Chapter 5:

Vol. 1, Ch. 5: "Impossible" is Another Word for "Dare You to Try"

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

Rover sprinted down the sidewalk, failing to keep up with his AR avatar, bumping into several pedestrians and calling out quick apologies.Bookmark here

But he never slowed down.Bookmark here

This is a race, so common courtesy can suck it!Bookmark here

Lumpy and Adele hurried behind, their lungs burning from running.Bookmark here

“I can’t…” Adele slowed down and clutched a streetlamp post. “I’m beat!”Bookmark here

Another pulse of the Clairvoyant Radar updated Rover’s snapshot of the ring locations. He skidded to a halt, looking up a big stairway leading to the second level of the Icarus Centre’s enormous open-air shopping mall.Bookmark here

I’m close to one, he thought, jogging up the steps.Bookmark here

The bagel was stowed within some hedges planted around an artificial grass patch in the wide walkway. As Rover leaned against the planter and caught his breath, he watched his avatar smear something (cream cheese?) on the sixth gold bagel and chomp it down.Bookmark here

Lumpy stumbled up to his friend, sweaty and tired.Bookmark here

“How far…are these things?” he panted.Bookmark here

“Most aren’t actually too far,” Rover replied, watching another radar pulse on his phone. He wiped his sweaty brow. “Follow me!”Bookmark here

“Go on,” Lumpy said breathlessly. “I’ll tag along. Adele died somewhere behind us…”Bookmark here

“Okay, I’ll find you guys later!”Bookmark here

Lumpy laughed, pushing himself to follow Rover. “Where’s the dude get his stamina?”Bookmark here

5!5@5#5$5%5^5&5*5(5)5_5+5Bookmark here

Rover stopped to wait for the Clairvoyant Radar to pulse again, standing under the 120-metre-tall shatinum archway to the enormous commons area in the Icarus Centre’s heart. Numerous street vendors filled the place with tantalizing aromas of grilled, sizzling goodness and bubbly refreshments. Merry chatter from hundreds of shoppers rose above the buildings, riding the heat from the sun-soaked walkways.Bookmark here

He stared at his phone, looking around through the phone’s AR camera.Bookmark here

“It’s around here somewhere…”Bookmark here

However, Rover spotted Quintegrity’s grin, upside down, through the phone—she had climbed down from the nearby palmaple tree and dangled in front of the phone’s camera.Bookmark here

Gripping the tree branch with her feet interlocked, she said, “What’s up, buttercup?”Bookmark here

Rover felt his adrenaline surge, and he chuckled. “You sure like flashy entrances, huh?”Bookmark here

“Ha-ha-ha! Yep!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity dropped from the branch, landed with a handstand, and sprang back to her feet.Bookmark here

“Hey…”Bookmark here

She approached Rover, giving him a warm smile.Bookmark here

“Wh-What?” he asked.Bookmark here

What is she doing? Why is she getting so close?!Bookmark here

“There’s one right there.”Bookmark here

With an outstretched finger tipped with autumn-colored fingernail polish, Quintegrity directed Rover’s attention to the base of the archway.Bookmark here

“There is?” Rover peeked through the phone camera into a nook between the archway’s base and a building wall, and he saw something. “Oh, in the back! I can see a bagel in there.”Bookmark here

The AR avatar had no problem accessing the narrow quarters, and another gold ring was claimed, seven total for Rover. He smiled, giving Quintegrity a high-five.Bookmark here

“Nice!” he shouted. “You’re making this way easier, Quintegrity!”Bookmark here

The girl cackled (actually cackled) with her hands on her hips.Bookmark here

“’Tis nothing!” she replied. “There’s nothing against helping the competitors, right?”Bookmark here

“Not like this. The rules say you can’t physically help or hinder the players by transporting them or getting in their way, but what you’re doing probably doesn’t count.”Bookmark here

“Then I’ll make sure you win!” she said with a thumbs-up.Bookmark here

She smiled, dancing and bobbing her head to the funky song stuck inside her mind.Bookmark here

Is she dancing? Rover wondered. For some reason, watching her dance makes me wanna dance, too. But…I can’t dance. The heck am I thinking?Bookmark here

The two hurried to the next closest ring. It was on top of the awning in front of Ulrich’s Weather Shoppe.Bookmark here

Rover narrowed his eyes. “They put it up there?”Bookmark here

“Can the characters fly?” Quintegrity asked.Bookmark here

“Not without special items, but…they can climb.”Bookmark here

He directed his AR character toward the awning. With the tap of an onscreen button, Rover’s character grabbed on to the awning post and shimmied up.Bookmark here

“It works!” Rover exclaimed, controlling his avatar to pull itself to the top of the awning. “Wow…the precision of mapping the game elements to the real world is really impressive!”Bookmark here

After a few steps, the avatar fell from the awning.Bookmark here

“Tch.” Rover gritted his teeth. “It’s hard controlling it from this angle. This really is a pain compared to the original Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Quintegrity thought for a second. “But is it better than the original game?”Bookmark here

“Oh, heck yeah,” Rover replied, having his character latch onto the awning post again. “It’s way more fun like this.”Bookmark here

When the eighth bagel was collected, Rover and Quintegrity headed into the subterra locomotive canals. The echoing locomotive engines muffled his phone’s in-game sound effects as they passed the ticket gate with their prepaid passes. Down the brick stairway, they descended into the industrial scent of electrical exhaust.Bookmark here

On the platform, Quintegrity smiled as she reminisced. “I haven’t been down in the sub canals since forever.”Bookmark here

“How do you get around, then?” Rover asked, raising his voice over the clanging bells and howling horn of the departing locomotive. “Buses?”Bookmark here

He spotted the next ring in the high ceiling trusses, tucked next to the light fixtures over the locomotive tracks.Bookmark here

“Mostly on foot,” she said.Bookmark here

“That’s a lot of running around, but you can haul ass like nobody I know! Are you really not half-goddess, or something???”Bookmark here

“No, I’m just me.”Bookmark here

“That’s a terrible answer,” Rover said, lowering his phone and cracking a smile. “All the more reason why I’m glad you’re on my side.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity snapped her fingers and put both thumbs up. Near the top of the stairs heading to the station’s exit, something caught her eye.Bookmark here

“Oh, somebody’s joining us,” she said happily.Bookmark here

Through his phone, Rover saw another person’s Glove Alien Fight avatar. Its shell armor indicated the Tortoise Spacesuit was equipped.Bookmark here

The Tortoise Spacesuit, Rover thought. That person’s character has its gravity effects cut in half…meaning it can jump twice as high, has half the weight to climb faster, and is resistant to falling damage. I bet they were the one who placed that ring up there. But…there are too many people here to see who’s controlling it.Bookmark here

“That’s clever.” Rover smirked, looking back at the distant ring when his Clairvoyant Radar pulsed again. “Some of the Ring Hiders might have better maneuverability than the competitors. That could potentially make some of the rings impossible to reach…”Bookmark here

“Can you find a way to climb up there?” Quintegrity asked.Bookmark here

Rover sighed, surveying the area through the AR camera first, then with his eyes.Bookmark here

“It doesn’t seem likely,” he replied. “It’s not worth wasting time on it. I should get the other rings first.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity didn’t respond, but she still fixed her gaze toward the sub canal station ceiling.Bookmark here

Seeing his girlfriend’s lack of reaction, Rover told her, “Sorry our first date turned out like this. It’s not what we planned.”Bookmark here

But she smiled right away. “Don’t be sorry. I’m having fun! I never get to do this.”Bookmark here

“Heck yeah! C’mon, I think there are some other rings close by!”Bookmark here

“Three about that-a-way.” The girl pointed, most likely to some above-ground point in the distance, then redirected her finger in a second direction. “And the rest are about thems-a-ways!”Bookmark here

Rover hesitated for a moment, looking at the shining girl.Bookmark here

“You really know where they are?” he asked.Bookmark here

“I do.” She pouted. “What…you don’t believe me?”Bookmark here

“…It’s not that I doubt you,” Rover said, “but I’m impressed by your screen peeking skills.”Bookmark here

The girl blinked. “I really don’t know what ‘screen peeking’ means, but it made Graphite mad. You mean you can’t look at each other’s phones during the game?”Bookmark here

“Well, kinda,” Rover answered. “It’s more of a courtesy thing, but I guess doing it isn’t breaking the rules.”Bookmark here

“Aye-aye!” She saluted him. “Then no problem. We should hurry, though.”Bookmark here

Rover and Quintegrity rushed out of the station and up to the ground level, leaving the uneaten virtual gold bagel in the trusses over the locomotive boarding area.Bookmark here

5!5@5#5$5%5^5&5*5(5)5_5+5Bookmark here

Between two posts on the mall’s second-floor walkway, Rover’s character clung with both hands on a powerline strung over the ground level. The virtual person had no weight, so the cable didn’t sag—mostly everyone had no idea what was happening above them as they went about their shopping and errands.Bookmark here

A ring was tied to the powerline using another in-game item, a Steam-Powered Extension Cord—an intuitive way to make the ring harder to get.Bookmark here

People can be pretty creative with this ring-hiding business, Rover thought. He watched from the ground, moving his character closer to the ring.Bookmark here

“You’re good at this game,” Quintegrity told him, peering over his shoulder at his phone.Bookmark here

“It’s tricky when I’m far away from the avatar,” Rover said as his character snagged the ninth ring with its mouth. “I’m getting used to it, though.”Bookmark here

While moving his character back across the powerline, he was distracted by Quintegrity’s groovy footwork… It was subtle, but she was nonetheless dancing in place.Bookmark here

“You know…” he said, focusing back on his dangling avatar, “I still don’t know how you get away with not meeting the daily quota for Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

The girl stopped dancing. She gave Rover an adorable smile.Bookmark here

“Because I’m awesome.”Bookmark here

Rover was lost for words, annoyed at first, but chuckled.Bookmark here

“Well…I can’t argue with that,” he said, “but it’s impossible to avoid it forever.”Bookmark here

“‘Impossible’ is another word for ‘dare you to try!’” she replied, flexing her biceps. “Ain’t no stoppin’ this! Ha-ha!”Bookmark here

“…Okay?”Bookmark here

His character leapt from the wire and landed on a second-level footbridge leading over the shopping district.Bookmark here

“The next ring is that-a-way!” Quintegrity said, pointing. “In the big fountain over there.”Bookmark here

She’s been spot-on with the ring locations, Rover thought as he made his character hop down from the higher walkway. How much screen peeking has she done? Or…she’s gotta have a photographic memory.Bookmark here

The boy smirked as his girlfriend began to boogie with her hips again, an expression of absolute enjoyment on her face.Bookmark here

Am I dating a mythical creature? Yeah…as if!Bookmark here

“Oh, look,” Quintegrity said. “You better hurry! Graphite’s here, too!”Bookmark here

Rover turned his phone to see Graphite’s avatar run into the open. It headed down the large outdoor strip of the open-air mall and straight for the fountain where the next ring was.Bookmark here

“Gotta go!” Rover chased after his own avatar as best as he could, but was tired from all the running he’d done. “I didn’t think it’d be this close!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity stayed by Rover’s side as they ran. “Graphite’s character seems slower than yours. You have that advantage.”Bookmark here

However, Graphite’s avatar was much closer and beat Rover to the ring. The sound of Graphite’s guffaws rang through the open shopping district.Bookmark here

“I don’t think so, Rover!” Graphite was on the second level of the open-air mall, controlling his character from afar. “That’s another one for me!”Bookmark here

“Don’t let his crap-talk hold you back!” Quintegrity announced from behind Rover. She gave him a playful smack between his shoulder blades, then pointed to yet another ring. “The next one is in a palmaple tree over there. You could get it first!”Bookmark here

Through Rover’s phone, his Clairvoyant Radar gave a glimpse of virtual gold tucked away in the leaves of a palmaple tree up on the second-level walkway. He stopped running, deftly scrutinizing a nearby wall formation—it would provide climbable access for his character to reach the tree.Bookmark here

And he looked at his girlfriend, who cheered for his sprinting character.Bookmark here

Does she really have a photographic memory? Graphite is way over there, on that different walkway. Did she look at his screen again? No, I don’t think so…Bookmark here

Quintegrity’s dance moves stayed in the rhythm, but her moves grew and motions evolved, putting more of her body into each step, each twist. Her finger snaps were accompanied by claps as her heels and toes tapped harder on the ground.Bookmark here

When the two made eye contact, Rover sensed her rhythmic energy beat into him. The motions of her hands seemed to weave a jazzy, soulful melody, and her feet played a groovy bassline that pumped down through the earth. It was as if imaginary music was dancing to her, not the other way around—and Rover could hear it…and it relaxed him.Bookmark here

Pay attention to the game!!!Bookmark here

Rover popped out of his funky daze, making his virtual avatar leap toward the climbable wall and latch on.Bookmark here

“All right!” Quintegrity laughed as Rover’s character scurried up toward the higher walkway.Bookmark here

She’s not looking at my screen, Rover thought, giving his distracted attention to his character. Her photographic memory could’ve memorized all of the locations by seeing Graphite’s screen once…but…Bookmark here

Rover’s avatar pulled itself up onto the walkway.Bookmark here

“Go, Rover’s little game dude!” she shouted, pumping her fist into the air. “You’ve got this!”Bookmark here

But…what if it’s not a photographic memory…?Bookmark here

He glanced back at Quintegrity, his mouth open. She looked on, watching the game and cheering.Bookmark here

It’s almost like she’s watching my avatar the way she’s—wait!!! That avatar wearing the Tortoise Spacesuit in the sub canal—how’d she know it was there if she didn’t use an AR-capable device…?Bookmark here

Then Quintegrity looked at him, grinning, transmitting her funky-jam vibes straight into his entire being.Bookmark here

His heart raced, but not because of the brilliant smile and beautiful face. Something else was now implanted in his thoughts…Bookmark here

“H-Hey…” Rover said, not sure if he was more overcome by his sudden revelation or the girl’s undeniable energy, “…you can see…the augmented reality…?”Bookmark here

She didn’t reply.Bookmark here

But Rover could tell what she was thinking. He knew by the way her eyes sparkled and lips curled, as if she was relishing the excitement of sharing a secret.Bookmark here

Her dance moves continued to sway to the rhythm in her mind.Bookmark here

*Step. Clap.*Bookmark here

*Step-step. Clap.*Bookmark here

*Step. Clap.*Bookmark here

*Step-step. Clap.*Bookmark here

“Get it, Graphite!” the crow-haired, dark-skinned girl called out through the crowded area.Bookmark here

“Yeah! Get it!” the cross-eyed boy hollered.Bookmark here

Rover turned back to the game.Bookmark here

Questions can wait until I beat Graphite at this!Bookmark here

He controlled his character to shimmy up the tree just before Graphite’s character reached the trunk. The angle and distance from which Rover stood made the task difficult, but with a much swifter character, he claimed his tenth ring.Bookmark here

“Yes!” Quintegrity applauded. “Another bagel! Nom nom nom…”Bookmark here

“That’s ten,” Rover stated, keeping his concentration. His Clairvoyant Radar revealed the direction of more rings, and he directed the avatar accordingly. “Gotta go this way!”Bookmark here

Graphite Condor squeezed his phone with frustration.Bookmark here

“Whatever,” he sneered. “You can run, Rover…but you can’t fly!Bookmark here

He used one of his consumable items on his AR character, a Goosepack. His character donned a jetpack with goose wings and a goose head helmet. With the tap of an onscreen button, Graphite launched his avatar into the air, steering it like a remote control airplane.Bookmark here

Through his phone, Rover heard the jet engine and honking goose calls from the soaring Goosepack while he ran. He hesitated to slow down his own avatar, although he was falling behind it. His avatar stayed to the higher second-level walkways, and the boy would occasionally lose sight of it from the ground-level as he passed beneath ceramic-tiled footbridges.Bookmark here

Quintegrity laughed at the overhead honking character as she ran alongside Rover. “Oh! A goose! That’s adorable!”Bookmark here

“Wrong!” Rover shouted, flustered. “It’s deplorable! The Goosepack grants temporary abilities of a rocket-powered goose!”Bookmark here

And if Graphite’s been using Goosepacks this whole time, then he might have the lead right now. Grr…I should’ve saved mine!Bookmark here

The girl giggled, then dashed ahead as if they’d been standing still and not already sprinting. Rover watched in awe as his girlfriend leapt like a mountain lion to the second-level walkway. She clung to the outside of the guardrail, holding out her hand for Rover to grab.Bookmark here

“Your little game dude is a ruthless, goose-less bagel-snatcher!” Quintegrity told Rover with gigantic encouragement.Bookmark here

But he didn’t take her hand.Bookmark here

Instead, he leapt onto the back of a nearby bench, deftly hoisted himself up, and climbed over the guardrail.Bookmark here

“You bet it is,” Rover sneered as he landed on the second level, some of the sweat falling off his body. They hurried off without a moment to spare. “Also, physically assisting or hindering a player is against the rules! I told you!”Bookmark here

“Got it! No hoisting or inhibiting from me, then!”Bookmark here

Rover flicked his eyes through his phone screen’s AR—he was still right on track.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 675Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}38,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

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

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Gloves… ButlerBookmark here

Armor… Brick JacketBookmark here

Acc. 1… Grand Shyster’s ShoesBookmark here

Acc. 2… Hound Doggo Shnozz
Jio Kurenai
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