Let’s talk, Tom.
You know, I knew it would come to this eventually. I knew that we’d be standing across from one another.
What I didn’t know is that you’d be so short-sighted about me and what I am.
You really think I’m some charlatan preacher out here leading at-risk youth astray? Let me ask you something, Tom.
What do you know about The Montgomery Twins? Hell, for that matter, what do you know about any member of this Family?
You see, Tom, you think you know about what’s happening here. You espouse the values of family and what a father should be.
You don’t know a goddamned thing.
I’m not just a father, Tom.
I’m so much more than that to my children.
He sits cross-legged on the edge of a rock formation in the Red Rock Canyon area of the Mojave desert. A camp fire burns brightly behind him, illuminating him at just the right angle. Patience and Decius Montgomery sit to his left and right. Behind him, just outside the light, is Isaac. Jacob Mephisto looks down at the gathering below. They form concentric circles around his little elevated formation here. There’s no formal caste system. They just… arrange themselves that way. It’s a 360 degree view of The Patriarch.
The smell of a freshly lit cigarette comes to his nose and he smirks as his left eye twitches.
“Look at them. They’re all waiting for you to say something profound. They want their savior to lift them up. Pathetic.”
Kara’s voice is harsh, bitter, cold. Mephisto’s eyes cut to the side for a half-second.
“She’s here, isn’t she?”
This time, Patience’s soothing voice washes over him. Mephisto nods. Just once, a single gesture that holds more than words could convey.
“Oh look, you told them about me. Brave of you to do that.”
The tone is mocking from his sister’s shade.
“They’ll leave, you know. The Intense Champion is right. All your work is going to unravel. You need me to keep it together.”
Her words are like venom, worming their way into his veins.
“Don’t listen to her. She haunts you because she needs you. Not the other way around. Without you, she doesn’t exist.”
This time, it’s Decius who speaks. His voice is calm, but sure.
Kara sits directly in front of Mephisto, their pale gray eyes locking one one another.
“Is this how it’s going to be now? You let your children guide you? Are you going to let them control you now? Maybe you should just bow down to them right now in front of the whole Family.”
Mephisto flinches back slightly at her words. But, the words are frantic… desperate. His smirk morphs into a smile. When he speaks, it’s barely a whisper.
“What’s wrong, dear sister? Are you afraid they’re right?”
Kara reels back as if she’s been slapped.
“I thought so.”
Mephisto rests his hands on the shoulders of the Twins. In the shadows, Isaac, The Reaper, watches silently. Mephisto rises to his feet, taking a long look at the hundreds gathered in the desert. His children have come to him. It’s been far too long since they’ve had a proper gathering.
“You two have done so well.”
The Patriarch steps forward to the edge of the platform and spreads his arms out wide. When he speaks again, his voice booms out, magnified by the speakers he’s hidden throughout the canyon. The generators running them are finally getting to be put to use.
There’s a roar from below as the Family acknowledges their All-Father.
“We have been on a journey! We have had to deal with one interference after another. We have had aspersions cast upon us and our lifestyle.”
The gathered masses boo and hiss. Mephisto holds up his hands and they cease.
“But, that’s to be expected. People fear what they don’t understand, after all. But now? Now we can move on. Now, we can reach new heights. I ask you, my children, do you still follow your All-Father?”
There’s a resounding roar of approval. Patience and Decius play their parts, working up the crowd below. Mephisto himself makes a show of putting his hand to his ear.
“I hear you, my Coyotes! We will spread like wildfire! We will be a plague upon any who cross us and a cure to any who would join our ranks!”
Another cheer erupts from below. Mephisto drops his arms to his sides. He takes a long look at Kara, who is sulking a few feet behind him, but her eyes betray her. He can see her interest piqued. The Patriarch turns back to his children.
“But first, we need to honor our traditions.”
The roaring cheers dull to rapid whispers below. Mephisto nods slowly.
“You all have a small pouch, given to you when you arrived. The time has come. Open your pouch, as I open mine.”
Mephisto holds up his own small, leather pouch and turns it over, revealing a small, white stone. There are a few moments of rustling below as the congregation follows suit. Jacob looks down upon his Coyotes.
“Who drew the black stone?”
There’s a burst of sound as murmurs erupt below. Eventually, there’s a shout from the crowd.
“It’s here! Here it is!”
The Patriarch motions in the direction of the voice that speaks and a spotlight flips on, shining down on a young man holding up a black stone proudly. The light hits Mephisto’s pale, gray eyes and there’s something… hungry there.
His voice grows softer now, as a low chant begins pulsing through the crowd.
Feast. Feast. Feast.
“What’s your name, child?”
The young man beams up at his Patriarch.
“William! My name is William!”
Mephisto nods thoughtfully, glancing back at an entranced Kara before looking down on William.
“William, tonight you are the guest of honor. Tonight… we FEAST!”
At this last word, a huge fire is ignited somewhere below. The chants grow louder and faster. Mephisto steps away from the edge of his platform and sits back down with the Twins and beckons his Reaper.
“We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed. We need to talk about Shawn Warstein. But first, let’s talk about what comes next.”
You’d do anything for your children, right Tom? I know I would. You provide for them. You protect them from harm. It’s admirable, really. It’s what you’re supposed to do as a father.
But how far do you go? How much do you shield them? Do you prevent them from seeing the horrors of this world? Do you shield them from the truth with little white lies? Do you tell them things like Johnathan Rhine got hurt and spare them the details?
You’re only setting them up for failure.
Maybe I’m not a father in the same sense as you are. I don’t have any actual children of my own. But, I know sheltering your children now won’t prepare them for life.
Life has a way of chewing you up, swallowing you, and shitting you out. If you aren’t prepared for it? Well, maybe you never recover from it.
You tell yourself that you’ll explain it all when they’re old enough, right? When is that, exactly? No one ever says when that moment is. Do you know why, Tom?
It’s because by then, life has already kicked the poor kids in the teeth and they weren’t ready for it.
Is that the kind of father you want to be? The kind that sets their children on a path to me?
You see, I don’t say these things to insult you. All of my children, my Coyotes, have lived their lives. They’ve been kicked in the teeth by those who would call themselves parents. They’ve been shit on by coworkers, friends, and family.
My children all have been through life before they sought me out.
And, make no mistake, Tom. They come to me. I don’t just, how did you put it… pluck them off the streets. It’d be an insult to everything they’ve been through to assume that.
Patience and Decius Montgomery? Combined, they’re worth more money that you and I combined will make in our careers. Do I take advantage of that?
No. I don’t need their money. I just need their hearts, their loyalty.
My children always have a choice. I always tell them what’s coming. I tell them the good, the bad, and the ugly. They choose their course.
The whole thing with Bucky that you have such contempt for? Patience’s idea.
The Scooby Doo routine? That was all Decius.
Hell, even the dog collar was Anna Daniels herself.
But, I’m the bad guy, right? I’m the dastardly villain.
Fucking spare me.
You sit there on your high horse and talk about family and being a father. You talk about going about things the right way like you dictate those terms.
Why? Because you’re the Intense Champion? Because you had to fight so hard to be where you are?
Ask around the hallowed halls of SHOOT Project just a little more, Tom. There’s a fucking reason my name is spoken in whispers there. Soon, it’ll be spoken in reverence in PRIME too.
The sun starts to rise in the Mojave desert, but most of the camp has gone. To their credit, the Coyotes have left nearly no trace of their existence here.
Jacob Mephisto sits staring out at the sun as it begins to break the horizon, casting pinks and golds on to the desert. The morning star is tinged red today. The Patriarch is pleased. Kara Mephisto, or her shade anyway, sits beside her brother in silence for once.
“Is this what you wanted, dear sister?”
His voice isn’t mocking. The question is genuine. She doesn’t answer immediately. Kara pulls a cigarette from thin air and lights it. It’s the same one as always, her last one. She blows a stream of blue-gray smoke into the air before answering.
“You really have built something, haven’t you, Jake?”
He doesn’t answer her. He knows he doesn’t need to. She knows.
“Maybe she’s right. Maybe you don’t need me anymore. Maybe it’s time for me to fade.”
His eye twitches. Just once. Mephisto shakes his head.
“No. Family is forever. You told me that once. Besides, as… irritating as you can be? You’re a part of me, of all that I am. Just like William is now.”
Kara waits a long moment, breathing in a long inhale of smoke.
“We haven’t talked about it yet, Kara.”
She exhaled her smoke as her brother speaks.
“I know. Are you concerned about what he said?”
“About everyone figuring out I’m some kind of snake oil salesman manipulating them? About them leaving me? No.”
The Shade shakes her head, smirking.
“No. I mean about him being the best this company has to offer. Do you think it’s true? Do you think The Anglo Luchador is as good as it gets in PRIME?”
The Patriarch sighs as he looks down a a splotch of crimson, now dried on the reddish stone.
“Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. Doesn’t matter. The man is the heartbeat of this place. Does it concern me? No. I’m past concern at this point.”
Kara takes another drag.
“You’ve come a long way, Jake. But, he’s right, you know. All the bullshit aside? All of this?”
She gestures out at the now empty valley below.
Mephisto laughs, the sharp sound coming out as a cackle.
“Of course it is!”
The Patriarch allows his laughter to trail off to a chuckle.
“Everything is temporary, Kara. All of it. Men like me? We burn hot and turn to ash. But, you know what, dear sister?”
The Shade shivers, an involuntary gesture.
“We’re going to fucking burn all of it with us. The Anglo Luchador is going to be the match and he doesn’t even understand what he’s doing.”
The All-Father drops to his back laughing as the sun breaks the horizon fully. The Twins emerge from their tent, shielding their eyes and watching their father. Patience smiles. Decius nods.
Do you want to know your mistake, Tom?
You tried to compare your family to my Family.
You see, your children don’t have a choice. They’re yours. You’re their father by nature. They have no choice but to learn from you, for better or worse. Mine? Well, mine chose me.
They chose me because I was the first one to be honest with them about all that I am and all that I stand for.
They know what they’re getting with me. They know that, at any given moment, they’re in danger.
They’ve embraced it. It’s what makes them strong. It’s what makes us strong. The Family feeds itself, Tom. We grow together as one. We grow stronger as one. Everyone plays their role.
It all leads to one purpose. It all leads to victory.
We’re both family men, Tom.
We both know the taste of championship gold in this industry.
Hell, we’ve both waived the banner of a promotion we’ve chosen to put on our backs.
I’ve done everything you’re doing right now.
You are, indeed, the PRIME Intense Champion. You are the standard bearer here. You’re the man who has spread himself so thin throughout the PWA. All while juggling being a husband and a father.
That’s the difference between us, Tom.
This industry? That’s it for me. My Family? Built around this industry. My goals? All designed to further my career in this industry. This isn’t a profession for me, Tom. This is all that I am.
You could retire tomorrow and go be a family man.
If I retired tomorrow, I’d cease to exist in any meaningful way.
This is what I was born for.
This is all that I am.
So, when you tell me about attributes and morals and smarts? I call bullshit on all of that.
You’re gifted, Tom. You are a man who has crawled through hell to achieve everything you have.
Me? I’ve watched hell itself cower when I walked through it.
You’re burning the candle at both ends. I know where that leads for you. It’s a really simple truth, that you have to learn. You put on that mask and you become The Anglo Luchador. You strap that title on and waive that banner like the hero PRIME needs.
It doesn’t matter.
Do you remember the first thing you said when this whole thing started? Do you remember your fear when you first spoke about the Almasy Invitational?
It will come to pass, Tom.
It doesn’t matter how intense you are.
What if you lose everything at ReVival 17, Tom? Can you go back to being a family man? Can you get back up like the hero you seem to be? Or will you start to rot from the inside?
Maybe you will go out like Stan Chera.