Two hours before airtime, the cameras have caught a glimpse of Hornet coming into the arena. As he marches towards Chad Merritt's makeshift office in the Pond's presidential skybox, the production crew quickly cuts and edits the footage, saving it for use during the show, no matter what the outcome of this meeting.
CSWA Owner Chad Merritt has already been alerted and is watching the footage as Hornet steps onto the elevator that will bring him into the skybox. Merritt takes a deep breath and puts on his 'owner' face. His dislike for Hornet aside, this isn't something he's looking forward to. The elevator door opens.
"Glad you could make it."
"So am I."
"So what are we going to do?"
"You're in the driver's seat in this one, Chad. I guess it's really up to you."
"What were you thinking? I mean, I've put up with a lot. But missing a pay-per-view where you're in the Main Event? By all rights, I ought to rip up your contract."
Merritt lays his hand down on the contract in front of him on the desk. Both men know what's in it, it was two years ago, in a skybox like this one, where they both signed it. At that time, it gave Hornet a significant advantage in their working relationship. In fact, it was the final piece to the puzzle that allowed the ClaimStakers to seal their plan. Hornet, Randalls and Eli, a triumverate that no one expected... and Merritt never saw coming, despite the fact that he had agreed to a 'no-fire, no-suspension' clause in Hornet's contract, as well as a limited number of required appearance dates.
"I couldn't blame you if you wanted to."
"I mean, it says right here..."
"I know what it says, Chad. I wrote it, remember?"
"Of course I remember. The point is..."
"And I know what the point is. I'm not going to be bullied. You want to rip up the contract, then do it. But I won't sign another one."
"What are you saying?"
"I think I was pretty clear. If you want to use the no-show to get out of the contract, then that's your prerogative. But I'm not going to be yanked around."
"And what am I supposed to do? Just let you out of it? What kind of message does that..."
"Like I said, that's up to you."
"What the hell happened!? I've been trying to get in touch with you for a month."
"I wondered when you get to that."
"All your assistant would say is that you were 'out of town.'"
(As Hornet tells the events of May 31st, the month since, and the year prior, Merritt seems astounded, a rarity for the powerbroker. Hornet leaves little out, speaking matter-of-factly about his year-long addiction to Soma, talking about how he got the painkillers, how he used and abused them, and the mental state he was in."
"I didn't know. I knew something was wrong after you fell asleep, but..."
"I don't think anyone knew, Chad. I didn't want them to."
"So where does that leave us? I told a pay-per-view audience that if you came back, you'd explain what happened. We can't tell them..."
"Tell them you were addicted to painkillers for a year?"
"It's the truth. If you want me to make a statement, that's what it'll be."
"So you've been in treatment for the last month?"
"Since the night of BATTLE of the BELTS."
"And where are you now?"
"I'm good, not great. If you're asking whether I've used since then, no."
"Doesn't surprise me. You've always been stubborn when you wanted something." Chad laughs.
"Can't disagree there."
"So where does that leave us?"
"That's really up to you."
"Not really. I mean, can you, are you still, do you still WANT to wrestle?"
"Eventually. But I can't promise that I'm not going to relapse. I can't promise that I'm going to be what I was. And I can't promise that I'm going to see eye-to-eye with you on everything."
"Not like you ever have. Where do we start?"
"You promised an explanation and an apology. That I can do."
"There's one other thing..."
"Of course there is."
"I've made arrangements with a group to lease the ULTRATITLE to them for a new sort of tournament, and they're looking for agreements to use some talent...."
As Merritt's concern gives way to his natural wheeling-and-dealing, both men take a minute to realize that this is probably the most civil discussion they've had with each other in years. As Hornet leaves to film his explanation to the fans, Merritt calls down to the production truck to explain what he wants to do with the interview.
It means that a lot of things have to be changed. New matches, new interviews...time to fill. Merritt calls down and double-checks on the status of the night's biggest surprise, at least the one he's planned. He touches base with one of the road agents, Brian Nord.
"Brian, I'm going to need to work on some things. Is the interior office ready? Alright, you go ahead and take care of the meeting with the crew, hopefully I'll be able to get down there during the show."
With Merritt's plate full, the camera crew continues shooting, as Hornet, done with taping, walks out the stage door and drives away.