The sound of bone crunching was punctuated by the sickening wet slap of bloodied flesh against flesh.
A body hitting the hard concrete ground echoed around the chamber as the rising sound of applause carried it far away.
Max’s breath caught back up with him as he blinked several times. He looked down at his hands, dirty bandages covered his hands that were slick with blood. His blue eyes looked up, his mechanical eye adjusting to the light around him as he saw the green uniform of North Korean officers surrounding him.
One particular cheer caught his ear causing his head to snap up in the direction of it. It was pitchy, as often Korean voices were, but somehow had a deeper, more unpleasant rumble to it. It was one he had grown very familiar with over the years.. An overly excited, squealing cheer..
“I know that cheer..”
The full collared grey suit of the Supreme Leader of North Korea was filled in like a fine custard by Kim Jong-Un, Max Kael’s self proclaimed Biggest Fan and ruthless totalitarian.
[“Very good! Very good! Another enemy of the state punished by my Champion, Max Kael.”] Kim cheerfully bayed in Korean, his hands clapping together like a child expressing extreme joy. [“Not even grandmothers are free of the Justice of the People.”]
A career in High Octane Wrestling had prepared Max for the concept that people were cruel, vain and generally dismissive of other humans. Lee Best had overseen several murders and even been dragged before a Federal Court over past criminal activity and yet even that was not enough to prepare Max for just how terrible the monster that ruled North Korea was.
Max looked back down at the ground, past his own raw, bloodied hands toward the clump of tattered clothing and brutalized flesh. He couldn’t make out many details passed the puffy, bruised tissue but he wouldn’t have been surprised if Kim had made him beat some poor old woman but..
He didn’t remember doing it.
[“The new eye I paid for, I see, is doing its job well! I even like how it changes color.”] chortled Kim as he took a few steps forward, kicking the old woman’s body aside as though it were little more than garbage. Max visibly winced, causing Kim to raise an eyebrow with a smirk pulled across his flabby thick cheeks. [“What? You just beat this woman with your fists with such zeal and gusto.. Gusto? It’s Gusto right? Then you’re flinching at me kicking her out of the way? Hah-hah what a guy. Careful of those feelings.”]
A ham covered in digits that was Kim’s right hand slapped down on Max’s shoulder as he pulled a cigar from his grey suit, the same style of suit that his father, Kim Jong-Il had made famous. His dark eyes, cold and hungry for carnage, peered into Max’s own. The Beast of Korea’s eyes narrowed as he searched Max’s own gaze for something causing Max’s gut to tighten.
[“Fighters shouldn’t feel anything but anger and hatred, you know? If you feel pity, if you feel shame, if you feel mercy or regret you might hesitate, right? And if you hesitate whoever you are fighting will attack you. They might drive a knife right here.” the Supreme Leader of North Korea said in a thoughtful manner, as though he were explaining the history of a painting. He pushed the unlit cigar against Max’s chest, right above his heart. “Or worse yet maybe the man behind you, the one you turned your back on because you trusted him, he drives a knife in your back? Or cuts your throat? My Champion doesn’t feel those things. My Champion is a killer. A winner. You’re my Champion. Right?”]
Max’s scar riddled face twitched visibly as he was threatened directly to his face. Back in High Octane Wrestling he’d have torn Kim’s face off but here, in North Korea surrounded by men with guns and bodyguards willing to die for the man standing opposite him.. The man who functionally owned him?
Max Kael was a little bitch.
“Of course. Of course!” Max sputtered as he sent a hard kick into the lump of old woman. The sound of his foot connecting with her blood soaked clothing made a wet slapping noise.
Kim smiled with approval clapping his hand across Max’s back a few times, a wretched, cruel laugh echoing around the windowless room, the rest of the uniformed men joining their leaders jovial chuckle. Max’s skin crawled as he joined in, a pained, forced laugh crackling up past his teeth as he worked to hold back his vomit.
[“Come on, let’s talk about your future, Champion.”] Kim said, waving his hand toward Max as he waddled away. The dictator rolled his cigar in his hand a few times, smelling it lovely while he led Max out of the chamber, a cleaning crew quietly slipping past the two of them.
He hated it here in North Korea. Hated it here with him more than he remembered. Lee was a cake walk compared to a man who literally had people executed because of having unauthorized haircuts. Max’s mind stayed on the man he was with as they headed down a long hall toward two glass doors that promised the light of the outside world. As his senses slowly returned to him Max smelt the sweat and fear that blew up and down the tunnel. The scent of desperation and death was all too familiar in this part of the world.
[“How much have we done for you in regards to High Octane Wrestling? I just had a log cabin built for you here so you could avoid the cities over there. We took down their website for you, we’ve supplied you with soldiers to support your attempts to end the company. I’ve even paid for a full body makeover when your age and damage began to catch up to you. You could say you owe me your own life right now,”] the grandson of Kim Il-Sung weezed as he took a heavy puff of his cigar. [“Actually I could say it and I am. You owe me your life. So why are you wasting our time in the United States?”]
It was a good question and one that Max knew he was going to have to answer at some point. He had kind of been hoping he could have killed High Octane Wrestling a few months back but somehow Michael had managed to save the company each and every time. Unfortunately Kim wasn’t going to accept the excuse of Michael Lee Best.
He needed something better.
“Uh.. well.. Well see, Supreme Leader, it’s not that I haven’t been trying to take down High Octane Wrestling, in fact I have been working harder than ever for you and our greater goals! Consider this,” Max sputtered as he made things up on the spot. His mind was racing, darting from solution to solution. Mutant Baby Poison? No, way to High quote Jack Harmen unquote Flyer, nobody would take it serious least of all Kim. He was worming his way into the will of Lee Best? No.. he lost that at ICONIC back in the last era. Fuck it. Hail Mary. “..I’ve nearly convinced Lee Best to abandon the USA to reposition High Octane Wrestling to North Korea.”
Kim stopped in his tracks, his sociopathic eyes washing over Max with heavy scrutiny.
[“Lee Best wants to come back to North Korea?”] the rotund Korean said with a puff of smoke and a raised brow.
“Yes.. Yes! He loves it up here! You know the US government asks too many questions when you start a show with 28 talents and you end the show with 27 but nobody got fired, you know what I mean?” the LSD Champion said as he started to give into the lie himself. His smile perked up considerably as he swept his hands to either side. “An entire roster of skilled fighters ready to kill each other for the glory of North Korea!”
The Supreme Leader’s expression didn’t seem to change as he took another heavy drag from his cigar. The smile swirled around the two of them before Kim sprayed a white stream of smoke into Max’s face followed by a sickening giggle.
[“You can get Lee to move his company.. Including HOTv to North Korea?”] Kim asked flatly.
His eyes locked on Max’s and once again Max felt like the Supreme Leader was looking straight through him. He had no better hand to play though so Max nodded his head enthusiastically.
“Of course! I almost have him right where I want him,” Max lied through his shiny chrome teeth, a well practiced, racid smile on his face. ”I just need more time..just a little more time, Supreme Leader.”
Just a little more time.
“The Lethal Lottery.”
Max stared out at the sun as it slowly set over the woodland tree tops on it’s ever present constant course West.
“There are a few things about High Octane Wrestling that are constants, talents, some of you know them already, some of you are about to find out about them. Solitary Confinement always happens at Rumble at the Rock, Darkwing always gets his dick sucked by a cow and the Champion is at a disadvantage at the Lethal Lottery.” Max laments as he lets out a sigh. “As my brother Michael said earlier, it’s time for a little promo work.”
Max turns as we find he is standing on the porch of his log cabin tucked in the foothills of rural Best Korea. He is wearing a black three piece suit with a #97red tie and red leather gloves, all in all way over dressed for standing around in the woods. This is probably because Max doesn’t have a strong grasp of style nor setting.
“Last time we talked I told all you talents about taking the LSD Championship and holding it. I gave you all fair warning for how difficult the Championship representing Lee’s Special Division is, how physically demanding it is, how mentally destructive it can be. That’s all true and it always will be but today? Let’s talk about the real hurdle you’re facing. Me.” Max says with a grin, his hands rubbing together. “I’m a cold blooded idiot and not afraid to use that to my advantage.”
Max offers the camera a wink with a wretched chuckle.
“Talents I’m just a humble man working the coal mines of High Octane Wrestling. I came here from rural Pittsburgh where I used to work the coal mines digging out black rock gold with my bare hands! I’d come home from work everyday smelling like a chimey’s dick and I was happy for the opportunity to do so!” the Lord of Kaelsalvania proclaims loudly, his arms waving menacingly in all directions. “..that was a lie. First thing I should tell you about me is that I’m a dirty, terrible liar. I once lied about Lee Best in front of a Grand Jury which is why he probably isn’t in a federal facility!..er.. I probably.. Ignore that I said that. Uh..uh.. See! I lied again!”
The LSD Champion nervously laughs while wringing his hands together.
“Side note, they sell Meth at the gas stations here, what a service. I’m not saying do Meth but what I am saying is that they sell Meth at the gas stations out here. Anyway I haven’t smoked any Meth in the last five or six hours. Or am I lying again, talents? Isn’t this a fun game?” he muttered to himself. “I saw one of you figured out how to stop my EYEMax Experience by looking away or shutting your eyes. BRILLIANT! I’ll certainly make sure not to kick you in the balls or to punch you in the throat. I swear, when the competition is more help than harm, I tell ya. I’m an idiot, guys, but some of you have a lethal stupidity.”
There was a flicker and for a moment Max’s mechanical blue eye flashes red. A low growl escapes Max’s throat, his metal teeth grinding together in an uncomfortable screeching noise. The moment passes and Max appears on a porch swing with the LSD championship in his lap. The sun has long since set and a pale sliver of the moon high in the sky. A lantern casts the porch in a warm light as Max gently swings back and forth.
“Everyone is out there talking about my brother, Michael, which isn’t surprising I guess. I mean he is the number two ranked wrestler in High Octane Wrestling and he is the ICON Champion, which also makes him a pretty big deal. I mean he is definitely the guy who has held a bunch of titles an absurd number of times and he is the guy who gets an entire month dedicated to him. And not in that backhanded way like February gets to be Black History Month that gets to be a real month every couple of years, no! He got a real month, April! Everybody is gearing up to face Michael Lee Best, the Son of GOD, the guy who made the Group of Death, Michael LEE BEST!”
His hands have tightened over the LSD championship to the point where they are shaking and though his gloves are hiding it you know the knuckles have gone white. His eyes dart down noticing the intensity with which he held the title and immediately releases his grip, another sigh escaping his lips. Taking in a deep breath his smile returns to his face, however fake and practiced as it may be.
“Incase any of you talents forgot, I’m the number one ranked Talent in High Octane Wrestling, ranked ABOVE Michael. By one. I’m a former World Champion, yes I lost it at War Games 2019, to my OWN TEAM. I still won the match, bitches, I still ended 2020 as the top ranked Talent in High Octane Wrestling. You know who was the first person to vote Michael Lee Best into the High Octane Wrestling Hall of Fame? It was ME because I was in the Hall of Fame already! Look, it seems like I’m a little hung up on this but, come on, I AM! I’m feeling a little upset, okay? I’m just feeling a little underappreciated.”
He throws his arms into the air as his practiced smile turns into a frown, his petulance finally breaking the damm in his mind. With a scowl on his face, Max’s arms fold together while his chin tucked against his chest.
“So you’re all going to have to learn to appreciate me. To appreciate Maximillian Wilhelm Kael, the Lord Supreme Dictator of High Octane Wrestling! When I snap my fingers the eGG Bandits better start asking me if I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy.. Spoiler, it’s over easy. When I kick my feet up Max Stryker better get his best commentator to tell the world that he is the GREATEST bootlicker in the world. Mmm the flavor of facism! When I ask who the Number One Ranked Wrestler in High Octane Wrestling is I expect every talent out there to say my name which is Maximillian Wilhelm Kael. I’ll include the nicknames at the end, you know how it goes.”
Slowly uncoiling again Max seemed to move from his agitated state back into a more relaxed frame of mind.
“Excluded from that list are Worlds Greatest Father, Steven Solex, all members of the Group of Death and Chris Kostoff. You know you all appreciate me. I hope that we do not find each other at odds because I’ll be forced to be very, very unappreciative and I’d rather not. I won’t show mercy, I can’t hesitate.. This is the Lethal Lottery. Pulling the LSD Championship match won’t make you lucky, it’ll make you the unluckiest fool on the entire show. And when it’s done maybe I’ll finally get the appreciation that I deserve.”
He scoffed loudly, standing up quickly, the LSD Championship finding itself slung up over Max’s shoulder. A half sneer tightened over his lips as he glared forward, one blue eye haunting the other a piercing blue light.
“So as always.. I am the Worthiest, the Vain and Villainous Maximillian Wilhelm Kael, Lord of Kaelsavania, the Prime Minister of Maxopotamia, the Lord Supreme Dictator of High Octane Wrestling, the General of North Kaelrea, LSD Champion, First of my Name, Long May I Maim!”
He offered one last wink of his glowing blue eye before he pulled the door to his cabin open before slipping behind it’s heavy wooden frame.
Max kicks the door open, smashing his way back out KoolAid Man style.
“THE HOUSE ALWAYS WINS!”