November 23rd-ish, 2019
San Jose, California
“Y’know, you didn’t have to wrench it on so tight.”
It’s very, very early morning on Sunday, the day after Refueled 9, and in the posh hotel suite of Cecilworth Farthington the Queen of the Ring and the Best Boy sit around a table, a flute of champagne in front of each.
“My BEE EFF EFF told me to treat the match like any other, and I’ve been doing all this arm-breaky stuff eh tee em, so, y’know… sorry ‘bout that.”
“I’ll let it go…this time,” Lindsay replies, and rubs her elbow. “Good thing you didn’t actually rip anything, although I’ll probably need to milk this a little bit more than just ‘Ice it and Rest.’”
“…that’s very unfortunate,” Cecilworth says, a slight frown brushing his face, “but hey, at least I know the arm thing is working! Will need to try it on that High Flyer guy…”
“Preferably when he’s not in a straight-jacket, of course.”
“No one would actually be enough of a sillyman to ACTUALLY wrestle in a straight-jacket…”
“‘Wrestle’ being the operative term.” Lindsay takes a sip of her very expensive libation and smiles. “Y’know, I’m glad that you’re on board with this whole thing. It makes my treachery feel a little more valid.”
“The Farthington Family excels at treachery… at least those still living.”
“I would pour one out for your dearly departed dad but, you know, we sprung for the good stuff.”
“Indeed we did.”
Both raise their glasses in a salute to one another.
“You sure you’re good with getting Dan on board? You know it would be real easy for me to do, and I’ve got a feeling he’s going back down The Dark Path, but coming from either you or Mike I think would be the clincher.”
“After ICONIC we will be more than good… before that… well… I need to know Ms. Linda. I just… I need to know”
The normal confident and cocky demeanour of The Best Boy is almost sheepish in response.
“I have no doubt that both you and Dan will get your answers. And this will be the ultimate coup when it’s all said and done. I’m all about the long-con; I’m all about doing what’s necessary to suit my needs. And right now, I need to not feel like I’m being dragged to the depths with no handhold to save myself.”
“You’re entering a family, not a patchwork arrangement of convenience. I think you’ve seen that over the past few months.”
“Past few months? Try the last year,” Lindsay asserts. “I’m no fool; I know what you and Mike and Max have. It’s the same thing that Dan and I have, despite it being tested in the past. But I know we’re beyond that, and I’m ready to throw in with all of you. I know he will be too.”
Cecilworth gives a cheeky wink as he raises his glass.
“To the future! To treachery!”
March 10, 2020
When Max Kael barged into Lindsay Troy’s gym to ask for her hand in training, she – of course – expected this to not be a friendly contest.
Her upcoming semi-final match against him – like it should’ve been against Mike, if not for their scheming – should be about finding out who the better fighter is. No other pretense. No other slivers of ego. But just like the other skeptics who have crawled out of the woodwork – Red and Ted, 24K – Lindsay needs to prove to Max, and to them, that her intentions are legitimate.
What better way to do it than through sheer force of will and a lil’ bit o’ violence?
Across the ring, and sucking wind, Max takes a moment to absorb his surroundings before becoming visibly pained. He falls to one knee as blood burbles up from his throat. Though it seems alarming, he appears more annoyed than taken aback by his condition.
He holds up a hand, warding off Lindsay from approaching him, then reaches into his pocket and retrieves his mask. He slips it over his face and secures it in place, a few ragged mechanical gasps escaping his rebreather as he stands back up.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” he starts, then stands to his full height. “I took my mask off earlier to smell a flower outside and I just got carried away.” His voice once again becomes mechanical and tiny in sound.
Lindsay smiles, and a laugh escapes her throat. “Did you enjoy the daffodils? They’re blooming early this year.”
“Funny.” After a few more breaths, Max cracks his neck and shakes his arms out before turning his attention back to her. “Alright, now you’ll have to forgive me, the Ninja’s are back at the warehouse so it’s just little ol’me.” He doesn’t seem to give her the opportunity to prepare as he charges forward with a distorted roar, his strange blue eye fixed on her.
“They wouldn’t be the first ninjas I’ve fought,” she retorts, and evades, casting a wide circle around him; a lioness stalking her prey. “But no matter, Maxy. You came into my house, and your beating will be worse if I have to bring it to you.”
Outside the ring, Dan Ryan smirks. He’s been watching the Lord Supreme Dictator and the Mother of GoD kick, jab, and throw each other around the canvas for the better part of 15 minutes.
“You’ll certainly try.” Max hisses through his mask as he drops to a knee and rolls out of the ring for a moment. “The trouble is, these boys aren’t here to wrestle you, they’re here to beat you. Michael told me something utter stupid the other day, he told me you take what you deserve.. FEH on that!”
Max reaches into his pocket and pulls something out, pushing it up into his mask as a low popping noise could be heard. The Lord Supreme Dictator seems to stiffen up, his head snapping back before he let out an audible sigh. He spins around, tossing a small metal capsule away before jumping back up into the ring, his eye wide, his pupil a small dot lost in a sea of blue.
“You TAKE what you WANT in High Octane Wrestling, Troy, so if you want to beat me and then you want to be one of the Eds, you’ll want to think outside of this mindset that you’re a winner cause the real gag in all of this, the eMpire, the Group of Death, whatever you wanna call it. It’s about survival and winning and living just barely enough on the side of sanity.. All this?” Max points to the world around the ring. “It’s just clutter so please, don’t hold back on my account, heh-heh..”
He darts forward again, this time a little faster, a little more aggressive. He isn’t looking to spar, he’s looking to fight, all 236 pounds of him and with a look in his eye that this isn’t going to be a let’s dance around the ring kinds of engagements.
“I’d never dream of holding back.” Troy sidesteps Max again, pushing him into the ropes, and aims an elbow to his jugular. Max rolls forward, evading the strike, and puts on the brakes. He launches a stiff kick to Troy’s side, and she grimaces, his shin catching her right on the hip. She feigns a forearm to his good eye; Max flinches and she retaliates with a shot to his kidneys.
Max grabs his side and takes a few steps back, a low growl escaping his mouth. His eye darts from side to side as though he were looking for something before he lashes out again with a heavy right hand. Lindsay, the smaller faster athlete, manages to slip beneath his reach and sends another series of stiff, closed fisted punches into Max’s ribs, causing the Lord Supreme Dictator to stumble back, clutching his side.
Lindsay presses the advantage as she charges forward with a drop kick to Max’s left leg, kicking it out from under him and sending the LSD Champion down hard to the mat. Rolling over, Max holds his face, waving frantically at the Mother of GoD as though calling for a time out.
Troy, letting her guard drop for just a moment, realizes only too late that Max lied. It was an obvious lie in review but then, they were supposed to be TeamMates. Launching himself up the crown of Max’s head collides with Troy’s jaw knocking her up and back, her hands instinctively raised in defense. A wet chortle escapes the rebreather mask as Max clamours back up to his feet and charges forward with a stiff clothesline.
He reaches down and grabs her by the hair, yanking her up to her feet with a twisted, mirthful expression in his blue eye.
Using his own position against him Lindsay sends a stiff knee directly into Max’s crotch causing Max to howl in pain, collapsing to his knees as he releases his hold of her hair. Lindsay takes the moment to double back, holding her jaw and waiting for some of the haze to lift from her brain following the unexpected jaw breaker.
Max uses the ropes to slowly drag himself up to his feet and casts a respectful glare at Lindsay Troy.
“Okay.. okay.. Let’s try that again.”
“This your way of building bridges? Because I can think of a less painful way to do it.”
”How about all these ‘old relics,’ huh?”
Outside on State Street, another main shopping hub in Downtown Chicago, Lindsay Troy stands in front of an idling bus. A bright, bold poster for Disney on Ice’s “DREAM BIG: WHERE COURAGE LEADS THE WAY!” takes up the majority of the background.
“If you were a betting man at the start of the LBI, I don’t think you would’ve predicted two non-HOW stalwarts making it to the finals. Not with the calibre of athletes that made up the field. Not when you have legends like Mike Best, Max Kael, Kostoff, and Steve Solex. Not when you have former world champions like Brian Hollywood and Joe Bergman.
“If you were that betting man, you must be real, real salty right now. I’d have sympathy for you, if I didn’t think you deserved the gut-punch that comes with Lindsay Troy proving nay-sayers and disbelievers wrong, once again. Like the saying goes: a fool and his money are soon parted.
“EYE knew I’d be here.”
A smirk from LT as the bus pulls away from the stoplight.
“And I don’t say that because of Mike forgoing his dream of winning the LBI for the greater good of the Group of Death. I said last week that he and I both made sacrifices to pull off the long con. No one member of our group is more important than the other. As the eMpire was a brotherhood, so too is the GoD.
“No…I say that because I knew, deep down in my cold, black soul, that the LBI was my time to shine. It was my day of reckoning. I talk a lot of shit, but unlike the majority of you motherfuckers still roaming the halls, I can back it up.
“MJ Flair couldn’t.
“Jack Harmen failed; what a shock.
“And so will the Gruesome Twosome known as ‘Galaxy Brain’ Alex Redding and ‘Please Notice Me!’ Teddy Palmer.
“The dumb is strong with you two.
“There’s no great conspiracy here, kids. There’s no need for tin hats, underground meetings, or pirate radio broadcasts. There’s no ‘Trojan Virus’ where this is some ploy by Dan and I to infiltrate the GoD’s ranks and destroy it from the inside. Sometimes you just get tired of things and you need to move on, and let me tell you…I’m tired of you stupid motherfuckers.
“I was tired of you the moment I heard you both were crawling out from under the path outside the retirement home to show your faces again. ‘The Two Man Stable’ Red and Ted, where you’re really a tag team but you think it’s cuter the first way. The Maestros of Middling Success. What a day it was when that announcement came through; the crowd went mild and they haven’t let up.
“Not like when Dan and I put on a classic a month and a half ago. Or when I heaved myself fifty-plus feet through the air at Rumble at the Rock to hold onto the HOW Tag Belts. You boys are good; if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here at the end of the road. I’m not gonna take that away from you; not when you’ve felled legends and former champions on your way to the finals.
“But you ain’t me.
“You might’ve run around the PTC schoolyard, but this is the Group of Death’s playground, and I don’t play your jungle-gym games. Get the fuck off my slide, Prince Ali, and take Abu with you.”
“You don’t have the tenacity and the iron-wrapped will to keep the door pried open when someone tries to slam it in your face. You don’t have the depth of spirit to refuse to stand down, because nobody’s – not for nigh-on 25 years – has been able to put me down long enough where I’ve got nothing left to say and nothing else to prove.
“You don’t like me, Red?
“I don’t fucking care.
“You think I’m a hot piece of ass, Ted?
“I’m more than ready to knuck if you buck.
“I know the world loves a fairytale ending. I know you both think this is your Cinderella Story, your Night of Redemption for all your careers’ past failings. But I haven’t been preaching Match. Tourney. Title to lose it all at the end. Not when I play for first, and play for keeps.
“The Group of Death has put its faith in me to ensure the World Title stays with us, one way or another.
“And no pipe dreams of yours are going to change that.”