by April O’Neil
Jurassic Park’s Briefing Room felt like a halfling restroom, even though it was roughly the size of half a Blood Bowl pitch. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Lizards had just returned from a close victory over the Wasteland Athletic Conference’s bad boys, the Thugz of Weldrake, at Black Stronghold. The team was sitting at two long tables split by a podium made of bones. While the players’ demeanor was professional and attentive (evidence of the team discipline instilled by their coach), the cracks in the armour were visible if you knew where to look, like I did. The veins in the corners of Spermadactyl’s eyes were unusually pronounced. Smashceratops was wearing sunglasses. The outline of a pill bottle could slightly be discerned in the breast pocket of Gruntosaurus’s form-fitting Arachnarok-silk shirt. And with his team doing their best to weather a hurricane hangover after a post-game celebration that would make most rock bands blush, Coach Serious Jest strolled to the podium with the swagger and energy of a man who had gotten a full night’s sleep in a quiet bed…except that he had been out with the rest of us the night before…all night.
After TMNL’s Tyrannosaurus Flex almost bit off the head of the Thugz’s Smirnoff, and the referee sounded the final whistle; and after 3,000 Thuggees tried to rush the field, only to be countered by 8,000 visiting TMNL fans and, eventually, the Black Stronghold Police Department Riot Squad; and after the BSPD escorted TMNL back to their locker room and then out of the stadium, the team found itself celebrating its win at the local club, Thugz Paradise. Everyone was there. The Manhatin Lizbians had shown up, as well as players from other Jest-coached teams, such as Feel the Burn, the Big Short, Not So Friendly Woodies, the Greendale Human Beings and even Sausage Party—in fact, Pharrell Killems was DJing. The Champain was flowing, the orcain was blowing, and everyone was having a great time.
That’s when He emerged from the crowd. His gait was distinct, like a cat on the hunt. Powerful, but even somehow…feminine…beautiful. He wore a royal purple tunic, with ruffles down the front and on the sleeves. It was an outfit that you could only picture on a star figure skater, but it looked appropriate on Him. He was perfectly arranged, with every detail carefully set in place; His moustache so perfect it looked drawn on. As He fixated his gaze upon me, the music began to fade out of my ears, and I looked into His eyes…next thing I knew, I was desperately trying to catch my breath, smelling His sweet smell of lilac. He told me to introduce Him to my “Ninja friends.”
When we got to TMNL’s VIP section, I didn’t even manage to announce His whole name before He interrupted me in a measured tone: “Hello, Serious Jest. I’m a big fan of your coaching. Would you like to come to my house and listen to some music?”
“That’s cool,” said Coach Jest. “Frau Farhissina, get the lizousine ready.” As the newest member of the lizard farm team, she was the default gofer.
“Assemble your crew,” replied our new friend. “I’ll be outside.”
His sprawling mansion was breathtaking. Purple water flowed from a huge fountain to the front door. The master bedroom had been converted to a hair salon. His entertainment room couches were made of genuine minotaur leather. He played music that none of us had ever heard on the most state-of-the-art sound system that any of us had ever seen…and it was fangtastic.
The party at His home was even better than the one we were having at Thugz Paradise. More beautiful people of all races arrived, including the widely-courted treewoman, Mary Jane. A mere 3 turns in, however, our host proclaimed, while provocatively licking a Mollypop, “This bores me. Is anyone up for a game of casketball?” Maimonychus laughed out loud, since casketball is a dangerous game that many fables warned should only be attempted by vampires older than 300 years.
But the Lord of the manor wasn’t joking: “How about you and your friends…versus me…and the Revolution?” He gestured toward his entourage.
I looked around for Coach Jest. Surely he wouldn’t allow his players to engage in this kind of unnecessarily risky behavior the week before the Jurassic Classic, the game against their stadium mates, Hissstory of Violence. More importantly, I knew what TMNL was capable of. They were overwhelmingly strong and mercilessly competitive, and, to be honest, I was worried about what might happen to the gorgeous challenger. Unfortunately, Coach Jest had disappeared. I had last seen him in the hot tub with two strikingly attractive twin witch elves.
To my utter dismay, the challenge was accepted, and servants were ordered to fetch TMNL athletic gear. Once TMNL changed over, they headed down to the indoor casketball court to await their opponents. Torpedoraptor was reassuring Tyrannosaurus Flex that the former had merely been shaken up, not injured, during the match with the Thugz, when the Revolution showed up. They were all wearing the same attire they had on at the club, ruffles and all. Decorum immediately fell by the wayside. The TMNL players broke into hysterical laughter, and Velociraper proclaimed, “Hey, you know what? You know what we gonna call this? ‘The Shirts against the Blouses’!”
And then I saw it. The usual aloof, amused, soul-undressing look in the eye of our new acquaintance was replaced by a fierce, piercing stare. He had a mean streak…and extraordinary talent to back it up. He was wizard-lightning quick, shaking Ornithop0wna so badly that the latter fell to the ground grasping helplessly at the Revolution leader while He glided past him untouched. He was an unselfish athlete, drawing Trippertaurus and Killmono Dragon away from their casket in order to free up His teammates to ambush Torpedoraptor and slam him into the casket. Torpedo’s head hit the Athel Loren wood, and he cried out in pain: “My neck!”
Hannibal Lickter made a last-ditch effort to block the lid as it was closing, but the court’s owner had managed to slip to his flank. “I could have killed you,” He flatly declared. Lickter’s arm was outstretched toward the casket, which had allowed the Master of the mansion to maneuver a very sharp stake to Lickter’s chest…right over his heart. The sexual Messiah, as he had told me to call him, then swiftly kicked the coffin lid shut, dropped the stake, and announced, “Game. Blouses.” Then He led everyone upstairs and served them pancakes.
At the next morning’s press conference, Coach Jest fielded the swarm of eager questions:
Reporter #1: What’s the miracle that you’re holding a press conference? You rarely do these!
SJ: I feel like everyone does press conferences. Not hating at all; I do enjoy reading about them, but I like to present TMNL’s story through different mediums…you know, push the bounds of my creativity a little.
R2: Coach, you look very alert and well-rested. No celebration after a really tough and much-needed victory?
SJ: I don’t get hangovers. Next?
R3: Another game in which your team was the favorite comes down to the final turns. Were you worried that this would be your 3rd tie in a row?
SJ: We don’t take any MML team lightly. If you’re in the pros, you’re here for good reason. People underestimate the Thugz because they don’t believe in extra training. They are extremely religious, and they’re willing to accept what Nuffle gives them. However, they spend their money on other luxuries that most teams don’t get, such as assistant coaches and cheerleaders, and their fanatic followers contribute generously to their petty cash pool. While they came into this match 0-1-3, they were a threat either the entire game or until the final turns in all of their losses, against some pretty stiff competition. As we all know, the East is the most difficult division to play in.
R4: How did you prepare for them differently, if at all?
SJ: Well, the first thing we did was get rid of one their key players before he even took the field. Specifically, there was no way we were allowing Grashnak Blackhoof on the pitch to create matchup problems and cause the same trouble he’s been causing to past opponents of the Thugz. We know he’s their go-to merc, so we exercised spending discipline to keep our Team Value down. As a result, the Thugz were not allowed to spend enough petty cash under the League rules to hire Grashnak.
R5: Were they tougher than you expected?
Again, we watched game film on them, and we expected them to come out swinging. This is the first archetype of a bashy team that we have faced this season, unless you count the Leaping Lizard, who likes to knuckle up when they can. But this team really tried to bring the heat to us. 40 successful blocks; it wasn’t overwhelming, but it was more than anyone else has landed on us all season. Still, our guys took it on the chin and kept fighting. Nobody died, and there were no major injuries. On the other hand, we dished out 62 successful blocks and injured 2 Thugz.
R6: Speaking of injuries, Torpedoraptor is listed on the injury report as Missing Next Game. After yesterday’s game, you said it was just a stinger and that he should be fine for next game. What changed?
Coach Jest’s eyes met with mine for a slight instant, before he quickly scanned his team, whose heads were down, and then answered: “It turned out to be a little worse than we thought. I’m not a doctor. I’ve been told he’ll sit out one game and be back in time for the game against The Green Tide Titans.”
R7: How will you cope with losing one of your leading scorers?
SJ: Everyone is important, but no one is indispensable. We have three leading scorers. The other two will step it up.
SJ: Also, we have welcomed a new player to the TMNL family. A buzz spread throughout the room as people wondered aloud who this new addition could be. From now on, we will pay further homage to our team namesakes by having our new players adopt the name of a famous artist who was known by a single name…and that can be any art form. But in the case of our new player, a name change won’t be necessary. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Prince Rogers Nelskink…but you will know him as Prince.
Just as the buzz from the audience began to turn into a roar, the overwhelmingly delicious sounds of an electric guitar blared through the room’s speakers, as the room’s lights cut off and as a purple spotlight engulfed the podium from directly above a previously disguised hole in the ceiling. Through that hole dropped Prince, slowly descending toward the crowd with his arms outstretched to his sides, like an angel. The rhythmic beat of a bass drum joined the strum of the electric guitar, creating a captivating original medley that would be sure to stick in everyone’s heads for the next few weeks, at least. “He’s beautiful,” one female reporter exclaimed, probably louder than she had intended.
Coach Jest looked surprised by the entrance and annoyed at its extravagance. He waited until Prince reached the ground before hissing something under his breath at Prince and pointing to an empty seat at the far end of one of the tables. Coach Jest swiped a rigid hand across his neck, indicating that the briefing room staff should cut the music, and they did. The lights were returned to their original condition, as well.
After a few seconds of silence, one of the reporters asked, “Where did you find him, Coach?”
Coach Jest looked at me again, then back at the reporter, and responded, “Let’s just say he owed me a favor.” Coach Jest then shot a look at Torpedoraptor, who was looking down at the table from his neck brace.
The next question shot out from the back of the room: “So…what exactly is your game plan for next week?”
Coach Jest squinted to look at the originator of the question: “Wait, I know that voi—oh, dammit, Crow, get outta here! This briefing over! See you at the Jurassic Classic next week! And tell your team to wear fresh underwear for when they get hit by that truck!”
“Had to try!” yelled The_Crow_09 over his shoulder, laughing as he walked out. “See you next week!”