... What seemed like a simple delivery job has taken a turn for the worse. ...
"Guess who's wakin' up over here."
Phil Jackson blinked twice -- his hands were tied. He was kneeling in a graveyard on a dry, dark night. His head was pounding and his mouth was parched. Sore all over, like he'd been thrown around by a tornado for the last seventeen years. The pronounced aches of an old center's age were replaced by the more pressing aches of a man beaten to hell. He looked up, the blur in his vision fading. The confusion got worse. There was a young man in a strange suit with two weapon-clad bodyguards at his sides. The man looked at him. "Time to cash out." Phil blinked again. Is that a young Craig Sager? Before he could vocalize the thought, one of the armed guards jeered at the younger Sager. "Would you get it over with?"
"Maybe Khans kill people without lookin' em in the face, but I ain't a fink. Dig?" Phil stared blankly. OK. He's definitely talking like Craig Sager. "You've made your last delivery, kid." The man took out a silver poker chip, acting as though it would mean something to Jackson, then pocketed it. "Sorry you got twisted up in this scene. From where you're kneeling, must seem like an 18 carat run of bad luck. Truth is, the game was rigged from the start." The man who resembled Craig Sager whipped out a gun -- it had a picture of the Virgin Mary engraved into the handle. Wait, for real? Craig Sager... kills people? With a stupidly ostentatious pistol? Is THAT where he gets the money for those suits? Everything makes sense. The man pointed the gun at Phil's head. Phil opened his mouth -- partly in speech, partly in shock.
"Wait... Craig, really?" BANG. Phil Jackson's world went dark.
• • •
"You're awake. How about that?"
Phil Jackson awoke with a flash of light, sitting up in bed as though he'd been shot. (Funny story: he had.) At the chair beside him sat an old doctor, devoid of lab coat or identifying features. "Woah, easy there. Easy. You've been out cold a couple of days now. Why don't you just relax a second, get your bearings? Let's see what the damage is. What about your name? Can you tell me your name?"
"... name's Phil. Phil Jackson. You've probably heard of me."
"Can't say it's what I'd have picked for you, but if that's your name, that's your name."
"OK. First, that's a remarkably rude thing to say about a man's name. Second, stop playing dumb. I've won eleven rings. You know who I am, doc."
"I'm Doc Mitchell. Welcome to Goodsprings."
"Way to totally ignore what I just said. Look, I'm Phil Jackson. I used to coach the Lakers. Anything? The Bulls? Michael Jordan? Made a hilarious twitter account?"
"Now, I hope you don't mind, but I had to go rooting around there in your noggin to pull all the bits of lead out. I take pride in my needlework, but you'd better tell me if I left anything out of place." Doc Mitchell handed Phil a mirror. Jackson examined himself, scratching his beard. The Doctor said he'd only been out a few days, but Phil didn't know if he believed him; his beard was scraggly, like he'd been out for months on end. Otherwise, he looked about the same -- thinner, certainly, and (strangely enough) a bit younger. But he wasn't too worse for the wear. The Doctor did good work. That said, there was still the matter of Mitchell's responses -- the Doctor seemed to have little to no recognition of anything Phil was telling him, and his utter disregard for everything Phil said both bothered and intrigued him. He nodded, as though to approve of his surgeon's work. The doctor smiled. "Well, I got most everything right. No sense keeping you in bed anymore. Let's see if we can get you on your feet."
The doctor wrested Phil up from the bed, causing Jackson to wobble precariously at his bedside. "Are you SURE I was only out a few days?" After a few false starts, Phil finally got the hang of his legs. He quickly noticed that his gait -- once a bit awkward -- was now extremely regularized, each step virtually exactly like the one before. He had three speeds with no in-between: a slow walk, a brisk jog, and a breakneck sprint. After he jogged around Doc Mitchell's home a few times, toying with his new speed and his strangely regular gait, he realized that the doctor had been talking to him the entire time. Mitchell was pointing him towards an exceedingly odd contraption, a next-level version of one of those quarter machines you'd "test your strength" at in the 80s. Phil stepped up and put his hand on the lever.
His general confusion at the situation didn't abate with the strange machine -- if anything, it got more pronounced. As Phil adjusted the numbers, he could feel the edges of their impact on his frame as a whole -- as an experiment, he pushed Strength all the way to ten and felt his biceps ripple and bulge in a way they hadn't done since his New York days. As he raised his Charisma, he felt a calming trust fall over his countenance, as though he was becoming a new-age Ghandi. After playing around with the machine, Jackson settled on a set of numbers he felt allotted him the most reasonable facsimile of his day-to-day attitudes and skills: slightly lowered strength and agility, befitting his general age, but a high dose of luck and intelligence to counteract that. A touch of extra Charisma, Endurance, and Perception finished his work, allowing Jackson to step back and admire the statistics whose meaning he couldn't really understand.
As Phil turned off the machine, Doc Mitchell beckoned him into the next room, where there was a couch and a chair. He intimated that he was going to do a personality test -- Phil stared at him quizzically, made to refuse, then decided that it wasn't worth the effort. None of this makes any sense, but maybe if I play along I'll get out of here a little bit faster. Jackson sat down across from the doctor, who shuffled a few papers and took up his clipboard. "OK, Phil. I'm gonna say a word. Say the first thing that comes to mind. Let's start with... dog."
"A one-armed bandit."
Doc Mitchell stared at him a few seconds, confused. "... Interesting. Now I've got a few pictures. Tell me what you think of when you see each one, Phil."
"Obviously that's the Larry O'Brien trophy... if you turned upside down and blew it up."
"The Triangle offense has gone horribly wrong."
"My 2009 championship ring placed upon an immaculate bed of velvet."
Phil Jackson sat, contented. The doctor nodded, jotted down a few notes, and then stared at Phil. Time seems to stop momentarily as a screen pops up, a screen that only Phil could see -- it had upon it a variety of skills and abilities. His screen explained that the skills came from his personality test, and that they show him to be skilled at energy weapons, explosives, and speech. After mulling it over for a minute, Jackson accepted the premise of the proficiencies. Energy Weapons is probably a thinly veiled critique of Sun Yue and Trevor Ariza, but I'll take it. Explosives makes a lot of sense -- I mean, Christ, I coached Ron Artest for two years, didn't I? As for speech, I'm not really sure about that. Doc must have a sense of humor. Maybe he HAS been listening to me. Whoops.
Phil nods, causing the screen to vanish and another to appear -- this one explains that Phil has a choice between a series of "perks", with the "Wild Wasteland" already selected. He scrolls through the screen, but it gets stuck on "skilled" -- the screen explains that Jackson will get two more skill points per level at the expense of 10% of all experience points going forward. Phil stares at the screen, completely at a loss as to what that means. He shrugs, accepts, and the screens leave him. The doctor escorts him out of the house, giving him "back" a bunch of personal effects that had been on Phil when he was brought into the doctor's office. Phil was surprised at the depth of his inventory -- he had (for whatever reason) a lot of bottle caps, a ton of guns, and a bunch of different variations on the concept of armor. After letting Phil pick out his clothing and put on his hat and his glasses, Doc Mitchell opened his door and sent him off, staring at his patient with a strangely vacant expression as Phil took his first steps forward into the Mojave Wasteland.
• • •
As Phil Jackson stepped into the barren Mojave, deja vu came over him. The world was familiar but unsettlingly different. Most of the houses in Goodsprings were boarded up, with a few of them completely obliterated. The mailboxes were all dusty with disuse and neglect, and nobody seemed to be bothered when Phil opened a few to examine the contents. Most of them had a strange assortment of junk -- one had a baseball glove, another a toy truck, another a flatiron. Occasionally, one would have a stack of money or a bunch of bottle caps. He pocketed the bottle caps, sensing in them some element of importance. He made his way up the hill behind the town, eventually stopping at the first place he remembered being -- the middle of the cemetery, right at the dug-up grave where he'd been shot.
Before he could examine the gravesite, Phil took out a machete and took on some obscenely disgusting creatures that were buzzing about -- giant toddler-sized flying roaches. Having quickly dispatched them, he sheathed his weapon and approached the gravesite, intently examining the area in hopes for one of those perfect moments where he'd suddenly remember everything that happened.
... yeah, no, that was a stupid idea.
Phil sighed, looking around. He closed his eyes and tried to think. Other than his general career as a basketball coach and as the world's most confusing motivational speaker, he couldn't really remember much of anything before he woke up with his hands tied at the gravesite. He supposed, on further examination, that such a response was to be expected -- his head still smarted a bit from the smack upside the head he'd taken at some point before this all began. That certainly wasn't going away for a while.
That said, he didn't necessarily need to know all that much more to know what he had to do. He vaguely remembered that the town of Goodsprings was in Nevada -- he'd visited Goodsprings long ago, with pals and peyote. He also vaguely remembered that it was reasonably close to Las Vegas, the only place on Earth that Craig Sager could escape into a crowd. In fact... that silver thing that Sager had flipped appeared to be a poker chip. So he's in Vegas. Impressed by his deductive reasoning, Jackson turned tail and headed for the town saloon -- perhaps they'd have a better idea of where he could find a car and make his way to Vegas. Perhaps if he was lucky, they'd even supply him some Absinthe!
As he entered the saloon, he noticed a lady leaving the saloon with an enormous, imposing dog. She was dressed in leather armor and bore a large varmint rifle, wistfully reminding Phil of Jeanie's short stint as the queen of a rogue biker gang. God, I miss Jeanie. I wonder where she is... He waved the lady down, explaining his situation to her. Her name was Sunny Smiles. As with Doc Mitchell, she had little to no idea who he was and hadn't seemed to have ever heard of "basketball" before. She laughed at the idea of a car, disturbing Phil -- how am I going to get to Vegas without one? Sunny was good people, though -- she offered to take Phil out to practice his shooting. As Phil hadn't shot a rifle in years, he accepted the offer.
They ran towards the town water supply, Sunny barking targeting orders and Phil trying to get everything straight in his head. Don't aim at the other person, kneel to steady your stance, "press V for VATS" ... wait, how do I press V? What does that even mean? Phil made to ask Sunny, but she shushed him -- they were crouched, now, sneaking up on a trio of giant geckos eating the piping at a well. Phil thought the flying roaches at the cemetary were big, but he was absolutely speechless at the size of the geckos -- they were 3-4 feet tall, with two rows of sharp, gnashing teeth and ghastly blackened claws. Their eyes were empty and soulless, and they looked like they'd tear anyone who met them to shreds. Jackson bit his lip and leaned over to Sunny.
"Are we... uh... are we sure we have to kill them?"
Sunny stared at him disapprovingly.
"OK, OK, fine."
Sunny shrugged, taking out her rifle. She aimed with her tongue out -- Jordan style! -- and pulled the trigger, letting off a perfectly aimed bead that caught one of the geckos straight in the face. The Gecko let out a piercing cry, causing all three of them to stop what they were doing and rush towards Phil and the gang. Phil crouched, aiming his gun carefully. He pulled the trigger and a similarly well-aimed shot hit another Gecko in the head -- it stumbled backwards. Phil shot again -- the Gecko's head exploded in a satisfying crack. Sunny and Phil continued, killing the lot of them without even needing to reload. The shooting over, Phil placed the rifle on the holster that adorned his back. Sunny punched him in the shoulder. "Good shootin', Phil!" Nothin to be scared of with these Geckos, you hear?"
"Yeah, yeah." Jackson shrugged, pretending he hadn't been mortified out of his wits just seconds earlier. Phil accompanied Sunny to another two wells, eliminating the Gecko problem and parting ways with a small payment for his services. The payment was in bottle caps, which confused Phil greatly, but not enough to ask any more questions.
Phil sat down to get his bearings, considering his options. It was almost night -- he'd been told he could sleep in one of the Goodsprings houses. Before he could decide, he was beckoned by a strange man by the name of Barton Thorn -- apparently, he needed Phil's help. "Mister, my girlfriend's trapped up on the old radio tower -- the geckos have trapped her up there. Please, mister, you have to save her!"
"The name's Phil Jackson. I won some rings. You've probably heard of me."
"Yeah, me too. I could really use some onion rings right now."
• • •
DOES PHIL JACKSON HAVE THE SYMPATHY IN HIS HEART TO HELP BARTON THORN'S GIRLFRIEND?
... OR DOES HE HAVE NO TIME TO SUFFER FOOLS?
Decide in the comments below, or on twitter -- mention Phil Vegas to @gothicginobili or use the hashtag #PhilVegas for all responses. Leave any format-type concerns/thoughts in the comments as well. This is, as you must have noticed, decidedly a work in progress.