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 Fall Of The Runaways #2: "Extract The Champion", Part Two of Four
DJS
 Posted: Jun 3 2018, 11:57 PM
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Previous Part: "Special"

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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...


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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]

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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.


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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.


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'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.


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