Chapter 20:

Vol. 1, Ch. 20: 100 Pages of Stupid, Trolling Comments & Ridiculous Speculation

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

The interior of Captain Pretentious’ helicopter was swanky and cozy, ordained with nutmeg cream-toned carpet, lavish couches, grove oak paneling with shatinum trim, and tons of other worthless appeals meant to snag the eye and comfort the buttocks.Bookmark here

Captain Pretentious had already changed into her kid-sized bunny onesie pajamas, sitting cross-legged on the couch with her chin resting on her hands, and she stared dolefully at her tablet propped up in its stand on the small table in front of her. Her three servant boys shared the couch across from her, each transfixed on their own tablets.Bookmark here

Every one of them used this time in flight above Thugwood to review separate footage of the match Captain Pretentious had lost to Rover Chork.Bookmark here

“Why is it,” the little woman muttered while watching her tablet, “that everyone thought I was crazy for shooting at that…that UFO…?”Bookmark here

The first of the boys exhaled a chuckle through his nose. “If I may be honest, ma’am, it’s because you are crazy.”Bookmark here

With a faint smile and almost imperceptible nod, she replied, “You aren’t mistaken.”Bookmark here

The piss-pants boy wiggled in his seat, feeling the snugness of his new underwear.Bookmark here

“It doesn’t make sense,” he said, “the more I look at it…that UFO doesn’t seem to be part of Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

“Yes…” Captain Pretentious tapped her finger on her tablet, freezing the video on a clear frame of the mysterious aircraft. “That much seems apparent. It may be because of our jailbroken tablets.”Bookmark here

“But augmented reality objects only appear in their respective apps!” the third boy grumbled, rustling his perfect hair, which fell back into perfect formation. “Even if they’re jailbroken and capable of unexpectedly advanced features—including the AR—that doesn’t explain how this object from another app appeared in the Glove Alien Fight app.”Bookmark here

“You’re right.” Captain Pretentious leaned back in her seat and folded one leg over the other, stroking her onesie’s right bunny ear between her little fingers. Her highlighter-flamingo-colored eyes narrowed at her tablet. “That’s why I think this UFO isn’t an AR object, or the product of an app.”Bookmark here

The boys stared at her from across the small table the way birds on a powerline do.Bookmark here

She turned her tablet and its stand around to show them the still shot of the aircraft.Bookmark here

“See that? It kinda looks like a helicopter, right?”Bookmark here

The boys nodded in unison, like birds cocking their heads.Bookmark here

“That much is obvious—the propellers give it away, but…”—she reached over and used her thumb and index finger to zoom in on the video— “take a closer look. See anything peculiar?”Bookmark here

She pointed to the underside of the helicopter, and although the footage was blurry, there was one bright light near the front. Upon closer inspection, the boys also made out a series of circular lights the color of electric eggplants dotting the entire underside.Bookmark here

“Anti-Grav?” a boy asked, leaning in closer.Bookmark here

“Seems so,” she replied. “Also, remember we couldn’t hear any noise from this one…although those pricks in the Thugforce Militia chopper made it hard to hear myself think. Still, this one doesn’t seem to make much sound.”Bookmark here

The piss-pants boy scratched his head. “But why would a chopper need Anti-Grav?”Bookmark here

“For extra maneuverability and speed?” Captain Pretentious slumped back, sighing and shrugging. “Maybe the propellers are for auxiliary power, like a hybrid engine. Or maybe just for show.”Bookmark here

“Wait,” the third boy said, shaking his head, “this would mean it really was a real object, not AR!”Bookmark here

“AR cloaking technology isn’t just stuff of science fiction anymore,” the bunny-clad woman told them. “It’s real.”Bookmark here

“It’s not available to the public, though,” the first boy commented.Bookmark here

“As far as I know, it isn’t yet.” Her eyes narrowed to slits as her grin broadened. “There’s only one organization I know who designs and uses AR cloaking.”Bookmark here

After some thought, the boys gasped in unison.Bookmark here

“The Cohort Squadron!”Bookmark here

“Bingo! Now, the bloody question is what were they doing there at our match today?”Bookmark here

“Hard to say,” the third boy said.Bookmark here

“This could be bad for us.” Captain Pretentious rubbed her chin. “All this footage of me online could be evidence that we jailbroke our tablets. We won’t be arrested, but could face a steep fine of at least a million thuggoons.”Bookmark here

“Should we dispose of the tablets?” the first boy asked.Bookmark here

“Yes. Upload all the important files to the cloud, delete everything else that could be evidence of our jailbreaking, and disintegrate the tablets. Disintegration Centres are government-regulated, so make sure to do it yourselves. Good thing we were prepared for the day when we’d get caught for this.” She smiled, satisfied with herself. “Now, it’s just strange how the Cohort Squadron would be out. It’s not impossible for them to do routine patrols, but I’ve never heard of them being deployed without serious cause.”Bookmark here

“It’s all weird.” The third boy crossed his arms. “Not to mention those special Glove Aliens that kid had. What were they?”Bookmark here

“Meh.” The little woman flipped the cover over her tablet, then curled up on the small couch into the fetal position, her bunny ears flopping over her eyelids. “I’ll think about it later. I need a nappy.”Bookmark here

“Tired already, ma’am?” the first boy asked.Bookmark here

“Yeah…that match was the best one I’ve had during this whole Glove Alien Fight AR fiasco, and it wore me out. It’s hell gettin’ old, boys.” She popped her thumb into her mouth and slept the rest of the flight.Bookmark here

While she slumbered, her boys flipped the covers over their own tablets.Bookmark here

“Who was that kid she played with today?” the third boy asked with a yawn. “Rover Chork?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” the first boy replied. “Word all over the internet is he was challenged to an AR match by Benedict Torrent himself.”Bookmark here

“He’s great at Glove Alien Fight, I gotta say.” The piss-pants boy wiggled in his seat again. “And…he has a great support team, too…”Bookmark here

20!20@20#20$20%20^20&20*20(20)20_20+20Bookmark here

The rooftop of the Chork house didn’t offer a view any more spectacular than the other rooftops in the neighborhood, but nonetheless offered a better view than the front porch or back deck. Rover rested his back against the outside wall of his bedroom, his socks clinging to the rough shingles beneath his feet. He was joined by Adele and Lumpy, as well as his girlfriend who snuggled against him as they watched the last hues of daylight follow the sun below the horizon—the same hues (when stirred into rose petal lemonade) comprising Quintegrity’s natural hair as it caught the delicate breeze.Bookmark here

“Whew!” Lumpy finished the simple side quest he’d undertaken in Glove Alien Fight and looked up from his phone with a sigh of relief. “Not playing any Glove Alien Fight, for once?” he asked Rover.Bookmark here

Rover felt Quintegrity wrap her arm around him, making his head spin from a rush of primal urges.Bookmark here

“N-No. I, uh…just wanna…you know…”Bookmark here

Quintegrity tightened her hold on Rover. “You wanna spend quality time with your girlfriend!”Bookmark here

Bashful chuckling was Rover’s response.Bookmark here

Pocketing his phone, Lumpy gazed toward the darkening western sky. “I still don’t get it, Quinn.”Bookmark here

The girl lifted her head from Rover’s shoulder. “Get what?”Bookmark here

“How you managed to, uh…do that.” Lumpy dropped his voice. “How you did what you did earlier in Coldshoulder Square.”Bookmark here

“Terrorist!” Adele hissed.Bookmark here

“Hey!” Rover warned his sister, giving her a sour glower.Bookmark here

Adele shrugged with a meager smile. “I’m kidding. But really…knocking out the power grid and causing earthquakes is probably mega illegal…” She was met with Quintegrity’s somewhat curious expression. “As if doing mega illegal things has stopped you before…”Bookmark here

Quintegrity laughed, jumping to her feet. “No need to fear! If it’s for justice, it’s all good!”Bookmark here

“Hmph.” Rover rubbed his temples, irritated. “You gotta be careful, though! People might not see it the same way as you. The law might not see it the same!”Bookmark here

“Just answer one thing, Quinn,” Lumpy said. “Captain Pretentious acted as if she saw something—a ‘rare enemy,’ or something—and it looked like she tried shooting it with her fireballs.”Bookmark here

“It was a Cohort Squadron helicopter,” the girl answered quickly, keeping her eyes toward the west skies.Bookmark here

The other three tensed up.Bookmark here

“A what?!” Rover got to his feet and stared at Quintegrity. “You mean to say the Cohort Squadron was there watching the match, too???”Bookmark here

“No,” she shook her head and turned to Rover. “The Thugforce Militia was probably there for that. The Cohort Squadron,”—her perky smirk stretched up to her eyes— “was there for me.”Bookmark here

Whaaat?!” Rover’s hands and face became clammy. “B-B-But…”Bookmark here

She put her index finger to his lips, instantly silencing him. As he looked at her peaceful and even playful expression, he had to resist the urge to lick that finger—it was soft and smelled like the sugarbutter walcorn cookies she’d baked earlier, but he had a sense of decency to uphold here.Bookmark here

When she lowered her finger, the others waited for her reply.Bookmark here

She said nothing. The horizon grew ever darker as she turned to face it.Bookmark here

“I heard about something called AR cloaking,” Lumpy said. “Supposedly, it uses AR technology, but kind of in reverse. It can make physical objects invisible to the naked eye.”Bookmark here

“How?” Adele asked. “If it’s AR, then you’ll need AR devices to see it. Or…un-see it…?”Bookmark here

“I really don’t understand it,” Lumpy replied. “I guess the Cohort Squadron is rumored to have developed it. With their kind of budget, anything is possible.”Bookmark here

“Well,” Rover said, mulling it over, “Quintegrity can see the AR without devices. I guess that means everyone has some kind of potential to do the same. Like you say, Lumpy, with the government’s resources, they could do anything, maybe even create specialized AR that people can see (or un-see) with just their eyes.”Bookmark here

“Yep,” Quintegrity said with a confirming nod. “I don’t know how it works, because this strolls smack dab into adventurous legends and jiggery-pokery government secrets,”—she made rubbery gestures with her arms and hands— “but in truth, it isn’t impossible to see AR objects without AR devices.” She smiled, equally proud and adorable. “I’m living, breathing, conniving, high-fiving proof of that!”Bookmark here

Adele groaned. “I don’t wanna pretend I know how that kind of AR technology makes sense…”Bookmark here

“It’s probably beyond us.” Lumpy checked the time on his phone. “I better get going. Curfew is a ways off, but I have homework.” He and Rover bumped fists. “Catch ya tomorrow, dude.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover said. “Later, Lumpy.”Bookmark here

“We’ll prepare for Operation Maid Invasion at the meeting,” Quintegrity told Lumpy before he climbed through Rover’s bedroom window. She struck a muscleman pose. “It’s gonna be lit!”Bookmark here

“I’m looking forward to it.” Lumpy grinned, then entered the house and closed the window behind him.Bookmark here

Adele yawned and stretched. “Yeah, I’m gonna get inside, too. I need to finish my neurotic aquatics homework. Blech…I hate that class.”Bookmark here

That left Rover and Quintegrity alone together, both standing on the roof as the stars above peeked out behind their dark curtain of cosmic swirls. He looked at her back as she stared toward the sunset, and for the first time that day, Rover felt at peace.Bookmark here

Almost.Bookmark here

“You need to stop breaking the law,” he told her.Bookmark here

She turned back to him, her face tranquil, but nothing more.Bookmark here

“Me being in Thugwood is already breaking the law.” Why did she always sound so nonchalant about these things? “Breaking it of the highest degree, aside from murder or overthrowing the government.”Bookmark here

“That’s why you need to stop doing additional law-breaking.”Bookmark here

With a thumbs-up, she said, “It’ll be okay.”Bookmark here

“That’s not what I’m getting at!”Bookmark here

“Then, what are you getting at?”Bookmark here

Rover furrowed his brow. Was she actually showing an attitude toward him?Bookmark here

“If you keep breaking the law,” he said, keeping his temper in check, “then you’ll stand out more. I don’t think you’re doing really bad things…I hope…but,”—he sighed— “I want you to be more careful.”Bookmark here

With a double thumbs-up, she said, “It’ll be okay!”Bookmark here

He gave her a deadpan stare. “That isn’t the same as saying you’ll stop doing illegal things.”Bookmark here

Giggling, she said, “Of course not.”Bookmark here

His eye twitched. “Then…tell me you’ll stop breaking the law.”Bookmark here

“I have to break the law to be here, silly.”Bookmark here

“Stop doing it more!”Bookmark here

Nope! Ha-ha-ha!” She sprung her arms and legs outward in cheerleading fashion, her face sparkling with honesty and happiness. “I’m gonna do whatever I wanna do!”Bookmark here

“Uhhh…” Rover’s continued deadpan was interrupted by more eye twitchiness as his face sagged from disbelief.Bookmark here

Quintegrity stood with her ankles together, lacing her fingers behind her back. Suddenly, she took on a timid demeanor, looking down at the shingles they stood on.Bookmark here

“I’m gonna do whatever I have to do…”Bookmark here

In the blink of an eye, she was right in front of Rover, wrapping him in a hug. His heart raced. However, something pushed his hormonal savagery back down—something suspiciously and inconveniently along the lines of…of woe, as he could only think to put it.Bookmark here

She let go. The night was warm, but suddenly felt much colder without her embrace.Bookmark here

“I’ll see ya tomorrow, Rover!” Her voice and expression held no trace of their serious conversation having happened. “Goodnight!”Bookmark here

Rover couldn’t answer. Even after Quintegrity cartwheeled from the roof. Even after she dashed into the night, becoming one with the shadows. Rover couldn’t answer.Bookmark here

He remained on the roof for some time after, his eyes wandering across the constellations as his mind wandered somewhere farther. Lights from aircrafts moved around the sky, some distant, some close enough to vibrate the glass in his bedroom window. He watched them, wondering what kind of helicopters they were. Surely they weren’t all Thugforce Militia choppers, right? With the rise and advancements of Anti-Grav, conventional propulsion aircrafts were becoming cheaper and more popular as personal vehicles.Bookmark here

“There sure are a lot of them these days,” he muttered to himself, sitting with his back against the wall as he watched the aircraft lights.Bookmark here

He received a phone call, and he had a hunch as to who it was before checking his phone.Bookmark here

His hunch was correct.Bookmark here

“Hello?”Bookmark here

“Good evening, Mr. Chork,” Benedict Torrent said. “Congratulations on your victory against Captain Pretentious today.”Bookmark here

“Thanks.”Bookmark here

“You should sound more excited than that. She’s a major figure in the gaming and electronic entertainment industry. Not quite as influential as myself, but our work is too different for a fair comparison.”Bookmark here

Rover cracked a sliver of a smile. “I won’t apologize for my lackluster tone.”Bookmark here

“Ah, yeah, I didn’t expect much otherwise from you. Anyway, I’m not sure if you’ve seen the online reactions to your match today.”Bookmark here

“I don’t follow that stuff. But I’m sure you have,”—his smile cracked a little more— “you being my biggest fan.”Bookmark here

Benedict chuckled. “It’s by far the most talked-about Glove Alien Fight AR match, by far. Although it’s not her first loss, anything featuring Captain Pretentious automatically moves up the trending ranks. Aside from that, I can pinpoint two other reasons why this particular match has people buzzing over it.”Bookmark here

“My Glove Aliens,” Rover said.Bookmark here

“Yes, that’s one. This is the first time anybody has seen them do something new. People are going crazy over it. It’s sparked new hunting parties to find their own, although they don’t know what they’re called.”Bookmark here

“Very few people know what those Glove Aliens are called.”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s got people riled up to find out. On the other side of the spectrum, mostly Captain Pretentious’ fans, you using those Glove Aliens has caused an outcry.”Bookmark here

Rover shrugged. “Let them say whatever they want.”Bookmark here

“Anyway…the second reason why this match is going viral is, um, much more peculiar. There’s plenty of footage showing Captain Pretentious acting strange near the end of the match. Do you know what I’m referring to?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover replied, unwittingly looking at the aircraft lights moving through the starlit backdrop. “It was like she attacked something in the air, but nobody could see what it was.”Bookmark here

“Could you see it?”Bookmark here

“I’m sure you’d like to know,” Rover said amusedly.Bookmark here

Benedict laughed. “Well, whatever the case, just know that people are suspecting you.”Bookmark here

“Huh? What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“You’re already a trending topic. Those crazy Glove Aliens were enough cause for suspicion and all kinds of theories. The haters were already calling you a cheater, and they keep looking for reasons to call you worse things. Simply put, it’s easy for people to jump to conclusions regarding things that are popular or mysterious. And jumping to conclusions, they are!”Bookmark here

Keeping his voice low, Rover said, “They think what Captain Pretentious saw… They think I had something to do with it?”Bookmark here

Although I didn’t, personally…Quintegrity, though…Bookmark here

“That,” Benedict told him, “and pretty much every wild variation of that. Regardless of the truth, this is going to build momentum and carry you with it. I’ve been in the business of online activity, following and setting trends, and practically studying this kind of behavior for a long time. From what I’m seeing, you’re gonna be talked about for a while, especially if you keep getting involved with high-profile people and situations, like our upcoming match together.”Bookmark here

“Greeeat,” Rover muttered, slouching.Bookmark here

“Don’t be bummed out about it. You gotta admit it’s kinda cool to be famous because of a video game.”Bookmark here

“Uh, kinda.” He rubbed his chin. “Sorta wish it was a different game, though. Like Per Sauna 5.”Bookmark here

“You may even find yourself a sponsor.”Bookmark here

Rover grinned. “Heh, I didn’t even think of that…”Bookmark here

“Anyway,” Benedict said, “thought I’d let you know these things. A bit of advice: start paying attention to your online following. See what people are saying and doing. It’s up to you how you wanna handle that information, but knowledge is power. A hundred pages of stupid, trolling comments and ridiculous speculation could be worth gleaning through for that one nugget of info that could make or break you.”Bookmark here

“Sounds like a pain in the ass.”Bookmark here

“It is.” Benedict didn’t sound like he was smiling, but speaking from hard-earned experience. “Okay, then…that’s all I wanted to say.”Bookmark here

“Cool, thanks for the tips.”Bookmark here

“No problem. I look forward to our match, Rover.”Bookmark here

“So do I.”Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 888Bookmark 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… Farm EquipmentBookmark here

Acc. 2… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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