We cut to a door backstage. But not just any random door, no sir. This is the door to the private locker room of the Universal Champion. The Tower of Babel. The Last Diamond.
Why are we here? That might have something to do with one of the two people standing outside the door. One of them is a production assistant who we will call Patricia, even though their name is actually Samantha.
The other is a young man in a blue PRIME polo (seriously, how many of these things does he have?) and a bit of a nervous look on his face. You’d think that talking to a huge star would be easy if you grew up surrounded by them, but Nate Colton knows that’s not the case.
Patricia: Here it is, sir.
Nate Colton: Thank you, Sam. How’s your partner doing? Did he get that job he applied for?
Patricia: No…he got an interview, but they removed the position rather than hire anyone.
Nate Colton: Ah, that sucks. Well, keep trying. He’ll break through soon.
Patricia: Thanks. Do you need anything else?
Nate Colton: Should be good. Thanks again, Sam!
They smile at the young superstar and scamper down the hall, back to wherever production assistants go. Meanwhile, Nate turns his attention back to the matter at hand. He takes a deep breath, steels himself, and knocks on the door.
After a few moments, this non-random door opens. Shortly thereafter, Youngblood steps into view. The Universal Champion is already in his ring attire, the straps of his singlet off to his sides, exposing his massive chest and the rest of the muscles cutting down his midsection. Colton stands just a touch taller than him, but the near thirty pound difference offsets this. Nodding his head, he extends his hand to the up and comer.
Brandon Youngblood: How you doing, kid?
Nate accepts the handshake hesitantly, as if he expects Youngblood to suddenly grab him and throw him into the sun. Thankfully, this does not happen, and he relaxes a little.
Nate Colton: Doing all right, sir. How about you? Ready for Phil Atken tonight?
Brandon Youngblood: As much as I’ll ever be.
He lets go of the handshake, stepping to the side.
Brandon Youngblood: Kinda why I wanted to talk with you. Can come in if you want…or we can do this out here.
Now this just took a cryptic turn. There isn’t a hint of a smile on the Tower of Babel’s face, rather, his usual intense glare. He doesn’t look like he’s coiled to strike. Whether he realizes it or not, everything about him is screaming intimidation.
Nate smiles a little, doing his best not to look rattled and mostly succeeding. (His hands aren’t shaking; yours are shaking.)
Nate Colton: Well, since I’m already here.
He walks through the door, not taking his eye off the champ as he does so.
Brandon Youngblood: So I know Atken went around the locker room…kicking tires on folk…trying to get some buy in on that Amway spiel on opportunity and all that. Wouldn’t even let you get a word in. Just droned on and on for you.
Hands on his hips. The locker room is a sort of special sanctuary. Horse blood does wash away with enough soap and bleach.
Brandon Youngblood: Figured you’d be one of the folks he wanted. Hell…know. You wanna know how I know, Nate?
Nate Colton: Well sir, I figure he was casting a wide net. There’s a lot of great young talent here. Ria, Paxton, Hayes, FLAMBERGE–
He sneers a bit as he says the name.
Nate Colton: –if he wants help in his “crusade,” any one of us would be a huge addition.
He is cut off.
Brandon Youngblood: True. But you’re different.
Brandon steps toward the young man.
Brandon Youngblood: Because you’re Mr. Jake Colton’s son. Because GREAT SCOTT was able to pin Balaam’s shoulders to the mat because you powered that monster son of a bitch up and planted him. Because your first time competing one on one in a PRIME ring, you swam against a man as tough as they come in Dusk. FLAMBERGE couldn’t do that. Hasn’t done that. Ria, tough as they come, phenomenal heart no matter what she might have folk believe…she wouldn’t have bought in. Paxton’s got Jon over his shoulder just in case he needs kept on the straight and narrow. They’d all be nice weapons to have at his hip. But you? You’re carrying a legacy. Your family’s legacy. And all that represents.
A subtle nod toward the young Nate.
Brandon Youngblood: Would be a perfect piece. Perfect product. Smart as he is, though, coming to you just shows how dumb he can be.
Nate almost doesn’t notice that Brandon has stopped talking; in fact, he’s not 100% sure anymore that this conversation is really happening. There’s something very surreal about hearing one of the all-time greats sing your praises.
Nate Colton: There’s no chance I was ever going to take him up on it. A fast track sounds great and all, but I don’t want nothin’ I didn’t earn. If I’m gonna take my place at the top, it’s going to be because I busted my ass to get there, and not ‘cause someone else decided everyone in front of me “had their time.”
The young man shakes his head, unable to believe anyone could think like that. He’ll probably learn someday.
Nate Colton: Besides, I’ve seen what happens when someone has to hang up the boots before they’re ready. I’m in no hurry to do that to anyone.
A nod of acknowledgment.
Brandon Youngblood: Your old man, Mr. Colton? He’s a good man. A family man. A man with principles. And when I was coming up in this sport, before I had a name, before I had anything…he saw something in me…some damn lump of coal. He didn’t have to…he was at the height of his career. But he did. Whether he teamed with some punk kid…whether he was grappling with him in the ring…he treated that lump of coal like a damn diamond.
He cracks his knuckles, his hand reaching for the young man’s shoulder.
Brandon Youngblood: He should have made it bigger than he did. Hell, his name damn sure could’ve been in our Hall of Fame. Maybe he holds the Universal Championship. But he didn’t. Rotten goddamn luck. And as much as I know some of that might eat at him…I know there’s a bigger part of him that doesn’t much care…because it gave him all the time for you kids. When you signed on here, I called Mr. Colton. Told him I’d look after his son like he looked after me. But he told me no. Told me you needed to stand on your own. That you were the kind of person to want to earn everything you can. I asked him if you had what it took. He said we’d all see.
Letting go, he folds his arms over his massive chest, giving Nate a once over.
Brandon Youngblood: Far as I can see, ain’t no coal in front of me. You’re The Next Diamond Of The Sport. Keep being you. Keep fighting. Because someday…this?
Reaching near his locker, he grabbed the Universal Championship and held it out.
Brandon Youngblood: You’re going to be holding this.
The only way the grin on Nate’s face could be wider is if he got the Tony Gamble treatment. He lifts his hand, possibly to reach out and touch the belt itself…but he pulls back.
Someday. But not yet.
Nate Colton: I like the sound of that, Mister Youngblood.
Brandon Youngblood: You need anything, I got your back. And make sure to give Mr. and Mrs. Colton my regards.
Nate Colton: Will do, sir. Tear it up out there tonight.
A smirk flickers onto the Tower of Babel’s face as they shake hands again, and Nate takes his leave.