Once again, I’m standing in the training room at the School.
And once again, Brian and Stretch are here with me.
But Miles isn’t here.
He’s at Faucheuse Tower, in Valerie’s lab, taking lessons with her.
I think they’re working on a robot.
Pretty neat, huh?
Instead, I’m with another new recruit.
Who turns out to also be an old friend.
I turn to the new recruit, having never thought I’d see him in a battle suit.
“Alright, Andre. Welcome back to Dr. Pierre Faucheuse’s School for Gifted Individuals.”
Yes, Andre got his wish, and turned out to be an X-Positive too.
Well, Brian and Stretch are here, so you should be able to figure it out, if you remember what they do.
“Happy to be here, Cal. So when do I learn how to do that ball thing like Miles? I’ve been looking forward to that since I got my powers.”
Brian speaks up.
“For Miles, it’s pretty easy. The catch is, he can only turn into a ball, and he’s not as bouncy as us. We can do it too, but for us, it’s a complex move. If you want a demonstration: Stretch! Code Space Jam!”
“Yu gut it, Bwi. Andwe?”
“Yeah, lil’ nigga?”
“Shud up an jam.”
Stretch contorts his body into a perfect sphere. Brian picks him up and dribbles him like a basketball.
Stretch doesn’t actually mind when people do that. He thinks it’s fun. If some of the guys are playing three on three, and they lose the ball, Stretch is happy to fill in for it.
They just have to make sure that Brian isn’t on either team, because Stretch can’t resist the urge to cheat for him. If the other team tries to score, Stretch will expand so he doesn’t fit in the basket.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a bunch of guys with superpowers playing basketball.
Andre cackles again as Brian passes Stretch to him.
“Hahaaa! Look at this dude bounce!”
After Andre dribbles Stretch for a bit, Stretch returns to his normal shape and walks back over to Brian, looking up at Andre and smiling at him.
“If Andwe wan du dat again, jus say da wowd.”
“You got it, lil’ guy.”
Then I turn to Andre.
“Later, guys. Later. Andre, we’ll skip the usual initiation, since you’ve seen it all before. Instead, you’ll be–”
I’m interrupted by Victor walking in.
I turn to Victor.
“Vic, put the gun away. Andre’s seen the trick before. Yes, I know you like doing it. You can blow your brains out on your own time, Vic. Now shoo. Didn’t you say you were taking Scarface to the movies? Has he seen Fluffzilla yet? We took the gang to see it the day before yesterday. What? Oh. Well I disagree with him, I thought it was great, though, to be fair, I did eat a weed gummy bear while we were in line. And so did Marley. Now scram, Vic. Huh? Oh. Yeah, I’ve got a few on me. Dave made 'em for me. If you want more, go ask him.”
Victor walks over and I hand him a couple of gummy bears, from one of my pouches.
God, I love pouches.
“No prob, Vic. Have fun. Call someone if you’re still too stoned to blip afterwards, Vic. You know what happened last time you blipped stoned. We’re lucky we’ve got a couple of guys who can breathe underwater. Artie and Splash might not be free to get you two back right away this time.”
Victor says nothing, but makes a gesture that clearly indicates that Artie and Splash can take their time, because it’s not like Victor and Scarface can drown.
“Really, Vic? You don’t mind being stuck at the bottom of the Atlantic again?”
“Hey, when you’re stoned, it looks beautiful down there.”
Then he leaves again.
I turn back to Andre.
“Where were we? Oh, right. We’ll be skipping the usual initiation, because you’ve seen it, you know what we can do. Instead, you’ll be jumping right into your training with Bri and Stretch here.”
“So when do I–”
“When you’ve got the basics down pat, Andre.”
Andre groans like a schoolboy who just found out that there’s going to be a big test on the last day before summer vacation.
Yeah, we weren’t happy about that.
“Bri, Stretch, take it from here.”
“Right. Okay, Andre. Here’s your first test.”
I stay quiet, as the lesson begins.
Brian gestures to a card table on the other side of the room.
On the table is a single Bestest Babbeh Ball from Flufftopia. A soft ball, made for foals.
Yeah, there’s a naming pattern with Flufftopia products. They want to make a point. That Bestest brand products live up to their name.
“Your goal, Andre, is to get that ball.”
“That ain’t so hard.”
“But Andwe wiww be standin ova dewe.”
Stretch points a hoof towards a hula hoop, placed on the floor on the other side of the room.
“Yeah. Cal told me that when your powers kicked in, your arm only stretched a couple of feet. I wanna see how far you can stretch.”
Andre’s powers kicked in only yesterday.
We were at Tommy’s place, sitting at the veranda, with Dave and Seth, and the five of us were sampling some of the latest crop from Pierre’s greenhouses.
Andre got thirsty, and there were a few cans of soda on a nearby table.
We’ve all been there, right? You don’t want to get up, but you do want something that’s out of reach, so you reach for it anyway, even though you know it’s too far away, and some naive, optimistic part of you is probably hoping that the object will magically fly into your open hand, or that your arm will magically stretch out. You know what I mean, right?
Well, in this case, the latter actually happened.
The rest of us were silently gaping at Andre in surprise.
Andre didn’t realize what he’d just done until he’d finished the can of Fanta he’d grabbed from several feet away.
“Damn, I needed that. Why are y’all looking at me like… wait, what the fuck just happened?”
Fortunately, we didn’t need to have The Talk with him, because he already knew the score.
Unfortunately, Blueberry saw it too, and was… perplexed.
“Wut da fuk wuz dat?!?”
I knew we shouldn’t have let Scarface hang out with Blueberry.
Andre walks over to the hula hoop, steps inside, and twirls around to face the table on the other side of the room.
Yeah. He actually twirls.
Brian, Stretch, and Yours Truly step out of the way.
Brian turns to Andre.
“Don’t expect to get it on your first try, okay? It takes a while, you’ve only just gotten your powers, and you can’t stretch too far yet. This is just to see how far you can make it now.”
“Got it, Bri.”
“Alrighty then. Go.”
A few minutes later, Andre’s right arm is stretched halfway across the room, and he’s visibly straining to stretch it further.
Hey, we can’t all ace it on the first go.
Brian decides to call it off before Andre hurts himself.
“Good first try, Andre. Pull it back. You don’t want to strain yourself, trust me, it fucking hurts if you stretch yourself further than you can handle.”
Andre stops straining, and his arm snaps back to its normal length.
Which is actually still a bit longer than the average arm.
Andre is a beast on the court. He always wanted to go pro.
Of course, the NBA probably wouldn’t accept him now. It’s just not fair.
He could still get into the Harlem Globetrotters, though.
Tell me you wouldn’t pay to see that.
“But I’ll be able to go longer, right? Hey, speaking of longer, lemme try someth–”
“Put your battle suit back on, Andre! Later!”
I’m not going to watch Andre get naked.
But we don’t talk about The Party anymore.
Brian chimes in.
“Yeah, if you think stretching your arm too far hurts, imagine how much stretching that body part too far hurts.”
Andre stops to think about it.
Then he winces, and shudders.
“Damn! You’ve got a point, Bri. I wouldn’t want my Tower of Druaga to break off. Thanks for stopping me, Cal.”
“No pro-- wait, your what? That’s what you call it? Why?”
“Because, nigga: it’s unforgivably hard.”
Andre starts cackling again.
We start laughing too.
He doesn’t play enough video games to get it.
Meanwhile, Judy, her father Robert, and Seth walk the fluffies and Quin around the neighborhood. As Robert and Seth hold the leashes, Judy pushes the stroller.
Judy has forgiven Robert for running out on her when she was a kid. She understands that he didn’t want to. And he was delighted to meet his grandson.
Several garden fluffies watch them from various hiding spots.
The group soon reaches the back garden of the house formerly occupied by Chris Oldman and Lavender.
The group turns to someone across the street, and on the other side of the fence, a large mass of plant matter rises up behind them.