, may avoid them at all cost. I learn of human anatomy and study psychology to intrinsically understand the inner workings of the human brain. I do this so I can be prepared for any and all eventuality.

I begin to work as a doctor for professional wrestlers. I do it not to be kind but to learn of wrestlers. You do not know of a person's desperation until their livelihood is in your hands. I cannot fix some- they are like my father. I treat this as an opportunity to learn from them and experiment. Perhaps I may even make a breakthrough. My methods are now considered unethical. My family seen as freakish. The industry do no appreciate this. I receive a reputation, soon referred to as "The Plague Doctor". I resent this title, but my medical background is not to last long. It is purely for research reasons.

I embark on my travels. I claim my legacy, looking to do the very thing that my father was unable to do. Over the span of a year, I win three titles. I want to do better. I want surpass my father. I want to move from his shadow. My family cast me out due to conflict of interest and join with the dregs of society.

I have no one. Until one day, I meet Emery. We both want to be better than our families.
We have common enemies. We both want opportunities otherwise not afforded to us. We join forces.

I am often asked why I continue to team with Emery Layton in spite of our differences and, often, different philosophies in life. I am given a hard time for 'penalising' or criticising her. My criticisms are valid. Emery Layton is a talented wrestler. She has the potential to be one of the best wrestlers in the world. I do not care about her background or her social circle. It does not take genius-level intelligence to see that she will be something great.

But she does not plan. She does not care to strategise. She will openly mock her opponents and refuses to see people for the threats that they are. She denies anything that points animosity towards her, running without looking back. She believes her life should be dictated by 'the moment'. This is a mistake. I have lived a life based around the tragedy of Aldus Fenric. I have spent countless years to ensure that everything I do is meticulously constructed, careful and goes without hitch. Emery, while full of potential, could jeopardise this. Her motives are emotionally-charged. I am not. I prefer logic.

I should not be misunderstood- I at least care enough of Emery to team with her on a consistent basis. I will not stand to be accused of trying to manipulate her, as some have said. I would not do that, I do not have the patience. I have watched someone ruin their career before my very eyes and dealt, at length, with the aftermath. I will not watch it happen again. She has a lot to learn. But so do I and we can teach one another.

Nevertheless...this Sunday, Layton & Fenric will be out in force. We will step into the ring with five other teams in a high pressure situation where we will thrive.

We can do so much more than we do today. We've only just begun in IYH. We're walking.

After The Fall, we run.




"If I lose..." she slurrs with a hiccup, "I dunno what's gonna happen to Layton & Fenric. Fuck, man...I dunno what Amy's gonna say either." Another swig. She's teetering more and more. "And on top of all that, I still got loads of other teams to deal with!" Huge swig of the bottle now. She wobbles on her barstool a little bit. "There's a stake in whatever corner you look in this match and I just dunno what to do with myself! All I ever wanted to do was wrestle, know what I'm saying? I just wanted to wrestle and be friends with people. And now I gotta choose between 'em!" She throws both her arms up, shrugging in a massively animated way like only a person who's hammered could. "Well...what if I don't wanna choose, eh?! I'm Emery Layton! 'Choice' and 'reason' fear me." Hiccup again. she puts her hand on the shoulder of this poor man she's been harrassing all night. "Y'know what? Maybe, you're right! Maybe, you're right. I should just say 'FUCK it!'. I'm going in with no plan. Cos if I don't plan, then nothing can go wrong. You're great, fella! You give some great advice."

She turns to get off the stool but before she does, she turns back to the man at the bar, head still down. "Thanks for listening. Get home safe, yeah?" Now she turns back, looking out to everyone. "ALRIGHT! I'm the next Tag Team Champion. You lot hear me? Its time to celebrecate because guys, I'm ready for The Fall!" Emery puts one foot on the floor and her entire body follows it. The bar-stool drops to the floor with her. Emery is flat on her face, her eyes closed. She's off to dream land.

It's been a tough old week to be a red-headed wrestling pavee. And one way or another, it's about to get worse.
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