Chapter 38:

Vol. 2, Ch. 13: My Mark on Society is the Birth of a Planet

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

The elevator door opened to a dark void.Bookmark here

As if the shadows were a physical blockade, the six explorers stood in place, taking a moment to conclude that they were, indeed, looking into an open area and not at a solid wall.Bookmark here

Graphite moved toward the door, closer to the darkness. “Uh…did someone forget to turn the lights on?”Bookmark here

When Rover stuck his head out, the surrounding floor and walls glowed from his presence, appearing to be made of the same night-sky material as the rest of the School Dungeon. Unlike the elevator or second floor, the material here emitted no light without human proximity, and its response was far dimmer.Bookmark here

He stepped out and took a gander around with his phone’s AR camera.Bookmark here

“There’s no in-game stuff here,” he said, seeing nothing.Bookmark here

The others exited the elevator, and the environment lit up a little, providing just enough light to see around them—to see there was nothing to see.Bookmark here

Adele shone her phone’s flashlight, saying, “It’s another huge place, but it doesn’t seem to have any of the tall structures and things like the second floor had…except for the pillars.” With her flashlight, she followed the closest pillar to the top. “I can see the ceiling. It isn’t super high like the second floor was.”Bookmark here

“And I think I can see the walls on all sides,” Lumpy added, shining his phone’s flashlight. “It’s a big, empty room…”Bookmark here

Skater Girl used her gaming smartphone to scan the place with her special code view.Bookmark here

“Nothing stands out to me,” she said, looking in all directions through her phone. “The binary code in the floor and everything is the same as the second floor. As for the quantum codes…I don’t know how to interpret them, so I can’t tell…”Bookmark here

Crossing his arms, Rover wondered aloud, “Do you think it’s dark because we weren’t supposed to be here yet? Quintegrity hacked the elevator to get us here, but if we haven’t met the other requirements, the game might not recognize us as being here.”Bookmark here

“Could be,” Lumpy said. “Like this level is ‘shut off,’ or something.”Bookmark here

Rover walked ahead. “Well, since we’re here, it wouldn’t hurt to take a look around—”Bookmark here

“We shouldn’t be here.”Bookmark here

Rover turned to find Quintegrity right behind him. The expression she wore—it was the first time Rover had seen her make such a stern face. From the floor’s glow surrounding her, brighter than around anyone else, there was plenty of light for Rover to make out the stern expression she gave him.Bookmark here

“I made a mistake,” she said. “I was wrong for bringing you all here…”Bookmark here

And this was his first time hearing her voice devoid of strength and her words lack commitment.Bookmark here

And it worried him.Bookmark here

“Huh?” He looked at his girlfriend.Bookmark here

Is that…desperation in her eyes?Bookmark here

“Rover. We should go.”Bookmark here

And…fear in her voice?Bookmark here

“Why?” Rover asked. Everyone else faced Quintegrity, all silently asking the same question. He smiled. “What happened to discovering Planet Quinn, huh?”Bookmark here

His attempt at humor was ineffective.Bookmark here

Quintegrity shook her head. “I don’t know…but something doesn’t feel right.”Bookmark here

“Doesn’t feel right?” Adele glanced around, her eyes having adjusted to the dark, but she was still unable to make out any specific landmarks or structures aside from the evenly spaced pillars. “Yeah, it’s a little creepy with it so dark and no in-game things happening.”Bookmark here

“Not like that,” Quintegrity replied, looking down before moving her pleading eyes back to Rover. “There’s no funk here.”Bookmark here

As Rover digested that, Graphite snorted.Bookmark here

“No ‘funk’?” Graphite snickered. “That’s how you describe it?”Bookmark here

“I was half-joking when I said I was like a goddess here,” she said, “but…only half-joking.” With a deep breath, she added, “I feel we’re forbidden here. I can tell.”Bookmark here

“What kind of ‘goddess,’” Graphite mocked, “is forbidden in part of the place they rule? This is some ‘Planet Quinn,’ right?” He shook his head, turning his back on the others. “How do people actually buy your crap?”Bookmark here

When Quintegrity didn’t respond, Rover took her hand.Bookmark here

“Just a quick peek,” he told her with an assuring smile.Bookmark here

“Peeking is how things go wrong.” The flatness on her face and in her voice gave Rover a type of coldness he hadn’t known he could feel. She pulled her hand out of his, and it felt even colder.Bookmark here

Rover narrowed his eyes and sniffed in frustration.Bookmark here

“Let’s check it out,” he told the others. “Just a few minutes. We’ll walk to the end over there and turn around. It doesn’t look too far.”Bookmark here

Their footsteps echoed through the emptiness as the team moved forward at a quick, cautious pace. Quintegrity stuck close to Rover, avoiding his gaze and not saying anything. A sort of solemnness surrounded her in an ironic contrast to her enhanced influence on the glowing floor and pillars.Bookmark here

“Hey.” Graphite shone his phone’s light to the far corner of the large room as they got closer to the back wall. “It looks like there’s something over there.”Bookmark here

“Hmm, ya think so?” Adele asked, shining her phone’s light with the others. “It’s still really dark and kinda far away. All these pillars are in the way, too.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, it’s hard to see,” Lumpy added, “but I think there’s something there.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl checked it out through her code view. “Nothing’s coming up on here except for a lack of code by that corner. If something’s there, it’s probably just a regular, physical object.”Bookmark here

Upon getting closer, Rover definitely saw something located there.Bookmark here

“Whatever it is,” he said, “it’s pretty big. Probably over five metres tall.”Bookmark here

Near the back of the area, the pillars from the floor to the ceiling discontinued their orderly placement, leaving a big open space occupied by nothing except for the mysterious object. Additionally, the glowing material was becoming less reactive as everyone continued forward.Bookmark here

“Is it just me,” Adele asked, “or is it getting darker?”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Skater Girl said, “I noticed that, too.”Bookmark here

Before Rover could offer his insight, Quintegrity moved in front, facing him. She stopped, held out her arms, and stared; if her physical blocking hadn’t halted Rover, the look on her face would have, now being much more serious.Bookmark here

The others stopped walking, too, watching Rover and Quintegrity.Bookmark here

“Rover, please.” Although very soft, her words held a new tone that didn’t sit right with her voice. “You can see there’s nothing here. Let’s leave.”Bookmark here

Rover replied first with a scowl, then said, “There is something here.” He pointed toward the large object hidden behind lightless obscurity. “We’re almost there.”Bookmark here

“You can see the game isn’t on,” she told him, something resembling anger rising up in her response. “There’s nothing else to see here.”Bookmark here

“I just wanna get a look at it.”Bookmark here

“That’s not a good enough reason for me.”Bookmark here

“Then you stay behind, Quintegrity!”Bookmark here

Rover took a step. Quintegrity moved in his way, her arms still out, eyes still pleading.Bookmark here

And they glared at each other. Things rumbled inside Rover, deeper than his flesh and into his funk-sensors and groove-finders, making him feel the resistance Quintegrity was pushing into him.Bookmark here

Her anger toward his defiance hurt him—attacked him—in ways he couldn’t explain.Bookmark here

Adele rubbed her goosebumps-covered arms. “Eh…it could just be the fact that the cheeriest person here is showing a side of herself I didn’t know existed…but…I really have the heebie-jeebies.”Bookmark here

“Well,” Lumpy said, keeping his voice down, “we actually shouldn’t be here… At least not yet.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl nodded. “Yeah, that’s—”Bookmark here

*BOOOoooommmm…*Bookmark here

Thunder—mechanical and ornery—quaked the entire hundredth floor. The empty area lit up with a sudden swell of light from the glowing material comprising everything. The source of this reaction was the large object near the back corner, now illuminated by the galactic swirls and cosmic sparkles from the walls, floor, and ceiling.Bookmark here

Lumpy clutched his heart which thumped against his ribs from the jolt, and he gawked at what they’d been approaching all along.Bookmark here

“It’s l-like a giant robot,” he said in awe.Bookmark here

With a distinct humanoid shape, the metallic object appeared to be mimicking the formal sitting position of Militia warriors and officers of ancient times.Bookmark here

“Uh…guys?” Graphite focused on his phone screen, holding it with shaking hands, his face laden with bewilderment and fear. “That thing took my Special Numbers…”Bookmark here

What?” Adele stood next to Graphite to see his screen, Lumpy and Skater Girl moving in, as well.Bookmark here

There was a message:Bookmark here

<Southbound Mech Bot General has confiscated your Special Numbers 1 – 10>Bookmark here

The AR effects showed all ten Special Number items float out of Graphite’s avatar and soar into the robot.Bookmark here

Lumpy bit his lip. “I never heard of a Southbound Mech Bot General.”Bookmark here

“The heck?” Skater Girl directed her gaming phone at the robot. “Huh?! That thing was practically a dead object, but now it’s loaded with all kinds of code! Not just binary, but mostly quantum, too!”Bookmark here

Rover felt his stomach drop out as he watched the robot rise from its sitting position with a rumbling hum. Now ten metres tall, its faceless head reached halfway to the now-glowing ceiling.Bookmark here

“Y-Y-Yeeeaaaahhhh…” Rover said as his sweat glands switched on. “We’d better go.”Bookmark here

“It’s too late.”Bookmark here

Rover stared at Quintegrity. Her face was hidden in some sort of shadow behind her long hair, like a dark emotion shrouding her expression, hiding her feelings.Bookmark here

“That is called a Mech Bot General.” Never before had her voice been so rough and sturdy. “It won’t let you escape.”Bookmark here

Failing to speak and failing to move, Rover kept staring at his girlfriend. His throat was tight, suppressing his voice, although his mind offered no words to begin with.Bookmark here

“I’m afraid,” Quintegrity said, squeezing her fists, “that I’ll have to resort to violence.”Bookmark here

A detonation of willpower without sound and concussion erupted from Quintegrity, instantly causing every part of the walls, floor, ceiling, and pillars to swell with dazzling scintillation like they hadn’t before. The midnight sky-hued glow from the rock-like material changed to blazing colors of fires and refracted sunbeams, burning painfully bright.Bookmark here

Pushing himself through the ache of brightness, Rover peered half-lidded at his girlfriend.Bookmark here

Her shoes lifted from the ground. She hovered a few centimetres above the shimmering floor.Bookmark here

She said, “Listen to me…”Bookmark here

Quintegrity slowly rotated around, fixating her iridescent, flickering eyes on Rover. Her irises ran through every rainbow shade dozens of times per second, being every color and no color at once, matching the rambunctious radiance of fireworks inside a crystal ball. Tiny wisps like solar flares clung to her skin.Bookmark here

“…You and the others need to go, Rover.”Bookmark here

She looked back at the Mech Bot General as a fiery flare shot out of its joints and sockets, unfolding itself to increase its bulk.Bookmark here

“H-Hey!” Lumpy yelled. “That th-thing’s getting bigger!”Bookmark here

Still hovering and facing the mechanical entity, Quintegrity uttered, “Once I use this much strength, it’ll have everlasting effects on me. I’ll never be the same after this.”Bookmark here

“What are you talking about?!” Rover croaked at Quintegrity, straining his eyes to keep looking at her in all of her shining glory.Bookmark here

“I’ll stop this thing,” she replied, “but for a price.”Bookmark here

Another explosion from the robot accompanied another layer of added heftiness, as if hulking up its muscles and defenses.Bookmark here

“Tell Headmaster and everyone to evacuate the school,” Quintegrity continued, floating in place and turning back to Rover. “It isn’t safe on campus or anywhere near here.”Bookmark here

“Duuude!!!” Graphite hollered, jogging backward toward the elevator which now appeared so very, very far away. “We gotta hightail it outta here, guys!!!”Bookmark here

Bracing himself, Rover told his girlfriend, “I don’t want to leave you here!”Bookmark here

At last, although somewhat misplaced, Quintegrity’s gentleness returned as she took both of Rover’s hands in hers.Bookmark here

The boy’s arms hummed from her touch while her voice soothed the tempest in his mind and heart.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry,” she said, smiling, “I’m far too super awesome to be beat.”Bookmark here

In the wake of her cosmic essence, Rover was able to pinpoint, isolate, and savor the sensation of Quintegrity’s lips against his cheek when she kissed him.Bookmark here

“Now go.”Bookmark here

She released his hands.Bookmark here

And Rover ran like hell.Bookmark here

He ran as the swells and poundings of energies pushed against his back.Bookmark here

He sprinted as Quintegrity and the mechanical foe became two beacons of shining light raging like opposing bonfires during their power-up and staredown.Bookmark here

He and Lumpy and Adele and Graphite and Skater Girl ran and ran and ran…Bookmark here

And they ran until Quintegrity felt certain of her energy levels.Bookmark here

And she looked up at her enemy while smiling with the cutest, most confident smile she could muster.Bookmark here

And she attacked.Bookmark here

The sonic boom from her first movement brought Rover and the others to their knees, and Skater Girl scooped everyone up onto her Anti-Grav skateboard as best as she could before zipping to the elevator.Bookmark here

Quintegrity headbutted the Mech Bot General faster than the speed of sound, knocking the metal assailant off-kilter. Its quantum computing hadn’t anticipated such a strike.Bookmark here

Before redistributing its weight to remain balanced, the giant robot already calculated and adjusted its nanomachine components to move and think faster than the girl.Bookmark here

Merely flicking its metallic finger was enough to blow Quintegrity aside, even though the attack missed. It punched, swinging its arm so fast that the fleeing team felt the wind from it. However, Quintegrity brushed it aside, redirecting the punch as if it’d come from a sick, mortal man.Bookmark here

Eight new fists sprouted from the robotic brute, each like steel boxing gloves on the end of cables and multi-elbowed arms. They whipped and punched at Quintegrity in an unending series of blows.Bookmark here

The girl stood in place and unleashed a barrage of strikes, moving as if finger painting the air, creating a glowing hemisphere in front of her as her funky energy formed plasma around her area of influence. She moved so quickly that there appeared to be ten of her, each of her delicate-looking strikes being met with a vicious jab from the bot’s many arms, canceling each other out.Bookmark here

With everyone inside the elevator, Graphite had his AR character mash the crap out of the button to close the doors.Bookmark here

“This is the scariest shit I’ve ever seen…” he whimpered as he got one last glimpse of the godly showdown from which they fled.Bookmark here

Rover saw through his phone a big “Emergency Escape” option glowing next to the insignia button panel, and he commanded his avatar to slap it.Bookmark here

“Good enough of an emergency for me!”Bookmark here

The passengers were pulled to the floor as the elevator accelerated up like a rocket. In seconds, it slowed to a rather abrupt stop, tossing everyone like a salad with crybaby dressing and fear croutons.Bookmark here

Headmaster and hundreds of students were lounging around in the Big Tower lobby, having a cookout with the Grill Masters Club and playing card games when the large metal bulkhead hissed, demanding their attention. The door split and slid open, revealing a pile of panicked people clambering to their feet.Bookmark here

Graphite was the first one out, and he wailed like a child with a bee sting, staggering and flailing with frenetic gestures. Everyone stared.Bookmark here

Rover pushed past Graphite and declared, “We gotta go!!!”Bookmark here

Headmaster opened his mouth to probably ask a question, but Rover latched on to the old man’s shoulders and yelled in his face.Bookmark here

Quintegrity is fighting a giant robot!!!”Bookmark here

“It’s true!” Lumpy yelled. “Big…BIG…” He spread his arms out in sweeping motions, apparently signifying something was big.Bookmark here

“Headmaster!” Rover pulled the old man closer and snarled, “Evacuate the entire school now! Get everyone out!!!”Bookmark here

Far below the school, the Mech Bot General wound up for another punch. Quintegrity delivered over fifty strikes during the few seconds the robot took to charge the attack, having some of its outer components smashed and torn.Bookmark here

But its quantum processors understood the risk and decided it was necessary to take some damage.Bookmark here

Its punch moved close to Mach 3, carried enough kinetic energy to pat out an atomic explosion, and connected with Quintegrity’s left cheek.Bookmark here

The entire floor of the hundredth level had its surface pulverized to dust from the impact, resulting in a webbed crater that probably bruised the planet’s core. Above ground, Rover’s proclamation of doom was interrupted by the earthquake as every building on the Southbound Thugwood High School campus rattled.Bookmark here

Quintegrity smiled, feeling a tingle of discomfort on the side of her face, and she placed her open palm against the massive metal fist.Bookmark here

She shoved. The bot stumbled. Then it evolved, doubling its size and quadrupling the number of limbs.Bookmark here

A cascading onslaught of forty giant, fist-like, metal bludgeoners overtook the entire hundredth floor, slicing through the pillars and gouging out the pulverized, glowing floor. Chunks of the shimmering material scattered everywhere, creating a galactic, glittering nebula.Bookmark here

The girl dipped and dodged, bobbed and boogied while she weaved among the furious flurry of mechanical menaces, her swift footsteps keeping in time like sixty-fourth notes in the presto tempo of her jubilant inner jukebox. Speed and power were all she danced to here. Her soul’s most hyper soundtrack was all she heard.Bookmark here

She saw an opening in the bot’s defenses within a timeframe of one second, and she shot toward the bot like a bullet, stripping the evolving, morphing armor under her enemy’s collarbone-thing. While she evaded the hundreds of subsequent attacks like a ballet dancer dodging lightning-fast bulldozers, she saw something else:Bookmark here

A wire protruded from the Mech Bot General’s collarbone-thing where she’d landed that last hit.Bookmark here

That was its most vulnerable point now.Bookmark here

The bot’s attacks grew faster and less predictable, scraping and whittling every surface of the room as it calculated Quintegrity’s abilities. Gradually increasing her own funk, the girl kept one beat ahead of the bot’s quantum processors. Eventually, she was ricocheting off the walls, floor, and ceiling, bouncing steadily closer to the robot—closer to the protruding wire…Bookmark here

…Until she grabbed it.Bookmark here

Millions of volts of electricity from the short circuit tickled her fingers. She yanked on the wire, popping more of its surrounding components off. In response, the robot evolved again, pulling more mass out of the quantum realm to further increase its bulk and power, but sacrificing its speed…falling behind the girl’s rhythm.Bookmark here

Surely, if quantum computers could weep, this was when they did.Bookmark here

Quintegrity planted herself on the ground, smashing both feet into the dusty, glowing floor for maximum stability, and then yanked on the wire with both hands. The enormous Mech Bot General was flipped over her shoulders and smashed against the ground.Bookmark here

She blasted straight up and took the robot with her, and then ricocheted off the ceiling. As the mound of metal crashed against the ceiling, the girl was already on the floor again, using the wire’s elasticity to sling her assailant back down.Bookmark here

It came right at her, just as she wanted.Bookmark here

Blasting off again, Quintegrity struck the downward-slung Mech Bot General in midair, shattering over half of its components in a snowstorm of metallic particles. They both crashed into the ceiling, demolishing it and breaking through the floor of the ninety-ninth School Dungeon level.Bookmark here

And she kept flying up, taking the bulky bot with her.Bookmark here

Another earthquake rumbled the campus’ surface level, instilling more panic into the evacuating school.Bookmark here

“This isn’t good…” Rover muttered as he hurried across the school’s parking lot, feeling the worsening quakes.Bookmark here

A pickup truck screeched to a halt nearby. Mr. Botany Teacher hung out the driver’s window, shouting at Rover and the nearby students to hop aboard. Rover, Lumpy, Adele, and Graphite piled into Mr. Botany Teacher’s pickup truck with some other students. Skater Girl stuck close to them on her Anti-Grav skateboard. Other teachers and students with motorcars were loading up evacuees. Hundreds of people had raided the Rollabout closets, hijacking the single-person electric carts.Bookmark here

It was a mad dash to get as far away as possible.Bookmark here

Far below the school, Quintegrity continued to carry the Mech Bot General up at blinding speed. The robot continually evolved and expanded, its many arms being caught in the drag from the constant upward acceleration, unable to effectively stop the girl from taking it ever higher.Bookmark here

She used the foe as a battering ram and crashed through the next ceiling. Then the next. Then the next after that, over and over, faster, faster, faster!Bookmark here

Southbound Thugwood felt the shockwaves. Everything above ground shook, and nobody knew what the heck was happening.Bookmark here

Then the school’s entire Courtmeadows exploded. A titanic, formless tangle of metal, wires, and computers broke through the ground, painting the atmosphere with glittering, flickering material and shiny, springy lilygrass. The mass soared up into the clouds until slowing down and locking itself in place with the most advanced Anti-Grav substitutes that the Mech Bot General’s quantum nanomachines could improvise in that moment.Bookmark here

Something crawled along the surface of the metal mass, and everyone with magnifying holoshades, telescope lunchboxes, and just really good eyesight pointed and gasped.Bookmark here

“Is that Quinn?!”Bookmark here

“That’s Quinn Integrity!!!”Bookmark here

“Yeah! It is!!!”Bookmark here

“But…what’s, like, happenin’, bro…?”Bookmark here

In the bed of Mr. Botany Teacher’s pickup truck, Rover turned to Lumpy and yelled over the engine and wind, “Lumpy! Gimme your holoshades!”Bookmark here

When Rover stuck the little pad on the bridge of his nose, the solar-blocking hologram appeared in front of his eyes. The Brainlink technology acknowledged his thoughts and zoomed in on the ginormous heap of writhing mechanical mayhem floating high over the school.Bookmark here

Sure enough, he saw Quintegrity soar around the metal mass that was now so tangled and mangled that it could no longer attack or defend.Bookmark here

She’s…flying?!?Bookmark here

Like a comet with no reigns, the radiant girl located a duct in the outer shell and swooped in. She buzzed through the labyrinth of hollow shafts and corridors, evading and busting through every defense the desperate quantum processors could put in place: Doors, gates, partitions, walls, blockades, bulkheads, spikes, presses, electric fences, sawblades, molten metal, tar pits, machine gun turrets, laser beam cannons, caustic mists, mustard gas, ketchup gas, boiling oil, recordings of little old ladies crying for help, detour signs, rancid gravy, toxic cookies, cardboard cutouts of lunch ladies—she broke past them all!Bookmark here

She barged into the inner sanctum of the twisted robotic fortress where the Mech Bot General’s original form commanded the entire operation, and she tackled the mechanical foe, ripped it from its seat, and didn’t stop.Bookmark here

She broke through the other side of the metal cluster, entering the daylight, launching straight up into the sky while taking the Mech Bot General with her. Its hundreds of cables were still attached to the central command room, tethering it to its own prison and tomb.Bookmark here

When she stopped climbing in altitude, clutching her robotic foe in an inescapable submission hold, she spiraled in place. The hundreds of cables that were connected to the Mech Bot General snagged when taut, but Quintegrity kept spinning, and the entirety of out-of-control metal and computers began to rotate with her. As the revolutions sped up, the centrifugal force of the metal mass began to break it apart along its equator. Huge chunks detached from the messy sphere, holding on with cables and wires and tubes and pipes as the entire floating structure spun faster in place.Bookmark here

And Rover watched along with tens of thousands of other Southbound Thugwood residents. As the speeding pickup truck bounced and shook down the streets to escape the catastrophe, Rover’s jaw dropped and eyes bulged as he witnessed Quintegrity’s creation: A huge, round, spinning object with a ring of debris flung around it—the giant shadow was cast upon Thugwood as a testament to the newly born Planet Quinn far above the high school, held in orbit by rogue Anti-Grav.Bookmark here

Happy with her monument, Quintegrity let go of the helpless Mech Bot General. She blasted higher into the stratosphere, changed her course, and shot straight down, resulting in several sonic booms as she pierced the robotic foe, exploded through the spinning metal sphere, and landed on the ground, touching down with her right hand, left knee, and right foot.Bookmark here

She then slowly stood, straightened up, and wiped her forehead. Her eyes returned to the color of soft mulberries as her funky flares on her skin diminished, but her smile was bright enough to shroud the world in her giddiness.Bookmark here

“Whew! I broke a sweat…”Bookmark here

And she cackled with her hands on her hips and sparkly dust in her hair. Blades of shiny lilygrass from the upturned Courtmeadows swirled around her in the wind.Bookmark here

38!38@38#38$38%38^38&38*38(38)38_38+38Bookmark here

The next day was awkward.Bookmark here

School was canceled again for the Southbound Thugwood High School students until further notice, so at least there was that.Bookmark here

But normal conversation topics were hard to access as Rover and Quintegrity sat across from each other at the dining room table in the Chork household. They were granted some privacy as Dad and Mom were out for the evening in the Westnook Prefecture, and Adele was locked in her bedroom, cowering in fear.Bookmark here

Quintegrity girl reached for her spoon to stir some butterscotch cream into her coffee, and the motion made Rover wince and cower.Bookmark here

She blinked, looking at him. “I-I…uh…still scare you, don’t I?”Bookmark here

Hiding behind his arms and trembling, Rover nodded.Bookmark here

“Ah, I see,” Quintegrity chuckled. She took a sip of her coffee, savored it, and set the cute cup back on its saucer. “I understand why.”Bookmark here

Rover lowered his hands. “Are you sure you’re not an alien??? Or a cyborg???”Bookmark here

“I’m a regular girl.” A weary grin tugged on the corners of her mouth. “Well, I suppose I have a few…advantages over most people…”Bookmark here

“Yeah, s-something l-like that. Heh…heh-heh…hehhhh…”Bookmark here

“I think it’s because of my time outside Thugwood…but…”Bookmark here

The girl peered into the living room at the TV showing new coverage of the catastrophe. Reaching into the fluffy marshmallow clouds, Planet Quinn hovered above the sectioned-off Southbound Thugwood High School campus, a slight rotation keeping it from being entirely immobile.Bookmark here

She sighed, looked down at her lap, and squeezed her knees with both hands.Bookmark here

“Sorry I scared you, Rover.”Bookmark here

With a shaky hand, Rover lifted his glass of Atom’s Apple fruit soda pop, forcing a smile that hurt so much it made him sweat.Bookmark here

“It’s n-not your fault, Quintegrity… You saved us, after all.” He took a sip, dribbling some of the drink down his chin. Dabbing it with his handkerchief, he looked back at the sullen girl. “Really, I should’ve listened to you.”Bookmark here

“You think?!” she barked.Bookmark here

Not expecting the harsh response, but accepting it in full, Rover placed his glass on the table.Bookmark here

“Sorry,” he told her.Bookmark here

“Apology accepted.” She shook her head with a snippy sigh. “But what’s done is done.”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Rover glanced at the TV, watching Planet Quinn turn in place for a bit. “So…what now?”Bookmark here

“…I don’t know.”Bookmark here

“This is making major headlines.” His flat expression became wrinkly with concern. “That’s very bad, considering you’re in hiding…”Bookmark here

The girl surprised him by not offering an optimistic reply.Bookmark here

“I’ll need to be careful, I know.” She sipped her coffee and looked into her cup. “My mark on society is the birth of a planet. Luckily, the funk in my soul has increased, so evading the government should remain easy. However, that increase in funk is permanent.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

Placing her cup on the saucer, she said, “My abilities have been greatly enhanced, but the effects and details are unpredictable.” She gave the faintest smile. “My performance today was scary. It was painful and tiring. I’m afraid it’ll happen again, but unexpectedly and uncontrollable.”Bookmark here

They stared at each other for a moment, conveying their nonverbal concerns and uncertainties.Bookmark here

Rover spoke up first. “Tell me something. How do you know about the Mech Bot General? You seemed like you already knew.”Bookmark here

Breaking eye contact with a sigh, Quintegrity said, “I promise to tell you one day.”Bookmark here

As she looked down, he still looked at her. “Not ready to talk about it?”Bookmark here

She shook her head. “Sorry. It’s a big topic for me.” Her eyes met his. “I can’t just tell somebody. I have to show them.”Bookmark here

“Ah.” Rover didn’t press it any further. “Regardless…we need to figure out what to do next.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity grinned, not missing a beat. “How about a fundraiser?”Bookmark here

“But school’s closed. Probably for a while.”Bookmark here

“It doesn’t have to be for the Super Club.”Bookmark here

“And Adele and Lumpy are too disturbed to leave their bedrooms.”Bookmark here

“We’ll bait them out with an irresistible proposal for an exciting fundraiser!”Bookmark here

Considering it, Rover asked, “What would we do for it?”Bookmark here

“Anything we want.”Bookmark here

This time, Rover’s smile was involuntary. He placed his elbow on the table, propping his chin on his hand while he looked at Quintegrity—admired her, more like.Bookmark here

Setting his phone on the table, he opened Glove Alien Fight and snickered. “It’s a rip-off we didn’t get any experience from that Mech Bot General. I guess…we can only rely on hard work and cheating.”Bookmark here

Although small, Quintegrity’s smile warmed the boy.Bookmark here

Neither of them kept track of how long they remained in that dining room, sipping drinks, snacking on delivered late-night brunch purchased with the girl’s Mythril credit card, and chatting about things normal teenage couples do…but it was fine.Bookmark here

Even if for just one evening.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,002Bookmark 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… InfantryBookmark here

Armor… FASCAR ShirtBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… Heist HoovesBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

<None>Bookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

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