Las Vegas is a gaudy, neon jewel that stains the Nevada sky with the electric promises of luck and prosperity. People flock from all over to the siren song of entertainment and wealth. But, it’s all a desert mirage. Beneath the glitz and glamor the Vegas Strip offers, there is loss, decay, and despair. The Mojave sits ready to embrace those who succumb to it.
Out in the deep desert, the roar of engines sound. Three lights cut the darkness and, in the witchlight of three Harley Davidson headlights, we can make out the faces of Johan Dietrich and KC Rockefeller, collectively known as the SHOOT Project tag team KHARRION. They flank Jacob Mephisto on either side.
The three motorcycles cut through the desert, leaving sand and dust in their wake. The Montgomery Twins are nowhere to be seen, presumably in The Learning Tree training with the Coyotes. The engines slow and the bikes roll to a stop, headlights illuminating a wall of red rock, somewhere in the Mojave desert far outside of the city.
Dietrich and KC keep their bikes running while Mephisto kills his engine, stepping off his metallic steed and approaching the wall. He has a bag slung over his shoulder and immediately drops down and begins to work on something out of our line of sight.
The Learning Tree – 24 Hours Earlier
“Again.” The voice is authoritative and cold, but not cruel.
Jacob Mephisto stands at the edge of a red mat, looking up into a ring where Patience and Decius Montgomery are each covered in a layer of sweat. Patience has what looks to be the beginnings of a shiner under her left eye and Decius is sporting a bloody lip. Needless to say, The Montgomery Twins look a little worse for wear. Dietrich and KC patrol the outside of the ring, a roving barrier between the Twins and the people… the “Coyotes…” lining the walls. These former dregs of society have been given a new, eager purpose and their once dead and doped out eyes now shine with hunger.
Mephisto nods to a passing Dietrich, who points to two of the Coyotes on the wall.
“You, an’ you. Go.”
The two men he points to charge the ring with reckless abandon, and are immediately met with boots from Decius. Patience throws caution to the wind and dives down on one of them, reigning fists and elbows. Mephisto nods again, this time in KC’s direction. KC Rockefeller points to two more Coyotes.
The two new Coyotes rush the ring as well. Decius whips around right away, but Patience is lost in her own savagery and continues her own assault, leaving her brother alone. The two Coyotes plow through Decius, flattening him into the canvas. They reach down and snatch Patience by her hair, bringing her to her feet, flailing every limb she has. One of the men grabs a full nelson while the other begins to fire shots into her abdomen.
Decius flies into a rage, seeing his sister manhandled. He leaps to his feet and rushes forward, but Dietrich grabs his ankle and yanks him out of the ring to the floor. Decius scratches and claws at the ring apron, trying to pull himself up, but KC rushes in and delivers an elbow to his head, crumpling him down to the floor.
“Enough.” Mephisto’s voice is still calm and cool, but carries an edge to it that causes everyone involved to stop what they’re doing immediately. Decius breathes heavily and Patience crumbles to the canvas holding her midsection.
Mephisto walks toward the ring. “Everyone out except Patience and Decius”
The Coyotes immediately obey, exiting the ring and returning to their designated places along the walls. Mephisto steps into the ring as Decius climbs his way back in. Mephisto looks down on both Twins. “Up. Now.”
Patience and Decius struggle to their feet, anger and pain etched on their faces. Mephisto leans casually against the ropes, but his demeanor is one of a cobra waiting to strike.
“What did you just learn?”
Patience doesn’t respond. Decius looks up. “Don’t trust anyone.”
Mephisto launches himself forward and delivers a forearm to Decius, faster than a man his size should be able to move. Decius hits the canvas and glares up and Mephisto.
“Up.” Mephisto’s voice is cold and measured without being cruel. “It’s time to learn.”
Mephisto gestures for the Twins to sit and lowers himself down to a cross-legged position. He snaps his fingers once, and KHARRION begins to direct the Coyotes out of the room and up the stairs. After a few moments, Mephisto begins speaking directly to the twins.
“Trust is important, children. You must learn to trust one another. You must learn to be there for one another. Take Jonathan-Christopher and Vickie Hall, for example. Those two trust one another explicitly. They are always there for one another. Where one goes, so goes the other. They are as one. You would do well to emulate that. Patience, you left your brother vulnerable when you allowed your rage to consume you.”
Patience hangs her head. Decius reaches out to touch her shoulder, a familiar gesture of reassurance. Mephisto smirks.
“Yet, your brother forgives. Good. The bond you have is strong. I’d say even stronger than that of the self-proclaimed ALP. We’ll see how much failure Vickie can stomach after Jonathan-Christopher is put to the test once again at ReVival. Watch and learn, children.”
The Desert – Now.
Mephisto sits with his back to the red rock, a fire now blazing. Dietrich and KC sit across the fire from him. Mephisto prods at the fire for a moment, looking up at KHARRION with pale, gray eyes.
“I’m happy you’ve come back. The Family isn’t the same without you two. Your experience is going to mold the twins, finely tune them into the weapons they want to be.”
KC looks across at Mephisto and smiles. He clears his throat.
“Our departure was never in ill will, my friend. Of course, you’ll recall our previous dealings were purely business. Jennifer doesn’t like making things personal. Now, well, we’re practically family. Of course we’ll teach Patience and Decius everything they need to know.”
Dietrich flicks his bic and lights a cigarette.
“Speakin’ uh weapons. Tact ain’t no slouch. He’s prolly the biggest threat outta the three of ‘em you gotta deal with.”
Mephisto allows himself a smirk.
“Always right to business with you, Johan. But, you’re right. He is a threat. Still, he’s vulnerable. Pfefferman showed that to the world once already; and I’d like to think I’m more capable than him. But, never forget the darkhorse.”
Dietrich laughs out a cloud of smoke.
“The kid? Puddins?”
Mephisto nods slowly.
“Desperation can bring out the best and the worst in all of us. You see that with the Twins pretty regularly.”
The three men sit in silence, the desert fire crackling in the night.
I admire the Halls. I really do. The connection they have is so strong. It’s like they feel one another’s very soul. When one aches, the other feels the pain within their core. Vickie Hall is going to feel heartbreak, agony, and regret at ReVival. I’m truly sorry, Vickie. I did not want this for the two of you. I wanted your journey to be full of happiness for both of you. I wanted the two of you to write the most epic of love stories.
It’s unfortunate that Lindsay Troy has placed you in my path to the 5 Star Championship. Jonathan will have to suffer for Ms. Troy’s folley. But, there’s a better way for you, my favorite Amazing Life Partners. Forsake this useless fight. Come, be a part of something where your connection will be celebrated. Come and be a part of a growing Family! All you have to do is refuse to fight. Forsake this silly match. Set your sights on grander things. Let me handle this 5 Star Scramble.
The Halls have a connection like no other. I can’t say the same for the Puddings. Tapioca, dear boy, you’re a victim in all of this. You are forced into this situation that you cannot control. And for what? For the desires of your sister? You must not allow that to stand. You need a real Family, child. I happen to be the patriarch of one such family. The best part? I don’t require you to needlessly fight for my own profit. You can be a part of this. All you need to do is show up and lay down. Save yourself the physical agony. Simply let your patriarch handle this nasty business.
You, Mr. Tact, are a different breed altogether, aren’t you? I sense a warrior’s soul in you. I assume no amount of talk will satisfy your need to win this contest. So, instead, I offer you this advice. Think about what you are about to walk into. You allowed yourself to be duped by Mr. Pfefferman once. He beat you at your own game. Why allow yourself to be outwitted and outmatched again? No, Mr. Tact. Let me tell you what would benefit you most.
My Family needs a warrior like you. We could reach heights that have never been seen. I can kick down doors for you, Mr. Tact. All you need to do is allow me to progress on this 5 Star Championship path without interference.
I have given you all a choice. I have given you a way out of your predicaments. You would do well to take my offer. If not?
Well, then I will cause the Halls to suffer and ache. I will make the Puddings’ nightmares into reality. I will relegate Mr. Tact to the same level of embarrassment as Solomon Richards. I don’t want your collective paths to crumble before you. But, if I must, I will show you the inevitable truth of the world.
In the end…