Chapter 53:

Vol. 2, Ch. 28: A Most Pretentious Affair Fit for Royalty

The Integrity of the Super Club [Beta version]

Coldshoulder Square in Eastbound Thugwood was abuzz on Feefee-day with Captain Pretentious’ fans awaiting the match between their prissy idol and Rover’s longstanding rival. Graphite waited in the cliff-side parking lot and readied his VR headset and game controller. He was surrounded by at least two hundred people, most holding signs in worship of the miniscule maiden with phrases like “Pretentious erases Graphite.” However, about a quarter of the crowd were in favor of Graphite, and the boy felt humbled by his supporters.Bookmark here

Tallyhawk remained by Graphite’s side as everyone else assumed their stakeout posts, and she merely gave him someone to talk with before the match.Bookmark here

“People are here for me,” the boy said, his pencil-lead eyes showing awe as he moved his gaze across the crowd.Bookmark here

“Ya made a name for yourself after smashing Rover in that table-turning match,” Tallyhawk replied, adjusting her earpiece.Bookmark here

“It feels…weird.”Bookmark here

“But good, right?”Bookmark here

“Heh-heh, hell yeah.”Bookmark here

Across the street, Rover sat on a rooftop, concealing himself under a big cardboard box. His scowl practically burned a hole through his VR headset visor as he moved his AR avatar along the roof’s ledge, peering at the congregation in the cliff-side observatory’s parking lot.Bookmark here

“That pretentious little munchkin has an obsession for this place, doesn’t she?” he grumbled.Bookmark here

Lumpy’s amusement was obvious in his voice through the communicators. “And you have a strong hatred for her, don’t you?”Bookmark here

“Well, she’s full of herself and she disrespects people.”Bookmark here

“And you’re not like that?”Bookmark here

“W-Well…um, anyway…let’s not forget that she had one of her pretty boys zap me with a teenager prod before throwing me from her helicopter.”Bookmark here

Isho chuckled as he leaned against the cliff side on the footpath below the observatory where the match would take place. “Yeah, I’d be salty, too.”Bookmark here

“See?!” Rover spat, his cardboard coverage rumbling with his rage. “MH agrees that my anger is justified!”Bookmark here

Hodge sat on a sidewalk bench along a nearby side street, watching the Thugforce Militia helicopter continue its circular patrol overhead. As the heavy chopper’s deep growls faded, another helicopter could be faintly heard in the distance from the other direction. With his novelty telescope, he gazed toward the horizon, seeing the approaching aircraft.Bookmark here

“Heads up,” he said to the others through the Poodle Network. “Inbound helicopter from the east.”Bookmark here

“Is it our maiden of the hour?” Adele snickered as she reached the top of a utility pole.Bookmark here

“I dunno,” the cross-eyed boy replied. “I can’t see it clearly yet.”Bookmark here

Sure enough, when the helicopter drew closer, something dropped from the underside and deployed a parachute with the word “PRETENTIOUS” in neon letters. Again, Rover’s cardboard box shook from his rage as he watched the descending woman through his headset.Bookmark here

Her entrance was identical to the previous time, touching down with choreographed grace on the ground in front of Graphite. Her three groomed boys in their ruffled tuxedo shirts rushed to her side, holding her parachute behind her like a godawful, gaudy backdrop.Bookmark here

With highlighter-flamingo eyes fixated on her opponent, she brought her silk glove-clad hand up as if making a ballerina motion and stabbed her finger in Graphite’s direction.Bookmark here

“Oi, prick!”Bookmark here

Graphite stared, his face wrinkled with disdain.Bookmark here

The little woman’s toothy grin was too huge for her tiny head. “So…you’re not in the mood to face off with Rover Chork today?”Bookmark here

“No,” Graphite replied, seemingly annoyed by Rover’s name more so than his opponent’s mannerisms.Bookmark here

“Did you receive the gift from my albatross?”Bookmark here

The horror came rushing back to Graphite, which he choked down. “Yeah, that was pretty messed up, lady! Rover gave me your personal number, so it wasn’t my fault!” He paused. “Actually…yeah, it kinda was my fault…and Rover even warned me you’d get mad…”Bookmark here

“Pretty fitting for a Condor to get pooped on by an albatross,” she snickered.Bookmark here

“My name has nothing to do with bird shit!”Bookmark here

“Oh-ho-ho-ho!”Bookmark here

Captain Pretentious put her hands on her hips as her stiff, starchy, rainbow-splattered jacket moved up and down with her mega-cheesy laughter. Like a bunch of mimicking parrots, the Captain Pretentious supporters in the crowd all echoed the little woman’s laughter.Bookmark here

She said, “It is okay for you to blame anything you want on Rover. Can you believe that prick asked me to help him with some kind of fundraiser for that augmented reality dungeon? He made a good point, though, saying it’d be good publicity for me and good money for him.”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Graphite said, “I was part of that fundraiser. As the gods would have it, I go to the same school as that sewer rat.”Bookmark here

“Sewer rat?!” Rover squawked as he could clearly hear Captain Pretentious through Graphite’s earpiece. “Why you—”Bookmark here

Captain Pretentious shrugged, stroking her frosty hair with a gloved hand and adjusting her kitty ear headband. “Oh, right, right. I forgot you’re that water flea’s schoolmate.”Bookmark here

Rover grit his teeth. “Water flea?!?”Bookmark here

“Trust me, it keeps me awake at night,” Graphite sneered.Bookmark here

“And I hope your insomnia haunts you for all eternity!” Rover spat.Bookmark here

“It doesn’t matter,” Captain Pretentious said, setting up the game on her tablet. “Lowly pleeberz like you are all in the same caste, anyway. I’m doing you a favor by gracing your inferior ears with my soothing voice, and allowing you to feast your eyes upon me!”Bookmark here

Even from his perspective, Rover could see the irritation welling up on Graphite’s face.Bookmark here

Rover snickered. “Hey, G. I have a secret for you.” His menacing grin cracked from ear to ear. “Call her by her real name: Gertrude Flubberbulge.”Bookmark here

“Man, you’re evil, R,” Adele said with a small smirk.Bookmark here

“Nothing to say, eh?” Captain Pretentious remarked, purposely testing Graphite’s patience.Bookmark here

“For one,” Graphite growled, his controller shaking as his grip tightened, “feasting my eyes on an underdeveloped body like yours is borderline pedophilia.”Bookmark here

Gasps from the little woman’s supporters swept the crowd. The drastic shift on her face made her appear like a possessed puppet. Wanting to douse the flame with more gasoline, Graphite continued.Bookmark here

“Secondly…today is the day everyone will remember as the day I took Special Number 4 from Gertrude Flubberbulge!”Bookmark here

Rover closed his eyes, savoring a fine moment, marinating in the shrilling fury of Captain Pretentious’ voice coming from his earpiece.Bookmark here

53!53@53#53$53%53^53&53*53(53)53_53+53Bookmark here

Skater Girl hovered high above the ground between two close buildings, chuckling. “Now that the pleasantries are over, the match is beginning. Everyone in position?”Bookmark here

Each support team member confirmed they were ready. Skater Girl kept an eye on the game through her phone’s coding vision, ready to peek out and search for incoming enemies when the timer counted down.Bookmark here

However, something was wrong. Just as she noticed the peculiar information in the game’s code, Graphite spoke up through the communicators.Bookmark here

“Hey, SG,” he said shortly, “you said this was gonna be a Strongest Hero match, so why the hell is this a Ring Finder match?!”Bookmark here

“What?!” Rover flung the cardboard box off himself, his eyes stinging from the sudden sunlight as he flipped up his VR visor. Sure enough, he saw the crowd of spectators—Ring Hiders—disperse in all directions. “People are scattering!”Bookmark here

“All eyes on the Ring Hiders!” Tallyhawk called through the earpieces as she scurried down the fire escape of the building she’d been atop. “Everyone move! Change your vantage points!”Bookmark here

“We can’t see the rings through our devices,” Adele muttered as she scrambled down the utility pole, “and I didn’t bring my notepad to write down their locations!”Bookmark here

Lumpy said, “Track as many Ring Hiders as you can to get an idea of where they dropped their rings. It’s all we can do right now.”Bookmark here

Staring at her gaming phone, the punky girl shook her head. “I…I don’t know why. This doesn’t make any sense! I had a program in place to constantly monitor the pairing parameters for the match randomization. If Captain Pretentious had had any AR matches, which would change the randomization, I’d be alerted instantly and would tell Graphite exactly who he’d have to have an extra match against to ensure a Strongest Hero game…”Bookmark here

“First of all, SG,” Graphite grunted as he watched the Ring Hiders around him dart off in all directions, “you’re explanation is way too long. Also, have a little faith in me, dammit!!! This ain’t my first Ring Finder match, guys! It’s how I beat Rover…remember…?”Bookmark here

From the rooftop, Rover alternated between using his own eyes and his character’s perspective through the headset, watching as many Ring Hiders as possible. Watching the players’ behavior and the avatars’ animation, he could get an idea of where the rings were dropped.Bookmark here

But we still have two people who can see the rings, anyway.Bookmark here

“Q and SG,” he said, “the ball is mostly in your court right now.”Bookmark here

“I know.” Quintegrity’s reply was unusually short, which bothered Rover.Bookmark here

“Even with Rubber Ducky quacking up our asses,” he said, “this match depends on you. I know we’re a little safer now because we can tell when our lines are being tapped. Just don’t get caught! That’s the most important thing!”Bookmark here

“Why does it matter?” Hodge asked, also sounding out of breath. “Are ya guys scared of the Cohort Squadron or something? I think they’re cool!”Bookmark here

“Yeah,” Graphite muttered, “you guys are way too paranoid about the Cohort Squadron, which is what they want. We aren’t doing anything wrong here. They’re just trying to scare us.”Bookmark here

Tallyhawk said, “It’s crazy you were in the School Dungeon during that…event, Graphite. I mean…maybe you should be a little worried.”Bookmark here

“A little worried?” Graphite thought it over. “Maybe a little…”Bookmark here

Rover didn’t know what to say. “It’s just…the more we keep our actions a secret…the better. Right?”Bookmark here

After a moment, Isho said, “I guess. But you’re still being paranoid.”Bookmark here

I wish that’s all it was, Rover thought.Bookmark here

“SG,” he said, trying to sound calm while changing the subject, “don’t beat yourself up over getting the match type wrong. You probably made a little mistake in your calculations or your program to monitor the match randomizations. Coding is complex, so it happens.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl still hadn’t left her spot, hovering between the two close buildings as she pored over the codes.Bookmark here

“No,” she grunted, gripping her gaming phone in frustration. “I didn’t mess up. There’s another factor in the randomization that I hadn’t realized until now…”Bookmark here

“Ha-ha-ha!”Bookmark here

She spun around at the sound of some haughty, dumb laughter. One of the ruffled tuxedo shirt-boys drifted up to her, riding on his own Anti-Grav skateboard. She switched off her earpiece, not wanting to interrupt her teammates’ coordination with whatever conversation was coming.Bookmark here

“That laugh tells me you know something,” she said with half-lidded eyes.Bookmark here

“Of course I do.” His grin and teeth were too perfect. “I’d be fired if I don’t display enough pretentiousness, after all.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl glanced out of the alley. She had a game to tend to, but…Bookmark here

“How’d you know?” she asked, unable to hide the quivers of desperation in her voice. “There’s another factor in the match randomization.”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“Finding out the randomization’s calculations is one thing,” she said. “Anyone with enough coding knowledge could look into it if they were curious.”Bookmark here

“Also yes.” He was enjoying making Skater Girl explain things.Bookmark here

“However, it’s a whole different story to realize what I just realized. There’s a glitch potential in the process. A logical paradox among certain commands in the randomization programming.” She cracked a smirk. “You’re just bluffing. There’s no way you knew.”Bookmark here

That is a no,” the boy told her. “Although, I’m not the one who figured it out.”Bookmark here

In a flash, he was directly in front of Skater Girl, giving her a hungry look. She backed away, not caring how handsome he was.Bookmark here

“The Captain is of superior status and wealth compared to most Thugwoodians,” he explained, “so she has connections. That’s how she knows exclusive info about Glove Alien Fight. She also knows about you and your plan to make sure the matches were Strongest Hero ones, which are favorable for your sizable support team.”Bookmark here

“Bullshit,” Skater Girl told him. “There’s no way she could know that.”Bookmark here

“Well, it was more like a hunch. Both she and Benedict Torrent have been watching you guys closely because you guys are a major influence in the trends of AR matches and stuff. It’s their jobs to keep track of such things. That’s when they noticed something peculiar since your match with Wildebeest Squittoo last week. Since then, everyone in your group here has had nothing but Strongest Hero AR matches, even the small skirmishes that didn’t have any Special Numbers or fame or other major stakes. It’s common knowledge who’s on Rover’s team, so you’re hot topics online.”Bookmark here

Skater Girl forced a smirk. “Heh, we couldn’t keep it hidden…”Bookmark here

Although, I doubt they know about Quinn. Even if people know she spends time around Rover, she’s been staying under the radar…I think.Bookmark here

“So, the Captain and Benedict discussed this peculiarity. For one, they wondered if you guys somehow had a way to guarantee a desired match type. Assuming you did, they wondered why you’d do that. Why the Strongest Hero matches specifically? They had theories, one of which involved taking advantage of your big, coordinated support team because Ring Finder matches were sketchy for support and Deathmatches totally left no room for support.Bookmark here

“With that in mind, the Captain consulted her insiders to get the scoop on possible ways of predicting or determining the match randomization. She learned that the match types aren’t truly random and are predictable, and she also learned of a glitch in the randomization calculations that happens when someone sets up an AR match and cancels before it begins. Since most people would never suspect artificial randomness, the glitch wasn’t an issue and actually promoted more randomness. Still, that was how she learned of the glitch. Today, she purposely caused that glitch to occur to test her hunch that you guys were doing what you’re doing…and that hunch has just been confirmed as a fact.”Bookmark here

Damn! Skater Girl gritted her teeth. I overlooked that when I put my monitoring code into effect. I’m so stupid…Bookmark here

There was a short silence as the boy gave Skater Girl another once-over.Bookmark here

“I like your hair, by the way,” he added. “You’re a natural sapphy, and your dyed streaks appear to be Caesium Chloride Fire No. 7, am I right? I know a lot about hair and fashion.”Bookmark here

She turned away, increasing the distance between them.Bookmark here

“Don’t you have some rings to track?” she asked in a harsh tone.Bookmark here

“Not really,” he replied with a shrug. “The Captain decided that this match isn’t about winning. She couldn’t care less about collecting the Special Number items herself, and it’s not common for her to lose AR matches. Glove Alien Fight isn’t what she’s rich and famous for. Instead, this match is business for her.”Bookmark here

“Business? What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“I mean a most pretentious affair fit for royalty.” The boy flashed a dismissive smile before turning away. “You’ll see.”Bookmark here

He took off down the narrow alleyway before soaring over the rooftops, leaving the punky girl confused. She switched her earpiece back on, wondering how she’d explain this news to the others after the match.Bookmark here

“SG here. What’d I miss?”Bookmark here

Rover replied, “There you are. Everyone else said who they wanna see in concert.”Bookmark here

That’s the code, Skater Girl thought. The Cohort Squadron is tapping our lines.Bookmark here

“Sevengust,” she said, flicking her eyes toward the sky. “Also, there’s some stuff I really need to tell you guys after this match.”Bookmark here

53!53@53#53$53%53^53&53*53(53)53_53+53Bookmark here

The match ended with Graphite as the victor. It wasn’t surprising, considering Captain Pretentious had a really hard time running after her character. When the Thugforce Militia chopper headed off and the Poodle Network was no longer wiretapped, Quintegrity kept a low profile until she confirmed the Cohort Squadron helicopter had left as well.Bookmark here

“Rubber Ducky hung around for a little longer than usual,” she told everyone over the communicators, peeking out of the palmaple tree she was hiding in with Snickerdoodle.Bookmark here

“That’s expected,” Rover murmured, looking at the horizon from the building he was on. He sighed. “Man…”Bookmark here

“The Great Will of All Things Funky tells me they’re gone, though,” Quintegrity said. “What say you, Snickerdoodle? Are they gone?”Bookmark here

The pup scanned the area with his utility collar’s magic radar. A little satellite dish extended from the device, spinning around to search for the Cohorts’ signal. When it retracted back into the collar, Snickerdoodle grinned at Quintegrity and nodded.Bookmark here

“Snickerdoodle says we’re clear!” she said. “It’s safe enough to scream your private Social Serenity number and crush’s name over the airwaves! Hee-hee!”Bookmark here

Rover grunted. “N-No, don’t do that…”Bookmark here

Captain Pretentious returned to the parking lot after the match to speak with Graphite. Because she’d gotten lost, scared, and worn out from the physical exertion of chasing her avatar, one of her groomed boys had to pick her up in the helicopter and fly her back—a whole three blocks. Sitting in a foldout lawn chair, she chugged a bottle of barley-scented Wisewater.Bookmark here

“You did well, prick. Enjoy Special Number 4.”Bookmark here

“My name is Graphite.”Bookmark here

“I know…Graphite.”Bookmark here

He furrowed his brow at the chastising woman. “One of your boys had a meeting with my teammate. She told me that, according to him, you knew about our plan to make our AR matches the Strongest Hero types.”Bookmark here

Catching her breath, she said, “That’s right. It was a fun theory to test, and it solidifies that Rover is corrupt and corrupts everyone around him.” She chugged the rest of the Wisewater and tossed the empty bottle to the side. One of her boys snatched it out of the air as if the act was rehearsed. “It’s also to let you know that you pleeberz aren’t the invincible hotshots you think you are! But that’s not my main goal for today. I’m not here for the match, to teach brats a lesson, nor to provide more useless proof that Rover is a microbe in a constipated cockroach’s butt—we all know that already. I’m here for business.”Bookmark here

“Business?” Graphite raised an eyebrow.Bookmark here

“That’s right. It’s about that notable school club at Southbound. Rover said he’s part of it.”Bookmark here

Annoyed, Graphite puffed some air out his nostrils. “Yeah, he sure is.”Bookmark here

“Tell him to come here,” she demanded, trying to sound tough as she still caught her breath, using her hand to fan her flushed, sweaty face. “I know he’s here because you all work together.”Bookmark here

“Tell her I’m not available,” Rover said, having heard Captain Pretentious through Graphite’s earpiece. He snuck down the ladder of the building he was on.Bookmark here

Graphite smiled at Captain Pretentious. “Rover said he’ll be right here.”Bookmark here

“You asshole!” Rover snarled.Bookmark here

Suddenly, his body was wracked with pain and he fell to the alley ground. Above him was a tuxedo shirt-boy with a teenager prod. The boy slung Rover over his shoulder and trotted to the little woman.Bookmark here

The groomed boy presented to his master one crumpled Rover, tossing him on the ground like a sack of potato-melons before Captain Pretentious. The woman stood up, being sure Rover looked directly into her eyes, and she pressed the sole of her knee-high boot into his sternum, snickering.Bookmark here

Graphite had to bite his lip, but his chuckles still managed to escape.Bookmark here

“I saw some livestreams yesterday,” she told Rover, removing her boot from his chest. “It appeared to be that fundraiser you told me about.”Bookmark here

Rover burped up some smoke.Bookmark here

“I’m also aware that it was shut down by your headmaster,” she continued, walking in a slow circle around the burnt boy, keeping her arms crossed and back straight. “That new law went into effect for banning capitalization of Glove Alien Fight without permission from the T.G.E.” She looked down at him. Despite her short stature, her condescension gave Rover the illusion that she was kilometres above him. “I desire to speak to the person in charge of your club.”Bookmark here

“Hi!”Bookmark here

“Whoa!”Bookmark here

Captain Pretentious jumped from fright as Quintegrity’s greeting blindsided her. One of the groomed boys shrank away from the glowing girl, pressing his thighs together to avoid peeing himself again.Bookmark here

“You wanted to speak to me?” Quintegrity asked, her mighty smile threatening to melt the grumpiness off Captain Pretentious’ cold heart. She did a perfect curtsey. “I’m Quinn Integrity, the president of the Super Club at Southbound Thugwood High School.”Bookmark here

A perfect curtsey! Captain Pretentious was captivated by this charming creature.Bookmark here

“Y-Yes…I have some business to discuss.” She cast an unfriendly gaze down at Rover, who had just regained enough strength to crawl and groan. “It’s regarding a proposal this boy had for me.”Bookmark here

The rest of the Super Club and its associates arrived, curious as to what was happening.Bookmark here

“Ooh, a proposal.” Quintegrity was intrigued. She grinned. “Rover told me. You want to talk about Operation Last Frontier, no?”Bookmark here

“About what?”Bookmark here

“The School Dungeons.”Bookmark here

“Yes.” Captain Pretentious’ catlike smile was a perfect match for her kitty ear headband, and she crossed her arms. “Like I said…I’m here for business, and I foresee a partnership that could benefit both our parties.”Bookmark here

*******Bookmark here

<<<STATUS>>>Bookmark here

Rover… Lvl 1,173Bookmark here

AthletaCom Points… 12Bookmark here

All Money… {T}337,705Bookmark here

Allowance… {T}336,705Bookmark 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… Knight SweaterBookmark here

Acc. 1… Meme CannonBookmark here

Acc. 2… Getaway SocksBookmark here

<<<PERIPHERALS>>>Bookmark here

ControllerBookmark here

VR HeadsetBookmark here

<<<SPECIAL NUMBERS>>>Bookmark here

#1, #4, #10Bookmark here

<<<LEGENDARY COGS>>>Bookmark here

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