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[FM17] Hans Kaiser- Baldness Über Alles!

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90'- We finally have our goal, but it's looking like it might be too late. We've pushed forward well after their second goal, and we've been rewarded through Leonardo de Souza, who takes a defensive header in stride and squeezes in a goal at Alessandro Plizzari's near post from a tricky angle. We're back in it, but do we have enough time to find another? We have three minutes of added time to find out.
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11 hours ago, Fer Fuchs Ake said:

Brutal, man :(

What now for Hans?

Nothing too rosy, I'm afraid.

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On 11/11/2018 at 14:26, oriole01 said:

Nothing too rosy, I'm afraid.

So, it'll be more of an orchid kind of thing...?

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Image result for salta argentinaImage result for salta argentinaImage result for salta streetImage result for crocodile farm
Salta, Argentina
Chapter Tres- La Reunión
Sorry it took so long to write this. Motivation can be a problem sometimes.
Early morning. February 10, 2018.

The sun had gone down hours ago, but José Antonio Mendoza was still sweating like it was noon. As he walked down a quiet Salta street in the dark, he was flooded with a combination of nostalgia and anger. These streets had made him. So much of his early life had been spent either at his cramped, crowded apartment, as a student in the underfunded public schools, as an employee in many, many small businesses, and of course at the football fields, where he had gotten his career off the mark. But he had also never wanted to come back to them. It was in this city that the very fabric of being was permanently changed. It was where he had been bitten by an enigmatic crocodile shark, and made to suffer consequences far greater than the immediate physical pain. The shark had implanted something terrible within him, something José had fought very hard to control and suppress. For years, he had succeeded. Even in his lowest moments, he had kept his darkest instincts at bay. Now, something had changed. Something had happened to him that was tipping the scales in the shark's favor. Something that had brought him back here, after decades away. That something was football management.

It was a mistake from the beginning. José's family, having known about his condition for years, but not its origin, warned him strongly against taking up a management job, reasoning that the position would put unnecessary stress upon him that could trigger a relapse. José would insist, however, as he didn't want his football career to end. Playing the game had given him so much purpose and positive energy that he was more worried about things going wrong if he didn't stay involved in the game. So he took the job at Primera Division side Aldosivi- one of his former clubs- based in the seaside city of Mar del Plata. Managing a top-tier team as your first job isn't usually a good idea, and José found that out the hard way. The first season was decent, as they finished 20th place out of 30. Nothing special, but it went about as well as he could have expected. But the dreaded "second-season syndrome" made itself known the next year, and Aldosivi went on an awful run of form that led to José's sacking shortly after the new year, for a combination of the results, poor club morale, and a series of bizarre, threatening Twitter screeds under the name of "Ernesto 'Che' Tiburón" that were discovered to be his. Since then, he had been struggling to cope with his emotions. Part of him felt freed from a stressful endeavor, but the other part of him was bitter and vengeful. He was now in the sort of limbo he was worried about before he took the job. In the month since he had been fired, he had already lost a lot more than his employment. His apartment, which he could no longer realistically afford. His girlfriend, who he had hit in a mental lapse during an argument about finances. His Lamborghini Huracan, which he had totalled while taking a joyride on the NR3. Even his Versace tiger tuxedo- which had set him back 150,000 pesos- was gone, stolen while he was out on the lash. Worst of all, he was losing something far more important: his internal stability. He could feel things changing, in a way they hadn't changed since he was bitten. As he walked down the street, the few people he saw didn't look like people anymore. They were like poorly-rendered holograms, flickering in and out of his vision. It took a lot of strength to stay focused and keep walking. Any failure to do that, and there was no telling what the shark could do.

When he reaches his destination, a bar on the outskirts of the city, he can't help but shake his head. It was a total dive. A ****hole. A herpes trap. He couldn't believe he was about to step foot in it, but that's exactly what he did. As he opens the door, the dark, smoky rhythm of Snake Eyes' 'Trouble' comes to his ears. There were only a few people- or rather holograms for José- left in the taproom. That made sense. It was 2:42 AM, with the doors set to close at 3:00, and this was no in-demand bar. They were blurry to his eyes, but José could tell what sort of people were left at this hour. Chopper-riding, drug-addicted, possibly criminal degenerates, smoking up a storm and drinking without any restraint. But he had nothing to fear from them. He walks up to the counter and sits down right in the middle of two of them, both tattooed behemoths with enormous cigars in their mouths. José knew they were giving him unsavory looks, but he couldn't see and didn't care. They would learn a lesson if they tried to give him any trouble. He orders a drink, a Cuervo, from the bartender, and takes it down in a gulp. Then another. And another. After his third, he asks the bartender a question. He didn't come here just to drink. He was looking for someone. The bartender points him to an open door back by the jukebox. José thanks him, then heads over to the door. Beyond the entrance is a rickety set of stairs, leading down to the basement. He slowly descends them, taking care not to fall. The lower he goes, the darker it gets. By the time he's at the bottom, he can hardly see his own hands in front of his face. He moves one hand over to the nearest wall, looking for a light switch. Instead, he finds spider webs and something wet. Pulling his hand back, he takes his phone out and activates the flashlight. He pans it around the basement, revealing shelves of filled boxes, cases of liquor, and in the far left corner, what looked like a mattress. He walks towards it, and finds the living space of someone who was clearly in dire straits. There was the mattress itself, which was filthy, soggy, and likely infested with vermin. There were dozens of empty, broken bottles on the floor, as well as bags of junk food. There was a bong, cigarette packs, and needles strewn across the top of a tiny nightstand. Beneath those were dirty magazines, cash, and an old revolver. This was a stereotypical scene, like something you'd see in any junkie's "bedroom". What set this disgusting corner apart from the other disgusting corners, though, was the speaker and electric guitar next to the nightstand. Unlike everything else, these were in great shape. They looked so out of place that José figured they must have been stolen. He reaches over to pick up the guitar. It was red and black, with jagged edges that looked as if they'd been sharpened at the grindstone. Just as he strums his first note, the lights turn on. He hadn't heard anyone coming down the stairs, but José turns around to the sight of the person he was here for. Unlike everyone else that night, this person was someone he could see crystal-clear. Indeed, after over twenty years apart, this person he saw was Zezé Santiago.

He looks horrible. There are scars all over his once child-like face. His jet-black hair was now more like salt and pepper. It's also wild and long, stretching halfway down his back in a frizzy mess. His beard is equally unkempt- it wasn't far off Duck Dynasty level. He's thin to a ghastly degree, and José can perceive a slight twitch in his arms, legs, and neck. Though he had seen Zezé at some rather low points before they grew apart, he could never have expected him to sink this far down.
"Oh my god." The words rolled slowly off Zezé's tongue.
"I should say the same."
"I thought you would never come back."
"I didn't want to."
"Why are you here, then?"
"Nowhere else to go."
Zezé stops for a few moments, thinking of what he wants to say.
"How did you find me?"
"Asked around. Took some work."
"Well... I wish you hadn't found me like this."
"Yeah, this is pretty bad, Zezé."
"I know. But this is the best I can do."
"********. It's not. You're what, 43 years old? You should be doing a lot better than this."
Zezé doesn't respond to that.
"Come on, let's talk. Not in this bar." José continues. "I don't want to spend another second in here."
Zezé remains taciturn, but gently nods his head in agreement. The two wounded companions slowly walk up the stairs, and leave the herpes trap just as it is about to snap shut. Both of them wished they'd never have to come back.

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"Do you understand, Zezé?"
"I do."
"Good. I'll see you in a few days."
José and Zezé part ways. They had spent the past two hours catching up on a park bench in the Plaza 9 de Julio park, which was normally a tourist trap in the daytime, but was quiet and peaceful in the wee hours of the morning, as it was now. Neither of them held back when telling their stories. They poured out all their elations and frustrations over the past twenty years. Although their lives had taken remarkably different paths since then, there was still a lot of common ground between them at that moment. They had both been broken down by the system. They were both wayward and aimless. At the moment, neither had anywhere other than Salta to go. José, however, was the only one determined to change that. Ever since he had stepped foot in Salta, he had been forming a plan... or rather, a part of him had been forming it. If he wanted to get out of this arid hellscape again, the shark reasoned, he would have to burn it to the ground. Though he had the power to do just about anything on his own, José needed Zezé by his side. Each side of him had their own reason why. For the José that had previously existed, he wanted to help his friend out of his plight. To break him out of the cycle of drugs, desperation, and poverty, even though he was responsible for his descent into it. To get him back on his feet, and see him become the great friend and big brother figure he used to be once more. The other José had less noble intentions. He doubted that they would be caught, but if they were, Zezé would have to be the one to take the fall. Through some online research, José had found a lengthy arrest record in Zezé's name. They were all relatively minor transgressions: loitering, trespassing, petty larceny, drug charges, physical altercations. That was good. It would be easier for him to graduate to bigger things. Much easier.

Both Josés had had to think about what exactly "burn it to the ground" would mean in relation to Salta. Actual burning wouldn't make much sense; the city was already hot as hell. No, what needed to happen was retribution. Taking back from a city that had taken so much. One that destroyed his best friend. One that would have destroyed him in the past if he had stayed, and would do the same now if he wasted any time getting out. The first step of that journey? Robbing that bastard Benito for everything he had.
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Midnight. February 13, 2018.

The most curious thing about a desert is how cold it gets at night. What had been a suffocating pressure cooker of heat earlier in the day had become a bone-chilling black mass once the sun went down, seeing the residents of Salta exchange their air conditioners and short sleeves for sweaters and blankets. The desert is indeed where Benito's Crocodile Ranch is located now, as the area it had once called home on the edge of the city had grown up, driving up rent prices and forcing Benito out into the mountains. That was all well and good for his soon-to-be assailants; there would be no witnesses. As he drives his father's 1973 Ford F100 pickup towards the ranch, José starts to feel an impending sense of dread. Was he really ready to step foot in this place- the place where he had been forever scarred- again? Even if it wasn't in the same physical location as before, it was going to be mighty difficult to persevere through the trauma that would inevitably be returning to him. When he looked to his side, though, he knew his answer was yes. He had gone too far to quit. Any pain he would feel at the ranch would be erased by the pleasure of tearing it down. Zezé, wearing all-black clothing and a balaclava, was sat in the passenger seat, brandishing his fearsome guitar as a potentially deadly weapon. He had his real deadly weapon, too, the good lad. José remembers his purposes for bringing him along, and presses harder on the gas pedal. Time to do this.

The truck rolls to a stop on the side of the empty RN51 highway, about a hundred meters south of its destination. José, sporting a thick black leather jacket that served as a winter coat but requiring nothing in his hands to assist him apart from a large bag, cuts the ignition and hops out, with Zezé following. They advance forward in the silent darkness, with only their condensed breath and a faint multicolored light emanating from up the road visible to their eyes. The light becomes brighter as they approach, revealing a brash neon sign indicating that they had indeed arrived at Benito's Crocodile Ranch. José doesn't bother to look at it, but Zezé is entranced by it. He lingers beneath it, the sign casting bright hues of yellow, green, and orange upon his face. He looked like he was in a desert version of Tokyo. José, who had zero patience for dilly-dallying or sentiment, barks out an order to keep moving, and Zezé somewhat reluctantly shuffles forward. The driveway was a long dirt road, extending deep into a valley between two barren peaks rising up on either side of it. A common observer would probably consider this an eerie scene. Nothing about this was hospitable. But José was no common observer; he felt nothing apart from his hunger for revenge. At the end of the driveway are three small pueblo-style buildings, large empty cages, and the enclosure, a massive windowless dome with only one door in or out. It looked the exact same as it used to; one thing you couldn't call Benito was inconsistent. This fact was concurrently acknowledged by Zezé, who pointed at the farthest of the three buildings and mumbled "Office".
"That's where I'm going, Zezé. Do you remember where you're going?"
"Yeah."
"Good. Be careful now. Stick to the plan and we'll be fine."
"Alright."
With that, José and Zezé separate, the former moving briskly towards the dimly-lit office and the latter slowly pacing towards the enclosure. José could sense a bit of hesitation and uncertainty on Zezé's part, but he wasn't worried. This was just a trial run of sorts. If Zezé did what was required of him, that was all well and good. If he didn't, José knew plenty of ways to make him.

A snap of a door handle later, and José was in the office. It too was exactly how he remembered it. Along the hardened adobe walls hung all sorts of traditional Argentine items, from a quena flute to ponchos to a pato ring. José was quite sure Benito had never used these things; he just showed them to impress the minuscule number of guests he had. There were also numerous crocodile skulls, skins, and stuffed heads all over the place. Years ago, this office had unsettled José. Now, he had nothing to fear from it. He hoists himself over the tiny "reception" table, and advances toward the doorway behind it, which guarded Benito's personal quarters. He knew Benito had heard him and was waiting for him, but that wasn't of concern. He had no need for stealth; his powers ensured brute force was all that was required. As soon as he breaks his second door handle of the evening and barges into the adjacent room, his former employer lunges at him from the side with a gaucho's facón dagger. But José had already eliminated the danger. Benito's outstretched arm stays in place, all its impetus dispelled. José grabs the blade out of his hand and smashes it into pieces with his feet. It is now that a visibly flabbergasted Benito begins to recognize his burglar. The shock he felt at having his motion suspended now mixes with disbelief and anger as he processed the fact that he was under siege by one of his former employees. More specifically, it was 'la pequeña perra', to whom he had always delegated the most dangerous and disgusting of tasks. He tried to vocalize this, but he couldn't. José had shut him down and shut him up. He is the one to speak instead.
"It's nice to see you too, Benito. I bet you never expected to see your... tell me, what was the nickname again?"
He looks at Benito, mocking his inability to give a response.
"Ah, of course. It was 'la pequeña perra'. Wonder who that is now, huh?"
Another self-indulgent glance at Benito, followed by a chuckle.
"I can do anything I want to you, you know. Or don't you? I suppose you never found out what happened after that hideous creature ****ed up my face. Well, it ****ed up more than that, actually. It molded part of me in its image. I suffered in silence for years, but guess what? I overcame it. I banished that shark to the deepest depths of hell. But it's come back now, and I've had to start asking questions. And the one I kept coming back to, and the one that's brought me to this landfill you pass off as a business, is simple: if the shark is back, and I'm done trying to stop it, why don't I try it out? This thing gives me power. I have abilities- or talents, as I prefer to call them- that one could only dream of. Why don't I use them? This life has taken so much from me, so why don't I start taking back? I've answered all these questions, Benito, and I've decided that it's only right to bring it back to where it all started. You're the one who created this. You were an awful boss. You were more like a dictator, really, making me clean crocodile **** and trim your goddamn hedges day and night, when you knew damn well that my family needed me at home. Whenever something wasn't to your utmost satisfaction, you beat and humiliated Zezé and I, just like with your wife and children. Thank god they got out of Salta before you made it their resting place. And of course, to top it all off, you're the one responsible for that shark coming here and biting me. Now, out of the kindness of my heart, I used to forgive you for ruining my life, but the shark thinks differently. He's not just a part of me anymore. We are one and the same, and I ****ing love it."
Just then, alarms start to blare outside. And not just any alarms. The alarms. The ones that Benito prayed would never go off. His eyes widen to a level only seen in those at peak levels of human terror. If he could speak, he would be begging for mercy. But there was none to be found here.
 José was exceedingly proud of Zezé for having done his job, but he was also a tad bit disappointed. He had wanted to rant for just a little bit longer. It was time to leave now, but not before he gave the poor bastard his parting words.
"Ah, I forgot to mention I wasn't alone. Zezé's here too, and he's done exactly what's been asked of him. We'll be leaving now, but you won't. You're going to have other company instead. I can't imagine you've treated the crocodiles too well over the years. Something tells me they'll have more than a few grievances to air with you."
José guffaws violently, then says, "Goodbye, Benito."
He unleashes a swift strike to the old man's temple, then releases him from his hold. He drops to the floor, unconscious. Before leaving, he finds the safe underneath Benito's bed, forces it open, and takes Benito's money, jewels, and flintlock pistol- his only other means of self-defense- putting them in the bag. As soon as he comes out of the building, the alarms grow louder to his ears. Thank goodness there was no one else around to hear them. The enclosure was engulfed in red light, the single door open. Reptiles were pouring out, scattering in all directions. José was confident that at least a few of them were hungry and would come to the office for a meal before escaping to the freedom of the Río Rosario. His work- the only work he had ever enjoyed in this place- complete, he leaves the ranch for what would be the final time. Oh boy, did that feel good.

Having followed his instructions perfectly, Zezé was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck when José returned to it. However, one glance inside indicates that Zezé, had not, in fact, completely followed instructions. He wasn't instructed to steal anything- that was José's job- but he had what appeared to be two garments draped over his legs. José opens the driver's door, hops in, then shuts it, placing the bag of valuables by his feet. He takes a few moments before speaking.
"Zezé?"
"Yes?"
"What do you have there? I told you not to take anything."

José glances over at his friend. He expected Zezé to be afraid, but the look on his face seemed assured that he had done the right thing.
"I know... but you said you were taking valuable things. I found these in a storage closet in the enclosure, and I thought they might be valuable to us."
José disagrees, shaking his head and raising his voice.
"What are you talking about? They're clothes, right? Why the **** do we need clothes?"
"Not just any clothes. They're costumes."
"Costumes? For what?"
"Well, I'm not exactly sure why Benito had them... but they're of a shark and a crocodile. I thought we could use some disguises for future jobs... you know, the ones with more... risk attached."
It wasn't a bad idea, José thought. It couldn't hurt to add an extra layer of protection, no matter how assured he was of his 'talents'. Plus, having an air of mystery would serve them well once they were further along in the shark's plans. Once they were out of Salta, most likely.
"Alright, show me what they look like."
Zezé unfurls them and holds them up, revealing a grey shark with a mischievous grin and terrifying beady black eyes, and a green-and-yellow crocodile with dozens of jagged, nasty teeth and the signature slit eyes.
"Hmm... the shark needs a paint job. But it's not a bad idea, Zezé. You've gone above and beyond here. I'm really ****ing proud of you."
Zezé smiles beneath the balaclava, provoking a laugh from his (now literal) partner in crime.
"Take that thing off! You look ridiculous!"
"Should've told me that earlier, amigo!"
They're both laughing now, as José starts the truck and they begin to drive off into the cold night. Tonight's job was done, but their new journey was just beginning.

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May 2018.

Three months later, and José and Zezé had conquered Salta, just as planned. The amount of jobs, as well as their income, had ballooned quickly. After Benito's demise was confirmed by a gruesome account in the newspapers the next week, they went from robbing stores and small homes to banks and mansions. They had been shot at and nearly caught numerous times, but they only saw these as thrills, and as reasons to keep going. They were unstoppable, and every thug and cop in the city knew it. They had too much talent... they were the talent men. That was what they were called now, and José's name was no longer José when he was 'working'. It was Che, after his fake Twitter profile at Aldosivi, and of course the Latin hero himself. The costumes had worked well; they had created a brand of sorts, that everyone in Salta knew to respect. Che had painted his once-grey shark green and yellow, both to match Zezé, and because they were Aldosivi's colors. As painful as his sacking there had been, he couldn't betray them in his heart. In fact, he was ready to continue his football career... in a different way. He and Zezé's immense reputation in Salta had already carried outside of the city and country. In international criminal circles, they were like wonderkids... or maybe world class late bloomers, considering they were actually in their early forties. The kinds of offers they had received were truly exciting. They had been tipped to join heist crews and other powerful gangs in London, Paris, São Paulo, Mexico City, Tokyo, New York, and LA. But one special offer stood taller than all of those. They had received a call from a man named Mr. X, who claimed to be a close confidante of Hans Kaiser, bald maniac and Borussia Dortmund manager. According to X, Kaiser wanted someone who could help them 'Visigoth' their rivals, in a totally literal sense. After doing some research on the tribesmen who sacked Rome, the talent men decided that they had sufficient talent for such a job, and they accepted the offer. They would require hefty pay, of course- some of the things those Visigoths did were downright nasty- but they were ready to take the huge step up. To skip rungs on the ladder of criminal enterprise, and head straight to the top. They were going to become legends- no, gods- under the glorious Kaiser, whose ambition and eccentricity was exactly what they were looking for in a boss. When the time came to leave Salta and head to Germany to set up shop and meet their new commander, José felt nothing but a sense of triumph. He had beaten Salta. He had made it his *****, to be precise. And now he was going to leave it and never, ever come back. He had achieved his goals in no time, and with a swaggering ease. He had bought back everything he lost, including the car and tuxedo, he had broken Zezé out of his destitution, and personally, he was happier than he had ever been. And all he had needed to do was lean into the shark. To tap into its power, and let it take control. The old José was now buried in the same cerebral pit that the shark had been marinating in for twenty-five years, and he had no chance of coming out any time soon. It was time for the new José, or Che, as the shark preferred, to shine. The talent men's heads were shaved, and their tandem chants of "Baldness Über Alles" and "Los! Los! Los!" had been mastered. Revolution time, amigos.


This concludes the "Salta, Argentina" trilogy.

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Posted (edited)

Das Ende
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Yes, after 22 months of bald fraudulence, the end has come. Last fall, I promised that Hans Kaiser and company would receive a proper ending to their stories. Now, many months later, I am finally here to fulfill that promise. I hope the long wait has treated you well, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy this epic (and very fraudulent) conclusion to Hans Kaiser- Baldness Über Alles
Los! Los! Los!
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Image result for interpol logo

EMAIL TRANSCRIPTS
Timestamp: 27 May 2022. 7:31 CET.
From: Jürgen Stock, Secretary General
To: Meng Hongwei, President
Subject: The Convergence
-

Image result for it's happening gif
-

Timestamp: 27 May 2022. 7:54 CET.
From: Meng Hongwei, President
To: Jürgen Stock, Secretary General
Subject: RE: The Convergence

-
Yes, Jürgen, it is indeed "happening". Our agent is in the field, ready to strike. We have been waiting years for this. It is time to get it done.

P.S. If you ever use that GIF again, I'm sending you back to Europol!
-

Timestamp: 27 May 2022. 8:01 CET.
From: Jürgen Stock, Secretary General
To: Meng Hongwei, President
Subject: RE: RE: The Convergence
-

I'm sorry, sir. I apologize for my lack of professionalism. Please don't send me back to Europol.
-

END DOCUMENT

Edited by oriole01

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Posted (edited)

Drei
IMG-20190311-WA0011.jpg.4cb094f05511749d6f2698d47c78d473.jpg Image result for red laser
“In conclusion, my time in this beautiful city has been challenging yet thoroughly enjoyable, brief yet unforgettable. It was a great decision to come to this place, but unfortunately, I have decided that I must leave it, for many reasons which I do not feel ready to discuss right now. I hereby resign my position as Club Brugge manager, effective immediately. Thank you, and good night.”
That was it. The words had been said, and Hans was ready to go. He knew the media and fans weren’t expecting him to resign, and as soon as he stood up out of his chair, dozens of cameras clicked, voices chattered, and questions presented themselves. Hans wasn’t interested in the slightest, so he started walking towards the exits, where his car would be waiting to drive home. However, the chairman quickly moves in front of him, blocking his path. Hans thinks he’s just going to give him a parting handshake or hug, but for some reason, the old man’s hands were trembling, an action he was unsuccessfully trying to conceal. He accidentally drops his microphone on the ground, and as he picks it up, his entire body begins to shake.
“H-h-h-hold on there, Mr. Kaiser! We’d like you to… to s-s-s-stay for the un-v-v-v-veiling of our new m-m-manager.”
New manager? What? Hans had only notified the club of his resignation the previous night, just hours after the final whistle of the Lokeren match. There was no way they could have hired a new manager in that time. Something felt off, a feeling which was accentuated by whatever the hell was causing the chairman to sound like a broken Speak and Spell. “I’d really rather not, sir. I’m eager to move on.”
“P-please. I i-insist.” The chairman extends his arms out from his sides, walking towards Hans as if to shepherd him back to the stage.
“Okay…”
“Please, take your s-seat again.”
Hans reluctantly complies. He wanted nothing more than to leave now, but he wasn’t trying to cause yet another scene in what would likely be his last public appearance for a long time. He would just have to take one for the team here. The chairman then turns back to the audience and speaks again.
“L-ladies and g-g-g-gentlemen, p-p-please welcome your new Club Brugge m-m-m-manager, S-S-Slavomir H-H-Horny!”
This had to be a joke, Hans thought. Slavomir Horny? Was that even a real name? It sounds like a Czech **** star’s name, not one of a football manager. But surely enough, a middle-aged man by that name enters the room, grinning from ear to ear and waving to the crowd. Immediately Hans and everyone else notice how huge the man is. He’s nearly seven feet tall, with the body of a bull and the facial features of a cliff face. His footsteps echo throughout the room, making his presence even more imposing. He takes his place next to the chairman, who reaches up to put his twitching arm around his shoulder.
“I acknowledge s-some of you may not have h-heard of Mr. H-Horny before, b-but t-trust me, he is the r-r-right person for the job. He has l-led AS Trenčín to an appearance in the Europa League k-knockout stages, and m-most recently he has been the m-m-manager of the S-Slovak national team with g-great success! We couldn’t be more h-h-h-honored to have him as our new m-m-man.”
“And I could not be more honored myself to manage this great club!” Slavomir’s voice booms. “Let’s not forget, though, that I’m replacing a great manager whom I personally look up to. Bring it in, Hans!”
Horny turns back towards Hans, gesturing for him to come to the front of the stage. Though internally fuming that he was already being replaced without notice and being forced to take part in the new man’s coronation, Hans sucks it up and reluctantly walks towards the two men up front. Now standing between Slavomir and the chairman, he looks at the audience, who have perplexed looks on their faces. They hadn’t seen anything like this before. What happened next definitely wasn’t something they’d seen before either.
“One m-more r-round of applause for this man before he d-d-departs!”
The audience claps softly. The new manager sticks out his enormous hand to shake the old one’s, which Hans halfheartedly accepts. He’s got a vice-like grip, and it stings. As soon as the clapping dies down, Hans tries to pull back, but Slavomir wasn’t letting go. “Why isn’t he letting go of my hand?” Hans thought. “He’s not… horny, is he?”
He looks up into the eyes of the mountain of a man before him. They no longer look warm and friendly, instead they’re cold and emotionless. The next thing Hans knows, he’s on the floor, his hands pinned behind his back. He hears the sound of jangling metal behind him, which he could only assume were coming from handcuffs. He’s correct. The cuffs click into place around his wrists as Slavomir begins to speak.
“Hans Gerhard Kaiser, on behalf of Belgian Federal Police, BPOL, and Interpol, I am placing you under arrest for conspiracy to commit terrorism and more importantly, footballing fraudulence. You will have the option to be tried by a jury of your peers upon your extradition to Germany. You're going to come with me now. Thank you, Mr. Verhaeghe, for your cooperation."
As the undercover agent hauls Hans up to his feet, the now-disgraced manager looks at his former chairman in dismay. The meek frown on the old man's face suggests he feels sorry for him.
"I'm s-s-so s-s-sorry, Hans. I didn't h-have m-much of a c-c-c-choice. I'm g-g-going to lie d-d-down now." He promptly exits the room, leaving just Hans, Slavomir, and the crowd of journalists, who are both utterly stunned and utterly delighted at the same time. If just the news of Hans resigning was enough to crank out the headlines before, then this would surely make them all rich now. The sheer amount of cameras flashing are a nightmare for Hans' eyes, but the barrage of white light is shattered by two blazing beams of red, which illuminate his captor's face like Rudolph in a darkroom. Slavomir, however, is preoccupied with something on his phone, and doesn't notice. Through squinted eyes, Hans follows the red lights upward until he identifies their origin. In the center of the room, there has been a small hole cut in the ceiling, from which the two red lights and two accompanying black objects were sticking out of. It only took Hans a few seconds to understand what was happening. Though he hardly believed it, he knew what he had to do next. Immediately, he repositions himself to face his captor, who he could now see was texting one of his colleagues on his phone.
"Erm… Mr. Horny." He intones quietly, trying not to panic. Slavomir's eyes shift down to him in annoyance.
"What is it?"
"Please look up, slowly."
"And why would I do that?"
"Because you have two snipers zeroed in on your head right now."
Slavomir lowers the phone to his waist, and Hans watches as his eyes pan up to the ceiling. They widen considerably as he does, and the phone drops straight to the floor, right next to Hans’ feet. He frantically waves his arms in the air, crossing them like an air traffic controller directing a plane to stop. His efforts have no effect. Two wicked cracks slice through the air, and the human sequoia is felled to the floor, twin bullet wounds in his forehead. The crowd erupts in horrified screams, everyone scrambling for the exits. Hans, in shock and already reliving the memory of his brush with death in the mine shafts of Gelsenkirchen, sinks to the floor, hands on his head. It couldn’t be happening again, could it? His past life had reared its ugly head once more, just when he thought he was about to get as far away from it as possible. He didn’t want to believe it was happening, but the dead Interpol agent lying next to him suggested otherwise. At least, that was what he was led to believe until he looked at the phone screen in front of him. He had noticed Slavomir texting someone before he was shot. That someone was not who Hans expected. At the top of the screen, the name “Ursa Miner (2.0)” appears, accompanied by a picture of a man in a bear costume. He begins to read the correspondence, which is in heavily coded terms, but he doesn’t get to finish. He’s interrupted by two men standing before him, the same two men who had personally assured him they would never cross paths again. The talent men never were good at keeping promises, though.
“Hello, Mr. Kaiser.” Che greets him gleefully. “We’re here to take you home.”
Zezé’s guitar smashes across his head in a flash, and a familiar darkness arrives yet again.

Edited by oriole01

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Vier
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9:15 PM.
Brendan and Colin weren’t going to waste any time counting their lucky stars. Somehow, they had come out of the Breydelstadion alive. They were just as shocked as anyone when the massive Interpol agent named Horny showed up on the stage, but they were a million times thankful for his presence. Slavomir’s appearance and subsequent murder was the perfect distraction they needed to get the hell out the press room that would certainly have been the site of their demise had things gone a different way. Simply following the panicked crowd out the door, they had burst onto the streets of Bruges in desperate need of a way out and short on good ideas how. They didn’t have much time until the talent men would come in search of them, but they had enough to get on the same page and come up with a plan of action. They were going to have to get as far away from Bruges as quickly as possible, and the only viable way to do that was to catch a train out of the country. They had made their way by taxi to the train station less than five kilometers away and bought two tickets to London on a train that they had to sprint through the entire station complex to catch in time. It had been only twenty minutes since they left the stadium, but it had felt like hours. Now, finally in a position where they could afford to take a few breaths, the two fugitives find themselves unable to do anything other than talk to each other. They were truly all each other had left.
“I just can’t believe it.” Colin remarks solemnly. “After all we’ve done… it just doesn’t make sense.”
“Listen lad, I’m not going to try to get inside the boss’ head. After that last conversation… Christ above, I don’t think I want to. He’s changed, that’s for certain. He wasn’t always this way. The boss I once knew never would’ve hired those freaks in the first place, much less try to send his most loyal charges to a farm in the country in favor of them. All we can do now is fight for ourselves, I’m afraid.”
“What are we gonna do when we get off this train, Brendan?”
“Well, I might have some connections in London. Old friends, old colleagues, the like. If we can get the right people around us, by the time they find us again, we’ll be prepared to take them down.”
“Mate… how the **** are we going to take them down? You said it yourself back when we first got here… they’re unstoppable.”
“I never said they were unstoppable, Colin. I don’t wish to believe our universe has given that kind of power to anyone but God himself. Hell, I might be wrong, who really knows? But we’re going to have to try.”
“Yeah,” Colin mutters, “We’ll just have to try.”
A few silent moments pass. Brendan rests his head against the cabin window, watching as the cityscape recedes further below the horizon as the train zips along the track.
“Listen, Colin.”
Their eyes lock once more, Colin’s thick black eyebrows raised in anticipation.
“Yeah?”
“I just want you to know… I’m thankful I’ve got you by my side, mate. I…I don't know what I’d do without ya.”
“Oh, mate.”
Colin wasn’t one to show emotion too often, but Brendan can already see the tears forming in his eyes. He turns his face away, attempting to wipe them off.
“When I look at you, lad, I’m reminded of my own son. At least, what he was like before he passed. I know we’re just supposed to be partners, but I can’t help but look out for you, just like I tried to do for him. I want you to get out of this life, Colin. You’ve got too much ahead of you to die this young. So when I was talking to the boss on the phone, I… I begged him to take my life instead of yours. I would gladly give it up if it meant you got to take your own path, to be free, to have a good life, have things I never had. I tried to tell him these things, but he wouldn’t listen.”
“You didn’t have to do that, Brendan.”
“I didn’t, but I wanted to. It’s been an honor to work with you, Colin, and I’m glad it’s going to continue. We’re going to do this together.”
“It’s been an honor to work with you, too, Brendan. This train could derail right now and I’d be happy knowing we’d be going together.”
He shouldn’t have said that. The next thing they hear is the screeching of the train’s brakes, followed by a loud snap. Suddenly, they’re thrown out of their seats and across the cabin, smashing into the walls. That was only the beginning of it. The train still moving at high velocity, it shoots through a field adjacent to the tracks and rolls over several times before it crashes into the Gent-Bruges canal, hurling both of them through windows and into the water. He really, really shouldn’t have said that.
Brendan emerges from the murky water, his lungs imploring air. When he regains his breath, he calls out into the darkness, searching for his partner.
“Colin!”
“Brendan! Help me!”
“Where are you!?”
He doesn’t get a response back. He swims urgently forward, taking his chances that this was the right way. He can’t see anything; all the lights on the train must have gone out during the crash. After swimming a few meters, he hears something break through the water. He reaches his hand out and meets it. It’s Colin. He pulls hard, and the young man’s head and neck come up through the water.
“Brendan…” He coughs violently, dirty water flying out of his mouth.
“Don’t say anything, Colin. I’m gonna get you out of here.”
Grabbing hold of his friend, Brendan labors towards the shore slowly but surely. He was never much of a swimmer, but the situation assured he did everything right. The water gets progressively shallower as they approach the edge, where Brendan heaves Colin up over a wall and onto the grass above the canal. Colin, still coughing and sputtering, lies flat on his back, exhausted. Brendan follows him up and collapses next to him. After a few minutes, they’re able to sit up. They still can’t see anything in the water; it’s too dark and there was nothing to illuminate it.
“Brendan, I was trying to tell you something in the water.”
“What’s that?”
“Before the crash… I saw red lights outside.”
Brendan raises his hands to his head and presses his fingers against his forehead.
“Are you saying…”
“Yeah, I am.”
“No, they couldn’t have. This is just one awful stroke of luck.”
“It is not. And we did.” A third voice interjects. The risk managers turn around to find their replacements standing behind them. Those same red lights that had haunted them all night shone brightly, blazing out from the talent men’s eyes.
“Ah, feck.” Brendan gets out before he’s smacked upside the head by Zezé’s guitar. He falls to the grass, groaning in pain before Che shuts him up.
“You bastard!” Colin yells, jolting up to his feet and drawing his gun before Che quite literally puts him in his place and begins to speak.
“Now, I think it would be much better if train crash killed you both. Quicker, faster, less mess. Unfortunately, Mr. Colin, you and Mr. Potato Head survived. Not for first time tonight either. You are quite annoying, Mr. Colin. You will not accept the fate we so kindly bring to you. So I regret to inform you that this is personal.”
He produces a Mini-Uzi machine pistol, aiming it straight at Colin’s motionless head. But then his phone rings, and he lowers the gun slightly.
"Quién es, Zezé?”
“El jefe, amigo.”
Che produces the phone from the shark costume’s back pocket with his free hand and brings it up to his ear.
“Hello, boss.”
“Yes, they are right here.”
“I see.”
“I will.”
He puts the phone away, then leans in to Zezé’s ear and relays the conversation through a Latin whisper. He turns back to his would-be victims.
“You are two lucky leprechauns. The boss change his mind. You’re coming with us now.”
Colin can tell Che was extremely disappointed to make that announcement. Zezé confiscates both their weapons, then Che frees them from his cerebral hold. They start walking through the field, which was empty save for burning scraps of metal. As they walk, a faint white light in the distance becomes increasingly less faint and distant. It’s a black van, parked on the side of an empty farm road. The talent men had picked the perfect place to crash the train; there was no one around to see them. Zezé slides open the van’s side door, forcing Brendan and Colin in at gunpoint. The door slides shut, and the van starts to move into the night. It’s very dark in the windowless rear of the van, but the risk managers can sense they aren’t alone. Colin reaches his hand out to his left side and feels the shoulder of another person next to him. He moves his hand up to where their face should be, but in place of that is a burlap sack. Colin finds the bottom of the sack and slowly pulls it up to reveal their fellow captive’s face. Immediately, he regrets that decision. It’s an unconscious, heavily bruised Hans Kaiser.
“Ah, feck.” Brendan mumbles for the second time that night.

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Sieben
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The Belfry of Bruges. 11:25 PM.
The man in the bell tower watches as the smoke from his cigar drifts away into the warm night air, hanging in suspension over the brown roofs of Bruges’ medieval buildings before it disappears. Carlo Ancelotti was very much wishing he could disappear with it. He tosses the cigar to the stone floor beneath him, stomping it with unnecessary force to snuff it out. Not far from the crushed stogie lie the remains of Carlo’s cellphone, destroyed in a similar manner shortly after Rui Vitoria’s call informing him of his plan’s collapse. Looking back out upon the quiet cityscape below him, he contemplates exactly how things had gone wrong. His plan was supposed to be executed swiftly and simply, with no complications. The talent men were to kidnap Hans at the end of his speech, put him in a van that would go the airport, where a hired plane would have flown him to Bayern and Schalke’s joint base in Parc National des Virunga, the same place in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo where Hans had been held as a prisoner nearly 25 years before. Together, they had spent two years and millions of euros constructing a massive prison where Kaiser would spend the rest of his life, as a final retaliation for all the trouble he had caused. The idea of Hans leaving football wasn't satisfying enough for Carlo; he didn't deserve a moment's happiness again, on a pitch or off it. He needed to be completely destroyed. In his mind, his plan represented a perfect justice, which would ensure he would never have to worry about the bald one ever again.
But thanks to a misunderstanding, bad luck, and a clash of Bayern and Schalke’s pride and egos, absolutely nothing had gone to plan. It was a Challenger disaster of a plot; it had all blown up in spectacular fashion, before it could even really get off the ground. Everyone Carlo had depended on had either failed him or turned on him, even the two men who had never once failed before. He wanted to be enraged, to take out his frustration and sense of failure on something, anything at all, really. But there was nothing left for him to punish; everything had already been lost. So now, alone near the top of an 83-meter-high tower, Carlo simply stands and watches the night slowly roll on, unable to think of any other course of action. At least it was a beautiful, peaceful night, he thought. That couldn’t be taken from him, right?
It could. Carlo tries not to process the sounds he hears next, to numb his brain to them, but they persist nonetheless. After a few moments, he allows himself to fully accept what they were, and what they meant for him. The blaring of sirens grow ever louder and closer to Carlo, up until the point where he can see almost a dozen police vehicles emerging from the streets below. Cars, SUVs, and vans squeal to a halt in the market square, hordes of officers pouring out of them and forming a uniformed phalanx at the bottom of the tower. They too must have received word of the talent men’s demise, and had come to clean up the scraps. Carlo can see a megaphone pass through the crowd of officers to one in the front, who must have been their captain. The man switches it on and speaks.
“Carlo Ancelotti, this is the Belgian Federal Police speaking! We order that you come down from this tower at once and surrender! If you do not comply within five minutes, we will send a team of armed officers up to arrest you on the spot! It’s a long climb, so we’d very much prefer that that doesn’t happen! Do you understand?”
“Of course, officers! I’ll be headed right down!” Carlo raises his voice in response.
“Thank you very much!”
Carlo smirks. These cops were pansies, just like any other in Western Europe. They weren’t going to be prepared for what would happen next. He had already made up his mind on what that was going to be; he had decided as soon as the police had arrived. There was no chance in hell a man of his pedigree, a man of his class, a man of his immense winning reputation, could go to prison for his actions. It simply wasn’t an option. That left only one option on the table, one that most people would be terrified to take, but not Carlo Ancelotti. He was never one to hesitate to do what he needed to do, and he wasn’t going to start now. He steps away from the belfry’s open window and removes his grey pinstripe suit and matching fedora. Taking them off reminds him of how differently the night could have gone; he was planning to dine in the Congo that night in those clothes, preferably with Hans Kaiser tied to a chair on the opposite side. The Congo was where this was all supposed to end. Instead, the end had come in the land of its former colonizer. The irony wasn’t lost on Carlo, but he wasn’t worried about anything other than what he felt he had to do. Now stripped down to an untucked white dress shirt and grey slacks, Carlo returns to the window and calls out once more to the square below, “I’m coming down now!”
There was no response from the police this time. That was fine, Carlo reasoned. They were about to have a lot to respond to. With that, he steps up onto the window ledge, takes a deep breath, and jumps.
Carlo didn’t want his eyes to open. He had taken a quite extreme measure to ensure that they never would again, and yet, infuriatingly, they do. He’s lying on the ground, which is what he had intended, but he hadn’t intended to stay alive. He can’t feel anything; his entire body is numb. All he can see at the moment are the cobblestones beneath him, for he was lying face first upon them. He can hear voices above him, but his brain is in such a state of disarray that he can’t pick up anything they’re saying. With each passing moment, a terrible urge makes itself more and more abundant in Carlo's mind as his senses start to come back to him. He had to look. He attempts to flip himself over by pushing his arms against the pavement, but in a moment of horror, he realizes his arms are no longer there. Neither are his legs. The next thing he feels are multiple sets of hands upon him, doing for him what he had just attempted. Carlo now lies on his back, able to see around him. All four of his severed, horrifically mangled limbs lie spread across the ground, leaving just a head, neck, and torso to comprise him. Blood is everywhere, spraying out of the meaty chasms where his limbs had once been and painting the cobblestones a scarlet so rich it would have made any artist envious. What’s left of Carlo vomits copiously, then blissfully loses consciousness as a cavalcade of paramedics and police load him into an ambulance, which promptly speeds off in a direction that would only bring more disaster upon the Italian, whose long reign as a  member of European football’s royalty was now over, to be replaced by a lifetime of pauperism in incarceration. If Carlo were still conscious and of able mind, he might have pondered how exactly things had reached this point. After all, he hadn’t always been a ruthless, paranoid crime lord. Up until a certain point in the recent past, he had hardly been more than a shrewd football manager with an ego. Something had triggered a reaction, a shift from balance to chaos, a slow descent into madness. Over the years, Hans Kaiser had mellowed out, his overzealous fire slowly extinguished as the traumas and regrets piled up before him. Carlo Ancelotti had done the opposite, only becoming hungrier for power and control even as his actions became more and more corrupt. As in most matters of psychology, it would be impossible to claim just one moment as responsible for such a change; such processes are far more nuanced than that. However, if a watershed moment were to be identified, it would most likely be found back in the year 2018, when in his first meeting with his future employees, Carlo was transported to a place of abject horror that had both haunted him and enthralled him. The dark power it had shown him had burrowed into his soul and stayed there, giving him nightmares nightly but also feeding him a desire to harness it. Outwardly, he had showed nothing but contempt for the two men who had changed him, but inwardly, he knew he needed them to feed his cravings. He did everything in his power to bring them to his side, just to get a taste of the sort of immense talent they had, to truly understand what the darkness meant. He should have realized sooner that that was a grave mistake. Instead, it had taken a complete collapse of his empire and the loss of all of his limbs to come to such a realization.
Better late than never.

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An Inter(pol)lude
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-
ACCESS TO THIS PHONE TRANSCRIPT REQUIRES AN INTERPOL SECURITY CLEARANCE LEVEL OF SENIOR OFFICER OR HIGHER. ANY UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS WILL RESULT IN IMMEDIATE DISINTEGRATION.
The following conversation took place on 29 MAY 2022 at 19:23 CET. The participants were HONGWEI, MENG (President) and STOCK, JÜRGEN (Secretary General)
-
[Connection established]
HONGWEI: Secure line?
STOCK: It is, sir.
HONGWEI: Excellent. Before I continue, Jürgen, I’d like to congratulate you on behalf of the rest of the executives on the success of Operation Unholy Trinity. All of our targets are either deceased or in the custody of the appropriate law enforcement agency. Your individual efforts on this operation- highlighted by your decision to implement the Python Approach- have been exemplary… it’ll be a model to follow for future investigations.
STOCK: Thank you, sir. I appreciate your praise.
HONGWEI: You’re welcome. Now, I hear from my secretary that you’re ready to share your findings down there in the Congo with me?
STOCK: Indeed I am, sir. Over the past two days, we have assessed the entirety of this compound. We have concluded that the plans were very much in place to use it as a prison for Hans Kaiser for an indefinite period of time, possibly for the rest of his life. We have seized thousands of documents from the compound which we believe would be admissible as evidence in the trials of Carlo Ancelotti, Rui Vitoria, Markus Weinzierl, and others. It’s looking like a big win here, boss.
HONGWEI: Excellent, thank you. Can you give me an idea of what the interior of the prison was like?
STOCK: Well, that’s definitely the part I didn’t want to have to get into, sir. It’s quite shocking what they were intending to do to Kaiser in here. Are you sure you want to know about this now?
HONGWEI: Please, go on.
STOCK: Of course. It appears they were planning to force Kaiser to sell hair care products for them, under the false guise of a startup men’s cosmetics company. They hired a whole commercial production crew. They had an entire room of wigs, toupees, fake eyebrows, anything related to artificial hair you could imagine. There were also plans to eventually give him full facial reconstructive surgery to look exactly like Carlo Ancelotti, improperly-executed hair transplants included. Lastly, they hired local gangsters to pose as soldiers of the insurgency group known as PLFFEC, the same one that held him captive in the 90s. They would be there as his “babysitters” whenever Bayern and Schalke’s operatives would be on other duties. They rebuilt the animal cages, codified an entire sport called “Grenade Fetch”, and built a torture dungeon for when they were bored. It would have been hell for the man, there’s no doubt.
HONGWEI: Wow… I’m very glad that we’ve been able to break this operation up. It may have to go down as one of our best accomplishments in recent years.
STOCK: I’m glad, too. It’s been more than stressful, you know, having to use the Python Approach and all. Our two mystery targets prevented us from acting as soon as we could. We had to wait for the Convergence, as it was our best shot to apprehend as many of our targets as we could. Yes, we lost a lot of men in the initial confrontation outside the stadium, but we sat back and eventually got what we wanted. Now that they’re out of the picture, the world’s a much better place.
HONGWEI: Well… actually, there’s something I wanted to mention to you about them. Something’s come up while you’ve been down there.
STOCK: What’s that, sir?
HONGWEI: Keep in mind, what I’m about to tell you is strictly between the two of us, and it won’t be mentioned in the official reports. One of our mystery men, the one who wore the crocodile costume, was found dead at the scene in Leffinge, identified as an Argentine national named José ‘Zezé’ Santiago, wanted for a string of crimes back in Argentina in addition to what we already know about here in Europe. But his partner, the one who wore the shark costume, of whom we could only find out a first name, also José, and a nickname, “Che”, wasn’t there. Every eyewitness account we’ve received, from Kaiser, his bodyguard, and the surviving Irishman, place him there at the scene; Kaiser claims he heard but didn’t see him shoot himself. No one knows his full name; we’ve got nothing to go on at the moment, apart from one thing.
STOCK: What’s that?
HONGWEI: We found a trail of blood leading away from the site where “Che” supposedly committed suicide, leading back into the village, up until a certain point on the street, where a car was later reported stolen in that same spot.
STOCK: A trail of blood? Surely we could do a read on it and check our database for matches?
HONGWEI: If it were human blood, absolutely. But this was shark’s blood.
STOCK: Pardon my French, sir, but… what the ****?
HONGWEI: I’ve got no idea, Jürgen. We’ll just have to file it away in evidence for the time being and see if anyone… or anything… comes forward. As far as Interpol is concerned, the man is dead. We don’t need the media knowing we’ve let a professional killer slip away.
STOCK: Definitely not. I’ll make sure this stays between us.
HONGWEI: You know I wouldn’t expect anything less. You’ll be disintegrated if you do, don’t forget!
[uneasy laughter from STOCK, followed by a pause]
STOCK: Sir, there’s one more order of business.
HONGWEI: Yes?
STOCK: After much consideration, my team and I have decided that it’s best to burn the complex to the ground. We don’t have any use for it, despite its impressive design. Of course, I’ll need your permission to do so. May I execute a controlled combustion?
HONGWEI: You may. It’ll be a most fitting end to this successful investigation.
STOCK: Brilliant, thank you, sir. I’ll get onto it now. See you soon.
HONGWEI: I’ll see you soon as well. Goodbye, Jürgen.
STOCK: Cheers.
[Connection terminated]

-
END DOCUMENT

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Acht
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Oostende-Bruges International Airport. May 28, 2022. 5:51 AM.
A man opens his eyes. The first thing he feels is cool moisture soothing his face, then the gentle brush of freshly-trimmed grass. He quickly identifies the moisture as morning dew, which is hanging off the edges of the blades. As he attempts to rise to his feet, he immediately loses his balance and falls back into the grass, the dew wetting his clothes. That was understandable, he thought. He hadn't been in control for a long time. He exercises more caution on his second attempt, rising slowly but surely to succeed. Now, the man is able to fully take in his surroundings. He is standing in the middle of an empty field, the grass painted gold by the rising sun. In the distance are some nondescript white buildings he had never seen before, spread out wide across the horizon. The temperature was perfect, not too warm, not too cold. People who wake up on the ground having no idea where they are tend to be in poor situations, but the man couldn't have felt better in that moment. His head felt clear, free from restraint. Despite having been asleep moments ago, both his mind and body are already firing on all cylinders, newfound energy coursing through him. His lungs gladly take in fresh air, having breathed a foul pollution for years prior. So pleased he is to be free, that he breaks out into a wide grin and raises his arms high above him. That's when the pain hits. The back of his mouth feels like it's being drilled into by an insane dentist, causing the man to sink back to his knees. He reaches back into the affected area, desperate to identify what had interrupted his moment of triumph. When he realizes what it is, his eyes bulge. In place of the soft wall of muscle at the rear of his mouth is a crater nearly an inch deep. It's a serious wound, but it already felt like it was healing. Though it hurt to the touch and was still stinging, he was surprised to find no blood on his finger when he pulled it back out of his mouth. The man had no memories for years; he had no idea how the wound had gotten there. What he did know, however, was that it didn't matter. Nothing in his past mattered anymore. He was back, and back for good. He had felt it as soon as he had woken up. He would feel it for the rest of his life. The darkness that had existed in him before was gone, never to return. He was more than willing to move on. To do that, he had to go home first, to rebuild his life in a comfortable environment. He could sense that he wasn’t home at the moment. There were certain intangible feelings he always had when he was. No, he was still in Europe somewhere, he had to be. His most recent memory took place at an office building in western Germany; he doubted he had gone too far from there. There was only one way to find out exactly where he was. The man rises back to his feet through the aching of his wound, and steps forward to take the only path available to him at the moment: towards the buildings. After about a mile of labored walking, he reaches a rusted-out fence that blocks his way forward. It’s high and supported by barbed wire at the top, but he knew he could scale it. Then, just as he curls his hands around around the steel, his eardrums are shredded by the loudest noise he has ever heard in his life. His head jolts upward in both awe and terror as a massive Boeing 787 Dreamliner sails just ten meters above his head, then travels for another few moments before touching down with a loud screech on what must have been a runway. It only took a second for the man to connect the dots. The white buildings, he realizes, must be part of an airport. Once again the uncomfortable grin returns; he’s already where he needs to be.

He turns back in the other direction, trekking through the field for miles until he eventually finds a road and flags down a taxi. After he’s directed the driver to take him to the airport entrance, he takes his seat in the back, where he notices for the first time that there’s something in the right pocket of his tattered jeans. He removes from them a wallet containing his old but still valid driver’s license, passport, and credit cards. The thought that he would need these things to get home hadn’t even crossed his mind until now, and he’s beyond glad that they are. Though he still has to ask himself how they could have gotten there. When he opens the wallet’s coin pocket, he finds his answer. Within this compartment is a small, folded note. He extracts it, unfolds it, and reads the message inside.
“You need these. Safe travel. Enjoy rest of your life. -C”
For the rest of the taxi ride, the man stares at the note, pondering what exact circumstances could have prompted its writing. It’s only after he enters the airport terminal and books a flight home that he believes he has his answer. As soon as he does, he finds the nearest recycle bin and drops the paper inside. He has no use for the note or the entity who wrote it anymore. Just a few paces from the recycle bin is a small desk occupied by a security agent, which the man strides up to so he can have his documents examined. The agent, a tired-looking, bespectacled man in his thirties, gives a cursory glance at the man’s papers before inquiring “Could you state your full flightpath for me, sir?”
“Well, let’s see. From here to Barcelona, then from there to Buenos Aires, and lastly from there to Salta.”
“That’s correct.” The agent states quickly, wanting to get through his protocol as quickly as possible. “And could you tell me your name, please?”
“José Antonio Mendoza.”
“Correct again. I assume you’re travelling alone?”
“Indeed, I am.”
José couldn’t have been happier to make that statement.
“Alright, Mr. Mendoza. You’re all set. Get in line for the security check. Enjoy your flight.”
José passes through the remaining security measures without incident. Five hours later, his first flight of four on his journey takes off. It would be a long way home, but it would be more than worth it. When this was all said and done, José Antonio Mendoza would finally attain the first drop of freedom of his adult life. And he would keep it. He wouldn’t have to worry about being attacked, or going to prison, or losing control again. After all, this was an innocent man. He couldn’t be expected to pay for the sins of someone who, although he had shared the same body, was so completely different. That someone’s name was Che, and he was dead now, his suffering in the depths of hell just beginning. José Antonio Mendoza, on the other hand, had suffered more than enough.

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Posted (edited)

Neun
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Visiting Room, Stammheim Prison. Stuttgart, Germany. January 12, 2023.
“Goodbye, Hansi. I pray that when you leave this place, you will find some peace in your life.”
Sophie Klein stands up from her chair, her braided golden hair briefly falling across her eyes as she does. She’s the most beautiful woman Hans Kaiser has ever known. Their love, their marriage, and their life together with their sons had contained some of the best moments of Hans’ life. But as she turns around and leaves the room, he knew that there would be no more of those moments. After he left this prison, he would never be able to contact or see her again, unless he wanted to head straight back. Of course he didn’t want their divorce to happen. He didn’t want her to sell all their properties, readopt her maiden name, and move to New York City (her reasoning being “they care much less about football in America, it’ll be easier for me to remain anonymous”) with their sons, who would not be allowed to see their father again until after his release, if they even wanted to at all. He certainly didn’t want to learn that while they were living in Bruges, she had been aware of and condoned Brendan and Colin’s siphoning of information from him in the hopes he would quit football management, which had succeeded. All of these things hurt, in many ways. They made him feel disappointed, dejected, and worthless. But at the same time, he absolutely understood why these things were happening to him, and that he was the only one to blame for them. Why on earth would Sophie, or any self-respecting woman, for that matter, choose to stay married to a man who had done what he had? It would be pointless to get angry at anyone else at what was happening apart from himself. But he was done with anger. It hadn’t gotten him anywhere good in life; it had only brought him here in the end. Before he had entered management, he had had a life anyone would’ve wanted. A happy, healthy wife and children, plenty of money, multiple lavish homes, and name recognition from his days as a player. Why wasn’t that enough? Why did he let his ego and poor choices ruin all of it? Had he simply been a normal manager with normal ambitions, none of this would have happened. But no, he was so hell-bent on becoming a legend, a larger-than-life figure, a king, that he had been blinded by power before he could even attain anything that he wanted. Had he not been so impatient and so careless as to wish for the “help” of someone who could expedite his rise to the top by any means necessary, his path would never have crossed with Che and Zezé’s. But cross they did, and a few harrowing years later, here he was in prison, serving a ten-year sentence for a crime he never would have been involved in had they never met. He had made things easier on everyone and avoided a media circus trial by pleading guilty to aiding and abetting a terrorist plot. He had no objections to the charge; it was his idea to release coal dust at Schalke’s stadium, even if it was never his intention to hurt anyone. Thankfully, he wasn’t charged with fraud, which surely would have added a few years to his sentence. Interpol agents had informed him that the charge of “footballing fraudulence” brought on by Slavomir Horny- whose real name was Miroslav Hornik, a Bratislava-born police officer and Schalke Ultra who had used his Interpol status to his advantage- during his arrest was very much a personal jab, prompted by his previously-undiscovered secret allegiance with the Ultras, and they had apologized for his role in the Belgian fiasco. They had also told him what would have been in store for him had Carlo Ancelotti’s plan for him on that night succeeded. Hans couldn’t believe how little Carlo’s hate for him had receded since he was sacked from Dortmund. He certainly figured Carlo would have forgotten about him, but his absence seemed to make the man hate him even more, to drive him to absolute madness. From what they had told him, though, karma had caught up with him indeed, or rather, what was left of him. But Hans knew he couldn’t waste time thinking about his old enemy. He had to think about himself. Though prison was no picnic- German authorities had picked one of the highest-security, toughest prisons in the country to send him to- he would at least have plenty of time to rehabilitate himself over the next ten years, to spend some serious time reflecting on what had brought him here, what he would do to pass the time here, and what exactly he would make of himself when he left here. He knew that changes had to be made, but not yet which specific ones he would have to make. Football had been all that he’d known before now; he’d been involved in the game since he could walk. He had indeed been planning to leave it before the affair in Belgium, but that plan had very much depended on his family’s love and support. Now that that was gone, he had to come up with something else, something more individualized. For years before, his identity had revolved around his baldness. For a while, it was a great idea; he had turned what most men considered a weakness into a strength. It had allowed him to retain his self-confidence, build his personal brand, and even raise millions of dollars for cancer research. But it had also facilitated his descent into the criminal underworld and brought him here. Baldness was no longer the way forward. What if…
In that moment, Hans has a thought so compelling that he has to restrain it immediately. Already, he was getting too far ahead of himself. He was barely seven months into his sentence here; he couldn’t be having ideas this big yet. He needed to think about it a lot more, to seriously decide what was best for him. This was a ten-year process, not a minute-long one. For the most part, his attentions would have to be turned to surviving this prison. There were surely some Bayern and Schalke fans here… he had to keep safe and make some friends. As a guard escorts him from the visiting room and back to his cell, he files his thought away deep in the recesses of his mind, right alongside all sorts of joys and atrocities long past. He would come back to it, in time. He had ten years of breaking rocks to get through first.

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Dawn. June 11, 2032.
As Hans Kaiser walks out the front gates of Stammheim Prison, he understandably has to take a few moments to gain his bearings. It had been a decade since he had been a free man. In that time, over a billion people had been born. Half a billion had died. Technology had advanced. Scientific discoveries had been made. Dozens of new fads and new styles had come and gone. Governments had been overthrown, wars had been fought, and societies had changed. There was going to be a lot to take in out there. But no matter what the outside world had in store for him, Hans had a plan that he was going to stick to, one that wasn’t too dissimilar from the one he had initially thought of back in the first months of his sentence. It had come from his heart, and though it had come to him quickly and without warning, he knew it was best for him after ten years of consideration. In order to fulfill that plan, however, there was something he needed to do first. From a payphone in the prison’s parking lot, he calls a taxi to take him to Stuttgart Airport, where he would soon be en route to Düsseldorf. He knew of someone there who would be able to help him get to where he needed to be. What he was about to do would take some getting used to, but Hans was sure it was worth it. He hadn’t spent a decade in prison just to make more mistakes. That wasn’t what prison was for, right?

Edited by oriole01

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tenor.gif

What a story this has been. Definitely one of my favourite threads to read on FMCU over the past nearly two years and well deserving of its Best Story award. Good luck on the next one. :thup:

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tips-hat-gif-3.gif

Congrats on finishing up this utter monster of a thread, and I'm glad to have had some small part to play in it.

Bloody well done, that man!

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Posted (edited)

The Iron Fist?

dggWmMI.gif

But seriously this was awesome. One I'll never forget.

Edited by kidthekid

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giphy.gif?cid=790b76115d00776b776d475459

I have no words.  Brilliant stuff, all around.

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Posted (edited)
On 11/06/2019 at 00:41, Deisler26 said:

giphy.gif

On 11/06/2019 at 08:30, Fer Fuchs Ake said:

tenor.gif

What a story this has been. Definitely one of my favourite threads to read on FMCU over the past nearly two years and well deserving of its Best Story award. Good luck on the next one. :thup:

On 11/06/2019 at 15:58, BoxToBox said:

tips-hat-gif-3.gif

Congrats on finishing up this utter monster of a thread, and I'm glad to have had some small part to play in it.

Bloody well done, that man!

On 11/06/2019 at 16:19, kidthekid said:

The Iron Fist?

dggWmMI.gif

But seriously this was awesome. One I'll never forget.

On 11/06/2019 at 23:56, ManUtd1 said:

giphy.gif?cid=790b76115d00776b776d475459

I have no words.  Brilliant stuff, all around.

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Thank you to all. This story was as much for you as much as it was for me, and I'm truly delighted that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Onto the next one now, where I hope you'll all join me again. Los!

Edited by oriole01
Figured I might as well have a gif too

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