Chapter 31:

Vol. 2, Ch. 6: Big Enough to Cover the Whole World

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

“R, a gaggle of Beagle Eagles are coming from the south,” Quintegrity told her boyfriend through the communication earpiece.Bookmark here

“Thanks, Q!”Bookmark here

“And some Blundering Dingbats from the southwest,” she added.Bookmark here

“Perfect!”Bookmark here

The echoes of the Artillery Shots reached Quintegrity from across Jurbnolton Area, giving her the impression of a real battle while she ducked and hid away from the invisible Cohort Squadron helicopter. It zipped by as she swiftly navigated a tight alley, and she caught a good glimpse of it as it rushed past.Bookmark here

Two lights are on this one’s underside, she thought, taking a moment to listen for the chopper’s telltale whooshing sound. Ever since Rover got busted for cheating, they’ve been dispatching the two-light ones instead of the one-light.Bookmark here

She snickered, darting across the street when she was sure the coast was clear.Bookmark here

They aren’t playing around anymore and are probably suspicious of something else happening behind the scenes of Rover’s matches—some other than just game mods. And they should be suspicious…because I’m happening behind the scenes!Bookmark here

“Ahh…” She let out a peaceful sigh, reaching into the gym bag she’d stashed earlier behind a mailbox. “Silly government. They have no idea how much fun they’re giving me with this hide-and-seek.”Bookmark here

After switching her disguise to a hoodie over a nightgown and galoshes, she sped away so quickly that she set off a nearby car’s alarm.Bookmark here

31!31@31#31$31%31^31&31*31(31)31_31+31Bookmark here

The slate-like overcast sky darkened as the evening overtook the late afternoon. The four Super Club members idled their time away, sitting on top of the Chork house rooftop, basking in Rover’s AR match victory.Bookmark here

“A two-light Cohort Squadron chopper?” Adele wondered out loud as she stared at the cloud cover. A chill ran through her. “They’re cracking down…huh?”Bookmark here

“Don’t you worry,” Quintegrity told her. She had been dancing around the rooftop nonstop for an hour, snapping her fingers and moving her feet to the beat in her heart. “They’re probably just suspicious that something weird is happening in the AR matches…something weird like me.”Bookmark here

Adele sighed. “I know they’re probably keeping a close eye on Rover after he cheated. Still, Quinn…your actions and history are making me worry.”Bookmark here

Lumpy tried immersing himself in a co-op Glove Alien Fight side quest with Rover, but he shared the same worries as Adele. Rover, however, was silent on the matter, and his VR headset over his eyes made his poker face even harder to read.Bookmark here

“Enjoying your new toys, Rover?” Lumpy asked as he squelched a Rogue Pixie in the game. He mostly posed the question to break the silence.Bookmark here

“Heck yeah!” Rover sneered. “It really helped me beat the crap out of Marmalade Properbitch! Ha-ha-ha!”Bookmark here

“She just couldn’t handle your funky force, Rover!” Quintegrity chortled.Bookmark here

Rover’s phone vibrated in his pocket as his email alert chimed in his headset.Bookmark here

“Oh, I got an email,” he said. “I’m gonna sign out of the game now.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, me too.” Lumpy yawned, lowering his phone. “I’m done playing for the day.”Bookmark here

“Who’s the email from?” Adele asked, playing with the straw in her bottle of Sprank soda pop.Bookmark here

Rover removed his headset and opened the email on his phone. “It’s from the person who has Special Number 6! About time. I’ve been waiting for them to respond. It says, ‘Rover beat Marmalade. Good job. Duffy commends Rover, but now Duffy challenges Rover. Rover will meet Duffy at the Duff Luck Diner tomorrow at eleven hundred hours, or Duffy keeps Duffy’s Special Number items to Duffy’s self.’”Bookmark here

When Rover looked up from his phone, his face was tight from annoyance.Bookmark here

“Uh…” Lumpy raised an eyebrow. “Who the heck is ‘Duffy’?”Bookmark here

“…Duffy Blaster is the name in the email,” Rover replied. “Apparently…he speaks in third-person.”Bookmark here

Adele gave him a deadpan stare. “You do know what the Duff Luck Diner is, don’t you…?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover said, his expression sagging. “It’s rumored to be a front for…uh…”Bookmark here

“Prostitution,” Adele whispered, shivering.Bookmark here

Lumpy crossed his arms, thinking. “Marmalade said she had a pimp…and the place is named after Duffy…”Bookmark here

“Duffy Blaster is a pimp!” Quintegrity sang, performing a high-energy cancan. “You’re gonna fight a pimp, Rover!”Bookmark here

Rover made some throat noises, screwing up his face.Bookmark here

Snickering, Lumpy patted his friend on the back. “All in the name of lifting the Glove Alien Fight daily quota mandate, eh, pal?”Bookmark here

Rover made some more throat noises.Bookmark here

“We’ll get to skip school again tomorrow!” Quintegrity’s cancan segued into full-blown cheerleading moves. “Skipping school to meet a pimp! We’re like lowlifes! Derelicts! Degenerates! Chant it with me: P-I-M-P, deconstruct virginity!”Bookmark here

“Just stop!” Rover clutched his head. “You’re making me lose confidence, Quintegrity!”Bookmark here

“Hee-hee-hee!”Bookmark here

Lumpy stretched and yawned, then put his phone in his pocket.Bookmark here

“Well,” he said, standing up, “I’m gonna head out. Guess I’ll go mentally prepare myself for…tomorrow.”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Adele sighed as she stood as well. “I wanna get caught up on the new episode of Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle.”Bookmark here

They left, and Rover sat on the roof a little longer, alone with his girlfriend. He watched Quintegrity watching the town from the rooftop view, her charm still bright in the dull overcast sunset.Bookmark here

“Do you really enjoy doing this?” he asked after a moment.Bookmark here

She turned to him. “Enjoy what? Helping you with the game?”Bookmark here

Rover nodded. “And everything else, like hanging out with us…with me.”Bookmark here

“Of course I do!” Quintegrity held her hands behind her back, swinging her legs in lazy kicks while walking around the rooftop. “Every day, my joy grows bigger. If I can keep doing what I’m doing now, it’ll be the only thing big enough to cover the whole world. Trust me, the world is far too big for words. Joy, happiness, love, and all the other squishy, fuzzy things that flutter in our tummies—they’re all even bigger.”Bookmark here

Smiling, Rover stood up. “I’m fascinated that you don’t seem to care that I cheated in Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

“It doesn’t bother me.” Quintegrity shook her head. “Why would I be upset about the things you could do that nobody else could? That nobody else dared to do.”Bookmark here

“Because it was dishonest of me.”Bookmark here

She chuckled, saying in a soothing, assuring voice, “You didn’t hurt anyone. It’s just a game, and I support you.” Gazing at the cloud cover, she added, “Compared to what I’m doing, cheating in a video game is nothing.”Bookmark here

He wasn’t sure, but Rover thought her glow dimmed a little after that last statement, keeping her face toward the clouds.Bookmark here

“But you aren’t hurting anyone, either,” Rover said, looking right at Quintegrity. “Are you?”Bookmark here

She shook her head again. “No.” Some of her glow returned with her smirk as she turned back to Rover. “Just making some people angry.”Bookmark here

A ton of replies, comments, and questions flooded Rover’s conversational bank. Of everything he could’ve said, within the realm of all options, he asked, “What about your parents?”Bookmark here

Almost too quickly, she shrugged. “I don’t remember them or know much about them.”Bookmark here

“Sorry. You live alone at the high school, so I was just curious because you never talked about them or your family.”Bookmark here

“You’re okay.”Bookmark here

“Is it because you were outside the Walls?” he asked. “The reason you don’t remember them, I mean.”Bookmark here

“I can’t blame that as the reason.”Bookmark here

“…Ah.”Bookmark here

Afraid that his questions were further dimming Quintegrity’s radiance in that moment, Rover went silent.Bookmark here

Still, she kept smiling.Bookmark here

But she didn’t look at him. “I better get going. I have some things to do before tomorrow.”Bookmark here

Before she reached the edge of the roof, Rover felt a rush of urgency. He swallowed, gripping his fists. There was something he needed to say.Bookmark here

“I love you, babe,” he called.Bookmark here

She turned back to him, and that’s when he saw it:Bookmark here

There’s that glow.Bookmark here

When Quintegrity wrapped Rover in a hug, the boy’s heart swung like a trapeze artist around in his ribcage.Bookmark here

“Aww! I love you too, Rover!”Bookmark here

He braced himself for the spine-crushing squeeze…but it never happened. Instead, he found himself in the midst of Quintegrity’s delicate embrace, as if she was pushing her warmth right into him…as if the beating of her heart danced against his, locking their cardiac rhythms and grooving as a single unit, lost to the funky boogie as a duet of choreography.Bookmark here

This was her beat, and she was giving it to Rover.Bookmark here

Then, the eye contact threw him into a tailspin, and a deluge of frantic thoughts drowned his calmness.Bookmark here

Holy crap, she’s so close! D-Do her eyes always twinkle like this??? I mean, they twinkle a lot, but…not like this! And her smell…it’s like flowers. No…it’s more than that, like springtime and sunshine and, and… Oh man, like clean bedsheets! Why the hell am I thinking she smells like clean bedsheets?! What is my brain implying???Bookmark here

Quintegrity dropped her gaze, looking at Rover’s chest or neck or something… Then she brought her soft mulberry eyes back into his, having twice the effect on him.Bookmark here

The hug tightened. It was probably Rover’s doing.Bookmark here

She’s closer now!!! Urrrgghhhh… Wait! I know… This scent…it’s her own. It’s like I can smell her skin. Is this…is this what a girl smells like???Bookmark here

A chuckle escaped Quintegrity’s mouth, softer and sweeter than angel-fart ice cream, and when her breath rustled Rover’s cheek, the dude totally locked up and died for a moment, standing tall, eyes wide open.Bookmark here

She brought her arms back to her sides, stepping back. Rover’s pulse resumed as his desires calmed down, but to his own beat as a solo dancer on the floor, the partner having left. The music didn’t stop, but was distant—disconnected and lonelier.Bookmark here

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Rover!” Quintegrity said, waving, walking backward, never breaking eye contact, and still glowing, glowing, glowing that signature glow.Bookmark here

But it wasn’t a glow big enough to cover the world.Bookmark here

“Uh, r-right!” Rover replied with a smirk, waving back. “If not, I’ll find you, ya hear?”Bookmark here

Snorting with laughter, she said, “I know you’ll be able to find me, even if the Cohort Squadron can’t!”Bookmark here

With that, she summersaulted off the rooftop and dashed into the night. The music in his spirit ended, Rover’s legs shut off, and he splashed onto the shingles like a pot of boiled noodles being dumped out.Bookmark here

When he finally regained his sense as a human, the noodles leaving his legs and spine returning to bone, he rolled over onto his back. Spread-eagled and staring at the boring overcast sky, he dragged his hands down his face and groaned.Bookmark here

“Should I have kissed her then?” It was a simple question to himself, but his cheeks flared up, red-hot, as if he’d asked that question to his parents. “Gah! No way! There’s no way I could’ve done that!”Bookmark here

He grabbed his head, kicking his feet and throwing an actual temper tantrum.Bookmark here

“I blew it! Blew it! Blew it!”Bookmark here

“You’ll get another chance, dammit.”Bookmark here

Adele!!!”Bookmark here

With her head poking out of Rover’s bedroom window, Adele grimaced at her brother. “Just know that that was a prime time to kiss her. It’s okay, though. You’ll get another chance, so quit yer bellyaching!”Bookmark here

“Why the hell were you watching?!”Bookmark here

Her smile was evil. “Just doing my part as the little sister.”Bookmark here

Rover slammed Adele’s head in the window. Furious, she leapt out onto the roof, punched Rover in the face, and sent him tumbling off the side into the rose bushes along the house.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 999Bookmark here

AthletaCom Points… 3Bookmark here

All Money… {T}11,505Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}10,505Bookmark here

Food Slip… {T}1,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

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

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Weapon… InfantryBookmark here

Armor… Brutal SuitBookmark here

Acc. 1… Candle BadgeBookmark here

Acc. 2… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

ControllerBookmark here

VR HeadsetBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

#1, #2, #4, #5
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