Chapter 41:

Vol. 2, Ch. 16: Heroics! Triumph! GAMING!!!

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

The Super Club meeting continued into the late afternoon. Because of their worries, the four members in Rover’s bedroom struggled to formulate a list of fundraiser ideas. Instead, they drank tangerine-poppy seed sparkling tea and munched on caramel-grovenut Snacker Flack. Some video game action was snuck into the mix, too, making it a legitimate Super Club gathering.Bookmark here

A high-pitched, shrieking jingle jangled from Quintegrity’s plaid overalls. She had received an email, a rare occurrence.Bookmark here

“Did you get a message?” Rover asked, pouring more sparkling tea from his family’s kettle into his Space Jellybeans cartoon mug. The hot liquid caused the jellybean mug art to change color and emit a faint glow.Bookmark here

“Yes.” Quintegrity typed a response on her bulletproof phone. “A classmate is scheduling an appointment with the Super Club. That’d mean having them come here.”Bookmark here

“Come here?” Rover groaned. “Why can’t we meet anywhere else besides here? My room is already getting crowded.”Bookmark here

Lumpy blew on his steaming mug. “It’s private here. Still,”—he glanced around— “it might be under government surveillance.”Bookmark here

“No surveillance lurks on these premises,” Quintegrity replied, pounding her fingers on her phone’s keypad at blazing speed before sending her message. “Trust me. I checked.”Bookmark here

“Who wants to see us?” Rover asked. Narrowing his eyes, he grunted, “Graphite?”Bookmark here

“Wow, you guessed! I’ve been emailing him for the last hour. I just didn’t have my ringer on. I miss my cute little ringtone.”Bookmark here

Rover’s face was flat. “Your ‘cute’ ringtone sounds like banshees trying to scream their way out of a helium chamber.”Bookmark here

“Ya best get yer ears checked!” Quintegrity shot Rover a dynamite wink. “Graphite’s last message said he’s in the neighborhood and already on his way here.”Bookmark here

*Dingdong*Bookmark here

“…Guess so.” Rover stood, stretched his legs, and left the room. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Dad was answering the front door.Bookmark here

“Hello. I’m Graphite,” said the boy with hayfield-hair and pencil-lead irises. “I’m Rover’s and Adele’s schoolmate.”Bookmark here

“Ha! I know you!” The toothy grin on Dad’s face was laced with amusement. “You kicked Rover’s butt in that Glove Alien Fight match.”Bookmark here

Graphite replied with a grin of his own. “Yes. That’d be me.”Bookmark here

Dad sensed the essence of misery approaching. “Oh, there you are, son. Were you expecting someone to crush your pride in public again? Or perhaps in the privacy of home this time?”Bookmark here

“This was a last-second arrangement,” Rover replied with a tight smirk, “literally. And no.”Bookmark here

Dad welcomed Graphite inside.Bookmark here

“Is Quinn here?” the boy asked Rover. “I wanted to have a meeting with the Super Club.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, we’re all upstairs.” Rover nodded toward the staircase.Bookmark here

Dad rubbed his chin, grinning. “Hmm…” It was never a good sign when he did so. “Our house is becoming the party house, eh? Heh-heh-hehhh!”Bookmark here

“Please don’t get any ideas, Dad.”Bookmark here

“Too late, boy…”Bookmark here

Before Rover’s shivers subsided, the doorbell rang again. Dad peeped through the peephole, snickered menacingly, and opened the door to find Skater Girl on the front step.Bookmark here

How many people are gonna cram into my bedroom?! Rover grieved.Bookmark here

“Hey there,” the punky girl greeted, tucking her Anti-Grav skateboard under her arm. “Is Quinn here? Uh, I’m a friend of hers.”Bookmark here

“Ah, of course!” Dad’s enthusiasm went up three whole notches. “Just come right in!”Bookmark here

“Thank you. By the way, my name’s—”Bookmark here

“A secret!” Quintegrity declared, pointing at Skater Girl.Bookmark here

Rover yelped from her sudden appearance.Bookmark here

Mom entered the living room, curious about the unfamiliar voices. She stopped in her tracks.Bookmark here

“Oh. Is this a party…?” She shot Rover a gentle look of it-better-not-be-a-party.Bookmark here

“It’s a club meeting,” Quintegrity explained. “Because school’s canceled, we have to hold our meetings somewhere else.” She beamed. “So, I picked the nicest house I know!”Bookmark here

Mom and Dad were melted by such kind words from the one and only Quinn Integrity, leaving them mesmerized for an extended moment.Bookmark here

How can this darling girl be the Dumbass hacker??? they thought in unison.Bookmark here

“Hmm…” Dad’s devious studiousness returned. He pointed at Graphite and Skater Girl. “You and you. Were you part of the exploration team into that underground place?”Bookmark here

“Yes,” Quintegrity answered right away.Bookmark here

Graphite and Skater Girl cringed.Bookmark here

“That’s what I thought.” Suddenly, Dad’s expression changed to something far scarier than his devious grin: a dead serious countenance. “No plotting crimes under this roof. Or in the yards.”Bookmark here

“Or at all.” Mom’s acidic words stung the skin of every teen in the room. “We will not be associated with helping the Dumbass with any Dumbass plans.”Bookmark here

Rover shivered. “R-Right!”Bookmark here

To flee from further parental crossfire, he corralled the guests up to his bedroom. Quintegrity entered last, carrying two foldout chairs she somehow obtained and offered them to Graphite and Skater Girl.Bookmark here

Adele’s eyebrow tilted up at the new arrivals. “Oh, two visitors.”Bookmark here

Standing next to the TV and PowerPunch presentation displaying the short list of fundraiser ideas, Quintegrity said, “Both Graphite and Skater Girl wanted to have a meeting about our School Dungeon exploration adventure, so here we are.”Bookmark here

Rover closed the door and stood next to his gaming chair. “I figured this meeting would happen eventually.” He looked at the two guests. “Let’s get this over with.”Bookmark here

“Can I begin?” Graphite asked. He gave Rover a dirty look. “This is your fault.”Bookmark here

Appalled, Rover replied, “You’re blaming me for the giant robot?”Bookmark here

“You know I’m right! If you would’ve just listened to Quinn, we wouldn’t—”Bookmark here

“Graphite.” Quintegrity’s soft tone possessed a stern edge that stopped Graphite midsentence as she looked at the boy. “Please don’t start blame games. Rover knows he was wrong.”Bookmark here

Clenching his fists, Graphite furrowed his brow at Quintegrity. “It doesn’t make me any less pissed off at him.”Bookmark here

“Be mad at me.” Rover scoffed. “I don’t care. It’s my fault we woke up the Mech Bot General, but guess what? Somebody else would’ve done it, and Quintegrity wouldn’t have been there to do anything.” When Graphite bit his lip, Rover continued, “The real person at fault is whoever put that robot there.” A dark shade shrouded Rover’s face as deep, angry lines formed around his eyes and mouth. He gazed out his bedroom window at the gorgeous weather. “CEO Claudius lured us down there using Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl spoke up. “CEO Claudius, in his last broadcast from your school today, said that if we aren’t careful, what happened there would happen again. That got me thinking. I dug around some more inside the Glove Alien Fight code, and I confirmed four other peripherals identical to the entrance to the School Dungeon.”Bookmark here

“You did?” Lumpy asked. “Where are they?”Bookmark here

“I dunno. The codes don’t reveal physical locations.”Bookmark here

“There are four others?” Rover crossed his arms. “It’s probably as you said, Quintegrity. Each school probably has a School Dungeon. That means there could be other big robots or something else in each one. There could be crazy, giant weapons hidden all throughout Thugwood!” He raised his voice in anger. “That’s insane! What kind of psychopathic bastard would do that?!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity didn’t reply. In fact, she averted her gaze elsewhere. Nobody noticed.Bookmark here

“The kind of bastard we need to beat in an AR match,” Graphite grunted, taking his phone in hand.Bookmark here

Fuming, Rover said, “This isn’t about getting rid of the annoying daily quota anymore. This is about—”Bookmark here

“Heroics!” Quintegrity chimed in, her enthusiasm returning. “Triumph! GAMING!!! Ha-ha-haa!”Bookmark here

“Take a look at this.” Graphite handed his smartphone to Rover. “This is what I wanted to show everyone here.”Bookmark here

Rover quickly recognized the consumable item menu in Glove Alien Fight. What he didn’t recognize was the item on the bottom.Bookmark here

“‘Southbound Legendary Cog’?” he asked aloud.Bookmark here

Everyone gathered around to see it for themselves and were dumbfounded.Bookmark here

Rover continued, “Its description is ‘Collect all five for a real cash prize, and Glove Alien Fight will proceed to the Phase of All Phases.’” He whistled, then let out some pained chuckles. “Hoo boy, here we go again.”Bookmark here

“It appeared in my inventory after Quinn stopped that robot,” Graphite explained. “There was a message telling me I obtained it for defeating the Mech Bot General.”Bookmark here

“It was a boss.” Lumpy shook his head, his face tight with concern. “Damn, with that and what Skater Girl said about the other peripherals…that’s pretty good evidence of others being out there.”Bookmark here

Adele frazzled her hair into a frizzy fit. “And we gotta beat them?!? Will our game characters even work against them?! How the hell are we gonna do this???”Bookmark here

“We will.” Rover’s solidity in his voice was severe enough to rumble through his room, despite not speaking loudly. He made eye contact with his girlfriend, who was somewhat surprised by the boy’s demeanor. “We’ll have Quintegrity hack the other AR dungeons. There’s gotta be a way to steal these Legendary Cog items from their guardians without activating them.”Bookmark here

“Chyeah,” Graphite sneered, “that’s only super illegal. CEO Claudius said—”Bookmark here

Rover interrupted. “He said ‘come at me, bro’!” Pounding his fist into his other palm with a menacing grin, he growled, “That was an invitation to go full force! Sure, we’ll play the School Dungeons normally, but when it comes time to steal a Legendary Cog from a big weapon thing, you can bet we’re gonna cheat to make sure nobody gets hurt and the place doesn’t get destroyed.” He gave serious looks to Graphite and Skater Girl. “What about you two? What are you gonna do? You’re either in or out. We need to know your decisions.”Bookmark here

“Huh?!” Clenching his jaw, Graphite seemed unsure of his answer. “Uh…”Bookmark here

“I’m skeptical about getting too deep into this,” Skater Girl said, “but…something needs to be done. Even if I just relay things I find in the Glove Alien Fight code, I could still be considered an accomplice to the Dumbass hacker.” She smirked and nodded. “In that case, I’m already in, so screw it. I’m with ya.”Bookmark here

Lumpy looked at the punky girl. He could see behind her resolute demeanor. Deep down, she was skeptical. They were all skeptical. Only Quintegrity’s face was hard to read—blank, yet unbending.Bookmark here

Adele stood up from Rover’s bed, irritation screwing up her face. “How about doing nothing, huh? CEO Claudius said it isn’t necessary to beat him in Glove Alien Fight. I’m assuming everyone’s guess is these new Legendary Cogs are just like the Special Numbers, but to get one into play, you gotta risk cheating illegally to safely get one, otherwise risk destroying Thugwood!” She sighed, massaging her temples. “So…if nobody does anything heroic,”—she nodded at Rover— “then there will be no danger. Don’t poke the bear-tiger, guys.”Bookmark here

A lump rolled up in Rover’s throat. “But…we’d be stuck with the stupid mandate.”Bookmark here

“Sounds good to me,” Adele snapped, plopping back down on Rover’s bed. “Better than risking waking up another thing.”Bookmark here

“She has a point, man,” Lumpy told Rover.Bookmark here

“I know…”Bookmark here

“I agree with Adele,” Skater Girl said, holding her gaming phone. “Still, I’ll look into the coding more to see if there are safe and legal ways to get the Legendary Cog items. As far as I know, it’s still legal to look at the code if I don’t alter it or relay ways for you to cheat. If it’s possible to lift the daily quota without endangering people, then we might as well do that. Otherwise, we’ll just need to live with it.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, Skater Girl,” Rover told her with a smile.Bookmark here

“Don’t mention it.” Sighing, she said, “Man…I guess I gotta start learning quantum codes, too.”Bookmark here

Adele groaned. “Guys, I hate being the voice of reason here, but—”Bookmark here

“You enjoy it,” Rover muttered.Bookmark here

“Maybe a little. Anyway, you don’t need to be the one to do this, Big Bro. At least hold off for a while to gather an army to go for CEO Claudius together.”Bookmark here

“First off,” Rover told his sister, holding back his aggravation, “gathering an army isn’t that simple. Secondly, have you forgotten that everyone in Thugwood hates my guts?! Even if I make a good point, who will wanna team up with me?”Bookmark here

“Because,” Quintegrity said with a warm smile, taking both of Rover’s hands in hers, “they’ll be teaming up with the Super Club!”Bookmark here

“Also,” Skater Girl said, “everyone in Thugwood shares a common opponent: our ruler. So, Rover, that means you’re basically on everyone’s side, anyway.”Bookmark here

“Ah…you’re right.” Rover mimicked Quintegrity’s famous akimbo stance, standing tall with his hands on his hips. “We aren’t just any group. We’re the frickin’ Super Club!” He pointed at Quintegrity, his smile dazzling. “And my girlfriend is a super awesome badass! With her love of life and affection toward everyone, she and I will be indomitable.”Bookmark here

Overcome with joy, Quintegrity cheered, “You betcha!” She held her hand up high.Bookmark here

*Pow!*Bookmark here

When the two high-fived, the slap of their palms together was like a crack of thunder, shocking the skepticism straight out of the others in the room. It vibrated the shelves. Even the basement rumbled. Mom and Dad, while making dinner in the kitchen, looked at each other.Bookmark here

“There it be,” the shining girl snickered. “We can do this, babe! No matter what path you plod down, I got yo six covered!”Bookmark here

Rover shook his hand, wincing in pain. “Jeez, I seriously think I saw smoke come off my hand. But, for real,”—he smiled at Quintegrity with a smoky thumbs-up, “I love you, Quintegrity.”Bookmark here

The words stunned her, as if they’d thumped her in the chest. Her warmed cheeks pushed upward as she grinned.Bookmark here

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” Rover put his arms around Quintegrity and pulled her close.Bookmark here

Adele and Graphite deadpanned at the sugary sight.Bookmark here

Quintegrity reacted with bashful squirminess. “You know I’m here for you, Rover! I’m here for all of you.”Bookmark here

“Our trump card is Quintegrity,” Rover told everyone, clearly showing her off at this point. “She’s the most valuable person on our team.”Bookmark here

“Is that so?” Graphite looked at Quintegrity with narrowed eyes. “Answer me this, Quinn.”Bookmark here

The girl turned to look at the boy. Again, there was nothing showing on her face, which spoke paragraphs and full plots to Rover.Bookmark here

“How do you do it?” Graphite asked her. “You don’t use AR devices. Hell, I don’t even see you playing Glove Alien Fight. So…how are you the most valuable member on Rover’s team? Aside from your superhuman strength and speed, how are you so useful in the game?”Bookmark here

“Hmm?” Quintegrity put her finger on her chin, then grinned. “I guess I’m just awesome.”Bookmark here

“Cut the crap!” Graphite yelled. “That Ring Finder match with Rover and Tallyhawk… How’d you know where the rings were without using an AR device?! Don’t play dumb. Isho caught you in the act!”Bookmark here

Lumpy and Adele shot nervous glances at each other. Rover just stared at the floor. Graphite turned to them.Bookmark here

“What is it, guys?” he demanded. A sneer spread across his face. “You know something. You know what I’m talking about.”Bookmark here

“We’re not obligated to answer anything,” Rover told him, matching the sneer.Bookmark here

The veins in Graphite’s forehead throbbed.Bookmark here

“There are things Quintegrity doesn’t want to tell,” Rover continued. “You have no choice but to accept it until she decides you’re worthy of her secrets. Until then,”—he grabbed his phone— “I have a phone call to make.”Bookmark here

“Who are you calling?” Lumpy asked.Bookmark here

“Benedict Torrent.”Bookmark here

While Rover spoke with Benedict about the Legendary Cogs, Quintegrity fetched more sparkling tea for the guests. In no time, the bedroom had taken on the tea’s floral, citrusy aroma as everyone sipped the sparkling goodness.Bookmark here

“Well, I never expected this!” Benedict sounded entertained as he spoke with Rover through the speakerphone. “Based on the Legendary Cog’s in-game description, I’d say they function similarly to the Special Numbers. Players will compete in AR matches to win them from other players.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover said. “The problem is how we get them into play. That giant robot was a boss, a guardian that you have to beat to get its Legendary Cog.”Bookmark here

“Ha-ha-ha! Damn! That’s quite the deterrent. If that’s the case…what do you plan to do?”Bookmark here

Rover had to word his answer carefully—he couldn’t reveal his plan to hack the AR dungeons.Bookmark here

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “We’ll wait it out until we learn something. For now, it’d be stupid to go after another one without knowing how to deal with the guardian.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity grinned, knowing she was their solution for that.Bookmark here

“Good answer.” Benedict sounded satisfied. “Also, have you been paying attention to the online forums and discussions about Glove Alien Fight?”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“I keep telling you ya should. Do you know what people are saying about the ten Special Numbers?”Bookmark here

“I don’t.”Bookmark here

“Special Numbers 1, 2, and 3 were just obtained by three people who reached level nine hundred ninety-nine,” Benedict said. “They’re back in play.”Bookmark here

Rover glanced at the others in the room. “Does that mean someone needs them to unlock the next place?”Bookmark here

“Seems so.”Bookmark here

“What a pain,” Rover grumbled. “But…it could be a good thing.” He gave it some thought. “At least we know nobody will be going into any new dungeons and disturbing the guardians for a while.”Bookmark here

“Um, maybe for a little while,” Benedict told him. “I’ve been following discussions online. As terrified as most people are about more destruction, there are also plenty of people willing to take that risk. They’re curious about what happened when you ventured into the School Dungeon. For the most part, people don’t have any solid references; you’ve done a good job staying quiet, but it hasn’t stopped them from making bold theories and claiming to find the other dungeons on their own.”Bookmark here

“People are stupid.” Rover gripped his phone, gritting his teeth. “They’d risk waking up another thing.”Bookmark here

“Curiosity kills more than just cats.”Bookmark here

“I guess so.”Bookmark here

There was a short pause. Rover looked at the others again, who all appeared lost in thought as they sipped their sparkling tea. Quintegrity was especially quiet as she stared out the window, her hair catching the burning sunlight.Bookmark here

“All right,” Rover said into his phone, “that’s all I wanted to talk about. I thought you should know.”Bookmark here

“Yes, it was informative,” Benedict replied. “Even with my skills of internet research, I wouldn’t have known about Graphite’s Legendary Cog. Makes me wonder how many other secrets people are keeping regarding Glove Alien Fight.”Bookmark here

“Hundreds, I assume.” Rover was joking, but his voice was dry as tree bark jerky. “Just know that if everything falls into place on my end, I’ll be looking for recruits. We’ll need all the manpower we can muster to make it to the final round of this stupid game and beat CEO Claudius. Maybe have huge game parties to blaze through the AR dungeons as quickly as possible.”Bookmark here

Benedict chuckled. “Well, I look forward to that day. If it comes, you know how to get ahold of me. Also, for frickin’ real, bud…get online and check things out. Read the forums, see what people are saying about Glove Alien Fight…and about you.”Bookmark here

With a sigh, Rover replied, “Maybe. Oh, one last thing. I need Captain Pretentious’ personal phone number.”Bookmark here

The others in the room looked at him questioningly.Bookmark here

“Oh?” Benedict seemed amused. “What makes you think I have it?”Bookmark here

“Don’t screw with me. I know you have connections.”Bookmark here

“Heh-heh-heh, very well.”Bookmark here

Rover went to his desk and scribbled the phone number on a piece of paper, then hung up.Bookmark here

Skater Girl crossed her arms. “The ten Special Numbers are back in play…”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Rover said, looking at the number he wrote down. “We’ll need to get them all again. Having the Special Numbers won’t wake up the guardian. We just need to make sure they don’t fall into the hands of some other dimwit. We can’t trust other people.”Bookmark here

Adele sneered. “Other people probably think the same about us.”Bookmark here

“All we need is one,” Graphite muttered, “and not let anyone challenge us for it.”Bookmark here

“True.” Rover gave it some thought, then smirked. “But…that’s not fun. It won’t hurt to aim for all ten. With the Super Club’s reputation and my notoriety, I think people are gonna swarm us for our Special Numbers, and we’ll just rub it in their faces when we whoop ’em!” He stood with his hands on his hips again (which Quintegrity mimicked). “I won’t give CEO Claudius the pleasure of knowing this wasn’t somewhat enjoyable for us. If we’re gonna be oppressed, dammit, it’s gonna be with smiles on our faces and our targets on CEO Claudius!”Bookmark here

“You’re a lunatic,” Graphite told him.Bookmark here

“Rover has a point,” Lumpy said. “You all have to admit how much fun the School Dungeon was. At the very least, we have Quinn. If anything can stop a Legendary Cog guardian, it’s her!”Bookmark here

Quintegrity beamed proudly. “You know it!”Bookmark here

“So…” Graphite sighed, grabbing his hayfield-hair, “it’s the Special Number-getting crap all over again.”Bookmark here

“Yes,” Rover told him with a smirk, “but as a team this time. From here on out, for everyone in this room, anyone’s Special Number and Legendary Cog is all of ours! As long as we’re all out there trying to get them, we stand a better chance of bringing them all together. We’ll do the AR matches, even if we don’t know the location of the other dungeons. Skater Girl will look for a way to legally obtain the Legendary Cogs without fighting the guardians, and if not, Quintegrity will take care of it if need be.”Bookmark here

“Ugghh…” Adele held her head. “After all that, he went full-circle back to playing the hero…”Bookmark here

Lumpy shrugged. “That’s Rover.”Bookmark here

Rover added, “Adele and Lumpy aren’t level nine hundred ninety-nine yet, so work your butts off and get your Special Numbers easily!”Bookmark here

Adele tossed her head back with a groan. “‘Easily,’ he says… I remember your tangos with death while trying to level up as fast as possible.”Bookmark here

“Tangos with death!” Quintegrity boogied her hips.Bookmark here

Rover got on his phone and immediately placed another call.Bookmark here

Graphite watched him. “Calling Captain Pretentious? You ain’t messing around, are ya?”Bookmark here

“Well, this is war, my friends,” Rover sneered as he listened to the ringing on the other end.Bookmark here

And we might just be the stupidest ones fighting in it.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,003Bookmark 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… Brutal SuitBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… Heist HoovesBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

ControllerBookmark here

VR HeadsetBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

<None>Bookmark here

<<<LEGENDARY COGS>>>Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.