Chapter 10:

Vol. 1, Ch. 10: The Universe Really Is Revolving Around Me

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

As Rover sank to the bottom of the school swimming pool, the dull, low, muffled sounds of the underwater environment gave him a short period to think. He watched the trail of bubbles behind Jinkies Clayfast, their local mermaid, as she put torpedoes to shame while darting from end to end.Bookmark here

The water currents rocked Rover as he sat on the pool’s bottom.Bookmark here

Jinkies is kinda inspirational, he thought. I wonder if she or Quintegrity would win in a swimming match against each other.Bookmark here

After pushing himself to make some quick laps, he crawled out of the water, feeling every muscle burn from the workout. Checking himself out, he realized his body was getting toned all over as the dripping water ran along newly sculpted muscle formations.Bookmark here

“Damn,” he snickered, massaging the budding six-pack on his abdomen, “I’m looking good.”Bookmark here

“You were killing it out there, Rover!” Mr. Pool Coach approached the boy with a grin. “Training hard for the Interschool AthletaCom?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover replied, stretching his arms and legs. “I gotta be in top shape for anything during the AthletaCom, and I feel like swimming is a great all-around workout.”Bookmark here

“Just by watching you, someone would think you were on the swimming team.” Mr. Pool Coach sighed. “You would’ve done great, but you never signed up, and you’re a senior now.”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Rover shrugged it off. “I have other things to focus on, though.”Bookmark here

“Like the Super Club?” the coach said, smiling. “I heard you and your sister and Lumpy Freeb were accepted into it.”Bookmark here

Returning the smile with a thumbs-up, Rover replied, “Yup! That’s gonna keep me busy, for sure! We’re actually about to start a new fundraiser…”—his eye twitched as his smile began to hurt— “…and I’ll be pretty swamped with that soon.”Bookmark here

10!10@10#10$10%10^10&10*10(10)10_10+10Bookmark here

“One hundred thousand thuggoons,” Adele whined as she walked down the school hallways with Rover, Lumpy, and Quintegrity. “Dude…that’s more than what’s in our savings for that Anti-Grav skateboard, and we’ve been saving up for a while.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover said, directing his bored gaze toward the ceiling as they walked, “but we also didn’t have the Super Club on our side, and now we do.”Bookmark here

“I know, but still…” Seeing her brother wasn’t yielding to her concern, she grunted. “Why not wait for Benedict Torrent to lose his Special Number to another player, then beat that person at it? It’d be free.”Bookmark here

“Who’s to say Benedict will lose to anyone?” Lumpy pointed out.Bookmark here

“That includes Rover!” Adele retorted. “If he loses, then we’ll waste that money!” Her fingers writhed like snakes as her lips slithered into a drooling smile. “Precious, luscious money…”Bookmark here

Lumpy shook his head. “But Benedict might not play against anyone else to make sure he keeps the Special Number. He seems pretty serious about his livestreaming business, so the match against Rover might be more important to him than advancing further in Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

Rover shrugged. “I’ll have to get to level nine hundred ninety-nine before all ten Special Numbers are in play. That’ll be the easiest way to meet two of the three requirements. I know I can do it! I’m already leveled up pretty far, so I have an advantage! I even squeezed in some extra hours playing last night after bedtime.”Bookmark here

“Ugh.” Adele buried her face into her palms, smothering the flame of her greedy grimace. “Do you know how many people are aware of these Special Numbers because of your phone call with Benedict? I’m worried there’re probably thousands of people skipping school and work right now to get to the max level and get their own Special Number.”Bookmark here

“I’ve got this,” Rover replied with a grin. “I’m not scared! Ha-ha! Not scared at all! Ha-haa-haaa!!!”Bookmark here

“Ha-haa-haaa!!!” Quintegrity mimicked.Bookmark here

“He’s totally pissing himself,” Lumpy whispered to Adele. “He told me this morning.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I figured,” she said.Bookmark here

“Hey,” they overheard someone whisper, “Daremont and Olaf are always hanging out together. Do you think they’re…f-friends?”Bookmark here

“*Gasp!* No way! I pray they aren’t…”Bookmark here

“Oh no,” Lumpy muttered, pulling Rover closer. “Did you hear that?”Bookmark here

“A friendship? So what?” Rover asked.Bookmark here

Lumpy stared at Rover with dead seriousness. “Dude. Daremont and Olaf as good friends: think about it.”Bookmark here

In fact, Daremont Radclaft and Olaf Thumdiggles were nearby with several other students. Daremont was a short boy with slicked, banana bunch-like hair and always wore creamy, collared shirts. Olaf had a strong jaw, crooked nose, and hair that looked like a sleeping fox was curled up on his head.Bookmark here

Sure enough, the two looked friendly with each other.Bookmark here

“Wait…” A gloom bubbled up in Rover’s gut. “Olaf Thumdiggles: The King of Sarcasm…and Daremont Radclaft: The King of Puns…”Bookmark here

Rover and Lumpy stood firmly in place, immediately aiming their ears toward the two students in question.Bookmark here

“Oh yeahhh, Shawna,” Olaf spouted, rolling his eyes, “Me and Daremont make such greaaat enemies, because we get along sooo well. Geeeez!”Bookmark here

“The root of our friendship can’t be beet!” Daremont exclaimed happily. “So, it’ll turnip everywhere!”Bookmark here

Rover trembled with fright.Bookmark here

Oh nooo…Bookmark here

“Okay, guys.” Rover had his game face on to issue orders to Lumpy, Quintegrity, and Adele. “The King of Sarcasm has formed a partnership with the King of Puns.” He kept his voice low. “Do you know what this means?”Bookmark here

“Oh!” Quintegrity’s eyes lit up, idea-stricken. “We should have them join our group!”Bookmark here

NO!!!” Rover pulled the four of them into a huddle. “We need to stay far away from them. Everyone got it?”Bookmark here

Quintegrity, Lumpy, and Adele nodded.Bookmark here

An excruciatingly fake laugh came from behind Rover. It was none other than Olaf Thumdiggles.Bookmark here

And he was walking toward them.Bookmark here

“Just so you knooow,” Olaf droned with a massive shrug, “you’ll have sooo much luck staying faaar away from us, because we only come to the same school together a fewww times a year.”Bookmark here

“And distance can’t protect you from my far-fetched puns!” Daremont beamed, pointing at himself with his thumb.Bookmark here

Rover just stared, his ears twitching in misery from the conversational assault. Adele made a gagging face. Lumpy shivered from chills. Quintegrity smiled at the sight of new friendships being forged.Bookmark here

When the duo walked away, another person approached, shaking her head.Bookmark here

“It was destiny for those two to team up,” the dark-skinned girl said.Bookmark here

Rover recognized her—the hair like crow feathers and the ninja outfit covered with straps and belts were always the dead giveaway.Bookmark here

“You’re one of Graphite’s lackeys,” Rover said in a flat tone. “Did I forget my weirdo repellant today?”Bookmark here

“I have a name, thank you,” she replied, irritated, “and I’m not a lackey. I’m Tallyhawk Kusumegido.” When nobody said anything, she crossed her arms. “I heard you spoke with Graphite about the Special Number items.”Bookmark here

“Yes, I did.” An impudent grin spread on Rover’s face. “He was groveling like a little bitch because we won’t team up with him.”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk smirked, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. “Groveling sounds like him. Anyway, the internet is buzzing about your livestream call with Benedict Torrent.”Bookmark here

“Let ’em,” Rover said. “What’s it matter?”Bookmark here

“They’re making you a target.”Bookmark here

Rover looked at the belt-clad girl. “A target?”Bookmark here

“They wanna know about those Glove Aliens you used to defeat Graphite,” Tallyhawk explained. “With Benedict talking so highly of you, his followers started analyzing the footage of your match against Graphite with more scrutiny. Word of mouth about that match has been going strong, but after yesterday, it’s become a full-blown internet sensation.”Bookmark here

She brought up an online video on her smartphone, just one video of dozens showing the famed match. Rover felt his skin crawl.Bookmark here

“Over half a million views…” His voice was small as he took the phone from Tallyhawk. He wasn’t interested in watching the video and instead checked the comments. “They…they’re all going nuts about my Glove Aliens… Some of them actually sound really pissed that they don’t know what they are, accusing me of cheating…”Bookmark here

I knew I should’ve kept the Beelzebub Glove Aliens a secret. Now everyone knows about my trump card.Bookmark here

Tallyhawk took her phone back. “Even though weapons aren’t traded through the player-versus-player matches, people are claiming they want to fight you just to get a better understanding of those Glove Aliens. Honestly, I think this is good news for you.”Bookmark here

“You do?” Rover asked, narrowing his eyes at the crow-haired girl. He wrinkled his forehead in thought. “Actually…thinking about it, you gain a lot more experience through the player-versus-player AR matches than in the regular game…and it’s a lot more fun to play.” He chuckled, then laughed heartily enough for other students to look his way. “Ah…all right, then! I was going to dive right into more AR matches after school, anyway. Now, it seems I won’t need to look for opponents because they’ll be lining up instead!”Bookmark here

“See what I mean?” Tallyhawk smiled (and was rather cute when she did so). “You’ll have a good chance of reaching the max level and getting one of the Special Numbers that way.”Bookmark here

“The universe really is revolving around me.” Rover rubbed his hands, snickering in a dastardly fashion. “Gwa-ha-haa!”Bookmark here

“Gwa-ha-haa!” Quintegrity mimicked, but far more adorable than Rover.Bookmark here

Adele frowned at her brother. “Someone’s full of himself.”Bookmark here

“There’s one more thing.” Tallyhawk’s smirk segued into a flatter, more serious expression.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah?” Rover looked at her.Bookmark here

“I challenge you to an AR match in Glove Alien Fight. I want to see those crazy Glove Aliens of yours.”Bookmark here

The statement was nowhere close to a grand proclamation, but some students had been listening to the conversation between Tallyhawk and Rover, the star of the latest internet sensation. Rover looked around, annoyed by the eager faces awaiting his response to the challenge.Bookmark here

I’ve been getting a lot of attention these days, and it’s gonna keep getting worse. What a pain…but I guess it isn’t too bad.Bookmark here

He snickered. “You’ll lose all of your consumable items just to get another look at my weapon? I might not even use it.”Bookmark here

“Believe what you want.”Bookmark here

“Sure. I’ll accept. Five o’clock today at Gwoid Park.”Bookmark here

“Consider it done,” she said.Bookmark here

Right away, the excited whispers kicked up around them:Bookmark here

“Rover’s doing another match!”Bookmark here

“Gwoid Park at five!”Bookmark here

“I’m gonna be there!”Bookmark here

Hearing the buzz made Lumpy chuckle. “Dude, sounds like you already have an audience.”Bookmark here

“Whatever,” Rover replied, shrugging. “Let’s go, or we’ll be late for authenticity class.”Bookmark here

“Isn’t this just greeeaat?” Olaf’s spear of sarcasm pierced straight through the flurry of whispers as he walked up to Rover, his eyes rolling like they were about to be unscrewed from their sockets. “Joining the Super Club really doesn’t make you into a celebrity, I guess.”Bookmark here

When Rover caught a glimpse of Daremont’s beaming face through the crowd, he winced in anticipation for what was coming next.Bookmark here

“Ack!” He grabbed Quintegrity’s arm. “Run away! Pun incoming!”Bookmark here

Luckily, they made their escape before Daremont could ruin their lives with wordplay punishment.Bookmark here

10!10@10#10$10%10^10&10*10(10)10_10+10Bookmark here

“You gotta be getting worried,” Lumpy told Rover while they were in the Super Club penthouse. With Adele, they played three-player co-op Glove Alien Fight in the living room.Bookmark here

“About what?” Rover asked, having his character dodge a boulder thrown by the large Troll they battled. “About Tallyhawk? She’s going down after this meeting.”Bookmark here

“I’m talking about the attention you’re getting,” Lumpy said.Bookmark here

“Not really. It’s a little annoying, but I think I’ll get used to it. I only got famous because my match against Graphite was the first big AR battle that a lot of people recorded.”Bookmark here

Lumpy charged a pillow attack with his character’s Snoozing Glove Aliens, and pummeled the Troll in the face, putting it to sleep.Bookmark here

“Don’t sell yourself short, man,” he told Rover. “Even Benedict said you were really good. If not for him saying that, your popularity wouldn’t have gotten so big. And it’s gonna keep going, I think.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, maybe.”Bookmark here

Using the Hardboiled Glove Aliens, Adele landed the final blow on the Troll, earning the three of them experience points and glass coins. She looked toward the kitchen, seeing Quintegrity rushing around, her movements like a blur while finishing the last batch of chocolates for the previous fundraiser, Operation Chocolatier Action Punch.Bookmark here

“She really doesn’t need our help,” Adele said. “It’s like we’re wasting our time here.” Running her hand along the couch cushions she sat on, a smile found its way to her lips. “Not like I’m mad about easy club credits, though.”Bookmark here

Lumpy put his phone down, rubbing his eyes. “Man, that Troll was a heck of a boss we just beat.” He looked at Rover. “We need to think of a fundraiser idea now. Something that’ll make enough money to challenge Benedict Torrent.”Bookmark here

With his phone on his lap, gazing at the high ceiling full of pretty hanging light fixtures, Rover said, “We don’t need to raise it all with just one fundraiser.”Bookmark here

“True.” Lumpy stretched and yawned. “It’d save us time if we did, though.”Bookmark here

“We should do a café thing!” Adele suggested, getting fired up. “Something like what you and Quinn did for dinner the other night, but do it restaurant-style here at school!”Bookmark here

Rover grunted. “The Buffoon Club did that last year and almost burned down half the commissary building. The lunch lady strike happened because of that! Those ladies get scary when the hairnets come off!”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Lumpy said, feeling queasy, “that lunch lady strike was tragic.”Bookmark here

“Oh, we’re better than those buffoonish goons,” Adele chuckled, waving her hand dismissively. “Besides, Quinn will be with us.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity ran into the living room, appearing before them practically like a lightning strike.Bookmark here

“I think it’s a lovely idea!” she told them, her hands in the air over her head. “Let’s do it!”Bookmark here

Rover and Lumpy waved away the ozone from Quintegrity’s shocking appearance, and they looked at each other with shrugs.Bookmark here

“Sure,” they said in unison, smiling.Bookmark here

Quintegrity brandished a notebook and pen from nowhere and slammed them on the sea-marble coffee table. She gave the other club members a big smile.Bookmark here

“Come up with some menu ideas. I gotta finish these chocolates before the radiation levels get too high.”Bookmark here

R-Radiation?” Rover peeked into the kitchen where troves of strange machines were, like, machining.Bookmark here

The girl nodded. “Yup! Like I said, only the wackiest and potentially deadly equipment can handle the workload required to make my candies!”Bookmark here

With Quintegrity back in the kitchen, Rover looked at the notebook she’d placed on the coffee table.Bookmark here

“Uh, let’s stick to normal food cooked normally,” he said, a single bead of sweat running down his face. “Those appliances scare me…”Bookmark here

“Come on.” Adele pouted. “Just one weird item that requires some of the crazy things in our kitchen here.” Bookmark here

“Lunch lady strike,” Rover muttered. “I don’t wanna piss them off again.”Bookmark here

“We won’t burn the place down!”Bookmark here

“Lunch. Lady. Strike.”Bookmark here

Adele crossed her arms. However, when the flashbacks entered her mind, she realized Rover had a point. So much Worcestershire sauce everywhere…so many cinnamon rolls laid out in various places for unsuspecting students…all the egg yolk chokers and butter bombs and carrot catacombs…Bookmark here

“Okay,” Adele said as her spine turned to ice, “normal cooking appliances will be fine. Hey, TV-chan!”Bookmark here

The 254-cm television winked on, responding with an irate female voice that squawked, “What?”Bookmark here

“Play the new episode of Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle,” Adele told TV-chan. “I need to get caught up on it.”Bookmark here

“Fine.”Bookmark here

“Hey!” Rover gave Adele a dirty look. “Don’t watch TV. We’re doing more co-op after this meeting so I can level up before my match.”Bookmark here

Adele propped her feet up on the clover-plaid ottoman. “You leveled up three times from that Troll. I think you’re making good progress.” She turned up the volume on TV-chan.Bookmark here

“Uh, hey,” Lumpy said, holding up his notebook, “we’re not playing games or watching TV, guys.”Bookmark here

Rover ignored him. He gripped his phone, trying to keep his head in the game. “You know what, Adele? Let me—”Bookmark here

“‘He’s the number one poodle in all the world!’” Adele drowned out Rover’s words by reciting the show’s introduction as it blared through the thirty-four speakers in the living room. “‘Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle is the poodle to know! Together with his trusty owner, Goober McDubious, things wiiiiill get done!’”Bookmark here

“I love this show,” Lumpy said.Bookmark here

“I guess it’s okay,” Rover muttered as he battled a Demon Dinosaur by himself.Bookmark here

“But we’re in a club meeting right now!”Bookmark here

Rover ignored Lumpy again.Bookmark here

I gotta level up more, he thought, using his coveted Beelzebub Glove Aliens to quickly bring down the Demon Dinosaur. If I’m gonna be this widely known…then I gotta be the best I can be.Bookmark here

He took a second to wipe his palms on his pants—they were sweaty.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 701Bookmark here

All Money… {T}35,000Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}35,000Bookmark here

Fundraiser… {T}0Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

Benedict’s Payment… 100,000Bookmark here

Anti-Grav Skateboard… 499,999Bookmark here

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Gloves… BeelzebubBookmark here

Armor… Ape Laser ArmorBookmark here

Acc. 1… Dowdy CapeBookmark here

Acc. 2… Meme TemplateBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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