“So it’s finally done?” Sutler sighed as he stepped off the treadmill breathing heavily. His black and #97red hair was slick with sweat as was his entire upper torso as he sucked in gasps of breath.
“Yes, Master Reynolds-Kael.” the deep, barrel chested voice of MAXKAELJr. Rumbled. “Miss Starr-Kael is already in the gallery prepared for the unveiling with the rest of the family.”
It was important to continue to cultivate the appearance that he was partying, out wasting his youthful vigor. That might have been the case before War Games but now? There existed inside of him a savage hunger. Something monstrous and it seemed the only way could escape it was to keep pushing forward. He had been running now for three hours none stop on the treadmill. In all that time he hadn’t decided if he was pushing himself or trying to run away from whatever was inside.
“Cool.. great. Where is that?” Sutler asked as he grabbed a towel off a nearby bench. He hadn’t been sure about moving back to Arkham, after all Chicago had been his legitimate home ever since Max had abandoned him during the North Korea debacle. Yet this gym that Mina Starr-Kael put in here was next level and more to it, he had to admit, being back in Arkham felt.. Like home.
For the first time ever.. It felt like home.
“I can take you there, Master Reynolds-Kael.” MAXKAELJr grumbled as he offered Sutler a low bow.
“Wait outside, I’ll take a shower, get dressed and join you in the hall. Also, you don’t have to call me Master Reynolds-Kael.” Sutler said as MAXKAELJr lumbered out of the gym. “Call me.. Master World Champion.”
Sutler winked while MAXKAELJr made a mental note to never call Sutler Master World Champion. As the door to the gym snapped shut Sutler shuffled off to the lockers and showers. Though he never saw them doing so, Sutler assumed the rest of the Family also used the gym. Otherwise why were there lockers and a full set of showers?
In the absence of MAXKAELJr, Sutler was also able to finally feel a sense of privacy. It seemed that either his Japanese bodyguard or the deeply unsettling Mina Starr-Kael were always around. Still, all of this was better then dealing with the presence of father, Max Kael. Or his biological father, Shane Reynolds, who did his best to cost him his War Games victory.
The hot water from the shower washed down over Sutler’s shoulders as his mind turned toward his parents. Specifically the twisted man who adopted him, Max Kael. He could hardly believe that he was now the one running Max’s estate. He was living in the rebuilt home of the man he hated more than anyone else in the world. As a child he roamed the halls of the old Kael Estate for days alone while Max was off doing who knows what.
Now it was all his.
He was finally pulling himself out of his father’s shadow, he was finally going to outshine the Legacy of Max Kael.
The giggle snuck out, he didn’t even know it was happening until he heard it echo in the shower room. His hands immediately clasped down around his mouth as his eyes widened in horror. The burning intensified in his chest, the rage and the madness reach up through his throat.
“..that wasn’t me.” Sutler assured himself as he hastily turned the water to cold and let that icy New England water pound down on him. Whether it was the lie he had told himself or the cold water, the feeling in his chest lessened. He took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to ignore all the times he had felt this before.
Like when he finally locked in the Sutler Method on Conor Fuse at War Games.
Or when he wrapped his hands around Mina’s throat and squeezed.
It was the legacy of Max Kael.. or the Minister, they were the same to Sutler.
He pushed that thought out of his mind as he shut off the shower. He wasn’t running towards his destiny, he was running from his Father’s legacy. He couldn’t even look at himself in the mirror as he move to his locker, toweling off as he did so.
The Son of Scions dressed himself in a grey suit with a #97red shirt. He took a moment to appreciate the quality of his clothing and the vibrancy of the red. The color of HOW. Finally he reached into his locker an d
No more thoughts of his Father’s Legacy, it was time to unveil his own!
“So you got yourself a World Championship Championship shot, Mister Byrd?”
The harsh female voice of Mina Starr-Kael croaked through the darkness. Like a spark in the darkness a glowing red eye ominously opened up. The red faded to green the rest of the pale, gaunt face of Mina slipped into focus. Her neck was black and purple with the after effects of Sutler’s hands on approach from the previous day.
“That must be really exciting for you. Tell me Mr. Byrd, what was it you did to earn this again? You beat up a horny lil’ girl? Pick up Lee’s dry cleaning? Hmm. No you’re the pity type I suspect. Lee looked up into that big, dumb set of eyes and just couldn’t stand to see his Big Baby lookin’ so gloomy. Mmm, pity, God knows I love it. Why work hard for something when you can lose your way to the top, takes a lot less skill, doesn’t it, Darling?”
The embers of the cigarette burned down the shaft as Mina took in a long, slow drag. Her green eyes flashed with a familiar madness. Her voice had a sharp harshness, likely due to damage done from being nearly strangled to death.
“We caught that match you had with Cecilworth, you didn’t do badly against a guy who normally breaks the arm. A little disappointing to be honest but Mister Farthi-.. You know I do think he found that title in Madagascar, Lord Farthington is a chaotic being. We know you’re not 100%. I also know Sutler extended you an offer to join our Family, he’s an optimist. He gets that from Max, me?” Mina’s voice trailed off as she walked through a pair of cherry wood doors.
Around Mina the portraits, small and large, of the Kael Family lined the walls. She pauses in front of a portrait of the late Hall of Famer, Maximillian Wilhelm Kael. Seated at a desk looking off into the distance with a stupid grin dressed in his black three piece suit. His curly mass of greasy black hair combed back behind his ears while metal teeth glinted between his lips.
“..I’m a realist. See I understand big, dumb brutes like you lack vision, that’s how you end up in positions like Lee Best’s favorite loser. This guy knows all about that.” Mina snorted while thrusting a thumb in the direction of Max’s portrait. “You’re probably going to try and win this thing, heh-heh, and won’t that be a fun little show. So you’re a big guy, so you’ve got muscle and apparently a business degree? Economics? Something that clearly has not helped you in the least bit inside the ring, but fun triva.”
Mina took a final drag from her cigarette before tossing it away, immediately retrieving another. She sauntered on to the next portrait which looked almost exactly the same save for some key differences. This version of Max wore a white three piece suit. Instead of a blue glowing eye this devil had a red one while his smile seemed far more sinister.
“Now this handsome devil, I could look at him all day, heh-heh… This guy right here is the reason if you try to wrestle Sutler Reynolds-Kael, you’ll lose. See, The Minister, this was a man of vision, a man who understood how to keep a Legacy alive. I heard you had some kind of a ghost of your pappy running around in your head. Ooo spooky, I gotta say HOW really is running amuck with Daddy Issues. Everybody and their sister is haunted by their dad or some kind of authoritarian figure here. Have you spoken Solex recently?” She chortled as she lit her cigarette and took a deep puff.
Her green eyes flickered toward the portrait of the Minister once again with an adoring look before she continued her tour of the paintings. The last she approached was covered with a heavy canvas though the placard identifying it read SUTLER REYNOLDS-KAEL. Mina ran her fingers across the cloth covering as her smirk turned into a full smile.
“You’re a grown man nearly 40 years of age, you are at the peak of what you are and, Darling, please don’t take it the wrong way, your best is barely Sutler’s average. The High Octane Wrestling World Champion is 19 years old, not even old enough to drink. He’s at the start of his career, the beginning of his adult life and look how good he is. You think that’s because of his pure skill and breeding? Hah-heh..” Mina sucked down half the menthol clenched between her teeth as she shook her head. “..that’s thanks to what his Family did for him. Did to him. We could elevate you above Ghost Dad but methinks that might be too high concept for you, ironic given your height.”
Her emerald eyes flickered back toward the covered painting though you might have suspected the left flashed red for a moment.
“What a pity.”
MAXKAELJr looked surprised to see Sutler burst through the gym door so quickly. Sutler had the High Octane Championship slung over his shoulder which he grasped possessively.
“Well come on, Junior! Let’s get to the party!” Sutler said as he flashed a grin at his bodyguard. he looked jovial but in his mind he repeated the words keep moving, keep running. Walk out of your Father’s shadow.
There were so many rooms in this gargantuan, over the top Victorian mansion, it was easy to get lost. Despite it’s vaulted ceilings the architecture seemed oppressive as if it was pressing down on you. According to Mina these were the original plans for the house dating back some 180 years.
“Right through that door, Master Reynolds-Kael.” MAXKAELJr said as he offered a low bow while gesturing to a pair of cherry wood doors.
“Immortalized in the Hall of Kaels, it’s about Goddamn time.” Sutler said smugly as he slapped the faceplate of the HOW World Championship appreciatively. “A Reynolds as the Best Kael? Imagine that.”
Sutler as he pulled both doors open dramatically, the musky scent of old paint and menthol cigarettes washed over him. Standing near a large, covered painting was Mina Starr-Kael. She was joined by about a dozen Kael Family Members. Each of them turned to stare at Sutler as he joined in with a strange, familiar madness in their eyes.
“Hi, your WORLD CHAMPION is here!” Sutler bellowed as he swaggered forward. His hips swung from side to side as though he were some kind of old west gunslinger. “Let’s see this BADASS painting of me, huh?”
As he moved forward he noticed the bruises on Mina’s neck and immediately he felt that heat in his chest. Turning his eyes away from her neck toward the covered painting Sutler did his best to calm the feeling.
“Please, Darling, before we unveil the new masterpiece we should have a few words from the Leader of the Kael Family, don’t you think?” Mina hissed through a smile. She wasn’t smoking though the thick scent of cigarettes hung around her like a mint miasma.
“A speech? What the fuck am I going to give a speech about?” Sutler muttered to her as he scanned the room of the other Kael Family members in his attempt not to look at her neck. His eyes fell upon a waifish looking individual who had a porcelain mask painted to look like a youthful boy. The lad had a powder blue tunic that made him look like some kind of feudal herald. He was even holding a banner with the Maxopotamian Flag.
“I don’t give a shit,” his viridescent eyed handler hissed once again. “Just get the troops riled up, you know, flash that Sutler Charisma, Darling. Take their breath away.”
She smirked and rubbed her throat knowing full well that it bothered Sutler before slithering away. The Boy Who Would Be Champion cleared his throat as his mind worked over what to say. His hands tightened around the World Championship as it’s physical presence brought comfort. Finally he lifted his chin and took in a deep breath.
“Family members look how far we have come in these last few months, how far we have come in these last few weeks! Remember way back to the start of the year when I got my ass handed to me by Dan Ryan? What a terrible time that was, wasn’t it? Then we followed that up with a loss to Bobby Dean, everybody’s favorite loser.. Jesus Christ we almost lost faith didn’t we?” Sutler proselytize to the small gathering of Kael Family members. They shook their heads and issued forth their nays like a good herd does save for Mine who stared and smiled.
“But we did not let that hold us back, no my friends, despite those setbacks we pushed forward! We used our brains, our guile, our cunning and God given skill to crawl our way out of that Dean pit and back into the light. I offered Conor Fuse a chance to join us and he turned us down. So I hired myself out to Lee Best to knock his ass out of War Games. It just so happens that in the course of keeping my promise that I became the top dog in High Octane Wrestling with this WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!”
The Son of Scions lifts the #97red strap high into the air as the Family Members hooted and roared with applause. Sutler’s ego flooded dopamine directly into his brain. Sutler stood there and absorbed the adulation like an addict getting that first hit of the dragon.
“I did something that Max Kael NEVER did, never could do, I won my first World Championship before I was TWENTY! And I will hold onto this title until I have broken my Father’s record for time held.. He can keep his pathetic LSD Record.” the Champion said while making a dismissive gesture with his hand. “And I did it ALL ON MY OWN!”
The crowd suddenly grows very silent as Sutler continued to pat himself on the back. Mina took the opportunity to step forward with a fresh cigarette in her hand, cutting off Sutler’s speech.
“Amazing as always, Darling.” she said in a flat tone, her smile gone as she ignited her cigarette. “And so strong on his own. A round of applause for our wonderful Leader.”
A very mild golf clap washes over the gathered Kael Family members as they scowled up at Sutler. The World Champion seemed none the wiser as he accepted the mild reaction. He then turned his eyes toward the covered painting with a look of excitement.
“Now.. for the Masterpiece. The unveiling of Sutler Reynolds-Kael’s Kael Family Portrait!” Mina said as she took a puff of her cigarette, stepping to the side.
Two of the Kael Family Members stepped forward grabbing the cloth that covered the painting. After a few moments they dramatically pulled away the cloth to reveal with painting!
The entire gallery erupts with cheers and screams of Kael Family members. Even Mina is moved to clap and shed a single tear which runs down her pale cheek. Everyone in the room except for Sutler Reynolds-Kael whose excited expression has fallen into anger.
A seven foot tall portrait stood before Sutler, framed in gold and wood. The painting was of impeccable detail and rich, vibrant colors. His gray suit and #97red shirt look real enough to touch and the High Octane World Championship looks real enough to pull right out of the painting. It is a masterpiece save for one alarming detail.
Instead of Sutler’s face there was the pale countenance of his father, Max Kael. Or perhaps it was supposed to be the Minister. It didn’t matter to Sutler which. Six hours of posing and they painted his Father’s face over his own. The fire in his chest boiled up but he did bother running this time. The wave of rage rushed up and Sutler allowed it to wash over him as he stood there shaking.
“It looks exactly like you.” Mina cooed as she slunk up next to him.
“Is that a fucking TEAR in your eye?” the Son of Scions snarled at Mina, his eyes wide as the thing inside of him rips and claws at his chest. “This looks NOTHING like me..”
His breathing intensified as he glared at Mina then back up at the painting. The World Champion could feel the metal of the #97red title biting into his fingers as he held it so tightly.
“That looks like a fucking DEADMAN not like me. NOT like SUTLER REYNOLDS-KAEL!” he bellowed into Mina’s face. In his rage he lashed out, grabbing a near by Kael Family Member, a man with thick black hair. His fingers curled into the man’s hair as he dragged him toward the painting.
“You think this SHIT looks like your WORLD CHAMPION? Huh?!” he snarled as he held his face against the portrait.
“…it.. It’s your spitting image..” the Kael Family member managed to sputter out with tears of joy in his eyes.
“no. No. NO.” the Son of Scions screamed before he smashed the man’s face into the portrait. Unfortunately the portrait had been mounted to a wooden wall which did not yield to flesh and bone.
The sound of the man’s nose breaking echoes around the room as all the Kael Family members freeze. Blood splattered across the lower section of the portrait. The man stumbled back as he spit two teeth onto the floor. He looked up at Sutler as a bloody grin stretched across his face. Through the mangled nose the man gurgled a laugh.
“..every day you become more yourself Kael..heh-heh.”
All around him he heard his father’s wretched giggle. That fucking laugh only seemed to fuel the hatred burning up inside of himself.
“I’M SUTLER REYNOLDS-KAEL, SAY MY WHOLE FUCKING NAME! I’M BETTER THAN HIM! BETTER THAN ANY VERSION OF HIM! BETTER THAN ANYONE!”
He grabbed the portrait and smashed it down on the ground, it’s heavy wooden frame shattering apart. In his mindless rage he reached down and began to rip and tear at the canvas. Spittle flew from his mouth as he raged and he worked to destroy the painting. As he carried out his fit the Kael Family all looked down with broad smiles.
Mina’s phone buzzed causing her to break away from the festivities.
“I’ll…I’.ll fucking kill the painter.. WHERE ARE THEY?! This isn’t art, this is fucking TRASH! I’m the WORLD CHAMPION! I’m Goddamn motherfucking SUTLER REYNOLDS-KAEL! RAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”
A soft and self important Mmm comes from Mina as she knelt down next to Sutler.
“This might be a bad time but.. looks like Clay Brydie turned you down.”
Sutler looked up from the ruined pile of canvas and wooden frame, his chest heaving as drool ran down his chin. Surprisingly the World Title was still slung over his shoulder. He turned his head away and took a deep breath.
I had some fucking hope for you Clay, and well that fucking shows me thinking I was talking to a man but in reality I was talking to a fucking dog.
You think the Best Alliance is the best thing in town? You think you’re getting all the advantages you can out of his company? You big dummy, you can’t see the forest for the trees. You didn’t listen to a Goddamn thing I’ve told you, have you? Nope. And they said you were educated.
I listened to your promo and it made me want to strangle puppies! You know why?
Because you don’t say anything that doesn’t get shoved right back down that TexAss sized mouth of yours by anyone with skill. The only matches you win are enhancement matches, you realize that? You’re out here trying to beat me down but what have you done? You’re as bad as Zion or fucking Scotty, I swear. I beat Teddy Palmer and softened him up for Sektor. Not you, you fucking loser. You had two chances and he made you look like an absolute chump both times. Steve Harrison has done more to Teddy Palmer than you.
You want me to surrender to you? I’ve beaten people twice as skilled as you with half the effort. I’m the World Champion and you will respect that you blond fuck. I don’t need the BA covering my back because I’m not a weakling who gets scared by the geriatric Best Alliance. Oh noes Splatt Starr! Dweeb Harrison?! The King of Everything Cringe, Jace!? My Family could have protected you but I guess when it comes to Clay Byrd that yellow hair runs all the way down your back.
I tried to warn you about what happens in the Alliance, I’ve literally be in HOW my entire life. I’ve seen SIX different versions of the Best Alliance and you know what happened to them all? They either lost their eye, get maimed when the boss got tired of them or in some cases, yeah, straight murdered. MURDERED.
Oh but Clay Byrd is a loyal dog, well good for you, you fucking dog. You’re threatening me with a lariat, is EVERYTHING about you generic brand? I’m not as big and strong as you but fuck I’m smarter and faster and way more ruthless. I’m a ring general before 20, a fucking wrestling savant, you’re just.. big and you’re finisher is running at your opponent with your arm out. Please, Clay, PLEASE throw your arm out for me. Moron.
Let’s talk about that nickname of yours, Monster or the Monster or something Monster? Tell me, do you say that to yourself in front of the mirror to chase away the ghost of dear old dad? Maybe you think if you say it enough times it will make it true?
You know Monsters have to actually be monstrous right? I’m more of a monster than you are and I don’t even use that as a nickname. But hey, you wanna spin another mushmouth tale about how I should join the Best Alliance or you’re gonna do something mean? Hey, fuck it, it’s your god damn time, I mean it’s worked out so well for you so far. Right? Oops, turns out, no.
I’m embarrassed for you.
You’re so fucking bland. Yetyou have so much potential. Lee isn’t ever going to push you to be better, you’re just a warm slab of meat till he’s done with you. How fucking disappointing but oh well, I guess you really are the next Dan Ryan. Big, scary and boring. Work for Lee for a few months, be a good loyal dog until Lee is done with you. Then you can join Dan in Boring Texas Hell with the dozen or so other losers with the same exact story.
I’m going to have to choke you out in the middle of the ring and pray I let up when the match is over. Lee wouldn’t give a shit if I ended your career, I’ve seen the resume bin. Cut off the oxygen long enough and all those economic lessons go bye-bye. What shame that would be, the world will be down one less economist.
I don’t know what else to say to you. Drive your sloppy “Monster” cowboy schtick to Charleston, Clay Byrd, and we’ll see how it stacks up against the Sutler Method.
I hope you get West Nile and die.
Blessings from your World Champion.
Sutler Reynolds-Kael OoooooooooooOOOOooOOooOOUT!