A computer monitor flew through the air as though it had managed to grow wings and join the birds in their graceful flight. Sadly computer monitors do not have wings nor any means of flight and so, as it hurdled through the air gravity reminded us that there was no escape from this world for most of us. As it crashed back down to the hard concrete parking lot floor of Max’s camp outside of the Best Arena it bounced once, spiderwebs crackling across the monitors screen before a second bounce resulted in the plastic frame exploding. The innards tumbled and bounced until they came to a stop, a pile of broken electronic scrap.
Maximillian Wilhelm Kael sputtered as he pawed at his neck still in his ring gear with his mask hanging loose around his face, the seal clearly broken. His breaths were ragged and horse, deep gulps that never seemed to fill his chest. His face was red, his blue eye filled with fury and pain as he stumbled through his camp gasping in impotent rage.
“..uuggh.. Lost.. LOST..”
His hands slammed down hard on a table that cut his rampage off from proceeding forward. Even as he choked and weezed his hatred pushed him on, kept him up and moving forward. His defeat earlier in the night had come as a total shock to him, his arrogance had cost him the first match of the LBI, a match that was supposed to be an easy victory for him against a nobody.
He had been outwrestled. 2019’s Top Ranked wrestler in High Octane Wrestling. LSD Champion, a former World Champion of the Refueled Era.
Max fucking KAEL.
“.This.. This is not acceptable..uughh..” He managed to hiss, he wanted to scream, wanted to rage but he couldn’t muster the air in his lungs to do anything. Each breath was like a new hell for Max, he could feel the fire in his lungs that great more intense with each new supply of oxygen. He could feel the smoke in his throat, choking each and every word that tried to worm its way out of his chest.
“Sir… we should withdraw.”
The voice of one of Max’s soldiers, a Korean man with a serious expression in a black North Kaelrean uniform wearing what appeared to be a Captain’s rank bar. He spoke English surprisingly well though there was still a hint of an accent. The Lord Supreme Dictator grabbed the table that had cut off his rampage throwing it across the tent where it collided with a large light sending both crashing to the ground.
Max turned and glared venomously at the Captain whose eyes stared forward smartly. Stumbling forward Max’s wretched grasps caused the man to wince slightly, the Lord Supreme Dictator’s strange blue eye looking him up and down like a wounded predator sizing up it’s next meal.
“Withdr.. Withdraw?!..Uuhhhgg..NOo-Owww, fuck!” Max attempted to roar at the Captain but once again he only drew up a mouth full of thick, black blood. He coughed it up and pulled his mask away revealing the fresh new skin grafts that covered his newly upgraded jaw, his metal teeth visible between blooded lips.
He spat a wad of blood into his hands and stared down at it grimly.
“..sir, respectfully, you are not fully healed. You returned too soon to participate in this LBI. Your loss here today, that proved it. Withdraw, return to North Korea and to our Supreme Leader where you can heal and return at full strength.” The Captain said in an even tone, firm but respectful. Max didn’t say anything as he slowly walked past the captain staring at the blood in his hands, his rasping breaths sounding increasingly weaker.
“Bring some..uuuhhg.. Bring someone to fix.. Uuuhhg.. This fucking massskuuuhhg.” Max managed to hiss as he stumbled forward, falling to one knee as he finally snapped out of his haze long enough to brace himself.
“FIX MY FUCKING MASK!”
His eye flashed red as he snapped back up to his feet, scrambling forward as more blood and spittle flew from his half uncovered mouth. The captain, to his credit, didn’t flinch as Max got inches in front of his face, his furious burning eye matching the Captains even gaze. His breaths came ragged and sour, half a growl, half a choking gasp.
“Yes, sir.” The Captain finally replied, taking a step back before he quickly exited the tent. Once the man was gone and he was alone Max’s strength left him, his knees buckling before he fell to the ground.
Rolling onto his back Max’s eye seemed to lose focus, widening into a deadman’s gaze. He coughed and sputtered a few more times as blood began to ooze down the sides of his face. Pale fingers clawed at his neck and chest as his coughing slowly started to die out, the world slowly falling into darkness for our hero…
Some people called him a poor man’s Kris Kostoff or a rich man’s Embosser. He had a legacy of violence in High Octane Wrestling that was well documented over the years. If he hadn’t found High Octane Wrestling he might have been a strong contender on Bum Fights, his want to dole out violence paired nicely with a brick oven body that was more than capable of ashing a few bodies.
And he was the next man to face Maximillian Kael. Normally that might have been an omen of Doom but in this case Austin Reeves likely had the advantage.
Ignoring his doctors orders Max Kael had decided to move forward into the LBI and face a relatively unknown opponent thinking it would have been simple enough. Needless to say he had been wrong. He had completely underestimated his opponent while overestimating himself, his arrogance blinding the one good eye he has left. He had gotten himself hurt and that was just the kind of opening a man like Austin Reeves could use.
The kind of opening a man like Austin Reeves could not ignore.
Surprisingly the two had little history in High Octane Wrestling, always in each others orbit but never really fully engaged in anything. Max had been less active in the years that Reeves had made a name for himself and even when they were both active their careers never collided in a meaningful way. Another advantage for Austin Reeves as Max always faired better against opponents he had a good feel for.
High Octane Wrestling had also decreased the time between shows with Max’s last match only one week between each other unlike the regular two he usually had to compete with. This means his damaged, elder body was going to be taking twice as much punishment this year with half as much time to recover between matches.
The LBI was just the start of it.
Unwilling to return to North Korea for another surgery and recovery time the Lord Supreme Dictator had elected to have a medical team attend to him in America. Unfortunately his forward camp at the Best Arena would not fit those needs, the damage to his body and the need for a sterile environment trumping whatever was available there. As such he was moved home.
At the rebuilt Kael Estate Max could be looked after 24/7 while out of the way of the goings on High Octane Wrestling. Here he could be alone, centered and focused on what needed to happen. Michael and Cecilworth had their own things going on as the eMpire seemed to see less and less of each other..
That thought was not completely lost on Max but.. At the same time his own obsession seemed to push that idea far into the back of his mind. He had to survive the LBI.. he had to do everything in his power to win it… he had to..
That first loss had shaken him, it had woken him up to the idea that he was in fact vulnerable and, more importantly, that his body was not healing as fast as he thought it would. High Octane Wrestling would begin to doubt him.. It would begin to think he was weak. That he was in his decline..
That High Octane Wrestling would survive with Max Kael.
He would have none of that.
Against his Doctor’s wishes Max had a recording team arrive at his family estate in Arkham to record a message for those who doubted him. For those who thought that High Octane Wrestling could be what it was with Maximillian Wilhelm Kael..
Unfortunately Max was unable to be moved for his bed, his body mounted into what appeared to be some kind of full body suspension arm. Instead he hung like a puppet held up in the air by his strange mechanical bed. Tubes ran into his body and his face was covered by a strange mask that had two large hoses running into either side of it. He looked.. Unnatural.. Hanging there though you could feel his glare from beneath the mask.
“I bet you think I look funny here.. Weak.. pathetic..”
His voice hissed out from the mask, clear and strong. The steady sound of his breathing was amplified by the equipment he was strapped to as it seemed to monitor his second to second condition. His hands twitched but otherwise hung at his side while his feet dangled off the bed. He appeared to be in a set of black silk pajamas with little cartoon versions of his face all over them.
“I promise you the state you see me in.. have seen me in.. is not an appropriate reflection of what burns inside. I have promised the Death of High Octane Wrestling..I have promised victory.. I will honor those words. Last week I was defeated by Warrick Hill, a man that I thought I was ready for. A man that I thought I could handle in my condition. I was wrong and foolish and in my impetuousness I ended up hurting myself more.. I have learned from this mistake.”
The metallic tinge of his distorted voice growls at a low tone.
“Austin Reeves.. I’ve always respected men named after shitty cities in Texas. I think Dallas Reeves is a better name personally but Austin works for you. Nobody ever said Austin Reeves doesn’t beat the shit out of you when you face him, quite the opposite. Michael used to say some of his nastiest matches were against you and I didn’t even take that personal. You’re like me right now, you’ve lost your first match so I know you’re going to be hungry. I know you’re going to be looking for blood and I promise you I’ve been drinking plenty of orange juice so if you want to squeeze me like a ripe tomato you’re more than welcome to try, heh-heh..”
His laugh is particularly unpleasant sounding, like a garbage truck trying to chuckle.
“..but no matter how much blood you get out of me, Austin Reeves, I’ll keep fighting. I’m a fucking Liche, my life is preserved by powers beyond your understanding. I want to.. I NEED to win this LBI and I need to get those first three points. I’m sorry that it has to be you and that it wasn’t Warrick Hill. But I can’t lose.. I can’t be forgotten like some misplaced childs toy!.. I can’t be like.. Like all of the other losers who didn’t get out when they should have! I CAN’T BE THAT AUSTIN!”
His body twitches and turns as he screams into his helmet, his distorted voice almost being overshadowed by his actual voice from within the helmet. To the side of his bed a few lights spring to life on his equipment as his monitors begin to chip loudly. His rapid breathing slowly starts to calm.. Then quietly even out.
“..Again.. I’m sorry that it has to be you, Austin. Remember after our match there is no shame in losing to me.. Maximillian Kael.. First of my Name.. Long…Long May I Maim..”
His raspy breaths play out long after the scene cuts to black..