Chapter 12:

Vol. 1, Ch. 12: Nuclear Reactor Heart

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]


“Seven rings down.” Tallyhawk snickered as her character gobbled another bagel. She spoke into her communication earpiece, “Rover may be faster, but if he doesn’t know which rings are booby-trapped, then two more paralyzing strikes should keep him behind me. And if he’s careful to look for Frightening Rods by each ring, that’ll also slow him down.”Bookmark here

Hiding on top of the Welcome Centre, Hodge used his cheap telescope and watched Rover’s actions across the park.Bookmark here

“All’s good,” he said to the others through his communication earpiece. “Rover’s heading into the tightest cluster of rings by the dockside souvenir strip. He also hasn’t used any more Goosepacks, so I think he’s out.”Bookmark here

Isho stalked Rover and his team, staying close to the park buildings and shrubbery, using his own cheap telescope with his phone’s AR camera.Bookmark here

“Quinn must’ve tipped him off to those rings’ locations,” Isho said. “She was running all around, but I can’t imagine she’d remember the details of that many Ring Hiders. The three of us versus only her works in our favor.”Bookmark here

“What about Rover’s friend and sister?” Hodge asked, seeing them tagging alongside Rover.Bookmark here

“Clueless nitwits,” Isho replied. “They probably left the ring scouting up to Quinn. Bystanders and Ring Hiders can’t use their Clairvoyant Radar to find the rings—only the players can. If the friend and sister know what we’re up to, they still can’t do anything if they don’t know where the rings are.”Bookmark here

“Excellent,” Graphite replied, following Rover and staying just out of sight. “The other two Frightening Rods are that way, too. We’ll let you know when he gets close to one, Tallyhawk.”Bookmark here

“Roger that,” she said. She controlled her character to climb a streetlamp where another ring was tied with an in-game item called a Heavy Duty Licorice. “I have a nearly unlimited attack range to hit him with the lightning. With him out, I’ll be able to circle around and get most of the rings from where he is.”Bookmark here

Her avatar split the eighth ring, smearing the cream cheese-like stuff on it and devouring it.Bookmark here

“You know,” Graphite said through the earpiece, “that plan is a stretch. I know how Rover plays…and he’ll be tough to predict.”Bookmark here

“I know that.” Tallyhawk’s character leapt from the streetlamp, and she chased it to the next ring. “That’s why I’m sticking with my original goal…even if I lose the match, I want to see Rover’s crazy Glove Aliens again.”Bookmark here

“That’s bold,” Graphite told her, “but it’s your consumable items on the line.”Bookmark here

After a moment of silence, Tallyhawk answered, “Yeah, but whatever. In the end, Rover’s the one who’ll be facing Benedict Torrent. No way am I bothering with that guy in a match.”Bookmark here

12!12@12#12$12%12^12&12*12(12)12_12+12Bookmark here

“Avast!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity’s shout caught Rover off guard as she leapt in front of him from around a corner, nearly making the boy drop his phone.Bookmark here

“What?” he demanded, clutching his chest. “Don’t scare me like that!”Bookmark here

She pointed, keeping her voice low as not to be heard by the bystanders. “The ring by the drinking fountains has one of those Frightening Rods by it. You can’t see it from here, but you can save time if you skip that one.”Bookmark here

“Awesome,” Rover replied.Bookmark here

Lumpy looked around them. There were over twenty people watching Rover, but he didn’t recognize any of Graphite’s crew. Still, he had to be careful and keep Quintegrity’s ability a secret.Bookmark here

“They’ll suspect something after this,” Lumpy muttered to the others as they hurried to the next ring.Bookmark here

“Let ’em,” Rover told him. “We’ll just have to stay one step ahead of them!”Bookmark here

A pulse of Clairvoyant Radar indicated a hefty number of rings were inside the Gwoid Park cricket palace. Being a simple cricket palace open to the public for people to play cricket games, it was a much smaller field than the professional palaces. By no means, though, was it a very small place.Bookmark here

“Onward!” Quintegrity shouted from in front; she hadn’t even broken a sweat from the running. “To that big building up ahead, ye scurvy scoundrels! There be hidden treasures aplenty! Nineteen rings, but one is booby-trapped—the last rigged ring!”Bookmark here

“Eighteen rings, then.” Despite the physical strain, Rover pushed his legs to go even faster as he, Quintegrity, Lumpy, and Adele hurried to the cricket palace.Bookmark here

12!12@12#12$12%12^12&12*12(12)12_12+12Bookmark here

Isho kept his distance behind Rover’s group, not only to stay hidden (despite wearing a half-convincing fake mustache and wig), but because he was an out-of-shape meathead boy. He gasped and wheezed, slowing his pace to a trudging gallop as he caught his breath.Bookmark here

“How…the…hell…?” he choked, wiping his sweaty, bald head with his handkerchief. “…They’re fast…”Bookmark here

“Isho and Graphite, we need you to keep a visual on them,” Hodge said, peering through his novelty telescope and tablet camera. “Even from my position up here, I can’t see everything. I lost them right now.”Bookmark here

Isho gulped down a few breaths before replying. “They’re heading…to the cricket palace.” His shoes dragged on the ground with every tired step.Bookmark here

“The cricket palace?” Graphite jogged across the park, his cup of sparkling tea sloshing under the lid. “Wait…does that mean…?”Bookmark here

“They avoided the rigged ring by the drinking fountains,” Isho said, wiping the sweat from his brow. “I saw them stop, talk about something really quick, and that Quinn girl pointed over to the drinking fountain…and then they headed away from it.”Bookmark here

“Completely avoided it, huh?” Graphite clicked his tongue.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Isho continued, “and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t get a visual on the well-hidden Frightening Rod next to it from their position…almost like they already knew…”Bookmark here

Grunting, Graphite shouted, “The hell does that mean?!” Some people looked at him questioningly, not seeing the small communication earpiece he was speaking into. “Hmm…do you copy that, Tallyhawk?”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk controlled her avatar to swim across a small artificial pond where a ring was “floating on” the water.Bookmark here

“I heard…” she muttered, claiming the bagel. Turning her gaze toward the big cricket palace building, she shook her head. “It doesn’t make any sense.”Bookmark here

“Very strange,” Hodge added. From atop the Welcome Centre, he saw Rover and Quintegrity sprinting toward the palace, Lumpy and Adele struggling to keep up behind them. “I see Rover’s group. They’re heading there now.”Bookmark here

“We’ll see how they react to the last booby-trapped ring in there,” Graphite said, stopping for a moment to catch his breath. “If we can’t learn anything new about Rover’s crazy Glove Aliens…then we might learn something else about how he operates!”Bookmark here

12!12@12#12$12%12^12&12*12(12)12_12+12Bookmark here

The Gwoid Park cricket palace was unmentionable in comparison to other park cricket palaces. The playing field was mostly hard dirt with well-kept grass around the sides, all surrounded by bleachers with a maximum seating capacity of only five thousand people—typical of small, public cricket palaces for weekend games played by bored kids and teens.Bookmark here

Rover nabbed a ring close to the palace’s main entrance.Bookmark here

“Go that way!” Quintegrity told him, pointing down the walkway that followed along the top of the bleachers. “Get the three down there, then head into the bleachers for a bunch more. I’ll go scout the place to find them all.”Bookmark here

When Rover took off, Quintegrity turned to the entrance. Lumpy was leaning against the wall, gasping for air. Adele was lying flat on her back.Bookmark here

“Poor things!” Quintegrity said. “Let me get you something to drink before the dehydration monster claims your lives.”Bookmark here

“Thanks…” Lumpy’s voice was practically a dusty rasp.Bookmark here

A nearby artificial water vending machine dispensed two big bottles after Quintegrity swiped her Mythril credit card. She handed them to Lumpy and Adele, who gulped the water down.Bookmark here

Whew!” Adele sat with her back against the wall. “That saved my life…”Bookmark here

“How’s Rover doing?” Lumpy asked, looking toward the cricket palace interior.Bookmark here

Quintegrity held her hands behind her back and wore a serene smile, looking into the palace from where she stood in the main entrance.Bookmark here

“He’s doing wonderful,” she said. Turning back to Lumpy, she tilted her head as her smile widened. “I gotta go help him out. You two should take it easy.”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about us,” Lumpy said, forcing a grin on his burning, sweating face. “We’ll just stay right here…”Bookmark here

The vibrant girl giggled, showing no signs of fatigue, then hurried to find Rover. Lumpy and Adele watched her run into the palace at a pace most athletes couldn’t achieve.Bookmark here

“If Quinn wasn’t such a sweetheart,” Adele said with a half-smirk, leaning her head back against the main entrance wall, “she’d be the scariest thing I’ve ever encountered.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Lumpy replied, stretching his sore legs. “I’ll have to ask her what dimension she’s from…”Bookmark here

Adele chuckled, chugging more from her bottle of artificial water. “My concern with that is she’ll actually give the honest answer.”Bookmark here

They looked at each other for a second, then laughed.Bookmark here

12!12@12#12$12%12^12&12*12(12)12_12+12Bookmark here

“Got that one!” Rover pumped his fist in the air as his avatar munched another gold bagel in the bleachers.Bookmark here

“The next ones are in different rows all around there!” Quintegrity told him, gesturing toward the bleachers with dramatic, theatrical arm movements, as if she was confessing her undying loyalty to the remaining rings in the seating area.Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Rover scanned the seats with his phone’s AR camera, seeing numerous twinkles from the Clairvoyant Radar. “A lot of people sure aren’t original with their hiding spots, huh?”Bookmark here

Quintegrity hopped from seat to seat, row to row, like a ballerina dancing to funky, jiggy concertos.Bookmark here

*Hop. Spin. Hop. Spin.*Bookmark here

*Clap! Clap! Stomp!*Bookmark here

*Hop. Spin. Hop. Spin.*Bookmark here

*Stomp! Stomp! Chomp!*Bookmark here

*Jazz hands!*Bookmark here

While she did this, Rover rushed from one ring to the next, taking the bleacher stairs and aisles while commanding his game character to nimbly jump and flip over the chairs. It was as if the character was inspired by the groovy vibes Quintegrity filled the place with.Bookmark here

He looked around as his character ate another ring. Among the few dozen spectators cheering him on, he couldn’t see Tallyhawk or anyone else in Graphite’s crew.Bookmark here

“Hey, Quintegrity!” he called.Bookmark here

“Hmm?” The girl stopped in the middle of a pirouette, balancing perfectly on her toes atop one of the bleacher seats.Bookmark here

Rover beckoned to her, and she ran along the top of the seats as easily as running on flat ground, making her way to him.Bookmark here

“Where’s that rigged ring?” he asked her.Bookmark here

“In front of the men’s restroom on the northwest side,” she replied, pointing across the cricket palace field. “Save yourself the trip of going all the way over there.”Bookmark here

“Sweet. Are there any others in here?”Bookmark here

“One other, by the side entrance with the butterfly cage.”Bookmark here

“That’s pretty close.” He wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Man…I’m getting worn out.”Bookmark here

“Forge forth, Rover!”Bookmark here

“Ha! Didn’t plan on doing otherwise. Let’s go!”Bookmark here

A large cage full of exotic butterflies known as Mondo Butters was by the cricket palace’s side entrance. Their wingspans measured over seventy centimetres across as they fluttered around as delicately as the big-ass bugs could for something their size.Bookmark here

When Rover made it to the entrance, he looked around through his phone camera, his throat parched from the workout.Bookmark here

“I don’t see it,” he said. “Are you sure it’s here?”Bookmark here

Quintegrity put her finger on her lip as she thought.Bookmark here

“Yes,” she replied. “It was right here.”Bookmark here

A girl’s shout broke the silence. “That’s because I got it first!”Bookmark here

Movement appeared on Rover’s screen—Tallyhawk’s avatar slid in from the side entrance. Gunshots rang from numerous AR devices as the spectators watched Rover lose most of his HP.Bookmark here

He had his character duck and take cover inside the restroom vestibule.Bookmark here

“Dual pistols,” Rover murmured, using an in-game Potion to restore his HP. He glanced at his girlfriend. “Tallyhawk has the Hardboiled Glove Aliens.”Bookmark here

“Are they egg-launching pistols?”Bookmark here

“N-No…they use six-shot revolvers.” He used a consumable item called a Ramen Candle Firework, staving off his opponent with sparkly booms. “High attack, long range, but limited ammo and hard to aim…thankfully, she missed over half her shots.”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk rounded the corner, holding an ice cold bottle of Suki Yuki Snow Juice to her sweaty face, which was flushed enough to be noticed on her dark skin. She had her character stand back to avoid the raucous razzle dazzle from Rover’s item.Bookmark here

“Well then,” Rover sneered, standing in the middle of the in-game fireworks. “You caught up to me.”Bookmark here

The belt-clad girl popped the tab on her Suki Yuki Snow Juice and chugged some of the refreshing drink.Bookmark here

“I was collecting my own rings somewhere else,” she replied, speaking over the firework sound effects coming from everyone’s phones and tablets, “so don’t act like you’re winning.”Bookmark here

Rover checked the number of rings he had.Bookmark here

Under half of the total. Damn…I really might be losing, depending on how many Tallyhawk has. But there are more than ten minutes left.Bookmark here

The Clairvoyant Radar displayed some more rings outside the cricket palace. Before the Ramen Candle Firework animation slowed and dimmed, Rover selected another of his consumable items. His avatar darted from the restroom and threw it at the opponent.Bookmark here

An AR explosion knocked Tallyhawk’s avatar away. Deadly digital flares of every color ricocheted throughout the cricket palace walkway, growing faster, their numbers multiplying by the second.Bookmark here

Tallyhawk squeaked from terror, instinctively running herself out of the palace alongside her avatar, fleeing from the firework finale. “Nope! I ain’t messing with a Mortar Kombat Surprise!”Bookmark here

Meanwhile, Rover’s character was trapped in a bathroom stall as the raging firework storm thundered around him. Along the palace walkway, Quintegrity was cheering and rave dancing.Bookmark here

“Well, this plan backfired.” Rover sighed as he stood outside the restroom stall where his character took shelter. “I’m wasting precious time here!”Bookmark here

When the rave ricochets waned, he had his character hurry on to continue the match.Bookmark here

12!12@12#12$12%12^12&12*12(12)12_12+12Bookmark here

Isho’s voice came through Tallyhawk’s communication earpiece. “He left one in the palace.”Bookmark here

“I know,” she replied, glancing back at the cricket palace as she jogged away.Bookmark here

“Quinn knew where it was,” Isho said into the communicator. “She told him when Rover asked where the ‘rigged’ one was.”Bookmark here

“Damn them…” Graphite said, listening in on the conversation from outside. He watched Rover and Quintegrity hurry out of the cricket palace. “That Quinn Integrity is good…”Bookmark here

“That’s not all,” Isho said, heading back up the bleacher steps toward the walkway along the cricket palace. By now, the Mortar Kombat Surprise effect had expired. “I got here just in time to see her run around to look for the rings.”Bookmark here

He stopped walking, as if preparing himself for what he was about to say.Bookmark here

“She wasn’t using a phone or tablet…or anything else, from what I could tell.”Bookmark here

“Maybe she had AR holovision goggles,” Hodge said. Through his cheap telescope, he noticed Rover and Quintegrity running across the park. “The newest ones use hologram technology to display the augmented reality. They can be pretty discreet. Apparently, standard VR headsets can be used, too, and are preferable because they’re way cheaper than AR holovision goggles and provide a behind-the-character third-person view of the game.”Bookmark here

“I don’t know…” Isho replied, making it to the top of the bleacher steps. “I didn’t see her use anything like that…”Bookmark here

“That’s impossible,” Tallyhawk muttered into her earpiece.Bookmark here

Outside, Graphite leaned against a chain link fence to adjust his wig and fake mustache.Bookmark here

“Maybe we’re missing something,” he said almost in a whisper, losing sight of Rover and Quintegrity as they continued the game, “…because seeing the AR without a device is impossible.”Bookmark here

12!12@12#12$12%12^12&12*12(12)12_12+12Bookmark here

“Over there, Rover!”Bookmark here

“Got it!”Bookmark here

“Get that one there!”Bookmark here

“Right!”Bookmark here

“That’s all for here, Rover. I’ll go check for more!”Bookmark here

Outside Gwoid Park, just across the street, the warm breeze blew Quintegrity’s long, rose petal lemonade-colored hair as she occupied the top of the tall building of Ed’s Alphabet Pet Store. When Rover claimed the last ring in the immediate area, she hopped from the roof and bounced off the awning, scaring two elderly ladies who were pushing shopping carts full of alphabet pets and grammar crackers.Bookmark here

When the girl approached her boyfriend, he was staring at his phone, grumbling.Bookmark here

“That’s all for this area, Rover!” Quintegrity told him, raising her hand like she’d been picked to answer a question she’d been waiting for.Bookmark here

“Hrrrmm…I still have under half of the rings.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity saw the boy’s downtrodden reaction.Bookmark here

“Sorry,” she said. “It’s a lot for me to keep track of. I don’t want to scare people by moving too fast.”Bookmark here

“Uh…it’s too late for that…”Bookmark here

But!” Her grin widened as she pushed her face so close to Rover’s that his eyelashes fluttered from her unrestrained peppiness. She pointed her finger toward the distance. “There’s one more ring I could find from my spot on the alphabet pet store!”Bookmark here

Rover looked through his phone. “Up in that tree?”Bookmark here

“Nope. Beyond that.”Bookmark here

Using both his phone and just his eyes, Rover followed Quintegrity’s finger.Bookmark here

“But…the only thing farther than that…is that skyscraper…waaay across town.”Bookmark here

“Yup! It’s got that pointy peak on the top. I see there’s a gold ring dangling from it.”Bookmark here

Are you frickin’ kidding me?!”Bookmark here

She giggled. “Frick no!”Bookmark here

“Gah! But…what? How’d it get up there?”Bookmark here

The Clairvoyant Radar pulsed on Rover’s phone, but it did no good.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” he grunted, scowling at his phone, “of course it’s too far to see with my Clairvoyant Radar.” He lowered his phone, staring at the skyscraper and scratching his head of freshly mined-coal hair. “Never mind getting up there, but someone actually made it that far in the two-minute time limit given to Ring Hiders! Unless they drove…or something…but their game characters would need a vehicle, too…which isn’t impossible…”Bookmark here

“I’ll do better to keep track of the Ring Hiders next time,” Quintegrity said, flexing her biceps. “Now I know how much effort must go into these matches! I’ll unleash my nuclear reactor heart!”Bookmark here

Although her biceps looked average as she flexed, Rover suspected she could fold a crowbar between her arm muscles.Bookmark here

He smiled at her, swept away by her unwavering motivation.Bookmark here

Her determination reminds me of how I get when playing video games, he thought.Bookmark here

As Quintegrity’s charm washed over and through him, the Clairvoyant Radar pulsed on his phone again. There were a few more rings within his character’s detection range.Bookmark here

“We have three and a half minutes left,” he said. “The rest of the rings are this way!”Bookmark here

“I’ll go scout for them!”Bookmark here

When she took off in a gust of wind, the nearby spectators dropped their jaws, commenting on how ridiculous it was for somebody to run that fast. Rover glanced at the skyscraper in the distance with a ring on its pointy peak, then he jogged after Quintegrity.Bookmark here

His legs were worn out. He could feel his pulse in his temples as his heart pounded and lungs ached.Bookmark here

I’m just about at my physical limit…Bookmark here

Quintegrity dashed halfway around the park where the contestants hadn’t been, and she returned to Rover right away.Bookmark here

“Four more over yonder!” she said, pointing. “You can probably get them all if you start with the one on the Tractor Monument.”Bookmark here

“Thanks!”Bookmark here

One ring on top of the Tractor Monument…Bookmark here

Another ring next to a stack of tastefully placed bricks…Bookmark here

“The next two are in the laser tennis court!” Quintegrity told Rover.Bookmark here

Gasping for breath, but still not stopping, Rover jogged toward the laser tennis court, his shoes dragging in the grass. However, his avatar was far ahead and climbing the chain link fence to get inside the court.Bookmark here

Time’s almost up. If I can just get two more, that’ll give me twenty-five of the fifty-six rings. Not quite half, but it’s possible Tallyhawk didn’t get the others. Maybe I’ll have a shot at winning…Bookmark here

Not long after that thought crossed Rover’s mind, he saw Tallyhawk was already in the laser tennis court, and through his phone, he saw the crow-haired girl’s avatar munching on the gold ring.Bookmark here

“Dammit!” Rover spat, hardly having the breath to curse out loud.Bookmark here

There are a lot of people around. I really don’t want to give them any more footage of my Beelzebub Glove Aliens, but one ring might make the difference!Bookmark here

A realization dawned on him.Bookmark here

Actually, I might benefit from this exposure. Many of these people are here to see me in action. If I use the same attack as last time…then I’m not showing anyone anything new…but still giving them what they want… Damn show business!Bookmark here

Rover’s character climbed over the fence and landed in the court. Tallyhawk noticed.Bookmark here

The Clairvoyant Radar gave Rover a fleeting glimpse of the ring’s location.Bookmark here

I can see the ring! It’s closer to her than me. Her character might be slower than mine, but that won’t help me here.Bookmark here

His shaky, sweaty right index finger soared across his phone screen and scrolled through his equipment list, and his left thumb pushed the onscreen button to have his character charge toward the ring.Bookmark here

While running alongside Rover, Quintegrity watched his quick fingers on his screen. Rover selected the Beelzebub Glove Aliens, and his onscreen buttons changed to his new weapon’s abilities, including Winter’s Sepulcher.Bookmark here

*Tap*Bookmark here

Quintegrity stopped running, planting herself in place, her eyes wide and dazzled. All of the spectators reacted similarly, some gasping, some cheering, but all mesmerized as the screens on their phones or tablets instantly filled with virtual ice stalagmites and digital flurries of swirling glitter.Bookmark here

The crystalline icescape of Winter’s Sepulcher lingered for several seconds, as if boasting and showing off its eye-catching glory before disappearing into AR nothingness. On the ground, in the virtual overlay of the laser tennis court, Tallyhawk’s character lay as its health had been reduced to zero in a single hit of overkill.Bookmark here

Tallyhawk growled, staring at the onscreen aftermath in her trembling hands.Bookmark here

Still, she forced a smile. “Well…at least I got to see Rover’s special ability up close again…”Bookmark here

The spectating crowd cheered Rover on as his character hurried to the final ring during the last few seconds of the match. He propped himself against the chain link fence, having a decent view from where he stood, too tired to take another step. Sweat from his face dripped to the fence and grass.Bookmark here

While his character munched on the gold bagel-like ring, he fell to his knees with a grin just as the timer counted down and the match ended.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 703Bookmark here

All Money… {T}35,000Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}35,000Bookmark here

Fundraiser… {T}0Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

Benedict’s Payment… {T}100,000Bookmark here

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

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Gloves… BeelzebubBookmark here

Armor… Ape Laser ArmorBookmark here

Acc. 1… Grand Shyster’s ShoesBookmark here

Acc. 2… Hound Doggo ShnozzBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

<None>
Bookmarked
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