Chapter 48:

Vol. 2, Ch. 23: Kick Logic to the Curb!

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

After the half hour time limit, Rover’s team was victorious with a score of six to four. Graphite’s defeated teammates were displeased with the results, sulking while Ms. Authenticity Teacher tallied the AthletaCom points on her tablet, three points apiece. Little did she know, the winning teammates also each earned a thousand thuggoons paid by the losers, and Graphite’s team covertly transferred their thuggoons to the winners’ thuggaccounts (which Adele kept her share of to herself).Bookmark here

In addition, Lumpy had reached level one thousand in the game, awarding him with Special Number 10 and the Legendary Collector skill. Obviously, Rover’s team was in much higher spirits than Graphite’s.Bookmark here

Rover sneered at Graphite. “Don’t beat yourself up too much. You get to keep your consumable items, and it’s not like you’re losing out on the Special Number Lumpy got.”Bookmark here

“Shut up,” Graphite murmured to Rover.Bookmark here

“Adele and I also found some chests that didn’t eat us,” Rover said. “She got the Chainsaw Glove Aliens, and I got the Ancient Magus Glove Aliens. Not all bad things happened today, Graphite.”Bookmark here

Graphite, however, was not pleased. “Your girlfriend drags us out here as fodder for your AthletaCom points, and you have the nerve to rub it in my face!”Bookmark here

“Yep.”Bookmark here

“But still,” Isho said with a miniscule smile, “the gameplay was fun.” He pointed to Quintegrity and whispered to Hodge, “Why did she change into a Mole Person costume?”Bookmark here

“Best not to question it,” Hodge whispered back.Bookmark here

Ms. Authenticity Teacher yawned and finished inputting some things on her tablet to finalize the AthletaCom summary.Bookmark here

“Okay, kiddos,” she sighed, “that’s it. Let’s hurry out of here. I’ve had a long day and just wanna relax at home.”Bookmark here

“For sure,” Jones the Bones said, a devious twinkle in his eyes.Bookmark here

The teacher pointed at the rocker dude. “That is not an invitation to ‘Webflix and chill’!”Bookmark here

Sighing and shrugging, Jones the Bones replied, “Ya read me like an open pamphlet…” He turned to the teenagers. “Welp, it was fun tagging along and checking out this cool place! And hey, if you ever do something involving your Music Club, give me a shout, and I’ll lend a hand. I still have a lot of pull there.”Bookmark here

“Riiight…” Ms. Authenticity Teacher told him with narrow slits for eyes. “Unless you get a restraining order first.”Bookmark here

The metalhead had a drop of sweat roll down his cheek. “Heh…”Bookmark here

Quintegrity raised her mole hands with glee. “We’ll shout at ya when the day comes, Mr. Bones! I already had plans to commandeer the Music Club to paint this town with the funk of the cosmos!”Bookmark here

Everyone returned to the elevator. During the ride up, Lumpy admired his in-game inventory list, grinning at his tablet screen.Bookmark here

“That’s it for the Special Numbers!” he gloated. “Special Number 10 belongs to me now! Sorry, Adele…but not sorry.”Bookmark here

“Whatever,” Adele said with a shrug. She scowled at Rover. “That means my idiot brother won’t get on my case about sleeping and eating and breathing instead of leveling up for a Special Number.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah,” Rover said, “but at least we have one now.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity cheered. “It belongs to all of us in the Super Club and the Super Club’s affiliates!” She pointed her mole claw at Tallyhawk, Isho, and Hodge. “That includes you three now! Welcome to our internship!”Bookmark here

“What?!” Isho asked, pointing at himself. “Just like that?”Bookmark here

“Just like that!” Quintegrity told him.Bookmark here

“Be warned,” Graphite muttered to his confused pals, “when she says ‘internship,’ she means ‘slave ranks.’”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk, Hodge, and Isho appeared somewhat scared.Bookmark here

“Because of Lumpy,” Rover said to the club’s new slaves, “you three now basically possess Special Number 10. We’re pooling them together because that’s how we roll.” He fist-bumped Lumpy. “Good job, dude!”Bookmark here

Lumpy grinned. “Thanks!”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk’s brow furrowed with skepticism. “But…that means any Special Numbers we get will also belong to you all.”Bookmark here

“Duh,” Adele replied. “Welcome to the crew!”Bookmark here

“These kids are hustlers,” Jones the Bones remarked to Ms. Authenticity Teacher.Bookmark here

“We raised them well,” the teacher replied in a flat tone, leaning against the wall as her headdress feathers drooped.Bookmark here

Lumpy peeled his eyes away from his tablet and glanced around the elevator’s interior of luminous textiles and intricate etchings. “I wonder what would happen if too many people come into the School Dungeon. There’s only one elevator. People could end up waiting forever just to change floors.”Bookmark here

“There could be more elevators,” Tallyhawk said.Bookmark here

“Maybe.”Bookmark here

“Kick logic to the curb, Sir Lumpselot!” Quintegrity replied, twerking in her very rotund mole costume. “It’ll only addle yer mental saddle with tempting rabbit holes of unanswerable curiosities!”Bookmark here

Nobody dared to respond to that.Bookmark here

When the elevator stopped and the bulkhead opened, the passengers stepped into the Big Tower’s lobby. Clattering, pounding, rumbling sounds of construction came from outside as the school’s restoration continued. These noises, however, were not the only thing to meet everyone as they returned from the underground dungeon.Bookmark here

Two men in suits stood in the lobby. Their straight postures and small smiles made them appear as if they’d been waiting for the elevator and, more specifically, the people aboard.Bookmark here

The taller of the suited men approached, and Rover and the others kept cautious eyes on him. The man brushed his stylish strands of grovenut-colored hair from his handsome face, stopping less than a metre away before speaking.Bookmark here

“Good day, civilians.” He removed his dark sunglasses and tucked them into his breast pocket inside his suit jacket, revealing the depth of his cool smile. “Did you enjoy the augmented reality dungeon?”Bookmark here

Rover stared at the man. While the stranger didn’t do anything in particular to warrant disrespect, Rover felt the need to remain vigilant.Bookmark here

“Yes,” Ms. Authenticity Teacher answered, “they were holding a match for the AthletaCom.”Bookmark here

“AthletaCom?” The man’s tone was chastising as he smirked. “Video games are hardly athletic, but it isn’t up to me to decide what counts for it.”Bookmark here

The teacher’s eyes narrowed and headdress feathers stood straight. “I’m sorry, but who are you?”Bookmark here

“Cohort Dukewell Maxable,” he replied, presenting a badge so shiny that it was audible. He nodded toward the shorter Cohort accompanying him. “Forgive our intrusion. My partner, Cohort Sarlis o’Okuo, and I are here on official business, and we wanted to take the opportunity to hear direct feedback from Glove Alien Fight players participating in this segment of the game.”Bookmark here

Having their communicators wiretapped was enough to irritate Rover, but the man’s condescending demeanor pushed the boy over the edge.Bookmark here

The boy told the Cohort, “It’s weird that the Cohort Squadron is gathering the game’s information instead of the developers.”Bookmark here

Cohort Dukewell Maxable fixed his handsome eyes on the boy. “You should listen to your friend—” he cast his gaze around the group— “and just ‘kick logic to the curb.’”Bookmark here

A faint sound temporarily replaced the din of construction: the sound of a collective drawing of breath from everyone who’d just realized they’d been spied on. Graphite removed his communication device from his ear; it was still on.Bookmark here

The suited man finally landed his attention on the Mole Woman standing rigidly.Bookmark here

“How was the latest patch in Glove Alien Fight?” he asked her. “The developers reportedly fixed an issue about inhuman hands having trouble with the touchscreen interface, particularly addressing concerns raised by Mole People and Squidfolk.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity’s quietness was weighted, smothering the lobby with her lack of a verbal response. Not meeting the Cohort’s eyes, she merely nodded. It was a silent action, but it screamed and howled her answer. Rover could see beneath her heavy disguise and prosthetic makeup, seeing the stiffness in her stance under the rotund outfit…her gripped fists inside the furry paws.Bookmark here

Cohort Dukewell Maxable raised his eyebrows. “Not much of an improvement after all?”Bookmark here

The girl shook her head, still avoiding eye contact.Bookmark here

In that moment, Rover experienced an unsettling chill like none other. A fear clutched him from the outside while stabbing him from the inside—a fear caused by the irrefutable truth that right then, Quinn Integrity was backed into a corner.Bookmark here

Machine nor animal had been able to exert such an influence on the girl as this one man with a suit and badge had.Bookmark here

“I see.” The Cohort chuckled, amused by the Mole Woman’s shy behavior. “I’ll inform the developers.” He glanced around the Big Tower’s lobby, seeing up through the hollow center of donut-shaped floors to the glass windows comprising the ceiling. “Official reports say Southbound Thugwood High School will resume this Wenno-day. That’s good to know. It’d be a shame for so many young minds to miss out on the stimulating learning environment for too long.” He slipped his sunglasses back on, which barely masked his arrogant expression.Bookmark here

“Agreed,” Ms. Authenticity Teacher said in a firm tone meant to end the conversation. “If you’ll excuse us, we’ll be leaving now.”Bookmark here

“Yes, of course.”Bookmark here

Everyone walked toward the Big Tower’s exit, including the two Cohorts. The walk would have been unbearably uncomfortable and silent if it wasn’t for Hodge’s rain of curious inquiries.Bookmark here

“I bet you get to see and use all the coolest tech!” the cross-eyed boy said in awe.Bookmark here

“That’s classified,” Cohort Dukewell Maxable replied flippantly.Bookmark here

“Is it true your badge is more valuable than gold?”Bookmark here

“Depending on the metal market, which we can influence, it sometimes is.”Bookmark here

“Have you ever killed anyone?”Bookmark here

The Cohort’s smile was suave enough to make the heterosexual boy’s heart flutter. “With kindness, yes. With anything else… Well, that’s classified.”Bookmark here

“I’m a tech junkie myself,” Hodge continued, his words growing more energetic. “I’ve been studying real hard to be a robotics and computer engineer, and my goal is to work for the government!”Bookmark here

“Incredible! I’ll inform you if we need a coffee wench.”Bookmark here

Hodge’s excitement prevented him from realizing he’d just been told off.Bookmark here

Once outside, the suited men gave nobody any acknowledgement as they headed toward a helicopter parked in the grass.Bookmark here

Tallyhawk whispered to the others, “I didn’t see that helicopter when we got here.”Bookmark here

“Me neither,” Jones the Bones said, answering for everyone.Bookmark here

This was the first time Rover had seen a Cohort Squadron helicopter with his own eyes. Up close and personal, he marveled at its futuristic sleekness the way somebody admires killer creatures locked in a cage; its ferocity was flaunted and apparent through the safety of some imaginary barrier that protected the onlookers. The aircraft’s metal body itself was perfectly dark, reflecting no light and shaped more like a fighter jet than a helicopter. When the suited men approached, the vehicle acknowledged the arrival of its masters, its engines and components exhaling with quiet contempt as it stirred from slumber, behaving like a trained lion longing for the moment to take a single bite to prove its alpha status to the humans who had dared to tame it.Bookmark here

A prickly funkiness tickled the back of Rover’s neck. To his horror, a new demeanor was visibly peeking through Quintegrity’s mole getup: ruthless, prank-pulling mischief.Bookmark here

“Whoa-ho-ho!!!” Hodge scrambled past the construction crew’s pits toward the stealthy chopper. “That’s a freaking sweeeet helicopter!”Bookmark here

Both Cohorts turned to give Hodge a serious glower, stopping the boy as their eyes peeked their warnings over their dark shades.Bookmark here

“Ooh! Zis iz trooly good craftzmanzip!” Quintegrity had made it past the suited men undetected. She held her whiskered nose to the nose of the aircraft and took a sustained sniff.Bookmark here

To make it better, she nailed the Mole People accent.Bookmark here

“Reel metal? Or iz it zat B-grade junk? Blah!” She took a deeper sniff, bringing her to an actual realization. “Hmm…? Or neezer of dem…? New material? Nyuk-nyuk!”Bookmark here

The handsome Cohort snapped his hand toward his chest, as if ready to draw something from inside his suit jacket.Bookmark here

“Ma’am!” he barked. “I need you to step away from the vehicle.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity hopped backward. “How many big onez did yoo fork over to buy ziz byoo-tee???”Bookmark here

The suited men eyed everybody with their charming (yet arctic and serious) smiles as they climbed into the helicopter. Both side doors were scissor-style, and Cohort Dukewell Maxable reminded Rover of an illegal street racer getting into a top-notch sports motorcar.Bookmark here

“If you require thuggoons to buy this hotrod,” the handsome Cohort told the Mole Woman, cracking his Casanova smile, “then the T.G.E. can buy you.”Bookmark here

Both men slammed the scissor doors down, which latched and locked with a hiss.Bookmark here

The aircraft hummed and shuddered as it prepared for takeoff. Its Anti-Grav devices painted the grass with an electric-eggplant glow as the propellers unfolded and gyrated. As it left the ground, the sounds it emitted were very loud, but almost exclusively unheard, piercing everyone’s ears with supersonic shrills and thumping their hearts with subsonic roars.Bookmark here

The helicopter ascended straight up for several metres, revealing its three distinct lights toward the front of its underside. It pointed away from the buildings, flickered out of sight beneath the AR cloaking, then shot off as if inertia meant nothing.Bookmark here

*Whooooosh!*Bookmark here

Even the rowdy ruckus of large-scale construction work was a welcome replacement for the carnivorous stealth chopper’s hum. Such a nonmusical, soulless, funk-devoid sound should never be allowed to invade anybody’s ears.Bookmark here

“Uh, hey?” Adele’s voice was the first heard after that. “Where’d she go?”Bookmark here

Nobody had to ask who she was referring to, for the absence of a certain Mole Woman made it apparent.Bookmark here

Rover didn’t reply right away. He looked back at the Big Tower’s entrance.Bookmark here

“Ya know,” he told Skater Girl in a lifeless tone, “I’m not in the mood right now to check that out.”Bookmark here

The punky girl nodded, understanding Rover was referring to the underwater area. She could see the disconcerted dullness in his expression.Bookmark here

“Fine by me,” she replied, adjusting her backwards flat bill cap.Bookmark here

48!48@48#48$48%48^48&48*48(48)48_48+48Bookmark here

Southbound Thugwood High School became but a speck in the distance behind the stealthy helicopter.Bookmark here

“Do you realize what you did wrong back there?” the shorter Cohort asked.Bookmark here

With a blank expression, the more handsome of the two leaned back in the cockpit seat and propped his spotless, self-cleaning combat dress shoes on the invaluable aircraft’s dashboard.Bookmark here

“Nothing at all, Cohort Sarlis o’Okuo.”Bookmark here

“You told them how expensive this helicopter is. That’s dangerous, and you of all people should remember why.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t tell them how expensive it is.” Cohort Dukewell Maxable put his hands behind his head, lounging back while the aircraft’s autopilot took over. “It was a vague answer.”Bookmark here

“Yes, but it was nonetheless correct.”Bookmark here

A faint droopiness seized the handsome man’s smug face. He put his feet on the floor and sat upright.Bookmark here

“Yes,” he said coolly, “that is true.”Bookmark here

The shorter Cohort conjured up some video recordings on his side of the cockpit’s AR holovision windshield. He reviewed the files…footage taken by the aircraft’s surveillance.Bookmark here

“That wasn’t a real Mole Person,” Cohort Sarlis o’Okuo said. “Look. The deep-soul scans couldn’t infiltrate past the outer body. And look there. You can see the patchwork around it, which only happens with fabric and artificial material.”Bookmark here

“I see. That’s odd. It’s like there’s something blocking the scanners, but it’s under the Mole Person’s fake skin. Wait…if I recall, orichalcum latex is the only common material that, for some god-forsaken reason, our deep-soul scanners can’t penetrate. I bet you this mole cosplayer covered themselves in it before putting on the outer costume. I swear…those cosplayers do everything to dress convincingly.”Bookmark here

“Dear Paracelsus! How could they tolerate the orichalcum latex’s oozing itch? That stuff violates you if it smells weakness. They banned it from strip clubs.”Bookmark here

The handsome man laughed. “Well, under any circumstance, it looks like I’ll be writing an extra Spynote Report about this disguised person who just gave themselves away. Any unwanted interference of our research is subject to investigation.” He brought up more photographs on the AR holovision windshield, all pictures taken by the aircraft of the civilians they encountered at Southbound Thugwood High School. “Also, I’ll be relaying the facial recognition data of these people back to the Huge Database, as well as their voiceprints we captured from our wiretapping. Honestly, this is tedious work to find the Dumbass hacker.”Bookmark here

“Yes,” the shorter Cohort said with a smile. “Thus, all the more satisfactory it’ll be to find them.”Bookmark here

“Agreed, good sir.”Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,009Bookmark here

AthletaCom Points… 12Bookmark here

All Money… {T}13,705Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}9,705Bookmark here

Fundraiser… {T}0Bookmark here

Match Bet… {T}3,000Bookmark 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

#10Bookmark here

<<<LEGENDARY COGS>>>Bookmark here

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