Chapter 14:

Vol. 1, Ch. 14: Bulletproof Skin & a Soul Made of Galaxies

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

“I heard you did a greeeaat job in that match against Tallyhawk yesterday.”Bookmark here

“Shove it, Olaf,” Rover grunted as he walked down the school hallway on his way to the Super Club penthouse on Satty-day. He was playing Glove Alien Fight, which he did at every possible moment since getting home last night.Bookmark here

“You knocked her out, but she won by ringing you out!”Bookmark here

“Dammit, Daremont!”Bookmark here

Olaf Thumdiggles’ sarcasm and Daremont Radclaft’s puns bombarded Rover, and the other students snickered at the verbal abuse.Bookmark here

Luckily, Olaf and Daremont parted ways at the next hallway junction, although the walk still wasn’t entirely peaceful. Rover could see and hear the quiet, under-the-breath comments being made as he passed his fellow classmates.Bookmark here

“Heeey,” came a mocking voice from behind.Bookmark here

Rover sighed, keeping his eyes on his phone and not changing his pace.Bookmark here

“What’s up, Graphite?” Oh, Rover knew what was up, though.Bookmark here

The other boy walked alongside him. “How’s it taste to be defeated?”Bookmark here

“It’s fine,” Rover replied, not looking at him.Bookmark here

Graphite chuckled. “You were getting too popular too quickly, being the star of those videos and being in the Super Club and…”—he choked down a lump in his throat— “…and dating Quinn Integrity. Now you know that you ain’t invincible.”Bookmark here

Still concentrating on the game, Rover said, “It’s not over yet. This won’t slow me down.”Bookmark here

The rock-solid resolve was something Graphite easily picked up on. He narrowed his eyes at Rover playing the video game.Bookmark here

“Tallyhawk told me she didn’t get many items when she beat you,” Graphite said, his tone softer and more casual, “and they were all normal items, too.”Bookmark here

Rover didn’t reply. He was too busy pushing an anvil off an ice cream truck to squash a Werewolf enemy below him, a move that earned him extra technicality experience points and velvet coins. Also, his character leveled up.Bookmark here

“If you’ve been hauling normal items the whole time,” Graphite continued, “then you must be damn good to be as far in the game as you are.”Bookmark here

“Is this a surprise?”Bookmark here

“That would mean you haven’t been hanging around any special dungeons and enemy bases lately, which provide better items and stuff.”Bookmark here

“That’s not true. I just use a lot of the higher-end stuff because I need them, and to make sure my opponents don’t get anything good if I lose a match.”Bookmark here

“I don’t think I trust that answer, Rover.”Bookmark here

“A brilliant conclusion, probably.”Bookmark here

Graphite put his hand on Rover’s shoulder, stopping him. “How the hell did you get those special Glove Aliens, then?!”Bookmark here

A grin spread on Rover’s face as he finally looked at Graphite. Several students had overheard the question, and were listening in.Bookmark here

“I found them,” Rover said.Bookmark here

Where???”Bookmark here

“Up your ass and around the corner.”Bookmark here

Rover kept walking. The students trying to eavesdrop snickered as Graphite stood there, fuming.Bookmark here

14!14@14#14$14%14^14&14*14(14)14_14+14Bookmark here

The Super Club members sat around the sea-marble coffee table in the posh penthouse living room and discussed their upcoming fundraiser, known now as Operation Maid Invasion, a maid café-style restaurant. Quintegrity took a sip of homemade honeycrest sparkling tea from a skull-shaped teacup, then reviewed the list of menu ideas they’d devised together.Bookmark here

“Crab cake burgers with citrus aioli and cilantro pesto—sounds bright and fishy, like electric eels!”Bookmark here

Adele scratched her head with the top of her pen. “It was my idea…but ‘electric eels’…?” Her finger brushed something papery between the couch cushions, and she removed a crinkled school food slip worth one thousand thuggoons. “Oh, score! I found something.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity continued, “Jillfruit lemonade with crushed, fresh mint—sounds refreshing and exquisite, like passing a test you knew you were gonna flunk!”Bookmark here

“Um, thank you? (Question mark?)” Lumpy asked. He retrieved a pen from his tank top’s breast pocket. “I just really like jillfruit.”Bookmark here

As Quintegrity went down the list, Rover had been engrossed in Glove Alien Fight the entire time, determined to keep leveling up.Bookmark here

An incoming call alert popped up on his smartphone. He had configured his phone to only alert him of phone calls while playing Glove Alien Fight, as not to interrupt the gameplay during potentially crucial in-game moments.Bookmark here

“Somebody’s calling me?” He paused the game and accepted the call. “Hello?”Bookmark here

A familiar, somewhat smug voice came through the phone.Bookmark here

“Rover Chork, I take it?” Benedict Torrent asked.Bookmark here

Rover tightened his grip on his phone. “Yeah, that’s me, Benedict.”Bookmark here

Lumpy and Adele became attentive, watching Rover. Quintegrity, however, went back to work on the café menu for Operation Maid Invasion.Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Quintegrity scribbled in the notebook. “There’s an idea. Deviled eggs benedict…with a torrent of hollandaise! Bwa-ha-ha! *Snort!* Make it demonically spicy, too…”Bookmark here

Benedict told Rover, “I saw some new online videos about you. You lost to that ninja-looking girl dressed in, um…belts. Her name was Tallyhawk Kusumegido, if I’m not mistaken.”Bookmark here

“What of it?” Rover said.Bookmark here

“If you couldn’t defeat her, then are you sure you can defeat me?”Bookmark here

With a snicker, Rover leaned back, resting his left arm across the back of the couch. “What’s it matter to you? You should be happy that you think you have the upper hand. I’ll be at the same level as you when we square off, so my character will be a lot stronger and faster than it is now. I’ll be better at the game, too.”Bookmark here

Benedict laughed. “I like that about you, kid. Not willing to back down. But don’t forget about the hundred thousand thuggoons I’ll need from you. It’s the price of business and all that, since it’ll be part of my livestreaming series.”Bookmark here

“I haven’t forgotten how you’re bamboozling and extorting me.” Rover looked at the other three around the sea-marble coffee table; Quintegrity was now listening intently. “You’ll have your payment in full. I have my dream team backing me up on that.”Bookmark here

He smiled at them. Lumpy and Adele didn’t offer much of a response, but Quintegrity smiled back with a dutiful nod.Bookmark here

Although, my dream team is more like only one other person, specifically.Bookmark here

“Good to hear,” Benedict said. “I assume you’ll be competing in more AR matches. Therefore, I’ll be staying up to date on them. Videos of these matches are getting popular—you aren’t the only one in the limelight. However, you are the main star, mostly thanks to your Glove Aliens…but you should know that your ratings have suffered from losing yesterday’s match.”Bookmark here

“I don’t care about popularity and rankings or whatever,” Rover told him, crossing one leg over the other as he stretched out more on the couch, “but I should feel flattered that you’re keeping track of those things for me.” Grinning with a devious glint in his eye, Rover added, “It’s almost like you’re my biggest fan.”Bookmark here

More laughter came through the phone.Bookmark here

“Right, right,” Benedict chortled. “As I said, I like you, kid. I look forward to this match of ours.”Bookmark here

“Likewise.”Bookmark here

“Until next time, Rover.”Bookmark here

“Yep.”Bookmark here

As soon as the phone call ended, Adele leaned forward and asked, “So? What’d he want?”Bookmark here

Rover shrugged. “Just a phone call from my biggest fan.”Bookmark here

“Ya know,” Lumpy said, “it’s really cool that you’re doing this. You really are like an online celebrity. Getting this much attention from a high-profile gaming icon like Benedict Torrent is…well, cool!”Bookmark here

“Except for the extortion bit,” Rover grumbled.Bookmark here

“I’ve been wondering, though…” Adele said, crossing her arms, “if Benedict also has the Beelzebub Glove Aliens…or something similar…or better.”Bookmark here

“I’m not worried about it,” Rover replied, chuckling and resuming Glove Alien Fight. “Not worried at all. N-Not one bit.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity, Lumpy, and Adele all watched the sweat form on Rover’s twitchy face.Bookmark here

“Cut the tough guy act,” Adele told him with a chastising scowl. “We know you’re scared shitless.”Bookmark here

“Heh-heh…ha-ha-haaa…n-nooo…”Bookmark here

“Don’t be scared, babe!” Quintegrity popped up from behind the couch Rover sat on and wrapped her arms around him. “You’ve got me on your side! Victory shall be yours!”Bookmark here

“Gaahhh! S-Stop it! I’m fighting the Lurky Turkey Bandits’ leader!”Bookmark here

He paused the game just before his girlfriend pulled him over the back of the couch and pinned him on the floor behind it. She held his wrists down, driving her knee into his solar plexus.Bookmark here

“Quintegrity! What are y-you d-doing?!”Bookmark here

“Shhh…” Quintegrity pressed her finger against his lips. “Just relax. Everything will be okay, so just loosen up…”Bookmark here

Rover squirmed free, clawed his way up from behind the couch, and collapsed onto the cushions, panting and clutching his chest. Quintegrity stood up and laughed before she leapt over the couch, soared through the air, and landed back on her chair.Bookmark here

“Maybe that was the wrong approach,” she tittered as she sat properly in her seat. “I had to pick on you, seeing you so vulnerable. Just count on me, though. Benedict won’t know what hit him!”Bookmark here

Calming down, Rover positioned himself to sit upright.Bookmark here

“W-Well,” he said, “at least people don’t know that you can see the augmented reality. That’ll give us an advantage.”Bookmark here

“Until they do find out,” Adele said, tapping her pen on her notebook. “Be real, guys, can we keep it a secret forever?”Bookmark here

“Quinn will have to be sneaky about it,” Lumpy added, “while also keeping better track of the Ring Hiders, which we can help with.”Bookmark here

“I’m your girl for this task!” Quintegrity boasted.Bookmark here

The smile she wore was convincing, but Rover held some skepticism. He picked up his phone to continue the video game, only to set it down on the sea-marble coffee table.Bookmark here

“Hey, Quintegrity,” Rover said, his tone low, “why don’t you just tell us how you do it?”Bookmark here

She looked at him, her joyous expression diminishing somewhat.Bookmark here

“How I…can see the augmented reality game elements?”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Rover gave his girlfriend a hard stare. “It goes without saying that that ability is far beyond normal or even possible, especially if what you claim is true, saying you don’t have any cybernetic enhancements…and that you’re a regular human.”Bookmark here

He hesitated to say that last part about being a regular human, feeling it was especially rude and rather unsettling. Quintegrity placed her notebook on her lap, looking down at it for a moment.Bookmark here

“Remember, Rover,” Lumpy said, “that wasn’t your agreement. If she told us how she’s the way she is, then you’d tell us how you got your Beelzebub Glove Aliens.”Bookmark here

“It’s okay, Lumpy,” Quintegrity said. “My secret is much bigger than Rover’s…so it’s right if I say something.” She looked at Rover. “I’ve had some, shall I say, extraordinary experiences during my life.” Her manner of speaking wasn’t necessarily timid or hesitant, but confident and open. “Sorry, but I’m not very comfortable talking about it in full detail just yet, but I understand why it’s hard to comprehend why I am the way I am.”Bookmark here

Rover had never before encountered so much resistance from Quinn Integrity.Bookmark here

“If you really don’t feel comfortable talking about it,” he told her, “then I’ll respect that and won’t push you. I just hope you understand our suspicions about your, uh…abilities.”Bookmark here

The girl nodded at him. “I do understand. I was expecting this conversation at some point.”Bookmark here

She gazed out the large penthouse windows at the lilygrass sheen across the school’s Courtmeadows. As she collected her thoughts to string into words, Rover watched the way she pulled her feet closer to her chair, the way she hunched forward a bit as the uncertainty crept onto her face.Bookmark here

She continued, “The world beyond the Jerry Co. Walls changes people, and the effect of my life spent out there has had the most extreme impact on me, far more than anyone else I know of.”Bookmark here

Rover, Lumpy, and Adele tensed up.Bookmark here

“Wait, whaaat?!” Adele shrieked. “You were outside the Jerry Co. Walls?!”Bookmark here

“For how long?” Lumpy asked, raising his voice a little. “It isn’t fit for human survival out there! It couldn’t have been for too long.”Bookmark here

Shaking her head, Quintegrity replied, “I don’t know. It’s true what they say about time being different beyond the Walls, so I have no idea.”Bookmark here

A bang rang out. Rover stood up, his knees colliding with the coffee table and scooting it back as he did so, rattling the tea set placed on it.Bookmark here

“That’s impossible!” he shouted. “The only way anyone can go outside the Walls is for highly-specialized Militia duty, which you’re too young to be in the Militia at all! Or…or if—”Bookmark here

“I was exiled.”Bookmark here

Silence fell upon the Super Club penthouse, filling it from the high, light fixture-laden ceiling down to the squishy carpet. It was the kind of silence that saturated the furniture, the air, the spirit…taking away the coziness and leaving nothing but emptiness. It seeped down through all of the lower levels of the Clubhaus building.Bookmark here

Adele looked at Lumpy, whose open mouth and dazed eyes showed he had no answer to give. When she looked at Rover, though, she saw his jaw clench, his fists balling tightly, and an edge in his eyes drilling directly into the girl sitting in her chair…the girl who wasn’t the same person without her signature glow and overflowing bravado.Bookmark here

“You’re a liar.” Rover’s accusation was the most unwelcome break to the unnerving silence. His words were sharpened by anger, even without raising his voice. “Nobody comes back from exile.”Bookmark here

Unfazed by Rover’s reaction, Quintegrity told him, “But I did.” Her expression wasn’t serious…only blank.Bookmark here

“The Substantial Board of Exile is supposed to maintain their permanent verdict of all exiled people,” Rover said, keeping his tone in check, although his stiff posture and glare gave away his thoughts. “Never mind that the Thugforce Militia should be hunting you down to de-rationalize you for not playing Glove Alien Fight.” His hands trembled as he narrowed his eyes, which did nothing to reduce his glare’s potency. “The Substantial Board of Exile has their policies enforced by the Cohort Squadron, who works directly for CEO Claudius. If they catch you…”Bookmark here

“I’ll be put to death.” Quintegrity grinned, clasping her hands together. “Don’t worry about me, I know the dangers.”Bookmark here

HOW THE HELL ARE YOU SO CALM ABOUT THAT?!?” Rover thundered, flailing his arms in a frenetic frenzy.Bookmark here

“Because I’m tough. I have bulletproof skin and a soul made of galaxies!”Bookmark here

Rover scowled. “Meaning…?”Bookmark here

Standing up from her chair, the most delicate, sincere, uplifting, soul-soothing smile found its way to Quintegrity’s lips as she flexed her biceps on both arms…Bookmark here

She took a deep breath, sucking in the melancholy atmosphere itself…Bookmark here


Her declaration did more than negate Rover’s doubt—it downright obliterated it, vaporizing the chilly silence away from every surface inside and outside the Clubhaus building, scrubbing the scariness away with purifying, funky vibes.Bookmark here

The three Super Club members were at ground zero for this exultant wave of Quintegrity’s affirmation, such that they literally heard the brassy, concussive jazz blast of her energy—and they took it straight to their faces! Into their hearts! Their bones!Bookmark here

Rover crumbled onto the couch behind him, a result of being hit by his girlfriend’s words. He tried to look up at Quintegrity…but his neck was like old celery, limp and sad. Instead, he leaned forward, massaging his forehead in his hand with a raspy sigh.Bookmark here

Taking a seat on the couch next to Rover, Quintegrity leaned against him and placed her head on his shoulder. She kept the position for a moment before looking up at him.Bookmark here

“You gotta believe me, Rover.”Bookmark here

In that moment, the boy noticed a fundamental quality Quintegrity held. Her lightness weighed against his shoulder and, when paired with her gentleness, brought out the humanly frailty she hid beneath her strength.Bookmark here

Yes, he had seen this quality when they first met. It had revealed itself to him while he’d been lost in her soft mulberry eyes, just as he was now.Bookmark here

She’s a girl. A person.Bookmark here

Letting his mind tumble and bumble, Rover put his arm around her.Bookmark here

“Only because you’ve already proven yourself as a super awesome badass, I only partially doubt your story…but I’m still skeptical.” He turned away with a displeased face. “I’ll try to believe you.”Bookmark here

She smiled at him, and nodded. “Thank you.” Jumping up, she grabbed her notebook with the list of Operation Maid Invasion menu items. “All right, let’s get down to business.”Bookmark here

Lumpy and Rover glanced at each other. Almost like telepathy, they both knew to go along with Quintegrity.Bookmark here

Adele, on the other hand, stared at the girl and ignored her comments on the list of menu items.Bookmark here

Returned from exile… Not playing Glove Alien Fight is a harsh (although idiotic) crime, but going against a top-level government body like the Substantial Board of Exile is a whole different thing. Quinn isn’t just a criminal—she’s a full-blown felon; tried and sentenced, now escaped from her punishment. Wow, Big Bro…you’ve really gotten yourself into something.Bookmark here

14!14@14#14$14%14^14&14*14(14)14_14+14Bookmark here

After the Super Club meeting, Quintegrity tagged along as Rover and Adele went home. Before Rover followed his sister inside the house, he turned to his girlfriend.Bookmark here

“You know,” he said, making eye contact, “I don’t even know where you live.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity smiled and looked away for a second, then met Rover’s eyes again. “My living conditions are a spectacle and a miracle!”Bookmark here

“So, where do you live?”Bookmark here

“The Super Club penthouse.” Her peppiness suffered no loss.Bookmark here

“I somehow expected that answer.” Rover sighed, running his hand through his hair. “Well…I better get inside. I’m gonna have a long night playing Glove Alien Fight and leveling up.”Bookmark here

“Go get ’em, Rover!” She hugged him, making him warm. “I’ll see ya tomorrow.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah… Have a good night, babe…”Bookmark here

“You too!”Bookmark here

Rover stood on his porch, watching the girl trot off through the neighborhood. When she was out of sight, he looked at the ground, then looked around, then headed inside.Bookmark here

14!14@14#14$14%14^14&14*14(14)14_14+14Bookmark here

On the outskirts of the residential area, a helicopter flew overhead. Its exceptionally bright searchlights and loud, deep-rumbling propellers indicated it belonged to the Thugforce Militia, being bigger and more powerful than private or commercial helicopters, yet lacking the stealth and precision of the ones used by the elite, secretive Cohort Squadron.Bookmark here

Quintegrity zipped across the quiet street and hid in a small residential alleyway, avoiding the searchlight’s watchful beam scouring the neighborhood. She had learned to identify the different vehicles used by all of Thugwood’s law enforcement and government agencies—it was important to have a solid understanding of one’s predators.Bookmark here

There are more of them these days. Not surprising, as I’m in most of those online videos for that game.Bookmark here

Moving as if she was an appendage of the shadows, she snuck all the way back to Southbound Thugwood High School. As president of the Super Club, she had rights to access the school grounds and its facilities at all times. She decided to bypass the main gate (which she had a key to) and hopped the fence instead.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 722Bookmark here

All Money… {T}35,700Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}34,700Bookmark here

Fundraiser… {T}0Bookmark here

Food Slip… {T}1,000Bookmark 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… Jinnin TunicBookmark here

Acc. 1… Bug RepellantBookmark here

Acc. 2… Pension ExtenderBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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