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Dimension X Combat: the Hands of Fate


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Disclaimer: the following format has been basically ripped off wholesale from Plankton. All names and characters have been changed to protect my status on this board. The concept, universe, and character archetypes have been used with permission, which was granted over a series of PMs when this board opened. Any moderator who does not mind having the ending spoiled is free to ask for me to forward permission to them. So there.

*****

"EWR is a great program. It can simulate reality and it can simulate an outrageous fantasy world."

--Plankton, opening remarks, "Intergalactic Wrestling Federation"

Fate stood alone, reading the Dimension X Chronicle. Everywhere, he saw relics of the previous wars -- wars which had shifted the balance of power as he knew it. First one coalition, then another, and through it all, a people trying to learn self-reliance. Now was not the time to look to the past.

However, when he stood in the arena -- the one which had seen the combat that took men to his place of power -- he heard the calling. It wasn't that the sport was still illegal; heck, if he could prove no harm would be done, he would practically be given the blessing. The problem was that many people dared not speak of this -- this barbaric event that brought about three civil wars and the death of a former president.

And yet...

He had heard the whispers. Five seasons begat four glorious champions, three of whom lay buried on the Hill of Heroes, and the crowd wanted to honor their memory. What better way, many said, than to have it live and breathe again?

But no, it was all a castle in the sky. The new government would almost certainly shut him down. There was definitely no way they'd allow him to air a new season. It was impossible. It had to be impossible. But still, it was worth asking about.

*****

Fate could not believe his ears. His plan was received well by the government. Since Fate was making no play at power -- and indeed had retired from politics so long ago -- his endeavor was seen as harmless. There was only one request: the name be changed. The old name was tinged with the corruption and bloodlust of its fallen owner.

Now that this was agreed upon, one thing remained -- the selection of the chosen few.

*****

Jeff Jarrett could not have been happier. His startup wrestling company, with its rather unique methodology of weekly Pay-Per-View events, had survived two years and counting. It had two syndicated television shows and was fast approaching the time when it could compete with Vince McMahon's mighty empire. On top of it, he was its champion -- and yes, he heard the sneering "Triple J" remarks, but he could WORK, dammit!

He headed to the phone to call Raven, who was one of his top draws. Plans were in the works to see when -- and if -- Raven would get his huge title win. He had been denied for so long, but the denials just made him stronger. Business was picking up again, and Panda Energy was pleased. Now may have been the time.

But that wasn't the point of the call. The point of the call was an invitation the two of them had discussed, that they had both accepted. It merely read "You have been accepted to take part in an elite wrestling program. The winner shall receive immortality, but only the first 20 to respond can get this chance. The contest begins July 1. Do not worry about where -- you will know."

*****

Fate: I'm sorry to do this to you.

Twenty men looked around in confusion. They had no idea where they were -- certainly it wasn't any country they'd been to before. They had no idea how they got there -- it just seemed they WERE there. Each looked at the other, until finally one man stepped forward to question the man who brought them to their new locale.

Jarrett: Excuse me, but could you tell me what the hell's goin' on here? I got somewhere to be in a few minutes.

Fate: No you do not. You are there.

You could see 20 lightbulbs go off.

Raven: So this is that contest? This is our opportunity to have our name etched in stone in the annals of wrestling history?

Fate nodded.

Fate: That it is. And you men replied first. Therefore, the chance is yours. But come -- I must tell you what you're up against.

He snapped his fingers as the lights in the arena went on. It was a huge location, seating so many none of them could guess the exact total. In the middle of it all was the ring -- a regular four-sided ring that they were all used to. Everyone smiled.

Fate: Now, I must warn you of the rules and regulations. We meet once per week in the ring to hold our competition. There is no timetable -- there is no set point to finish. The competition will be over when it is over. Our shows last .0833 Earth days -- a length of time you know as two hours. Over the course of this time, you are to fight. I must warn you, though, that no one will tell you whether you win or lose. You are to determine that on your own by any means necessary.

Jeff Jarrett saw another man who had replied to the invitation. I bet he was the first one to get it in, he thought. People comparing me to him -- he's the biggest glory hound there is.

Paul Levesque went up to Fate. It would all be easy, he thought. Fate runs the place -- certainly all that talk of people deciding their own results wasn't entirely true.

Levesque: Come on... every organization has someone in charge. You know as well as I do that the fix is always in.

Fate: Not here. Not now. Here and now, if you do not agree to an ending, you still fight. Someone has to win.

Raven: So theoretically, we could drop the niceties, fail to co-operate, and even turn this ring into one of a legitimate athletic competition?

Fate: Exactly.

Jarrett: Speak English, Scott!

Raven: He says we shoot if we must.

The magnitude of what was being asked dawned on all 20 men at once. This was to see who the toughest legitimate individual was -- clearly they hadn't bargained for it. One man -- a lightly regarded lightweight lost in the WWE shuffle -- stepped forward.

Paul London's face matched his internal feeling of fright and concern. Shootfighting? Didn't boxing have weight classes? He looked around -- HHH (even referring to the individual, he couldn't separate the two) outweighed him by 70 pounds. He was going to be fodder!

London: Sir... um... you know, it's usually not considered fair to put all of us in one group. I mean, even in our fake sport we have weight classes.

Fate: Would it surprise you to learn that the last three champions have all been lighter than the average? Your weight is only a detriment if you want it to be. Now, let me show you how this works.

Fate led all of them next to the ring. He showed them it was just like they remembered -- perhaps a little less give than some would like, but that would be the least of their concerns. He also pointed them to a skybox -- or, at least, it seemed like one.

Fate: Up there is where the losers shall be. See, when you arrived here, we altered your body chemistry to fit with where we are.

Jarrett: Yeah, where ARE we?

Fate: Not in Kansas anymore. You're in another star system, light-years away from Earth. While your civilization is advanced, it's not advanced enough for superluminous travel -- which we have mastered.

Levesque: Superwhat?

Fate: Beaming up, teleporting -- your science "fiction" books have numerous terms for it. But now I'm off-topic. You see, when you arrived here, each of you were altered in three very important ways. First, we placed a miniature oxygern generator within your pulmonary system -- our atmosphere is not Earth's. Second, we constructed a gravity enhancement patch in between your shoulder blades -- our planet's density is lacking. Those two you need not worry about.

London: So why tell us?

Fate: Just thought you'd like to know. It is the third one, however, that should concern you the most. Right at the base of your neck, near the top spinal vertebra, is a button. The button is indented, so it cannot be activated accidentally. However, it is the most important thing you have, for it is how you eliminate someone. When you press the button on someone else, they will be instantly eliminated.

Raven: How will you know?

Fate: It will be clear, because that button initiates the SAPP.

Levesque: Sap? You're covering us in syrup?

Fate: No, no. The S.A.P.P. Suspended Animation Petrification Process. Simply put, you will become statues of yourselves.

Everyone gasped. Clearly, if they knew about this part of the bargain they'd never have said yes. One man in particular rushed forward immediately to get more information.

Billy Kidman was scared -- and had every right to be. When he checked off "yes", he was expecting a chance to go to a place where his lack of microphone skills wouldn't hinder him. He never imagined it would backfire to the point where he might become encased in rock.

Kidman: Wait, wait, wait -- does this mean we're going to die?

Fate: Not at all. You will still be alive. Just -- conscious of your surroundings and unable to do anything. We use it in our criminal justice system. It's perfectly harmless. Oh, and temporary -- when the competition ends, we will release you and send you back home.

Fate hoped his mannerisms would not betray his lie.

Levesque: And what of the winner?

Fate: To the winner, fame and glory here for all time -- and on Earth, a reasonable sum of currency. Ten million units ought to be enough, don't you all think?

Levesque smiled. This was what he wanted to hear. Jarrett's eyes went wide. Now he could bankroll NWATNA until it turned a profit. London and Kidman nodded -- early retirement beckoned so that they would not be stuck in wheelchairs. Everyone had their own motivation now.

Fate: Very well. Remember, we hold one show every Earth week -- the dormitory here is synchronized to that time. Everything you could possibly need is backstage, including special supplements that will restore you to full health if you are run down. Rest well, and may the best man win.

*****

Back in his office, Fate scanned the names of the participants. He had placed them in 5 rooms of four each, hoping to facilitate the strategic talks that had made the third season famous. He knew that he had collected a ragtag group, but one with fighters, schemers, dreamers, fliers, and superstars. Dimension X Combat -- the name he chose -- was about to live.

He glanced over the roster one last time:

* Andrew Martin

* Billy Kidman

* Chris Nowinski

* Dean Malenko

* Homicide

* Jeff Jarrett

* John Cena

* Matt Hardy

* Michael Shane

* Mike Barton

* Paul Levesque

* Paul London

* Raven

* Rene Dupree

* Scott Steiner

* Simon Diamond

* Sonjay Dutt

* Sonny Siaki

* Teddy Hart

* The Messiah

Twenty men of various ages, races, nations, and skills slept that night. They trained together, ate together, practiced together, and in some cases schemed together. It didn't matter. All Fate knew was that he would have a winner -- one that would make him a rich man, able to retire again to his farm in comfort -- the farm destroyed in the New Wars.

(Next: The 20 men gather to try to discuss strategy.)

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Ah. Yes. This would be interesting, to say the least, watching another skilled writer take on the challenge of running another's idea. While there is no doubt that you have the ability, I'm curious as to how you are going to surpass Plankton's already excellent conclusion without dragging the series down.

Anyways I'll be reading, so good luck.

Btw, why are some using their gimmick names (like Raven), while others are sticking to their real names (Andrew Martin)? C'mon, I'm sure in a galaxy far far away, they won't have to worry about the big bad WWE trying to sue them. :shifty:

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Well, it's not like you don't have experience at writing a more story oriented diary. And what I've read of you previous work (admittedly not a lot) tells me that you might be able to pull this off.

And I have to admit, the opening looks ot be fairly decently written, and you do have a nice roster assembled.

Just a quick question, how are you running this "in-game". Meaning, how do you prevent yourself from going bankrupt, from someone getting injured, etc...

Good luck with this one.

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Well, Raven is notorious for hating it when people use his real name for the most part unless you're a personal friend of his, so that might have something to do with it.

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Well, Raven is notorious for hating it when people use his real name for the most part unless you're a personal friend of his, so that might have something to do with it.

True, but he ain't the only one. As far as I can tell, only Trips and Test seem to have ditched their gimmick names.

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For the record, this diary is being done in TEW. Hence the gimmick drops -- but heck, I can fix that if I wanted to. Using the in-game editor I ought to avoid a lot of unpleasant situations, much like Planky did. At any rate, this is overdue, so...

*****

Twenty men headed to their rooms to rest. As Michael Shane entered his room, he saw Kidman and London on one side, unpacking. On the other was Matt Hardy.

Shane: So it looks like we're gonna be living together, huh?

Matt: I guess so.

Kidman: Yeah... looks like that's what they're doing. Strange, isn't it?

Shane: How so?

London: The four lightweights in one room, I mean. It doesn't add up.

Shane: Now, come on. We're not the only ones.

Kidman: Okay, maybe not. But the fact remains that we seem to be isolated. Like Fate knows we need to rely on each other to stay in this competition.

Shane: That's a good point... so... what do we do? How do we help each other? It's every man for himself.

London: I understand that much... but... if we can get it down to just the four of us, don't we have a chance?

Matt: Maybe. Probably not though.

All three turned to Matt.

Kidman: What's gotten into you?

Matt: Gee, I dunno, Billy. It could be the fact that I'm being kept away from my friends and my family and that I probably won't ever see them again.

Shane: Come on, pal. You're going to see them. We're all going back when this is done.

Matt: I don't buy that... there's something about this place... I think we're never going back, no matter how good we are.

Kidman didn't want to admit it, but he had had the same feeling himself.

*****

In another room, Raven, Chris Nowinski, Rene Dupree, and Sonny Siaki were all setting up their belongings. As they did, Siaki noticed something.

Siaki: Hey... remember he said we'd be back to full strength if need be?

Dupree: Oui... what about it?

Nowinski: Yes, why?

Siaki: Because there's a pill of some sort right here.

Raven: Leave it for its rightful owner.

Raven was right. Fate had known, before abducting his 20 men, that one of them was in no condition to do fake fighting, much less real fighting. He had prepared a special dose of Dimension X medicine to bring that fighter back to 100% before any of the fighting would begin. Needless to say, Fate had paid very close attention to his new warriors.

*****

Paul Levesque had already begun a conversation with Jeff Jarrett.

Levesque: Jeff, it's real simple. If we work together, we can split the ten million when we get back. It'll be enough for you to keep your company in the black, and enough for me to live on.

Jarrett: And how can I trust you?

Levesque: You know what I'm capable of. Do you really want me on your bad side?

Jarrett: Fine, I guess... I mean, I don't really have much choice.

Levesque: What's that supposed to mean?

Jarrett: Well, if I don't stick with ya, I know your plan, and that means I might as well have a bull's-eye on my back. It's not like there's any way I can keep myself from bein' in your sights -- we're livin' together!

Levesque smiled.

Levesque: You're a smart man. Keep it up and second place is yours.

Jarrett and Levesque shook hands.

Jarrett: But what about them?

He pointed to another part of the room, where Simon Diamond and Scott Steiner were setting up their beds.

Levesque: We might let them in on it. Or we might not. It all depends on how things are going. Odds are we'll need them down the--

Levesque, and for that matter everyone else, was interrupted by a huge commotion from another room. Everyone ran out into the hall to see what was going on. They watched as Teddy Hart was shoved out the room, bags and all. He screamed back into the room about payback, then walked on. He sat down outside the room, a look of frustration across his face.

Steiner: Wh-- what happened?

Hart: Oh, they don't want me in their room. They think I'm some sort of troublemaker.

Steiner couldn't believe it. A little pipsqueak like that being a troublemaker? They were kidding, right?

Steiner: If they're so scared of you, wait 'till they get a load o' me!

Steiner marched into the room. He saw three men -- Homicide, Andrew Martin, and Messiah -- all on guard, ready to attack whoever walked in. As soon as they saw Steiner, though, they stopped.

Homicide: Shit, man, we thought you was that foo Teddy.

Steiner: I ain't some lightweight pinata, boys. I'm worse than that.

Messiah: Whoa, whoa, whoa -- we got nothin' against you. We just don't want that bitch in our room.

Steiner raised his eyebrows.

Steiner: That's it?

Martin: Yeah. You're cool. C'mon, you switch with him. Never thought I'd see the day when Scott Steiner was a move up, but here it is.

Steiner: All right... if ya say so.

Steiner went back into his room and officially switched with Teddy Hart. Levesque watched, smiling the whole time. He whispered into Jarrett's ear.

Levesque: I don't think we'll have a problem telling our roommates now.

*****

In the final room, John Cena was unpacking his costumes as Mike Barton and Dean Malenko entered. Cena and the fourth man, Sonjay Dutt, took notice.

Cena: Awww damn. We drew the old fogies!

Barton: Hey, watch it, kid. I still got some fight left in me.

Malenko: Easy, Mike, easy. They don't know about us.

Cena: What's there to know, fool? You're retired, I know. You think you can beat me? I say hell no.

Dutt: You sound better on TV.

Cena: I get time to practice.

Malenko: Kid... there's a reason we're here. We may not look like it, but I'm certain we'll be dangerous. You need to brush up on your history. Maybe then you'll appreciate what you're up against.

Barton: And if that doesn't work -- I'll just have to show you personally.

Cena: Ooooooooooh, I'm scared. Can you believe these guys?

Dutt: They're twice our age and want to take us? Let's see if it can happen.

Barton: When the time comes, I think you'll see what us old men are capable of.

Malenko: Yeah... we'll show 'em.

*****

Fate listened in. He already had a set of matches ready for the first show, and a surprise for the 20 contestants. He wondered how long he could keep the secret bugs a secret before they figured out he could hear them. It didn't matter, though; Homicide wanted Teddy Hart dead, and the young guys in Room 5 disrespected their veteran counterparts. Throw in an alliance between Levesque and Jarrett, as well as a little tournament, and the first show was shaping up nicely. This was more than just warfare; this was TOTAL warfare.

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So far, Scott Steiner *SHOCKSHOCK* is my favourite character :D His lines and thoughts were hilarious in the first one, and I wouldn't mind him as a comical relief or even a serious competitor in the later rounds. I'd say that his (apparent) "play-rough-but-fair"-attitude would be a bit of a refreshment in the later rounds, where doublecrossers and cheaters could easily be the dominant majority of the remaining guys.

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July 7, 2004 -- T - 25 minutes and counting.

Sixteen of the twenty men stood in the entranceway. Not everyone had been given an assignment, and a few of the guys were too nervous about performing right away. Paul Levesque, Raven, and Jeff Jarrett helped book the show, attempting to put together two strong hours. Jarrett's experience with TNA and Levesque's with RAW helped make the timing a non-issue, while Raven's knowledge of psychology and finishes meant they were certain they could thrill the crowd.

As of now, everyone seemed willing to work together. Even the four men kept off of the main show were cool with plans. Fate seemed willing to accept their ideas for the show -- at least, that's what Jarrett figured he meant when he said "do what you have to do".

Raven peeked out from behind the curtain. The stadium wasn't quite full -- how could it be? -- but there was a healthy crowd out there. He felt chills he hadn't felt since WrestleMania in Houston, and the crowd reminded him of a crowd that size.

Fate: Are you ready, my warriors?

Fate's voice startled a few people out there. Sonjay Dutt jumped upon hearing it. It was a booming voice -- louder than any voice any of them had heard. As everyone regained their composure, Fate chuckled.

Fate: Pre-show jitters, I see. Don't worry... soon enough the adrenaline will sink in.

London (whispering to Kidman): I sure hope so. Last thing I want is for the show to fall apart.

Kidman (whispering back): Relax... I haven't seen a promotion yet that didn't have a hot first show.

Jarrett: So, Fate... you as excited as I am?

Fate: Excited? Indeed! Look at all those citizens out there who have decided to watch some of the greatest warriors on Earth compete!

Levesque: Yeah, and look at all the empty seats, too.

Fate: Don't worry about those. In the old days, people were corralled into those seats. It may have held 200,000, but the emotion seemed... less than genuine.

The word "corralled" had caught Raven's attention. He chose not to say anything about it -- after all, back at home, Jerry Jarrett would have killed for a house like this.

Kidman: You know what the gate is?

Fate: Excuse me?

Diamond: How many people are out there?

Fate: I would estimate about 45,000 are here. A very nice number.

Cena: Damn. I ain't never wrestled in front of that many in my life, yo.

Fate: Get used to it.

*****

The show was scheduled to begin when the backstage Earth-clock read 12:00. At 11:55, Fate came out to make a few opening remarks.

Fate: Welcome, everyone, to D - X - C!

The crowd cheered. To Fate, it sounded almost as loud as he remembered from television.

Fate: Citizens... I am proud to bring you the latest in Earth-warrior competition! Now... I request to all of you that you do not judge harshly upon these men as they begin. They are not used to our style, and many of them... well, many of them have never taken part in this type of combat before. What you will see tonight will probably have the ring of an exhibition at first.

The crowd booed, catching everyone backstage off-guard.

Levesque: Tough crowd.

Jarrett: Seriously.

Fate held his hand up, and the audience -- which his staff would later say was 46,221 paid -- listened with attention.

Fate: However, they also know the rules of this combat. They know that they must avoid elimination! They know that the winner will be handsomely rewarded! And above all, they know what happens to someone who is eliminated... and none of them want it to happen to them. Therefore, citizens, tonight we shall have a tournament for a prize soon extremely coveted. THIS!

He held up a huge gold belt.

Fate: IMMUNITY!

The crowd cheered. Many started "DXC" chants.

Raven: And here I surmised that to be our domain.

Diamond: Just like old times, eh, Rave?

Fate: Warriors, hear me out. There will come a time when your co-operation will fail. But the show must go on. There will come a time when you realize that elimination becomes a necessity. You will try to take out others, and others will go after you. But, if you hold this belt, there will be no way you can lose. So long as you have the Immunity, you will stay alive.

The crowd cheered. Levesque raised an eyebrow, a gesture which did not go unnoticed.

Kidman: You aren't changing plans on us, are you?

Fate: So citizens and warriors... welcome to the first ever DXC Life... Or... Death!

The crowd was whipped into a frenzy. It was showtime.

Pre-show segment rating: 97.9%

*****

Life or Death

Show #1 -- July 7, 2004

At the commentary table were two of Dimension X's most recognizable personalities -- morning radio DJs Rocksteady and Bebop. They were calling the action for the 3-DVD that would be available that weekend.

Rocksteady: WELCOME Viewers on 3-DVD to DXC's first ever show! This is your host, Rocksteady, and I'm here with my buddy Bebop to bring you all the action!

Bebop: That's right, and we're not wasting any time, folks, we're starting right out with the tournament to determine who will receive the most coveted prize in the DXC -- Immunity!

Rocksteady: Hey, B, who's your money on?

Bebop: You kidding? I don't make nearly enough money.

12:00 - Immunity Tournament Quarterfinal: Paul Levesque vs. Paul London

After getting over the shock of seeing two guys he always assumed were cartoon characters at ringside, Levesque began the match. It was a typical speed vs. power match, and the crowd wasn't too thrilled with Levesque, though London was able to wow them with a huge 450 dive at the four minute mark. Eventually, Levesque became the heel by default, and the crowd wanted to see him lose. Sadly, it wasn't to be, as he got the pin in around six minutes with the Pedigree.

Winner: Paul Levesque

Rocksteady: And Paul Levesque is the first man through to the semifinals of the Immunity Tournament!

Bebop: And did you see how he did it? That's the move the legendary CM Punk made famous! You have to believe he's studied the tapes and knows what works!

Rocksteady: But who will he face? Our next match will determine his opponent!

Virch Rating: **3/4; Segment Rating: 70.6%

12:08 - Immunity Tournament Quarterfinal: Billy Kidman vs. Simon Diamond

Having seen it work for London, Kidman tried to use high-flying moves to get the crowd on his side. The crowd was less receptive to this match, partly due to Kidman's more businesslike approach, though partly due to Diamond's ability to fight fire with fire. With no clear favorite, the crowd was split -- not necessarily bad, though not what wrestlers hope for. And was it Kidman's imagination, or was Diamond being stiffer than usual? Still, any worries anyone may have had of Diamond not playing along were for nothing. Kidman reversed Diamond's powerbomb, drawing a huge reaction, and finished with a shooting star press in nine minutes.

Winner: Billy Kidman

Rocksteady: Well, not quite the crowd-pleaser our first match was, Bebop, but Billy Kidman gets the job done.

Bebop: The warriors don't really care about the crowd after a while, Rock. They just wanna keep from being elim-- hold the phone!

Rocksteady: Speaking of eliminations...

Virch Rating: **; Segment Rating: 52.0%

12:19 - Could It Be Nineteen Already?

Jeff Jarrett had emerged from the back as Billy Kidman was celebrating his victory. Kidman would have never noticed if Jarrett hadn't aimed for the plug instead of the button right away. Kidman turned and appeared confused, but the distraction allowed Simon Diamond to recover and blast Kidman.

Rocksteady: It looks like we're about to have one right now, Bebop!

Bebop: Wouldn't that be something? Right on the first show, and to a man who won the match!

The double attack continued, until Matt Hardy (as was the plan all along) emerged and cleaned house. He raced to the ring as Kidman escaped backstage.

12:21 - Holding Accountable

Hardy: All right, you two! You think you can eliminate someone just because you lost? That's not how I wanna see the game played! That's not what Mattitude believes in! Simon, if you want to make an impact, try me!

Both Jarrett and Diamond headed to the ring. Hardy waited.

Jarrett: Son, I hate to tell ya this, but Simon here has already done his business. There ain't no need for him to go again. Of course... he ain't the only one you seem to be mad at, so Simon... if ya don't mind... I'm gonna teach this punk a lesson!

Diamond smiled.

Diamond: Simon says... kick his ass!

12:23 - Jeff Jarrett vs. Matt Hardy

Despite what it seemed like, this was hardly an impromptu match. The crowd was firmly on Jarrett's side to start, as he took out Hardy's ability to fly and worked over his leg. Hardy began to fight him off using his fists, which struck Jarrett harder than he had imagined. The adrenaline Fate was talking about had set in. Nonetheless, the two planned to go through until the finish, which would have been Diamond running in for the DQ. One problem, though: when Diamond landed the Problem Solver on Hardy, no bell rang. The ref stood and watched. The crowd didn't boo. Jarrett looked at Diamond and laughed, trying to stay in character as he rolled Matt onto his back. He covered while showing off, and 11 minutes in, Hardy had to take the loss.

Winner: Jeff Jarrett

After the formality of the pin, Jarrett and Diamond continued beating on Hardy. Jarrett made an exaggerated motion of heading for Matt's button, when out of the back charged Billy Kidman. He repaid the favor to Matt by clearing the ring, and as Matt got up, both men dove over the top onto their adversaries.

Rocksteady: What a shocker! An alliance has been formed tonight!

Bebop: Not just an alliance, Rock -- two alliances! And I'm thinking we're gonna have a team match next week!

Rocksteady: Well, if that's what they have planned, it oughta be good, although to be honest, B, I don't know how long they can keep this up before the crowd realizes this isn't the IW--

Bebop: Shhhhhhh!

Rocksteady: Right, sorry.

Virch Rating: *3/4; Segment Rating: 69.2%

12:36 - Back to your regularly scheduled tournament...

Raven entered the arena next, drawing a huge ovation. He took the mic and began to talk.

Raven: Tonight begins a new journey in the annals of this place you call Dimension X. It is a rebirth, but much like the mythical phoenix, this rebirth requires destruction. Tonight, I shall provide that destruction for everyone to admire. Tonight, I claim my first victim.

The crowd cheered, thinking it might mean an elimination.

Raven: When I enter the ring, I enter my world -- my nest -- my life. Very few can enter my life without losing their sensibilities and realities. And who is the first man to take that chance? None other than my favorite type -- the arrogant. Christopher Nowinski, prepare to face MY reality.

The crowd was now actively chanting for Raven. While not as loud as their cheers for Fate, it certainly echoed throughout the stadium.

Raven: Christopher Nowinski, I know all about your life. You have everything that I ever wanted, and you threw it away. You chose to enter this world where might makes right and the stroke of a pen can be nullified by the swing of a weapon. Tonight, you will see the error of your ways. Tonight, you will see why you have made a fatal mistake that you will regret as long as we are here. Tonight, I will teach you how to live in our world, or kill you trying. Quote the Raven...

The crowd chanted along.

Raven: Nevermore.

The crowd cheered.

Rocksteady: Man, I don't wanna be Christopher Nowinski now!

Bebop: Yeah -- this is gonna be brutal!

Segment Rating: 79.9%

12:40 - Immunity Tournament Quarterfinal: Christopher Nowinski vs. Raven

Indeed, Raven was right. He took down Nowinski all over the place, not allowing a second of offense. The plan was for Nowinski to cheat to get the comeback, but as Raven hit him with a bulldog, Nowinski began to see stars and hear bells. He slowly got up and staggered into the corner.

Bebop: Raven has destroyed him!

Rocksteady: Nowinski may have gotten a concussion from that!

But Raven knew better. Raven knew it was Nowinski's PCS coming back. He quickly grabbed Nowinski and delivered the Evenflow DDT before pinning him. The match, which should have gone longer, went only three minutes.

Winner: Raven

Bebop: Nowinski is not moving!

Rocksteady: We could see an elimination here!

Raven looked at his opponent and at the crowd. They were chanting his name and expecting an elimination. Raven felt bad deviating from the script. Sure, Nowinski wasn't going to last and probably would have to be eliminated sooner rather than later, but now wasn't the time.

Raven: No... I know you too well. You were not hurt by my hand. I refuse to take credit for this. Consider this your Get Out of Jail Free card. Cast him from my nest!

Nowinski slowly pulled himself up to leave as Raven played to the crowd.

Bebop: Sportsmanship? Is he nuts?

Rocksteady: He's toying with him, B! Raven is in total control!

Virch Rating: **; Segment Rating: 59.7%

12:45 - Immunity Tournament Quarterfinal: Scott Steiner vs. The Messiah

Steiner won the crowd over quickly with his physique as he headed to the ring.

Rocksteady: Holy goromola, B! He looks like Sean O'Haire did!

Bebop: I've never... that's really what he's like! No drugs, alterations... that can't be real!

Steiner grabbed Messiah and tossed him around the ring as the crowd oohed and ahhed. The original plan was for Steiner to play the heel, but things quickly changed. Messiah, to his credit, adapted well and accepted his role. He used the bandaging on his hand as a club on the big man, drawing a few cheers of his own, but not compared to Big Poppa Pump. Steiner slapped on the Recliner and pretended to be looking for Messiah's button. Messiah quckly tapped, ending the seven-minute spectacle. It wasn't pretty, but it worked.

Winner: Scott Steiner

Bebop: Hey, Rock -- earlier you asked who I had winning this thing? I think I have your answer now! How can you stop a monster like that? He's Vader and Sean O'Haire rolled into one!

Rocksteady: I gotta agree -- he may not win the matches, but he'll be damn hard to eliminate!

Virch Rating: *1/4; Segment Rating: 58.2%

Bebop: Hey, Rock... you know what's next?

Rocksteady: Folks, you may not know these two guys, but they are two of the most talked about men on Earth. They are also two guys who have little or no respect for each other. This could be a war.

12:54 - Homicide vs. Teddy Hart

Levesque and Jarrett had managed to convince the two combatants to play along and just let things flow the way they should. The two men had reluctantly agreed and played a safe match, each man trying to show the other one up. Unfortunately, it became clear that the two were not only faking it, but holding back, as though they didn't want the other to be in a good match.

Homicide heard the boos, but didn't care. He'd be damned if Teddy Hart was going to get the fans' adulation. He'd seen it too often around the East Coast -- there was Teddy, playing the crowd and acting like he was hot stuff. Not here, he thought. I'm going to make everyone hate him. All I gotta do is be first out next time.

Teddy Hart heard them too. At first he shrugged them off. I can always blame Homicide when I talk to Levesque tonight, he figured. I'm sure that's what'll become the truth. But soon he thought he saw garbage headed to the ring. He panicked. He wondered if he would be able to make it back. The time had come to take action.

And what action it was. It soon became clear the two were involved in a war of wills, with each trying to force the other to sell. Hart tried every dive he knew in an effort to put Homicide down, while Homicide went out of his way to paste Hart with kicks, punches, and chops. After what must have seemed like a lifetime to both men, Raven saw the carnage and acted. He ran out and delivered piledrivers to both men, seemingly ending their lack of co-operation. His actions made him all the more popular. He then tossed Teddy Hart on top, as was the original plan. It was 15 minutes of hell coming to an end. The crowd sarcastically applauded.

Bebop: What the hell was that?

Rocksteady: I dunno, but I think Raven has done the right thing here. He turned what was a disaster into a memorable finish!

Bebop: Maybe he's gonna win.

Virch Rating: *1/2; Segment Rating: 50.5%

1:11 - Immunity Tournament Semifinal: Billy Kidman vs. Paul Levesque

By now, Levesque was firmly cemented as the man they most loved to hate. There was something about his character that rubbed everyone the wrong way. Maybe this was the "sports entertainment" aspect winning over the crowd, and maybe it was that the only thing going for him -- his size -- had been taken away by comparison by Scott Steiner. Whatever it was, the crowd hated him, and Levesque loved it. He fully cheated every way he knew how on Kidman, who found himself unable to fight back while still maintaining the illusion of kayfabe. He shrugged it off, because he knew the result: a quiet 7-minute domination, ending in a Pedigree.

Winner: Paul Levesque

Rocksteady: Paul Levesque is in the finals, and he's making it look easy!

Bebop: Well, sure -- he's up against a pair of lightweights! This isn't Chris Jericho here he's fighting.

Rocksteady: Maybe so... but we'll see what happens when he faces Scott Steiner in the finals.

Bebop: That's assuming Scott gets by Raven, and those two are going at it next!

Virch Rating: *3/4; Segment Rating: 64.3%

1:20 - Immunity Tournament Semifinal: Raven vs. Scott Steiner

Rocksteady: Listen to this ovation for both men! This is unbelievable! The fans can't believe they're getting this right now!

Bebop: The monster Scott Steiner looks more pumped than ever, but Raven has the crowd in the palm of his hand here! Both men are just running on pure adrenaline!

In the back, Raven and Steiner agreed to go as all-out as they could against each other. Both were relatively fresh, and both wanted to put on a show. They trusted each other not to go for eliminations, and they didn't trust the crowd not to riot after Homicide and Teddy stunk up the joint and Levesque killed another victim. To that end, the two slugged it out the entire time. The crowd began to see fists and flesh colliding and were more excited than ever. Steiner seemed to develop a black eye, while Raven was cut open along the forehead. Both men were being cheered as they sent haymakers at each other until Raven ducked a right hook and landed an uppercut to Steiner's jaw, flattening him. Raven covered quickly, and in five minutes, the fight was over.

Winner: Raven

Bebop: I don't believe it! Raven has taken down the monster!

Rocksteady: One lucky punch is all it takes, B! We've seen bigger upsets, but this is a bit of a shocker!

Bebop: Wait a minute! What is this?

Paul Levesque had emerged from the back and delivered a Pedigree to Raven.

Rocksteady: He's not gonna wait for the final! He's going to try to eliminate Raven right now!

Levesque reached down and had his finger on Raven's button. However, an instant before he could push it, Steiner recovered and tackled Levesque. Steiner sent Levesque racing to the back, and as Raven recovered, the two men shook hands.

Bebop: It looks like respect out there, Rock! This sportsmanship thing... it's unusual!

Rocksteady: But between two respected warriors like this... the crowd's loving it!

Virch Rating: **1/2; Segment Rating: 75.8%

1:27 - That Ain't No Hank Williams Song...

Bebop: Look who's out next to give us some time before the finals.

Rocksteady: I see it -- John Cena, the so-called "Doctor of Thuganomics", is out to provide us with some words of wisdom about this tag match coming up!

Cena: Yo, yo, cut it, man, cut it.

The crowd was half-interested.

Cena:

Tonight they got the Doctor teaming with Sonjay Dutt.

Together the two of us will kick some old man butt.

One guy is Mike Barton -- who the hell is he?

I guess he left the nursing home after finishing his Yahtzee.

And the other guy I know -- calls himself Dean Malenko.

The guy's an Iceman, but I'll melt him, and I'll make him look stinko.

The crowd was unimpressed. Truth be told, Cena was very nervous.

Cena:

It's two-on-two, but it's almost not a fair fight.

But I'll finish them off so they can get back home for Bingo Night.

Now the crowd was beginning to think of it as a waste of time. They were booing.

Cena:

I'm the winner of the contest, the DXC's best,

So all you haters out there, yo... just give it a rest. Word out.

Rocksteady: I know rap is popular on Earth, but... apparently Cena didn't get the memo.

Bebop: Doesn't he know we only listen to what he'd call country music in Dimension X? No wonder they hate him!

Segment Rating: 64.6%

1:30 - John Cena and Sonjay Dutt vs. Dean Malenko and Mike Barton

Backstage, Barton and Malenko had heard the reaction to Cena's rap and knew who the crowd would be cheering. They decided to make the old guys the faces in the match. Cena and Dutt dominated Malenko early on, their athleticism outshining anything Malenko had left in the tank. However, Dutt's youthful exuberance backfired when he went for the Bombay Splash, and Malenko got the tag to Barton. After a quick segment of dominating both Cena and Dutt, Barton heard the crowd's lack of noise and went for the finish, pinning Dutt after a Diamond Cutter 7 minutes into their match. Everyone in the ring and in the back realized the same thing: tag formula matches would not fly with this crowd.

Winners: Dean Malenko and Mike Barton

Bebop: That was pretty bad, wasn't it?

Rocksteady: Yeah, no kidding. I know what they were going for, but there's only so much disbelief we're willing to suspend here, and... well, we never liked the tag rule anyway, right B?

Bebop: The other warrior competitions never used it, that's for sure.

Back in the ring, Barton was helping Cena up, and the veteran duo extended their hands. Cena was still ticked that the ending had been changed and walked off.

Malenko: Punk.

Virch Rating: *3/4; Segment Rating: 44.0%

1:39 - An Intergalactic Game

Bebop: Here comes Finalist #1, Rock, and he looks like he's ready to eliminate!

Rocksteady: Yeah, and ironically, people here look ready to eliminate him!

Levesque: Raven! You listen to me right now! You think they call me the Game because I carry around Monopoly boards all day? You think it's because I take things lightly? I am here to promise you -- PROMISE you, Raven -- that you will never, ever touch me. I am letting all of you idiots here know that I will stand tall at the end of this competition because I will always be Immune. And to the other 19 guys in the back, realize this -- Immunity means it's my way or no way! I will be the dominant force in this Game! I will prove that I am that! Damn! Good! So Raven, come on out here and meet your destiny!

The crowd was actively chanting for Raven as he stepped out from behind the curtain. Raven's natural charisma, Levesque's unbelievable heel skills, and a crowd that had already decided who they wanted to win -- this was the moment of the night.

Segment Rating: 83.5%

1:41 - Immunity Tournament Final: Paul Levesque vs. Raven

Bebop: Here we go! This is it!

Rocksteady: Raven, the overwhelming crowd favorite, taking on Paul Levesque, who has advanced somewhat easily thus far!

Bebop: But you forget -- Raven has as well! He blew through Christopher Nowinski and Scott Steiner already!

The two combatants were tired and feeling the pains of many injuries from times past, but neither one cared. It was all adrenaline, as the crowd went crazy following it. Raven used his Southern training to take a tremendous beating from Levesque, who was firing off on all cylinders. At just the right moment, 12 minutes in, Raven began the comeback. The two men traded two-counts, as the crowd reacted to each and every one. These two had the crowd in the palm of their hands. Then something bizarre happened.

It had been decided earlier between the two that the one the crowd wanted to see win would win -- send the fans home happy. But as the moment of truth came, Raven sized up the situation and nailed the Evenflow. He covered, but Levesque thrust his shoulder up at two, to the shock of the crowd -- and, even more so, of Raven.

Raven: What the hell are you doing?

Levesque: Playing the game.

As Levesque taunted Raven, the crowd noticed two men emerging from the back. It was the duo of Jeff Jarrett and Simon Diamond, back after causing chaos earlier. Raven saw them coming, taking Diamond out with a huge lariat before setting Levesque back up for the Evenflow. However, Jarrett was not finished.

Earlier in the day, he asked Fate if he knew of their favorite props. Fate had, and even showed him a storage room where they were kept. Now Jeff Jarrett had one of those props -- only it was stronger and heavier than one he had used before. This was what he needed.

Jarrett had his guitar.

With a mighty swing, he crashed the item down on Raven's head. Raven was stunned by the blow, left with a splitting headache, and wondering what could have possibly hit him so hard. He turned around just in time to see Jarrett holding the guitar's neck in his hand. Levesque spun him back instantly. One Pedigree later, and it was over.

Winner and Champion: Paul Levesque

Raven wasn't moving. While Billy Kidman and Matt Hardy improvised by trying to run Jarrett and Diamond off, Raven escaped Levesque's clutches and ran to the back, surviving elimination a second time. With the numbers in their favor, Levesque, Jarrett, and Diamond sent Kidman and Hardy packing as well. Levesque held the belt for Immunity aloft as Jarrett and Diamond stood on either side of him.

Rocksteady: Do you realize what this means?

Bebop: They're all working together!

Rocksteady: The first alliance has been formed, B! The contest has truly begun!

Bebop: But we still have all 20 warriors, Rock!

Rocksteady: Maybe so, but after a somewhat disappointing night, we now have our first sign that this will be another memorable contest, just like the others!

Bebop: And that's always something to keep the fans coming back! Folks, we're out of time here, so I'm Bebop--

Rocksteady: --and I'm Rocksteady, reminding each one of you...

Both: Don't Get Eliminated!!

Virch Rating: **; Segment Rating: 75.2%

Total Rating: 55.2%

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I like this so far.

Things will be very interesting indeed, if Triple-H and Triple-J ever face off!

My one complaint about this diary and Plankton's IWF? No Japanese wrestlers! (Tajiri doesn't count. I mean Japanese wrestlers who wrestle in Japan)

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In the back after the show, all 20 men rested and took their pills. Each one had to heal completely before the next show. The four warriors who hadn't gone out last time -- Andrew Martin, Michael Shane, Rene Dupree, and Sonny Siaki -- were told they would be used next week. Everyone else was put on stand-by.

In Room 1, the atmosphere was somewhat pessimistic.

Kidman: Well... looks like we'll need to stick together.

Shane: Yeah. The way those guys behaved... it's just not cool.

London: I don't know what you're talking about. Everyone seemed to be just fine when I saw them.

Kidman: Did you watch the show?

London: Well... no, I was cleaning up and working out after my loss. Why?

Hardy: There's a new group in town. The guys in HHH's room are all in it together.

London: So? So are we! It's four of them and four of us, right?

There was no answer.

London: Right?

Kidman: I don't know. There appears to be a change of plans.

Shane: Hey -- you gonna let us in or not?

Hardy: It's gone beyond that. We're all dead now.

London: Oh, stop being so damn fatalistic! We're all going home, right?

Hardy: That's what they say. But I've heard of people who came here and never went back.

The other three men gathered around Matt.

Kidman: What do you mean?

Hardy: I've heard them talk about warriors in previous competitions. Warriors who, rather than be eliminated, had to be killed. They seemed to take delight in describing the sheer brutality used. It disgusted me.

Shane: How did you hear this?

Hardy: The fans by the entrance... ask around.

All three men stood nervously. All of them thought about what Matt was saying. If he's mistaken, then there's no trouble -- apart from dealing with his sour grapes. But if he's legitimately telling the truth -- if people had really died here -- the game stopped being a game.

*****

In Room 2, Raven was pacing back and forth, frustrated. Christopher Nowinski lay on his back, an ice pack on his head. Rene Dupree was stretching his legs out. Sonny Siaki was trying to sleep.

Siaki: Hey, Raven, give it a rest, man! We got seven days til the next show -- let's just prep, all right?

Raven shot him a look.

Siaki: What's wrong with you?

Raven: The game's afoot.

Nowinski: You've been reading your Doyle, I see.

Raven: Reading, yes. But now I am doing much more. I am immersed in it -- experiencing it.

Dupree: Nonsense, gentil'homme. Are you saying that what went on out there was realité? It seemed like a perfect ending to moi.

Raven: It was perfect. Too perfect. I was uninformed of their machinations. They deceived me.

Nowinski: So what was supposed to happen?

Raven: Immaterial. What is, is. And what is about to be is more important.

Siaki: C'mon, you can tell us!

Raven: NO! The fewer who know, the better we all are. These walls have to have ears. How else would Fate know to put Homicide and Teddy Hart against one another?

Nowinski: Because everyone on Earth knows they hate each other.

Raven: Maybe.

Nowinski stood there, puzzled. Even Dupree had stopped his workout. Raven said no more, however. He simply hopped into bed, his eyes open but his mind wandering.

*****

Teddy Hart was irate.

Hart: I had him beat, I tell ya! What the hell was Raven doing? He thinks he's so damn special -- interrupting our match! How am I gonna get anywhere?

Levesque: Upset at Raven, I see.

Hart: Wouldn't you be?

Levesque: Of course. But you see, he's obsessed with us. We can help you get even. C'mere -- I think it's time for us to let you in on our plan.

Hart: You mean -- you guys really are working together?

Diamond: Of course. Why wouldn't we be?

Hart: Because the winner gets 10 million and the losers get nothing. I'd stab my Uncle Bret in the back for 10 mil.

Jarrett laughed.

Jarrett: And you'll never get a sniff of it if ya don't join us.

Hart thought about it. It was true that he was in a position to put his faith in the hands of Paul Levesque -- his family warned him about that man. But he had worked with Jeff Jarrett and Simon Diamond before. He had seen them in NWATNA. He somehow knew -- he KNEW -- they could be trusted. He wasn't sure how. But was it worth it to risk it all for a group containing the one man who was untouchable?

*****

Scott Steiner talked on the side to his first-round opponent, the Messiah.

Steiner: Hey, I hope you don't take anything I did out there personally.

Messiah: Nah... I'm used to getting tossed around and beat down like that. Hell, I've survived an amputation -- what else could go wrong?

Steiner: An amputation? Where?

Messiah held up his hand -- which he kept wrapped in a huge gauze so that it resembled a club. Steiner looked at it, then realized something.

Steiner: Hey, where's your--

Messiah: Gone. I had a bad experience double-crossing the wrong promoter -- a dude with mob ties or something. Every day I hope he goes under. Every day I hope someone puts him behind bars or out of commission. I've got a lawsuit against him for damages, but I know that ain't goin' nowhere. Besides, in a strange way, this has made me.

Steiner: Have you talked to Fate? I'm sure he could fix it. The guy's pills are amazing -- my back and feet feel better than ever.

Messiah: I don't know... I'm kinda used to it by now.

Meanwhile, Andrew Martin was desperately trying to calm down Homicide.

Martin: Dude, relax. Raven did the right thing.

Homicide: He f*cked up my match! How is that the "right thing"?

Martin: Did you hear them out there? They hated you!

Homicide: Hated me... they hated that bastard Hart!

Martin: Easy! Easy! You wanna get even with him -- wait your damn turn! I'm sure Levesque and his politics will soften him up.

Homicide: F*ck that. I just... I'm through playin' around. If you wanna take me out, do it! But from now on, I ain't lettin' anyone get one on me! I worked too f*ckin' hard for that to happen.

Martin merely shook his head. He'd seen that rage before. He knew its consequences. He recognized it in Homicide. Heck, he had once felt it.

*****

An uneasy silence prevailed in Room 5. Everyone stood facing everyone else. No one was willing to trust anyone not in their age group. John Cena spoke first.

Cena: Bet you thought you were pretty cute switchin' the match on us.

Malenko: Did you hear them? You were the bad guy.

Cena: Not that, Dean! The winner wasn't who I thought / You wanna steal a win? You just got caught!

Dutt: Not bad.

Cena: Thanks.

Barton: Hey -- look. It doesn't matter, all right? The guys out there hated the match. I'm thinking we gotta go tornado from here on out. I hope Jeff and Raven agree. It'll make things a lot easier from here on out.

Dutt: That's one problem solved. Now how about us?

Cena: Yeah.

Malenko: You wanna get your win? Fine -- next week you can have it. I don't care. Will that make you feel better?

Cena and Dutt looked at each other and smiled.

Cena: Deal.

Malenko: Good. Now get some rest. You guys are in a bad mood.

*****

That Sunday -- or at least, it would have been Sunday -- Dean Malenko entered the special Room 6 -- the booking room -- where Paul Levesque, Jeff Jarrett, and Raven were waiting.

Malenko: Hey guys -- I just wanna let you know that you should do tornado for the team matches.

Jarrett: Why's that?

Malenko: We were trying formula, and it failed miserably.

Raven: He's right, you know.

Levesque: Yeah, I noticed. Maybe it's just because you guys aren't -- what's the word? -- oh yeah, OVER.

Malenko: Then put us on early. Whatever it takes. Just... I'm just letting you know, formula doesn't work.

Malenko left. Jarrett turned to the others.

Jarrett: It's worth a shot.

Raven: Provided we can trust them.

Levesque: What does that mean?

Raven: I know what you did last week. I'm not amused. We had a deal.

Levesque: Oh, boo hoo. Look, pal, the chase will be worth it. These guys want to see me get my ass kicked. Just play your part like you did with Jeff here and everything will be fine.

Raven: Oh yes, it'll all work out. Won't it, Triple--

Raven stopped himself.

Levesque: Trust me!

Jarrett put a hand on Levesque's shoulder.

Jarrett: He means me this time. Raven, I know you don't like the decisions I made. But that was then -- that was when I had a personal stake in the health of my company and I was the only man I could trust not to be snapped up by Vince. Vince ain't here. There's no worry. If it's the right thing to do, I'll do it. Got it?

Raven paused. He'd heard it all before -- trust me, Raven, we know what we're doing, Raven, just go along, Raven -- whether it was Tony Schiavone or Paul Heyman or Stephanie McMahon or Dutch Mantell. Everywhere, he had put his faith in other people. Now he was being asked to do it again.

Raven: ...well... if you guys pull anything fast, I've got backup. You saw that.

Levesque: Don't worry. We know it, and we ain't about to do something stupid.

Raven: Good.

*****

The night before the next show, Kidman was fighting insomnia. He paced the halls, trying to keep from waking up his roommates. As he was about to give up and return to his room, he saw Fate from around the corner.

Kidman: What are you doing here?

Fate: I could ask the same thing of you.

Kidman: I'm nervous about tomorrow. Matt doesn't seem stable, and I'm gonna need his help if I'm gonna survive.

Fate: You may need his help now, but soon you will need no one's help but your own. Believe me, I have seen the way this game works.

Kidman: Yeah... Matt told me all about it.

Fate shook his head.

Fate: He didn't tell you everything.

Kidman: And I suppose you're about to.

Fate: Only if you want.

Kidman: I think I'll pass for now. Just tell me: how do you know who everyone wants to fight? How did you get the booking committee the right matches?

Fate: I can hear and see you. We've developed wiretaps that are undetectable by most. Don't bother looking for them -- they're embedded so far that it's of no use.

Kidman: I see.

Kidman looked around nervously.

Fate: Something else troubles you.

Kidman: Yeah... I get the feeling not everything is on the level. Trip... Paul is planning something.

Fate: He's merely trying to win. I suggest you are doing the same, uniting your room together. But I think you have the wrong allies. I don't want to say too much. The winner has to win on his own. Good night -- and be ready for tommorrow.

Kidman watched as Fate walked off. He returned to his room and saw Hardy, London, and Shane all asleep. He climbed into his bunk and joined them, uncertain of what the future brought, but knowing that it would be an adventure. He prayed that Matt was trustworthy as his eyes closed.

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This kicks some serious ass. I loved the IWF shows, and although i didnt read the comics or anything else relating to them, i thought it was a great idea. I think youve captured the same things in this diary. Good job dukes, i cant wait till the next show.

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July 14, 2004 -- 10 minutes and counting

In the back, Christopher Nowinski and Paul London played cards. As the only two men who had the day off, they figured it would be easy going. Raven had petitioned to keep Nowinski out after his bell was rung, and London (as far as anyone knew) just had nothing to do.

But London knew better. He saw the alliance Levesque had formed, and it scared him. The two stars of the WWE and NWA in the same group, on the same page? They'd plow through anyone that stood up to them. He'd already felt how difficult Levesque could be, and he wanted no part of that.

Matt Hardy paced back and forth outside Room 1. He continued to hear the crowds -- more than last time had piled in -- talk about the old days, when death was on the line. He heard them talk about how they wanted to see legitimate combat -- but more than that, they wanted to see lifelong hatred form, and make the contest into a legitimate Death Match. No one seemed to understand -- Messiah brushed off the notion of a "Death Match", saying he'd been in hundreds of them. But Matt knew something, or someone, wasn't playing it straight.

Messiah, for his part, had told Fate of a match type they had had back on Earth. Fate loved it. He knew it had to be used in the DXC Arena. Scott Steiner seemed cool with it, as the two had sort of bonded over the couple of weeks they'd been here. And really, did anything say bonding like beating the heck out of each other?

At 11:58, Fate emerged. The crowd -- an amazing 50,758 paid -- led out a roar.

Fate: After last week's tournament, we all saw that Paul Levesque had formed an alliance. It was an alliance designed with one goal in mind -- mutual survival. But that alliance brought with it an unexpected side effect -- that of a COUNTER-ALLIANCE! And while not everyone may agree, I feel the course of events is to have these two sides meet tonight!

The crowd cheered. While TAG team warfare was unpopular, it was clear team warfare still was strong.

Fate: Therefore, tonight... you will see a three on three survival match. The only way to win is through defeating each individual member of the team. You could see one man forced to fight three men tonight -- and if you do, it would not surprise me if the result was elimination!

The crowd went wild.

Fate: So, it shall be the alliance of Paul Levesque, Jeff Jarrett, and Simon Diamond...

The crowd booed Levesque's team.

Fate: ...against the unlikely combination of Billy Kidman and Matt Hardy... and of course, the man who a lot of you feel should have Immunity right now, RAVEN!

The crowd was in a frenzy again.

Fate: Good luck to all, and may the mayhem begin.

Segment rating: 76.4%

*****

DXC Life or Death

Show #2 -- July 14, 2004

Rocksteady: What a night we have for you tonight, fans! Life or Death is back, and in our second installment, we are anticipating a huge show!

Bebop: That's right! Immunity belongs to Paul Levesque, and tonight, he and his crew are in three-on-three action!

Rocksteady: In addition, we have been told that Scott Steiner and the Messiah will face off once again, and this time it's a weapons match!

Bebop: What sort of weapons?

Rocksteady: Whatever the fans have available!

Bebop: Oh yeah!

12:00 -- Dean Malenko vs. John Cena

Rocksteady: Here we go with one-on-one action to kick things off, as Dean Malenko looks to keep his team strong against John Cena! These two were a little disappointing last time, but let's see if they can pull it together!

While the match was no technical masterpiece -- Malenko was not 100%, and Cena wasn't much for co-operation -- the two managed to slog through it. The crowd approved more of their actions as they saw it diverge from obvious fake wrestling to painful legitimate combat. However, their cheers for Malenko were not enough to help him, as the younger, stronger Cena controlled and, after a valiant 14-minute struggle, put Malenko away with an F-U.

Winner: John Cena

After the match, Cena rolled Malenko onto his stomach.

Rocksteady: Here we go, B! It's time for the first elimi-- no! Not yet!

Mike Barton came racing out from the back and turned the tide with a single left hand, flooring Cena. Barton continued hammering away as Malenko recovered, but Sonjay Dutt ran in and tackled Malenko down. Neither side could get the advantage as they all headed to the back, fighting, before the rest of the locker room pulled them apart.

Virch Rating: *; Segment Rating: 58.6%

12:16 -- Homicide is Ready to Play

Homicide entered the ring next, having been given time to prep the crowd for his match.

Homicide: I could be out here spoutin' some bullsh*t about playin' a game. But I ain't here to play. I'm here to kick people's asses and win ten million f*cking dollars! I don't care who I gotta go through, and Sonny, make no mistake, I'll f*cking destroy you!

The crowd was starting to warm up to this unknown.

Homicide: See, I was brought up here with jack sh*t other than the button on my back and the skillz in my body. Siaki, you got a button on yo' ass too! All y'all do! An' I don't care who I piss off! I don't care who comes for me! I damn sho don't care if I gotta press 19 mothaf*cking buttons in a row! I been poor fo' too long! The money is mine!

Rocksteady: Now there's the attitude we're looking for!

Bebop: Homicide might live up to his name tonight, Rock! We could be in for some serious violence now!

Segment Rating: 52.6%

12:20 -- Homicide vs. Sonny Siaki

Siaki was very slow to come out from the back, as he tried to kill all the momentum Homicide had built up. Certainly, he got the crowd out of it for a time being, but Homicide's brand of skill and high-impact moves meant that the only person out of it was Siaki. A mere three minutes after it began, it ended with a Cop Killa.

Winner: Homicide

Virch Rating: **; Segment Rating: 66.6%

Rocksteady: That was too easy! I can't believe it! Maybe he means what he says!

Bebop: He certainly wasn't bluffing on Sonny Siaki! Just ask Sonny!

Rocksteady: If you still can!

12:25 -- An Exclamation Point

Homicide stayed in the ring. He stared at Siaki, slowly getting up. Homicide yelled at him.

Homicide: Understand this, boy! Yo' life is in my hands, mothaf*cka! If I wanna take you out, I'll do it! But today, Sonny... I ain't doin' nothin.

The crowd booed. Siaki got to his feet and passed by Homicide, who quickly grabbed his arm and spun him around.

Homicide: The f*ck I ain't.

Homicide tore into Siaki all over again. Everyone in the back was too surprised to do anything. They figured Homicide was just trying to get a character over -- and certainly Siaki, being a new guy, would have time to make himself better known.

They couldn't have been more wrong. Homicide picked Siaki up and, with a ferocity no one expected, planted him with the Cop Killa. He rolled Siaki over onto his stomach and smiled.

Homicide: Say good night, bitch.

He leaned in and pressed hard on Siaki's button. Nothing happened. Homicide pressed a second time. Still nothing.

Bebop: What's this? Is he out or isn't he?

Rocksteady: Certainly the crowd's confused.

Fate stood in the aisle just then.

Fate: Wait! Let him stand.

Homicide slowly backed off. Siaki rolled onto his back, seemingly unaware of what had just happened. He slowly used the ropes to pull himself to his feet. As soon as he stood, his boots began to turn gray. His legs followed. Sonny tried to run, but couldn't move. He looked down and knew immediately what happened.

Siaki: You son of a b

He never completed the thought.

Segment Rating: 56.0%

Rocksteady: THERE IT IS! Listen to this crowd! We got just what we wanted, and Sonny Siaki has been eliminated from the competition!

Bebop: Unbelievable, Rock, and what an innovation by Fate! It doesn't start to take effect until you stand up -- now you have to watch yourself turn to stone! It's ingenious!

Backstage, as they took Siaki away, Rene Dupree turned to Mike Barton.

Dupree: Take the day off. Change of plans.

12:30 -- If That's the Way This Works...

Dupree charged to the ring as Homicide was headed back. He tackled Homicide down before entering the ring itself.

Dupree: Monsieur! What sort of man are you to do that sort of thing? Do you think yourself a man of honore? Non! You are a common dog... and I will treat you as a dog should be! You want to beat us all! Go ahead and try!

Homicide was getting up. He stared at Dupree, the crass youth who didn't understand or was lost in the moment. He entered the ring and slugged him.

Homicide: C'mon, froggy, let's go!

12:33 -- Homicide vs. Rene Dupree

Homicide was still relatively fresh and was a match for Rene, who despite his formal wrestling training was ill-prepared for a street fight. Homicide hit everything with an intensity Dupree had not experienced in some time. Fortunately for Rene, he knew a counter: psychology. Hey, if it works in fake fights, he figured, maybe it would work for real.

Surprisingly, it did. As Dupree continued to wrench away at Homicide's neck, the thug's moves were fewer and farther between. Homicide would pause to rub his neck, and each break would allow Dupree the chance to kick out. Eventually, Dupree was able to score a piledriver on Homicide and end the threat, but it took 12 minutes of trying.

WINNER: Rene Dupree

Dupree had Homicide dead to rights, but after remembering his own tirade, simply walked away to huge boos.

Bebop: Well, turnabout is fair play, Rock!

Rocksteady: Absolutely. It looks like the street fighter will have to wait to go through the next victim.

Virch Rating: *1/4; Segment Rating: 67.8%

12:47 -- Instant Backstory!

Michael Shane entered next. He was scheduled to face Teddy Hart. He didn't know Teddy in real life, and he knew neither he nor Teddy was decently known here. He had one chance to make an impression.

Shane: Teddy, this is the chance I'm sure you've been waiting for. Our families have had a deep and dark history together. It's no secret that we are born of stock that is poisonous to one another. Seven years ago, that anger exploded. And now, here I am, the progeny of Shawn Michaels, ready to screw the progeny of Bret Hart. It looks like it's up to me to complete the circle.

Bebop: What's he talking about?

Rocksteady: Must have been that famous match between the two Earth wrestling legends, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, a long time ago! I remember what he's talking about -- apparently, there are some beliefs that the script was... deviated from.

Bebop: Please. Everyone knows Earth wrestling is fake. Still, gotta applaud the kid. He's just made himself an enemy.

Segment Rating: 63.3%

12:50 -- Michael Shane vs. Teddy Hart

This was a bizarre match. Unlike Hart's match with Homicide, where both men tried to make the other look bad, here, both men were preoccupied with making themselves look good. The dives, leaps, throws, moves, counters, and everything else were plentiful, but after a while, it became clear neither man knew what to do from one move to the next. The whole match became a show of one-upsmanship.

Bebop: Look at these two! I mean, there's no real... the fight's kinda choppy, and neither man's really putting themselves in a position to win by doing all these mid-air collisions!

Rocksteady: You get the feeling that the guy who misses first will lose!

But that's not what happened. Instead, Paul Levesque came into the ring, sporting his Immunity belt. He pulled Shane off of the top rope as Shane was ready to dive on Teddy. Shane stared in confusion and was balled up his fists. Levesque merely smiled and pointed to the Immunity belt. The distraction was all that was needed, as the young Hart rolled Shane up from behind for the pin after a beautiful 15-minute exhibition.

WINNER: Teddy Hart

Bebop: Could this be a fourth member of Levesque's cartel?

Rocksteady: You gotta wonder -- great things come in fours around here, B! We all know what I mean!

Teddy smiled and thanked Levesque, shaking his hand. However, when Levesque offered to raise Hart's hand in victory, the young man raced to the back, almost certain a double-cross was coming.

Bebop: I... is he?

Rocksteady: Maybe.

Virch Rating: **; Segment Rating: 52.9%

Bebop: Well, there's one man left to debut in this edition of DXC, and that's Andrew Martin, who is a giant of a man.

Rocksteady: That's right, and he's going to be going up against a guy we've already seen tonight in Sonjay Dutt! You gotta wonder if Cena will do anything!

1:07 -- Andrew Martin vs. Sonjay Dutt

Having watched the antics of everyone else that evening, Martin knew exactly what he had to do. Fight, and fight like the time he'd been a bouncer. Dutt never knew what hit him, and though Cena was able to keep Martin distracted here and there, one boot to the head, knocked Dutt out. Martin covered and won in a mere 4 minutes.

Winner: Andrew Martin

Virch Rating: *3/4; Segment Rating: 43.8%

Bebop: Whoa! What happened there?

Rocksteady: Andrew Martin just plowed through Sonjay! He's gotta be considered a contender here!

Bebop: This crowd didn't even have a chance to get into it.

Rocksteady: Oh, but they're getting into this!

Cena attacked Martin, trying to save his friend from elimination, even though Martin had no intention of eliminating young Sonjay. As the duo hit the Doomsday Device on Martin, Mike Barton and Dean Malenko returned. They ran Cena and Dutt off, with Barton clearly heard saying

Barton: Face us like men, punks! C'mon!

Bebop: It's pretty clear these four haven't solved a damn thing.

Rocksteady: Right you are. I think they may be going at it until they eliminate each other.

Bebop: Can they DO that?

Rocksteady: Sure. I mean, it's possible. But speaking of eliminations, we may see one the HARD way here and now!

Bebop: Look at the fans throwing all sorts of objects into the ring!

Rocksteady: They know what's next!

1:13 -- Weapons Match: Scott Steiner vs. The Messiah

Steiner was never the most long-fused of people, and Messiah had done this in CZW for ages. Both knew exactly what to do, and both trusted the other with the weaponry. They grabbed the nearest sharp-edged thing they could find, and the blood began to flow.

Weapons were being used left and right, to the point where Bebop was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable. Rocksteady was screaming that an elimination had to happen soon. But alas, the match came to an abrupt halt after seven intense, violent, gory minutes when Messiah threw a handful of tack-like objects at Steiner and shoved him into a pile of them. He covered and got the victory, which was all either man cared about.

Winner: The Messiah

Bebop: Messiah wins! What a brutal contest!

Rocksteady: You get the feeling he was more experienced in violent action, but I don't think that'll get him too far -- remember, Nick Mondo was a quick casualty when he tried this route!

Virch Rating: ***; Segment Rating: 68.0%

1:22 -- The Real Reason You're Here?

Jeff Jarrett and Simon Diamond raced to the ring as Steiner and Messiah were cleaning themselves and the ring off. Jarrett delivered a Stroke to Simon's outstretched knee on both men before they were dumped over the top rope. Paul Levesque walked out, smiling and leading the pack.

Levesque: Get those vampires out of there! Raven, I'm not about being violent! I know violence is in your past, but only one thing is in your future -- elimination! This is all just a game! And you know damn well I am The Game! And with these two men backing me up, ready for a piece of the glory I promised them, only one outcome is possible... I, Paul Levesque, will stand tall as the Winner of DXC!

The crowd hated him, but when Raven appeared, their boos turned to cheers. Kidman and Hardy followed in the shadows, certain their presence was mere filler.

Segment Rating: 86.8%

1:25 -- Survival Match: Billy Kidman, Matt Hardy, and Raven vs. Jeff Jarrett, Paul Levesque, and Simon Diamond

Bebop: This is it! This is the main event, Rock!

Rocksteady: And don't forget, folks, the match is not over until all three members of a side have been pinned or made to submit! We could have a one on three situation easily, and when that happens -- I'd hate to be the "one"!

Bebop: No kidding. We're almost guaranteed suspense, drama, and most of all, violence!

Sure, but we weren't exactly guaranteed a pretty match. All six men fought all over the place. Jarrett and Kidman had a mini-match in the ring, while Hardy and Diamond fought around ringside. Levesque and Raven were busy fighting in about the tenth row. All three remained paired off like this until Kidman succeeded in sending Jarrett to the floor.

Bebop: Uh-oh, Rock, Kidman's all alone. He might be trying for a kamikaze here!

Rocksteady: He's to the top!

And indeed, Kidman hit the Shooting Star Plancha on Jarrett.

Both: YES!

Rocksteady: What a move!

Diamond quickly rolled into the ring as Hardy followed. Now Kidman began trying to use his body as a weapon around ringside, while in the ring, Hardy and Diamond exchanged holds. Eventually, Diamond put his head down and was met with a Twist of Fate. Hardy covered for the three. Six minutes had elapsed.

Bebop: It's three-on-two now!

Rocksteady: Jeff Jarrett is in trouble!

He wouldn't be for long, though. Kidman went to the top, and Hardy positioned himself for a Rocket Launcher onto Jarrett. Kidman dove, but Jarrett got the knees up and drove the wind out of Kidman. Jarrett rolled on top easily for the three. Eight minutes had gone by.

Rocksteady: You live by the dive, you die by it, B! It's all square once again!

Bebop: Hang on! Look at what Jarrett's doing!

Jarrett tried to get Kidman on his stomach to press the button. However, Hardy saw it and pulled Jarrett aside. Hardy and Jarrett began to attack one another with strong rights and lefts. Any pretense of planning seemed to have gone out the window. Hardy had Jarrett set up for a top rope legdrop when he was shoved off the turnbuckle to the outside. Paul Levesque had returned from attacking Raven. Jarrett tossed Hardy back in, and Levesque added a superfluous Pedigree. 13 minutes had gone by.

Rocksteady: Two against one now! This is what we wanted!

Bebop: Raven is in serious trouble!

Levesque exited the ring and found Raven. He picked him up and carried Raven's limp body over his shoulder. Levesque rolled Raven into the ring and yelled to Jarrett.

Levesque: Finish him!

But neither man had counted on someone not in the match doing something. Scott Steiner appeared and lifted Levesque high over his head. He dumped Levesque into the second row of fans. Levesque quickly escaped, fearing on of the overzealous fans might eliminate him, but he ran right back into a Flatliner by Scott on the floor.

Back in the ring, a confused Jarrett watched on, unaware that Raven was regaining his strength. Raven cradled Jarrett from behind and, using any leverage he could, got the three. 15 minutes had gone by.

Bebop: Look at this! Raven has stunned Jeff Jarrett!

Rocksteady: I don't believe it! So much for the numbers game!

Bebop: It's going to be Raven and Levesque once again to end this match!

With all the "dead weight" gone, Levesque and Raven went to war. Neither man had any pretense of liking the other, and both men slugged it out. However, just as with Steiner, Raven was the better man. He used a right cross and left uppercut combination to floor Levesque just long enough. He covered, hooked the legs, and scored the victory. The whole thing took 21 minutes.

Sole Survivor: Raven

Rocksteady: Raven has done it! What an upset!

Bebop: But... we still have time, and we're out of matches! What now?

Virch Rating: *1/2; Segment Rating: 62.6%

1:48 -- What Now Indeed?

Raven took a mic.

Raven: Paul! You thought you could eliminate me, didn't you? You have all these grandiose plans, all these schemes, and as long as you have the Immunity, I am vulnerable to your every machination! Well, not anymore! Paul, I'm telling you right now that I want another chance. I've earned a shot at your precious Immunity! So let me have it!

Levesque did as ordered, sort of. He nailed Raven with the belt itself. The two continued their fisticuffs all around the ring as many-tentacled security pulled them away from each other. Each time they tried, though, Levesque or Raven would fight through it. Finally, Fate intervened.

Literally.

Segment Rating: 83.6%

1:54 -- The Money Match Is Next... Week

Fate: Warriors, cease! I agree with Raven's assessment. He has earned a chance to wrest Immunity from you, Paul. However, I dare say that acting like an animal will get you nowhere! I've tried to make it clear that this is NOT the bloodsport of its ancestor. So unless you want me to eliminate you personally -- BOTH OF YOU -- you will listen.

The struggle stopped. They both calmly turned to Fate.

Fate: I know what is needed. I know what the two of you should do. And I am ready, as the man in charge of Dimension X Combat, to give you what you and all these fans want to see!

The crowd cheered in anticipation.

Fate: Next week, I personally guarantee that it shall be these two men -- Raven and Paul Levesque -- in a one-on-one confrontation for Immunity itself!

The crowd cheered louder than they had all night.

Fate: But more than that, I am going to devise a way to keep the two of you in, and everyone else out! No Jeff Jarrett! No Simon Diamond! No Billy Kidman! No Matt Hardy! NO ONE shall decide who the better of you two is except you two. And the way to do this...

The crowd was ready to explode.

Fate: ...is to put the two of you inside your old friend -- the STEEL CAGE!

The crowd was ballistic. This was the announcement they'd been waiting for. This was the moment of the night.

Bebop: Can you believe it, Rocksteady? Raven will finally get Paul Levesque one-on-one!

Rocksteady: And in a violent innovation of Earth -- the steel!

Bebop: And what a night this has been, Rock! We've had our first elimination! We've had a bloody match with weapons galore! And we've had an announcement of a huge match for Immunity!

Rocksteady: You want to come to this arena next week, and you all know it! For Bebop, this is Rocksteady, telling you to come on down next week, and whatever you do...

Both: Don't Get Eliminated!!

Segment Rating: 88.1%

Total Rating: 65.0%

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As Raven returned to his room, he saw Christopher Nowinski and Rene Dupree packing up.

Raven: What are you doing? There's no exit!

Nowinski: This room... it's too bizarre living where a dead man stayed.

Dupree: Oui, and with you and M. Levesque the way you are, we might be innocent victims!

Raven: Fine, go. If you can switch, do so. But look not to me for protection, then.

Nowinski: Drop the gimmick, Scott.

Raven: When you drop your Harvard gimmick.

Nowinski: But this is who I--

He stopped himself, suddenly understanding the meaning. He continued packing and left with Dupree to Room 1. Meanwhile, Billy Kidman and Matt Hardy entered.

Raven: So it's us now, is it?

Hardy: You seem to be a survivor.

Kidman: Yeah, and the Powers that Be already think of us as one big enemy anyhow.

Raven: Just remember this. You chose to be associated with me. You decided I was in your best interest. Yours is the risk to take, the decision to make. I do not provide the answers -- merely the ideas.

Hardy (to Kidman): Is he always like this?

Kidman: Mostly. You get used to it.

He turned to Raven.

Kidman: So now that it's established you and Paul aren't getting along, what do you plan to do about the match next week?

Raven: I have no plan, except the plan to survive. I have no ideas, only instincts. Paul Levesque worries me, but I sense the fear in him as well. I do not know if we will both return, but we shall never be the same.

Matt was about to ask why all the doubletalk when the door opened again. This time, Scott Steiner walked in.

Hardy: Well, if it ain't the guardian angel.

Steiner: Shove it, Matt. I'm only making sure people play straight around here! It ain't my idea to target Raven.

Hardy: Maybe not, but now you're apparently with us.

Steiner: Well, fine. My room's gettin' a little rough out there. I knew Homicide was gonna snap, but Andrew... the way he acted...

Raven: ...is the way you'll act in time.

Steiner: What do you mean?

Raven: I have been a caged animal already. When cornered, I attack with reckless abandon. The time will come when you are in my spot, but no one fills your role of salvation. It will be sooner than you think.

Kidman: Hang on... if you know this is how the game will go, why did you keep Nowinski alive back on the first show?

Raven: He had nothing against me. Only those who provoke me will feel my wrath.

Hardy: So you say.

Kidman: Oh, geez, not this again.

Steiner: Not what again?

Hardy: Listen... this game... it's like Fate said. It has an ancestor. And the more I hear about this ancestor, the more I loathe it. And I just know that it will happen now. Fans talk about killing -- not eliminating, KILLING. Some of them say Fate is soft, or that he's setting us up. I don't know who to believe anymore!

Steiner (to Raven): This is our team? This is who we have to go against Paul's cronies?

Raven: Alliances come in all forms, Scott. Some are premeditated. Others are happenstance. Whether we like it or not, we are united by a common foe. Now is our time to stick together.

Hardy: Yeah, we'll get around to the murders soon enough.

Kidman: What the hell are you--

Hardy: You think Sonny's really alive?

No one spoke for the next five minutes.

*****

Back in Room 1, Nowinski and Dupree were getting to know their new roommates.

Dupree: Bonjour, M. London! I suppose it is us now, non?

London: Oh, hi. Welcome to the Dead Zone.

Shane: Oh, not you too!

London: No, I don't mean us. I mean, our chances! Look, we're all filler here. Kidman and Matt start getting somewhere and they're moved next door. It's pretty clear the four of us are stuck.

Nowinski: Not if we unite. Your endurance, Paul; your athleticism, Michael; your cunning, Rene; and my knowledge. It's a formidable group.

London: Yeah... but we're going against the champions.

Shane: Paul?

Dupree: Well, Levesque and Jarrett do know how to win friends and influence people... we moved out so that we could avoid being caught in the crossfire they have with Raven.

Nowinski: Look, it's pretty clear that each room is about to strike a deal. Other rooms will have backstabbers, individuals, and so forth -- but we are greater than the sum of our parts, mark my words. We can all succeed as long as we unite. Are you with me?

Dupree stood by Nowinski. Shane hesitated, halfway between his bed and the new guys. London stayed back.

Nowinski: Very well. I suppose you would rather lose. Rene, we can do this on our own.

Dupree: It will be worth a try, at least.

*****

In Room 3, Levesque was holding a team meeting.

Levesque: Okay, guys, it looks like it's gonna be me and him in a few days. I can handle that. The question is, what are you guys gonna do? If I lose Immunity, I expect that you'll be guarding us.

Hart: Of course I will.

Diamond: You'd do so for me.

Jarrett: I'm with ya here.

Levesque: Good. Now remember... our top target is Steiner. He's been keeping us from taking out the most dangerous man in this game -- he's made himself a target. So on the day of the show, attack. Hold nothing back. Take him out.

Jarrett smiled.

Jarrett: Hey, one ol' gee-tar oughta do the--

Levesque looked at Jarrett.

Levesque: It better. No, you can't leave it up to chance. You have to do everything possible to push that damn button. Remember, when we formed this alliance -- all of us -- we agreed the toughest man would go first. Right?

They nodded.

Diamond: Allow me to try.

Levesque: What?

Diamond: Give me a match with Steiner. He's been beaten -- he's very beatable. Hell, that nothing Messiah took him out! What's to keep me from doing it?

Levesque: All right. Go for it. You two better be ready to help him out. I want him gone. You got that? Then, if Raven wins Immunity, it'll be too easy to get it back.

They all smiled.

Jarrett: Let's do this right.

Levesque: Exactly.

*****

Strangely, only Room 3 remained static. Tensions in Room 5 had become so strained that John Cena and Sonjay Dutt moved out. Homicide, who had been kicked out of Room 4, took their place.

Homicide: Dammit! Don't those mothaf*ckas know that's how you play this game?

Malenko: They'll figure it out. Don't worry about that. They'll know soon enough. Especially John and Sonjay. They know we're gunning for them, and it's a matter of time, right, Mike?

Barton: We can't hold off forever. I'm guaranteed a match this week. I'll make sure it's with one of them. It has to be. Then I'll get them. No one in this game is invincible.

Homicide: Hey -- you want that whitey out? Give him to me!

Both men looked at each other.

Malenko: You mean Cena?

Homicide: F*ck yeah. He ain't street. He's a phony. And I f*ckin' hate phonies.

Barton: Have at him, then. We'll make sure you get the chance.

*****

Meanwhile, Cena and Sonjay were settling in on their side of Room 4, while Andrew Martin and Messiah talked.

Martin: Hey -- you think Scott's all right?

Messiah: Him? He just wanted to make sure Raven was okay with his actions.

Martin: Yeah... he's been watchin' out for that guy. Kinda strange really.

Messiah: Nah -- the big lug's got a good heart. He trusted me to beat him up big-time.

Martin: He's always been a little loose on Earth. What do you think it is?

Messiah: I couldn't tell ya. But we got other things to worry about. Like these guys here.

Martin: Ah, come on, they don't care about us. We ain't old enough.

Messiah: Maybe. But I know Sonjay ain't never been the bad guy. You can tell by looking at him... he doesn't know what to do.

*****

As Dean Malenko was headed back to his room, he saw Fate leave his office.

Malenko: Oh, hey. Where you going?

Fate: Home. It's evening for us here.

Malenko: Okay... um... just one question, if I may.

Fate: About John Cena?

Malenko: Yeah... how did you...?

Fate: I have my ways. Yes, I will send Homicide after him. I feel I should. His brand of violence is exactly what I need to line my pockets.

Malenko: You seem like a rich enough man.

Fate: I was. You do not know the history of this place. Years ago, a series of wars broke out among the people here. Many lost their lives, and many more lost their homes.

Malenko: Like you?

Fate: Yes, indeed. I was unfortunate. The man I supported failed. He was killed, the ultimate loser.

Malenko: So the winners took your house?

Fate: Not quite, although they certainly would have been within their right. They exiled me for a year. When I came back, my place was desolate. The farm I had retired to was a failure, overrun by government officials. I had almost nothing but a name. That is why I started this -- to get my life back to the way it was.

Malenko: Started it? You mean restarted?

Fate: How so?

Malenko: You mentioned out there that this had an ancestor. What was it?

Fate shook his head.

Fate: You are in no position to know. Just be glad that I grant your request. It will bring you closer to your reward. I must go now. My day is done, though yours is just beginning.

Fate walked on. Dean made a note to ask Fate about the past at some point before he was eliminated. He began to sympathize with a man who lost everything. He also began to wonder about his new home.

*****

Michael Shane was working out in the gym when Simon Diamond entered. The two sat next to each other for a while and exchanged pleasantries.

Shane: So, I'll ask -- why did you join them?

Diamond: You mean the political guys? You would, too.

Shane: I dunno if I could live that way. Something about them makes me wonder.

Diamond: You think they're gonna stab me in the back? Probably. But not for some time. They know they need me. Heck, they trust me to take Scott Steiner down, right?

Shane: You're going after him? You must be crazy.

Diamond: Nah. I'll have backup. 'Sides, I don't think Scott's begun playing yet. I have. That's the beauty of it. Ya know, you really should join us. It may be your only chance.

Shane: Well... I don't know. They cost me that match last week...

Diamond: See, you're thinking as a sports entertainer. You have to think like a survivor. Soon enough, you're gonna get voted out of this. You wanna stick around and pick off those people who'd go against ya, right? Well, we're doing that as a bunch.

Shane: For now, you are. I don't know... I've got an offer for a team already. Maybe we'll combine forces.

Diamond: I wouldn't mind.

Shane: Me neither. Hey, when we get back to earth, we oughta consider teaming up.

Diamond: It would be my pleasure if we're ever working together again.

Shane: Indeed. See you in the future then.

Diamond: See you too.

Michael walked out, a smile on his face. He knew that at least one member of that alliance was well-intentioned. He felt he could trust Simon to give him a heads-up when the time was right. He hoped, though, that Simon would still be around when the time was right. Something in his heart troubled him.

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Guest Captain Foo

So now we have a counter-alliance. I liked what Raven said, how some are premediated, and others are formed from necessity. It seems so true.

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