Features: Undertaker (Mark Calaway)
Rating: PG (so far!)
Author's note: It's my story, so I make the rules! No brand extension, my choice of superstars and all other bets (including pre-existing personal relationships) are off if I deem them to be so! And since I spent quite a while in the no-wrestling wilderness, I may ignore past storylines and events. I also reserve the right to ignore current storylines - because I can, so there! I will also at random use both wrestlers' real names and "stage" names - mostly where I don't know real names.
Actually, since sometimes it does seem that some rampant insanity is at work in the WWE, it's probably best to consider most of my work as alternative universe fic! Keeping the good stuff and chucking away the crap, making the wrestling fan fic world a nicer place to be! Another one of those supposed to be one-shot deals . . . sheesh! Who knows when this one will end? Let's face it folks, I don't know how to write a short story!
Usual disclaimer - own nothing but my original characters, all the other people own themselves, WWE owns the trademark names, I'm doing this to exercise my creativity and for the sheer pleasure of writing. Ask my therapist!
Oh, and a word about the OC's name. I used the name Harley Quinn because of the play on words with 'harlequin', in two respects - both the hair colouring and the good old Harlequin romance novels. Yes, I'm afraid this story is no better than one of those - two people meet, they don't get along, and eventually there comes rapprochement and hopefully sex! Imagine my embarrassment to discover that "Harley Quinn" is also the name of the Joker's girlfriend in the Batman comics! Any similarity to that character is absolutely unintended. So DC Comics, like the WWE, can sue me if they want. I'll throw myself on the mercy of the courts!
Oh, and comments and feedback are always welcome!
The business card and safety certification lying on the desk in front of him said "Katherine Quinn", but no one had called her Katherine for years. Except for her mother, and even that was reserved for occasions when she had screwed up royally. She answered to Harley, which he chuckled at - oddly appropriate, given the multicoloured streaks in her hair. She looked like a harlequin at that.
Still, for the odd name, and the outrageous hair colour, Harley Quinn was an experienced pyrotechnician, and she came very highly recommended. She knew her stuff - he wouldn't expect any less, given the people she'd worked with over the years, names he recognised from the sheaf of recommendations that she'd brought along with her.
"So, why do you want to work for the WWE, Harley?" It was a standard question - better to weed out the rabid fans right up front, it saved a lot of heartache later.
"I don't, not in particular. I do want to work for Bob though - he's the one who called me to tell me there was a job opening."
Well that was honest. Bob Threadgood was one of the best in the business, and everyone wanted to work with him. But he'd only recommended one of them - Ms Quinn here. Rules were rules, though - she had to have a job interview first.
"And why did you leave your last job?"
She shrugged. "I haven't - yet. But touring with a rock band is like seasonal work, and right now, the band's in the studio. So there's not a whole hell of a lot to do. The crew's on stand down, and I'm bored."
"We tour constantly - are you sure you can cope with that?"
She laughed. "I've spent the last three years touring - that's why being on stand down is so boring!"
"And you know what kind of work you'd be doing here?"
Harley nodded. "Bob ran through it with me - I assume you don't want me to tell you the technical details, but I'm aware that it's a combination of laser, video, lighting and pyros. I'm certified to work with all of that, as you can see."
And she was - qualified in electronics and pryrotechnics at the highest levels. They'd be lucky to have her. He closed the folder and stood up, offering her his hand. "Then welcome aboard, Harley. There's some paperwork we have to get sorted, and then I'll hand you over to Bob."
Three months later, and Harley felt like she'd been with the WWE forever. At first, she'd been leery when Bob had called her to tell her about the job. Wrestlers? Those old guys in black underwear? No way - not her thing. She liked working for rock bands, thank you very much. Although she knew that the band's tour was ending, and stand down was looming.
But no one else she had any real desire to work with was mounting the kind of tour that could use her talents right now, and so when Bob had called a second time, she'd agreed to come in and at least talk to him about it. They'd met up at one of the venues, and she'd spent a few hours with him watching as the lights and pyros were assembled for a show. She'd been impressed with the scope of the stuff they were doing, and the fact that this "band" wasn't going to bail on her for a studio. She still figured she'd miss the rock stars though - nothing like working around hot guys to keep you motivated.
Her first week she'd spent learning the set ups, and making herself familiar with the massive operations manuals the company used. Boring as hell, but necessary. Then there was the tedious paperwork to get her certified for every State as a technician for the company. Finally, she'd been sent on the road, meeting up with Bob and the crew in New York at Madison Square Garden.
And she'd been in love with the place ever since. The pace was as frantic as a major rock tour, in terms of setting up and then getting the load out done, and she got very used to working through the night and sleeping while they travelled during the day. The work was terrific, with plenty to challenge her and keep her on her toes. And then there was the discovery that wrestlers were not old guys in black underwear, not any more.
This place was full of hot guys! Of course, she didn't get to meet many of them - they were busy doing whatever they did while she was crawling around lighting rigs and wiring boards, but she did get to watch the shows most nights. And these guys had as much sex appeal as any guy who played a guitar - sometimes more.
She did kind of miss the intimacy of working on a smaller crew - no one here, for instance, ever got all the crew together with the performers for a shot of Jägermeister before a show, but that was okay. The crew was friendly, but mostly they didn't mix with the talent. Harley supposed it was because there were just so many of them.
This afternoon, she was working on the wiring boards for the entrance to the ring, which she reminded herself was called the Titan-tron. At the moment, she was perched on top of a ladder on the raised stage, to one side of the entrance ramp, screwing leads into the control board. There was a real air of excitement about the place, because this was a double weekend - a Pay Per View event on Sunday night followed by a live show on Monday night.
Better than that, even - both events were in the same venue, which meant no load out tonight. They'd work tomorrow afternoon, because the sets changed, but it was a much easier job. Still there was almost a party atmosphere. Harley finished the leader board, and carefully swung her leg down over the ladder before beginning her climb down.
Jeff Hardy bounded up the stairs to the Titan-tron. The crew were still hard at work, but he wanted a chance to check out the set up for tonight. He was using new entrance music, and he needed to practice the timing. As he put in his earphones for his iPod, his attention was caught by a pair of feet descending a ladder to his right. Feet clad in sensible workboots . . . attached to a pair of female legs. In cargo shorts. Short ones. Nice.
He grinned, crossing his arms and enjoying the show as more of the woman came into view - her black t-shirt said she was part of the crew, as did the workbelt around her hips. She jumped down the last few steps, and went to shift the ladder. He took out his earphones and moved over to help her.
"Lemme get this - where you want it?"
Harley looked at him, eyebrows raised. "What?"
He gestured to the ladder. "Where you want this?"
"Oh! This way, about six feet." She moved back a little, looking up into the rigging to judge the ladder placement. "Right about here."
He shifted the ladder into position, giving her a grin. "There you go."
She nodded. "Thanks."
"No problem - I'm pretty good with ladders." Jeff gave her a wink.
Harley looked at him curiously. "You're part of the crew? I don't think I've seen you around before."
Jeff laughed. "Ah no, I'm one of the wrestlers." He refused to call himself a superstar.
"Oh! So how come you're so good with ladders then? You into home improvement or something?" Harley was about to climb back up the ladder.
"You're new here, aren't you?"
Nodding, she mounted the first step of the ladder. "Yep. Harley Quinn, lighting and pyros."
She ran the name through her memory, nodding as she recalled the set up for his entrance. "Nice to meet you, Jeff. But if you want your entrance to look good tonight, I gotta get back to work." She paused, her hand on the ladder, looking at him, and then grinned, looking at the swathe of purple dyed in his hair. "Love your hair, by the way."
Jeff laughed. "Yours is cute too," he said, acknowledging her multicoloured streaks.
She winked and continued up the ladder. Settling at the top, she resumed her work on the lighting and pyro rigging, deep in concentration again in a matter of moments.
Jeff just shook his head and went back to trying out his new entrance theme.
Once the Titan-tron was wired and tested, Harley moved onto the stage pyros. There was a couple of new set ups for tonight, because it was a Pay Per View. One of them was a rig she'd always wanted to use, that sent up propane fire balls. Added to the new blue lighting she'd been crawling around setting in the overhead rig, and the smoke effects, this Undertaker guy was gonna end up with a pretty damn spectacular entrance.
Her head nodded in time to the music that was playing through the arena as she worked. Her noise cancelling ear buds protected her hearing from the inevitable loud noises in her line of work, but she could hear the music perfectly. The audio guys were going through a swing phase, which wasn't usually Harley's thing, but it had the advantage of being music to move to.
She found herself dancing a little as she moved across the entrance stage, grinning at herself. There wasn't a roadie or crew worker anywhere in the entertainment business who hadn't at some point taken to the stage when doing the set up, wondering just what it was like in the spotlight, instead of wearing black in the back.
Still, it was swing music, and a long time ago, she'd taken some swing dancing lessons in school. Syncopated rhythms, gotta love 'em.
The ring was now fully set up, and she headed down the entrance ramp to her wheeled toolbox, still nodding her head to the rhythm of the music. She wanted to get the turnbuckle pyros in place now, before the major set dressing started. These ones made her the most nervous, simply because they were the closest ones to members of the public. Of course, they'd been in use for years apparently, but she was new to them, so she was keen to make sure that they were done right.
She pushed the tray of pyros onto the wooden floor of the ring, and as she climbed up to start attaching them, the swing selections changed to a calypso beat, and she laughed as she recognised "Jump in the Line". That one was damn near irresistible, she thought, as her hips swayed to the music. Of course, the jangle of her workbelt wasn't exactly musical, but what the hell, who was going to notice her?
Mark Calaway arrived at the arena early. He was coming back off a break, and they were making a big deal of it for the Pay Per View. He might have preferred to make it a bit more low key, and on one of the weekly shows, but the company had the final say. He was in good shape though, and he'd been talking with Glenn Jacobs already about how they might work this match and give the fans a good show.
He stowed his gear and went looking for Glenn, but his progress was slow as he kept running into folks who wanted to welcome him back. Not that he minded, but he did actually have a purpose in mind when he'd come in early. He found Glenn talking to some of the writers, and they discussed the storyline that was being developed. He'd always enjoyed working with Glenn.
The two of them headed out to the arena to check on the set up and hopefully grab a little ring time as they worked things out for their match. They ran into Jeff Hardy in the corridors, and Mark laughed, seeing the purple in his hair.
"Nice touch, Jeff."
Jeff just grinned. "Hey, you think mine's good, you ought to check out Harley's! Oh, and welcome back, Mark!" He gave them a wave and headed on his way, and Mark turned to Glenn with a puzzled look.
Glenn just shrugged. "No one I know. What the hell kind of name is Harley anyway?"
Mark grinned. "It's a pretty good name for a bike. And the only other Harley I know is Harley Race, but I'm pretty sure the only hair colour he's ever used is Grecian Formula."
Laughing, they climbed the stairs to the Titan-tron entrance and headed out onto the stage. The sight that greeted them in the arena pulled them up short, and Mark turned to Glenn with a grin.
"I leave this place for a few months, and everything goes to hell!"
"Jump in the Line" was playing, a Calypso version with a rhythm that was pretty infectious. Some of the crew were dancing around the ring in an impromptu Conga line, while in the ring itself, a woman in cargo shorts and a black t-shirt was dancing with a grin, her hips twitching her workbelt. Noticing the multicoloured streaks in the woman's short hair, Glenn's eyebrows raised.
"I think I've just worked out who Harley is," Glenn chuckled, pointing at the woman in the ring.
Mark just shook his head, but he was still grinning. The music changed to a swing tune, and the crew laughed and abandoned their Conga line, while the woman in the ring bent to pick up a pyro cannister and a roll of duct tape, taking them over to the ring turnbuckle. She was still nodding her head to the beat of the music as she tore off a piece of tape with her teeth and used it to hold the pyro in place as she knelt down and began the task of wiring it into a control box.
Harley pulled a pair of pliers from her workbelt, using them to strip the ends of the wires before deftly screwing them into the relay. Once they were in place, she shifted her position, balancing on the narrow part of the ring outside the ropes as she taped the wire down the turnbuckle on the outer surface of the ring post. That done, she carefully wrapped the pyro cannister itself with duct tape, attaching it to the top of the post. She smoothed the tape as she went - she was conscious that she was probably a bit slow on this part of the job, but she wanted to make sure she was getting it right, rather than getting it done fast.
Mark and Glenn had moved down the entrance ramp and were walking the area around the ring. The mats and crowd barriers were already in place, and they wanted to get a feel for how much space there was for some of the out of ring action they had planned.
The ring crew were working around Harley, as they laced the canvas ring mat into place. She was trying to stay out of their way as much as possible, and was considering going to look for a stepladder so she didn't need to stand on the ring proper to get the pyros in place. On this corner at least, she was okay - the steel steps were already in place, and she could use them as a platform.
That corner finished, she ran the wires along the underside of the edge of the ring, securing them as she went with duct tape, and looked up at the third ring post. She was already behind at this point, so searching for a stepladder was out of the question. She'd have to make do with what she had. She closed the lid of her toolbox and pushed it close to the corner of the ring, and used it as a step to reach up and strap the pyro cannister in place.
Of course, that was when the duct tape decided to behave like it had a mind of its own, twisting on itself before she get the cannister firmly secured. Great. She looked down at the duct tape on the floor and then up at the pyro cannister she was holding in place with her hand. Just at that moment, two guys came around the corner of the ring, talking. She hoped they wouldn't mind an interruption.
"Ah, little help, please?"
Mark looked up at the voice, his eyebrows raising as he saw the woman stretching up on the ring post. Glenn was the first to answer though.
"What do you need?"
Harley smiled. "The duct tape, please." She pointed to the roll of tape at their feet, and Glenn bent down to retrieve it.
As he held it out to her, Harley realised her next problem - she needed two hands to tear off the duct tape, and if she let go of the pyro cannister now, it was going to fall, and once it did that, she'd need a new one. More time lost.
Mark could see her dilemma, and he stepped closer to her, reaching out to hold the cannister in place for her. "Let me."
She shot him a grateful look and reached for the tape, giving the other man a smile of thanks. She tore off another piece of tape and knelt up on the edge of the ring, reaching up under his arm to tape the cannister in place. Once she could see it was secure, her glance went to the man standing beside her - close beside her. He was very tall, and that arm was not just muscular, but covered in tattoos.
Smiling at her, Mark stepped back, his eyes travelling over her. The black t shirt she wore meant she was definitely crew, but he got the feeling she was new. For one thing, there was absolutely no recognition in her eyes of either of them.
Harley smiled at them both, holding the tape up. "Thanks for the help - much appreciated."
Mark grinned, gesturing to the roll of tape. "You need to find a place for that on your bat utility belt there."
She couldn't help but laugh at that. "Yeah, right next to my batarangs and my grappling hook. I'll keep that in mind, thanks!"
She tipped them both a little salute with her pliers before turning back to her work, and they moved on, though Mark cast a glance back over his shoulder at her as they left.
Glenn looked at him and grinned. "Bat utility belt? You're showing your age, Mark!"
Mark laughed. "And what did you think of when you saw that workbelt, huh?"
"Lara Croft, of course!"
"You and your damn computer games," Mark shook his head.
Now that she had the pyro cannister in place, Harley could get on with wiring it in, and since the ring crew had the mat in place, she could climb into the ring to tape it in place properly. Even though these pyros made her the most nervous, she had to admit, the guy who used these as his ring entrance was definitely onto something. Finger Eleven as his theme, with that deep driving bass beat, and the video of flames that covered the Titan-tron. And then to set off his own pyros, surrounding the ring in fire, under red lights. It was a unique set up, for sure. What the hell was the guy's name? Kane, that was it.
She chuckled to herself, thinking about the track he used - they only used like the first verse of the lyrics, and those fantastic echoing guitar riffs, but the rest of the song was pretty cool. "Give me what I could never ask for, connect me and you could be my chemical now, give me the drug you know I'm after, connect me and you could be my chemical" - and the way the lyrics were growled out like they were . . . yummy.
Someday, hopefully soon, those names would get themselves attached to faces. It didn't help that everybody here seemed to have half a dozen names, though. It had taken her three shows to work out that "Triple H", "Trips", "the Game" and "Paul" or "Paulie" were the same guy. And the way the guys talked about themselves in the third person - that just made her laugh. She couldn't help it - one of the bands she'd toured with had a lead singer who'd refer to himself in the third person when he got drunk, which was most nights after a show. It was funny as hell, because he did it as a total piss-take on some of those rockstar wanna-bes. How the hell could she take these guys seriously when they did it, after that?
The last two pyros took her less time to set up, and she did a quick circuit of the ring to check them once she was done, ducking down to make sure the wiring was still held in place after the ring mat was secured. She had to excuse herself around those two guys who'd helped her earlier, but they hardly seemed to notice or mind. She ran the wiring from the turnbuckle pyros to the master board, pulling her wheeled toolbox behind her. They ran on a separate circuit - there would be no juice to them until the guy - Kane - started his entrance. They couldn't risk them accidentally being triggered when someone hit the ring post. That still made her nervous, but hopefully she'd relax about it as time went by.
She stretched. That was her stuff done, for now, anyway. Time to head to Catering for some lunch. She joined a couple of the other guys who were heading the same way, all of them bitching good-naturedly about the work. That didn't change, no matter where you worked. Didn't mean they didn't love their jobs, but it was a pressure valve to complain about the little things. Kind of like a lucky ritual - if you bitched about the little stuff, then the big stuff would go smooth. God willing.
Catering wasn't very busy, and Harley collected her lunch and found a seat at one of the tables that was unoccupied. She was about to start eating when someone dropped into the chair opposite her. She looked up to see the guy with the purple hair grinning at her.
"Mind if I join you?"
She chuckled. "Not at all."
He looked at the mound of raw vegetables and salad on her plate, and then down at his own hamburger. "Ah, you aren't going to be offended by the meat?"
"No - why would you think I would be?" She was puzzled.
He gestured to her plate. "You being vegetarian, I mean."
She burst out laughing. "I'm not vegetarian. You and your burger are welcome here, Jeff."
He grinned. "You aren't? Then what's with the rabbit food?" He took a mouthful of his burger.
"I just spent three years touring with a rock band whose lead singer hated vegetables, couldn't stand to see anything green or leafy on the catering table. I kinda figure I might be at risk of scurvy or rickets, or whatever the hell it is when you're vitamin deprived through lack of fresh produce. So I'm kinda trying to even things out, ya dig?"
Jeff laughed. "Well, that kinda makes sense. I'm just glad you didn't say you were on a diet - I am so sick of women saying that around here!"
Harley had heard that quite a bit in her short time with the company, and she nodded. "I hear ya. Actually, I think your Catering people do a great job with the food - there's nothing over there that's really bad for you. I've worked in places where they needed to do a daily grease and oil change on the food, trust me."
The conversation moved on from food to music. Most of the bands Jeff liked hadn't mounted the kind of tours Harley had been involved with, but he was certainly familiar with the ones she named, and they spent a pleasant half hour discussing music and touring. Finally Harley looked at her watch.
"Okay, Jeff, I gotta get back to it. It was real nice talking with you - I'll make sure your entrance goes off without a hitch, 'kay?" She winked at him and he laughed.
"Yeah, I bet you say that to all the boys, Harley!"
She just grinned. "And I always keep my word too!"
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