Robynne exited the food court in the Billot Building while sipping her extra large smoothie. Deepwater didn’t have a smoothie place. Normally, she wouldn’t have justified drinking a smoothie as a replacement for lunch, but all the lines for real food were too long. Plus, this had a mixture of bananas, kiwis, oranges, and other fruits, so that had to be okay.
How had the food court filled up so quickly? It was only 11:15 in the morning. Robynne would have figured that was too early for most people to eat lunch. Then again, with the Club Week thing happening outside of the Billot Building, there probably were a lot more people hanging around here than normal. Or maybe, with a campus of over twenty-five thousand students, the place would always be crowded.
Robynne was pleased that Nick joined her in line before heading to class. She could feel eyes on her in the mess of people, and could tell that the guy in front of them would have really liked to chat her up. Having Nick there helped create a shield as Robynne had already been in conversation with someone else. However, with Nick heading off to his next class, Robynne was making a beeline for the exit. Standing around idle was asking for some extroverted dude to try and become her friend or worse.
Robynne found a side exit away from the mess of insanity out the Billot Building’s front door. The sea of clubs was a cacophony of yelling, sound systems, and pushy club representatives. She had made the mistake of coming in the front way with Nick. Not even Nick’s conversational presence could shield Robynne from aggressive sorority recruiters trying to hand her flyers. For those she had to resort to the tried and true tactic of saying, “No thanks,” politely repeatedly and never slowing her pace. Avoiding eye contact was also a key component to Robynne’s strategy.
With no class for an hour, Robynne thought now was as good a time as any to see if this nerd club Eli and Cory had gone on about yesterday was all it was cracked up to be. Apparently they had an Aspect Realms group. That reason alone was enough to get Robynne to check it out. She needed someone to play with who didn’t associate her character, Bluster, with Robert. A new guild on a new server was likely a great solution.
Robynne sighed and took another sip. During her Intro to Digital Media Arts class, she had finally sent her “resignation” post on the Mayhem Templar forums. She’d had to unfriend everyone from her guild when she got home so they didn’t see her starting up on a new server. She chastised herself for not paying attention to class and focusing on something as trivial as associations with people from a digital source. She was already starting a week behind on classes. Thankfully, she was only one lecture behind in her Tuesday-Thursday classes, but she had already missed three days-worth of classes in her Monday-Wednesday-Friday block. She really should be focusing more on that. Not missing out on friendships with people she had never seen in real life.
But those friendships were still real to her. No matter how much she logically tried to explain that idea away, she knew she cared about the guys in the Mayhem Templar. Their comradery had gotten Robert through the end of high school. And now that she was on a text-only relationship with her Uncle, she knew she’d miss her old friends.
That reminded Robynne to check her phone. She had been surprised her Uncle had bought the story about her phone’s receiver no longer working so all she could do was text him. He normally seemed a little more curious. But Robynne couldn’t deny that even if it was just seeing his text, she felt better having an actual dialogue with her uncle. In some ways it was even better because they were responding to one another the entire day instead of just long conversations when he got off of work. Nothing could substitute for hearing his voice, but constant communication was at least an acceptable placeholder.
As luck would have it, she had one new text: “So do you need me to send you a new phone? I have not checked yet but I think yours might be up for replacement soon.”
Robynne bit her lip. That wasn’t good. She needed a lie that could hold him off for a few weeks. “No, don’t worry about it. I actually have a friend who used to work in phone repair. He’ll take a look for free.” Robynne gave a sigh of relief and put her phone back in her backpack. Hopefully that would hold Uncle Taylor off for a while. He was a naturally frugal person. Potential money savings should buy her some time.
As Robynne made her way around the Billot Building the roar of music, laughter, and yelling caused by Club Week got louder. Eli had mentioned this Nerd Club had been on the edges of the party but had never specified which edge. Robynne hoped she had come out on the right side of the building. Though it wouldn’t be the end of the world, it would have been horribly inconvenient to have to walk all the way around. Of course, she could just walk through the center but navigating that stampede sounded like even more work to Robynne than walking around an entire building.
Robynne found a table off by itself with a gaggle of guys standing around. There may have been a few girls too but Robynne couldn’t tell from this distance. However, everyone in that group seemed to either be tall and lanky or short and portly. It may have been profiling, but Robynne suspected this was the group she was looking for. As she got closer, she could see they had a large flat screen display and they were playing Tour de Rock with the plastic instruments that made up that game. This was definitely the group.
Not counting the people manning the booth, Robynne could see about a dozen people standing around. She found it interesting that they were standing there and chatting. Most of the other club booths that she observed had people flittering around. It probably was a good sign if people were just hanging out.
As she approached, she could hear one of the people manning the desk talking louder than the others. It was a girl’s voice, and she was very chipper. “-nd we go as a big group. The last few times we’ve even had a theme going.”
A much more timid voice responded, “Really? Wow. That sounds way cooler than when I went by myself.”
“That’s because it totally is!” Robynne made her way to the back of the group, still unable to see anything over all the much taller men and women surrounding the booth. Gummi how she hated being short.
A guy let out a quick, loud whistle to get people’s attention. “Hey everyone, if we could not crowd the table so potential members could see us, that’d be awesome.”
A few of the people in the crowd chuckled and gave their apologies. They parted, and suddenly, Robynne felt all eyes on her. That uncomfortable feeling of being watched crawled over her skin and other sense. Why did she have to be do donuted curvy?
The guy who had whistled looked down on Robynne and smiled. He was on the taller side – maybe a tad taller than Robert had been. Unlike the scarecrows and doughboys that surrounded the table, he was actually pretty fit. Judging by his arms, he at least worked out a little. His hair was stylized mess that looked like it belonged more on a skater or a hipster rocker. The color of it was a shade of black that bordered on a very dark blue. What was this color called? Midnight bluenette? Robynne was never going to keep these all straight.
Then he looked at Robynne, and she was struck by his eyes. They were a bright blue that reminded Robynne of ice. They were inviting and friendly. They were… pretty. And Robynne was not comfortable with that thought. “Hey there. You interested in sci-fi or fantasy?”
Strangely, with all the eyes Robynne could feel on her from the now awestruck boys and the jealous girls, she didn’t get the feeling that this guy’s eyes were lingering on her. They were looking her straight in her own eyes. And now that she was focusing on him, she noticed he had an aura about him that felt like the smooth texture of crushed velvet.
Robynne forget herself in the sea confusing sensations and, admittedly, his eyes. He had asked her a question. “Oh, well, I guess you could say that.” She approached the table. She didn’t like how everyone in the gaggle had parted way for her like she was some dignitary in a crowd. “I’m mostly into gaming myself. My buddies told me ya’ll have an Aspect Realms group?”
The guy squinted his icy eyes curiously. He opened his mouth to answer, but a female voice excitedly answered for him, “Sure do!” Robynne was very surprised to find the girl standing next to this guy. She just hadn’t noticed her. She actually was kind of cute. She wasn’t a supermodel or anything, but, well, she was a cute, natural redhead with an overenthusiastic grin. But the most striking feature of this girl had to be the eye-patch she wore over her left eye. That was slightly different than what Robynne had been expecting. “Name’s GalleyGirl. We’ve got a pretty good guild going. We’re raiding three nights a week! We always could use more raiders though! What’s your name?”
Robynne scratched the back of her head. She watched as this “GalleyGirl” gave her a second examination. It reminded Robynne of the appraising look Angela had given her the first time she exited the teleporting stone as a girl. Were girls always comparing themselves to one another? Even ones who wore eye patches? “Oh, well, I’m actually more of a PvP, battleground type. Though, I mean, I’m mostly looking for people to hang out with as I play. Do ya’ll have a GuildChat channel?”
GalleyGirl nodded. “Oh yeah. Super active. It’s my home away from home!”
The guy leaned forward on the table, his eyes filled with curiosity. They were locked with hers, and between his eyes and his aura, Robynne was having a hard time thinking straight. “I’m sorry, but your voice sounds familiar. Do you play Corona Forge?”
Robynne raised an eyebrow. “On an extremely rare occasions.” The only time she had played Corona Forge as a girl was yesterday when she had been accosted by those idiots. “But not often, no.”
The guy shrugged, “Huh. Sorry, your voice is just similar to a girl I was playing with yesterday named Blustery. Had your accent.”
Robynne looked away, partly to stop staring into his eyes and partly to mask her surprise. “Well, my handle isn’t Blustery.” It wasn’t a complete lie. After yesterday’s brainstorming session with Noriko, she was no longer Bluster or Blustery.
“Ah,” the guy said with disappointment. “Too bad. She was pretty good. Suppose it was super long odds anyway.”
“What’s your name by chance?”
“Huh? Oh, Eddie, but I go by Fretribution. Most everyone in the club goes by their handle.”
Robynne froze. Fretribution? That was the guy who actually stood up for her. Well, he stood up for her after she had burned those dudes who were being tools, but he still stood up for her. What were the odds that this guy would be in the same university, in the exact club Robynne had been told by Cory and Eli to join, and that he’d have eyes she’d get lost in? She cursed Fate, assuming the transdimensional being had something to do with this.
Robynne made it a point to not make eye contact with him. “Neat.” She glanced back to GalleyGirl and pointed, “So what’s up with the eye patch?”
She grinned, “Well, my name is GalleyGirl – so pirate.”
Robynne squinted, “So pirate? That’s your reason?”
Fretribution laughed and shook his head. “GalleyGirl here is sort of our unofficial officer of the cosplay group. She looks for any excuse to dress up in some way.”
GalleyGirl laughed and shrugged, “Hey, got to get attention to the booth somehow. Cosplays, no matter how limited, can do that.”
Robynne tried to hide her disagreement with that statement. “Better bad press than no press?”
If GalleyGirl picked up on Robynne’s sarcasm she didn’t show it. Instead she bounced up as if she just had an exciting idea. “Oh my goodness, do you watch anime? Please, tell me you at least cosplay!”
Robynne took a step back, casting an askance glance in Fretribution’s direction, “I mean, I’ve seen a few animes but…”
GalleyGirl had an idea in her head, and it seemed she wasn’t going to slow down for something as trivial as Robynne finishing her sentence, “Have you seen Dance of Blossoms? You’d be so a total deadringer for Meokashi Sakura!”
Robynne frowned. She hadn’t watched that specific anime, but fanart of Meokashi Sakura was all over the internet. She was the resident fanservice character in the show who, just so happened, to have hair as red as blood and breasts bigger than her head. Robynne wasn’t that busty! “Sorry, not really my cup of tea.”
“Dance of Blossoms or cosplaying?”
GalleyGirl smiled but her shoulders sagged, “Aw, that’s too bad. I mean, if you did, you’d really…”
Fretribution cleared his throat. “But you’re interested in Aspect Realms, you say?”
Robynne smirked. This guy could read her much better than GalleyGirl apparently. He could tell this cosplay conversation was making her rather uncomfortable. It took most people longer to learn to read her. Now if she could just be sure to not get lost in his eyes again. “Yeah. As I said, my buddies came over and told me you had a guild. I had to leave mine due to… scheduling conflicts.”
Fretribution picked up a clipboard and looked it over. “Who was it that was recommending you if I might ask?”
“Well two guys and… kind of surprisingly, my two roommates. I don’t know what handles Kara and Vivian went with but the guys, Eli and Cory, use the handles Quack and CannedBurrito.”
Fretribution laughed and tapped his clipboard. “So that’s who CannedBurrito is. Love that name.”
Robynne smiled, “Yeah. Cory’s funny like that.”
Fretribution slid the clipboard to Robynne, “So our Aspect Realms guild is named The Knights of the Spherical Table, but I’m not sure which server it’s on or anything like that.”
Robynne examined the clipboard. It was some sort of sign up sheet where you listed your contact information and promised to pay the club dues. “Knights of the Spherical Table. Clever.”
GalleyGirl giggled, “Well, SaltStorm, the guy who formed it, hates it but says he couldn’t come up with anything better. Anyway, the server we play on is the Stoneraven server.”
Robynne started writing down her personal information. Pens still felt slightly odd to her. They just didn’t sit right in her more dainty fingers. “So you’re big in the guild then?”
GalleyGirl just shrugged. “I guess? I mean, I have officer privileges to add new members to the guild, so I suppose so.”
“So you’re the one I should message when I transfer over? Who should I be looking for?”
GalleyGirl grabbed a sticky note and started writing on it. “My character’s name is the same as mine, GalleyGirl. I’m a Ranidae Avalauncher.” She finished writing on the sticky note and handed it to Robynne. “Just ping me when you get a character on the Stoneraven server, and I can add you.”
Robynne stopped writing. A Ranidae Avalauncher? But the Ranidae were the frog people that were part of the Accord. “You’re a bugeater?” Robynne sheepishly scratched her elbow. “That could be a problem.”
GalleyGirl cocked her head to the side, “What? You one of those people who really hate our Tongue Lash ability?”
“No I… well actually, yes. I hate that. It’s gross that you guys latch onto us via your tongue and immediately close the distance. Now suddenly I have to deal with a tiny frogman in my face. It’s the most overpowered racial ability in the game. It’s essentially a short range teleport. Plus, I should just be able to stomp on you. Ranidae are so small. But that’s not the point… the point is I’m part of the Pact.”
GalleyGirl’s eyes went wide with recognition. “Uh oh! You big into the Accord/Pact war stuff?”
Robynne scratched her the back of her head. “Kind of? I mean, I’m not super into the lore of the war, but I’ve been a hardcore PvPer for two years now.” Robynne stood tall. Well, as tall as you could stand when you were 5’2″. “I got the Bloodhawk title and everything.”
GalleyGirl’s eyes bugged out. Or rather, the eye Robynne could see bugged out. “Bloodhawk? You shittin’ me?”
Fretribution gave GalleyGirl a disapproving glance at her language but didn’t pursue it. Robynne guessed he didn’t want people who manned the booth using salty language… even if they wore pirate-like eye-patches. “I’m assuming that title is impressive?”
Before Robynne could even answer GalleyGirl was explaining it all, “You could only get the title in the early days of the game. It was before there were battlegrounds and such where you had PvP designated areas. To get the Bloodhawk title, or the Warseeker title if you’re on the Accord side, you had to get some insane PvP rating. But there was no place where you could farm it so you had to go to opponent controlled territory and just start killing people around your level. But that attracts more people trying to stop you so, well, soon you’re having to pick off people one by one while reinforcements come.” GalleyGirl pointed to Robynne with an amused smile, “We are in the presence of quite the badass.”
Robynne thought about standing over the subdued Day LaMode and using Geyser of Tranquility to end the monster. Robynne couldn’t help but smirk. “You could say that.”
GalleyGirl looked worried, “So yeah, you’re super into that battle aren’t you?”
Robynne shrugged, “I never got too much into the whole Accord versus Pact stuff, but, I mean, you can only go to battle with so many humans, angels, gargoyles, and frogs until you become at least a little bit of a digital racist.”
GalleyGirl giggled, “Digital racism. Never thought of it like that. Wow. Calling me a bugeater was a total racial slur too. It really is digital racism!” GalleyGirl giggled harder and wiped a tear. Robynne hadn’t thought her joke had been that funny but she wasn’t going to discourage anyone laughing at her jokes. “What do you play as?”
“If you switch over do you get to keep your title? It’d be pretty cool to be one of the only Accords with the Bloodhawk title.”
Robynne shook her head. “Nah. It gets converted to the Warseeker title.”
GalleyGirl stuck her tongue out. “I may be an Accord and hate you Pacts for ganking me all the time when I was leveling, but even I admit that’s not as cool sounding as Bloodhawk.”
GalleyGirl gave a conciliatory smile, “Maybe you could just, I don’t know, start up a new character? I mean, it could be fun to just go through all the Accord quests if you’ve never done them. Get the lore from that side.”
Robynne nodded, “There’s a thought. Though I’m more likely to just transfer anyway. If I start leveling an alt I want to be able to send them gold and such. It’d be worth the extra-cash to faction change just to have all the stuff I’ve worked up for come with me.”
GalleyGirl shrugged, “That makes sense. Well, we’d certainly love having you in our group. I mean, not like many guilds can claim to have a Bloodhawk in them.” She giggled then added, “Especially not Accord guilds.”
Robynne gave an amused nod, “True. But you were saying you guys mostly just do PvE stuff? Dungeon dives. Raids. Does anyone do PvP?”
GalleyGirl nodded. “A couple of people have been trying to get a PvP gang going but it really hasn’t taken off. One of our other officers, ergoAwesome, she’s been part of that. But mostly it’s being headed up by one of our regular members, a guy named NightKnight.” GalleyGirl looked away for a second when mentioning NightKnight. “He’s, uh, well we definitely could use some help.”
The name NightKnight tickled Robynne’s memory for some reason, though she dismissed asking about it. Probably just someone with a name similar to someone else she had fought. “Well, if they are doing battle groups, I’d be all for it. I’d be happy to help. I mean, I love it anyway. It’d be fun to have a guild doing it with me again.”
Fretribution took the clipboard back and smiled. Robynne fought back the urge to think it was a pretty smile. “So other than Aspect Realms, we also have groups that meet other nights. Plus our opening social Friday.”
“Opening Social?” Robynne asked curiously, avoiding eye contact. “What do we do there?”
Fretribution shrugged easily. “Some people bring board games to share. We have a couple of different games going.” He tapped the side of the TV the other booth-goers were playing Tour de Rock on. “I’ll be bringing my music setup.”
Robynne smiled. “This all yours? Nice TV.” She inspected the group playing right now, and for the first time, she payed attention to the actual song. It had been very difficult to hear amongst all the other music being played around Clubs Week but right up against it, Robynne could hear the familiar tune. “Creed of Charisma? That’s not part of the basic song list on Tour de Rock.”
Fretribution swelled with pride. “You know this band?”
“Honey yeah!” Robynne exclaimed. “I was raised on classic stuff like this.”
Fretribution’s smile widened. “Glad to hear someone in this club has good taste and listens to something other than techno and video game remixes.”
Robynne rolled her eyes, “Seriously! I talked about going to a Bolt Train Oversight concert and everyone in my old guild was all, ‘What’s that?'”
“They didn’t know Bolt Train Oversight? What is wrong with people?”
“I know!” Robynne laughed and almost forgot all the eyes on her. It just felt good to talk to someone who understood music properly. “Society is just going downhill. No respect for the classics.”
GalleyGirl shook her head. “Sheesh, I’ll get off you two’s lawn in your rest home.” She turned back to the guy she had been talking to before Robynne arrived and started explaining more about how their cosplay group worked. Robynne felt a little guilty that her appearance had suddenly stolen attention away from him. She was only just beginning to learn how distracting and attention grabbing this body was. Why had she, a person who craved privacy, been given this body? Couldn’t be anything more than a cruel joke
Fretribution picked up the clipboard and smiled. “Don’t listen to her. She’s part of the unwashed, unrocked out masses.”
Robynne nodded. “Clearly.”
“You going to be interested in any of Sphere’s other activities? We have a board game night, people organize show marathons, LAN parties…” he gestured to his television, “My brother and I are planning on throwing a few Tour de Rock nights for people who want to appreciate music the way it was intended.”
Robynne gave him a flat look, “With plastic instruments pretending to actually be rocking?”
He chuckled, “See, now you had to go and make it sound lame.”
Robynne shrugged, “Just the truth.”
Fretribution smirked and glanced back down at the clipboard, “So, Robynne Darling… or should I call you Waveform? What’s the story behind that handle?”
Robynne smiled. After about two hours of discussing it with Noriko yesterday, Waveform had been the handle they settled on. “Wanted something that referred to water but also something physics-y. I’m an M.E. major and, well, let’s just say I really identify with water as sort of my element.”
“M.E.?” Fretribution asked with raised eyebrows. “What’s that? Math… Education?”
Robynne frowned. “Mechanical Engineering.”
Fretribution snapped his finger and nodded. “Engineering. That makes more sense with the line about physics.”
“Regardless, Robynne or Waveform? Which do you prefer?”
Robynne shrugged, “Everyone else seems to use the handles, so I guess Waveform.”
Fretribution waved her off. “Well, that’s just because most people in the club first get acquainted via the website and forums the President before me set up. I myself prefer to be Eddie where possible.” He chuckled, “It’s still pretty weird when someone recognizes me across campus and yells out, ‘Fretribution!’ to get my attention.”
Robynne laughed. “Wait, so you’re the President?”
Fretribution leaned back against the back of the booth. “Someone has to be. Officership can be hard to come by in Spheres. Once one person runs no one seems to want to oppose them. No one was running for President two years ago, and I sort of just said, ‘I’ll do it.’ Since no one ran against me last year I guess they thought I did a good job? Or maybe they just don’t want to put the work in or are too shy or something. I don’t know. I don’t think it’s all that much work. If you’ve got a will to do something in this club, you should consider running for officership yourself.”
Robynne snorted, “Yeah. I’m not exactly a leader of men.” She then thought of her other extra-curricular activities. “And I’m not sure I’d have the time.”
“Just keep an open mind,” he said with encouragement. “You’d be surprised the good you might do.”
Robynne picked up a flyer for the opening social. “I’ll try.” She took a step back, trying to signal her departure was imminent.
“Sure you don’t want to stick around and go a few songs in Tour de Rock?”
Robynne shook her head. “A bit too crowded for me out here. I’ll take a rain check.”
Fretribution pointed with a smile, “I’ll hold you to that, Waveform. You’re coming to the social on Friday?”
Robynne held up her flier as evidence in the affirmative. “Planning on it.”
“You better. If you don’t, I’ll sick that CannedBurrito dude on you, and it sounds like something you wouldn’t want.”
Robynne chuckled at the thought of Cory, gasping, out-of-breath-after-walking-up-a-hill Cory, acting as Spheres’ enforcer. “Good luck with that.” With that the group surrounding the booth parted ways, again making room for Robynne as if she were some royal. No longer distracted by conversation she could feel all the eyes on her. It gave her the creeps so she distracted herself with examining the crushed velvet aura of Fretribution and pondered what that could mean.
Jody rubbed her cheeks. “Ugh! Cammy, I don’t know how much longer I can do this. My cheeks are sore from all this smiling and talking. I need a break.”
Cammy chuckled and tossed her super-curly violette locks back. Jody could practically feel the earth shift from all the heads she turned as the head cheerleader did so. “Oh come on, Jody. You had no problem with this last year.”
Jody lowered her voice and cast a furtive glance over to the booth where the Mu Nu Chi officers sat. “I just don’t see why we need to do this. I mean, yeah, the sorority, like, invites us to parties and such and gets us good connections, but do we really need to go all out to pump up Mu Nu Chi’s pledge numbers?”
Cammy patted Jody on the back in a show of friendly support but lowered her voice too. “We need to pump up all the frats and sororities’ pledge numbers if we are to keep control. We need to go all out.”
Jody sighed, “I guess. Wish we could just trust the Promoters to all of this.”
Cammy smirked and glanced over at Stacy, Lily, and Abigail. “Well, they are doing a great job. They just need a little extra push from their leadership.”
Jody nodded. Cammy was right of course. Though they really were doing a good job, especially the always chipper and outgoing Stacy, it was eye-candy that got people to look, and there was no better eye-candy on the squad than Cammy and herself. “True. True. What about our other problem?”
Cammy huffed and bit her bottom lip. “I would have assumed at this point we would have seen someone of some potential. The only reason I had the Council put the nerds over there was so we could keep an eye out for any potential hot nerds but it seems like we…” Cammy trailed off.
Jody raised an eyebrow. “Like we what?”
Cammy frowned, “Jody. At the beginning of the week I told every cheerleader to keep an eye out for any Nine or above who wasn’t wearing a cheer uniform, correct?”
“Yeah. But like you said. Nines are super rare. There are maybe only one-in-three-thousand.”
“Then, pray tell me my friend,” Cammy said with frustration, “how did all of my cheerleaders miss her!” Cammy pointed an accusatory finger in the direction at the nerd club booth.
Jody turned to look and her jaw practically hit the floor. There, walking out of the midst of the tree-like and stump-like mess of people that made up the nerd club, was a short little scarlette with hair so red Jody was surprised it didn’t light anything on fire. She had a chest that would make most models jealous and an hourglass figure that – and Jody couldn’t believe she thought this – rivaled Cammy’s. And though she was a little on the shorter side, wore no makeup, and walked like a man, Jody knew she was looking at a girl who, if she actually dolled herself up a bit, was a Ten.
Jody swallowed down a lump in her throat, staving off some jealousy. She had to struggle everyday to get herself looking this good. This girl wasn’t even trying! “She just walked away from the nerd club booth. And she’s smiling.”
Cammy scoffed, “No doubt amused by them.”
Jody shrugged, “I don’t know. Seems pretty genuine.”
“As if,” Cammy dismissed. “There is no way we’d get that lucky.” Jody almost laughed. The universe always seemed to find a way to bend to Cammy’s whims. No one had better luck than her. “We can’t lose track of her.” Jody could read Cammy’s calculating eyes. She was already plotting.
Cammy snapped and all three of the Promoters turned from what they were doing and looked over to Cammy. Stacy, eager to please as always jumped forward with all the excitement of a puppy. “Need something, Captain?”
Cammy pointed at the scarlette, her eyes burning with the focus of a drill sergeant. “I need you to follow that girl and find out her name. I don’t care what excuse you have to make up to talk to her but…”
Stacy’s eyes lit up when she saw the scarlette Cammy was pointing at. “Oh her? I, like, actually met her earlier today. She’s in my Introduction to Business class.”
Jody saw that Cammy, for the first time in her life, was at a loss for words. Jody decided to cut in. “You just met her today? You serious? You know who she is?”
“Uh huh!” Stacy said excitedly. “Today was her first day at school. Apparently had to, like, take care of some things back at home before coming to college or something. She is an absolute pistol! And, oh my god, she’s so gorgeous, don’t you think?”
A hint of a smirk curled up at the edges of Cammy’s lips. “You catch her name?”
“Robynne Darling!” Stacy giggled. “Like, isn’t that, like, the cutest name? She’s like a red robin!”
Cammy nodded and Jody smiled. The universe was, once again, giving Cammy exactly what she needed. Though she normally wouldn’t have, she couldn’t have help but tease Cammy a little. “Still think you aren’t that lucky?”
Cammy gave a playful punch to Jody’s shoulder. “Shut up.” Cammy looked Stacy directly in the eye. “You’ll be able to talk to her again? You’re sure of it?”
“Oh yeah!” Stacy giggled. “She likes to sit at the back of class like me. Plus she’s fun to talk to.”
“That’s good,” Cammy explained. “Because she just walked away from the SFEERS booth. She might need be the hot nerd girl I’ve been looking for to join cheer.”
Stacy let her shoulders sag. “Oh, I sort of already tried. I was kind of shocked to find out she, like, had never cheered. I mean, she’s totally the perfect size for a flyer. I told her you’d probably say, ‘yes’ to someone as gorgeous as her but, well, she was pretty, ‘No way, José’ about the whole thing.”
Cammy smiled at Stacy like a proud mother. “Stacy, that’s really good work.”
Stacy blushed at the praise from the head cheerleader. “Thanks, Cammy.” This only made Jody like Stacy more. She really was a go-getter.
Cammy pulled Stacy closer and kept her voice down. “Tell me, when do you see her next?”
Stacy looked down at the ground nervously. “Thursday.”
“I need her on cheer squad.”
Stacy poked her fingers together nervously. “I really don’t think she, like, wants to join. She seemed pretty dead set on that fact.”
Cammy patted Stacy on the back reassuredly. “Oh don’t worry. You don’t have to do a thing. I’m going to recruit her personally. I just need an excuse to talk to her in a natural way.”
Jody raised an eyebrow. Cammy hadn’t gotten in on direct recruitment in over a year. “Really Cammy?”
Cammy nodded, “She’s our only chance of getting a hot nerd and, besides, she’s too hot not to be in our fold. She belongs with us.”
Stacy looked away. “I don’t know. Seems like that’d make her mad. Why do we need a hot nerd girl anyway? I still don’t know the reason for that.”
Cammy flashed her easy, relaxing smile and Jody knew her cheer captain was turning the charm on. When she wanted to, Cammy could get anyone to see it her way. She didn’t know how Cammy did it, but there was just something about her that made people do what she wanted. She was just that charismatic. “Oh it’s less about needing a hot girl and more about her needing us, really.”
Stacy squinted in confusion. “It is?” Jody almost let a chuckle escape. People were just putty in Cammy’s hands.
“Of course!” Cammy insisted. “Did you see her clothes? She’s wearing yellow with hair like that? Those clash horribly! And that skirt is like something my grandma would wear! Not trendy at all.”
Stacy nodded, “I mean, she still looks great in them… though she definitely could be wearing cuter things.”
Cammy nodded, “Of course she could do better. And what with you going into fashion design and all, you’d be the perfect person to help her out! Plus, she didn’t have on a smidge of makeup! On a face like that, why, it’s like a canvas without paint! Such wasted potential!”
Stacy smiled guiltily, “I did think it was a bit of a crime.”
Cammy laughed, “Of course it’s a crime! And I mean, that walk? She gallumphs around like she’s some dude!”
Stacy couldn’t help but let a giggle escape. “She does kind of, like, have a man walk.” Jody could see Stacy’s hesitation to try to recruit the scarlette once more melting away. Hell, Jody practically could feel herself wanting to do it for Cammy. Her charisma was so infectious that it almost seemed like a superpower or something.
Cammy patted Stacy on the back, “See, Stacy. This girl needs us. With just a little touch of cheerleader pep and love, we’re going to have the world eating out of the palms of her hands. She has a frame I’d kill for! We can’t let that go to waste!”
Stacy’s eyes opened wide in surprise. Jody was having a hard time masking her own surprise. Cammy envying someone else? “Y… you really think she has a better body than you?”
Cammy laughed, “Did you see those tits she had? Yeah, I wish I had those. Wouldn’t any girl?”
Stacy blushed. “Wow… I just…” Stacy shook her head, her expression becoming hard and determined. “Well, okay, like, what do you need me to do?” Then Stacy morphed back to a worried expression so quickly Jody had to do her best to prevent herself from giggling. “You don’t want me to, like, chase her down right now, do you?”
Cammy gave Stacey another reassuring pat. “You’ve already done the most important thing and gotten to know her. You’ve no doubt already become friends knowing how likeable you are.” Stacy blushed and Jody couldn’t help but grin some more. Cammy made manipulating people look so easy. “You’ll see her in class again on Thursday, right?”
Stacy nodded enthusiastically, “Of course.”
Cammy nodded her head. “Then all I need you to do is invite her to eat lunch with you on Thursday. I’ll just happen to drop in and sit with you.”
“What if she doesn’t have time or says no for some reason.”
Cammy shrugged, “Say it’s your treat. I mean, if she’s dressing the way she does she’s probably on a budget or something and will be unlikely to turn down a free meal.”
“Don’t worry about a thing,” Cammy assured Stacy, turning her charm on fully. “She’ll be glad you did this come this weekend. I promise.”
Stacy smiled and stared at her shuffling feet. “I hope so.”
“I know so,” Cammy insisted. “Well, regardless, you’ve done an awesome job today. Why don’t you cut out early and treat yourself.” Cammy reached into her purse that had been sitting on the chair behind Jody and fished out some kind of card. “Here. Gift certificate for the smoothie bar in the Billot Building food court.”
Stacy’s eyes bugged out. “Seriously? Leave early? And I can just, like, have this?”
“Yeah,” Cammy said with a grin, “you’ve done amazing with recruiting for Mu Nu Chi today and did the smart thing with that scarlette girl.”
Jody could see Stacy beam at the praise and practically hop away. “Thanks Cammy! Thank you so much!”
Cammy ruffled Stacy’s head like she was petting a dog, “No. Thank you, Stacy. You’ve earned this.”
Stacy skipped off happy as lark. Jody smirked as she watched the freshman Promoter bound her way through the crowd. “Where did you get that gift card?”
Cammy waved Jody off. “Please, the Student Association gets all kinds of gift cards to give away for promotional materials. I see no reason I can’t use them to reward my cheerleaders for promoting stuff.”
Jody laughed, “As if you’d need a justification.”
Cammy smiled but turned and watched the scarlette walk away. “That girl could be the answer I’m looking for, Jody.”
“I thought you said there’s no way she had any interest in the nerd club.”
Cammy shrugged. “I may have overstated myself. I’m sure she has some small hobby in common with them. I mean, she dresses like a total frump. Maybe she is some bookworm type. Either way, we get our hands on her, get her dressing like a proper cheerleader, and she’ll have that club marching in step.”
Jody laughed, “Were you serious when you said you envied her body some?”
“Are you kidding?” Cammy scoffed. “That tiny little thing? I mean, yes, that girl has amazing tits but she’s breasts and nothing else. Luckily for us, a good set of twins will be all we need to distract the nerds.” Jody tried to hide her frown. Just a set of tits? That girl had a package that made Jody jealous, and Jody was a Nine! If they could coach this girl up, she’d be a Ten. Was Cammy… jealous? Did she feel threatened? No. That couldn’t be it. After all, who could even be close to Cammy?
“We just need a that someone who can infiltrate and co-opt them,” Cammy continued. “Someone who can talk their language. That’s what sabotaged Rita and Fiona last year. Every one of those dweebs could tell something was up. I was wrong to have thought they’d just be happy something marginally attractive was paying them attention.”
Jody nodded. “What if she doesn’t want to play ball with us?”
Cammy laughed, “Oh, she’ll want to play ball. After all, you saw the way she walked. She needs us. A few coaching sessions and she’ll be way more confident in her sexuality and know how to use it. Plus, with this one, I’m willing to open up the war chest if we need to.”
Jody raised her eyebrows in shock. “The war chest? The last time you did that was with Ang-”
Cammy shot Jody a cool glare that silenced her. “Out loud? Seriously?”
Jody blushed. What was she doing? She could get Cammy in trouble! “Sorry. But, you know. It’s been a while.”
Cammy pointed to the nerd club, her glare still firm. “You saw how much they grew last year. Their booth has been nonstop busy. They are going to grow even more. Their influence is expanding, not shrinking. We can’t afford them to be out of loop. Not this year.”
Jody nodded, treading carefully after almost blurting out Cammy’s misdeeds in the Angela situation. She still didn’t like what Cammy had done to the poor girl, but Cammy had made it clear that she had to be dealt with. Still felt wrong, but when had Cammy ever been wrong? They certainly couldn’t let her upset the apple cart. As Cammy had said, that could have thrown the entire school into chaos. “We still don’t know much about that scarlette girl.”
Cammy played with her curls. “We know her name. Robynne Darling. That’ll be enough. Get Tanya on that.”
Jody smiled. Tanya was the cheerleaders’ chief gossip monger. “Social media sweep?”
Cammy took two confident steps forward. “I don’t care where Tanya has to look. SpaceLook, Flutter, PicNow, bloggr, shuttr, DiaryPost, hell, maybe even an old myHome site. We need to know everything about this girl. Her likes, her dislikes, what types of boys she’s into, where she’s from, what clothes she likes, what her favorite food is, what kinds of movies make her cry, is she rich, is she poor, does she dye her hair, why did she break up with her last boyfriend, what diets she’s gone on, where she’s living, what’s her major, what dress she wore to prom, who her roommates are. Anything we can find to guess what type of approach will work and what we can bribe or blackmail her with.”
Jody didn’t like the bit about blackmail. “Well, I’m sure we can, like, find something we can help her with so she’ll want to join us.”
“My guess will be clothes.” Cammy declared. “I mean, seriously, yellow with hair that red? It’s like she had no mother, sister, or girlfriends growing up.” Cammy affixed her gaze to the scarlette as she disappeared into the distant campus crowd as it shuffled from class to class. “But one way or another Jody, this Robynne will be working for us.”
Fun chapter to write. I hope it was fun to read. I feel very worried at times that people in Spheres come across as too one-dimensional but I’ve been getting back some good feedback so far so… yeah. That’s good. In particular, I was worried that GalleyGirl was coming across too similarly to ergoAwesome but I’ve been told that kind of makes sense as if you had a club that tended to skew towards male membership you’d try to get exhuberent females to do recruiting to make sure the potential girl members understood you weren’t just an all-boys club. I hope that stands up to muster.
Also, for the record, the club I’m basing SFEERS off of, we had about two guys to every girl. So while 33% isn’t the best ratio, that number tended to be better than most people expected. So… you know… suck it expectations!
And we get our first real introduction of Fretribution (aka: Eddie). For those of you not reading the vignettes, this is his junior year and his second year of being club President. He’s one of my favorite characters. I just like people who are chill but go-getters. It’s a combination I’ve always admired.
And Robynne gets lost in his eyes. I don’t normally belabor points like this but I thought this was a good spot to highlight the difference between having a different brain and the same mind. For the story I’ve done a lot of reading trying to find what things science has (more or less) confirmed is different in the male/female brain wiring. My thought is that Robynne and Robert have the same mind (which I view a bit like the hard-drive) but a different brain (which is the software running the data). Or maybe that metaphor doesn’t work. I’m only mildly understanding of computer architecture. Regardless, male and female brains are wired differently (though maybe not as significantly as we thought in, say, the 50s). But countless decades of research has shown that female brains are just better at processing emotions and part of that is females tend to hold eye contact better than men. Maybe you haven’t noticed but in chapters with Robert, Robert never really focused on eyes. I’m trying to be better about having Robynne notice eye color as a subtle way of showing that brain-switch. It just so happens that Fretribution has seriously pretty eyes and stupid brain chemistry breaks when we see something beautiful, as Robynne found out this chapter… or, you know, found out a long time ago it’s just that this is different than what broke it down before. I digress.
As for Eli’s gamer name, Quack, it’s a simple joke. His last name is Drake. Drake. Duck. Quack. Eli is a man of simplicity. It’s why he needs Cory to… um… unsimplify it?
As much fun as I had writing SFEERS, I clearly had waaaaaay more fun writing the cheerleading section. I think so much differently from Jody so it’s always a challenge to put myself in her headspace. I think it turns out better work on my part when I have to do that. Plus it’s fun to peel back the curtain a little bit and show you all what’s going on in the background. I suppose it’s the mundane version of the Trace sections. Regardless, I love how Cammy views everything on the hotness scale of 1-10 and judges people’s usefulness on that scale. I also love her pulling strings to be able to watch the SFEERS booth. So devious.
Regardless, even though she may be a gossip monger, let’s all feel a little sorry for Tanya, who has to find Robynne’s social media footprint. You have better luck finding Bigfoot, honey.
Thanks for reading,