To The Wolves

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
A story about a televised cage fighting League run by Commissioner Denton Wolfe, centering around the women's division.

Submitted: January 06, 2015

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Submitted: January 06, 2015

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A tempestuous sea of voices yelling, heckling, hooting, encouraging, reverberates within the three story high cement walls. The chink of weight on metal rings out as a man is shoved against the chain link walls of the Dome. His glistening muscles flex and he emits a low, menacing growl. Pushing himself off the Dome wall with both arms, he uses him momentum to charge and tackle the offending man to the ground. The crack of his opponent’s ribs echoes as they land with a heavy thud on the padded, canvas floor.

Both men are adorned in the same black fighting gear with golden “A”s  emblazoned on the tops of their fingerless gloves and the sides of their thick boots. Across each man’s chest in large, loopy letters, the name “Artemius” shines under the spotlight. The Dome around them encases the fighters, separating them from the audience. Hung just outside cage perimeter, the glow of more than ten garage door sized television monitors illuminate row after row of stands. Their screens display the action in the center of the arena from all angles.

The smaller of the two men, now on all fours, desperately tries to catch his breath while visibly wincing at the pain in his side. The dominating man steps a few feet backward to get a running start. He darts forward and his shin connects loudly as it makes powerful contact with his opponent’s already damaged rib cage. His attack is followed by a loud cheer from some of the more vindictive spectators. The standing man breathes heavily and smiles at their approval through clenched, bloody teeth. He bangs his fist on the chain link wall several times and the crowd take their queue to cheer and clap louder.

Dazed, the smaller man crawls to the edge of the Dome. Gripping the chain links of the cage with his fingers, he pulls himself to a standing position while the impatient crowd rallies for another attack. With a loud cry, the smaller man heroically hurdles himself forward to meet his opponent head on.

Unphased, the large man charges too, but at the last moment, sidesteps out of the way causing the small man to trip in attempt to stop his own sprint. Capitalizing on this momentary discombobulation, the large man sneaks up behind the other and thrusts his forearm upward between the small man’s legs into a low blow. The audience erupts into a split of disapproving boos and laughter.

On this, the first fight night of the League’s season, the fans are especially excited. With the Bid completed and the new member’s of the Packs officially selected, regularly scheduled competition re-commences. The familiar faces and winners from the previous year return to the Dome with a fanfare while the new small game competitors are harassed and insulted as they attempt to make their first impressions.

The male Packs, as always, recruited a generous number of new aspiring athletes. The female Packs, on the other hand, received a record low number applicants: zero. This is no surprise to anyone who witnessed the devastating collapse of the female League last year. More women joining? They wouldn’t dare.


 

A long mesh steel walled corridor connects the Dome in the center of the arena to the backstage area of the League, creating an aerial shape like a gargantuan thermometer. At the end of the corridor opposite from the Dome, fighters enter the arena through a curtain. Behind this curtain, several fluorescent bulb lit halls leading to countless rooms and corridors are filled with rushing workers.

These areas make up the interior of the League, forbidden to fans, as what happens within is all still part of the show. Thousands of strategically installed cameras record every square inch, continuously tracking all fighter’s conversations, behaviors, and intimate, private moments.

Holding his position just behind the entrance curtain, walkie talkie in hand, the Head of Security shifts his eyes every few seconds in either direction, keeping constant awareness of every athlete that passes nearby. He is watching for one person in particular, as always. A woman. Every night, Gregory looks forward to the polite greeting and smile he receives from the female Head of the Bruntain Pack. Bruntain’s leading woman has a storied reputation of contempt and surly disdain for most everyone. Gregory takes pride in being her seemingly one exception.

He knows that the women’s segment in the show is booked immediately following this currently ongoing fight. How much longer could this fight last? Gregory straightens the front of the tucked in shirt of his uniform and squints to see his reflection in the screen of one of the large television monitors hanging on the wall opposite him. He can’t see anything. Stupid anti-glare. Reaching into his pants pocket, he pulls out his cell phone, opens the camera application, and switches the camera view around frontward so he can see himself in the screen. Holding the phone at a distance with one hand, he uses the other to hastily straighten out his sand colored hair that habitually has the appearance of being whipped in the wind.

A fellow security guard walks past and Gregory drops his arm down to his side to obscure his phone from view, quickly putting on a modest smile. The passing guard is polite enough to pretend he didn’t see what his boss was doing. He nods and Gregory nods back. As soon as the man turns the corner, Gregory stuffs his phone away and rolls his eyes at himself.


 

In comfortably furnished rooms nearby, the younger men of the League lounge in groups, playing off their nervousness by cracking jokes and play fighting with each other. The older, more experienced men, the wolves, stand by quietly taking in every nuance of their new competition, mentally separating the weak from the true competitors. All the while, the constant shuffle of the busy League workers and the loud, vibrating hum of the industrial air conditioning drown out much of the conversation.

Like a well oiled machine, the League functions with countless unique, moving parts all doing their job to achieve the same universal ends. The security team makes their rounds, Tress Alloise’s scouts lie in wait in dark corners observing and reporting back in hushed voices on their private channel walkie talkies, janitorial staff mops up puddles and picks up towels, averting their eyes from the more threatening looking fighters’ gazes.

The fighters are taking no notice of the workers tonight anyway. Big screen televisions project the fights all along the hallways, dormitories, and every common area. On an ordinary day, these screens would show various highlights, interviews, and League gossip for that week, but tonight, every screen is of the action in the Dome and every fighter is waiting their turn to battle in the harsh terrain that awaits them all.

Every man is scheduled to fight tonight. This booking is a rarity, but necessary to make up for the lack of female competition. Due to the current, special circumstances, no women are to enter the Dome on this night, except one.


 

Shy sits cross legged on the freshly shampooed carpet in her new quarters. Her eyes are fixed on the flat screen built into the wall in front of her, but her mind is far away from what she is seeing.

Shy doesn’t like the smell of her new room. It smells of cleaning supplies and some sort of generic flowery air freshener. She knows the couch just behind her is brand new with fluffy, plump cushions, but she can’t bring herself to sit on it. It’s too much like the one the last Head of the women’s Artemius Pack had.

She could have stuck around at the end of last year to give the design crew special specifications, like most people would have, but Shy had wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.  The one thing she did say to them, however, the one order she had, was to not make it look like Desty’s room. Not the colors, not the arrangements of the furniture, nothing.

They changed a few things. The living room set up was turned one hundred and eighty degrees, the paintings were more beatnik than elegant, the rug a different pattern. The crew had thoughtfully filled her refrigerator with candy and assorted sweets like Shy likes (was addicted to, more like it), but Shy could still feel it. The history. All of it.

She hadn’t even dared go into the bedroom yet. She also avoided looking too closely at the desk in the corner. While working as Desty’s assistant, Shy had, on countless nights, seen Desty sit at a desk just like it, using the same computer filled with all the same information that Shy was now in charge of. In charge.

A pang of worry hits Shy’s gut followed by a small wave of nausea as she thinks of what she has to do tonight. This will be her first public appearance since it happened. Everyone in the League has already been back for weeks, training, doing interviews, participating in the Bid, but Shy didn’t want to come back. She wasn’t afraid, she simply didn’t know what to do. Three years she spent training under Desty (much longer than most proteges have with their mentors), but now that the time came, and it was her name on that placard hung outside the door, the internal leader instinct she assumed would kick in wasn’t coming to her.

Desty never had a problem leading. No, sir. Everyone who knew her, past and present has the same opinion: Desty was perfect. The greatest woman in the history of the League, they say. Desty’s words were confident and smooth as silk. Her wit was sharp and her mind devious and cunning. Her flowing hair, sultry body, and seductive aura brought everyone around her to their knees, the entire world crumbling in her presence. Pure, once in a lifetime, perfection.

Anger suddenly flashes over Shy’s face. Her breathing becomes haggard. The imaginary stone Shy feels as if she swallowed seems to increase in size as the bad feelings return. Shy closes her eyes, shakily brings both hands up, slides her fingers into her hair and clenches her fists around her mousy brown locks.

She isn’t fucking perfect, Shy thought bitterly. If Desty was perfect, she wouldn’t have denounced Shy like she did. She wouldn’t have abandoned her. Perfect Desty wouldn’t have lied to everyone’s faces. She wouldn’t have made Shy look like a liar. Everyone blamed Shy for Desty’s ‘retirement’. It wasn’t fair. Desty was the cause of all of this. It was her fault. She brought this on herself!

Their relationship was not all in Shy’s head. That’s what everyone says. They say it was Desty’s job to be charming and flirtatious. She did it for the show, that’s all. But Shy knew they were all wrong. They never saw how her and Desty were when they were alone together. Or how Desty looked into her eyes and touched her when no one else was looking. In all of those meetings Shy attended sitting right next the Artemius Head, Desty’s hand slyly sliding up Shy’s leg under the conference table, teasing her, no one saw. It was their secret.

Desty’s affair with Leopold, now that was fake. It had happened before Shy joined the League, but she had seen the old footage. Once Shy became part of Desty’s inner circle, she gained access to much of the information Master Control forbade ordinary fighters from seeing. One day, when Desty was out, Shy sat at Desty’s computer and snooped through old footage stored in the League’s database until she found Desty and Leopold.

Desty never really like him. Shy could see it in her eyes. She didn’t watch everything, no one would have enough time to do that, but by the end of her hunt, Shy was pretty sure that Desty and Leopold never had sex once. The closest video Shy ever found was of Desty satiating his advances with a half-hearted handjob, like they were in high school. Shy would’ve been jealous if the pathetic scene didn’t make her laugh.

Now she feels guilty about having laughed at him. Long ago, Leopold had warned Shy about Desty. While everyone else was pulling Desty aside to tell her to watch out for that odd new girl - telling her that Shy was some sort of sex-obsessed stalker who was going to take advantage of her - Leopold was the only person who told Shy it would be wise to stay away from Desty. She uses people, he said. At the time, Shy shook off his advice as ex-boyfriend pettiness, but now, Leopold’s unspoken ‘I told you so’ rings unpleasantly in her mind.

When Leopold and Desty’s so called relationship fell apart, she had left him utterly heartbroken, his spirit destroyed in brutal fashion beyond repair. Newer men and women who have come into the League since then only know Leopold as the hardened, misogynistic cad that he is now, but they don’t realize that he once embodied an entirely different demeanor before she got to him.

The rage filling Shy’s body worsens as she relives flashes of Desty memories. Tears begin to form in the corners of her still shut eyes. The slight moisture and sting of emotional strain makes Shy even angrier. She’s not even here and she’s still doing this to me! Shy forces herself to bring her mind back to the present. She has procedures for moments like this.

Concentrating, she lets go of her hair and puts both hands back in her lap, takes a deep breath, breathing in until she feels the pang in her chest that lets her know she has filled her entire lung capacity, then breathes out all the way until her escaping breath is nothing but a wheeze. Every time she does this, she feels better. It was as if with every full release of air, she is getting rid of something. Pushing out a memory, banishing a feeling. Shy wants nothing more at this moment than to be empty. She opens her eyes.

After the red spots she sees dissipate, she suddenly notices the time on the brand new wall clock by her desk. She clamors to her feet and takes two steps to the door, but then does a double take. I should probably fix myself up a little bit before heading out to speak to fifty-thousand people. Shy decides to turn around and head instead, for into her new quarter’s bedroom for the first time since arriving. Daring only one step inside, she flips on the lightswitch, and turns to face the full length mirror that she knew would be just next to the bedroom door. Exactly where Desty had it.

She hadn’t realized how terrible she looked until now. Her jeans are worn out, tucked sloppily into her boots, one pant leg partially falling out. Her bleach stained sweatshirt is slightly too big, particularly on her already small stature. Shy grabs a hair band from around her wrist off and pulls her thick hair up into a casual ponytail, leaving a few strategic wavy strands dangling around the sides of her face. Leaning closer to the mirror to examine her work, her eyes suddenly catch her attention. At least she thinks they’re her eyes.

Shy doesn’t remember them being so dark before. Nearly black. Lightening bolts of red web from her pupil all the way through the white. She wasn’t wearing any makeup, but black circles seem to have formed around both eyes like shadowy eyeliner.

Shy had lost considerable weight since leaving the League over the summer (stomaching food felt more like a chore than a pleasure) and she knew she hadn’t been getting nearly enough sleep for countless weeks on end, but the sunken, bony, disturbed face she looks at now doesn’t look right to Shy at all. She looks...terrifying. A frightening thought suddenly occurs to her. Is this what happened to Lennyn?


 

Commissioner Denton Wolfe stands, arms crossed, still as marble in the center of the auditorium sized control room stationed high above the fighting arena. At six foot five, dressed in his usual faultlessly pressed, pinstriped power suit, his prowess seems to slow down time around him.

Everyone who encounters the Commissioner immediately understands how appropriate his last name is for him. His groomed forest of stark back hair has charming stripes of silver stemming from the roots and running through his oversized sideburns that extend halfway down his cheek. His untamed caterpillar eyebrows give his eyes a wild, glowering look that can make even the most confident men and women weary.

In front of Commissioner Wolfe, the titan screen that spans an entire wall is split into a grid of two foot squares, each square is displaying the perspective of a different camera. Every nook cranny of the League is monitored in this room, Master Control. Rows of workers donned in headsets sit at computers facing the titan screen as they operate and edit the ongoings of the fighters several floors below.

Despite the Commissioner’s silence, the room is filled with noise. Voices yell queues and orders at each other to keep up with the live event. None of these shouts are directed at the Commissioner. Only in the most dire and desperate situations does Denton personally involve himself. Outside of those rare instances, every order and project that Commissioner Wolfe dreams up is carried out through his faithful Deputy Commissioner, Tress Alloise.  

Tress’ is, by far, the loudest voice in the room. Though hoarse from years of cigarette smoke, her ear-splitting screech still manages to cut through everything else like a hot knife through butter. Far from carrying herself in the stoic manner of Denton, Tress is usually visibly frazzled, with the tendency to throw tantrums several times a day with only the slightest provocation. How can she not be a wreck, having to constantly fix the mistakes of her imbecilic staff? And that’s not even counting the fighters! Tress will never understand how Denton can have the faith in these meathead jocks like he does.

After cursing out yet another Master Control worker for the third time in the last hour, Tress flicks the butt of her used up cigarette into the ashtray she placed earlier on the desk of one of the central workers. The tray is nearly spilling over, but that doesn’t stop her from immediately pulling out another cigarette from her suit pocket and lighting it.

For a moment, Tress thinks she saw the worker by her ashtray give the tray a distasteful look, but he quickly averted his eyes when he noticed Tress watching him. Fuck off you little shit and get back to work.

She takes a long, slow drag and lets it back out. The tension built up in her neck relaxes. She absentmindedly pulls down the front of her pantsuit jacket that had been riding up.

Tress’ suits are always just a little bit too tight, something for which she occasionally overhears people poking fun. If everyone around here wasn’t so fucking incompetent, maybe I wouldn’t have all this stress weight. She doesn’t really care what the workers think of her. If they need a childish outlet for what they feel is verbal abuse, let them have their jokes. Denton’s opinion is what matters.

The effect of the initial hit of nicotine wears and Tress begins to worry once again about the show’s next segment. How could Denton approve this? We’re trusting Shy now?This is a business, goddammit, and she’s a nutcase!

Tress’ last conversation with Shy was not a pleasant one. Tress had already had to deal with the backlash of making the announcement that the Commissioner had allowed Shy to be appointed the new Head, but then Denton informed her that he had given Shy more time off than anyone else and that Shy wouldn’t be returning until the first fight night. Apparently, in exchange, Shy promised to come back with a plan (a vision, as Denton likes to say) of how she is going to rebuild everything she has torn down.

Not accepting that second hand promise, Tress called Shy up immediately and demanded her plan for the restoration of the women’s League right then and there. Tress swears if she would’ve had the conversation in person, she would have gotten Shy to admit it, but with hundreds of miles of phone lines between them, Shy did not give away a thing. She’s got nothing! Tress was certain of that. She had watched Shy’s childish antics for three years. How can someone who still eats lollipops and makes ‘that’s what she said’ jokes possibly run her own Pack?

After that call, Tress acquiesced to Denton’s will and left Shy to her leave, but her worries did not lessen when she learned of what fans did to the posters the League had printed and displayed advertising Shy’s return. One particular incident in the parking lot involved a fire extinguisher and a lifetime ban for four or five die hard Desty fans, doing what they clearly considered to be their duty to their idol.

Tress’ Head of Security, Gregory’s, voice sounds through the walkie talkie clipped to her side.

“Ms Alloise?”

Polite motherfucker, what now?


 

In a cramped reserved room near the arena entrance, empty aside from a few spare folding chairs, all remaining women from both Packs are sitting and standing around, waiting. The boom and rattle of the nearby audience and arena equipment make the silence in the room even more pronounced. The only voices within the room are of the League Hostmasters on the small monitor bolted into the corner.

Lennyn surveys everyone from her chosen corner furthest from the door. So few of her fighters are still here. She has been keeping an ear out for weeks for any hints of dissent or mutiny from the women who returned at the start of the season. Considering how terribly they fared before, Lennyn hopes the ladies learned that they cannot compete with a determined Shy.

It’s not as if the women remaining were stronger than the others whom Shy systematically picked off one by one and forced into early League retirement. Shy simply hadn’t gotten to them yet.

Many fighters, men and women, conjectured that if Lennyn really wanted to, she could have stopped Shy’s rampage at any time. There may be some truth to that theory. Desty, having considerable managerial power, frequently allowed Shy break rules and cheat and do essentially whatever she wanted due to their special relationship, but Shy always made sure to keep herself in check when Lennyn was watching. Shy knew Lennyn would not tolerate any of that nonsense, and even more, she knew that getting on Lennyn’s bad side was about the most idiotic thing a League fighter could do.

Lennyn had refrained from publicly taking sides in the Desty-Shy controversy, but she could not contain herself when Tress informed Lennyn of Shy’s unanticipated promotion at the end of last season. She should have suspected bad news when Tress arranged their meeting in a conference room instead of Tress’ office; Lennyn had numerous instances early on in her career involving destruction of League property whenever she became enraged. The infamous, by hand, obliteration of a one hundred pound, two thousand dollar camera put her on the map as a the one of the most dominant woman in the League. The crack Lennyn left in the conference table as she slammed her fist at Tress’ announcement only cemented Tress’ opinion of Lennyn as  a loose cannon. How could Denton not fire Shy after everything she’s done?!

This will be the first year Lennyn is in the League without Desty, making Lennyn now the most experienced woman here. Desty was already lined up to take over Artemius when Lennyn was first hired, and since then, the two of them have ran Artemius and Bruntain as a unit for years.

The difference in Lennyn and Desty’s styles of leading their Packs was like night and day. Desty took the more politician-like approach to her leadership: kissing babies, shaking hands, and treating everyone like her best friend. Lennyn’s approach was much more logical: It doesn’t matter if anyone likes her; what matters is that she does a good job.

Desty was perpetually praised for her cleverness (which Lennyn attributes to smoke and mirrors and a talent for showmanship), but no one in the League was ever a match for Lennyn’s raw intellect. Of course Desty’s reign as Artemius Head was considered one of the most significant and successful of all time, she was the beautiful face in front of Lennyn’s brain. They made a successful team, but Desty’s incessant glory hogging was a big source of tension between the two of them.

She didn’t say it out loud, but watching Desty gradually become unhinged and beaten down over the past year gave Lennyn a fair amount of satisfaction. Perhaps that was partially why Lennyn didn’t step in to put a stop to Shy. Having Desty now gone completely, however, feels...strange. Lennyn cannot quite pinpoint the feeling she has at this moment. Is it pity? It couldn’t be sadness.

As Lennyn idly contemplates this, the door on the other side of the room opens. Every eye snaps up the same moment as the woman they’ve all been waiting for steps cautiously into the room and closes the door gently behind her. Lennyn is relieved to see that Shy is dressed in the standard Artemius fighter uniform. Black tights, boots, and the fitted Artemius shirt, not Shy’s usual over-casual, inappropriately revealing attire. She never wore what we told her to, Lennyn remembers.

She notices the girls eyeing the Greek Alpha symbol sewn into Shy’s shoulder, slight scowls on their faces. The loopy flourish of gold lettering underneath the patch is small, but they all know by heart what it reads. The very same lettering and symbol is scribed onto Lennyn’s own uniform, only in silver, the color of Bruntain. Head of Pack.

“Could everyone please gather up, please?”

Lennyn rolls her eyes at the accidental redundancy of Shy’s sentence. The girls all remains exactly as they were. Lennyn takes it upon herself to be first by stepping away from the wall she was leaning on and moving several feet closer to Shy. The other women hesitantly follow Lennyn’s queue. Shy pauses for a long moment before she begins her speech.

“I know,” Shy clears her throat. “I know that most of you...all of you...are not very happy to have me in charge right now.” Every woman is staring daggers at Shy, who averts her eyes to the ground. “I understand what you must think of me.”

Shy stops talking. They all wait patiently for her to go on, but she simply stares straight down. Lennyn isn’t sure of what Shy is hoping to achieve with this pre-show meeting, but at Shy’s request, Lennyn agreed to gather them all to meet. Sensing the possibility of the scorned women attacking Shy in these closes quarters, Lennyn begins forming a plan of distraction. Suddenly, a noticeable shift crosses over Shy’s face. Her eyes, still pointing down, suddenly flare with intensity.

“But I just want you all to know,” her becomes deeper and raspy as her breathing becomes heavier. She slowly and more quietly continues, “...this is my show.”

Clearly, none of the other girls expected that conclusion. Several of their eyebrows furrow, a few of them looking at each other briefly for understanding. Having now been in the room with Shy for a solid minute, the women are now beginning to realize just how...altered Shy appears. Older. The weight of the world catching up to her for the first time in her life. It’s about damn time, Lennyn thinks.

Gaining steam, Shy looks up from the floor and speaks on, “I don’t care if you think I’m stupid, crazy, unstable...a fraud who doesn’t deserve the time of day, I don’t care!” A couple of the girls flinch at Shy’s rising volume. “This is my show now! And all of you are going to do what I say. Talk about me behind your back, say it to my face, I don’t care, just do what I fucking say! Got it?”

No one has an answer for Shy’s possibly rhetorical question. A few shift uncomfortably where they stand. Lennyn resists a tiny urge to smile.

“If anyone has any kind problem with that - a problem with me - speak up right now. Say it now, because after tonight I don’t want to hear it.”

Nobody moves.

“Go on! Right now! Let me have it, I’m wide open!”

Lennyn can feel the eyes of several of the women trying to subtly look over in her direction. She assumes they’re trying to gauge how they should be reacting. Lennyn takes a deep breath and keeps looking silently ahead at Shy. Her and Shy’s eyes lock, but still, Lennyn doesn’t say a word. After a moment, Shy seems appeased and relaxes.

“Okay.” She takes a steadying breath. “Pep talk over.” Shy smooths the front of her shirt for no reason. “I’m going to go out there alone tonight and I want you all to watch. I’m not afraid of them and I’m not afraid of you. I’m just going to show all of them what it means to have a new boss around here and...and what my League is going to be about.” Shy nods, agreeing with herself. She turns around, opens the door, and walks out.

Everyone is keeps silent after she leaves. The television in the corner flashes a picture of Shy on the screen, the same image on the posters that have been viciously ripped down. The arena boos are heard in the background on the television and also muffled through the walls. The voice of one of the two League fight night Hostmasters speaks over the image.

“Also coming up tonight, new leader of the Artemius Pack, Shy, speaks out for the first time since ending the legendary Prize Fight Champion, Desty’s, career.”

The Hostmaster’s female counterpart chimes in, “That’s right, Cliff, I don’t care if you loved Desty or you hated her--”

“Oh, come now, Brooklynn, who hated her? Maybe you did, because women are always jealous of each other, right?”

Brooklynn laughs, “Maybe a little. Either way, you don’t want miss what’s coming up next.

“Definitely not,” Cliff agrees. “It’s time for the ladies to squelch all of those ridiculous rumors from the summer of the women’s League shutting down forever. A travesty that would be!”

“Yes! Let’s set the record straight!”

Cliff goes on, “This isn’t just the end of an era, ladies and gentleman, but the beginning of something the likes of which this league has never seen before.”

Brooklynn finishes with a smile, “Stay tuned.”


 

The stands pulsate with anticipation. Shy waits silently next to Gregory behind the cage corridor’s curtain for her name to be announced. The lights in the arena dim and a booming voice comes over the speakers. As the announcer speaks Shy’s name, her signal to step through the curtain, a deafening outburst of boos pour out of the onlookers in Shy’s expected direction. Shaking off her hesitation, she enters into their view. Bright lights focus on her, blinding her vision. She doesn’t flinch.

Walking dead ahead through the corridor, she doesn’t stop until she reaches the center of the open area within the Dome cage. A microphone descends on a wire from the top of the Dome and Shy reaches for it. Holding the microphone, but not speaking, she looks around at the scene before her.

The Dome cage’s function is said by fans to be so the competitors have no way of escaping once their fights begin, but tonight the cage functions as a barrier for the audience’s rage and hatred. Several fans begin hurling their drinks and garbage, more fans joining in once they see. None of the objects reach Shy, as they simply bounce off of the chain links to the floor, but the message is clear nonetheless.

Security guards stationed in the arena stands begin issuing crowd control threats to the more enraged spectators. Each individual they warn heads temporarily, but then continues as soon as the guards switch attention to someone else.

Shy waits for them to calm so she can speak, but soon understands that isn’t going to happen. She takes a deep breath and brings the microphone to her lips.

“I’m sorry.”

The crowd’s uproar begins all over again, even louder than before. The audience is yelling back hateful threats, becoming more out of control by the second. Desperate, Shy does the only thing she knows how to do when things begin falling apart. She freaks out.

“OKAY!!”

Shy yells at the top of her lungs over their jeers.

“OKAY! OKAY! SHUT UP!!! STOP!!!”

The crowd slowly dies down, satisfied at how they’ve upset her. A quiet falls over the stands. In a low, calm voice, Shy begins.

“You have every right to hate me.”

A few of the audience members yell their approval of this statement. Shy doesn’t react.

“She’s not here anymore...and it’s all my fault.”

More denigrating taunts are given. Ignoring them, Shy stares forward, seeing nothing.

 

In the back, the League women are standing with Gregory on other side of Dome’s entrance, obeying Shy’s orders and watching on the television screens. Silently, they listen as Shy lists off and confesses to all of her offences from the past year one by one. Every new confession brings another rise of heckles and boos as fans mourn their favorite League members that will likely never fight in the Dome again.  Macy, the loveable country girl...Carrigan, Desty’s trusted friend...Fawn, Miss Wrong-Place-Wrong-Time...Carlotta, the women’s Den trainer...Whitney, who never even had a chance, taken out on her very first night in the League...and many others whose only crime was stepping in Shy’s way.

 

The losses were numerous, but none compared to the loss of the person whose name Shy is saving for last. After exhausting her confessions, she closes her eyes, preparing herself to address her most heinous betrayal.

“Desty can’t be here anymore.” She pauses as her throat tightens. “She can’t be here…because of me. I understand how all of you felt about her. You watched her fights, you listened to her interviews, you waited hours in line for autographs...you loved her.”

Shy’s eyes crinkle at the sides as she reacts to the words she just spoke. She repeats them quietly.

“You loved her.”

The crowd is still. On the garage door sized monitors, Shy’s face is magnified a hundred times larger. They all wait for Shy to move past this last spoken thought, but she does not.

“You loved her,” she says again. “Because of me...you lost somebody that you loved....You loved her.”

Shy’s face tenses as the meaning her her words resonates within herself. Her eyes enflame with passionate fire. She takes an intense, long breath in through her nose.

“YOU THINK YOU LOVED HER!!!”

The scream of her exclamation makes the entire audience jump. Her painful words echo around the arena, joined soon by the echo of another sound...the sound of Shy crying.

Shy shudders enormously as emotion takes over her body. She collapses down to her knees, in front of everyone’s judging eyes, and bawls uncontrollably.


 

In Master Control, Tress watches the titan screen nervously in the shadow of Commissioner Wolfe.  Stony faced, as always, he doesn’t seem the slightest bit perturbed by what is going on in his Dome beneath them. Tress leans close to whisper a suggestion.

“Should I tell them to cut? She’s completely lost--”

“No.” The Commissioner’s gruff dismissal shut Tress down in an instant. “Let her go.”


 

Everyone watches in horror as this manipulative, selfish, evil woman pours out her soul. It is pathetic. Heartbreaking. It’s the first genuine thing anyone here has ever seen her do. Shy had been upset in front of them before. She had been mad, even cried, but she had never done this. She was never this...honest. They couldn’t look away.

In the back, sympathetic tears develop in the eyes of League fighter, Roxy. Saville’s cold expression softens. Lennyn, unwavering in her unforgiving glare, looks around the effect Shy’s breakdown is having on everyone around her.


 

The men in the other rooms of the League are quiet as well, eyes fixed on Shy whose stream of gasps and tears flows on and on.

Ash, one of the newer men of the League, only veteran of one year, quietly says to his cronies around him, “What the hell is she doing?”

From somewhere behind him, the male Head of the Bruntain Pack, standing firm with impeccable posture, answers Ash’s question with over-enunciating diction, “She is doing what Desty taught her to do.”

Ash looks over his shoulder, confused, but doesn’t reply. He knows Desty is an off limit topic with Leopold.


 

The audience is paralyzed as they absorb the raw emotion emanating from the broken women center stage. A fighter, no less - the newest leader in the harshest, most gut wrenching environment where only the elite survive - is revealing unprecedented weakness.

Shy could barely hear or see, physically unable to stem the tide of her own deep sobs. After what felt like an eternity of quietude punctured solely by the humiliating cries of Shy’s pain, a faint sound is heard from somewhere in the distance. The sound gradually becomes louder as others join in. The audience is clapping.

Like an ocean wave, applause spreads all around the arena. Fans begin to stand up. Within a minute’s time, everyone is on their feet.

Shy looks up at into the sea of faces surrounding her. Her tears subside as she catches her breath. Composing herself the best she can, she finds the strength to shakily rise from the ground upright. The crowd cheers. Still crying faintly, Shy laughs. She puts the microphone back up to her still quivering lips and says with a modest breath, “Thank you.”

WIth her left hand, Shy touches two fingers to her lips, then lifts her hand high into the sky, just as Desty did after every victorious fight. The enlivened crowd cheers on for both Desty and her protege.


 

Commissioner Wolfe’s eyes remain in their usual intense stare, but a subtle smirk now plays on his lips. Tress cowers feebly next to Denton, looking unsure of what she should be doing. She watches the Commissioner’s smile widen.

“I knew Desty wouldn’t retire without leaving a gift.”


© Copyright 2018 Dag37. All rights reserved.

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