“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.” – Tennessee Williams
“Did it work?”
The Minister peered down at the shivering, sweat covered body of the Apostle Doug, his head slumped forward. His chest rose and fell with shallow, ragged breaths while dark bruises had begun to appear on his wrists and ankles where his flesh struggled against the metal restraints.
“Can you hear me?”
His cruel voice stunk up the chamber as his red eye seemed to narrow, his brow arching curiously. Doug didn’t answer but his body shuddered once more as he tried to recoil further into the chair. Reaching up, the Minister detached the archaic and torturous helmet to gaze at the damage that was done.
Four painful looking holes had been drilled directly into Doug’s head where something had been inserted. The wounds were clean, the bleeding having long since stopped though the traumatic nature of the injuries meant they probably still hurt.
As a matter of fact the Minister knew they still hurt, those first early memories of his birth, the pain and the confusion..
“Max tried to do this to Mike years ago with updated methods and a more.. humane .. approach. It didn’t take.. At least not as well as I believe it should have. Like a canvas half painted, Mike isn’t yet complete but now?”
Minister grabbed Doug by the chin and forced his head up so he could stare into his face, into his half closed bloodshot eyes. Doug’s face was damp from sweat and tears. With his other hand Minister pried Doug’s eyes wide and searched them for anything that might indicate the procedure had been successful. There was a dull, glassy quality to Doug’s eyes as he stared beyond the Minister, no sign of life or activity.
The upper lip of the callous Minister curled into a toothy sneer as he released Doug’s chin and took a step back.
His voice echoed around the chamber and down the hall, disappointment and frustration once again boiling across his face.
“Weak… WEAK! An eight year old BOY was able to cope with this.. Was able to house me. A full grown man should have no issue! I followed the instructions provided.. This device should have worked.. It SHOULD HAVE WORKED!”
In a fit of rage the Minister turned and strode to the nearby wall, muttering and fuming to himself as he did so.
Without warning he smashed his head full force into the concrete wall, the metal part of his skull connecting with a sickening sound. He let out a deep, primal roar and once again threw his face at the wall.
This time a small bead of blood appeared on the wall where he had smashed his face. Another visceral bellow was unleashed by the Minister as a third time he drove his own head into the wall out of bitter frustration.
This final third time a full splatter of blood was left behind, the cut left above his brow by Darin Matthews from the previous Refueled opened wide as blood began to pour down the Minister’s face, adding to his wild and unhinged appearance. He braced himself against the wall with both hands as his mind raced as to what to do..
He had been sure this would work, this plan had hinged on this device, on this procedure, finishing what Max had started so many years ago..
The Minister paused as the soft, familiar giggle tickled his ears from the chair behind him. He lifted his head as a familiar smile stretched wide.
He wasn’t sure for how long he had laid down on the ground of his cell for, not that it mattered in this place. After Minister had arrived to beat him senseless he had been left for dead, once again alone.
He hadn’t really mustered the strength or interest in rising, all things said he was feeling rather depressed and miserable. Stuck here in a prison of his own mind while the Minister was quietly destroying both his life and the life of Michael, his very dear close brother, it was pretty demoralizing. Especially after getting thrown around his cell like a rag doll.
It might have been about two days before Max managed to roll onto his back, staring up at the ceiling of his cell trying to decide if it was worth his time to stand up. The debate had raged for what was likely another couple of hours before he attempted sitting up.
This was probably not the wisest idea as doing so sent a series of very painful tremors up and down his back where the Minister had thrown him viciously into his cell wall. Max had thought his back had been broken but then how do you break someones back when they aren’t technically physically there?
Maybe he just imagined his back was broken and when he stopped thinking that he had started to repair himself? Well, whatever had happened not enough healing had occurred to spare him the pain of the injury which had kept Max from standing up. Instead he got to enjoy this new, diminutive look at his small cell, seated in the center of the room like a small child.
..however there was a perk to this.
In studying the walls of the cell that he had come to know quite well he discovered something new.
A crack had formed where his body had been slammed into the wall, nothing overly impressive but it was a start, a small hole in the otherwise smooth surface. He stared at it for awhile wondering if he was just imagining it… and if he was just imagining it did that mean he could imagine it getting larger?
Eventually he worked up the courage to stand up, though very slowly. He felt what he thought was fire pour down his spin and into his legs as he did so but he pushed beyond it, pushed past it as he stumbled toward the small crack.
Two thin fingers traced along the edges of the small break in the wall as a smile touched Max’s face.
Dirty fingernails dung into the crack as he began to scrape away at the concrete one chip at a time.
It wasn’t much.. But it was Hope.
The Minister stared down at the words on the two words that appeared on the screen of his phone. Normally this information would have caused him to scowl but it was, in some ways, a welcome bit of news. A cruel, devilish smile curled at the corners of his lips as a petty, wicked giggle chortled up.
“It doesn’t matter at this point.” the Minister gleefully muttered to himself as he slipped his phone away and turned his mismatched eyes back up. “..it’s too late to stop me now.”
The gym floor of Five Time Academy had been completely rearranged since last it was seen. The equipment had been shoved to the far sides of the room and the ring surrounded by all manner of implements of doom and danger. Tables were set up and ladders placed in various different positions. Weapons hung from the ceiling along with the effigies of those defeated by the Minister in the last few months.
And more than that at least twenty Congregation members stood by, their eyes turned forward toward the Minister, twisted smiles were painted over their white masks, muffled giggles and primal snarls filled the gloomy silence of the abandoned wrestling school.
“I have succeeded where Wilhelm and Maximillian have failed.. I always was too big for one man.. Heh-heh..” The Minister giggled once again as he surveyed his good work. Since the success of Doug the Minister had been keen to push through as many of his devoted followers as possible, each receiving the blessings of the Administrator..
Of the Minister.
“Mike Best knows about us, Brothers!”
The Minister addressed his Congregation, his voice booming across the large open gym space as he pulled himself up into the ragged ring.
“Mike Best has figured out the truth of what I am.. What we are. Or.. at least what he believes is the truth. Elenore Kael has told him.. Everything. Everything.. That I wanted her too.. WE wanted her too. Armed with this new knowledge I am sure the HOW World Champion thinks he has some kind of advantage.. Thinks he has some kind of edge here!”
The Congregation let out a collective series of giggles as they shifted and chittered excitedly, this deranged sickness of the mind that the Minister spread still young, still primitive, driven by instinct in most cases. They were beautiful to the Minister, proof he was more than a mistake, more than just programming, more than just flesh and blood.
“WE will show him a better way. WE will begin the great procedure that purified us and lifted us from the mediocrity of this gray and filthy world! And then HE.. will become WE! Just another proud member of the Congregation.. Another extension of.. The Minister.. Heh-heh.. HAH…”
He lifted his arms and stared up into the broken skylights where the Moon was visible high in the sky.
The date was set. His soldiers were ready. Five Time Academy was prepared.
Like a spider at the center of his web the Minister would now wait..
For No Remorse.
You have to defeat him Michael.
There isn’t an option here. If you don’t defeat him he will run amuck, Michael. I’ve seen his plans, I know what he wants to do. I can’t tell you specifics but it’s nothing good. He hates you, he hates you so fucking much but I’m not sure if you understand why.
And it’s my fault.
You should never have been drawn into my family’s terrible secrets. You should have never gotten involved with Elenore or Wilhelm or any of it. The Kael Family isn’t like the Best Family.. At least with the Best Family you always know where you stand. Lee will always be happy to put his heel on the back of your neck and push you into the mud.
He’ll always be upfront about it..
But the Kael Family? My family?
My own Gran.. sorry.. My own Father had me just so he could try to insert his own memory over mine in some misguided bid for immortality. When that didn’t take, instead of helping me heal he tossed him away, buried me under trauma until I couldn’t tell the truth from the lies. That void created by the abuse, the abandonment.. The pain..
The Administrator may have been the bullet in my skull but the Minister was born in a test tube or as a series of ones and zeros inside a computer, he was born from my suffering, nurtured by my hate and raised by cruelty. Each failure in my life made him stronger, each act of violence fed his endless hunger, each abusive relationship strengthened his resolve and control.
I was too weak as a child. I am too afraid as an adult.
I’m a lost cause Michael. You can’t save me but you can save yourself. You can save Cecilworth, you can save the Group of Death, fuck, you might even be able to save High Octane Wrestling but only if you stop the Minister at No Remorse.
I don’t just mean by escaping Five Time Academy before him..
You need to put the Minister down, you need to put me down before the Minister uses me to do something terrible and I can feel him getting ready for it. This isn’t the end of his ploy, this is just the beginning and he cannot.. CANNOT be allowed to gain steam and grow.
He has spent the last two weeks working with his Congregation to prepare Five Time Academy to be the most hostile and dangerous environment he could create. The Academy is not as you remember it and he has not wasted any time or energy. I think deep down inside the Minister knows he can’t out wrestle you, he knows he can’t pin or submit you because you are, without a doubt, the best wrestler I have ever known.
There are few people in this company that give the Minister pause and you are one of them Michael. You took a full year off from competing to give everyone a head start and now look at where we are?
You’re a NINE TIME WORLD CHAMPION Michael, you’re a Hall of Famer, a Legend in this sport, there are people literally falling over themselves aching for the chance to work with you. Of all the things I have done in High Octane Wrestling, of all of my many accomplishments there is none I am more proud of having a hand in the genesis and career of Michael Lee Best..
..which is why I am asking you, please, put an end to this.
The End of Max Kael is a trivial price to pay for the Death of the Minister.
I love you Michael.