Chapter 35:

Vol. 2, Ch. 10: The Infinite Internship

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]


“R… You seem to not wanna go swimsuit shopping with me.” Quintegrity’s pouting face was practically audible as she spoke through the communicator earpiece.Bookmark here

“Not now, Q!” Rover struggled to aim his AR character’s trajectory as it used a Goosepack to launch off the moving Scooty-Go-Round. There was a bagel on a third-floor windowsill that couldn’t be reached without flying. Around him, constant booing and insulting chants made it hard to keep his mind in the game.Bookmark here

“That one’s safe,” Skater Girl told him, checking the ring through her phone as she hovered nearby on her Anti-Grav skateboard. “No traps.”Bookmark here

“People will get suspicious,” Adele warned. “They’ll know you’re deliberately skipping the rigged rings.”Bookmark here

“It’s fine,” Lumpy said. “The traps aren’t invisible, just hard to see, so people can’t prove what we’re doing.”Bookmark here

“Down with the mandate!” Rover declared through the earpieces.Bookmark here

Several blocks away, Lumpy joined the running crowd following Graphite’s avatar that had just recovered from a Frightening Rod strike. When it munched on a ring hidden in a pear-bean bush planter, everyone had a chance to catch up.Bookmark here

“Graphite has thirteen more rings than you,” he said, trying to catch his breath as he added a tally mark in his notepad. “You’re not in bad shape yet, considering there are over seven hundred rings to get still.”Bookmark here

“I doubt we’ll get ’em all,” Rover muttered as his goose-clad avatar perched on the windowsill and spread the cream cheese-like substance on the two ring halves. He scowled at his avatar through the VR headset. “C’mon, eat it faster, you slow good-for-nothing! Wait…dammit! I should have the Butler Glove Aliens equipped instead of the Scribbly ones. I should know the boost in dexterity would be better because Scooty-G0-Rounds and Goosepacks override the boost in speed! Stupid, stupid, stupid!”Bookmark here

He switched to the Butler Glove Aliens, growling. The nearby spectators were entertained by Rover’s outburst, although Benedict sighed and shook his head with a tiny smirk.Bookmark here

“Chill out, guy,” Adele said, stopping to cool down from the running she’d been doing. She dabbed her face with her handkerchief. “I’m sick of listening to you gripe. It ain’t helping your performance. What’s the point of having us do all this extra support work if you’re just gonna screw it up because you’re too pissy?”Bookmark here

Rover clenched his jaw and didn’t reply, trying to concentrate as he controlled his character through the air to catch the other nearby rings stashed high above the ground.Bookmark here

Quintegrity hung from a fire escape, watching Rover’s character fly around. “Get all those there, then continue south down Jarf Street.”Bookmark here

*Whooooosh!*Bookmark here

The sound from above caught her ear, and she slipped through the closest open window, finding herself standing with both feet in separate flower pots on a table—but she was hidden.Bookmark here

She chuckled. “Rubber Ducky is back!”Bookmark here

“You’re kidding me,” Rover whined.Bookmark here

“Not kidding! It almost quacked me, too. Sorry, but I’ll be busy with that, now.”Bookmark here

Lumpy sighed. “It’s gonna be a blow to our support team with you missing, Q.”Bookmark here

“I’m sorry,” Quintegrity apologized, stepping out of the flower pots. “I know we’re taking a loss, but Rubber Ducky’s calling the shots.”Bookmark here

“What’s this ‘Rubber Ducky’ thing?” Skater Girl asked, scanning the sky with her gaming smartphone as she Anti-Grav-skated around the block.Bookmark here

The invisible Cohort Squadron helicopter passed in front of her coded AR camera undetected.Bookmark here

“Rubber Ducky is a real butthead,” Adele replied, taking a shortcut through a biscuit den’s side entrance. “Do what you gotta do, Q.”Bookmark here

“Okie-dokie!”Bookmark here

As soon as Adele exited the den’s main entrance, something leapt from the shadows and tackled her. She went down hard to the sidewalk.Bookmark here

“A ninja?!” she exclaimed. A slender body covered in an ensemble of belts and straps held her down. “Oh, it’s you!”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk sneered as she wrestled with Adele. “I don’t know how ya do it, but I ain’t letting you guys help Rover find the rigged rings!”Bookmark here

Crap! They know about us, Adele thought as she struggled to break out of Tallyhawk’s hold. But…they don’t know at the same time. This is good that she’s after me, so Skater Girl is set to go while Quinn deals with the Cohorts.Bookmark here

Adele shoved Tallyhawk off her and scrambled to her feet. She checked her tablet, seeing it wasn’t damaged in the scuffle. Her knee, however, was skinned and bleeding.Bookmark here

“You drew first blood, belt bitch,” Adele growled.Bookmark here

The dark-skinned girl noticed people were watching, and she didn’t want to exacerbate the scene. “I resent being called that.”Bookmark here

“Then wear clothes!” Adele’s grin stretched. “And you might wanna check your wardrobe malfunction. Seems like your getup isn’t suitable for combat.”Bookmark here

“Eek!”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk was horrified to see the straps around her torso were coming undone, and the fabric wraps in place of undergarments were unraveling. As the male demographic of onlookers seared her with their eyes, she had no choice but to retreat to the biscuit den’s restroom while Adele got away.Bookmark here

35!35@35#35$35%35^35&35*35(35)35_35+35Bookmark here

“I ain’t seen Quinn Integrity this whole time,” Hodge said into his earpiece. He used his novelty telescope and scanned the shopping district from the fourth-floor walkway.Bookmark here

“Me neither,” Isho replied, following Graphite’s avatar to record the bagel count in his notepad.Bookmark here

Hodge watched Rover’s character nab another ring. Although the rings were only invisible to spectators while hidden, they appeared when claimed by a player.Bookmark here

“Rover just got another one.”Bookmark here

“So did Graphite,” Isho told him. “No worries. We’re still in the lead by thirteen rings.”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk’s voice came through the earpieces. “Rover’s sister got away from me, but I slowed her down. Still no sign of Quinn, though.”Bookmark here

“She’s a sneaky one,” Hodge said. He caught a glimpse of a punky girl on an Anti-Grav skateboard high above the Icarus Centre, and she appeared to be keeping an eye on Rover’s character. Paying no mind to her, Hodge added, “Also, Rover’s been avoiding Frightening Rods. They’re not invisible, but still very hard to see. He must have a keen eye for them…unlike someone.”Bookmark here

“Shut up, Hodge!” Graphite snarled. “You guys suck at finding them for me!”Bookmark here

“You’re moving too fast for Isho to scout ahead!” Hodge shot back. “And I’m watching Rover. Isho and Tallyhawk are the ones screwing up!”Bookmark here

“I’m on crowd control,” Tallyhawk said. “Isho’s the real failure here.”Bookmark here

“…Sorry,” the meathead boy said, hanging his head in shame. He looked up, noticing something. Grinning, he told the others, “I think I found a way to help a little more.”Bookmark here

As Graphite’s character circled around the immediate area collecting rings (and getting caught in an in-game item called a Bear Trap), Isho snuck up on his victim. Lumpy was tracking Graphite’s progress in a notepad, and the meathead boy reached into his pocket.Bookmark here

“Graphite’s stuck in a Bear Trap,” Lumpy said into his earpiece. “He’s having trouble trying to—”Bookmark here

Something wet blasted the side of his head.Bookmark here

“No communicatin’ with your friends!” Isho jeered, pointing a water pistol at Lumpy. His lip piercing glinted as he grinned. “This’ll fry your communicator!”Bookmark here

Lumpy, dripping from the face with water, stared at Isho with an insipid glower, his wet, exploded-pumpkin hair appearing like a sad jack-0-lantern hat. After a moment, he cracked a smirk, tapping his earpiece.Bookmark here

“They’re waterproof,” he remarked.Bookmark here

Isho blinked. “For real…?”Bookmark here

“They’re meant for watersports. Our tablets and holoshades are water-resistant at one-metre depths for thirty seconds, too. Nice try, though.”Bookmark here

Baring his teeth, Isho aimed for Lumpy’s notepad, soaking the pages.Bookmark here

“H-Hey!”Bookmark here

“Friend of Rover!” Isho declared, getting the attention of the surrounding spectators. “He’s relaying info about Graphite back to Rover!”Bookmark here

A menacing aura encompassed Lumpy. Over a dozen people were giving him death glares.Bookmark here

“The heck are ya doing, L?” Rover grunted over the earpieces. “First A, now you? What’s going on?”Bookmark here

“L here,” he squeaked into his communication earpiece, backing away from the ravenous Graphite fans, “I’ll be unable to continue my duties today.”Bookmark here

“Say what?!”Bookmark here

Lumpy couldn’t respond. He was too busy running away from the angry mob while Isho looked on.Bookmark here

“That’s one of Rover’s lackeys out of the equation,” Isho told the others. “Heh-heh, it feels good calling them the lackeys for once.”Bookmark here

35!35@35#35$35%35^35&35*35(35)35_35+35Bookmark here

The Icarus Centre’s infrastructural command tower was swarming with Thugforce Militia soldiers by the time Quintegrity reached it. She melted into the shadows and smiled while sneaking a peek at the heavily-guarded entrance.Bookmark here

As I thought, they upped the security after I broke in at the start of the match. It’s only been a half hour, though, so I see they move quickly! That kaboom was super effective! Anyway, creating that same diversion to distract the Cohort Squadron is out of the question…probably forever. Too bad…I really love using the Disc Jockey User Interfaces.Bookmark here

*Whooosh!*Bookmark here

*Whoooooosh!*Bookmark here

*Whoosh!*Bookmark here

Quintegrity had already dipped into a manhole leading to a subterranean utility tunnel before the three two-light, invisible choppers closed in.Bookmark here

Time to play Mole Woman! Yeah!Bookmark here

Her communication earpiece couldn’t get a signal in the underground environment. She caught the sound of Rover’s frustrated grunting as well as the score of both contestants before the transmission was cut. Graphite was in the lead with fourteen more rings.Bookmark here

She removed her shoes. The socks on her feet dampened the sound of her rapid footsteps on the metal floor as she dashed through the tunnels of cement, pipes, and wires.Bookmark here

Avoiding the Mole People personnel was easy enough, and she slipped past them with ease until she reached a specific location.Bookmark here

This looks right, if I remember.Bookmark here

Feeling along the cement wall, her fingers found what she was looking for. With a couple knocks, a section of the wall spun around like a revolving door, taking her with it. She stood in a fusty, dank room with wooden furniture and a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling.Bookmark here

There was also a man in a ragged robe standing there.Bookmark here

“Hi there!” Quintegrity greeted. “I need some goods again.”Bookmark here

“Whaddaya buyin’?!” the robed man asked in a raspy voice.Bookmark here

“I need a good disguise. Something with prosthetic makeup.”Bookmark here

He pulled a large, tattered trunk from under his robe and slammed it on the ground. “Got a selection of good things on sale, stranger!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity opened it, rummaged through the clothes and special effects accessories, and picked out what she wanted.Bookmark here

“I’ll take these, please!”Bookmark here

“Ah, but at a high price!”Bookmark here

She handed over her Mythril credit card which the man swiped under his robe. Behind the foldout partition in the corner, she applied the prosthetic makeup, slipped on the new outfit, and was out the secret door in a minute.Bookmark here

I know my Mythril credit card is only approved for essential purchases. Good thing his shop appears on my bank statements as “groceries”!Bookmark here

When she emerged from a manhole behind a ceramic instructor’s studio on the other side of the Icarus Centre, nobody thought to question why a big woman with the face of a mole had been in the underground utility tunnels; the Mole People of Thugwood made great union workers, after all.Bookmark here

Even the two-light Cohort Squadron helicopter didn’t slow down to take a second look.Bookmark here

“Bingo,” she snickered, then scampered into the crowd of Graphite supporters, putting on her best Mole Woman impression.Bookmark here

Everyone had their clocks synched, keeping track of the time that had passed during the match. Throughout the shopping district, the two thousand spectators shouted out the countdown during the last seconds.Bookmark here

“Five! Four! Three! Two! One!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity looked over the shoulder of the boy in front of her, seeing the results of the competition on the tablet screen:Bookmark here

[PLAINTIFF] Graphite Condor: 183 Rings.Bookmark here

[DEFENDANT] Rover Chork: 170 Rings.Bookmark here

WINNER: GRAPHITE CONDOR!!!Bookmark here

An eruption of cheering and applauding plunged the Icarus Centre into a wild ruckus. The tumultuous sea of people swarmed toward the match’s starting point where the two players were.Bookmark here

Speechless, Quintegrity stood back, letting the people rush past her. She took a moment to think—a moment riddled with confusion—coming to only one conclusion before disappearing from the crowd.Bookmark here

Rover…Bookmark here

She darted down the alleyway, shot across two streets like a bullet that nobody could see, climbed the side of a building to get above the saturated horde of people chanting Graphite’s name, scaled around to the front of the Nu Clear R-Cade, and found the one spot where there were no people.Bookmark here

No people other than Rover, that is.Bookmark here

When she landed several metres behind him, he held the VR headset in one hand and had his face buried in the other hand, the game controller and earpiece on the ground next to him as the surrounding chanting of Graphite’s name filled the air, growing louder.Bookmark here

“Rover?”Bookmark here

The boy turned around, his face wrought with deep lines around his eyes and forehead. Seeing the large Mole Person standing right behind him, he jumped back.Bookmark here

“Whoa!” he yelped.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. It’s me.”Bookmark here

Rover’s expression showed some calmness as he understood who was under the disguise, but he immediately bared his teeth, turned, and ran away from the crowd—away from his girlfriend and everything—dropping the VR headset.Bookmark here

Quintegrity remained quiet as she stared down, letting him go. When the sound of his footsteps disappeared, she knelt to pick up the headset, earpiece, and controller.Bookmark here

Then she was gone, too.Bookmark here

35!35@35#35$35%35^35&35*35(35)35_35+35Bookmark here

The four Super Club members and Skater Girl occupied the corner booth of a fried burger joint. They hadn’t ordered any food, only drinks courtesy of Quintegrity, and sat in silence.Bookmark here

Rover hadn’t taken his eyes off his phone the entire time, staring at the empty consumable items list in his Glove Alien Fight inventory. He’d ignored the dozens of calls following the match; Mom and Dad and Benedict Torrent and classmates and haters were not going to get through to him tonight. The others at the booth knew what he was thinking, but they didn’t dare say anything to him about it.Bookmark here

Quintegrity sat to his right, her legs together with her hands between her knees, a posture that made her look small. Her face was blank, showing nothing at all as she watched the rising bubbles in her stellar-flavored Aurora soda pop. However, Adele could see Quintegrity’s sadness and the smallness in her posture…feel the vibe of her funk-a-tronic aura as empty as an abandoned stage without a band…an emptiness shared with Rover’s consumable items list. It was something they all could see and feel—the girl’s downtrodden state created an atmosphere as potent as her most upbeat moments had.Bookmark here

The news was on a TV on the other side of the modest little restaurant, recapping the biggest Glove Alien Fight AR match to date. Glances and whispery snickers came from the patrons who’d been paying attention to the coverage. Everyone had already known Rover’s face—knew his history and his reputation. This was another nail in the coffin.Bookmark here

Going out in public will be extra hellish from here on out, he worried.Bookmark here

A ringing sound indicated the restaurant door had opened. Seconds later, somebody was standing next to the table where Rover and the others sat.Bookmark here

“What do you want, mongrel?!” Adele snarled at Graphite Condor.Bookmark here

Graphite grimaced at the younger sister. “Put a muzzle on and calm down.”Bookmark here

“My sister asked what you want.” Rover narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, but still directed his sulking glare at the empty list in his inventory.Bookmark here

Taking a chair from a nearby table, Graphite slid it across the tiled floor and took a seat at the side of their booth.Bookmark here

“The first thing I want is to say ‘ha-ha.’” His expression was straight-faced as he took a breath—the only person not looking at him was Rover. “Ironically, my win got me to the max level, but instead of a Special Number, I got all of them. The second thing I wanna say is that cash prize mentioned under the Special Numbers’ descriptions… Well, it wasn’t as much as I’d expected. Only five thousand thuggoons.”Bookmark here

“Go buy yourself a hooker, then,” Rover grunted, finally looking at Graphite to give a conceited smirk. “Oh, wait…the biggest sex trafficker and prostitution ringleader in Thugwood was recently imprisoned. By me.”Bookmark here

“No…” Lumpy corrected Rover. “It was Quinn who caught him. You were just the bait, dude.”Bookmark here

Nodding with a dry chuckle, Graphite replied, “Yeah, very noble, yeah, yeah…”Bookmark here

Some customers had approached Graphite for an autograph, and he quickly scrawled his signature on their Glove Alien Fight action figures.Bookmark here

“Anyway,” he continued when the fans walked away, “the main reason why I’m here,”—he scowled at Quintegrity— “is because your girlfriend called me here, Rover.”Bookmark here

“Huh?” Rover looked at Quintegrity, who now wore a sinister grin she’d cracked out of nowhere. “Why???”Bookmark here

“Wa-ha-ha-ha-haa-haaa!” She pointed at Graphite’s annoyed face. “I’ve already contacted Headmaster to inform him that Graphite Condor will be interning for the Super Club!”Bookmark here

Everyone’s jaw dropped, especially Graphite’s.Bookmark here

“The hell do you mean ‘intern’?!” Graphite snapped. “How can I be an intern for a school club???”Bookmark here

“Don’t sweat the details!” Quintegrity told him with a thumbs-up. “It’s the best I can do to enslave you under the Super Club’s authority without worrying about keeping you around forever.”Bookmark here

Gah!” Graphite’s face lost some color. “You worded that very…scarily…”Bookmark here

“No!” Adele slammed her hands on the table. “I object to this mongrel being part of our ranks, even as our slave!”Bookmark here

Rover shook his fist. “Yeah, I object to this guy as our slave!”Bookmark here

Drops of sweat trickled down Graphite’s cheeks. “I’ve already been demoted from ‘intern’ to ‘slave’?”Bookmark here

“Objection overruled, Adele and Rover!” Quintegrity pounded her stylus gavel on the table, turning the heads of everyone else in the restaurant. “He will be the victim of our infinite internship!”Bookmark here

“But why?” Lumpy asked with a contorted frown.Bookmark here

“Because!” When Quintegrity rose from the booth seat, the influx of funky boogies surged with her, making the entire building vibrate (which could have been everyone’s imagination) as she put her hands on her hips. “The Super Club requires Graphite and his ten Special Numbers in order to commence our exploration of the School Dungeon!!!”Bookmark here

The proclamation rattled the restaurant (literally, this time) as Quintegrity’s words manifested as actuality, reality, and inevitability. She hath spoken.Bookmark here

Skater Girl chuckled, shaking her head. “Southbound Thugwood High School’s Super Club is terrifying, but…also pretty freakin’ awesome!”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… ButlerBookmark here

Armor… FASCAR ShirtBookmark here

Acc. 1… Rubber BraceletBookmark here

Acc. 2… Heist HoovesBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

ControllerBookmark here

VR HeadsetBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

<None>
Bookmarked
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