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The Black Hole - Part III
Author Message
Thaddeus Duke Offline
Management Lv. 2


XWF FanBase:
Some of everyone

(cheered; very rarely plays dirty but isn't lame either; many likable qualities)

06-17-2023, 10:14 AM

For weeks I’ve had this same dream.  Everything until the fall into the hole had been a blur.  This time, I made an effort to stick it out.  I wanted to know why it was a blur, even if there was no reason for it.  I wanted to know why the only thing I could remember was the hole and I wanted to know why I was always screaming.  I’m not the kind of guy that screams, I don’t fear things that are outside of what is considered normal.

I’ve told people in the past, mainly those trying to exert some sort of wrestling hubris where they claim they’re in your head, that inside my head is no place anyone wants to be.  I smile, I laugh, I’m kind to most people even if they’re not necessarily deserving of it.  Inside my head though, sometimes it's a war zone.  There are things I have seen, things that I have experienced that’d make normal men curl up into the fetal position and never wanna come out.

I hate so much when wrestlers try to equate a match with war.  A wrestling match is just a contest.  99.9% of the time we’re beat up, scratched, bruised, even bloodied.  But we don’t take the matches home with us.  In war, no such thing.  There are things you see during the course of any particular battle that are burned into your memory.  There are things you see that you can never unsee.

Coming to inside my head, I’m wearing my military uniform.  Giving myself a once over, my name with the crown embroidered above it sits on my left chest where it always had.  With an assault rifle in hand and my side arm strapped to my thigh, I set out to move forward within this dream.

[Image: wonder-1687014354369.jpg]

After no more than a few steps, I hear whispers in the wind.  Stopping to try and make them out, it’s an effort in futility.  Continuing on, I can feel my heart racing.  To be certain, there is no scenery.  There’s no land, no sky, no trees, no anything.  Just me upon a blank canvas.  I can hear planes overhead.  Are those my planes?  Enemy planes?  I’m not certain.

A few steps further and an explosion in the distance.  Then another, a little closer.  Then more, and closer and closer these explosions come.  It’s a bombing raid, but I can see none of it.  I only hear it.  As the bombs dropped and exploded, I began to wonder if I shouldn’t run, or take off in another direction.  Instead, I continue forward toward the bombings.

The next was close enough to feel the heat wave and the ground shake beneath my feet.  Then comes the next.  Right beside me.  The blast throws me into the air but I remain otherwise unscathed.

The Black Hole.

Instead of landing with a hard thump on the ground, there is no ground.  Falling into the black hole, my instinct was to start screaming.  Rather than that, I kept my mouth shut and continued to fall into the abyss.  The little light above gets smaller and smaller until…


Impacting another surface knocks the wind from my lungs.  Tinnitus, a lingering symptom of explosions and head trauma in the past, brings a deafening silence through my ears.  Squinting my eyes closed, I tried to shake the tinnitus.  Upon opening my eyes, its blue skies above me with birds chirping.  Laying there a few moments, my instinct is now to twirl the dog tags hanging off my neck.

Laying on the ground, I can make out the blue sky above.  I can make out the tree tops.  But not much else, even when I look to either side.  Struggling to my feet as the I recapture the air in my lungs, the black around me falls away revealing my surroundings.

The days of the Illuminatus State are behind me never to return again, but before me regardless is the largest air base I had.  James Edwards Air Force Base in Berlin.  As the base takes shape before my eyes, I see my men and women scrambling for cover.  Scrambling for what little arms they had to defend themselves.

What a mistake.

They run from the bombs and the missiles to no avail.  A bomb here and a missile there, and slowly but surely hundreds upon hundreds of my people are killed mercilessly.  The Ares Project was a terrorist group aiming to kill me and my people.  They were backed by a former United States president.  Back then, they weren't considered terrorists but labeled freedom fighters by that president.

They were holed up in the southwestern United States according to intelligence reports.  In an effort to prepare to take the war to them, I moved most of the available arms from Europe to the States.  It was the smart move at the time.  What we didn’t know was that their movements in the Arizona desert were nothing but a decoy.

They laid the trap and I walked right the fuck into it.

In all, nearly two thousand men and women were stationed at Edwards.  None of them survived the attack.  The Ares Project crippled our defenses and landed inside the base, killing off every single survivor.

I was enraged.  I was pissed off at myself for being arrogant enough to think that they weren’t very smart.  I was furious that I allowed myself to get played and outsmarted.  I hated myself for leaving them with very little to defend themselves with.  My men and women whom I was sworn to protect, would not die in vain.

I didn’t have a lot of soldiers left in Europe.  I had very little left there in the way of arms.  What I did have was tanks.  And a lot of them.  I did have planes.  And a whole bunch of those.  I was going to return fire, I was going to return the favor but they did not care.  Within two days of the attack, I landed in Rome from the States.  In the meantime, my tank squadrons were mobilized.

There was no rest.

Only war.

Only death.

Only pain.

It was one of my final air missions.  By the time my planes arrived over Berlin, the tank squadrons had the base entirely surrounded.  I remember flying above Berlin and seeing their stupid flag flying above my base.  It was embarrassing.  It was humiliating.  It was also humbling.

I always took the lead on air missions.  During those days I was an accomplished commander.  On land or in the air, the enemy feared my presence.  Whether it was the Ares Project, my fathers forces, Poland or Italy… I was a tactician and they knew it.  My soldiers were ruthless and merciless.  We were always a step ahead because no one on the planet had an air force comparable to mine.

The Ares Project knew I’d hit back with a vengeance.  Still, they were unwavering.  On the way to the base, I flew high above the clouds.  As we neared, I dipped low.  Over the base, I hit the afterburner causing a sonic boom.

That was the signal.

For hours the base fell under heavy bombardment from jets, bombers and tanks alike.  I would lower their flag myself, I thought.  As the time ticked by, it was time to come down for landing as the tanks broke through the barriers.  After exiting the plane, the first thing I id was take down their fucking flag.  In its place, flew the charred and tattered remains of the Illuminatus State banner.

That day I gave an order that still haunts me.  I had a duty to protect my people.  I had a duty to ensure that they had the right to live.  I was so angry.  I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Even my closest advisor, the namesake for the base itself, couldn’t convince me to pull back that order.

No one left alive.

That was the order.

My people… they trusted me implicitly.  They knew I’d protect them.  They knew that when it came to our survival that the total elimination of the Ares Project was the only way.  They knew that because that’s what I told them.  At the time, I thought I was right.

As time wore on and the war wound down to its final conclusion, I thought a little differently.  I did something the day outside Berlin that I have to live with for the rest of my life.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.  Even today, long after the wars are over, long after the Illuminatus State was dissolved, I wear his dog tags around my neck.  Not as a trophy.  But a reminder.  A reminder that… just because we believe we’re right or righteous, doesn’t mean we are.

There was no way to end that war without killing General McGovern, that much is true.  But I could’ve done it differently.  I didn’t have to kill so many young men.  I didn’t have to send tens of thousands… theirs and mine… to their demise.

The Ares Project was a collection of failed soldiers with little or no hope for anything else.  With McGovern, they found a purpose.  Like those on my side, indoctrinated with lies from young ages, the Ares Project soldiers could’ve been convinced to lay down their weapons.

I wholly believe that.

James even tried to tell me that on multiple occasions and I’d never listen.  McGovern’s fighting men thought they were fighting for a just cause.  I mean, they were backed and supported by a sitting President of the United States, after all.  They thought they were on the right side of history.  They thought the Illuminatus State was akin to something like ISIS because that’s what they were led to believe.

The President was replaced and not long after, the Ares Project was labeled a terror organization.  What I should’ve done was blanketed their strongholds with truth propaganda about their General McGovern.  HIs soldiers would have resisted that propaganda for a time, but they would have turned eventually.  They’d have seen McGovern for the right wing extremist whack job he was.

The evidence I have to support that claim rests around my neck.  Ares Project Private Harold R. Jenkins.  The day we retook Edwards Air Force Base, he was found hiding underneath a burned out shell of a tank.

Private Jenkins was a respectful young man.  He addressed me, his sworn enemy, with dignity and respect equal to my position.  I did not return that favor.  He was just nineteen years old that day.  He wouldn’t live to see another.  Like me, he had a side arm strapped to his inner thigh.  A couple of my soldiers held him by his arms during his surrender.

He spoke clearly, and concisely.  Jenkins was not yet ready to give information about his General and his plans.  He wouldn’t have even known a whole lot only being a Private.  Private’s are groomed to die.  The ones that don’t, get promoted.

Nevertheless, I reached between his legs and grabbed his sidearm.  Following my own orders, I pulled back the hammer on his pistol and shot Harold Jenkins point blank in his head with his own damn gun.

I have regretted it every day of my life since.

Things happen in a time of war that you can never take back.  You act on the best information you have at your disposal.  You fight because your only other option is to die.  Harold Jenkins, a nineteen year old kid from Texas was surrendering.  His battle was over.  His war was lost.  Despite only being a Private, there were still things he could’ve told us about the Ares Project.  Things that might have helped us in our propaganda efforts.  Things that could’ve turned the tide of war earlier.  Things that could’ve seen many Ares Project fighters abandon their posts and their General.

Instead, I never gave him a chance.  His life was young but I snuffed it out anyways.  Make no mistake, neither his life nor any of their lives are or were worth more to me than the lives of my children or my people.  They’d made attempts on my life several times over the years.  Frankie’s too.  I was right to protect them.  I was right to kill them rather than let them kill us.

But that doesn’t absolve my guilt.

Harold Jenkins didn’t have to die that day.  He did, and by my own hand.  Heading toward three years now, and his cold blooded killing has never left me.

Everything in front of me happens in slow motion as Harold Jenkins is brought before me.  Furious and enraged from the assault and ruthless murder of my people, I asked him a couple questions that rather than answer quickly, he tried to engage in debate.  That tells me he was a critical thinker and that Ares Project soldiers weren’t all just mindless drones.

Still in slow motion, I reached down between his thighs to retrieve his pistol.  As he spoke, I checked his ammo in the magazine as my men put him on his knees.  Jenkins showed no fear as he spoke.  But his eyes lit up wide as I placed his own gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

When the gun fired, I screamed.

Then I came to on the sofa at Paradise Ridge.  Covered in sweat with my heart racing and my head pounding, I looked around.  It was daylight now and Lauren was in the kitchen.  Frankie and Ashlynn were sitting at the island.  Doctor DeVille still sat in the chair.  Caty and Talon played in their playpen.  Minkah and Mufasa playfight across the room.

”It wasn’t the hole,” I’d said to DeVille.

”What wasn’t the hole?” he asked.

”When I screamed,” I began to explain.  ”It wasn’t when I fell in the hole.  It was when I pulled the trigger,” I said as I unconsciously gripped Harold Jenkins’ dog tags in my right hand.

”You mean… when you killed Harold Jenkins?” he deduced.

Saying nothing, I nodded.

”Here,” Lauren says as she hands me an iced cold blue gatorade and a couple pills.

”What are these?” I asked before taking a drink of the gatorade.

”Excedrin Migraine,” she answered as she plopped down beside me.  ”Lewis said that the pill you took to sleep could cause a migraine.  Not to mention the hangover you gotta have.”

”Aww you do love me,” I joked before swallowing the pills.

”Shut up,” she said as she hugged my left arm.  ”Of course I do.”

”How long was I out?” I asked DeVille.

”Fourteen hours,” he answered after a peek at his watch.

”Jesus,” I muttered under my breath.

”What do you feel?” DeVille asked as I leaned back against the sofa.

Taking time to consider the question, I kissed my wife on her forehead while I ran my fingers through her hair.  I owe her a ton right now.  I’ve been pretty unbearable lately and she’s endured it all while not missing a beat as a mom.

”Sadness,” I answered, still clutching Jenkins’ tags.  ”I can’t take back pulling the trigger.  I wish I could.”

”You beat yourself up for it?” he inquired.

”I don’t ever really talk about it, but I think about it a lot,” I answered quickly.  ”Harold didn’t have to die.”

”They were killing your people, Thaddeus,” he argued.  ”Is it not justice?”

”What good is justice if it isn’t right?” I posed rhetorically.  ”It was an execution without due process.  That day I didn’t know whether he took part in the attack or not.  For all I know, he was sent there after the fact to be used as a pawn in McGovern’s game.”

”What if the roles were reversed?” he asked.  ”As the commanding general of the opposition, if it were you that were captured and it was Private Jenkins standing in front of you… what do you think would happen?”

”That doesn’t matter,” I replied quickly.  ”Your hypothetical has an issue.  If they captured me, they’d have been instructed to bring me to McGovern.  As different as he and I were, the one thing we had in common was that we’d have wanted to do the honors of killing the other ourselves.

“My people had the same instructions.”

”Have you visited him?” he asked in reference to Harold’s grave.

”No,” I answered.  ”In the immediate aftermath, after the regret set in, I paid respects to Doris, his mother.”

”Might I suggest doing it again?”

”I don’t know,” I answered.  ”People don’t like to be confronted by their son's killer.”

”You need closure, Thaddeus,” he protested.

”What of Doris Jenkins?” I posed.  ”She should have the final say on whether she lays her eyes upon my face again, don’t you think?  I mean, it’s been three years of her trying to move on with her life after the death of her beloved son.”

”Is it not worth a try at least?” he asked.  ”Perhaps Mrs. Jenkins needs it as much as you do.”

”I can make some calls,” Lauren offered.

”I just don’t…”

”Baby, maybe it won’t help, but if there’s a chance it might, then I’ll do whatever I gotta do to make it happen,” she insisted.

Instead of responding, I stand from the sofa and start to make my rounds with the kids and the animals.

”Where are you going?” Lauren asks as I fight off Frankie’s resistance to my hug and hold him tight.

”I’m going back to bed,” I answered.  ”Don’t wake me up until morning.”

[Image: wgqr9W2.png]

1x  XWF Universal Champion || 3x  XWF Xtreme Champion || 1x  XWF Supercontinental Champion (First)
1x  XWF Hart Champion (Last) || 2x  XWF Television Champion || 1x  XWF Tag Team Champion
1x  OCW Savage Champion || 1x IIW Tag Team Champion  || 2x  SOTM (9/20, 7/21)
2021 Male Wrestler of the Year (shared w/ Alias) || XWF Hall of Legends
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