I got to break the news to Krishna, since I’m officially the leader.
“Good news!” I told her. “We are totally down with having an Ultra Fight! We think that it is a great idea.”
“Wonderful!” she answered. “I take it that you will be coordinating the event, as the host?”
I wasn’t quite sure what coordinating the event would mean, but I’d been in plenty of Ultra Fights, and I’d watched a lot of Pro Wrestling. I knew the score.
“Then I’ll put you in touch with Judith.”
Krishna turned away, then looked back at me.
“She’s a big fan, so if she seems a bit overwhelmed or shy, just chalk it up to that, ok?”
I hadn’t really ever noticed that my fans were particularly shy. The ones that I learned about tended to be super pushy, actually. But I nodded anyway.
She started walking towards the truck she’d showed up in, but stopped again when I jogged right up behind her.
“Listen, Krishna,” I said, making my voice more quiet.
I looked back over my shoulder to where Preventer and Jane were arguing about something or other.
“The rest of my Fist aren’t super trusting. Could I get you to attend the show yourself?”
I was kind of proud of this idea. It had just come to me when Haunter was doing her whole disapproving thing while we were talking this over. According to what Preventer said, she was still smarting over the whole thing with the Union, where they tricked us. She needed to see that people were on the up and up, mostly.
I’d remembered that Krishna was supposed to have no combat powers, mostly because I was already trying to think of who on their side would be the best match in an Ultra Fight. Since Krishna was pretty much helpless it would mean that she wouldn’t be here if anything bad was gonna go down. So asking her to stay was basically insurance against the idea that the Pantheon would start anything.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” she gushed.
I was kind of wrong footed by that, and I didn’t say anything while she climbed back up in her truck. It had been kind of a sarcastic way to say it, but she HAD agreed with me. Did that mean that she’d be there?
Jane and Preventer were still going at it, so I just kind of leaned up against the truck and let my power do its thing. Still 8 trucks. Nothing heavy inside of them. No one creeping up on us.
We were far enough out that my feel for the town was fuzzy, but I could at least tell that their wasn’t anything major going on there either, as far as the ground was concerned. No one blowing up bombs or kicking over hills.
I’d never really thought about it before, but that actually wasn’t terribly comforting. You could do a lot to a town, and I totally wouldn’t know anything was going on if I was this far away. You could shoot everybody or stab them or whatever. As long as you didn’t smash down too hard I’d be totally unaware. Scary.
A lady got out of a different truck, walked up to me.
“I’m Judith” she said.
I wasn’t sure whether Judith was a God that I hadn’t heard of, or whether she was too low ranking to actually get a God’s name. I didn’t know how Pantheon names worked. But I decided not to ask about it, because Haunter had said, way back when, that revealing that you didn’t know something let the bad guys take advantage of it.
“I’m Indulger.” I told her.
I used my deepest, scariest voice, just to let her know what she was going to be working with in terms of heeling potential.
She gave a big grin and held up her hands in the Double Gator symbol, and I knew that this was gonna work out.
The mask that I was wearing was a copy of Greater Gator’s mask. He had been the last good big man in Pro Wrestling, before Her time. My recordings were of his matches, and I’d sculpted my body, as much as I could, to match his size. His fans made that symbol when he did his entrances, two hands held up like mouths, facing one another.
I grabbed her hands in my excitement, nearly hopping up and down.
“Oh my goodness. You’ve seen-“ I began.
“You’ve got the mask! You know the gestu-“ she said, at the same time.
Judith, now that I got a good look at her, was surprisingly young. She was about five and a half feet tall, Asian, with her hair done in a butch cut that looked to be modeled after Her look. She had a jean jacket and general bumming around clothes on. No mask, that I could see.
“You go first,” I said.
“This is such an honor. Wow. It’s like I’m really meeting the Best Reptile! Where did you learn about him?”
I gave a big grin.
“I was brought up on this stuff. I’ve watched all of the old matches dozens of times. I know em by heart.”
“Watched ’em? You’ve got recordings?” she asked.
“I’ll let you guys borrow ’em, if you like. Adder made ’em for me. The real ones are still back at the Lair.”
She didn’t actually squeal, but I could tell from her face that she was working hard to keep it down.
“I’ll hold you to that, big guy.”
She paused, looking around.
I could feel a few Pantheon guys moving between trucks, and Preventer and Haunter were still fighting about something stupid. We had time to talk.
“So, what does your name actually mean?” she asked.
Behind the mask, my eyes widened. All of a sudden I couldn’t fucking remember.
“Just, you know, it’s a verb. The Indulger is the one who indulges. Like any other Regime name.” I hedged.
She pursed her lips, opened her mouth, then closed it.
I could tell that she was going to ask what ‘Indulge’ actually meant, and all of a sudden I had no fucking clue.
“Ok, but what…”
It came to me.
“Like when you ‘indulge’ someone you are spoiling them. Like, if you are indulging a baby you are feeding it lots of flavor paste, ok? So, like, I’m that way with the earth. The world ‘indulges’ me, its about how my gift supports and heals me an stuff.”
“Wow, that’s cool.”
No sarcasm as she said that, which kind of surprised me. She really did seem to mean it. Still, I had to get us back to business.
“Ok, so, what are we working with here?”
Judith pointed over at one of the other trucks, made an ‘opening’ motion in the air with her hand and the door popped open. I couldn’t tell if that was her gift, or if someone on the inside had been watching. A trio of women climbed out, each of them with a mask.
“We’ve got Flagrant Vagrant,” and she indicated the first of the three. “and then we’ve got the Choker and Space Devil.”
It was music to my ears to hear the old names, and looking more closely at the three walking towards us, I saw that they weren’t just named after the old time greats.
Flagrant was wearing the red, white and blue hood of the original cruiserweight champ, her only substantial modification to his wrestling attire was a halter top to hold her boobs in. She even had the Flagrant Footwear, or a copy of the original big boots anyway. My gift could feel that the spikes on the bottom were cut in faithful imitation of F V’s original kickers.
Choker, by contrast, had been a heavyweight, and the woman who wore his outfit wasn’t half as big as the original. But I could feel, by the way her steps thundered against the ground, that she had Ultra Strength or something like it. She would be able to do all of his power moves, even the Last Breath.
Space Devil was a heavyweight too, but this lady was no fainting flower herself. She couldn’t possibly be as big as the Devil, but she sure looked it. She was only a few inches shorter than me, and even though she wasn’t a body builder she had the kind of muscles that only hard work gives you. If she lifted, it was for strength, not for show like I did. A worthy successor to his mask, to go by the looks alone.
“I’m thinking you tangle with Choker at the top of the card, get everybody into the spirit of things.” Judith suggested.
It was a good idea. I was big, she was strong, we could toss one another all over the place and get everybody pumped up. Plus, we’d be crossing the Pantheon/Regime line, and that would get all the tension out in the open.
“I love it!” I told her, then walked past, over to where Choker was standing, inscrutable behind her gas mask.
“You up to face the Best Jaws?” I asked, her, using my ‘cutting a promo’ voice. I didn’t have quite the same growl that the Gator had. I was pretty sure that no one did. It had to have been a special effect.
She said something in a language that I didn’t understand. From the tone it seemed like it was Chinese or something like that. I looked back to Judith.
“She says ‘yes’.”
She had definitely said more than that, but I let it go. I didn’t have any way to make her tell me the truth if I asked her what had really been said. Jane had pointed out that demanding stuff you can’t actually make people give you is dumb.
“After that we’ll have couple of exhibition matches. We’ve got some flyweights who do flippy things, Flagrant is at the end of a feud…we’ll keep the crowd hot for ya.”
I wanted to get into the details of this, but at the same time I didn’t. I was, first and foremost, a fan, and the chance to see some good Ultra Fights that I didn’t know the outcome of was always pretty great.
Choker said something again, more tonal noises that I couldn’t suss out. I looked to Judith to translate.
“She wants to know, in your match. Go to the death?”
I shook my head.
“The whole point of this is just to have fun! We want everybody happy. Let’s do like the guys whose duds we are wearing did, and fight till pinfall or submission. Ok?”
I looked back to Choker.
“Just…Pretend…” I said, slowly and loudly.
“She understands English, just fine,” said Flagrant. “Everybody does.”
I flushed, behind the mask.
“I know, I know. I mean, I was just emphasizing that I meant it. You know? Can’t be too careful.”
Flagrant, bizarrely enough, had a bit of a cowboy accent. It took me a bit to get it. That was the original Vagrant’s accent, a sort of drawl that a lot of the tough guys in the olden days had used.
“For the finale,” said Judith. “You take on the Space Devil in a one on one match. Shoot for ten minutes or more, let people get into it.”
“That ok with you?” I asked the Devil.
“Sure,” she said. “I can go for hours.”
I’d actually seen a few Ultra Fights that ran into that problem. They had matched two people with Ultra Toughness and no Ultra Strength or some similar situation, and you ended up with a fight that couldn’t ever end. Another reason I liked victory rituals like pins and submissions over serious fights. When the cost of a loss was just looking weak I could throw a match that was getting too boring. I obviously couldn’t do that if we were being serious.
Devil’s voice wasn’t very interesting. Deep, to go with her generally muscular look. My general read from her tone was that she was kind of intimidated by me. That would make sense, she probably rarely met people who were bigger than her.
“Ok, so, I’ll make the ring. We’ll do this when the sun is going down, that work for you all?” I asked.
“Sounds great, Indulger,” said Judith.
“We’ll go and get some spectators, you do likewise, we meet back here right as the night starts. Bring lights.”
The wrestlers turned and trooped back to their truck, talking quietly as they moved off. Judith stayed with me.
“One last thing, big guy, is there a limit on how many we can bring? I swear, we aren’t trying anything, but I don’t want to accidentally piss you guys off by making it look like we are trying to outnumber you or whatever.”
I scratched my head, like I was lost in thought. Actually we’d worked this out before I even came over here.
“Can you bring just ten Ultras? As many people as you want, but we only want 2 to 1 in terms of people with powers.”
“That’s fine,” she agreed. “We are also being careful, so only risking ten sounds like a fine decision. I’m not saying that you might try to pull something, mind, but you are a new Fist, and we don’t want to be the ones you use to prove to the world how sneaky you are or something.”
I didn’t point out that they kind of already had been, with the whole Redo situation.
Judith started back towards her truck at that, but I reached out and caught her shoulder.
She looked back over it at me, a little worry showing in her face.
“Make sure Krishna doesn’t forget what I told her. If she isn’t here with your ten when you get here, things could get really ugly, really fast.”
“Uh…” she hemmed and hawed. “I can’t really tell Krishna what to do. She’s my boss, not the other way around. But if she told you that she’d be here, then she’ll be here. Krishna never lies to people who are going to stay alive. She says that is just sloppy.”
“Ah.” I said. There wasn’t really a lot to say to that.
Judith hopped up into the vehicle, and all the trucks turned on. I backed off as they pulled out and drove away.
I started trooping back to my Fist, not super surprised that Preventer and Jane’s argument was still going on even though it had started before I went over to talk to Krishna.
“There is absolutely a distinction between the proposition that engaging with the Pantheon is productive and whatever the fuck this is.” Jane was storming mad, nearly spitting. “I know you are smart enough to understand that distinction, so playing dumb isn’t actually getting you anything.”
“I’m not playing dumb,” returned Preventer. “I’m pointing out the circular nature of your reasoning in hopes that it will bring you to a moment of realization, where you get that your entire approach to this situation is driven by guilt and fear, rather than reasoning.”
“Even though thousands of people have looked over my thinking, and found it sound, you have the fucking temerity to…”
I tuned them out, making eye contact with Betty and rolling my eyes.
I hated it when they fought. It made me feel really bad, on the inside. Preventer and Haunter were so smart, why couldn’t they get along?
I consoled myself with the thought that I only had to endure this for a few more hours, and then I could have a nice relaxing fight with people who wanted me dead.