The giggle, that awful, terrible, haunting giggle. Sutler had hoped to never hear it again after Max Kael’s head was impaled on a rusty IV rack and yet he was hearing it all new and fresh and in the present.
“Hiya, Kiddo.. Mmheh-heh…” Max Kael’s chapped lips parted into a hideous smile, stained metal teeth poking out of infected gums. “So you’re asking yourself what the HECK is going on here?”
With a snap of his fingers Max summoned light into the room he occupied. The cross gashed into his head and dirty white suit confirmed the fear Sutler had. It was him. Or at least it looked and sounded exactly like him.
“If your first thought is Oh No, Max’s back then you’re not paying close attention. I, Sutler my boy, am the Minister, so not exactly Max but, you know, you can never really scrub him free so I wouldn’t be surprised if he popped up at some point in the future as well but, for now, it’s just you and me, Kimosabe, and it’s so much better that way.”
Sutler felt his stomach lurch as the Minister spoke, his raspy, discordian voice digging it’s way into his brain.
It was all Sutler could do, to shout proud logic at his T.V. and the image of his adopted father.
“I’m not saying you’re predictable but I’m guessing you’re screaming at your television right now as though I could hear you. I can’t because this is a T.V. not a phone. Oh also I’m probably dead.” he stopped for a moment to consider things for a moment before winking, or perhaps just blinking, at Sutler, that smoldering red eye glaring maliciously forward. “Physically dead anyway. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort to ensure I survive the grave, this is one of them.”
Sutler stared up at his deceased Father with a confused expression. The Woman in White retrieved her phone from a pocket as well as another cigarette. It took the Son of Scions a few seconds to realize that the image on the screen had suddenly frozen.
“Wait, he is dead so that means.. This is a.. Recording?” Sutler wondered aloud as he slowly rose from his knees, his attention now on the Woman.
“I once read you’re not dead until the last person forgets you.” the Woman replied as she tapped away on her phone. “Some of us have very long memories, darling.”
She tapped her temple with a half cocked smile before lighting the cigarette. The T.V. screen flickered once again as the Minister appeared in a new position, his back to the camera as he stares out over what looks to be a cage being constructed. The date in the corner indicates this is sometime before War Games 2020.
“So you’ve decided to participate in War Games, boy? Heh-Heh.. Rich.” The Minister’s harsh voice choked out the words before turning his head slightly, that burning red eye looking over his shoulder. “..you think you have a chance of winning? You probably don’t even have a plan.. What, did Lee talk you into helping represent his team? Heh-heh, no shame with that one. He’d let Cecilworth join him if it meant giving him an edge at War Games and they hate each other..”
In a dramatic twist of his body the Minister turned and folded his arms across his chest, his sour smile pulled back painfully so.
“..you’re just meat to him. And well, you’re just meat to me too but you’re much more useful than you know. That’s why I’m going to help you win War Games, my boy, or at least..heh-heh.. I’m going to try. Call it Fatherly Duty to ensure his weak, pathetic son survives the monster dangerous match in High Octane Wrestling history.. Well, outside of what I have planned. Spoilers, I’m manipulating Mike into a Death Match at ICONIC.. If you’re seeing this I’m going to guess Max didn’t make it out. Hugs and kisses.”
His lips parted as though he were about to laugh as the image froze once again. The President of Human Resources let out a huff as he suddenly realized what was going on.
“Did.. did Max just record a fuck ton of random videos with the expectation that someone would be around to play these?”
“Somebody wasn’t paying attention at the beginning, this isn’t Max. He died as a shish kebab in the old Hosp-.. Medical Facility on Alcatraz Island. You should be thanking the Minister, he helped get rid of Max.” The Woman waved her cigarette in the direction of the frozen image of the Minister. “You should feel honored, some of us don’t think you’re worth the effort.”
She took a drag from her cigarette as she stared down at Sutler daring him to disagree with her.
“Who the fuck is Us?”
Another tight smile tugged on her lips, her head canting forward as if to say Go Fuck Yourself without ever having to waste the oxygen. She tapped the phone a few times as the T.V. screen flickered. This time the Minister could be seen, one can assume, fully nude in the lotus position. The rarely seen skin that covers Max’s body is twisted, covered with burns and scars from his numerous battles in High Octane Wrestling that left him broken.
“It’s all about vision and legacy, Sutler. You think I would put my life on the line without knowing I’ve got a backup plan? You think existence requires a heart beat and a body? The trouble with being a visionary is that so few people can see your vision; short sightedness, fear and a lack of imagination limit the little people, the normal people.”
The Minister hissed, his voice just above a whisper. Though his eyes were closed the glowing red orb within his left socket shined through the fleshy eyelid.
“Mike fancies himself a Titan and Lee a God but when they die.. They’ll be dead. Sure, maybe a Legacy in the form of High Octane Wrestling or a few title histories will push forward a generation or two. Charming, the Pharaohs of Egypt learned that trick. Boring. Yaaaawn. I tower above them. I’ve achieved Immortality in this World unto the next, blessed as I was with vision…heh-heh. I don’t need any monuments of stone or entries in the record book, I’ve found a better way.”
His eyes slide open, that piercing, burning red eye staring through the screen straight into Sutler’s soul. Even as an image of a dead man Sutler feels his own gaze looking away, the fear in his heart surprisingly potent.
“I am. Forever.”
The Bar High Five was a tiny, intimate bar that had earned a degree of World fame for it’s unique lack of a menu. Instead customers informed the Bartender of their favorite drink and, using that knowledge, a custom drink was designed on spot. Each Bartender was an artist, a celebrated mixologist with their own personalized qualities.
It was to this venue that Sutler had found himself, not by his choice, but by the will of a Ghost that had somehow made its way back into his life. Supposedly he was set on the path to victory at War Games but no strategy or plan had been revealed to the President of Human Resources. Instead cryptic video messages left behind by his dead Father’s alter ego would have to guide him.
He wasn’t alone though, the Woman in the White Suit had elected to join him. The two sat at the bar in silence, a martini glass filled with a golden liquid sat in front of the Woman while the Sutler nursed a quarter glass with something blue.
“So.. do you really think you can win War Games?” the Woman asked, breaking the silence.
The Son of Scions rolled his eyes.
“Really? You’re going to ask me about my wrestling match while we sit here waiting for God knows who because my dead Dad’s gimmick made some spoopy videos? Fuck, I didn’t know people actually did that.” Sutler snorted as he lifted his glass to his lips. “Thanks but I don’t need anyone to help with exposition. Let’s just get this done and supposedly I won’t need to worry about War Games, right?”
He took a sip of his drink caught off guard by how good it actually is. He smacked his lips, licking away the sweet liquor with a look of appeasement.
“Darling, if the Minister is an optimist, I think he assumed you’d try your best. I don’t think you can win, not enough experience, not a high enough pain threshold or discipline.” the Woman said flatly, sipping at her golden martini. “You’re just a boy in a match of men and a woman, it’s not your fault. Give it a few more years and maybe.”
“Hey, fuck you!” He blurted out drawing the ire of the two sharply dressed Bartenders. Realizing his mistake, Sutler’s cheeks flushing as he shrank slightly in his seat. “..sorry.”
The Woman laughed coldly at Sutler’s expense, her interest leaving the Son of Scions as she checked her phone. The SRK scowled as he sipped his drink, deeply unhappy with his current situation. So engrossed in his thoughts that Sutler he didn’t notice the dark shape that settled into the seat next to him in near complete silence.
“[So, it’s true.]”
The President of Human Resource’s head snaps up as he recognizes the deep, grating Japanese. It had been two years since he heard it last but he still recognized it. The second voice he thought he would never hear again in as many days, another Ghost sent by his Father to haunt him before war Games.. But.. how?!
“[You are in War Games. Unfortunate, Sutler-san.]”
He turned his head to stare at the thick, muscular frame of the man seated next to him with a look of disbelief on his face. The older but no less intimidating Japanese grappler looked down at the Son of his former Master with dispassionate, sad eyes.
“It’s you.. It’s MAXKAEL JR.”
It was always surprising to Sutler how much the people of Japan had managed to squeeze into every square inch of their cities. Reaching toward the clouds were towers of glass and steel in Tokyo packed to capacity with offices, apartments and studios cutting an iconic skyline. That was what you’d expect from a city but what was truly impressive was the massive subterranean metropolis that existed beneath the towering skyscrapers, tiny restaurants, bars and stores riddled the city like tiny little blades of grass growing out of the cold unfeeling concrete.
The dojo of MAXKAEL JR. was one of these hidden little gems, a space barely large enough to house a ring, lockers and a small seating area. It smelt like disinfectant and sweat from decades of use from previous, long forgotten tenants. The walls were covered in bamboo, likely to hide the concrete slabs that made up the walls. Raised ceilings were a unique quality for such a space, a necessity for the ring, illuminated by flickering tubes that still seemed dangerously low to the Son of Scions.
For some reason the former heir to Max Kael had brought Chloe, Sutler and the Woman here though the woman had stopped outside to enjoy a cigarette while consulting someone on her phone.
“So you’ve been teaching wrestling the last year?”
The Son of Scions shoved his hands into his pocket as he looked around the small dojo looking fairly unimpressed. To his side was Chloe Sektor-Kael, a delighted smile on her face at the sight of the towering MAXKAEL JR. who had led the pair in.
“[After your Father gave me back to North Korea I wrestled there for a time, broken and dishonored. I could not understand why your Father, my Master, would betray me back to the people who had nearly killed me. Why did he spare my life only to throw it away again?]” MAXKAEL JR. rumbled toward the ring as he spoke. “[I lost my faith. I lost my way.]”
The Japanese grappler turned, a grimace on his stern face. Shame was etched into every crease and wrinkle of his face and for a moment Sutler could see just how broken he was on the inside.
“..so what the fuck happened that allowed you to escape then?” Sutler’s voice was slightly more strained this time.
“I happened, darling.”
From behind Sutler the voice of the Woman in White hissed. The scent of cigarette smoke wafted past the President of Human Resources nose as he spun around to glare at her. Chloe quickly slipped behind Sutler hiding her face away from the haunting green eyes of the Woman.
“[That.. is true.]” MAXKAEL JR. confirms, his voice cracking slightly. Despite being considerably larger than the Woman, the seasoned and grizzly veteran refuses to make eye contact, his gaze trained on the floor in front of him.
The Son of Scions looked between the two for a moment as his mind raced.
“Well? Care to expand on that?” Sutler sneered, his frustration boiling over at this point. He hated that nobody was telling him anything, he felt exactly like he did when his Father was alive, just another random chess piece being shuffled around.
A sharp, condescending laugh cut though Sutler as the Woman lets her amusement shine through. With a sharp breath through her nose the Woman in White nods toward MAXKAEL JR. as if granting him the right to speak.
“[She came to me and showed me the Legacy of the Master. She reminded me of my purpose and why I was chosen. She.. reaffirmed my purpose. And with her help I managed to escape North Korea. I return to my homeland of Japan. Now I am helping to promote your Father’s Legacy.]” the veteran Japanese wrestler’s voice hardens as his demeanor goes from subdued to powerful. His stern face lifted to stare into the eyes of the Son of Scions. “[You are lost, Sutler, you’ve wandered from your true purpose.]”
The sudden change in MAXKAEL JR. caused more red flags to fly up in Sutler’s mind than Mike Best’s taste in women. Instinctually his hand went to Chloe, pushing her further behind him as he put himself between her and the others in the room.
“[Do not be afraid, Sutler, as I was once as well. Until she showed me the way.]”
MAXKAEL JR. took a step forward as Sutler scrambled further back away from the two with Chloe. He glared between the two of them as adrenaline began to pump through his body once again. His breathing sharpened as he started to size up MAXKAEL JR. hoping that the old man had lost a step since the last time he had seen him fight.
A shrill laugh split the uneasiness as the Woman sauntered to MAXKAEL JR. putting her thin fingers on his shoulder as she seemed to push away from Sutler. He didn’t know what she thought was so amusing but he was already sick of her. Sick of this. Sick of everything.
“Darling, if you only knew who I was..”
She shook her head, a wretched looking half smile latching itself to her face as he folded her arms across her chest. MAXKAEL JR. took another step away from her, a look of earnest discomfort on his face from being so close to her.
“Well then who the FUCK are you?!” Sutler demanded. “No more games, no more dodging, tell me your name!”
He felt his nails digging into his palms as his fists tightened. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as the most primitive parts of the young boy’s mind pushed that ever present Fight or Flight instinct and every part of his body was telling him to fight. The Woman in White studied him for a second without so much as a heartbeat of concern or fear.
“Fine, fine.. you can call me..” She looked thoughtful for a moment, her green eyes flickered to the left before she scrunched her nose up with a tight little grin. “..Mina.”
Sutler is a little taken aback by the simplicity of her name, certainly far from what he was expecting.
“Mina? All that trouble ‘cause you didn’t want people to know your name is Mina?”
A low laugh escaped Mina as she let her arms unfold, her fingers traveled up Sutler’s chest as she pulled herself close.
“Oh Sutler, I felt all things given it wouldn’t be appropriate to keep calling myself..”
She leaned in close, her lips next to the President of Human Resources’ ear, her hot break breathing down his neck.