SaharaApril 20, 2018 at 9:30 am
The newly renovated waiting area to Stacy Vandervort’s office at EWA Headquarters made Sahara feel uncomfortable. Glancing around as office workers passed by the clear panes of glass where she sat waiting to see the EWA Executive, she could feel them sneak looks in the direction of her unmistakable shock of platinum hair. The second a person saw this woman that knew anything of wrestling knew exactly who they were looking at, and the office workers at EWA HQ were no different. While they worked for the EWA, it still wasn’t very common to see on-air talent hanging around.
“Feels like sitting in a fishbowl…” the blonde muttered as the secretary looked up at her.
Sahara sighed raising her voice a bit, “I said this room makes me feel like a fish in a fish bowl.”
The secretary smiled, “Oh, right…all the glass. Stacy will see you now, Miss Sahara! Go right on in…” She motioned to the office door to her side, as the blonde pushed herself up off the seat with her one good arm and made her way across the waiting area.
“How’s the arm?”
Sahara stopped dead in her tracks and closed her eyes before she looked down at the sling her arm was wrapped in from her match at Live from Toronto. It’s bad enough she referred to her as Miss Sahara, but now this? Taking a deep breath, she continued on towards Stacy’s office with a parting message for the secretary…
“Go fuck yerself…”
As Sahara entered, Stacy motioned to a one of the plush leatherback office chairs stationed in front of her desk.
“Thanks for coming in, Lauren, take a seat.”
Glancing around the room, the blonde immediately noticed a few suits were also present. They appeared very lawyerlike at first glance, though that could be said of anyone wearing a suit. Their unexpected presence raised the bar on the blonde’s nervousness. The situation was already tense enough between her and the EWA Executive, but this heightened her fear of the unknown. Why did Stacy call her here? Was she being fined, suspended … or worse? What was going on? What’d she do?! Was it losing at Live from Toronto?! Was it what she said about Michael and Maggie?! A million thoughts ran through the blondes mind, and none of them led to good outcomes.
“I already apologized to them, though I did it privately…”
“That’s … not what this is about, Lauren.” The EWA Executive once again motioned to the chair, “Please, have a seat…”
Taking a seat, Sahara bit her lip in anticipation.
“Would you like some water, or coffee perhaps?” Stacy raised her eyebrows, “You look positively nervous, Lauren. Are you feeling okay?”
“I-I-I-I’m fine…I just, I’m wonder–”
As if plucking the words right from her mouth, Stacy smiled, “I’m sure you’re wondering why I called for this meeting…” Lifting a stack of papers, Stacy plopped them down on the desk and motioned Sahara to scoot forward so she could show her something. “These charts are the lead up from Quarter 4 of 2017 to Live from Toronto, where you just faced Nikki Caldwell. You see this line here?” Stacy pointed with a pen to a line at the very top of the chart back in November. “That’s you. That essentially gauges your popularity, and this corresponding chart over here shows your merch sales. You see this? This is right around where you won the World Championship. That’s what we call a peak.”
Allowing her words to linger, it was obvious the blonde had no idea what any of these charts actually meant. Stacy could have been showing her numbers for practically anything and she wouldn’t have known the difference, so she merely nodded along, pretending it all made sense.
“Now you see this all the way over here? This is your current number. You see this line from here to here? This is what we call a trend line.” Sahara nodded, still not knowing what the hell she was looking at. “I can see by that glossy look in your eyes that none of this makes any sense. So let me get to the point. First, I want you to know that I don’t run these numbers, I merely interpret them, and do you know what this shows us?”
Shaking her head, it was obvious the reigning tag-team champion didn’t have a clue, but she ventured a guess, “Probably that putting me up against the likes of Nikki Caldwell was a terrible fucking booking decision?”
“Hah! Wow. You never cease to amaze me, Lauren.” Stacy couldn’t help but laugh at the blonde’s snark. “Stars draw money, Sahara. Regardless of who they fight. And don’t act as if you didn’t know that. No, what this shows us is your drawing power is waning. Do you know what waning means?!”
The nervousness she’d initially experienced suddenly gave way to a fit of anger, “Don’t fucking do that, Stace. Don’t talk to me like I’m some fucking–” It was obvious she was barely holding herself together at this point. “Don’t talk to me like I’m some sorta child or something. I know what waning means. It means I’m falling off. I-I don’t know what happened, but I-I can fix it, I swear — please don’t cut my bookings, I-I just need the right opportunity…”
Seeing the charts right in front of her made her want to cry. The fan ratings were one thing, falling from #1 or #2 in the rankings to #3 wasn’t so much of a trend as was a coincidence. But this? The idea that her popularity was falling and the EWA front office had taken notice?
The EWA Executive leaned back in her chair as one of the suits bent down and she whispered something to him with a nod.
“That’s why I called you here, Lauren. It’s my job to take notice of these types of things and to create new opportunity, and it’s your job to seize on it. Do you remember the last time I told you to show me something?” Sahara nodded along. “That’s the day the Crimson Queen was born. I believe a picture of it is scrawled out there on that mural in the lobby. It was a stroke of marketing genius. And if I were to go back and show you your trend line from that moment until your peak back in November, you’d see it was straight upward momentum. You were on fire, Lauren. And it’s my job to get you back there. Which is why at Battlelines 43, I’m giving you the opportunity to show me something again.”
“What? How?!” She leaned forward in anticipation.
“A shot at the Combat Title. The very title you made famous. At least, that’s what you like to tell people. And I don’t have to tell you how big of an opportunity this is, because if you do somehow win it back, you also stop Buck Dresden from breaking your record streak.”
Sahara’s features softened and her face lit up.
“No added pressure, but your little boyfriend also has a Network Title match that same night, and if you’re all successful? You’ll have done something that’s never been done before…and HATE will control every championship in the modern era. Now, if your wondering why I’d do you this favor, because let’s face it, we all know how I feel about you and HATE? It’s because I know it’ll reverse this trend with your falling popularity. And to me, that means more tickets sold and more network subscriptions. Get it? We do business, Lauren. Plain and simple. We don’t have to like one another, but we let bygones be bygones and you go out there and show the world who you are again. Remind them of what they’ve forgotten. Because Lauren, if you lose,” Stacy motioned back to the charts sprawled out on her desk, “This trend is going to continue downward, and you know what happens then?”
Sahara shook her head, “Probably nothing good…”
“No. Nothing good. It means we have to consider bringing up new talent from the Developmental Center and giving them a shot because that means the fans have moved on. We have a pipeline of superstars just waiting for that chance…”
“That won’t be necessary!” Sahara stood up, “I won’t let you down, Stacy, just like last time. I promise ya that.”
“I know you won’t. Oh, and before that takes place, this coming Fight Night? Take care of business against this Coca-Cola guy or I’ll call off the whole damn thing.” Stacy finally motioned to the door, “Alright, Lauren, you can go. Just … don’t let me down.”
Reaching forward with a surprise gesture, Sahara held her hand out to Stacy, who looked at it in a momentary state of confusion. Reaching out tentatively, she shook the blondes hand before she turned to take her leave. As the door shut behind the Crimson Queen, Stacy Vandervort continued watching as the platinum blonde strolled through the office waiting area.
One of the suits present couldn’t help but laugh.
“She’d have kissed your ass if you dropped your pants…”
“I know she would. If she thinks I’m gonna forget about all the shit she’s pulled over the past year plus, that bitch has another thing coming. The only reason she’s suddenly willing to get along with me is because she thinks I can help her career right now…”
“I’m gonna give her just enough rope to hang herself, since that’s what she likes to do to others.”
Holding that rock steady face wasn’t easy as the blonde left the main office section of the building. She walked through the waiting area and the rows of cubicles, which finally led out to the main building lobby, crossing paths with a number of prying eyes who knew who exactly she was, but were instructed to never bother “talent” that were visiting headquarters on business.
Quickly exiting the office area, Sahara crossed the gigantic marble floor of the lobby that led past the bronze statues of Sinnocence, Grady Smith, as well as a few other EWA legends. The mural of ‘moments’ — as some of the warriors had come to call it — lined the entire back wall behind the statues. She crossed all the way back toward the residential section of the EWA Headquarters building where main reception once again greeted her.
With a simple nod of acknowledgement, she held it in as best she could.
But none of that was on her mind. The only thing she could think of was those charts showing her dwindling drawing power and how big of an opportunity Stacy had just given her. She couldn’t fuck this up–
She quickly approached a trash can against the back wall of the elevator bank feeling as if she was about to lose her guts just as the elevator dinged, prompting her to swallow hard in order to save face. That bile like taste burned the back of her throat, causing her eyes to water. She quickly wiped her eyes with the base of her palms as the elevator doors opened and a family nodded her direction before scurrying off as she took the elevator back up to her apartment. Thankfully, the doors shut with nobody joining her for the ride. She pressed her floor button and leaned against the wall … feeling as if she was going to hyperventilate.
But most of all, those fucking charts.
She couldn’t get it out of her mind…
Nearly breaking her key off in the door, she shoved her way into her apartment and dropped her things, charging at the kitchen sink just as her guts discharged the remnants of breakfast all over the stainless steel.
Relieved to have made it just in time, she started rinsing her mouth out with running water from the faucet before finally getting a moment to catch her breath.
The only sounds in the empty apartment were the ticking of the clock and a few droplets of water from the faucet hitting the stainless steel…resting back against the sink, she slowly slid down to the floor…
She could feel it slipping away.
Everything she’d worked for…
How in the hell did she go from World Champion, to main eventing show after show … to this?!
“You lost to Nikki FUCKING Caldwell…”
Her words were like death. Slumping over onto the floor, a sob escaped her–
“Some fuckin’ champion you are. You goddamn LOSER!”
The loser part came out as more of an exasperated scream as her body tensed up and she kicked at nothing in particular. Now she had a warmup match with some guy named after a fucking soft drink … which wouldn’t have even been an issue before Nikki Caldwell, but here she was second guessing herself over a fucking nobody.
If she lost to Coca-Cola whoever the fuck, her match at Battlelines would get called off. Her opportunity to reclaim the title that made her who she was…and to break the streak hung in the balance…
Oh man, if they could see you now, Lauren.
How glamorous you must look, laying on the floor, covered in sweat, your breath smelling like vomit…
Six months ago you were the most popular wrestler in the world…
And now it’s over…
How in the hell did you get from there to here?!
Laying against the cold ceramic floor, her eyes suddenly snapped open and she bolted up to her feet.
Exiting the apartment in a hurry, she didn’t bother to close the door behind her…she stormed toward the elevator bank and repeatedly mashed the down button. When the elevator finally arrived, she could barely wait for the doors to open before she squirmed her way inside, repeatedly mashing the down button. When the doors opened, she pushed through the waiting crowd and shot past reception, ignoring their customary greetings. The blonde headed straight through the lobby where she stopped and looked past those annoying bronze statues, up at the gigantic mural of moments on the far wall…
The wall was like a visual representation of time in the EWA … so where was it? What was it that changed?
Her eyes lingered on a black and white image of herself — of Sahara — standing in front of Azrael Goeren. The only color in the depiction was that of the blood and her eyes. Exaggerated colors of red and blue to show the violent contrast. The crimson liquid that stained her chin, highlighting the wild look in her sapphire eyes. There were scarlet droplets that looked like something of dazzling little rubies spattered across her alabaster face.
Friday, August 19th, 2016 – Live from Tokyo – Ryogoku Sumo Hall, Tokyo, Japan.
And beneath that, she stared at the caption and whispered…
“The Rise of the Crimson Queen.”
Shaking her head as if snapping out of a daze, she continued scanning the wall of various captures of EWA moments caught in time, looking for a clue… Her mind raced as she wondered what was it that changed a few months ago that derailed everything? She stopped on a particular section with her, Michael Draven and Maggie McIntyre, arm in arm…wait, was it?
But the thought died the moment she saw it.
Her sapphire eyes zoned in on another section of the wall that was still a work in progress, but the outline and some of the shading had already been completed…
It was the image of herself and Indrid Calder holding their EWA World Tag-Team Titles, flanking their fearless leader and current EWA World Heavyweight Champion, NOTHING. Behind them was the looming presence of that stupid fuck Cal Rayner casting his seven-foot-two-dumb shadow over the group…
And it hit her…
That was the moment her popularity started to wane.
Her features hardened as her jaw clenched.
Coca-Cola Rua would be made an example of at Fight Night … and then Buck Dresden and the Combat Championship would be hers. It was time she started using HATE for what they were. An army of worker bees, there to serve and protect their one true Queen. With all the power HATE wielded, they could easily set up Battlelines in a way that they’d swarm the competition. It was time to focus again. To stop taking success for granted and start fighting for it, just like she did in Tokyo.
“It’s time to bloody my fangs again…”
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