Chapter 1:

Vol. 1, Ch. 1: My Middle Name is "Ultimate"

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

When Rover Chork answered the front door that afternoon, his life was in for a hell of a change. Forever.Bookmark here

The smiling girl at his doorstep—Rover had seen her at school on occasion.Bookmark here

But this was the first time seeing her so close. He had only one thought, and it paralyzed his mind and body:Bookmark here

She’s beautiful!Bookmark here

“Good afternoon,” the smiling girl said. “May I have a few minutes of your time?”Bookmark here

This was the first time Rover had heard her voice.Bookmark here

“Um, okay.”Bookmark here

And this was the first time he had ever spoken to her.Bookmark here

And he was terrified.Bookmark here

“Great!” Her smile widened as she blushed. “I’m doing a fundraiser for [bleep]. I’m selling [bleep], and it’d be appreciated if you purchased something.”Bookmark here

Rover couldn’t pay attention to what she was saying, too engrossed in the delicate voice and soft mulberry eyes. Her hair held the colors of rose petal lemonade against a summer sunset, warm and refreshing.Bookmark here

The girl unfolded a pamphlet for Rover to look at, and it broke his gaze away from her eyes.Bookmark here

Chocolates, he thought as he looked at the ornate pictures on the paper in her hand. She’s selling chocolates.Bookmark here

“I’ll buy a box!” Rover said, more excited than he’d ever been for candy.Bookmark here

“Great!” The girl was overjoyed. “Take a look to see which one you want.”Bookmark here

She handed him the pamphlet, but Rover turned it away.Bookmark here

“D-Don’t bother,” he said, playing it cool, yet tensing up from head to toe. Using his fingers, he combed his short hair that shared the color and sheen of freshly mined coal. “I’ll just take the most expensive one!”Bookmark here

Confused by Rover’s sudden insistence, the girl studied him for a second, but then her expression lit up.Bookmark here

“Oh, thank you so very much! That’ll be the Shamelessly Massacred by Chocolate airdropped pallet, which comes to,”—she glanced at the pamphlet— “comes to twenty-six thousand thuggoons.”Bookmark here

“More like ‘Shamelessly Massacred Our Allowance,’ if you ask me.”Bookmark here

Rover’s younger sister snuck up unnoticed and seemed to materialize in the doorway, creating a rift between the love-struck boy and the cheery girl. With her brother, she shared the same coal-colored hair (although shoulder-length) and young pine needle-colored eyes (although crinkled with disapproval).Bookmark here

“Adele!” Rover glared at his younger sister. “Wh-What are you doing here?!”Bookmark here

“I live here, duh.”Bookmark here

“That’s not what I meant.”Bookmark here

Adele looked at the teenage girl—the stranger—standing on the doorstep.Bookmark here

“You’re selling candy?” Adele asked. She looked at the pamphlet in the girl’s hand. “Oh, I know that fundraiser. That’s for the Super Club at our high school. Do you go to Southbound Thugwood High School, too?”Bookmark here

Super…Club? Rover thought that club sounded familiar.Bookmark here

“I do!” the girl said with a delighted grin. “I’m the president of the Super Club. My name is…”Bookmark here

Quinn Integrity.Bookmark here

Rover would never forget that name.Bookmark here

1!1@1#1$1%1^1&1*1(1)1_1+1Bookmark here

“Twenty-six thousand thuggoons,” Adele muttered, sitting cross-legged on the living room couch. “You’re lucky I put a stop to that, or we’d be broke.”Bookmark here

Rover had purchased the much more reasonable Backhanded by Chocolate box for two thousand thuggoons after Adele coerced him.Bookmark here

“Hey, it’s my money, too.” He stretched out in the reclining chair, staring at the eggshell-toned ceiling. “What would you buy, anyway? Other than Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle merchandise. You’re only sixteen. The stuff you shop for can’t be that important.”Bookmark here

Adele’s face got hot. “You’re only two years older than me.” On TV, she searched for a specific ad video and pointed at it. “And we’ve been saving up for that. Remember? We talked about it before summer break.”Bookmark here

“The new Anti-Grav skateboard, yeah,” Rover mused, looking at the TV. The ad showed a skater punk dude doing anti-gravity tricks on the groundbreaking board while a riffy guitar squealed out a squirrely solo in the background.Bookmark here

“Now we’re two thousand thuggoons back from that goal. I quit buying Snickerdoodle merch, so whaddaya doin’ buying chocolate? Man, having to share my allowance with you sucks!”Bookmark here

“Whatever,” Rover grumbled.Bookmark here

“All because you were gettin’ lovey-dovey with that girl.”Bookmark here

“I was not!”Bookmark here

“Don’t lie.” Adele gave Rover a grumpy grimace. “It was pretty obvious. You were practically drooling.”Bookmark here

Rover’s muscles tightened and cheeks felt warmer. “I…gah, uhh….”Bookmark here

“Honestly, you’re pathetic.” Adele tilted her head while chastising her brother. “You always try to be so tough, but around girls, your brain just pukes baby noises out your mouth.”Bookmark here

“You’d best shut up!” Rover barked. He snapped the recliner upright and glared at his little sister.Bookmark here

“I don’t blame you, son.”Bookmark here

Much like Adele, the siblings’ father arrived from seemingly nowhere. Adele had inherited that trait from him. Also, both siblings inherited his coal-colored hair.Bookmark here

It was the grin on Dad’s face that scared Rover.Bookmark here

“Uh, what do you mean, Dad?”Bookmark here

“That girl was quite the looker,” Dad said. “I’d be choked up around her, too.”Bookmark here

“You saw…”Bookmark here

Dad stood in front of Rover, trapping the boy in the recliner while giving him the classic Dad-is-being-devious smile.Bookmark here

“If you need any advice, you can count on me.” Dad leaned in close, making Rover sweat and shrink into the recliner’s cushion. “Your mother and I have been discussing grandchildren.”Bookmark here

Huh?!” Rover’s heartrate skyrocketed.Bookmark here

“Geez, Dad.” Adele knew it was time to flee the conversation. She stood and walked to the stairs. “Way to crank up the creep factor.”Bookmark here

Adele headed upstairs and Dad walked away guffawing. Rover, though, melted into the recliner. There, he decided, he would want to live with the dust bunnies beneath the chair, hiding from the embarrassment until the two thousand-thuggoon box of chocolates would arrive.Bookmark here

1!1@1#1$1%1^1&1*1(1)1_1+1Bookmark here

Satty-day classes let out the next day.Bookmark here

Rover occupied his bedroom with his best friend, a tall and gangly fellow from school named Lumpy Freeb who had eyes the color of wet sand and spikey hair resembling exploded pumpkins. The two boys played Glove Alien Fight, the hottest new mobile game released earlier that year. It was a mandatory app and pastime for everyone.Bookmark here

Literally mandatory.Bookmark here

The CEO of the Thugwood Governmental Entity (T.G.E.) had fallen in love with the game the day of its release, so he thereby instated a citywide policy.Bookmark here

“All capable residents of Thugwood age ten and older must log at least one hour of Glove Alien Fight every day!” CEO Claudius had declared on that fateful midsummer midday during an emergency broadcast across all screens with an internet connection. “I’ll know if you don’t, because your save data will be uploaded to the Claudius Cloud where all reports of gameplay will be accessed by my mainframe. And if you fail to log a full hour of Glove Alien Fight each day between midnight to midnight…”—his grin spread on his face like a piece of paper being torn in half— “…then you’ll be de-rationalized. Prost!”Bookmark here

Then the broadcast had ended. That was two months ago.Bookmark here

“You remember CEO Claudius’ big announcement?” Lumpy asked, sitting in Rover’s desk chair as the two boys undertook a quest in the mandatory game. They were playing two-player co-op, each using their own phone. “I still don’t know what the heck he meant by ‘de-rationalized.’”Bookmark here

“Huh, I think it means we’ll be recycled for parts.” Rover was joking, but spoke monotone as he zoned in to the smartphone game while sitting on his bed.Bookmark here

“Yeah, whatever!”Bookmark here

“Or thrown in the Vast Penitentiary. Or put on trial in front of the Substantial Board of Exile.”Bookmark here

Lumpy acknowledged that. “I heard you never come back from those places.”Bookmark here

Rover squelched a Goblin in the game, earning his character experience points and brass coins, then equipped his character with a different weapon, the Knitted Glove Aliens.Bookmark here

“That’s not true,” Rover said, looking up from the phone screen. “People come back from the penitentiary.”Bookmark here

“But not exile, right?”Bookmark here

“Uh, maybe not from exile.”Bookmark here

Over an hour of gameplay passed, longer than what was necessary to satisfy CEO Claudius, but the game was fun and engrossing. After a while, though, the boys needed to rest their eyes from the smartphone screens.Bookmark here

“Let’s eat something,” Lumpy said, plugging his phone into the charger.Bookmark here

“Okay.” Rover rubbed his stomach. “We have a bunch of snacks. Mom bought Peanut Butter Dunk Monkeys the other day.”Bookmark here

“Those are gross.” Lumpy wrinkled his nose. “I’ll take some Rocket Rolls if you still have any.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover replied. “Pepperoni ones and peach sundae ones.”Bookmark here

“Oh yeah!”Bookmark here

Without warning, Rover’s 127-cm TV turned on by itself, and the boys’ smartphones did the same. All three screens displayed the immaculately groomed face of CEO Claudius, the Chief Executive Overlord of the Thugwood Metropolitan Address. His curly, buttery hair and blocky facial features were impossible for anyone to forget.Bookmark here

“People of Thugwood!” CEO Claudius announced with vigor. “This is an emergency broadcast.”Bookmark here

“He looks like a sheep, doesn’t he?” Rover commented, looking at his TV screen.Bookmark here

“I think he kinda looks like a piñata,” Lumpy said. “It’s hard to tell how old he is. Maybe my parents’ age…?”Bookmark here

CEO Claudius continued, “There will be an update in the current mandate involving my favorite game in the world, Glove Alien Fight!”Bookmark here

“An update?” Rover narrowed his eyes. “Is he making a new rule for the daily quota?”Bookmark here

“As you all know,” CEO Claudius said, speaking through every internet-accessible screen in Thugwood, “you are all required to log one hour of the game each day. Beginning now, I am putting another rule into action.”Bookmark here

“So, it is a new rule,” Lumpy muttered.Bookmark here

“There will now be a way to lift the mandate,” the CEO explained. Every single Thugwood resident leaned in closer to their screens—had they heard correctly? “That means you would no longer be required to log any game time whatsoever. Although, who would want to quit such a fun game?”Bookmark here

Rover and Lumpy nodded.Bookmark here

“Well, it is a fun game,” Rover said.Bookmark here

“However!” CEO Claudius’ voice thundered from the TV and smartphone screens in Rover’s bedroom, reverberating through the house infrastructure. “You must earn this mandate being lifted. And to do that…”—he pointed at the camera, and any Thugwood residents with 3D televisions had their faces violated by his authoritative finger— “…you must DEFEAT ME IN GLOVE ALIEN FIGHT!!!”Bookmark here

Rover and Lumpy jumped back from the TV, feeling assaulted by the intrepid proclamation.Bookmark here

“What?!” Rover squawked. “Defeat him?”Bookmark here

Lumpy tousled his spikey, exploded-pumpkin hair. “But…there’s no player-versus-player feature in the game!”Bookmark here

“The game’s developers,” CEO Claudius added, “has just informed me of a new player-versus-player feature in the game.”Bookmark here

“Oh, I guess there is now,” Lumpy said.Bookmark here

“To summarize,” the CEO continued, “if one person defeats me in the game, everyone will be released from the mandate. I will only accept challenges from those who have met the prerequisites; you must figure out what they are, though. Doing so is not necessary, but you will still need to meet your daily gameplay quota until then. And remember,”—his bleak grin shone through thousands of screens across Thugwood, reaching the hundred million residents simultaneously— “failure to meet the daily quota will result in de-rationalization.”Bookmark here

The broadcast cut out.Bookmark here

The house fell quiet.Bookmark here

“Hmm, sounds fun,” Lumpy said.Bookmark here

“Noooo…” Rover grumbled. “Sounds like a pain.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, it is a pain, but at least the game’s fun.”Bookmark here

“I guess.” Rover looked at his TV’s dark screen. “I’m gonna do it.”Bookmark here

“You mean beat CEO Claudius?”Bookmark here

Rover sneered, clenching his fist. “Hell yeah. Screw his stupid daily quota mandate. I love Glove Alien Fight, but a lot of people are wasting their time because they have to play it for no good reason…and that pisses me off!”Bookmark here

Chuckling, Lumpy said, “If anyone can do it, I bet you can, man. You’re, like, crazy good at video games. You also know how to do computer codes and stuff.” He grinned. “And the mods you’ve done in games are freakin’ awesome!”Bookmark here

“Ha-ha! I know.”Bookmark here

“It’s too bad Glove Alien Fight has super-mega strict rules against modifications.” Lumpy sighed. “People could do some cool stuff in that game if they were allowed to.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…” Rover shrugged. “Whatever. Let’s get some Rocket Rolls.”Bookmark here

Rover’s parents were still out on their date, and Adele was out with her friends. Standing in the kitchen, the two boys snacked on the tray of fresh Rocket Rolls, some pepperoni and some peach sundae.Bookmark here

“I wonder how the player-versus-player thing will work,” Lumpy mused, chewing on a Rocket Roll.Bookmark here

“I dunno.” Rover washed out the blender and put it away. His least favorite thing about making Rocket Rolls was the unusual preparation, part of which involved a blender and a buggy phone app. “Let’s check it out later today.”Bookmark here

The doorbell rang. Leaving Lumpy in the kitchen, Rover walked to the living room and looked out the window.Bookmark here

His heart nearly popped.Bookmark here

Quinn Integrity was standing on the front porch.Bookmark here

Swallowing hard, Rover reached for the doorknob. This would be the second time he had ever spoken to her.Bookmark here

And he was still terrified.Bookmark here

His heart pounded in an accelerating rhythm.Bookmark here

*Tha-thump, tha-thump*Bookmark here

*Tha-thump, tha-thump*Bookmark here

Opening the door, Rover was met with a rush of warm air and warm sunlight, but an even warmer presence emanated from the visitor herself.Bookmark here

“Hi again!” Quinn’s voice was radiant, her beauty unrestrained by any sort of possible hindrance. In both hands, she held a pristine box of chocolates ordained with an outlandish ribbon and presented it with utmost glory. “I’m here to deliver the chocolate you ordered!”Bookmark here

The boy was hypnotized by her captivating smile, but it was her aura that scrambled the circuits in his head, as if the air around her was chockfull of gaga gas.Bookmark here

“Y-You’re…” He gulped before continuing. “You’re Quinn Integrity.”Bookmark here

“Yes! And my middle name is ‘Ultimate’!” Quinn giggled. “It’s a joke. I don’t have a middle name…but if I did, ‘Quinn of Ultimate Integrity’ would be my title!”Bookmark here

Rover gawked—awkward as hell—confused by the girl’s words and astonished by the speediness of his order being fulfilled.Bookmark here

“Um, that was fast,” he said, calming down despite his thrashing tides of teenage hormones.Bookmark here

“Of course,” Quinn replied. “I work very fast.”Bookmark here

“I ordered this yesterday, though.”Bookmark here

She bowed in apology. “Sorry for the delay.”Bookmark here

That’s not the issue!” Rover scratched his head, offering a smile. “But, uh, thank you.”Bookmark here

“My pleasure.”Bookmark here

Quinn handed over the box of chocolates, and Rover’s cheeks glowed as he accepted it, like the girl’s warmth was conducted through the chocolate and into his bloodstream.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Lumpy came to the door and noticed the ribbon-topped box Rover held. “Girl scout pancakes?”Bookmark here

“No, a fundraiser,” Rover told him, “for the Super Club.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…okay, I know which one.”Bookmark here

Rover glanced at Quinn and felt a flurry of flittering butterflies in his stomach. “Sh-She’s the president.”Bookmark here

“Oh, cool,” Lumpy said, hardly interested, tapping on his phone screen. “Wanna play more Glove Alien Fight now? We can see if that player-versus-player feature is ready yet.”Bookmark here

Curious, Quinn looked at the boys.Bookmark here

“You’re playing that game?” she asked. “The one CEO Claudius likes?”Bookmark here

Rover nodded. “Yep. You saw the announcement just a little bit ago, right?”Bookmark here

Quinn turned her soft mulberry eyes to the floor.Bookmark here

“I did,” she said, “but I don’t really understand it.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, neither do we,” Lumpy said. “It sounds like a new multiplayer component is being added to the game, so we’re gonna check it out now.”Bookmark here

The expression Quinn wore was dull, almost sullen, and seemed to take the sunlight out of the sky. “Is that so?”Bookmark here

“Hey, if you have time,” Lumpy said to her, “we can all check it out together.”Bookmark here

Rover panicked, a silent and secretive fit within him. Why was Lumpy signing away their time with the girl who made Rover sweat buckets from anxiety?Bookmark here

Quinn smiled. “Really? You’d do that?”Bookmark here

“For sure,” Lumpy said.Bookmark here

And why is Lumpy succeeding at this?!Bookmark here

“Ah, gahh…uhhh…”Bookmark here

Lumpy turned to his panting friend. “What’s wrong, Rover?”Bookmark here

“N-Nothing a-at all!” Rover turned to Quinn while scratching his sweaty head. “We can check it out together!”Bookmark here

“Thank you so much!” Quinn beamed with joy. “I’ll gladly accept your offer.”Bookmark here

When Quinn entered the house and closed the door behind her, Rover stopped breathing.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 666Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}38,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

Anti-Grav Skateboard… {T}499,999Bookmark here

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Gloves… KnittedBookmark here

Armor… Brick JacketBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yeet-Line SkatesBookmark here

Acc. 2… Farm Equipment
Jio Kurenai
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