Chapter 45:

Vol. 2, Ch. 20: The Exquisite Champion of Savage Annihilation

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

After another restless night back home, Rover sat on his rooftop in his pajamas, watching the gradual progression of morning light pour over Thugwood. Although the sun rose from the opposite side of the house, he found delight in the slow brightening of the neighborhood’s other houses’ east faces. Chipper chirps came from the birds scrounging around the yard for worms and crickets, and he let out a quiet sigh that got carried off in the warm breeze.Bookmark here

*Tap tap tap*Bookmark here

Sharp rapping at his window alerted him of his sister’s attempt to intrude on the tranquil moment. The screen slid open, and the AthletaCom drone zoomed out, spraying Rover with a barrage of suction cup darts.Bookmark here

“Aarrgh!” Rover shielded himself from the attack. “Adele! Calm your beast!”Bookmark here

Adele stuck her head out the window and snickered.Bookmark here

“Good morning, Big Bro!” she tittered, crawling out onto the rooftop. Like Rover, she was still in her pajamas. “The drone was just giving you some morning kisses again, that’s all.”Bookmark here

Rover swore under his breath and pulled a suction cup dart off his forehead. He watched Snickerdoodle soar out the window and chase the flying drone across the airspace over the house, and they performed a midair tango loaded with darts and magical sparkles.Bookmark here

“You’re up early,” Adele told her brother, sitting on the roof next to him.Bookmark here

“Couldn’t sleep.”Bookmark here

“Thinking about Quinn?”Bookmark here

He stared at the sky full of sun-painted clouds. “Yeah.” Running his fingers through his coal-sheen hair, he said, “She’s being reckless. The government is closing in on her, and she still insists on holding these fundraisers and showing her face.”Bookmark here

“Operation Last Frontier was your idea,” Adele said.Bookmark here

“I know, and I’m glad she’s taking a behind-the-scenes role this time, or so she made it sound like…”Bookmark here

His sister wore a solemn expression, watching the magical poodle chase the autonomous drone over the house.Bookmark here

“This is gonna sound harsh, but she’s an idiot.” Adele’s soft speech belied her rash message. “If you’re so afraid, keep your own hands clean. When she goes down, don’t let her take you with her.”Bookmark here

“That’s the problem,” he replied. “Part of me wants to stand up for her. Part of me can’t just abandon her.”Bookmark here

“Sure ya can.”Bookmark here

“But it doesn’t seem right!”Bookmark here

Adele pointed at him. “You can’t afford to be ‘part of me this, but the other part of me that’ in a situation as serious as hers. I know it’s tough, but the sooner you make the decision, the better off you’ll be…and the lower the odds of confusing her. Don’t screw with a girl’s heart, or your own, for that matter.”Bookmark here

Rover gazed into the overhead atmosphere, seeing the unusually high number of helicopters occupying the sky so early—none near the house. “It is a really tough decision. I love her. I tell her she’s being reckless, but she won’t listen to me.” He watched the distant helicopters, smirking at them. “Maybe I’ll go down with her.”Bookmark here

Adele let out a groaning sigh. “Then you’re an idiot, too.”Bookmark here

“So be it.” Rubbing the bottoms of his bare feet on the roof shingles, Rover remembered the conversation he had with Lawellen Skofkov and Sgt. Maj. Bloodshank in the government limousine. “Do you think…it’s true that teenagers are reckless and stupid by nature?”Bookmark here

His sister chuckled. “You’re asking me that question knowing I’m a teenager, too?”Bookmark here

Rover remained silent.Bookmark here

Sighing again, Adele stood up. “Anyway, I came to talk to you about school.”Bookmark here

“Horrible way to change the subject.”Bookmark here

“Thanks, I try.” She pointed at the drone as it looped around the yard in a sparring match with Snickerdoodle. “The AthletaCom is still taking place, even though our school is closed. We should at least try to get some points while we don’t have classes.”Bookmark here

He frowned. “What about leveling up in Glove Alien Fight? What about the Special Numbers and Legendary Cogs?”Bookmark here

“That’s not important for graduation. The twenty AthletaCom points are. Plain and simple.”Bookmark here

“True,” Rover said. He looked up at Adele. “We’ll need a faculty member to supervise the competitions.”Bookmark here

“I know.” She crossed her arms, smiling. “I have it taken care of.”Bookmark here

Raising an eyebrow, Rover muttered, “Do you, now?”Bookmark here

Adele put one foot in the window. “Hurry up and get dressed. I’ll explain my grand idea to you.”Bookmark here

As Rover watched Snickerdoodle use a magical barrier to disintegrate an incoming suction cup dart, he decided to go along with his sister. In his room, he packed the VR headset, game controller, both tablets, and both magnifying holoshades in his backpack, and then he got ready to venture out.Bookmark here

45!45@45#45$45%45^45&45*45(45)45_45+45Bookmark here

Nu Clear R-Cade was bustling with patrons at noon that day when the Chork siblings entered. A wondrous hubbub of pings and bangs and zaps and booms filled the electric environment. Adele explained the arcade was holding a gaming tournament for Darkland Travesty Ravagers 4D, the newest game in the franchise, and that she had a hunch as to who would be participating.Bookmark here

The competitors were gathered in the game’s section toward the back of the building, awaiting the initiation. When Rover spotted a familiar headdress among them, he immediately wondered how he hadn’t seen it coming.Bookmark here

Ms. Authenticity Teacher always wore her handcrafted piece of headwear at school; it consisted of a tightly woven circle of twigs that fit atop her head with large, colorful feathers sticking up from the back and a stylized bandana draped behind her neck reaching to her shoulders. Today, her hair was dyed into stripes colored like lime sorbet and strawberry cheesecake.Bookmark here

“I knew Ms. Authenticity Teacher wouldn’t miss this tournament,” Adele said, standing at the back of the spectating crowd. “She’s always talking about the Darkland games in class.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I should’ve known.” Rover looked at the giant screen showing the tournament’s logo. The screen would allow everyone to watch the matches. “I never liked the series much. The controls are weird to me.”Bookmark here

“But the gameplay is awesome if you get used to it! It’s really the best arena fighter out there.”Bookmark here

More spectators arrived over the next ten minutes, and Rover soon found himself in the middle of a sizable crowd. He adjusted the backpack of game equipment he wore.Bookmark here

This is what it’s like being a regular audience member. I’m glad I’m not an attraction for once.Bookmark here

The gods of luck read the boy’s mind, and he felt a tap on his shoulder from behind. He turned to find a giant, banana-toned Mohawk adorned by a heavy metal dude with tattoos.Bookmark here

“Don’t I know you?” Jones the Bones asked, his eyes narrowed with suspicion.Bookmark here

Ah, shit.Bookmark here

Rover cracked a wry smirk. “We might’ve knocked off a candy store together once or twice.”Bookmark here

The heavy metal guitarist chuckled. “Yep, that snarky-ass attitude—you’re Rover.”Bookmark here

“Cheater extraordinaire.”Bookmark here

“You got that right.” Jones the Bones’ steely eyes met Rover’s gaze. “Did I overhear you say you’re not a fan of Darkland?”Bookmark here

“I’m not. I never got into it during that whole popularity surge it had six or seven years ago. Also, I was still too young for my parents to let me play it.”Bookmark here

“It’s fun. I thought about entering this tourney, but I figured that chick with the dream weaver hat would be in it.” He pointed to Ms. Authenticity Teacher as she spoke with the flamboyant announcer. “She’s pretty foxy, and I bet she could whoop my ass at this game. I figured it wouldn’t be worth the entry fee to go against her.”Bookmark here

Rover considered mentioning she was his teacher, but he didn’t feel the need to.Bookmark here

“Hey there, everyone!” The announcer stepped up. He was a young man in a pineapple-textured shirt and wore big glasses that looked plastic and fake. His outlandish gestures and energy almost rivalled Quintegrity’s. “Welcome to the Darkland Travesty Ravagers 4D tournament!”Bookmark here

Jones the Bones yahooed and clapped with the others in the audience.Bookmark here

The flamboyant announcer continued, “I’m Ticken Santa del Lothsweld, and it’s a pleasure to be hosting this annual event again. Now, I’d like to introduce this year’s competitors. First up is the winner of last year’s tournament. The hardcore gaming, twenty-six-year-old high school teacher is back to take another stab at the grand prize! She’s the exquisite champion of savage annihilation! Let’s hear it fooorrrr…Vilith Orion!!!”Bookmark here

The mostly-male audience lost their minds.Bookmark here

“Huh,” Adele uttered among the raucous cheering, “her real name is Vilith Orion. I think it’s kinda pretty.” She tugged at Rover’s sleeve and whispered in his ear, “Let’s hang back. We’ll wait until afterwards to ask Ms. Authenticity Teacher to supervise an AthletaCom match for us, and I’ll try to earn some Glove Alien Fight levels until then.”Bookmark here

Moving toward the concession area, the siblings claimed a table with a clear view of the huge tournament screen.Bookmark here

Rover asked, “What do you have in mind for an AthletaCom match?”Bookmark here

“I dunno.” Adele shrugged, logging in to Glove Alien Fight on a tablet. “Anything. You and I could do something easy against each other just to get a few points. I’m not trying to overachieve on my God-given days of school closings. Let’s just play rock-toilet-bazooka.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s easy. I’ll call Quintegrity and Lumpy so we can face off against each other.”Bookmark here

“Good idea. We’re allowed to challenge the same person or team once a day. Having more people will let us do more matches.” She watched Rover get on his smartphone. “Are you sure you want Quinn to come out in public? I mean, it’s kinda crowded here.”Bookmark here

Rover hesitated, glancing at the people watching the tournament players’ introductions.Bookmark here

“I’ll tell her to wear a disguise,” he said after a moment.Bookmark here

While waiting for his friend and girlfriend, Rover watched the tournament from across the arcade. Compared to Glove Alien Fight, the action of Darkland Travesty Ravagers 4D was much quicker, and Rover was impressed by the speed at which the players reacted to everything.Bookmark here

Still, he thought, I was very good at Trooper Trash Mofos, and that game is still recognized as the fastest side-scrolling fighter there is.Bookmark here

Their teacher squelched her third opponent. Rover applauded her victory as Quintegrity and Lumpy approached the table. To Rover’s relief, Quintegrity was wearing a brunette wig under a stocking cap with sunglasses.Bookmark here

Wearing sunglasses in a dark arcade is a little conspicuous, though…Bookmark here

While he greeted the two of them, something nuzzled against his cheek and…licked him.Bookmark here

In plain view of the crowded arcade-goers, Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle wafted magically about the concession area. The salt, pepper, ranch-syrup, and wasabi mustard lifted from the table, and the pooch performed a circus act of touch-free juggling while Quintegrity beatboxed a funky rhythm.Bookmark here

Rover snagged the dog and crammed him under the table, causing all the juggled condiments to fall to the floor. Nobody seemed to notice the magical act…Bookmark here

“Snickerdoodle.” Quintegrity scolded the toy poodle as he sat on the floor. “I told you not to pull any witchcraft where people can see. This isn’t your home. This is much weirder than your home. Understand?”Bookmark here

The pup shrugged. Perhaps he understood.Bookmark here

All five Super Club members sat at their table and discussed the plan to have Ms. Authenticity Teacher supervise some AthletaCom games. Their teacher spent her time between matches high-fiving fans and profusely chugging Sploder Cola. As Rover watched her, he felt she would be perfect for their plan.Bookmark here

Actually, she might be perfect for a better plan.Bookmark here

“Then it’s settled,” Lumpy said to everyone at the table. “We’ll do a series of rock-toilet-bazooka matches. It’ll be a quick way to earn some points.”Bookmark here

“What were the rules again?” Adele asked Lumpy.Bookmark here

He answered, “Bazooka bombs rock. Rock clogs toilet. Toilet, like, splashes the bazooka…or messes it up or something. I don’t remember the hand gestures, though. I’ll look them up right now.”Bookmark here

Rover leaned forward. “Know what? I say we do something else. Let’s use the School Dungeon for these matches.” Seeing the intrigued faces the others wore, he added, “It’d be a good lead-in for our upcoming fundraiser Operation Last Frontier, and it should be safe to go in there again…I hope…”Bookmark here

“Ooh, I like it.” Quintegrity smirked. “Now you’re thinking! This can be useful for both the AthletaCom and the Super Club at the same time.” She whipped out her Militia-grade cell phone and began typing. “Let’s see here…”Bookmark here

Rover explained a team-versus-team match to compete for the most enemies defeated, similar to a Strongest Hero match. Because Quintegrity didn’t play Glove Alien Fight, being on a team was the only way for her to earn points. However, the kills would need to be tracked manually.Bookmark here

“Kinda one-sided, though,” Adele said. “That means one team will have one less player—the team with Quinn.” She paused. “Actually, they’d probably have the advantage with her…”Bookmark here

Rover smiled at his girlfriend who was typing furiously on her phone, her fingers a blur.Bookmark here

“What do you think, babe?” he asked.Bookmark here

Quintegrity sent her last email and placed her phone gently on the table. “Like you said, I don’t play Glove Alien Fight, so a team battle is the only way I can score points for this. It’ll be fun with the eight of us!”Bookmark here

Eight of us?” Rover asked, raising his eyebrows in confusion.Bookmark here

Her smile was tender and heartfelt as she poked her phone. “I just strong-armed Graphite and his lackeys to participate. They are required to meet us at the School Dungeon after this.”Bookmark here

To that, there was nothing else to say.Bookmark here

The tournament carried on, giving plenty of time for Adele and Lumpy to level up in Glove Alien Fight. Ms. Authenticity Teacher smoked her opponents one after the next, and she eventually made it to the final round with the other finalist: a chubby man calling himself The Ordeal. During the heated match, Rover noticed people pointing to their table from afar and whispering to each other. At first, it was the usual hateful attention Rover received in public, but after a while, they seemed to be pointing at Snickerdoodle as he sat obediently in the chair next to Adele, watching her play Glove Alien Fight.Bookmark here

Bringing Snickerdoodle here was a dumb idea, Rover brooded. Seriously, my crew these days is like a magnet for attention.Bookmark here

A roar came from the arcade’s patrons, and Rover turned to the big tournament television. The teacher had unleashed a literal three hundred fifty-five-hit combo on The Ordeal, ending the match and crowning her as the repeated champion of the Darkland Travesty Ravagers 4D tournament.Bookmark here

“That’s our teacher!” Adele cheered, applauding. “Yeah!”Bookmark here

“About time it’s over,” Rover grumbled. He stood up and told the others, “C’mon, let’s make sure she doesn’t leave before we talk to her.”Bookmark here

After the unnecessarily drawn out ending ceremony, the thinning crowd gave Rover and his friends an opportunity to meet the champion. However, there was still a long line of fans wanting to meet her, and the boy had no choice to wait. As their teacher stood in front of the backdrop used for photos taken with fans, it seemed like they would be waiting in line all day. Several people purposely tried cutting in line in front of Rover, but Quintegrity’s cute smile and skills of heavenly persuasion made them rethink their entire lives and stand in the back.Bookmark here

“Hi there,” Ms. Authenticity Teacher greeted when Rover was up. “I’ve seen a lot of Southbound students here.” She smiled. “Isn’t it nice having time off from school during the repairs?”Bookmark here

“It’s been okay,” Rover replied. “Anyway, we came here to ask you a favor.”Bookmark here

The woman’s face went slightly sour, the feathers in her headdress somehow clenching along with her expression.Bookmark here

“Oh,” she said flatly with a harsh stare, “you didn’t come to see my match?”Bookmark here

Rover’s bones shivered; he needed to dodge the hostility. “Sorry, it was actually my sister who told me about this event. B-But, you did really good! That was awesome!”Bookmark here

“Thank you!” Her big smile made her headdress feathers perk up as well. “It took a lot of genuine practice and dedication, something you probably have no understanding of, huh?” At that, the feathers straightened into points, matching her eyes.Bookmark here

That last statement was particularly sharp against Rover’s being. He clenched his jaw with a smile so fake that his stiff cheeks wanted to rebel against the motion.Bookmark here

“Anyway,” he said, “we want to do some AthletaCom matches today, and we knew you’d be here—”Bookmark here

“Your sister knew I’d be here.”Bookmark here

“…So, we most humbly ask you to—”Bookmark here

“Fine.” Ms. Authenticity Teacher’s sole word came like a fist to Rover’s nose. She scribbled her autograph on a poster of Darkland Travesty Ravagers 4D, using the nearby podium to write on. Huffing, she added, “Wanna take your photo with me?”Bookmark here

Rover took the poster from her. It was made out to “The Cheater (you know the one)” in beautiful cursive.Bookmark here

“I decline the photo,” Rover grunted.Bookmark here

A smug smirk on the teacher’s face accompanied the wagging of her feathers. “I’ll meet you at The Elf’s Squire when I’m done here.”Bookmark here

“When do you think that’ll be?”Bookmark here

“That’s your problem, Rover. Next!”Bookmark here

With that, they were practically shooed away.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,004Bookmark here

AthletaCom Points… 9Bookmark here

All Money… {T}10,705Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}9,705Bookmark here

Fundraiser… {T}0Bookmark 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… FASCAR ShirtBookmark 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

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