Chapter 47:

Vol. 2, Ch. 22: Ultra-Inconspicuous

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

Swirling eddies of razzling, dazzling dust particles stirred as Hodge Dipcringle chased his AR avatar. The boy tucked into a nook with the virtual character, ready to creep up on an ignorant Cyborg Bear-Tiger. Around him, the dusty shimmers settled and hid, as if mimicking his movements. When the monstrous foe turned its back, it received an impactful hit from the Innovayt Glove Aliens’ explosive throwing disc and was knocked to the ground.Bookmark here

“I knocked over a Cyborg Bear-Tiger,” Hodge said through his communication earpiece. “I’m gonna need help, guys! Come to the, uh…intersection-looking place.”Bookmark here

From afar, Tallyhawk could see Hodge’s augmented reality character through her tablet’s camera. “I see you. I’ll be right there.”Bookmark here

“The Cyborg Bear-Tiger was a boss in the original game,” Graphite said, navigating his character through the comfort of virtual reality. He remained by the elevator with Jones the Bones and Ms. Authenticity Teacher. “Expect that here, guys. And Hodge! It was weak to Gaia Elemental.”Bookmark here

“I’m on it!” The cross-eyed boy’s character threw a lava-rock disc that dealt critical damage, but the enemy’s high HP made it seem paltry. “Man…bosses as normal enemies, huh?” He chuckled. “That’s messed up.”Bookmark here

47!47@47#47$47%47^47&47*47(47)47_47+47Bookmark here

Rover and Quintegrity had wandered into the jungle of runic ruin. The two listened in on the conversation broadcasted by Graphite’s team, their wiretapped words coming from Snickerdoodle’s utility collar.Bookmark here

The boy laughed in a pungent outburst. “Dude, I totally forgot about Snickerdoodle’s utility collar! It works here, too!”Bookmark here

Through his earpiece, he heard his own team’s voices, especially his sister’s audible, frantic giddiness.Bookmark here

“He’s doing the wiretapping thing!” she squealed. “Isn’t he??? I know he has to be!!! It’s just like the TV show!”Bookmark here

“He sure is,” Rover sneered, high-fiving Quintegrity—the clap rang in Adele’s and Lumpy’s ears, “and it sounds like they’re fighting their first enemy, a Cyborg Bear-Tiger.”Bookmark here

“Way to go, Snickerdoodle!” As Adele made a celebratory fist pump, her onscreen Clairvoyant Radar pinged and pulled her attention toward a discovery. “Ooh…a rare treasure chest!” She had her AR avatar pick the lock and pop open the gaudy, shiny chest to receive her reward. “Whoa! Chainsaw Glove Aliens?! Those are new! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!”Bookmark here

“Nice,” Lumpy said, keeping his avatar hidden around a corner and his eyes on a winged foe through his tablet’s AR camera. “Hey, I found a Giant Squirrel Bat. I’ll hang back and wait for you guys to get here.”Bookmark here

“Gotta move, guys.” Rover navigated his swift character with his VR headset, not breaking a sweat himself. “Graphite’s team is already engaging, and they technically have an extra player.”Bookmark here

“But,” Quintegrity beamed, “we have me and Snickerdoodle.”Bookmark here

“Hell yeah, babe.”Bookmark here

The Giant Squirrel Bat boasted some powerful long-range attacks, shooting squirrely beams from its eyes and throwing homing wingnuts. However, the real frustration came from its maneuverability as a flying enemy, making it harder to hit. Rover, Lumpy, and Adele each used several Goosepacks to engage the enemy in midair, swarming their target like pesky gnats whittling away at a piece of fruit.Bookmark here

While weaving through the tall structures and mysterious monuments of the School Dungeon, the Giant Squirrel Bat clawed and chomped at the players’ characters when they got close. Adele’s character took the most damage, yet she also dealt the most damage with her new close-range Chainsaw Glove Aliens. Lumpy hung back and assumed a healing role, exhausting many of his high-end restorative potions to keep his teammates alive. Rover swapped to his Infantry Glove Aliens and maintained a constant assault from afar with his Incendiary Artillery Shot attacks and Mortar Kombat items. After some slick coordination among the teammates, they eventually brought down the foe without anyone getting knocked out.Bookmark here

Adele and Lumpy wiped the sweat from their faces with their handkerchiefs.Bookmark here

“Man,” Lumpy panted, “chasing our avatars with tablets is hard when they’re flying all over the place.”Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Adele nodded. “That’s why we need Anti-Grav skateboards to keep up.”Bookmark here

“…Or just VR headsets,” Lumpy told her.Bookmark here

Adele sighed. “I’ll never get an Anti-Grav skateboard with your guys’ attitudes…”Bookmark here

Lumpy shrugged her off and checked his experience points earned. “Nice. I’ll probably reach level nine hundred ninety-nine during this competition. Hopefully, I’ll get a Special Number, too.”Bookmark here

As the three of them leveled up, Rover overheard the conversation taking place over Graphite’s communicators.Bookmark here

“Good work, guys!” Rover told his team. “Graphite and his lackeys are still fighting their first enemy.” He readjusted his VR headset. “What about you, SG?”Bookmark here

Far within the strange dungeon landscape, Skater Girl had made it to the opposite side of the enormous crater, gliding with care over the dunes of glowing debris.Bookmark here

“Well,” she replied, edging her hovering skateboard close to the void to peer down, “I still can’t see down to the third floor.”Bookmark here

Rover became curious. “Do you think you could go to the lower levels on your skateboard?”Bookmark here

“I don’t see why not, but I don’t want to violate any rules without good reason. Besides, it’s dark down there aside from the weird, glowing stuff this place is made out of. There’s a chance there may be some new security methods in place in case someone tries moving between floors in ways unintended by the game’s developers.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl turned from the abyss and kicked off toward a gradually descending area. When she neared the bottom of a wide basin, she noticed a dark surface of something unexpected—a lake, and it was not augmented reality.Bookmark here

“What the?” The punky girl skated up to the lake’s shore and dipped the toe of her Adverse shoes into it. “Is this water? Hey, I found a pool or a lake, I think.”Bookmark here

“That’s crazy.” Lumpy stuck close to his team’s avatars, ready to sneak up on an Underpaid Maître D’Mon enemy. “How deep is it?”Bookmark here

On her gaming phone, Skater Girl studied the environmental coding under the water. “Really deep, actually. Looks like there are caverns, but I can’t get a good look at anything from here. I could dig into the codes…but that’d ruin the fun.”Bookmark here

“Underwater caverns?” Rover hatched an idea as he engaged the Underpaid Maître D’Mon. “I can easily explore underwater areas with my VR headset! After we win this match, I’ll head right over there. Oh…and don’t tell Graphite’s guys or anyone else.”Bookmark here

“Trust me,” Skater Girl replied, “I intend to keep this our little secret.”Bookmark here

“Fu-fu-fu-fu.” Quintegrity uttered a most unusual and terrifying laugh, twirling the fake mustache she wore that she always carried for such moments of nefarious inspiration. Her eyebrows bounced over her sunglasses. “I do love secrets…”Bookmark here

“You’re scaring me,” Rover muttered, engrossed in the battle through his headset.Bookmark here

Giggling, Quintegrity removed her mustache and pocketed it.Bookmark here

Interference and white noise broke through Snickerdoodle’s utility collar, and the dog pawed at the buttons to adjust the frequency scanner.Bookmark here

“Hmm? What is it, boy?” Quintegrity asked the pooch. “Interference, it sounds like? But from what?”Bookmark here

After some adjustments, a new voice came through the collar speaker. It was an unfamiliar man.Bookmark here

“—should be enough. These are the first civilians in the Southbound School Dungeon since then, and more will likely follow their example once they see it’s safe and operational.”Bookmark here

Rover could hear the broadcast over the action in his headset. “Who’s that?”Bookmark here

Another man spoke through the collar, “They’re on the second floor. Our scanners are detecting radios on two separate frequencies. It’s likely they are communicating wirelessly for team purposes during gameplay. They seem to be using regular communication devices, so we’ll easily tap into their conversations.”Bookmark here

“What the hell?!” Shivers gripped Rover from head to toe. He temporarily lost track of the battle he was playing, and his character took a heavy hit of Sad Elemental damage from the Underpaid Maître D’Mon.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong, R?” Lumpy asked over the earpiece.Bookmark here

The second man’s voice came from Snickerdoodle’s collar, saying, “Okay, we’re in. We can hear their conversations loud and clear. I’m working on tapping into all their cell phones now, so we’ll intercept their phone calls and emails.”Bookmark here

“We lost all data on the players who were present during the dungeon’s hack,” the first man said. “It’ll be difficult to confirm if these current players are the same people or if the Dumbass hacker is among them, so we’ll need to gather as much information on these current players as possible.”Bookmark here

“Thugwood to R!” Lumpy said. “What’s up, man?”Bookmark here

Cold sweat and adrenaline were Rover’s physiological response as he said into his wiretapped earpiece, “Uhh, n-nothing… Just this stupid enemy is pissing me off!”Bookmark here

“Well,” Adele grunted, “get your head on straight and stop sucking so much. We’ve almost beat it.”Bookmark here

“Any word on the opposing team?” Lumpy asked.Bookmark here

“No!” Rover replied hastily. “There is absolutely nothing to report about them at all!”Bookmark here

“Those suckers won’t know what him them,” Adele snickered. “I doubt they realize we’re wiretapping their wireless conversation.”Bookmark here

“They’re clueless,” Skater Girl said. “They don’t suspect a thing.”Bookmark here

Rover’s heart flopped like a caffeinated walrus.Bookmark here

The second man’s voice said through the magic dog collar, “It sounds like one of the teams is wiretapping the other. Isn’t that ironic?”Bookmark here

“It’s coincidental, not ironic,” the first man answered. “We’re fine, though. No civilian has access to technology that can wiretap our Cohort Squadron communicators. They’d have to use magic or something equally ridiculous. Anyway, I’m heading to your position now.”Bookmark here

“Copy that. I’ll continue monitoring these communicators. We’ll remain ultra-inconspicuous.”Bookmark here

The Underpaid Maître D’Mon was defeated, but Rover already had his headset visor flipped up. He gave a wide-eyed, panicked look to Quintegrity, but he yelped in surprise to find his girlfriend had transformed into a big Mole Woman.Bookmark here

“Good thing I’m always prepared!” she tittered as she fastened the belt on her big utility jumpsuit. “That simple wig and sunglasses wouldn’t have sufficed in this instance.”Bookmark here

She handed Rover her earpiece, and the boy yanked his own from his ear and shut it off.Bookmark here

He hissed, “The Cohort Squadron is here!”Bookmark here

“Seems so,” Quintegrity replied in a hushed tone, wriggling her prosthetic whiskers.Bookmark here

“To hell with this match! We gotta tell the others.”Bookmark here

47!47@47#47$47%47^47&47*47(47)47_47+47Bookmark here

Rover’s team reconvened to discuss the situation. They’d turned off their communication earpieces, making sure to mention “defective junk” to mislead their eavesdroppers before going silent. Snickerdoodle had tuned back in to the opponents’ frequency, and Isho and Hodge had apparently been knocked out by their second opponent, forcing them to backtrack to the Safe Haven at the elevator to respawn their in-game characters—this bought Rover’s team plenty of time for a quick meeting.Bookmark here

“So,” Skater Girl mused, crossing her arms and keeping one foot on her Anti-Grav skateboard, “the Cohort Squadron is here somewhere?”Bookmark here

Rover nodded. “Seems like it, so we need to be super careful.”Bookmark here

“Hence the Mole Woman?” Lumpy chuckled. Quintegrity grinned underneath her heavy prosthetic makeup.Bookmark here

Rubbing her arms, Adele muttered, “It’s so creepy how they’re just spying on us like that.”Bookmark here

Graphite’s voice squawked through Snickerdoodle’s collar. “Dammit, guys! How’d you get killed already?! Now we’re falling behind!”Bookmark here

“I’m a proud hypocrite,” Adele added with a smug shrug.Bookmark here

“Anyway,” Rover said, “now that we’re aware of the situation, let’s find some more enemies. If we don’t arouse suspicion, we’ll be fine.” He forced a smile. “We have some thuggoons to earn when we win this bet.”Bookmark here

“Ultra-inconspicuous!” Quintegrity gave a thumbs-up with a huge, clawed hand.Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,006Bookmark 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… InfantryBookmark here

Armor… Brutal SuitBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… 2nd Chance BangleBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

ControllerBookmark here

VR HeadsetBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

<None>Bookmark here

<<<LEGENDARY COGS>>>Bookmark here

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