Chapter 33:

Vol. 2, Ch. 8: Built with God's Programming

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

“Foreshadowiiiiing!” Quintegrity wiggled her fingers in a hocus-pocus manner at the punky skater girl sitting at the table with the Super Club. They had met in the Nu Clear R-Cade’s concession area the next day on Satty-day after school.Bookmark here

The skater girl cringed in response to the weirdo across the table.Bookmark here

Rover was sitting next to Quintegrity. He sighed, shaking his head. “Sorry about my girlfriend. She’s, uh, different.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity giggled and took that as a compliment. She picked up a crayon and resumed drawing a concept for the funk-themed poster she intended to hang copies of all over Southbound Thugwood High School. It would advertise the Super Club’s unveiling of the School Dungeon.Bookmark here

While the skater girl received Adele’s watchful stare, Lumpy was drawn into her for a different reason. He liked her teenage renegade look. Her irises were like polished copper, and her long, straight hair was naturally colored like sapphire gems and had dyed flares of caesium chloride fires. She wore a backwards flat bill cap, a tight BC brand tank top, studded wristbands, fingerless gloves, long pants with purposeful holes torn in them, and punk-punched Adverse brand skater shoes.Bookmark here

“It’s good to finally meet you in person, Rover,” she said with a big smile. “I’ve been a fan of yours since your match against that crybaby Graphite Condor. Since then, I’ve attended most of your matches or watched them on livestreams. That’s how I learned who your helpers are.” She nodded at the other three sitting at the table.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah?” Rover smirked, raising an eyebrow. “You decided to stick with me after the Big Cheat?”Bookmark here

She nodded, adjusting her backwards flat bill cap. “Of course. I appreciate how you gave the middle finger to the world like that.”Bookmark here

“It’s whatever,” Rover replied, glancing around the busy arcade. For some reason, the hedge trimming simulator was very popular at the moment.Bookmark here

“It’s not ‘whatever.’” Leaning forward with her arms on the table, the punky girl added, “You could crack into the highly secure code for Glove Alien Fight and successfully create a flawless, functioning mod. That takes balls, man, and it speaks for itself.”Bookmark here

Acknowledging that, Rover couldn’t help but smile. “I’ve always loved coding and modding. I’m probably more into it than playing the video games themselves. Or I used to be before this daily mandate garbage, I mean.” He cast an angry grimace into his overpriced cherry limeade, stirring it with his straw. “I haven’t done any modding or really played many other games since the beginning of the school year. It sucks!”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” the girl agreed, “that quota crapped on a lot of people’s lives.” She looked at the others with a smile. “Anyway, nice to meet you all.”Bookmark here

She offered a handshake to each of the Super Club members. As Lumpy shook her hand, he deliberately held on for about a half second longer. He found something enticing in the firmness of her grip.Bookmark here

“What’s your name?” Lumpy asked the girl. “After we found out you were the one putting those AR rings in crazy places with an Anti-Grav skateboard, we’ve just been calling you ‘Skater Girl.’”Bookmark here

“Heh, ya found out it was me.” She paused, thinking. “Actually, don’t bother with my name. Go ahead and call me Skater Girl.”Bookmark here

“Really?” Adele wrinkled her brow with a quizzical look. “Why?”Bookmark here

“I like it.” Skater Girl shrugged with a small smile.Bookmark here

“Mrrrm…” Adele narrowed her eyes. “How do we know you’re not in cahoots with the Cohorts?”Bookmark here

“Huh?” The punky girl blinked. “Uh…why would you think that? What’s the Cohort Squadron got to do with anything?”Bookmark here

“Well, uh…” Adele was lost for words. Rover kicked her under the table before she could say more.Bookmark here

“Suspicious!” Quintegrity giggled. She jabbed a couple punches toward Skater Girl with crayons between her fingers like spikes, making the punky client flinch.Bookmark here

“Ignore them,” Rover muttered to their client.Bookmark here

Skater Girl gave a meager smile, wiping away a drop of sweat from her forehead. “A-Anyway, I wanted to meet with you here.” She panned out toward the flickering flashes and synthetic sounds, a nostalgic peacefulness on her face. The arcade’s aesthetics and visuals matched her own look—dark and rebellious contrasted with bright and colorful. “This is my turf.”Bookmark here

“Works for us,” Rover said, taking a sip of his overpriced cherry limeade. “So, in your email, you said you wanted to talk about Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

“Juicy bits,” Quintegrity said with a devious hiss, her crayons gliding over her poster paper.Bookmark here

“That’s right.” Dropping her voice, Skater Girl glanced around before saying, “I’ve looked into the game’s code…and pretty deep.”Bookmark here

That grabbed Rover’s attention, and he mentally drowned out the ruckus of the arcade noises masking their conversation—a conversation that now appeared to be quite covert.Bookmark here

“Go on,” he urged, seeing no strangers were close enough to listen in.Bookmark here

Skater Girl adjusted her backwards flat bill cap again. “I’m the president of the Hacker Club at Northish Thugwood High School, so I know my way around some binary lingo. That’s why I give you props, Rover. I know how much of a titan the game’s security is, and you pulled it off.”Bookmark here

“I dabble in geeky things,” Rover said modestly. “What can I say?”Bookmark here

“While I didn’t mod the game,” Skater Girl continued, “some could argue that I also cheated by looking into the game’s nuts and bolts to give myself a better understanding of the game from the beginning. That’s how I got so many Scooty-Go-Rounds and found the Tortoise Spacesuit early on—I saw how to get them easily. True, when I first did this, it was before CEO Claudius announced the player-versus-player feature, so I was only doing this for entertainment and not competitively.” She looked directly at Rover. “It was the same for you, wasn’t it?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I never intended to use my Beelzebub Glove Aliens for anything other than goofing around by myself.” His eyebrow quivered with his faint smile. “But then things happened, and the rest is history.”Bookmark here

“There aren’t any specific rules against looking into the code…only altering or copying it. Still, I don’t wanna be very public about what I’m doing.” Skater Girl looked around again—the arcade was packed with teens and young adults. “That’s especially because of what I recently discovered in the depths of Glove Alien Fight’s code.”Bookmark here

“Hee-hee…” Quintegrity put her crayons down and rubbed her hands together, leaning into the conversation. “This is getting all secret-agenty.”Bookmark here

All four Super Club members rested their arms on the table, getting closer to Skater Girl. She took a sip of her gouda-scented Wisewater before continuing.Bookmark here

“I was curious about the ten Special Number items,” she explained to their overeager ears. “Like all the other curious questions I had regarding the game, I wanted to see what they were about. Specifically, I checked the codes to see what would happen when somebody gets all ten.”Bookmark here

A spark of nervousness popped in Rover’s stomach. Bookmark here

Did she find out about the School Dungeon door?Bookmark here

The others had the same question in their minds, and Rover could see it on their faces as they shot each other the quickest, subtlest glances.Bookmark here

Skater Girl continued, “Something is definitely waiting to be triggered when that happens.” She leaned back in her chair, wearing a disgruntled face. Shrugging, she added, “I can’t figure it out, although I’m the president of the Hacker Club! With enough time, budget, and the proper hardware, I can singlehandedly write a binary code for anything. That includes breaking down, altering, deciphering, encrypting…all of it.”Bookmark here

“If you’re so knowledgeable with code,” Rover said, furrowing his brow in thought, “then there’s probably a good reason why you hit a roadblock.”Bookmark here

“Here’s some perspective,” Skater Girl told them. “Think about the game’s augmented reality features. It’s super advanced! I’m blown away by the precision of mapping the AR elements onto the real world, allowing our avatars to interact with real objects in so much detail. Then, we have the third-person perspective we can see through the virtual reality headsets…all without an actual camera to capture that footage—don’t even get me started on how incredible that is! That’s all because of the Spy-Tellite network in orbit over Thugwood.”Bookmark here

“That makes sense.” Lumpy nodded. “The AR uses the same technology as GPS and cell phone data.”Bookmark here

Rover took another sip of limeade. “Yeah, that’d let the game overlap with the real world’s coordinates. It’d also provide enough processing power to handle the task.”Bookmark here

“Even with something that powerful,” Skater Girl told them with a conceited smirk, “I’ve been able to hack into it before.”Bookmark here

“Hacking into Spy-Tellites?!” Adele clamped her hands over her mouth when everyone gave her a dirty look for blurting that out. “But…why’d you do that?”Bookmark here

The punky girl shrugged. “For fun. Although, I’ve only done low-level hacking because the security is ultra-touchy. The most I’ve done is peek at snippets of its codes, which are boring and predictable. But that only leads up to my point.” She dropped her voice again, and her conceit faded. “What I’m getting at is even something as big as the Spy-Tellite network didn’t show me something as succulent as what I found in the depths of Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

Tingling with anticipation, Rover pressed. “Like what???” Bookmark here

“There’s a portion of Glove Alien Fight’s code for the Special Numbers that isn’t binary computing.” Her voice dropped lower to a whisper. “It’s quantum computing.”Bookmark here

Deadpan stares followed.Bookmark here

Rover dropped his jaw. “Whaaaat???”Bookmark here

“It’s true,” the punky girl told him.Bookmark here

“That’s insane!”Bookmark here

“I don’t get it,” Adele said, screwing up her face. “Quantum computing?”Bookmark here

Slumping back in his chair and wearing an exasperated countenance, Rover huffed some unamused laughs.Bookmark here

“In a nutshell,” he said, grinning and shaking his head, “it’s way out of our hands to mess with.”Bookmark here

“But,”—Lumpy looked back and forth between Rover and Skater Girl— “that would mean that something huge is waiting to be triggered! Right?”Bookmark here

Skater Girl shrugged. “No idea, but probably. I couldn’t even get a peek at the resulting programs in place…if they even exist. As far as I got was to the security for it, which itself was in quantum coding, so the security is more advanced than even the Spy-Tellites. Whatever’s hidden behind is totally a mystery. The most I could figure out was this: One person having the ten Special Numbers is not enough—they need to be manually activated by the player.”Bookmark here

“Manually activated how?” Rover asked.Bookmark here

“Using a different interface. There’s evidence of peripheral accessories that must be used to access the Special Numbers’ real function, like additional game controllers that are unique to themselves with specific purposes…and not like a mere translating peripheral similar to the game controllers and headsets you and Benedict Torrent used.”Bookmark here

“A whole new piece of hardware…” Lumpy mused. “Something specific to a unique function, maybe?”Bookmark here

“Like a door!” Quintegrity blurted, clenching fistfuls of crayons.Bookmark here

The other Super Club members tensed up.Bookmark here

“Anything,” Skater Girl replied. “It’d be a complete expansion to the game.”Bookmark here

“Do you think,” Rover asked her, “that this is part of that ‘Next Phase’ of Glove Alien Fight mentioned when the Special Numbers came into play?”Bookmark here

“What else would it be?” Skater Girl replied. “That was my theory based on the Special Numbers’ in-game descriptions.” She snickered with devilish delight. “If this is all true, it means this feature is totally next-generation! Think of it. A video game built with God’s programming!”Bookmark here

Everyone at the table took a silent breather, mulling over the malarkey that had been discussed. Seconds later, Rover’s laughter broke the silence, melding into the cheery atmosphere of the arcade.Bookmark here

“Oh man!” He pounded his right fist into his left palm, a sneer of delight plastered across his face. “This is some epic stuff here, huh?”Bookmark here

“Yeah!” Lumpy said, grinning. “I-I’m actually getting goosebumps from this! Mysterious hardware, quantum codes… What in the world is going on with CEO Claudius’ favorite game?”Bookmark here

“So, tell me,” Rover said, leaning on the table and giving Skater Girl a devious smile, “why are you telling us all of this?” His grin broadened as his eyes narrowed. “You’ve got a reason.”Bookmark here

She returned that mischievous expression. “Of course I have a reason.” Pointing at Rover, she said, “I want you to be the one to solve this mystery! You have seven of the ten Special Number items, are super skilled at Glove Alien Fight, and are proficient with coding. Not to mention you have the guts to do crazy shit, I feel like. I’d say you’re perfect for this task!”Bookmark here

Satisfied, Rover replied, “Ahh…very well.” He leaned back again, slurping more of his cherry limeade. “I’ll be happy to oblige. Heh-heh-heh… Ha-ha-ha!”Bookmark here

“Mwa-ha-ha-haaa!” Quintegrity cackled.Bookmark here

“Gwaaa-haa-haaa-haaaa!!!”Bookmark here

Then both she and Rover cackled together like villains. Skater Girl directed a concerned look toward Lumpy and Adele, who both smiled and sighed.Bookmark here

“Don’t mind them,” Adele told her flippantly. “They’re evil as hell sometimes.”Bookmark here

“All right!” Rover announced. “Only three more Special Numbers to go!”Bookmark here

“That brings me to my last point,” Skater Girl said. “I have Special Numbers 8 and 9.”Bookmark here

Rover froze. “You’re yankin’ my chain.”Bookmark here

“No yanks, no pranks, but I’ll be taking all your thanks.”Bookmark here

“Nice rhymes!” Quintegrity clapped her hands.Bookmark here

“Uh, don’t mention it. Anyway, I’ll give them to you.”Bookmark here

“You mean…”—Rover narrowed his eyes at Skater Girl— “you’ll throw a match just to give me the Special Numbers? In addition to your consumables?”Bookmark here

“Yep. Like I said, I nominate you for this. I don’t wanna do the deed. I got enough crap goin’ on. All I ask is that you let me have a front row seat to whatever happens when you start this ‘Next Phase’ thing.”Bookmark here

“Deal,” Rover said.Bookmark here

“As I see it,” Skater Girl said, getting on her gaming smartphone (a mighty fine piece of tech it was, too!), “the best way to throw a match and make it look like a fair fight would be with a Deathmatch. Strongest Hero has some risk involved with the AI monsters, and Ring Finder would be a forty-five-minute, drawn-out pain.”Bookmark here

“But,” Lumpy said, “it’s random what match type is chosen.”Bookmark here

“Not really,” Skater Girl told him, going through her phone, checking strings of programming related to Glove Alien Fight. “It’s not truly random. Trust me, there’s a difference. In short, with all of the current parameters in place as they are now, if my next match is against Rover and his next match is against me, then it’s guaranteed to be a Deathmatch.” Happy with whatever she saw on her screen, she tucked her phone into her pants pocket, then smiled at Rover. “You’ll have the next two Special Number items before you go home for dinner.”Bookmark here

Rover chugged the rest of his limeade and stood up, prompting the others to do the same.Bookmark here

“Then let’s do it!” he replied.Bookmark here

The glow on Rover’s face was what Quintegrity adored. Feeling a groovy, gracious rhythm flow through her, she smiled, directing her boyfriend’s confident energy into the finishing touches of her funky poster’s concept. Happy with the finishing touches, she tucked the poster and crayons into her assault rifle-shaped purse before following the group out of the arcade.Bookmark here

33!33@33#33$33%33^33&33*33(33)33_33+33Bookmark here

“The punk girl with an Anti-Grav skateboard, yeah,” Benedict Torrent said during a phone call with Rover on Mondee-day. “When I looked into the rumors behind someone hiding rings in hard-to-reach places, I’d narrowed it down to her and about fifteen other people.”Bookmark here

Rover and the Super Club were in the club penthouse, pretending to do club activities but were formulating plans involving the School Dungeon. With Rover’s phone loudspeaker on, Quintegrity, Lumpy, and Adele were listening in on the conversation, drinking their sparkling tea while sitting around the sea-marble coffee table.Bookmark here

“I talked with her Satty-day,” Rover said, standing in front of the huge penthouse windows and peering down at the shiny lilygrass glazing the expansive Courtmeadows. “She confirmed it was her.”Bookmark here

“Well then,” Benedict replied, “that’s one mystery solved.”Bookmark here

You don’t even know about the ‘mysteries, Rover thought. I gotta make sure not to give away too much, not even to Benedict. The fewer people who know about the secrets in the game’s codes, the better.Bookmark here

“Skater Girl wanted to talk about the Special Numbers, too,” Rover said. “We don’t think anyone knows what the ‘Next Phase’ is when somebody gets all ten.”Bookmark here

Benedict said, “‘Collect all ten for a real cash prize, and Glove Alien Fight will proceed to the next phase.’ That’s how the game describes each Special Number item. I’ve found tons of discussions on the internet but no legitimate answers, only theories and ‘leaked information’ hoaxes.”Bookmark here

“I figured.” After a moment, Rover asked, “Hey, this is kinda random, but do you know anything about quantum computers?”Bookmark here

“A little of the basics,” Benedict replied. “I don’t deal with coding, so I’m not an expert. I’m sure you know that binary code is like a group of components that are each represented as either zero or one, meaning ‘off’ or ‘on.’ Quantum code’s components would have every possibility between ‘off’ or ‘on,’ sometimes even both at once or something like that. Because of that, if quantum computing can be perfected, it’s expected to be vastly more powerful and faster.”Bookmark here

If it can be perfected?” Rover asked. “You say it like it hasn’t been done.”Bookmark here

“Reliably done? Not to my knowledge,” Benedict said. “While it’s still under development, there are high hopes that it isn’t impossible.”Bookmark here

Rover looked at the other members. Lumpy and Adele looked back, listening. Quintegrity kept her attention on an updated concept for her funky poster, the scrawling of crayons audible in the pause.Bookmark here

“Anyway,” Rover said, “it was just something on my mind. To change the subject,”—he noticed his own smirk in the huge window’s reflection— “I only have one more Special Number to get.”Bookmark here

“No kidding?” Benedict was intrigued. “That’s something else! I tell ya, I knew I saw something in you, kid! You didn’t need those modded Glove Aliens after all, huh?”Bookmark here

“Um, they helped. A lot.”Bookmark here

“I don’t doubt that, but you’re still pulling through. Good for you.”Bookmark here

Rover recalled the match against Skater Girl. Just as she’d promised, it was a Deathmatch, and keeping with her promises, it was an easy win for Rover.Bookmark here

“I beat Skater Girl at the beginning of the weekend,” Rover explained. “She had two Special Numbers.”Bookmark here

“Good, good. Last I heard of Special Numbers 8 and 9, she’d reached the maximum level to get 9 and won 8 in a Ring Finder match. That Anti-Grav skateboard was her trump card. Weird, though…I hadn’t heard of this match you had with her until now, and that was a few days ago, you say.”Bookmark here

“It was, uh, a little last minute and low-key.”Bookmark here

“That explains it. There wasn’t any time for word to spread.”Bookmark here

“Skater Girl privately challenged me in person, so I decided to just go for it right there.”Bookmark here

Chuckling, Benedict said, “You don’t have to call her ‘Skater Girl.’ Her real name is—”Bookmark here

“No need to tell,” Rover replied quickly. “She insisted we call her that.”Bookmark here

*Dingdong*Bookmark here

The doorbell rang, and Quintegrity was at the door to greet the guest before the *dingdong* subsided. Rover watched her usher in Graphite Condor.Bookmark here

Rover and Graphite locked eyes.Bookmark here

“Hey, I’m gonna let you go, Benedict,” Rover said into his phone. “I’m in a club meeting right now, and it looks like I have something to take care of.”Bookmark here

“Right on. Feel free to contact me if you want to ask anything, or just to chat.”Bookmark here

“Will do. Later.”Bookmark here

“See ya.”Bookmark here

In the living room, Graphite noticed the skull-shaped tea set, assortment of sweets, myriad of crayons and poster paper, Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle playing quietly on the gigantic television, and the writing materials that were put away as everyone appeared to be quite relaxed.Bookmark here

“What do you guys even do in the Super Club?” he asked, wearing a curt frown.Bookmark here

“Be awesome!” Quintegrity replied with vigorous verve, striking a muscleman pose while clenching a crayon and giving an adorable smile. “And to celebrate! We all made good progress getting AthletaCom points today and over the weekend.”Bookmark here

Graphite clicked his tongue, then turned to Rover, thrusting out a provocative finger.Bookmark here

Rover Chork!”Bookmark here

Rover put both of his hands on his chest, wearing a fake heartfelt expression and batting his eyes. “Aw! He said my name!”Bookmark here

“I’m on a mission of revenge!” the disgruntled boy sneered. “I’m here to redeem myself after losing to Thugwood’s most notorious cheater.” With a quaking fist, Graphite growled, “I challenge you to a Glove Alien Fight AR match!”Bookmark here

“Nope.” Rover shook his head. “I can’t risk my Special Numbers like that.”Bookmark here

“Heh-heh, what’s that mean?” Graphite put his hands on his hips with a snide, crooked grin. “Too scared? Don’t wanna know what it’s like to face me on even ground?”Bookmark here

“I’m being cautious and smart,” Rover muttered, furrowing his brow. “You’re just here for my Special Numbers.”Bookmark here

“Yeah. You can say I’m taking a stab at claiming them for myself.”Bookmark here

“Not surprising, Graphite. But there’s only one person I’m willing to face in an AR match right now.”Bookmark here

Tilting his head, Graphite asked, “Who?”Bookmark here

“Seeing as I have nine of the ten Special Numbers—”Bookmark here

“Nine?!” Graphite glanced at the others in the room. “How many did that Duffy butthead have?”Bookmark here

“Hard to say,” Rover said, growing bored of Graphite’s insistence to keep the conversation going. “I’ve simply been winning matches so quickly that it’s all been a blur…”Bookmark here

A vein bulged in Graphite’s temple. “You smug little—”Bookmark here

“So, you see,” Rover continued, doing a tough-guy walk toward Graphite, chest out and strides long, “the one and only person who I’m going to face is the person who has the last Special Number.”Bookmark here

Without missing a beat, Graphite shoved his smartphone in Rover’s face.Bookmark here

Special Number 10 was on the bottom of his inventory list.Bookmark here

Slow and reluctant, Rover moved his eyes up from the screen to look at Graphite. “Y-You…?”Bookmark here

Graphite nodded, taking his turn to wear the condescending smile.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 999Bookmark here

AthletaCom Points… 9Bookmark here

All Money… {T}10,705Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}9,705Bookmark here

Food Slip… {T}1,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

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

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Weapon… ScribblyBookmark here

Armor… Brutal SuitBookmark here

Acc. 1… Second Chance BangleBookmark here

Acc. 2… Heist HoovesBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

ControllerBookmark here

VR HeadsetBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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