Once upon a time a father and son stood in a store on the boy’s sixth birthday. The father looked down at his son and knelt.
“Boy, you may pick anything in this store for your birthday.” the father said, his hand on his son’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Father.” the boy said with an excited tone, rushing off into the store.
Wandering the isle of the store the boy searched for the perfect gift. There were action figures and those were fun but they didn’t interest him. Stuffed animals were enticing, their fluffy flesh and tuffs of innards didn’t call to him though. So on he searched until his eyes fell upon a plastic parrot.
It wasn’t special by any account but then, there was only one of them. It called to the boy and in that moment he decided it would be his gift. Snatching it up he returned to his father, the parrot held up proudly. The father collected it, examining the parrot carefully.
“This is what you want, Son?” The Father asked, his brow raised curiously.
“Yes.” The Boy answered, his face bright with a wide smile.
The bargain was struck, the plastic parrot was purchased and both Father and Son departed the store, a Birthday Tradition started.
After the finish to a historic Refueled XX, which saw the conclusion of the Lee Best Invitational where Teddy Palmer defeated Maximillian Wilhelm Kael, it was made official that the LSD Championship would be defended at March to Glory; a punishment issued by High Octane Wrestling owner Lee Best after nearly losing following the LSD Champion’s loss. Following that announcement North Kaelrean General Maximillian Wilhelm Kael called an emergency Press Conference at a nearby Denny’s.
The dining room floor of the Denny’s had all the tables pushed to the side save for one pushed back near the kitchen. The rest of the room was filled with cameras, microphones and reporters who, for some reason, had shown up to this press conference because in this world people care about what the Lord Supreme Dictator says. Or Max possibly paid a bunch of actors to stand around pretending to be the Press with money he grifted off Cecilworth, because that’s what friends do.
In either case the room comes alive as Max Kael skulks out of the kitchen wearing his North Kaelrean uniform and moves immediately to the table where he sits. A server appears with a menu, slipping it down in front of him while dropping off water. Camera’s flash and boom mics invade the airspace above Max as the LSD Champion points at something on the menu before making a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I’m here avoiding another possible Jack Dawson interview by reading a prepared statement and then allowing for a short question and answer period. I’ve also ordered a Moon’s Over My Hammy, in case anyone cares.” Max begins, his mask adding it’s metallic twang to his voice. “Please hold all questions till the Q and A period.”
More flashes of light as Max leans back in his chair while retrieving a small, crumpled note from his pocket. Carefully unfolding it his blue eye scans what’s written before he shoves the note back into his pocket.
“I, Maximillian Wilhelm Kael, acknowledge that I tapped out to Teddy Palmer and thus lost the Lee Best Invitational thus breaking my promise to my good friend Cecilworth Farthington. I will not be going to March to Glory to challenge for the World Title in the Main Event but rather apparently I will be facing three random opponents in a Steel Cage as punishment by Lee Best, my quote Dad, unquote.” The LSD Champion prattled on as his blue eye seemed to scan the room in a bored manner.
“But let’s table that for a moment because the real point of this conference is to explain what a raging fucking idiot my dear.. Well I guess after what Lee said, my former Adopted Brother Michael. It’s a tough break, Michael, getting kicked out of the family but you know what a prick quote Dad unquote is. So let me just take a moment to explain how you fucked everything up Michael.”
Leaning forward Max licked his lips which, of course, nobody can see because it’s under a rebreather mask. But he does it and you know about it now so good for you.
“I had this entire LBI set up for glory. If I defeated Teddy Palmer I would have gone on to face Cecilworth Farthington and no matter what happened the eMp-er.. The Group of Death would have walked out with a victory. And you went and threw your chance away by letting Lindsay Troy win which, I mean, I beat her so clearly you backed the wrong God damn horse there, no offense to Lindsay; she’s a great wrestler and an even better.. Uh.. what do you call them..”
Max looked confused for a moment as he snapped his finger with an irritated jerk of the wrist.
“..Oh, right, Woman. With the capital W so it doesn’t sound like an insult because it’s not supposed to. Not like calling people a bunch of women or calling someone who’s weak a woman or a girl. I.. I feel like I’ve lingered on this too long, fuck, I shouldn’t have put my statement away.”
Reaching into his pocket he retrieved the crumpled piece of paper however in his eagerness the statement rips in half leaving Max stunned. Staring at both sides of the paper Max moves his head back and forth cause he only has one eye and a limited field of vision.
“Uh.. uh.. Women.. Capital W.. Here we are. I had this whole thing rigged from the start. If I win the obvious match would have happened but when I lost? The dominos would have fallen into place, Michael. I’ve made it clear for almost a year now that I’d be the one to kill High Octane Wrestling. I’d bring this place down around my head like the House of Usher, a little Edgar Allen Poe reference there for you uncultured filth out there. And I ALMOST did at Refueled XX..”
Max snarled the last line as he tossed both pieces of paper onto the ground. A busboy hurries over and collects the paper before darting away a mysterious cleaning ghost, the kind you can actually pay for in South Korea to do your laundry. It’s true, I know a guy.
“Lee Best bet all on me and he lost all his Goddamn money.. ALL OF IT! No more money in the Banana Stand, the final bell rings for High Octane Wrestling, the whole company falls into financial RUIN! I might have lost the LBI battle but I would have won the High Octane War! As I walked to the back I let the dreams of my victory over Lee Best and his shitty Death Match federation. And as High Octane Wrestling would have burned it would have done so with Maximillian Wilhelm Kael as a record setting LSD Champion, Michael Lee Best as a record setting SIX Time ICON Champion and Cecilworth Farthington as the most dominant High Octane World Champion of this Era. Also I guess Lindsay Troy and the mildly microwaved Duke Nukem action figure, Dan Ryan, as Tag Team Champions? In other words the Group of Death would have gone out on top!… but..”
Leaning forward Max lets his upper body collapse on the table, his arms dangling off the sides like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum.
“..My adopted.. Sorry, my former adopted brother, Michael Lee Best, has a gambling problem and, as he’s stated openly on several occasions has some pretty deep daddy issues. And while we’re on Daddy Issues!” Max growls as his head snaps back up from the table, his blue eye glaring out at the camera. Around this time the server returns with what looks like a blender hooked up to an extension cord, setting it on the table before disappearing into the back. “Lee fucking Best, quote Dad unquote, thought I was going to let Teddy Palmer choke me the fuck out in the middle of the ring? FUCK. THAT. I’ve given this company blood, eyes, bones, children, innocent animals, I’ve thrown it all in the meat grinder that is this company, I’m DONE! I do what I do for me, me alone and me always. Fuck you Lee, fuck you for thinking I’d ever do anymore then that for you.”
Clearing this throat, which was actually a pretty awful sounding noise when amplified by the mask Max was wearing, Max seemed to take a moment to compose himself. The server appeared once again with Max’s Eggs Over My Hammer before scampering off.
“..In closing I’m making this plea to my former adopted brother Michael Lee Best.. Attend a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting with me. I don’t understand or have much experience with addiction,” Max said while pulling a small bullet dispenser with a white powder in it, holding it to a small round port on his mask before inhaling a small bump of whatever was inside. It’s Ketamine so you don’t have to guess. Max’s blue eye flutters for a moment however he doesn’t seem to miss a beat. “But I’m here to help him because we’re a Family. We’re the eMpire. And we’re also the Group of Death. Okay, I’ll open the floor to questions.”
There are a flurry of voices, each shouting for Max’s attention as a barrage of questions were hurled at the LSD Champion. His face contorts into disgusted confusion as his more misanthropic tendencies attempt to seize control of him.
Max’s voice flares sending a robotic roar ripping through the reporters. His blue eye glaring out over his hushed audience, the Lord Supreme Dictator zeroed in on a man with a square cut jaw and an old timey undercut haircut. What caught Max’s eye was the circa 1940ies trench coat and press hat that screamed legitimacy to Max. He nodded toward the man acknowledging that he would hear his question.
“It was announced that you would be facing Deacon, Alex Redding and High Octane Wrestling Hall of Famer Chris Kostoff in a cage match for the LSD Championship at March to Glory,” The press hat wearing reporter shouted while waving a small note pad over his head. His voice carried on the air like a golden note sung from Carry Grant himself. “Care to comment on that, sir?”
“Wow, thanks Mister Exposition, great lead in. Now I’m confused,” Max hissed through his mask as he folded his hands together on the table. “I finally talked about Michael and opened the floor to ask me about him and you want to ask me about my March to Glory match, a match, by the way, where I am having to defend my LSD Championship AGAIN. Amazing.”
“I could ask you about Mike Best if you want?” The gumshoe offered, his pen set to his pad.
“No, I kinda like that you didn’t want to talk about Michael, it’s refreshing. Unlike some other reporters I know who are total garbage but will go unnamed jackcrawson coff-coff!” Max turned his head and politely covered his mask. “Well, friendo, let me tell you my feelings on that.”
Since the rebirth of High Octane Wrestling into the Refueled Era, the Final Era, Maximillian Wilhelm Kael had established himself as a cornerstone of the company. He had won the High Octane World Championship, the Tag Team Championship and the LSD Championship all within a year. In all that time Max had never lost a direct defense of a title, his loss of the HOW World Championship had come at the hands of MJFlair at War Games.
For her efforts MJFlair was rewarded with the Lee’s Special Division Championship belt which was brought out of retirement by Lee Best at the conclusion of War Games. MJF said it vindicated her, made her feel like she deserved to be in High Octane Wrestling. Said it made the sacrifice worth it.
So for costing him his World Championship the Lord Supreme Dictator took that title from her at Rumble at the Rock and has maintained an ironclad grip atop HOW’s famously ultra-violent division. Every man and woman who has stepped up to the plate has been laid low, anyone and everyone who tried to relieve Max of the burden of being a champion has tasted the bitter ashes of defeat.
Some have even said he has become the face of the LSD Division, more so than such famed Hall of Famers such as Scott Woodson and Silent Witness.
Max’s relationship with the LSD Title was strange. He didn’t love the title the same way he did with the World Title or the title which Max coveted the most.. The ICON Championship which now was in the possession of his adopted brother, Michael Lee Best. No, the LSD Championship had always found its way into Max’s hands almost by accident. In the most recent time?
Revenge. Plain and simple, Max’s motivations for ripping it away from MJF had been that simple. Keeping a hold of the LSD Championship though.. That had been a different mindset.
Keeping the LSD Championship didn’t require great wrestling prowse that the ICON Championship often demanded in order to enjoy company of the Pale Belt. It didn’t always take the big match stamina that the World Championship commanded to keep the #97Red Strap.
The LSD Championship demanded blood, sacrifice and the capacity to survive. LSD Title Defenses were not wrestling matches, they were battles fought with hockey sticks, barbed wire and steel chairs. Men and women alike would be left in the ring following LSD Championships missing body parts, blood and teeth. To keep an LSD Championship for any amount of time almost always guaranteed a shortening of your career.
This recent reign of the LSD Championship had left Max on track to at least two LSD Championship records. That had come at an extremely high cost. MJF and High Flyer had both left his body severely damaged following their match at Rumble at the Rock. Later High Flyer caused severe trauma to his lungs, throat and face after dropping Max into a flaming dumpster. Several defenses later and a Tag Team Ladder Match for the Tag Team Championships at Max was, for lack of a better word, broken.
Defeating Lindsay Troy had left him gassed, taking on a hungry Teddy Palmer had been his ultimate downfall.
He couldn’t risk another loss in March to Glory.
So he did what he often does during these trying times, he turned to Science. Well.. Eastern Science anyway.
What needed to be done could not be achieved in the United States or Canada, it couldn’t even be done in North Korea. No, Max had to travel father to a place that his own brother had once visited. A hospital deep in China where questions were not asked so long as money exchanged hands.
“Sir, who was it that recommended us to you?”
The voice of a polite woman chimed across the sanitary white desk at Max sat across. The strange blue eye of the Lord Supreme Dictator narrowed at her cheerful pale face, a professional smile frozen on her face.
“Uh yeah his name is Michael Lee Best, Mike Best for short, he would have been here.. Oh back in December I think? About a shoulder injury?” Max said in a hushed voice despite the fact the two of them appeared to be alone in the office. The young Asian woman’s fingers clacked the keyboard swiftly as various different reports and screens flashed by her eyes.
“Ah yes, I see him here.,” she finally said in a rosey tone. “Yes, he had an injection into his shoulder to help accelerate healing. We managed to have him fully healthy in a quarter the time doctors had previously predicated.”
A smile formed beneath Max’s mask as he leaned back in his chair, his fingers steepling together.
“That is exactly what I need.” Max hissed with his robotic ting.
“Very good sir, and what appears to be the problem you need fixed?” the Chinese receptionist asked, her fingers ready at the keys.
Max pondered the question for a moment before waving his hand across his body in general.
“Really I could use a real top to bottom tune up. The knees are shot, the hip is probably cracked, my neck feels like celery someone’s twisted up, listen to this!” Max snapped his head to the side violently as various pops, cracks and crunches can be heard. “See, that doesn’t sound normal, it sounds like I’m getting my neck broken everytime I turn my head. Also can it regrow eyes and fix my lungs?”
His barrage of questions seems to catch the receptionist off guard, her smile faltering for a second before she begins typing rapidly. She continues well after Max has finished speaking causing the LSD Champion to raise his eyebrow slightly, a finger idly rubbing the metal eyepatch nervously.
“Well I can not promise we can regrow your eye but we have various therapy treatments that should at least take some of the edge off. The whole process should completely heal you over the next.. Mm,” she said as she studied her screen for a few moments before turning toward Max with her plastic smile. “Sixteen treatments over the next year!”
Max’s face dropped slightly as she mentioned the number of treatments and how long they would take.
But he didn’t have a choice.
“A year?! I don’t have a year!” He objected as he turned his head to the side, his lips turning into a sneer beneath his rebreather mask. His mechanical breath deepened as a harshness cut through his vox box. Finally, dejected, he turned back toward the receptionist.
“Fine.. make it happen.”
On the seventh birthday of the Son his Father came to him.
“Son,” the Father said, “What can I get you for your Birthday this year?”
The Boy looked thoughtful for a moment, scratching his head before he looked back up into his Father’s eyes.
“Father,” the Son said, “Remember that Plastic Parrot you got me last Birthday?”
The Father’s face darkened as a frown crossed his lips.
“Yes I remember, I remember you lost it within two weeks of receiving it.”
“Father, for my Birthday I would like Two Plastic Parrots of the same design.” The Son exclaimed, his face bright with excitement and hope.
The Father was confused as his Son requested not one Plastic Parrot but Two. Still, it was all the boy asked and the Father aimed to keep his son happy. So he set out into town to find the Plastic Parrots. The original store he had purchased the Parrot had none though the storekeeper mentioned that you could find more in the next town over.
The Father, eager to provide his Son with his gift, traveled the next town over and found the two Plastic Parrots his Son desired. Having purchased the gifts he returned home to a delighted Son.
Another Birthday in the bag.