I GOT YOU, BRO
Deep in the heart of the Greensboro Coliseum, Max Kael? stalks his prey. To ensure full stealth Max has his cellphone playing the Mission Impossible theme.
The enigmatic Kael? slinks up to a pillar and peers around, seeing an opportunity for bro-watching, he waves the camera to follow. Max leaps, action hero style, behind a pile of crates and wriggles past them on his belly.
Soon, he has a clear path all the way to his target, Eddie Cross. Eddie is flipping through some important looking papers with charts and big numbers like 151/99 on them. He sneaks up behind him silently as Eddie critically fails his perception roll. Max stands on his tippy toes to peer over EC’s shoulder and, finally, his curiosity gets the best of him as he breaks the silence.
Max Kael?: Whatcha looking at?
Eddie starts and spins around defensively which makes Max recoil and take the defensive posture of a frightened cat. Ed quickly shuffles the papers into his jacket pocket and wipes his eyes.
Eddie Cross: Nunya, Max.
Max Kael?: I’ve never seen a nunya before. Is that, like, a Ninja Nun? ‘Cause I could probably use a few of those around for bodyguards.
Kael? tries to get a better view of whatever Eddie was doing, a wide smile stretching across his face.
Eddie Cross: No, it’s like… you know what, never mind.
He takes a deep breath to steady his clearly rattled nerves.
Eddie Cross: What are you doing sneaking up on me anyhow? And where did you get such a good sneak skill? That shit was like Skyrim Shadow Warrior level good.
Fumbling with his phone, Max disengages the Mission Impossible music before looking back at Eddie.
Max Kael?: Are you doing the thing where you give out compliments to try to avoid talking about difficult subjects that might be near and dear to your heart? The kind of conversations that good friends share with each other? The kind of stuff that healthy men in the year 2023 get off their chest to avoid a mental breakdown?
His brow raises as Max seems to stare directly into Eddie’s soul.
Max Kael?: Cause if so I wouldn’t be able to tell, I don’t understand most social cues. Thanks for the compliment, bud, I learned how to sneak from Anne Wilkes School for Stealthy Observation. I also learned how to use a hammer there, very useful! What’s a Nunya?
Eddie chuckles a little and he does indeed genuinely smile, but his eyes are red and slightly puffy. Max, for his lack of experience in the world, seems to understand some things instinctively.
Eddie Cross: You and me both, Bruh.
He pulls out the piece of paper from his pocket.
Eddie Cross: But since you asked, yeah, I am doing the thing. Dave’s not doing so well and I’m trying to focus on this match, but also I just feel isolated and there is a lot of pressure right now and I don’t know how to compound this whole tournament because I’ve never done this and I wasn’t even supposed to be here, and…
Kael? holds up his hands to stop Eddie, shaking his own head while blinking rapidly.
Max Kael?: Trauma dump much? If I knew the answer was going to be a whole bunch of feelings I wouldn’t have asked. Gotta save the jobs of therapists, M I Rite?
The former dead man taps his index finger on Eddie’s chest.
Max Kael?: I haven’t a clue what is going on in your personal life but it sounds like a lot of.. Stuff. Listen, maybe I can help? This Dave guy, sounds like he’s not doing so well and that you’ve made a big decision. I can respect that but you don’t have to do it alone. Hell, if you want, I can even take care of the problem myself.
Having misread that particular situation, Kael? makes the universal sign for strangling the life out of someone, assuming that Eddie was putting his mentor and friend out of his misery.
Eddie Cross: What? No! Just… I don’t know. I think I feel like I’m walking into a no win situation with The eGG bandits and if I’m being completely honest, I’m a little nervous because I’ve already lost to Coral once. At least in the past I usually had Dave with me at ringside. Now he isn’t going to be able to travel or coach my matches anymore and it’s a lot to take in.
Max seems to be deep in thought as he listens to Eddie, stroking his chin like an old master. Once Eddie mentions the lack of anyone at ringside, Kael snaps his fingers.
Max Kael?: You know I can empathize. I was once an undefeated sion in this industry. Famed, adored and recognized the world over.. And then an ancient foe returned from the past and cast me down. CURSE YOU HAYES HANLON!
The deranged madman from Arkham throws both of his arms into the air as he bellows the man who knocked him out of the Almasy’s name. Max composes himself and continues.
Max Kael?: The point of the story is that, if you need someone in your corner, you can count on me. I had already heard that the bandits were going to be in Coral’s corner so, you know, I talked to Purple and Couth, got it cleared with them that I join you for your match. To make sure you get a fair shake at defeating his particular pebble in your shoe. And then afterwards we’ll..
The Questionable Kael cuts his thumb across his neck while making a “KRRZZZK” noise.
Max Kael?: Put your friend Dave out back with ole’Yeller. This will be an evening of HEALING!
Eddie holds up his hands and waves them as if to say “slow down”.
Eddie Cross: Whoa, nobody said we were doing anything to Dave!
He blinks his red eyes and reaches a hand out for a shake.
Eddie Cross: But I do appreciate that you’re willing to be there for me. You’re OK, Max. Worryingly quick to jump to euthanasia…. But OK.
Max stares down at the hand then back up at Eddie then back down at the hand. He seems thoughtful for a moment before he shakes Eddie’s hand. He begins to sing a showtune from 1976s Bugsy Malone.
Max Kael?: You know I could have been anything that I wanted to be? But don’t it make your heart glad that we decided, in fact I take pride in, I’m the best at being..
Releasing the handshake Max winks at Eddie before slinking away shouting the last line of the lyrics.
Max Kael?: Baaaaaad!
Sitting in Eddie’s hand was the piece of taffy he had given Max the week prior, still pristine delivered from the Questionmark Cowboy during the handshake.
As Eddie looks down in his hand, he takes a deep breath and steels himself for what is about to come. Win or lose, he has to face down someone that means a lot to him, professionally. Win or lose, this time it’s absolutely about respect.
The camera stays in place as Eddie pumps his fist and heads for Argyle.
We then cut to ringside.