Ravenhearst Manor. The little brook is peacefully babbling away, the sun’s rays reflecting off its surface, making the rocks that are barely covered by the water seem to glow. A gentle breeze ruffles the leaves of the trees and a few birds are singing their respective songs. Suddenly movement from the side of the manor attracts the camera’s attention as two people are walking across the lawn, one a man with greying hair and a black attache case in his hand, the other a woman with thick, curly red hair. The camera follows them towards the low building behind the graveyard, through the open door and the corridor right into Druid HQ.
Sanford Thibodaux is meeting them at the entrance and ushers them towards the boardroom table in the back, where The Shadow is waiting, sipping from a tall glass of lemonade. Francis Walcott is paying no heed to the hustle of the office, while his companion is looking around in wonder, trying to take in everything while Thibodaux pulls out a chair next to Walcott for her.
The Shadow: Lemonade?
Francis Walcott: Yes, please, when did it turned summer over here?
Sanford Thibodaux: Meh, it comes, it goes, supposed to get some bad thunderstorms later today.
The Shadow pours two glasses and pushes them towards Walcott and the fiery-haired lady.
The Shadow: Francis, you haven’t told me you would bring company.
Francis Walcott: Oh yes, this is Myfanwy verch Owain, the lady that helped us with our little, uh, recon mission.
The Shadow: Nice to meet you, Myfanwy, an interesting name…
Myfanwy verch Owain: Welsh. Comes from the sword “annwyl”, or beloved. And my last name just means “daughter of Owain”, so nothing that interesting.
The Shadow (chuckling): I guess it depends on the perspective. In any way, nice to make your acquaintance and thank you for helping our cause.
The clicking of the locks of Walcott’s briefcase brings everybody back to the current case, as he takes out a black manila folder. Thibodaux is scooching closer, eager to catch a first peek at the documents inside.
Francis Walcott: You should have seen Golobayov’s face when he tried to play the ‘No English’ card and Andrey reassured him in Russian.
Sanford Thibodaux: You should have recorded it!
Francis Walcott: No, it was better not to have anything identifying people that never were in England doing things that never happened…
Sanford Thibodaux: Good point. So basically Myfanwy doesn’t exist either then?
He flashes her the toothiest smile he could afford, but the look he gets back is more one of ‘nice try’.
The Shadow: OK, gentlemen, let’s get to this folder here and what our little clandestine operation found out.
Suddenly Simon Cederbergh walks in with a confused look on his face.
Simon Cederbergh: Sorry to interrupt, but I just passed the kitchen and someone kept yelling ‘Flugelhorn! Flugelhorn!’
The Shadow: Flugelhorn?
Simon Cederbergh: Couldn’t make that up…
Trying really hard not to burst out laughing, The Shadow gets up.
The Shadow: Please excuse me for a moment.
He gets up and quickly walks out of the building, crossing the lawn and into the house. As he approaches the kitchen, he hears a familiar voice.
???: Flugelhorn, I said!
Peeking through the door, he sees Ataxia at the table, with a plate of [food] in front of him, looking as scared as his mask would let on. Mia is standing at the counter in a wide, baggy old t-shirt and pyjama shorts, holding a bowl, looking at the distraught Ataxia.
The Shadow: Uh, sorry for interrupting your little romantic breakfast here, but what on earth is happening?
Ataxia: She is trying to make me eat grits! That’s what!
The Shadow: It’s only grits... It’s not as if it is going to eat you….
Ataxia: That’s what they make you think! Grits are evil!
Now he cannot hold back anymore and bursts out laughing. Holding up a finger towards Mia and Ataxia, he gasps for air.
The Shadow: OK, is there anything else you are deathly afraid of or is the rest safe?
Ataxia: Toast with raspberry jam...
The Shadow: Alright. Mia, whatever the food is, if it looks like it could attack him…
Mia Rayne: I did not know… I’m sorry.
Ataxia gets up and takes her into his arms, calming her down, while The Shadow exits the kitchen and returns to the Druid HQ, where the rest of the team is exchanging stories of travels to Britain and their culinary exploits at the moment.
The Shadow: Sorry everyone, but I had a little, hm, situation that hopefully is resolved now...
Francis Walcott: Yes, basically Golobayov admitted to being part of the Friends of Paracelsus for starters once he got over the shock that he couldn’t hide behind his language.
The picture fades back into the windowless room in England, with Doctor Golobayov laying in a hospital bed with a big grin on this face.
Dr. Ivan Golobayov: No English!
Suddenly a voice comes from the far end of the room.
Andrei Dolgopolov: Это не проблема, врач.
Doctor Golobayov’s smile immediately vanishes and his already pale complexion loses another shade.
The picture returns to the Druids HQ.
Francis Walcott: He oversaw the development of drugs and treatments for Parkinson’s Disease, but they needed to test them and rats would only get them so far. Unfortunately most countries still are pretty strict when it comes to human testing, making companies go through extensive legwork before they even get to see a person, so the Friends of Paracelsus figured they’d try to take some shortcuts and went directly to movement disorder specialists and weasled their way in and put patients on new medications, therapies etc. The specialists would get the rights to publish journals and get the accolades for the advancements.
The Shadow: And the treatments all were successful?
Myfanwy verch Owain: Yes and no. Some definitely were improvements, but as could be imagined, it came at a price. Side effects, drug interactions and more caused some severe trouble, so for every person that they managed to improve their conditions they had at least one, where they had a more rapid progression of the disease or at times severe side effects. He openly admitted that it happened, but still claims that it was all in the name of medicine, in the name of science, no remorse.
The Shadow has closed his eyes and is rubbing his temples with a sombre look on his face.
The Shadow: But how can we prove any of it?
Francis Walcott: Well, this is where the plot thickens and gets a little bit more complicated. While he told us what to look out for within the files to identify the false information the Institute plants everywhere, the problem is that all the files are...in the Epicentre.
The Shadow’s eyes shoot open and he looks at Walcott.
The Shadow: Seriously? Sh-- Sorry, so now what. We have the carrot, but we can’t get to it…? It’s not as if we can just waltz into the Epicentre, even more so, because they know all of us...
Myfanwy verch Owain: They don’t know me…
Simultaneously all heads swivel towards the redhead with the mischievous look on her face as in the distance the low rumble of thunder can be heard.
The backyard of Ravenhearst Manor. Squirrels are racing across the lawn as the rumble of the thunder gets louder and deep black clouds can be seen in the background, a brisk wind now shaking the leaves on the trees. The sun is still shining down on The Shadow, sitting on the pedestal of the statue in the centre, leaning against the stone, looking out over the little river and the forest beyond. He is holding the CWF tag team title belt in his hands, but it looks different. All gold plating has been replaced by shiny black metal, still retaining all the details, just seeming more in line with The Shadow’s dark mood. He stares at the belt, absentmindedly tracing the outline of the centre plate.
The Shadow: So for the second time in my career here in CWF I am holding a belt and what a hard fought match it was, one of the hardest ever actually, but with my trusted Amelia by my side we were able to overcome the odds, with her having been through one hell of a lumberjack match already in her bones. But Smokin’ Aces, I wanted to congratulate you for a valiant battle and a remarkable display of sportsmanship. At least in opposition to my first title run as Impact champion, which lasted one week, the man I lost it to is now on my side, Forsaken Demon… And in the end the title stayed in the family with the Taxman holding on to it now, despite repeated attempts to wrest it from his gloved hand.
He closes his eyes and draws a deep breath. As he opens his eyes again, he puts the belt aside and the absent-minded look on his face is replaced by a far harder and determined one.
The Shadow: Elisha, you still are trying to instill your reign of terror on CWF, recruiting more minions to your cause in exchange for what? A false sense of power? A twisted sense of belonging? When all it takes is one misstep and you would have no qualms to just grind them into the dust beneath your feet. And with all the odd booking of late, am I right to suspect that the deal with Rish did not just end with him getting the CWF and you getting the institute? How has that been working out for you?
You tried to pit us against allies, heck, you had Mia and Ataxia in a match against each other for crying out loud! But The Forsaken are closer than ever. You try to play your mind games and sow the seeds of discord, but if anything, you are cementing our foundation and resolve against you. Sure, you managed to bring Revenant to your side and I am pretty sure that him being in that tag match with me was not exactly pure coincidence either, but I am not dwelling on his betrayal, he will have his day of reckoning still ahead of him...
The rumble of the thunder is louder than before, the wind is increasing and the first clouds are reaching out to obscure the rays of the sun.
The Shadow: Hollis McAllister, better known as Bronson Box. Wargod… The number of new names in CWF right now is staggering and somehow you all seem to be tied together somehow. Dane tied to Flair, you tied to Dane…
Now you already have a fan right here in our midst, Mr. McLean has been running around like he was chasing his own tail since he heard you had joined our merry madhouse and he almost had a heart attack when he read that you would be facing me…
As if on cue, Alistair McLean just walks through the gates of the graveyard, having heard his name and the one of Bronson.
Alistair McLean: Och ah coods nae believe it, Murray an' Box in CWF? Thes is loch an aw ye can eat haggis buffit!
Despite the seriousness of the train of thought, The Shadow can’t help but chuckle at the Scot’s interjection. As McLean continues on to the Manor, The Shadow continues.
The Shadow: So your reputation precedes you, even though your only official appearance in CWF so far has been in the rumble. Where you fared well, I cannot deny that, but reputation can only get you this far. Many people see you as the brawn of Eric Dane much rather than a fighter in your own right, doggedly following wherever he may lead you or tell you to go, but you are so much more, if Eric lets you, that is.
Ironic that your “frand” Eric is facing my tag team partner and fellow Forsaken Amelia the same evening we will step into the squared circle. One could almost think that someone was trying to set this up...
You know, I will admit I do not know much about your background. But let’s be honest here, you do not look like the dream team to me. The opportunist and the fighter. I will let Amelia deal with the flag in the wind, but let’s have a look at you. A fighter, a bruiser...but there is more to you than that. Your technical prowess is something one should not take lightly, nor underestimate you as a pure brawler, a goon. Alastair here has been able to tell me a bit more about your career over in Europe, before you joined Defiance and began to work your way up In true Scottish fashion he says you fought your way through the ranks like an Angus bull. You always wanted to be the greatest fighter of all time.
McLean has stepped back onto the lawn, carrying a tray with pitchers back towards the Druid HQ.
The Shadow: While you have fought a good fight in the rumble at Golden Intentions, you have no idea what hornet’s nest you have stepped into. Sure, you have your indomitable fighting spirit--
Alistair McLean: Och aye, th' scottish lion is a fierce beest!
The Shadow: --yes, you are fierce, but - this place is not like any other. I do not want to try to discredit your past, whichever federations you have been in, but CWF is not your ordinary federation. You have the Oreo Cookie Club try to wage a war, you have the valkyrie in shining armour ride into the ring to save the day and you have the Forsaken roam the shadows. You may have Eric Dane that helped you and you might for some odd reason feel indebted to, why else would you really have come here, torn away from the chair with your name on it in Bonnie Scotland?
Are you trying to prove to yourself that you still have it in you? Or are you trying to prove to Dane that you have not gone soft? How much can you trust him, though? Opportunist extraordinaire, flag in the wind, do you really think that if you do not fit into his grand master plan anymore that he will not leave you hanging high and dry? Come Evolution you will find out that CWF is a completely different playground than what you are used to.
The sun now is completely obscured by the oncoming storm, with a loud thunderclap heralding its arrival and the intricate latticework of lightning painting its dramatic artwork across the near-black clouds rolling in. The wind is gusting up, yet The Shadow remains in his spot, leaning against the statue as if nothing had changed.
The Shadow: Feel free to put me down as just a lost, dark soul that has lost touch with reality, that you can just overpower with sheer ferocity. I will be happy to prove you otherwise. I am not sure how much Dane has told you about what is happening around here, but you have yet to meet your first Oreo. What you saw at the beginning of the show was just a small glimpse into what you will be facing, if we do not stand together and stem the tide that is...them. I’ve been one of the prime target thanks to the Moonman, so you never know when you might wash up on the shore as collateral damage.
The first raindrops are beginning to fall and The Shadow gets to his feet.
The Shadow: Bring your fight, I am ready, but don’t be surprised if all you will see in the end is a dark shadow standing above you… I know you want to leave your mark on CWF and leave your mark on me, but you better prepare for a fight the likes you haven’t seen in a long time, Bronson.
He raises his arms.
The Shadow: Bring it on, Bronson, and be ready for the darkness to swallow you whole!
In this moment a mighty thunderclap hits and a lightning bolt hits a tree in the background, splitting it in half as the heavens open up and a torrential downpour quickly obscures everything but the immediate vicinity of the statue, The Shadow’s intense look at the camera unwavering.