The sound of a clanging metal door roused Leandro Barbosa from his semi-catatonic state. Groggily propping himself up on the uncomfortable tile floor to stare through the window of his cell, he saw the unconscious body of his countrymate Nene being muscled through the lab by two large henchmen. Within seconds, Nene had been dragged out of sight, and serenity was restored to the sterile, frightening place.
“Why are we here?” Leandro thought to himself. Before he could ponder further the question of why two Brazilian basketball players had been abducted to the same mysterious location, he slumped back down into an unthinking haze.
“Good morning, Leandro,” said a voice which emanated from a speaker on the wall that had, up until now, been completely mute. Leandro opened his eyes from what must have been sleep, thinking that the voice’s claims that it was actually “morning” were completely unverifiable, given that, from his vantage point, he could not see any windows pointing to the outside. “Wipe that sleep from your eyes. Today is a very special day,” the voice continued in an unsettlingly jovial tone.
Leandro wondered what could be “special” about being held captive in some kind of sinister laboratory. Being set free would be “special”, he supposed, but he figured that freedom wasn’t going to be his on that day, or any day for the foreseeable future.
When two burly men arrived at the door of his cell, which consisted of a solid panel of unbreakable glass, and swung the door open, a small amount of hope entered Leandro’s mind. However, that hope was extinguished when he was roughly grabbed by the grip of four hands, grip that Leandro, in his weakened state, had no chance of escaping from.
Outside his cell was a gurney that was rather dated-looking compared to the futuristic environment it was in. Disconcertingly, faded red stains dotted the plain white cloth. There wasn’t much time to contemplate its appearance, however, as Leandro was thrown onto it and restrained with thick leather straps. His previous confinement had been uncomfortable, but this was downright terrifying, and he thrashed as much as his bonds would let him. The two men paid him no heed as they wheeled him to another part of the complex, and Leandro struggled until he passed out from exhaustion.
When Leandro next opened his eyes, there was a bright light shining down on him. He looked to his right; nothing. But to his left, there was another gurney similar to his own, with the familiar body of Nene strapped to it. Nene didn’t seem to be awake yet. Leandro returned his gaze to the ceiling, but now there was a face looking down from above him.
“Welcome to the operating theater,” said the man, who was dressed head-to-toe in pale blue scrubs and had a white surgical mask over his nose and mouth. He brought out a saw, the old-fashioned kind that would normally be used to cut wood, and held it in front of Leandro. This implement, like the gurney, was splattered with red. “Don’t worry, this will only hurt for a little bit.”
The operation started. So did the screams.
The doctor wiped sweat off his brow with the back of his hand, leaving behind a streaked sludge of blood and grume. Discarded limbs and organs were strewn about the operating room, but the most important ones were all in front of him, ready for reassembly. The most challenging part would be creating a facial structure which didn’t cause immediate revulsion in those who saw it; it was important that his new creation be able to not only assimilate into mainstream culture, but thrive in it.
Grabbing a section of torso and reaching up into the chest cavity to fix the placement of broken ribs, the doctor then found a suitable part of upper arm and started stitching the two together. There was no time to delay; human organs quickly became unviable when left in an unsanitized pile, and the last time he had tried to repurpose a spare kidney as a lung, the results had been less than satisfactory.
The new basketball player was hooked up to diodes. With the press of a button, it received a jolt of several thousand volts, restoring activity to its nervous system, and its eyes flashed open.
“What is your name?” the doctor asked.
“I have no name,” the abomination replied.
That was the exact answer that the doctor wanted to hear. He had a new human being in front of him, blessed with outstanding physical attributes but with none of the emotional baggage that accompanied the typical human. Unhooking the diodes, he invited his creation to walk. It stumbled forward a few steps, then fell without making any attempt to brace itself. A good start.
“Your name will be Bruno Caboclo,” Masai Ujiri said, clapping together gloved hands that were still bloody from the surgery. “Welcome to the NBA.”