Chapter 51:

Vol. 2, Ch. 26: Shut Down

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

Rover and the others spent much of their time playing Glove Alien Fight AR matches before Southbound Thugwood High School reopened. Tracking the Special Number holders was difficult as the items changed hands quickly and often, and whenever someone openly announced they had a Special Number, they would receive so many challenges that it was difficult for a challenger to be picked.Bookmark here

During this time, the Super Club and its interns had no luck being accepted for more Special Number matches. However, there were other advantages to playing the game. For one, they gained more experience points and had fun with all AR matches, even if no Special Numbers were involved. Second, due to ensuring each of their matches were a Strongest Hero game, they improved their support team coordination efforts.Bookmark here

Wenno-day inevitably arrived, ushering in the resumption of school for Rover and his schoolmates. While the damage repairs were obvious, the other renovations were hard to notice at first, and many students held AthletaCom matches to determine what had actually changed.Bookmark here

As per Quintegrity’s grandiose plan, the Super Club delayed the launch of Operation Last Frontier for Thurdur-day. Being the first day back at school, it was best to attend class and catch up on the lessons.Bookmark here

During the wee hours between Tsu-day and Wenno-day, Quintegrity plastered the entire campus with crayon-colored posters to advertise Operation Last Frontier. When the students arrived, word spread like wildfire through the school, building the hype that the Super Club was hosting guided adventures through the School Dungeon. The students had been skeptical and afraid to enter the School Dungeon after the giant robot incident, but they trusted anything the Super Club did. It was the Super Club—what’s not to be trusted? Why question it?!Bookmark here

That left the other Super Club members with nothing to do until school was over. Thus, Rover found himself in class, bored and unmotivated as Mr. Geography Teacher yammered on about the world beyond Thugwood and the Jerry Co. Walls.Bookmark here

The boy’s mind wandered, straying from the lesson to recall Quintegrity’s words:Bookmark here

“Do you know what ‘life’ is like outside the Jerry Co. Walls? Other than what they teach at school, which barely scratches the surface of what it’s actually like. Do you know?”Bookmark here

Rover looked at the pictures in his textbook of the barren wasteland comprising the rest of the world.Bookmark here

Life outside Thugwood would be brutal, he thought. I can’t imagine how Quintegrity dealt with it, even with her being her. Still, I know I made the right choice. I trust she’ll avoid the government…and CEO Claudius better keep his eyes peeled for me.Bookmark here

From behind his podium at the front of the classroom, Mr. Geography Teacher saw the devious grin on Rover’s face. Figuring Rover was simply plotting his next big cheat, the teacher ignored it and continued the lesson.Bookmark here

51!51@51#51$51%51^51&51*51(51)51_51+51Bookmark here

*WHAM!*Bookmark here

When Quintegrity kicked in the Super Club penthouse door after school, half of the doorframe’s trimming was ripped off.Bookmark here

“Aw…” She picked up the busted trimming, pouting. “The construction crew replaced my doorframe. No worries, though! I’ll just reinstall the interchangeable deadbolts in a jiffy!”Bookmark here

The other Super Club members stood in the sole hallway of the Clubhaus High-Rise’s fifth floor, staring at Quintegrity.Bookmark here

Rover asked, half-lidded, “You really do need to kick the door in each time, huh?”Bookmark here

Quintegrity just grinned as Ryuumba-chan zipped around her feet to clean up the chunks of wood and drywall. Much to Rover’s, Lumpy’s, and Adele’s surprise, the little automatic vacuum gobbled up pieces of debris more than twice its size.Bookmark here

“Oh my, Ryuumba-chan!” Quintegrity chortled. “You have quite the appetite! Ha-ha-ha! *Snort*Bookmark here

The vacuum darted back into its doghouse in the living room. Inside the recently-refurbished penthouse, everything was similar to how it had been before the Mech Bot General disaster, with subtle updates including extra furniture and better lights. Everything was abnormally normal again.Bookmark here

51!51@51#51$51%51^51&51*51(51)51_51+51Bookmark here

Thurdur-day came: the fundraiser’s big day. After school, Rover, Quintegrity, Lumpy, and Adele met in the Big Tower where they forcibly overthrew the office clerks in the lobby and made preparations to have people line up for School Dungeon admittance. Skater Girl and Graphite arrived on time, ready to man the entrance booth (which was the same makeshift booth used for selling power ramen).Bookmark here

“All right!” Quintegrity said to the entire fundraiser team, satisfied with the setup as the Big Tower lobby quickly filled with eager students. “I’ll go scout for mysteries and goodies with Snickerdoodle.” She saluted them with thunderous resolve. “You all got this!!!”Bookmark here

Rover glanced around nervously. “Snickerdoodle’s here? With all these people???”Bookmark here

“He was here all day,” Quintegrity assured him.Bookmark here

“Really? I haven’t seen him.”Bookmark here

She winked at Rover. “If you haven’t, then nobody has!”Bookmark here

With that, she bolted from the building, and the students swarmed the entrance booth. As Graphite and Skater Girl were swallowed up in the flood of people, Rover, Lumpy, and Adele exchanged glances.Bookmark here

“This is gonna be crazy…” Adele said, her voice quivering.Bookmark here

“Nah, it’ll be fun,” Lumpy told her with a smile. “Right, Rover?”Bookmark here

Rover saw the wave of spiteful glares the lined-up students gave him. A drop of sweat rolled down his cheek.Bookmark here

“Sure,” he muttered. “A bucket of chuckles and a pile of smiles.”Bookmark here

51!51@51#51$51%51^51&51*51(51)51_51+51Bookmark here

In no time, students filled the second floor of the School Dungeon, their eyes wide and mouths open as they gazed in fascination at the weird landscape of city-like wilderness. They gradually progressed from the elevator and ventured farther in, their phones and tablets revealing the AR splendor of a new journey in Glove Alien Fight.Bookmark here

Lumpy led a group that wasn’t brave enough to head off on their own. He had practiced Quintegrity’s charismatic mannerisms, and his hard work paid off, playing the part of a tour guide as best as he could.Bookmark here

“Behold the amazingness before you!” he declared, leading the way as he high-stepped and finger-snapped. His hips popped several times, and he fought to smile through the discomfort. “Gaze through your AR devices and see what this ludicrous landscape has to offer!”Bookmark here

“Whoa…” A boy with a bulbous nose held up his phone to look around. “My Clairvoyant Radar is picking up treasure chests in here—a lot of them!”Bookmark here

A tall girl with freckles added, “And look at all the monsters. High-level ones, like previous bosses. You could get so much experience in here!”Bookmark here

“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, people!” Lumpy told them, stretching his arms out in all directions, making his shoulders crack. “Those chests respawn over time with random treasures, so don’t feel like anyone is beating you to the punch by getting them first!”Bookmark here

Back at the elevator, Rover met his own team of explorers who had arrived on the second floor.Bookmark here

“This way, everyone,” he told them. “If you look through your phones and tablets, you’ll—”Bookmark here

“Wow!” a gelatinous boy exclaimed, seeing the in-game elements through his tablet. “It’s really an augmented reality dungeon!”Bookmark here

“That’s so cool!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, let’s check it out!”Bookmark here

The group took off, leaving Rover behind.Bookmark here

“H-Hey!” he shouted after them. When they ignored him, he sighed. “I told Quintegrity that nobody would wanna be guided by me.”Bookmark here

As he looked around, he found it both strange and invigorating to hear so many excited voices and see so much activity in the School Dungeon. Even without looking through his own phone, he could tell there was a lot of action taking place, and it was great to be part of such a largescale game.Bookmark here

His mood quickly took a dark turn, though.Bookmark here

“Too bad this is all for CEO Claudius and his bullshit,” he muttered to himself. He activated his communication earpiece. “This is R to G. I’m ready to take another group, so send them down.”Bookmark here

In the Big Tower lobby, Graphite and Skater Girl had their hands full trying to tame a wild crowd of impatient students raring to explore the wondrous world below. The line had quickly mutated into a formless mass that saturated the lobby floor.Bookmark here

“Another group?” Graphite grunted as he scanned a student’s debit card for the two thousand-thuggoon entrance fee. “You really aren’t a popular tour guide, are ya?”Bookmark here

“I’m not,” Rover replied, smug. “It works out that way. The more groups I take, the faster the turnover rate, and the more money for us.”Bookmark here

“For real!” Graphite added. “Quinn was right. These figures we’re raking in are insane! Too bad it’s all going to the damn club…”Bookmark here

Rover, Graphite, and the rest of the Operation Last Frontier team could hear Adele’s money-grubbing panting over their earpieces.Bookmark here

“You’re actually good for something, R,” Adele said. She slurped. Perhaps she wiped her drooling mouth.Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah,” Rover muttered, “hurry up and send the next group.”Bookmark here

“Heading your way now,” Skater Girl replied. She led ten more students into the elevator, noticing the same signature awe on their faces from seeing the interior light up to their presence. “Okay, everyone! Down to the second floor! Today’s goal is to discover whatever needs to be done to advance to the third floor, which hasn’t been unlocked yet. After that, who knows? Explore your hearts out!”Bookmark here

“What if there’s another giant robot?” asked a short, squeaky boy with curly hair and thick glasses.Bookmark here

“We already took care of it, remember?” Skater Girl assured with a smile. “It’s floating above your school as Planet Quinn.”Bookmark here

“B-But…what if there are more in here…?”Bookmark here

The punky girl’s smile waned. “Uh…I guess we didn’t consider there being more than one in here…”Bookmark here

“Whatever!” another boy said, pounding his fist into his palm. “We’ll just kick its mechanical butt! Or Quinn will.”Bookmark here

Their bravado soon faded when they were met by Rover on the second floor.Bookmark here

“Oh, Rover Chork is our tour guide.”Bookmark here

“Well, we spent twenty thousand thuggoons for this, so we might as well go with him.”Bookmark here

“Hell no! I spent twenty thousand thuggoons that I ain’t wastin’ on being stuck with Rover!”Bookmark here

“Good point.”Bookmark here

“Yeah!”Bookmark here

Rover’s eyebrow twitched. “Um, so…welcome to the—”Bookmark here

And everyone just rushed out of the elevator right past him.Bookmark here

“…R here. I’m ready for the next group.”Bookmark here

Snickering, Skater Girl told him, “We’ll definitely make a fortune with your turnover rate.”Bookmark here

“I know I said that…but I still got feelings, too, ya know?”Bookmark here

“Save your feelings until this is over,” she replied. “I’ll ready the next group.”Bookmark here

When the elevator headed back up, Rover rubbed the back of his head and let out another audible sigh.Bookmark here

“L here,” Lumpy said through the communicators. “My group has reached the underwater area. One of the girls has a virtual reality headset, so she’ll be the first to explore it.”Bookmark here

“Ya don’t say,” Rover said. “Well now, that’ll be interesting.”Bookmark here

“You could’ve been the first, R,” Lumpy teased.Bookmark here

After a few seconds, Rover replied, “I had other things on my mind.”Bookmark here

“How uncharacteristic of you,” Adele added, her sneer audible through the earpieces.Bookmark here

“Whatever,” Rover muttered. “It doesn’t matter who explores the underwater area first.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, they all heard something through their earpieces; a short clip from the theme song for Magical Poodle Snickerdoodle played from the Poodle Network’s utility collar.Bookmark here

Snickerdoodle’s theme song, Rover thought. That means the Cohort Squadron is wiretapping our communication lines. Time to confirm everyone heard it with today’s coded message.Bookmark here

“What’s everyone want on their pizza?” Rover asked into the earpiece. “I like radishes.”Bookmark here

They answered one at a time.Bookmark here

“Anchovies.”Bookmark here

“Legumes.”Bookmark here

“Gizzards.”Bookmark here

“Sour grapes.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity’s answer was silence—her voice was not to be broadcasted to the Cohort Squadron.Bookmark here

That was everyone. Rover confirmed, saying, “That’s a terrible pizza! We’ll talk about it more when we’re done here.”Bookmark here

The elevator opened as the next group of adventurers arrived, and they all ignored Rover. He ignored them, too.Bookmark here

51!51@51#51$51%51^51&51*51(51)51_51+51Bookmark here

Lumpy and his group of explorers waited by the edge of the watery area. The girl wearing the VR headset swam her character through the underwater region with her game controller, explaining her actions.Bookmark here

“So far,” she said, “there are a lot of caverns, like a maze. I hope I don’t get lost, although my character’s Scooby Diver Suit gives me plenty of time before drowning. But there are some treasure chests here, too. I’m heading toward one now.”Bookmark here

Some other explorers noticed what was happening, and they began to gather around. Lumpy overheard them mentioning the need for a VR headset and controller, and some of the comments sounded unhappy by this development.Bookmark here

“This chest had a Surgical Tuning Fork,” the girl said. “What the heck is that, even?”Bookmark here

As the girl continued her exploration, Skater Girl’s voice was broadcasted through the communicators.Bookmark here

“Hey, bad news,” she told them. “Your headmaster just showed up in the Big Tower lobby.”Bookmark here

“Why’s that bad?” Lumpy asked.Bookmark here

“He’s shutting down the fundraiser.”Bookmark here

“What?!” Rover barked. “Why?”Bookmark here

“He wants to talk to all of you about it.”Bookmark here

Rover sighed, scratching his head. “Well, I guess that’s a wrap. It’s time to close up shop.” A collective murmur of disappointment came from the earpieces. “Rendezvous in the lobby pronto.”Bookmark here

“I’ll be a little late,” Lumpy told them. “I’m watching someone explore the underwater areas, and I just wanna know a little more about it before I head back.”Bookmark here

Several minutes passed as more people gathered by the waterfront. The girl found more treasure chests, all with strange items within. However, the last one made it worth Lumpy’s time waiting.Bookmark here

“I’ve found a really deep pit,” the girl explained. “There’s a rare chest at the bottom.”Bookmark here

“Huh.” Lumpy crossed his arms. “Something tells me it’s special.”Bookmark here

His suspicions were confirmed when the girl gasped.Bookmark here

“Whoa!” She snickered with a huge grin. “I found the Southbound 3rd Floor Key!”Bookmark here

Right away, the glowing material comprising every part of the School Dungeon shimmered with warm sparkles. All of the players were awestruck as they watched a dazzling wave of colors ripple from the girl’s underwater avatar and spread to the elevator.Bookmark here

Rover was directly in front of the elevator doors when they opened on their own. Mouth agape, he peered inside at the brightly lit interior, and he looked through his phone to see the third floor’s AR button light up on the control panel.Bookmark here

“Guys!” Lumpy called through the earpieces. “This girl told me she found the key for the third floor.”Bookmark here

“I can see,” Rover replied, still looking at the elevator interior through his phone. The warm shimmers calmed down, but the new AR button was still visible. “I’m at the elevator, and the third floor has an active button now.”Bookmark here

Adele yahooed. “Sweet! Now we know how to move on to new floors! Let’s hurry back to Headmaster so he can scold us or whatever, then we’ll check out the next level.”Bookmark here

“I’m heading up now,” Rover said, stepping inside the elevator. When the doors closed behind him, he paused. A mischievous grin cracked on his lips. “I’ll see you guys in the lobby.”Bookmark here

He turned off his earpiece and commanded his avatar to smack the third floor button.Bookmark here

51!51@51#51$51%51^51&51*51(51)51_51+51Bookmark here

The fundraiser team regrouped in the Big Tower lobby, having barely enough room to step out of the elevator due to the large congregation of students. Graphite and Skater Girl approached them, both looking frazzled and tired from the constant flow of antsy adventurers.Bookmark here

Graphite gave them a ticked-off look. “Where’s Rover?”Bookmark here

“Rover?” Quintegrity put her finger on her chin. “I heard him say he’d meet us up here. He should’ve been the first one up.”Bookmark here

“We didn’t see him,” Skater Girl said. She turned on her earpiece. “Hey, R? R, do you read…?” She shook her head, shutting the earpiece off. “He’s not answering. His earpiece might be off.”Bookmark here

“Hey…” Adele whispered to Quintegrity. “Are you sure it’s okay for you to be here? I mean…” She pointed up.Bookmark here

Quintegrity didn’t answer. Adele hung her head.Bookmark here

The elderly headmaster walked up to Quintegrity. His bandana acted as a beacon as he made this way through the parting crowd. He was joined by Sir Butler, whose stoic expression was unchanged as always.Bookmark here

“Ah, Quinn,” Headmaster said, stopping before the most innocent face in the building. He wore a somewhat dejected expression. “I understand you be holdin’ a fundraiser here.”Bookmark here

“I be!” she answered with vigilant cheeriness.Bookmark here

“An’ chargin’ dese fools—er, folks—to be usin’ da School Dungeon? Dat right?”Bookmark here

“Yep!”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m shuttin’ it down.” Headmaster took his metre stick stylus from the stoic butler and folded it into a stylus megaphone to address the entire crowd. “Listen here! As of dis very moment, ya’ll may enter da School Dungeon free of charge!”Bookmark here

Rowdiness ensued as students rushed to the elevator, cramming in like vacuum-packed sardines.Bookmark here

“But sir,” Lumpy said, “what’s this about?”Bookmark here

The head of the school shook his head. “I just caught wind of an update put forth by CEO Claudius. The gov’ment contacted me a moment ago, sayin’ nobody can be chargin’ fools fo gov’ment-related stuff no more. Glove Alien Fight is just dat. It ain’t legal now, dis fundraiser. Dis School Dungeon is a public facility operated by da T.G.E. Access has gotta be easy an’ free, ya hear?”Bookmark here

“Hmm.” Skater Girl tightened her lips as she thought. “The T.G.E. just now issued this order?”Bookmark here

“Correct,” Headmaster said. “Apparently, they knew we was holdin’ dis fundraiser, so they told me to step in an’ pull da plug.”Bookmark here

“That’s oddly…odd,” Lumpy murmured. He looked at Adele, who had a worried expression. “When did they find out?”Bookmark here

“Moments ago.”Bookmark here

“Hmph.” Graphite grunted. “The government works fast when they want to.”Bookmark here

Because of Snickerdoodle’s collar alert, the fundraiser team knew the Cohort Squadron had been spying on the area. They exchanged glances, sharing each other’s suspicions.Bookmark here

“Well,” Quintegrity said, “we weren’t forcing people to pay to get in. It was just for our guided tours.”Bookmark here

“Ya were still makin’ revenue! No money can be exchanged fo unlicensed an’ unapproved stuff regardin’ Glove Alien Fight. Ya won’t be doin’ any fundraisers fo da School Dungeon. End of story.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity blinked a couple times, then smiled. “In the name of the Super Club—”Bookmark here

“Revoked! Dis is beyond me. It’s da law. Also, I have another thing I need to talk to ya about, Quinn.” Headmaster brandished a very serious-looking piece of paper and held it in front of the shining girl’s face. “Dis here be da ‘Article of Super Club Authority’ issued by me an’ da Southbound Thugwood High School Committee of Old People Whom Kids Hate. As such, it overrules any overruling da Super Club has over my decisions. I mentioned a while ago dis was comin’, so don’t act surprised.”Bookmark here

Quintegrity took the Article of Super Club Authority and stared at it. The narrowing of her eyes didn’t appear angry, though. In fact, she seemed more ashamed than anything.Bookmark here

Making sure he had Lumpy’s and Adele’s attention, Headmaster continued, “Take da time to read its details, but it pretty much does away wit da Super Club’s ability to do whatever da heck ya’ll please. An’ other fundraisers ya have after dis, da school will be taxin’ some of yer earnin’s, but we’ll let ya keep whatchoo make today. An’…where da heck is dat Rover fool at???”Bookmark here

“Tch.” Adele scoffed at Headmaster. She turned to Quintegrity, but was surprised to see the girl was not only compliant, but even somewhat…upset?Bookmark here

“After certain events,” Headmaster said as Quintegrity kept her eyes glued to the document, “it’s come to my attention dat puttin’ my full trust in Quinn was dumb.” He looked at the girl in question. “You is a good girl, Quinn. Smart, ambitious…but needin’ a lil’ intervention to keep ya in check. At first, you did good helpin’ ’round da school wit ya Super Club work, donatin’ da earnin’s ya made…but now it looks like you do things just fo yo self. No more.”Bookmark here

“Yes, sir.” Quintegrity lowered the paper and bowed her head. “I apologize for being too funky for you to handle.”Bookmark here

“Now, get dis ticket booth outta here.”Bookmark here

The enormous elevator doors hissed and parted as a group of almost twenty people returned to the Big Tower lobby. Impatient students pulled the elevator passengers out, unwilling to wait another second to explore the School Dungeon. The fundraiser team noticed the arriving students were all dazed, some appearing downright defeated—among them was Rover, and his wide eyes and clammy skin hinted more toward terror.Bookmark here

Seeing her boyfriend, Quintegrity’s mood lifted up to the stars. She tucked the document into her pants pocket and bunny-hopped over to him where she smiled and tousled his hair.Bookmark here

“You’re late, Rover,” she said with zero dissatisfaction in her voice.Bookmark here

“There you are!” Adele tapped her foot as Rover hobbled over to the rest of the fundraiser team. Seeing her brother’s glassy eyes, her frown sagged further. “The heck is your problem, Big Bro?”Bookmark here

“I seent some shit,” Rover murmured, his pitiful voice like a tormented soul escaping from his dead body. His posture made it look like his spine was supported with toothpicks and shoestrings.Bookmark here

“Let me guess,” Lumpy chuckled, giving his friend a chastising grin. “You went to the third floor.”Bookmark here

Rover gave a weak nod. “Uh-huh.”Bookmark here

“What’d ya see?” Skater Girl asked Rover. “You look…roughed up.”Bookmark here

A twitchy smile gave Rover’s lips the life energy of a headless insect. “You all remember the final boss in Glove Alien Fight’s normal story? Skullface Crusherpants…”Bookmark here

“Y-Yeah,” Adele replied. “Don’t tell me…”Bookmark here

“He was guarding a huge door on third floor. And…there were three of him…”Bookmark here

What?!” Lumpy spat. “Three?!”Bookmark here

“Everyone who showed up after me,” Rover continued through his shivers as his pupils dilated, “they all teamed up with me…but we couldn’t do it… I even sacrificed my only Second Chance Bangle… If only I’d had my VR headset…” He buried his face into his hands before exploding, “We couldn’t get past the three of them!!!”Bookmark here

Skater Girl adjusted her backwards flat bill cap. “Sounds like you’ll need a big group and at least one person who can summon Baha Mutt or something.” Her smile broadened. “Someone like me.”Bookmark here

The others looked at the punky girl.Bookmark here

“You?” Graphite asked in disbelief.Bookmark here

“Yep,” she replied with a proud smirk. “I just leveled up my Legion Lord Glove Aliens to full capacity two days ago. Took a few days of straight grinding, but Baha Mutt is mine to control!”Bookmark here

Hands clutched both of Skater Girl’s shoulders, and before she knew it, Rover was pulling her close while wearing a violent grimace.Bookmark here

“Then you’re coming with us,” Rover growled. He turned to the rest of the group. “I don’t care if I gotta use my phone for this! Everyone…let’s raid the third floor now!!!”Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,035Bookmark here

AthletaCom Points… 12Bookmark here

All Money… {T}337,705Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}12,705Bookmark here

Fundraiser… {T}324,000Bookmark here

Food Slip… {T}1,000Bookmark here

<<<EXPENSE GOALS>>>Bookmark here

Anti-Grav Skateboard… {T}499,999Bookmark here

<<<CURRENT EQUIPMENT>>>Bookmark here

Weapon… Ancient MagusBookmark here

Armor… Brutal SuitBookmark here

Acc. 1… Yakuza ToolsBookmark here

Acc. 2… <None>Bookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

<None>Bookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

#1, #10Bookmark here

<<<LEGENDARY COGS>>>Bookmark here

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