Constantine and Mark Keaton sat in the drawing room of Constantine's New York penthouse. On the wall, the clock struck 5 o'clock and was met with a loud “BONG” in recognition. It may have only reached 5 but it had already been a productive, yet confusing, day in the world of Vis Imperium. The meeting with Yoshi Sakamoto, Constantine's long-time business partner and friend, had gone well – perhaps even better than he had expected. What's more, the decision to bring his protégé, Mark Keaton, had been proved to be the right one. Constantine had been worried beforehand that Yoshi might not take to Keaton all that well. But Keaton had handled himself extraordinarily well and Yoshi had taken a shine to him.
But the news of a match scheduled for Ascension this week weighted heavily on the mind of The Power Trip. News that, undoubtedly, spoiled his day. The Power Trip, John Constantine, would go one-on-one with Mark Keaton.
Constantine could not keep his emotions from appearing on his face as his pensive nature simmered away in silence. Everything he had planned for Vis Imperium, everything that he had created from scratch, potentially frittered away by the powers that be for nothing more than ratings. Constantine could not help but worry about the future and what this match meant for Vis Imperium. Could this be the end of the line before the real mission had been accomplished? Could this be the-
Keaton: You know, man, I wouldn't worry about Ascension.
Keaton's words interrupted The Power Trip's train of thought enough to bring his attention back into the room. Looking around the room and getting his bearings, Constantine wet his lips with angst smeared all over his face.
Constantine: And how do you know that I was thinking about Ascension, Mark? You're a mind reader now, huh?
Keaton let out a laugh that Constantine had come to know all too well. Keaton didn't take anything seriously, not least his interactions with Constantine. Maybe he felt that The Power Trip was too highly strung. Or maybe it was his way of diffusing situations. But Constantine had come to know it well and today, of all days, was not the time for it. Keaton raised both of his hands to plead his innocence as Constantine stared a hole through him, waiting for his reply. With no reply forthcoming, Constantine decided to carry the conversation himself.
Constantine: Don't worry about Ascension? Very well, Mark, that's what I'll do. I mean, it's not as if I have been building plans to bring Vis Imperium into a whole new world of business opportunities!
The Power Trip continues to stare a hole through Keaton as he shakes his head in anger and disbelief.
Constantine: You know what this is, don't you? This is Bateman and Serra's way of taking us out of the game. They know that we are the best team to ever grace the company and, what's more, they know that we will never be defeated.
Keaton tilts his head to the right a little and nods his head in agreement slightly.
Keaton: That does sound right, I suppose.
Constantine: Oh, it's right, Mark! You know that after Kingdom Come, Tony Mancini and the rest of the WZCW locker room marched right into Vance and Becky, bitching about just how bad their luck is and how we controlled Kingdom Come. You just know that this is the gutless General Managers doing anything to let the weak-willed have their say for a moment. And who pays the price? We do!
Constantine's final yell leaves his lips and the room dissolves into silence once more. The anger of The Power Trip remains in the air like a toxin, however, forcing Mark Keaton to move in his chair, rather uncomfortably.
Keaton: So I was right?
Constantine screws his face up for a moment as he turns to face Keaton.
Constantine: Right about what?
Keaton: That you were thinking about Ascension?
Keaton allows a smile to appear on his face as his hunch is proved to be correct after all. Constantine tries his best to remain angry but Keaton's cheesy smile is enough to get a sigh and a soft smile from the amped-up Power Trip. Constantine shakes his head in disbelief once more and gets out of his seat. Keaton's eyes follow The Power Trip as he moves across the floor to the far window. Silence once again fills the room as Constantine looks over the city, a glaze in his eyes.
Constantine: Yes. It seems that you were...
Keaton allows his smile to grow wider as he sinks back into his chair, releasing a pump of his arm in celebration as he does. Constantine continues to peer out of the window as he brain functions at a million miles per hour...
* * *
A lot of time had passed that same evening before Constantine got some time to himself. Truth be told, it was both comforting and a nuisance to Constantine that Mark Keaton wanted to spend so much time with him. In some ways, having Keaton around was a shot in the arm to The Power Trip, who had grown weary and tired of pushing against the ceiling in WZCW. Having someone around with so much intent, passion and energy had inspired the former politician to be much the same. But what The Power Trip really needed now was some time to decompress – some time to digest everything that had happened over the last few days and weeks.
Sure, Constantine and Mark Keaton had retained the WZCW Tag Team Championship but to what end? Constantine had heard it from the horse's mouth, he and Mark Keaton were set to go up against one another at Ascension this week – it was concrete. But the things that Constantine did not know were what troubled him that evening. Kingdom Come had raised so many more questions than it had answered. What was supposed to be Vis Imperium's final destination proved to be nothing more than a rest stop on a much bigger journey.
What of Austin Reynolds? His intrusion into the Tag Team Championship match showed that he had unfinished business with The Power Trip. After everything that Constantine, Keaton and Hunnicutt had done to Reynolds, perhaps getting involved in Constantine's match was the least he could expect.
More importantly though, what of Abel Hunnicutt?
Since his loss to Austin Reynolds, Constantine had heard nothing from the hulking giant of Vis Imperium. Hunnicutt had always proved to be a quiet reclusive type. But post-Kingdom Come, something was different. It was for that reason that Constantine found himself where he did that night. On the doorstep of Steven Holmes' mansion as the door swung open to reveal The Elite.
Holmes: I suppose you had better come in.
The time to decompress would have to wait.
* * *
It could never be said that Steven Holmes was not a good host, even to his worst enemy. Constantine should know that better than anyone and Holmes stayed true to form as he poured a small glass of brandy into his own glass and offered one to Constantine. With a shake of his head, Constantine refused the offer and found a seat by the roaring fireplace he had come to know so well. Soon enough, Constantine was joined by his long time friend and foe. Holmes slumped into the brown leather chair and let out a hearty sigh.
Holmes: I know why you're here. But you're going to be disappointed with what I have to tell you.
Constantine dips his chin to his chest and lets out a sigh of his own.
Constantine: I don't expect you to tell me where he is, Steven. Truth be told, I'm not even sure that I want to know.
Holmes studies Constantine as he brings his glass to his lips and sinks some of the brown liquid – never daring to take his eyes from the eyes of The Power Trip.
Silence falls over the two WZCW veterans and clouds the atmosphere like a toxin. As the seconds tick away, it is unclear whether both men remain silent through fright, or whether both men have become so comfortable with each other that there is no pressure to break the silence. Soon enough though, the answer to that question becomes clear.
Holmes: I know it was you...
Constantine finally raises his head at both the tone and nature of Holmes' statement. He turns his head to his left and purses his lips, studying his longest friend in WZCW.
Constantine: I'm afraid, Steven, that you are going to have to be rather more specific than that. I sense you are hurt over some level of betrayal from me. But we have double-crossed each other so frequently that I am having problems focussing on which one you are referring to.
Holmes lets out an amused laugh. Constantine soon joins him in a laugh but the tension soon rises as Holmes immediately tosses his glass against the near wall, shattering it into pieces and getting to his feet all in the one motion.
Holmes: You know exactly what I am talking about, John! Admit it!
Constantine looks deep into the fiery eyes of Steven Holmes as he towers above him, holding onto his walking stick for dear life – his knuckles turning white against the handle as he struggles to contain his rage. Constantine opens his mouth to speak but suddenly stops himself before his usual spin and lies begin to leave his mouth. Closing his mouth and letting out a small sigh, Constantine nods his head in agreement.
Constantine: Yes, it was me, Steven. I was the one who leaked your business ventures to the media. It was me, John Constantine, that told the world about your involvement in G.L.I.L. It was me all along, Steven. What's more, I am truly sorry for all of it.
The Power Trip's sudden apology is met with a look of shock from Steven Holmes. With his mouth slightly ajar, Holmes continues to study Constantine in silence, his eyes still full of fire and his lips dry with anticipation. After a few moments of silence, Holmes finally moves his eyes from those of Constantine. Holmes nods his head in amusement as he hobbles towards his chair once more, slumping down into it one final time.
Holmes: I knew it was you all along, John... I just wanted to hear it from your own mouth.
Holmes turns his head away from Constantine, relaxing into the realisation that he was right all along. His disappointment that it all happened in the first place, slowly subsiding as Constantine admits to his past transgressions.
Holmes: How could it really be anyone else? After all, it was too complex a plan for anyone else to have conceived. Too few mistakes left in the wake of my destruction for it to have been someone else. You could say that the lack of evidence was the thing that damned you from the off, John boy.
Constantine screws up his face as the weight of his actions come crashing down on top of him.
Holmes: But even after your admission of guilt, I regret to inform you that Abel Hunnicutt will still not be returning to your side. An idea that I'm sure a man of your intellect and standing will have guessed by now.
Constantine turns his head back to Holmes, staring through him with vacant eyes.
Holmes: Abel Hunnicutt is gone, John. To where? Not even I know the answer to that, I'm afraid. But with news of dear Abel's disappearance, comes an even greater realisation that you must come to terms with. A realisation that I'm sure has dawned on you before now? The realisation that Vis Imperium has come to an end.
The Power Trip continues to stare at Holmes, his hands balled into fists as Holmes' calm demeanour does nothing to hide the venom in his words.
Holmes: You took Abel from me, John. But I don't blame you for it. You see, I had become too unaware of the things happening around me. In my haste to bring Vis Imperium to a whole new level of attention and success, I could not see that I was overlooking what was important. I didn't realise that, as I made friends and allies on different shores, that my biggest enemy was right on my doorstep. That's you, John...
Holmes flashes a smile at Constantine that only serves to confuse The Power Trip more than anything else.
Holmes: We've been through everything together, John. For the better part of a decade, we have traded allegiance and ammunition alike. We have been the best of friends and we have been the most bitter of enemies. But what always brought us back together, I thought, was our lust to achieve something bigger than ourselves. Our egos, our personalities. They don't mean anything at the end of the day. In 20 years time, people will have forgotten about John Constantine and Steven Holmes. What they will remember, above all else, is the legacy that we leave behind. And that's what Vis Imperium was supposed to be. Our lasting legacy.
Holmes sits forward in his chair, staring at Constantine as he does. The Power Trip remains quiet as the true impact of Holmes' emotion and thoughts ring true.
Holmes: Vis Imperium was more than any of us, John, bigger than the sum of it's parts. But with Austin Reynolds gone and Abel now following, you have to ask yourself what it stands for now. With WZCW, seemingly, done with Vis Imperium you have to ask yourself what you want to accomplish. The daggers have been drawn and they will not rest until they have tasted blood. Whatever is left of Vis Imperium will surely die at Ascension.
With that, Constantine bursts from his seat into a standing position. His eyes are bright and full of passion as he stares down at Steven Holmes.
Constantine: Do you know why I leaked your business acumen, Steven? It's not because I was jealous of anything you had done outside of WZCW. You are a businessman and I am somewhat the same. Wrestling will not last forever and I know it as well as you. But you're foolish if you believe it was down to jealousy!
Holmes: Come now, John, you and I both know it was nothing more than that!
Constantine: You're wrong! I wasn't jealous of you and anything you had going. The truth is, Steven, that you had become weak. Your hunger for war had been extinguished by the cries of a newborn baby and the comforts of a loving family. But you couldn't just keep it to yourself, huh?
Constantine begins pacing the floor, his silhouette dancing on the walls thanks to the nearby fire.
Constantine: You didn't even realise that Abel was the real treasure of Vis Imperium! My time in WZCW is growing short, I can feel it in my body. But Abel could have been something that you and I never were. He could have been bigger than Ty Burna and Everest. He could have been more successful than Titus! But your appetite for destruction had subsided and that made you weak! And that, Steven, is why you had to go...
This time, it is the turn of Steven Holmes to feel the gravity of Constantine's words. The Power Trip takes a breath to compose himself before turning to face Holmes once more.
Constantine: You are right, Steven, we have been through everything in WZCW and, what's more, we have been through it together. But when the fire in your heart has gone out, then it is time to stop. You have everything you could ever have wanted in life now. When I think of you, I don't pity you like I once did, I am proud of you. You took wrestling and turned it into a life, no one would have thought that of you when you started in the Crashin Movement.
Holmes gives a small chortle.
Constantine: But you should know that Vis Imperium lives on in your absence. The barbs between us have stopped and, for my part, will be forever stopped. The rivalry between us brought us to a whole new level of despair and, in equal measure, success. You made me the man and the wrestler that I am today.
Holmes nods his head slowly is approval.
Constantine: But tonight is the night, Steven. Tonight is the night that we go our separate ways and our paths stop crossing. Vis Imperium is not over, nor will it ever be. The match on Ascension will only bring Vis Imperium closer together. And when it is all said and done, Vis Imperium will remain. Strong. Unyielding in the face of peril. In Mark Keaton, I have found a prodigy the likes of which will never be seen again. Vis Imperium flows through his blood like it gives him life itself. His passion for destruction is more than we ever had. It is through him that Vis Imperium will live on, Steven, not through us.
Constantine fixes his tie for a moment as Holmes gets to his feet. The two men meet face to face, a whole history of battles won and lost together, and apart, playing on their minds.
Constantine: Vis Imperium endures!
Holmes allows a small smile to appear on his face.
Holmes: Indeed it does.
After a moment, Holmes outstretches his hand and Constantine takes it. The two men shake hands, possibly, for the final time. And with a final nod of the head from Constantine, he turns on his heels and leaves. In the room he leaves, stands a man with immense legacy, respect and fortitude. Constantine's best friend and most bitter enemy. A man Constantine would never see again. A man who knew that Constantine meant business and that a storm was coming...
Reinstate The Fox!