Nathan Paradine: "I love California. Remind me why I moved to Minnesota again?"
The scene opens on Nathan Paradine leaning against the door of a matte black SUV, staring out over the roof of the car at the Golden Gate Bridge and, further beyond, the city of San Francisco. He's dressed in a dark blue suit and open-collared white shirt and the sun is beginning to sink low in the sky casting an orange hue over the scenery, it's all very picturesque. The glare reflects off Paradine's sunglasses as he fixes the distant city with a scowl. Somewhere out there is the former head trainer of the Hostility Battle Academy Simon Marks, the man who stole thousands of dollars from the students of the school and left it to ruin. Oh, and he took Paradine's corgi Otis with him for good measure. Can't forget that part.
Nathan Paradine: "So, where is Marks supposed to be anyway?"
Paradine kneels down and peers through the open window of the SUV at Luther Graves, his hand-picked protege from the remaining students of the Battle Academy. Graves is busy checking a text message on his phone and he holds up a finger to quiet Paradine.
Luther Graves: "Gimme a minute, I'll double check. Alright, there's a new nightclub that's just opened in the city called The Manhole. It's supposed to be pretty active, a whole bunch of celebrities have been sighted there recently. Ellen Page, Neil Patrick Harris, Zachary Quinto..."
Paradine's lip curls in distaste as Graves reads out the names.
Nathan Paradine: "Of course. And they all have one thing in common..."
Luther Graves: "What's that?"
Nathan Paradine: "I hate their movies. Pure trash. If I never see Juno again it'll be too soon."
Luther Graves: "I really thought you were going to go somewhere else with that. I'm glad you didn't, it is 2019 after all."
Nathan Paradine: "What, you thought I didn't like them because they're gay? I don't give a shit mate, love is love and whatever else. Come on, let's get going."
Paradine climbs into the SUV and, after a few moments of fumbling with the keys and turning the ignition, gets the car back onto the road driving towards the city. The Australian Submission Machine remains silent as he drives while Graves stares out the window. As they cross the bridge Paradine grunts and glances towards Graves quickly.
Nathan Paradine: "So what the hell are you doing here with me anyway? You didn't have to come along on this wild goose chase."
Luther Graves: "Yeah I know, but... I felt like I needed to see it through to the end. And you never know, you might need some backup if things go badly with Marks."
Nathan Paradine: "Have you seen the guy? He's nearly a head shorter than I am! I reckon I'll be fine, I'll just ask for the money and Otis back and I'm sure he'll oblige. I mean, what's the choice otherwise?"
Luther Graves: "You still don't think we should have gone to the police?"
Nathan Paradine: "Oh... nah. The money was all cash, and it would raise uncomfortable tax questions I'd rather avoid."
Paradine coughs several times quickly, bringing the conversation to a standstill for another few moments.
Luther Graves: "Can I ask why you're doing this? I mean, obviously you want your dog and your money back, but... it just seems like a hell of a lot of trouble to go to. Not that I'm complaining or anything, I'm just making an observation."
Paradine is silent for a moment before he reaches into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He passes a crumpled photo to Graves who carefully unfolds it.
Luther Graves: "This is... Patrick Stewart?"
Nathan Paradine: "Yes, but no. That is Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, mate. That's why I'm doing this. Picard inspired me to try and do better with the Hostility Battle Academy, to lead a new generation into the world of professional wrestling. Marks took that dream away from me and now I'm going to make him pay. I had that hung up inside the Academy, it's about the only thing he didn't take when he cleared out of the place. The line must be drawn here, this far and no further!"
Luther Graves: "I get it, but jumping right into the middle of things wasn't really a Picard thing to do. You're being more like a Captain Sisko."
Nathan Paradine: "I dunno who that is, mate."
Luther Graves: "You've watched The Next Generation but you've never seen Deep Space Nine? Jesus, you need to get on that right now."
Nathan Paradine: "You might not have noticed that I've been a little bit busy lately. Besdies, there's the other matter to attend to."
Luther Graves: "Thaddeus Duke?"
Paradine's hands tighten on the steering wheel.
Nathan Paradine: "Thaddeus fuckin' Duke. Santimonius little bastard that he is, going out there and superkicking me. Well I sure showed him didn't I? I was ready and waiting, and he was the one who ended up on his back. Not only that, Jaiden Rishel somehow, I have no idea why, agreed to the Lion's Den match. Things couldn't have gone more perfectly."
Luther Graves: "You're really that confident you can beat Duke?"
Nathan Paradine: "Mate, he's as good as beaten."
Luther Graves: "I hate to be that guy, but... didn't you tell me it wasn't a good idea to proclaim victory before you'd actually, y'know, won?"
Paradine gnashes his teeth and he glances out of the window before replying.
Nathan Paradine: "Yeah, you're right kid. I got caught up in the moment. Thaddeus Duke... he's younger than me, and he's faster. Not quite as broken down, not yet anyway. He's a submission guy too, he even uses the same gogoplata as me. That's bloody disrespectful in of itself, but whatever. I'm heavier than he is, and I have a good twenty years worth of wrestling experience on him. I've gone toe to toe with tougher sons of bitches than this guy in my time, and the ones I didn't beat regretting stepping between those ropes even in victory. I've fought in the Lion's Dean before, and I won. If I did it once, I can do it again."
Luther Graves: "And who did you beat last night?"
Nathan Paradine: "Ah... Chuck Norris."
Luther Graves: "The actor, Chuck Norris? Walker, Texas Ranger Chuck Norris? How long ago was this!?"
Nathan Paradine: "That's the one. Maybe ten, eleven years ago? Back in Hostility."
Graves bursts out in laughter and Paradine narrows his eyes in anger.
Nathan Paradine: "What's so funny?"
Luther Graves: "He must have been, what, seventy years old?"
Nathan Paradine: "That's not the point! The guy was a serious martial artist, and I beat him fair and square."
Luther Graves: "Yeah. that's quite the accomplishment."
Paradine leans forward and peers through the windowshield before slapping Graves on the arm.
Nathan Paradine: "Here. Is this the place?"
Luther Graves: "Yep, looks right on the money."
Paradine pulls into a vacant park a few doors down from the entrance to The Manhole; large glass door inside a bright pink and yellow frame, tropical ferns placed either side. Paradine and Graves step out of the SUV and look up; the building itself is large, easily several stories tall.
Nathan Paradine: "Well at least he made the money go a long way? I thought property in San Francisco was expensive."
Both men approach the door, Graves pushing it open and taking the first step across the threshold. Both men find themselves in an elevator built from polished wood, and a single metal button built into a panel inscribed with the word 'UP'. Graves shrugs and presses it, and with a lurch and a groan the elevator begins its ascent.
Luther Graves: "Very fancy."
Both men stand in silence, until Paradine gives a small cough.
Nathan Paradine: "Thanks again for coming out here with me, kid. It means a lot to know you have my back."
Luther Graves: "Hey, what are friends for, right?"
Nathan Paradine: "It's not that. It's just... I guess I've had a chip on my shoulder for a long time. My whole family is dead, and for just about as long as I can remember it's just been me and a string of ex-wives. I dunno what it is, but I just have this compulsion for people to know who I am. I guess that's why I became a professional wrestler, and why I act the way I do. I do stupid shit, and I say stupid things, because even if it backfires on me at least I'm still in the spotlight. What we're doing here, and by extension this thing with Thaddeus Duke I suppose, is my way of telling myself that I'm here. I still have something to give. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let Simon Marks or The Lion Heart fuck take that away. I've counted on no one but myself up until now, well apart from the dog I guess, but what I'm trying to say is... if I seem like a bit of a dick, well... I'm sorry."
Graves' eyes widen at Paradine's apology. The Australian Submission Machine shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot.
Nathan Paradine: "Now don't you say a fucking word."
There's a small ding, and the doors of the elevator slide open silently. Paradine takes a deep breath and gives Graves a glance.
Nathan Paradine: "Let's finish this."
Both men step onto a floor of polished concrete. On one side of the room immense floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view of downtown San Francisco while a large glass-and-steel bar dominates the opposite wall. In front of them are a small series of stairs leading to a dancefloor lined with low, comfortable looking couches. An empty DJ booth stands opposite both men, who exchange uneasy looks.
Nathan Paradine: "That was pretty fucking easy. Like something from a movie, you'd think there would be security or something."
Luther Graves: "Almost like... we were expected."
Both men look around, but nothing happens. Graves throws his arms up in exasperation.
Luther Graves: "Well it's not a movie, if it was something definitely would have happened when I said that."
There's an excited growl and the sound of skiterring nails on the floor, and suddenly a black blur emerges from behind the far end of the bar barrelling straight towards Paradine and Graves. Paradine grins and kneels down, arms outstretched.
Nathan Paradine: "Otis, my son! Come here!"
The corgi leaps into Paradine's arms, and he immediately scratches the door behind the ears. Otis contorts in his arms and rolls over, exposing his belly for rubbing.
Nathan Paradine: "Otis is here, that has to be a good sign. Oof, you smell bloody nice mate, this must be that premium dog shampoo shit."
Suddenly there's more movement behind the bar and former Hostility Extreme Champion "Sexy" Simon Marks creeps into view dressed in a maroon suit, his platinum blonde hair expertedly styled. What draws the attention of Paradine and Graves, however, is the sight of the loaded shotgun in his hands.
Simon Marks: "Well well well... look what the cat dragged in. Hello, Nathan."
Nathan Paradine: "Go easy, Marks. You know why we're here."
Simon Marks: "Of course. You want the money from your two-bit wrestling school, right? Twenty thousand dollars. It's all gone, sunk right into this place. Think of it as an investment if you like, I'd be willing to make you a minority owner if it would avoid any fuss."
Nathan Paradine: "Do you think I'm an idiot?"
Simon Marks: "I don't think you want to know the answer to that particular question, Nathan."
Nathan Paradine: "Stop with this goddamn bullshit. You took my money and you took my dog, and I'll be taking both back right now. In case you didn't know, I have a wrestling match I need to prepare for and this nonsense is taking away from my valuable training time. So how about you write me a cheque and I'll be on my way, alright? I'm not here to banter or whatever, if you don't give me what I want I'll kick your ass. It's really that simple."
Simon Marks: "I don't think you want to talk like that to a man with a loaded gun."
Nathan Paradine: "You might be a thief and a crook, but you're not a murderer Simon. You're not gonna shoot me."
Simon Marks: "Try me, bitch."
Paradine takes a step forward and Marks' finger tightens on the trigger of the shotgun. Paradine's eyes widen in disbelief as a loud BANG fills the room before Luther Graves tackles him to the floor behind one of the couches. Paradine stares aghast at the wall behind where he was standing which is now riddled with debris from the shotgun shell.
Nathan Paradine: "Simon, you crazy motherfucker! You tried to shoot me!"
There's another bang and bits of fabric and stuffing from the couch float down onto Graves and Paradine who still taking cover behind the couch. Next to Paradine's foot, Otis gives an uneasy whine.
Luther Graves: "Alright, if I try to get him to shoot at me do you think you could take him down?"
Nathan Paradine: "Are you crazy? We need to call 911!
Luther Graves: "Nah, I reckon we can take him. While you were in Europe I used to outwrestle him on the daily in class, and I didn't even know what I was doing. I'm sure we could beat him up."
Paradine peers over the edge of the couch and immediately ducks at the sound of another round being fired off. Finally he nods.
Nathan Paradine: "Alright, go. Draw him away and I'll get the bastard."
Graves dives out of the cover of the couch and barely makes it behind the next one before Marks fires. Again Graves moves and again he makes it to cover, and Marks begins to fiddle with the shotgun. Seizing his opportunity Paradine vaults over the near-destroyed couch and charges at Marks with a roar.
Nathan Paradine: "Oi Marks, you CUNT!"
Marks spins around mid-reload and squeals as Paradine draws closer. He flips the shotgun around and swings for the fences as Paradine reaches him though, driving the butt of the gun into Paradine's face and knocking him to the ground.
Simon Marks: "Don't you try and fuck me, Nathan. Don't you ever try and fuck me."
Nathan Paradine: "What?"
Marks finishes reloading the shotgun and points the barrel down at Paradine, who blinks through the blood trickling from a cut over his left eyebrow.
Nathan Paradine: "Fuckin' do it."
There's a sudden growl and Marks shrieks as Otis latches onto his ankle, gnawing furiously as the leg of his suit pants. Marks raises the shotgun to try and beat the dog off but Graves charges and spear-tackles him into the front of the bar that gives way under the impact with a crash sending shards of glass and bits of metal flying. Paradine rolls over and notices the shotgun lying near the next unbroken section of bar and he snatches it up.
Nathan Paradine: "Luther? You okay?"
There's a groan and Graves rises to his feet pulling Marks alongside him by the collar. Graves deposits Marks in a heap at Paradine's feet and Paradine kicks him onto his back.
Nathan Paradine: "Give it up, mate. Just pay us the money."
Simon Marks: "I don't... have it. All... gone... I told you that."
Nathan Paradine: "This place has been open for weeks, you're telling me you haven't made any proft at all?"
Simon Marks: "This place is funded... by investors. I used your money... to pay off old debts of my own. It's been a... rough few years, Nathan."
Nathan Paradine: "Son of a bitch. So this was all for nothing?"
Paradine tosses the shotgun away onto the couch and glances at Graves.
Nathan Paradine: "Looks like this whole thing was just a wild goddamn goose chase. Let's get out of here, Luther.
Paradine scoops Otis up and both men begin to walk towards the elevator, Graves giving Marks a small kick as he steps over his whimpering body. The elevator doors open and both men enter, Paradine pressing the button to go back to the ground floor as he steps inside. The doors slide shut silently, leaving both men and the dog battered, but alive.
Nathan Paradine: "God, I fucking hate California."