They Think it's All Over: Part Four
Riots had followed the joint announcement by the Judge and Jennings. Though in the Krawk’s mind, that had always been inevitable. Faced with the end of civilisation, the people would not be immediately placated with nothing more than a Yooyuball game.
But the following morning, the people of Neopia Central woke to find that the world hadn’t ended. With still a month until the deadline, they had burnt out their rioting on the first day. In the cold hard light of day, the people tried to go about their business and forget the madness of the previous night.
Depression would soon set in, Jennings could see this. It was his true target, not to stop people rioting, but to keep the city ticking for the remainder of the month.
The Krawk’s first stop that morning was to a studio in the art district, to a small, but remarkably well known designer, provided one moved in the right circles.
“Miss Priscilla Verhiem?” Jennings enquired as he opened the door.
A scene of organised chaos greeted him. Canvases and fabrics were strewn across the floor haphazardly, while paints and chalks seemed randomly scrawled across both flaws and walls.
Amidst the chaos of the studio stood a smart looking striped Cybunny, seeming the polar opposite of her surroundings. Her blue suit was crisp and clean, and her sleek black hair seemed all business and no fun.
“Yes, dahling,” the Cybunny answered, turning from a canvas she had been critically inspecting. “And you are?”
“Mr. Jennings,” he answered, “This is my associate, Mr. Black.”
The Grarrl nodded.
“You were recommended to us as the perfect designer for our little project,” Jennings added.
The Cybunny’s cold eyes seemed to light up slightly.
“The Yooyuball game, yes?” she enquired. “What is it you wish of me?”
“The team needs a uniform,” Jennings answered.
“A uniform!” the Cybunny gasped, rushing towards her desk and hastily scrawling a few sketches. “Yes! Yes! I can already picture it! Did you have anything in mind?”
“I was thinking, perhaps, something in black?” Jennings supplied hopefully.
“Black?” Priscilla asked, the cold look returning to her eyes.
“Or whatever current fashion trends dictate to be the current ‘new black’,” Jennings backtracked.
“Black is the new black, dahling! And always was!” Priscilla exclaimed, her voice steadily becoming more excitable as new ideas formed in her mind. “But we must ignore black! Black is the colour of night, of the darkness, of the cold grip of failure as you fade away into obscurity! Black is the harbinger of your own defeat! No, we must embrace colour! All colours! And above all the colour of all colours – white! Like a brave new dawn on the horizon, greeting your little Yooyuball team as they ride triumphantly into the glorious future!”
Priscilla sighed, her excitement fading as she reclaimed control of her senses.
“White it is then,” Jennings agreed diplomatically.
Priscilla stared at a blank white canvas nearby, reconsidering her idea. Her eyes lit up again as she added, “... but also red, of course, for a splash of colour. Red, the colour of anger, of passion, of the blood of your enemies as you stride forwards through their ruin to victory!”
She experimentally flicked a paintbrush across the blank canvas, creating a thick red line across the white. This seemed to please her, as she clapped gleefully before returning her suddenly cold eyes to Jennings.
“I believe I can accommodate you, dahling,” she told him.
Jennings smiled, slightly perplexed by the Cybunny’s behaviour, but aware that artists in general tended to be slightly erratic.
“Excellent,” he said. “As soon as you feel you have a workable design, please deliver the sketches to my tower in the Docklands and they will begin production.”
With the overall look of the team now in production, Jennings focused his attention on the actual composition of it. Tryouts were scheduled for the following day, but Jennings himself was not a sporting man, in every sense of the word.
In his time as part of the Imperial Army of Shenkuu he had remained focused on his career, rising to the rank of General as quickly as possible. Whilst in theory he took part in many sports as part of his training, in reality he paid little attention to them. Since leaving Shenkuu and beginning his life anew he had been similarly occupied with rising to the top of Neopia Central and maintaining it once he was there.
Sport of course was based on sets of rules and tactics that Jennings understood perfectly – it was in many ways no different to the day to day strategising he performed on the city at large. But to spot the raw potential for specific roles within the team, Jennings would need help.
Mr. Black had been helpful enough to supply the name of an ex-Yooyuball coach he knew in the Docklands, and the two of them headed off to meet him soon after leaving the studio of Priscilla Verhiem.
Jennings paused to look up at the tatty sign atop the door of the tavern.
“The Prince’s Noose...” he remarked. “How charming.”
Inside he was greeted by a thick layer of smoke. At lunchtime, there were only a few regular customers, the type that tended to spend most of their lives at their local watering hole.
Jennings made his way over to his target and tapped him politely on the shoulder.
“Mr. Beastbanks?” he asked.
The zombie Kacheek turned on his stool and fixed Jennings with his bloodshot eyes. “Who wants to know?”
“I am Mr. Jennings,” the Krawk introduced himself. “I have come to offer you terms of employment.”
“I don’t work for no one no more,” the Kacheek muttered, turning back to his drink.
“I understand completely,” Jennings said without skipping a beat as he sat down next to the Kacheek. “A man of your stature doesn’t need to work again. The man who trained the Haunted Woods team to become the first Yooyuball champions of this millennium can essentially name his price.”
The Kacheek glared at Jennings, swaying slightly. “Ancient history. I don’t care which team you’re from, I’ve left the game behind.”
“I’m not a representative of any current team.” Jennings smiled. “I’m looking to start a new one.”
“Like I said, I’ve left the game,” Beastbanks repeated. “It was no good for me.”
“Yes, I can imagine why you’d say that,” Jennings agreed. “The titanic failure of the Haunted Woods team the following year, your sudden death and reanimation, attempting to gain employment as the Roo Island coach, being rejected due to your living impaired state, seeing that same Roo Island team win the following cup, even being turned down by Team Altador, losing your home, and then gradually gravitating your way towards this dump.”
Jennings smiled across the bar at the bartender, adding, “No offence.”
“You’ve got a way of making a guy feel real good about himself,” Beastbanks muttered.
“My point is, Mr. Beastbanks, that you do not have to sit here, wallowing in your own despair,” Jennings explained. “I am offering you the chance to show the world that George Beastbanks is the greatest coach Yooyuball has ever seen.”
“By fielding a new team?” Beastbanks asked. “That don’t work no more. Didn’t you see how Moltara did when they joined? The talents all been tied up in the big teams these days, you start a new team and you have to take the dregs – I coach this new team of yours and I’d be a laughing stock, it’d be the final nail in my coffin.”
Beastbanks coughed heavily. “And trust me, I know a lot about nails in coffins.”
“The situation would be somewhat different with a Neopia Central team, Mr. Beastbanks.” Jennings smiled, leaning in to whisper. “I intend to cheat.”
“Cheat!?” Beastbanks yelled, attracting the attention for nearby drinkers.
“Yes,” Jennings replied. “It strikes me that all of the teams currently participating are far too straight-laced. Why, Team Brightvale used to be rotten to the core, and the moment they stopped cheating, they dropped to the bottom of the standings. In my humble opinion, there is a niche open at the Altador Cup, and I intend to fill it.”
“You want me to make a great return to the sport by cheating?” Beastbanks asked.
“By showing them that you can win, no matter what the cost,” Jennings corrected him. “Or, at least beat Team Altador. Wouldn’t that give you the satisfaction you desire?”
The Kacheek took a deep slug of his drink. “Good pay?”
“Exceptionally,” Jennings replied with a smile.
The Kacheek’s face brightened for a moment before returning to the depressed default. “I’m not the type of person you’re looking for. I’m no one.”
“There is a saying, in Shenkuu, Mr. Beastbanks,” Jennings added. “It loosely translates as, ‘Today there were rockslides, but the new day may be a great big bowl of tentacle rice’.”
Beastbanks stared blankly at Jennings.
“It loses something in the translation,” Jennings admitted. “But the meaning behind it is valid. Today you are no one, Mr. Beastbanks, but tomorrow... well, who can say what it may hold?”
“A great big bowl of tentacle rice?” Beastbanks asked.
Jennings sighed. “Coach of a successful Yooyuball team. The point is that the future is a land of infinite possibilities – it is what you make it, Mr. Beastbanks. I am offering you a chance to make it something glorious.”
“You’ll need to go with a balanced two-two formation if you’re going to play dirty,” Beastbanks said, relenting to Jennings’s optimism. “I don’t know any experienced players who’d be willing to play like that though.”
“We’re going to recruit rookies,” Jennings supplied nonchalantly.
Beastbanks spluttered into his drink.
“Rookies!?” he asked. “And you want to take them to the Cup!?”
“Rookies at Yooyuball, Mr. Beastbanks,” Jennings said, standing up. “Experts at playing dirty. It is what people in this city do best. I take it we can count on you then?”
Beastbanks nodded grimly, and attempted to stand up. His legs refused to cooperate and he found himself on the floor.
“Might I suggest you try and get yourself cleaned up, Mr. Beastbanks?” Jennings said. “The tryouts are tomorrow, after all.”
“Sir,” Mr. Black interrupted. “Johnny Twobit said he needed to speak with you.”
“Indeed,” Jennings said. “Mr. Beastbanks, we will see you tomorrow, yes?”
A garbled response came from the floor as Jennings and Black let themselves out.
To be continued...