Chapter 21:

Vol. 1, Ch. 21: Kick Ass & Change Lives...FOREVER!

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

The moment Rover entered the classroom for historical vandalism on Feefee-day, he was hit by a tank.Bookmark here

Or, at least, the scathing glare he received from Mrs. Historical Vandalism Teacher was equivalent to being hit by heavy artillery.Bookmark here

“Rover Chork!” The muscular woman folded her leg-like arms in front of her, furrowing her gargantuan brow.Bookmark here

Freezing in place, the boy squeaked out some kind of sound indicating compliancy.Bookmark here

Mrs. Historical Vandalism Teacher pointed her thumb at the repaired window. “Good work defeating the one responsible for sending an albatross through my classroom window.” Her smile was equally frightening to her other facial expressions, resembling a demon ready to feast on innocent students. Some of her giant teeth were replaced with literal bullets (which were definitely live rounds).Bookmark here

“Th-Thank you, m-ma’am,” Rover managed to stutter.Bookmark here

“As such,” the giantess said, “you’re relieved of your window repair responsibility.” Her expression changed again, not smiling nor scowling, but just another look for a beast. “Don’t let it happen again, or you’ll be my lunch.”Bookmark here

“Yes, of course!” Rover saluted, horrified and unable to think of another appropriate response.Bookmark here

21!21@21#21$21%21^21&21*21(21)21_21+21Bookmark here

While walking through the halls of Southbound Thugwood High School, it was impossible not to notice the overflowing abundance of posters announcing the upcoming Interschool AthletaCom.Bookmark here

And those weren’t the only reminders. Starting that day, as customary in the weeks leading up to the infamous sporting event, the school deployed thousands of little flying drones that whizzed and buzzed around the entire campus like wasps, flying the AthletaCom banners behind them while shooting everything with suction cup darts inscribed with the AthletaCom emblem.Bookmark here

Rover yanked a suction cup dart off his phone screen, the third that day, as he headed to the Clubhaus after the end of the school day.Bookmark here

“Grr…” he grumbled, crushing the dart in his hand and throwing it on the floor. “Stupid, incessant reminders. It’s not like anyone could ever forget the Interschool AthletaCom is coming up. Every school in Thugwood only hypes it up year-round. It’s almost on par with Chrizzlemas and Goldie Week, for cryin’ out loud…”Bookmark here

During the Super Club meeting in the luxurious club penthouse, Quintegrity showed a PowerPunch slideshow on the 254-cm TV to discuss the details of their maid café-style fundraiser, Operation Maid Invasion. Rover was only half-present, sitting on the couch in a heated level-grinding session for Glove Alien Fight, catching only snippets of the discussion.Bookmark here

“With our final menu decided,” Quintegrity explained, “We’ll need a day to procure all of our foodstuffs and supplies. Then we’ll need another day to set up our kitchen and café. We should also take some time to practice using the alien-like appliances—ya’ll don’t wanna accidentally roast your soul whilst trying to flip a flapjack! Harr-harr-harrrr!”Bookmark here

Adele let out a nervous chuckle, holding a piece of paper in her hands. “So…that’s why Headmaster had us sign these waivers…”Bookmark here

Quintegrity changed to the next slide, showing crude drawings of everyone involved in the fundraiser with a job position title under each person.Bookmark here

“I’ll be in charge of expediting and executive chef things,” she explained, pointing to the TV with a metre stick stylus. “Adele and Lumpy will run the front of house, like the servant servers ya be! Arrr, matey…” She jabbed her metre stick stylus like a sword toward her seated club members.Bookmark here

“Why are you a pirate?” Lumpy asked.Bookmark here

Ignoring him, her fingers snapped a fast n’ snappy beat as she recited:Bookmark here

Bookmark here

*Snap-ity snap-ity, SNAP SNAP*Bookmark here

“Rover will be a line cook!”Bookmark here

*Snap-ity snap-ity, SNAP SNAP*Bookmark here

“Two others helping his outlook!"Bookmark here

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“A wiz in the bizBookmark here

Of missions for kitchens!Bookmark here

And slinging deliciousBookmark here

Zillions of dishes!”Bookmark here

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*Snap-ity snap-ity, SNAP SNAP*Bookmark here

“Ending the hook with some gobbledygook!”Bookmark here

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Lumpy chuckled, “Whoa, Quinn’s got bars!”Bookmark here

Rover glanced up from his game. “Oh, okay, I’ll work in the kitchen. That’s cool with me.” He looked at the PowerPunch presentation. “H-Hey! What the hell? Olaf and Daremont are the other two cooks???”Bookmark here

“Of course!” Quintegrity beamed. “I predict a busy day for the café. Having three cooks is essential for maintaining an optimum customer turnover rate while balancing a favorable labor cost.” She clicked to the next slide, showing her mathematical calculations sprawling across the entire wall-sized screen like hieroglyphics. “I created a financial forecast based on the assumption that all of us will be earning minimum hourly wages during this operation.”Bookmark here

Rover’s brain hurt from just looking at the numbers. “Ummm…but we won’t be getting paid hourly…”Bookmark here

She giggled. “No, but I like to pretend. Remember, team…everything we do now is practice for our futures! That’s why I want Operation Maid Invasion to simulate the workforce environments you may find yourselves in someday.” She clenched her fists so powerfully that the room rumbled from her exalted ambition. “Take every moment you can to build your experience…”Bookmark here

“…I’m trying to,” Rover said, looking back at his game.Bookmark here

While Quintegrity, Adele, and Lumpy offered insight to ideal table arrangements and preventing grease fires through the power of prayer, Rover eventually tuned out the meeting entirely. His head was in the game as he leveled up, but his main distractions pertained to his phone call with Benedict Torrent last night.Bookmark here

A lot of people are talking about me, and even more will keep talking about me the more I stay public with Glove Alien Fight. Beyond being annoying, it’s not really a problem…and it’s actually really awesome, especially if I do get a sponsor!Bookmark here

He glanced around at the other club members as they moved to the topic of making a soufflé rise through the heat of funk alone.Bookmark here

My main concern is Quintegrity. I doubt people will connect her to that blackout at Coldshoulder Square yesterday, or connect that to the Cohort Squadron chopper Captain Pretentious saw with her jailbroken tablets…but still… Am I being a worrywart?Bookmark here

“Don’t look so worried, Rover-wart!” Quintegrity leapt onto the couch next to Rover, making him jump.Bookmark here

Looking at her beaming face, he had the impulse to protest, but knew it’d be futile to do so.Bookmark here

“Is it that obvious that I’m worried…?” he muttered.Bookmark here

She nodded, smiling, then wrapped him in a hug, making his cheeks blush as she smothered him with her softness.Bookmark here

“I know things are stressful,” she told him, “but don’t worry!” She squeezed him tighter, and he heard things pop inside him that normally don’t pop. “Your girlfriend will whisk you away from the scary things!”Bookmark here

“Y-You’re crushing me…”Bookmark here

“With love!”Bookmark here

*Pop! Pop! Crack!*Bookmark here

Hrrrggkkk!!!”Bookmark here

When she let go, Rover’s spine realigned itself.Bookmark here

“I’m concerned about you, you know,” Quintegrity said, her soft eyes on him. “I don’t want you to get too caught up in Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

“I’ll be fine,” Rover assured her, trying to smile with confidence as his last vertebrae slipped back into place, making him wince.Bookmark here

“Ha-ha-ha-haaa!” Quintegrity cackled, standing on the couch with her hands on her hips, making Rover shrink away in fear. Pointing down at him, she said, “See how it feels?!”Bookmark here

Thinking it over, Rover replied, “You mean how you’ve been telling me you’ll be fine, even though I have my doubts?”Bookmark here

“Yep.”Bookmark here

“But this is totally different! I’m playing a game, and you’re…doing what you’re doing…”Bookmark here

She gave him an innocent, blank face. “But it’s interfering with your sleep, which is unhealthy.”Bookmark here

“Uhh…”Bookmark here

“And interfering with your eating, which is unhealthy…”Bookmark here

“Well, it’s not like—”Bookmark here

“And creating an illogical obsession, which is ambiguously unhealthy depending on your coping mechanisms.”Bookmark here

“Wait…what’s a copey mechasm?”Bookmark here

“And it’s making you into a well-known, celebrity-type thing, which can scramble your life and have nonconsensual interactions with your mental fortitude.”Bookmark here

“…I don’t know what that means…but it sounded creepy.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity waved her hands in the air, her cheeks puffed with frustration. “So, the feeling is mutual!”Bookmark here

The couple held each other’s gaze.Bookmark here

“Sheesh,” Adele whispered to Lumpy, “I bet she wanted to get that off her chest for a long time…”Bookmark here

Sighing, Rover turned off the game and put his phone down. His eyes were dry.Bookmark here

“Okay, okay,” he said, “I’ll take a break from Glove Alien Fight…”Bookmark here

The radiant girl smiled, but only after a huffy sigh. Her vibrancy returned to her movements as she grabbed the unicorn skull-shaped teapot off the sea-marble coffee table and refilled Rover’s skull-shaped cup with sparkling fig and lavender tea. He took a sip. It was the perfect temperature.Bookmark here

“Speaking of Glove Alien Fight,” Lumpy said, letting Quintegrity top off his cup as well, “are you going to accept any of those challenges?”Bookmark here

“Man,” Rover moaned as he leaned back on the couch. “I got, like, twenty-something requests from challengers in my email inbox since beating Captain Pretentious, not to mention the ones I had before then.”Bookmark here

“That’s what you get for letting your email inbox pile up,” Adele told him.Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah…I know…” Rover took a big sip of sparkling tea, a glimmer in his eye. “They’re just lining up to give me experience and their consumable items. Heh-heh.”Bookmark here

He caught Quintegrity giving him another expressionless stare, which he’d come to realize wasn’t necessarily emotionless—blank on the outside, yet as Rover could see in the girl’s eyes, there was a shade of hope…and a tint of anticipation.Bookmark here

“But,” he said, placing his cup on the coffee table, “it’s also annoying. I’ll see who I wanna face, because my time is limited.” He smiled at Quintegrity. “I got stuff to do. This maid café fundraiser is gonna kick ass and change lives…forever!”Bookmark here

That seemed to light a torch in the girl’s heart. “Yeah!”Bookmark here

21!21@21#21$21%21^21&21*21(21)21_21+21Bookmark here

By the end of the weekend, Rover felt like an old rug that had been left out to dry during a hurricane. Homework, the Super Club fundraiser preparations, and at least one Glove Alien Fight AR match had been crammed into each day. It all was stressful enough to pluck out his sanity and leave it for the wolves.Bookmark here

“But I’m gaining levels!” he’d explain, often to only himself, as his exhausted smile pushed his weighted cheeks up to his saggy, shifty eyes.Bookmark here

He’d said that to Lumpy (again) that Nundinum-day afternoon while they hung out on Rover’s back deck. His friend sighed with an unpersuaded grimace.Bookmark here

“Dude,” he told Rover, “you’re more like gaining levels up the staircase to the big dunce cap in the sky. Don’t give yourself a heart attack or die from, like, forgetting to drink water.” He blew on his steaming skewer of yakitori Quintegrity had whipped up for lunch. “You are drinking water…right?”Bookmark here

Rover looked up from his phone, his shifty eyes darting around the back yard.Bookmark here

“Now that you m-mention it…” he replied.Bookmark here

Lumpy handed his glass of Squirm soda pop to Rover. “Drink this. Save yourself.”Bookmark here

*Glug, glug, glug, glug*Bookmark here

“Aahhh…” Rover wiped his chapped lips on his arm. “I didn’t realize how thirsty I was.” He laughed. Nothing was funny.Bookmark here

Lumpy leaned over the deck’s treated wood parapet and took a bite of grilled chicken from his yakitori skewer, letting the tare sauce and seasonings drip into the grass below him.Bookmark here

“You should take the day off, man.”Bookmark here

Never!!!” Rover hissed, hunched over his phone while sitting in the wicker chair. “I’m so close…almost to level nine hundred ninety-nine…but these last hundred levels require so many experience points…”Bookmark here

“At least slow down from taking on so many AR matches,” Lumpy told him. “You’ve been killing it, winning each one. You’ll need to save up your items for the match against Benedict. If you lose now, all of those awesome items you got from the AR matches will be lost, and you’ll be going against Benedict emptyhanded.”Bookmark here

“That’s not a bad idea…actually not bad…” Rover’s eyes never left his phone screen. “With how close I am…I don’t need more AR matches…”Bookmark here

“Do you know what else isn’t a bad idea? Eating and drinking before you keel over.”Bookmark here

Rover hissed again, his face becoming a little reptilian. Lumpy, knowing his words were falling upon deaf (and stupid) ears, looked back over the side of the deck and chewed another bite of his yakitori. He caught Quintegrity’s eye as she grilled more skewers over the charcoal roasting hearth in the back yard, and she waved at him with a wide smile. Lumpy waved back.Bookmark here

The door leading to the house slid open as Adele stepped out, carrying a glass pitcher full of more cold-brewed Squirm soda pop, a lemon slice tastefully wedged on the rim. She placed the pitcher on the table, making the ice cubes floating inside clink against the glass.Bookmark here

“Hey, Adele,” Lumpy said, “wanna do a match together? I’ve only done a few, and they weren’t against you yet.”Bookmark here

“Sure.” She grabbed a skewer off the plate and sank her teeth into it. “After I eat. I’m dying.”Bookmark here

“No, you’re not dying,” Lumpy chuckled, nodding toward the deranged Rover. “That’s what dying looks like.”Bookmark here

She chewed on her grilled chicken and rolled her eyes in agreement.Bookmark here

21!21@21#21$21%21^21&21*21(21)21_21+21Bookmark here

“Dead Rover, Dead Rover, send vital signs over,” Adele said through Rover’s bedroom door from the hallway Mondee-day morning.Bookmark here

“Leave me alone.”Bookmark here

The door opened, and Adele entered the room with a smirk.Bookmark here

“You get any sleep last night?” Adele asked her brother.Bookmark here

“A little,” Rover murmured, sitting on his bed in his pajamas. “It’s Ad Jingle Day, so we ain’t got school today to interfere with my life.”Bookmark here

However, Adele could see the visible sheen of sweat on his face as his hands shook and bloodshot eyes bugged out.Bookmark here

“You look like a drug addict,” she quipped. “Seriously, get some sleep, or you might die.”Bookmark here

“I’m so close to level nine hundred ninety-nine!” Rover declared, sounding a bit loony as his body trembled with every word. “Sooo cloooose…ha-ha…ha-ha-ha…”Bookmark here

His thumbs tapped across his phone screen, doing so with such speed that Adele figured he was in an intense battle…or just cracking up entirely.Bookmark here

“Like, how close?” she asked in disbelief.Bookmark here

Suddenly, Rover froze up and his harsh breathing stopped. A wild look was haphazardly welded to his face as the phone slid from his fingers and fell onto his lap.Bookmark here

“Uhh…” Adele took a step back, looking concerned. “You okay?”Bookmark here

“I did it.”Bookmark here

Blinking, Adele said, “You…? Don’t tell me…”Bookmark here

“I just reached the max level…” His necked popped as he turned his maniacal expression toward his sister. “And…I got a Special Number item…”Bookmark here

“Huh?!”Bookmark here

Adele hurried over and Rover showed her his phone. There was an onscreen message saying he had acquired Special Number 5 for being the fifth person to ever reach level nine hundred ninety-nine in the game.Bookmark here

She clamped her hands over her mouth, stopping a squeal. “Y-You did it! You really did it! You’re the fifth one ever to hit the level cap!!!”Bookmark here

Rover chuckled weakly, his body swaying as if his bed was on a rowboat. Without a verbal reply, he closed his eyes and fell over onto his mattress. Nobody saw him until dinnertime.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 999Bookmark 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 Pay… {T}100,000Bookmark here

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

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Weapon… BeelzebubBookmark here

Armor… Brutal SuitBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… Unsetting SunBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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