New Pal

Tim pulled his shirt up and wiped his face with it. The shirt was black, and the sweat left a shiny smear just under the Batman symbol. His mom would’ve yelled at him if she’s seen it, but they never let parents in during recruitment.

Marius sat down against the wall. He was sweating, too. The basketball rolled into a corner and rested there, waiting. The boys had been playing one-on-one for an hour. They hadn’t talked much; Marius was nervous and Tim knew to wait for the recruit to make the first move.

“What are they? The invaders, I mean.” Marius was still panting a little, but he got the question out.

Tim was a little surprised. Normally the first question was “can I learn kung fu” or something like that. “They’re aliens,” he said.

“I know that,” said Marius. “But like, I saw one. When they hit that music show-”

“Bonaroo,” muttered Tim.

“Right. I saw video online, and the invaders were just people, and they were just pointed at other people and-”

“They ain’t people,” said Tim. This wasn’t what he was good at. He was good at making using Time sound cool. He was good at the kung fu questions. Leah was better at invader questions. “They’re…it’s hard to explain.”

Marius looked over at the cooler. “What’s in that?”

“Water, drinks. No soda, though.”

“I don’t like soda anyway,” said Marius. He got up and opened the cooler. Marius pulled a sports drink out; his mom didn’t let him drink it, normally. Tim followed him and pulled out a bottle of water.

“OK,” said Tim. “So, the invaders didn’t come in ships, right?”

Marius nodded. “Right, because they’d have to move faster than the speed of light and you can’t do that.”

Tim shrugged. “I guess. Anyway, they got here as information. They got here as a signal. And some scientist guys in China put the signal together and, like, put it in a body.”

“How?”

“I don’t know.” Tim flushed a little. He hated not knowing stuff when recruits asked. “But anyway, once they had bodies, the invaders started making their own bodies. Like, people can use 3D printers to make organs, right? Like if you need a new heart or liver or whatever? The invaders used that tech and made bodies for themselves. That’s why most of them look like people, because it lets them walk around and no one knows.”

Marius nodded. “OK. But my friend at school said he saw one that had, like, extra arms.”

Tim scoffed. “Probably he’s full of crap.” Marius smirked. “But the invaders make new bodies. They just arrange the brain so it already knows things. They can do things with their brains that we can’t do, they can make a brain that already knows something so it starts out adult and has all the skill it needs.”

“But we can’t do that?”

Tim finished off his water and pitched the bottle into a recycling bin. “No. We have to do something else. We can’t build a working brain from nothing, there’s too many little things we don’t know how to do. We have to take a working brain and then change it.” Tim picked up the ball out of the corner and tossed it over his shoulder. It fell through the hoop with a fwip. Tim didn’t even turned around.

Marius gaped a little. “Can I learn that?”

“I don’t know what you can learn,” said Tim. “But you can learn something cool.”

 

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