Robynne grimaced as she lowered the mic. “Welp… that was horrible.” She glanced around and could see people giving nervous laughter at her comment. From their awkward smiles and clenched teeth, she could tell they agreed wholeheartedly but didn’t want to say it.
“Oh, it wasn’t that bad,” Fretribution lied as he handed the plastic guitar to someone else. Thankfully he had one-hundred-percented the song on the hardcore difficulty so he had provided enough boosts to get them all through the song despite Robynne’s atrocious performance. Robynne would have thought people would have made a bigger deal of this but, apparently, they were used to this by now.
“Dude, yes it was. You don’t need to spare my ego. I know I’m a terrible singer.” It had been so strange and… clumsy to sing with someone else’s voice. It was like trying to drive a manual transmission car when someone had only driven automatic before… while wearing mittens and shoes that were four sizes too big. Sure she knew what her voice was trying to sound like but the mechanics of it were so foreign she couldn’t get it to do what she wanted.
For one thing, her new voice started in a completely different register and she had no clue what her true range was. As the song went on, she realized the upper-range of her voice was much higher than she had anticipated. As such, she began the song too low and found herself having to shift an octave or two up so she had room to go lower. Switching registers multiple times in the song wasn’t exactly the most pleasant sound in the world.
Then there was the fact that she could never get the right amount of power behind her voice when trying to just shift between notes. It was strange. Robert had never had to consciously think about what he was doing with his voice to make the right notes. It was his voice and he just knew, subconsciously, what had to happen to make certain notes. But as Robynne, she had zero experience singing. Every new note was a new discovery that had to be researched, tested, adjusted, and then readjusted like a guitar being tuned for the very first time. Doing that mid-song made it sound like the song was being played through a speaker that had a short in it.
She’d need to practice more in private. It wasn’t natural for someone to sound so uncomfortable with their own voice. Plus it was just fun to sing along with your favorite songs and Robynne wouldn’t be denied that simple pleasure of life. “I mean, I’m a really bad singer. But you needed someone to step up so I did. It was just bad.”
Fretribution opened his mouth to protest but after a pause just smiled and nodded. “Yeah. It was.”
Robynne glanced around the circle of people around the setup. “Okay, now that I’ve embarrassed myself to an epic level, none of you other ladies has an excuse. Someone get up here or I’ll do that again.” Robynne paused. A joke like that was a bit more showy than she was used to. She reminded herself that she was still baking in Fretribution’s aura. She had needed that extra dose of boldness to work up the nerve to try that stunt. But she didn’t need it any further and she pushed his aura away from her own.
Everyone chuckled, and after a few moments a mousey girl stepped forward and timidly took the mic. Thank goodness. Robynne didn’t want to do that again. She stepped back from the setup and was surprised to have Fretribution follow her into the crowd of viewers. “Hey, thanks for putting yourself out there like that. People sometimes need a little push to get out of their shells.”
Robynne tried to wave him off. “It was no big deal.”
Fretribution gave a playful grin. “I mean, I would have said that too before I heard you sing.”
“Hey!” Robynne pointed at him and tried to hide her own smile. That was a pretty good dig. “I said you don’t need to spare my ego. I didn’t say take pot shots at it.”
“Oh,” Fretribution said slyly, “is that what you meant? Sorry, I misunderstood.” He chuckled to himself then cleared his throat. “But seriously, thanks. Tour De Rock is great but for some reason everyone is so nervous about singing. It helps to have someone who isn’t afraid to look bad to help everyone else relax.”
Robynne rolled her eyes but nodded. “Yeah, nerds sometimes have self-confidence issues. I was happy to help.”
Fretribution gave a weird smile, with only one corner of his lips curling up and one of his eyes almost half winking. He pointed at her with an excited, jerking finger. “You get it! You. Get. It.”
“It?” Robynne didn’t, by her nature, try to draw out conversations. But this was a very busy social that would, no doubt, demand a lot of its President’s attention. This might be the only chance she’d have to study his aura so closely. She wouldn’t miss this opportunity.
“Nerds can be sort of insular by their nature. They guard themselves. They need to see this club is a safe place for them to just be themselves.” The President gestured to the crowded auditorium. “All these people here are from disparate fandoms. Consoles. PC games. Board games. Table-top RPG’s. Anime. Comics. Cartoons. Whatever. Because of that, a lot of times these people can feel like they are the only one who is into what they are into. But it’s a much wider spread of shared interests than they think. We got to show them that it’s okay to lower your shields here. That’s what this club is about.”
As he spoke, Robynne could feel his bold, crushed velvet aura radiate out with more intensity. It seemed to respond to his own emotions then. He was pumping himself up with his speech and the aura responded in kind. Interesting. She had noticed something similar with Cammy, but when the Cheer captain got worked up, her aura seemed to become less of a radiated wave and more like a laser focused at a specific person. Fretribution’s aura seemed to lack that directional component.
“That’s what the club is about?” Robynne asked. “I figured it was about playing games and stuff.”
Fretribution shook his head. “You may pretend, but I see that you get it and made a responsible move to help everyone else out, Waveform. Be careful. Keep making good decisions like that and I’ll have to try and convince you to try and run for an officership next year.”
Robynne scoffed. “I’m not really the get-in-front-of-a-crowd-and-lead type of guy.” Guy. Donut. Robynne still had to work male identifiers out of her vocabulary it seemed.
Fretribution raised an eyebrow at that though seemed to gloss over the guy part. “Really? Then why did you show up in a cheerleader outfit? Forgive me but cheerleaders seem exactly like the get-in-front-of-a-crowd-and-lead type of person. I mean… literally. That’s what they do. They lead cheers.”
“I…” Robynne trailed off and bit her lip. “Well… you have me on that one. Though I’m just on Promotion Squad. I’m not on the Pep Squad.”
Fretribution nodded his head though looked at her curiously. “Still, you showed up in a cheer uniform. Odd move. Did you and that other cheerleader just come from some sort of promotion function or something?”
“I…” Robynne really regretted having to ‘make an entrance’. “Something like that, yeah.” Then she realized she didn’t have to let this conversation be awkward. Maybe she could get other information out of this cheer angle. “Hey, sorry, change of subject but, some others told me some cheerleaders made some big show of arriving last year, were super awkward, and then left. Any clue what that was all about?”
“Huh, I actually was hoping you might have been able to enlighten me on the subject.”
“Me?” Robynne asked putting her hand to her chest. “Why would I know anything about what happened last year? I’m a freshman. I wasn’t even in this state.”
Fretribution shrugged. “Hey, movies have taught me cheerleaders know everything.” He frowned. “Though now that I say it out loud I’m realizing that’s quite the stereotype I’ve got going there.”
Robynne shrugged back. “Eh, I’ve heard worse stereotypes. But, no, I’m not plugged into all the gossip. So what exactly happened last year? I mean, other than cheerleaders showing up.”
Fretribution laughed and rolled his pretty eyes. “I don’t know really. I mean, I was there but, man that was weird. It was two of them who showed up and made a big show of trying to talk to people, especially officers. For the life of me I can’t remember their names. But I… is it bad to say they seemed like they really didn’t belong?”
“Didn’t belong how?”
“Well, like I was talking to them and trying to find out what interested them about the club and they were really vague and talked about seeing ‘those superhero movies.’ But when I asked them specifics on what they preferred more, like, Phenom or DS comics they sort of gave me looks like they had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe this isn’t cool of me but I swear they were trying to fake being into nerd stuff. And while it might be wrong, they left after only half an hour. They didn’t even make it to the opening ceremonies segment. It was just weird and I can’t figure out why they’d show up if they weren’t really into SFEERS stuff.”
Robynne nodded. “Yeah.” It seemed Cammy had tried to send other girls to infiltrate last year. She clearly either overestimated how flattered the SFEERS crew would be to have the attractive girls’ presences or underestimated how quickly nerds could spot a fake. Or both. Both were very likely. “That is pretty bizarre. So they didn’t say anything about being there to help promote or anything? That’d be the only reason I can think they’d show up in full cheer regalia.”
Fretribution laughed and donut if Robynne didn’t find his full, genuine laugh cute. She really hated how this body kept finding new ways to make life awkward for her. “Cheer regalia. That’s awesome.” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “So, if I may ask, cheerleader? You really don’t seem the type to be into cheerleading.”
As much as she wanted to, Robynne couldn’t start going around and talking about cheer conspiracies and needing to offer her services to Cammy to get Vivian on the Cheer Team. It’d raise too many questions that she didn’t want to deal with at the moment. At some point she’d have to find some way to warn SFEERS they were in Cammy’s crosshairs, but the opening social wasn’t the place for that. She’d need their trust first. For now, that meant letting them think she was just a normal nerd who was also in cheerleading. “I’m kind of aware that I’m occupying a small cross-section of the SFEERS and Cheerleader Venn-diagram.”
“Very true,” Fretribution laughed again with his frustratingly cute laugh. “I mean, before seeing you walk in with your uniform on I would have thought there was no cross-section myself. But then again, I always say there are nerds everywhere and people shouldn’t judge, but, here I am, making judgements.”
“It’s part of the human condition. Don’t beat yourself up too much about it.”
Fretribution snapped like he just remembered something. “Oh, wait, you said you were on Promotion Squad, right?”
Robynne swallowed down a lump in her throat. This couldn’t be good. “Well, all Freshman cheerleaders are.” As if that somehow mattered.
“Listen, I’ve been bugging SAUSA about getting us some cheerleaders to help us promote some activities and they never follow through. If you’re on Promotion Squad, do you by chance have a way we can just bypass the bureaucracy?”
“I’m… not sure. I mean…. Like…” Robynne berated herself. She needed to come up with an excuse. She did not want to get roped into doing promotion work. It was the thing she had expressly stated to Cammy she wouldn’t do. “We just get handed our promotion schedules down from above. They don’t usually ask for our opinion.”
“Like, what about promotion now?”
Robynne froze. Of course Stacy would show up now. She was like Noriko… if Noriko was a bubbly cheerleader that only snuck up during social situations.
Fretribution glanced away from Robynne to the taller girl. “Oh, I was just asking Waveform about being on Promotion Squad. I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve been introduced. I’m Fretribution. Are you a friend of Waveform’s?”
Robynne sighed and gestured to Stacy, “Fret, this is my friend…”
“Stacy! Sorry, I don’t have a fancy codename like everyone else. I just barely found out about this place an hour or so ago. I’m on Promotion Squad with Robynne. Or, sorry, Waveform.”
Robynne shook her head and chuckled. “You can still just call me Robynne, Stace. You don’t have to use my handle here. It’s a college club, not a spy ring.”
Fretribution nodded in agreement. “Yeah, just call me Eddie if you feel silly calling me Fretribution. I know it’s weird when I’m on campus and someone yells across the campus, ‘Hey Fretribution!’ Especially if I can’t remember their real name and I have to shout back, ‘Hi, uh… PenguinPunter.'”
Stacy giggled and held her hands over her mouth. “Penguin Punter? Is that, like, someone’s real code name? Oh my God, that totally awful, Eddie!”
Fretribution nodded. “I sort of think that’s the point. Anyway, yeah, so you’re a cheerleader too? On the Promotio Squad?”
“Like, how did you guess?”
Fretribution shrugged. “Waveform mentioned it I think.”
Robynne turned to Stacy and gestured towards Fretribution. She wanted to make this as little about the Cheer Team as possible. If it was about the cheer team, Stacy’s tragically helpful nature would no doubt get Robynne having to agree to do something. “Fretribution here is the President of the club. He was just asking about some trouble he’s had with SAUSA getting some promotion work done for the club in the past. Dealing with the bureaucracy and all.”
“President of the club, you say?” Stacy flashed Robynne an accusatory smile. Robynne could practically hear the gears turning in the cheerleader’s head. Robynne was going to have to add those gears to the ever-growing list of problems she was going to have to deal with.
Fretribution waved her off. “It’s no big deal. Someone has to be Prez. Anyway, point is, I’ve asked for some help with promoting various events a bunch and we always get rejected with no explanation. I think it stems from some garbage a few years ago with the club showing movies on campus. But that’s just a guess.”
Stacy frowned and pouted her lips. “Well, no, the Promotion requests get processed by the Cheer Squad. I mean, like, we wouldn’t care about some drama a few years ago about movies and stuff. And, like, we’re supposed to be promoting every club we can if the event is sanctioned.”
“Really? Then why have I been stonewalled for a full year now? I mean, I don’t want to take it personally, but if it’s cheerleaders who approve of the promotion requests, I can’t but help that someone has it out for us or something.”
Stacy laughed. “Oh, I don’t think it’s anything as malicious as that.”
“No, of course not,” Robynne coughed.
Stacy shook her head. “Well, what event do you need promoted next. Robynne, Vivz and I can make sure it happens. We can pull some strings or, hell, we’ll just promote ourselves. I don’t know why you’d be shafted a full year but we can make it right.”
Fretribution brightened with excitement and Robynne’s shoulders slumped. Fudge. It was one thing to volunteer her own time, but Vivian and especially Robynne’s time too? That was stepping outside of what Robynne thought Stacy should…
At that moment a thought occurred to Robynne and she checked her other sense. Of course. Stacy was right next to Fretribution and his aura of boldness. Stacy was normally more conscious of her friend’s’ feelings but with her helpful cheerful nature being bolstered by his aura, of course she’d just volunteer Robynne’s time. She’d just assume Robynne was just as willing and keep going. Auras ruined everything.
“Really?” Fretribution asked. “I mean, I don’t want to be putting you out too much…”
Stacy waved him off. “No trouble at all. It’s, like, our job. We…”
Robynne stepped a bit in front of Stacy. She didn’t know if she could shield others from other people’s auras, but she was sure as honey going to try before Stacy agreed to make Robynne to write cheers just for SFEERS or something. “We definitely can bring it up and see if we can’t get you guys something. I mean, it’s the least we can do.”
“Awesome!” Fretribution clapped his hands once and grinned. “We have a Corona Forge tournament in a month we were doing as a fundraiser. Having some actual on campus promotion would be great! Both for raising funds and for exposure. You don’t by chance know how we can finally get approved for posting signs up, do you?”
Robynne glanced over at Stacy who shook her head. “Sorry Eddie but, like, I’m not sure or anything. That sounds like a SAUSA thing to me though.”
“Well, crap.” Fretribution grunted. “I haven’t been able to get anything from those chuckleheads in a year. And from my sister’s stories they’ve never been much of a help.”
“Not much we can do about that,” Robynne said.
Fretribution nodded. “Yeah, well, at least we’ll have promotional help now. With you ladies on the case I have no doubt we’ll make this the best fundraiser ever!” Fretribution glanced behind him towards the podium in front of the projector screen at the back of the auditorium. Robynne followed his gaze and she saw several people, including GalleyGirl, setting stuff up for what she guessed was the opening ceremonies. “Well, sorry to leave so quick but I have some President things to take care of. We’re definitely going to have to keep in touch. Could I grab either of your numbers so I can text you?”
Stacy not so subtly pushed Robynne in the back. “I’m actually not officially joining the club so it’s probably better if she was your contact.”
Robynne shot Stacy a quick glare then sighed. “Yeah. That makes sense.”
Fretribution held his hands out plaintively. “What? You’re not joining us? After all the fun we’ve been having.”
Stacy giggled. “I’m having fun but I don’t think all this gaming and comics stuff is my type of fun. Still, you guys throw a good party. I loved that dance pad thing.”
He laughed. “Hop Dance Mania? Awesome. Knew that’d be a hit. Well, you hurt me Stacy. You really do. We’d love to have you join but it sounds like your mind is made up so I’m not going to try to sell you further.”
Stacy giggled once more. “I promise to still help. Me, Robynne and Vivz will get you covered for promotion work.”
Robynne winced and was now officially desperate to end the conversation. “Well, we don’t want to keep you from your presidential duties. You got your phone?”
“Huh? Oh, sure.” He quickly fished it out of his pocket. Robynne gave him her number and he repeated it back to be sure it was correct. “Awesome. Thanks so much. I’ll text you sometime tomorrow or maybe later. Depends on if I remember or not.”
Robynne nodded. “Got it.”
“Sorry to split ladies but I must be off. It was a pleasure getting to know you both better.” Without another word he darted through the crowd and over to the other officers getting things ready.
No sooner had he turned than Robynne felt Stacy’s hip bumping into Robynne’s side. “Wow, chatting up the President and you haven’t even been here, like, half an hour. You work quick.”
“Chatting him up?” Robynne whined. “Seriously? That’s what you think I was doing?”
“Hey, who can, like, blame you? I mean, he’s a total hottie. You have good tastes!”
“I wasn’t hitting on him Stacy. I was just trying to find out how this club operates.”
“Pffsh!” Stacy gave Robynne a single dismissive wave. “As if. I saw the way you were blushing when you talked to him. You may be able to fool your friends in this club but I’m a professional matchmaker. You can’t trick me.”
Robynne had been blushing? Crap. Not only did her body give her unwanted attractions to dudes but also blushed without her authorization. She really wished she could get a patch to fix these bugs. Regardless, Robynne needed to sidetrack Stacy. She decided taking a page out of Cory’s playbook would be best. “Professional matchmaker? Sorry, I don’t think anyone is giving you money to set them up on dates. You’re an amateur at best. Frankly, I’d label you as a hobbyist matchmaker.”
Stacy clutched her chest like Robynne had just stabbed her. “How could you say that? And after I, like, tried to set you up with a cute, executive member of this club! You should at least thank me for trying.” Stacy giggled at her own joke.
Robynne checked her extra sense and decided Fretribution was far enough away that his aura wouldn’t be affecting Stacy anymore. “Hey, Stacy, I don’t want to be weird about it or anything but could you not volunteer me for promotion work next time.”
Stacy blinked. She obviously hadn’t expected a serious switch to the conversation. “Huh?”
“You volunteered me and Vivian to do promotion work for the club. I’d just kind of like to avoid that in the future.”
Stacy blinked again then gasped. “Oh! I… I’m so, like… I didn’t mean.”
Robynne held her hands up, trying slow down Stacy’s heartrate. “It’s okay. You were just trying to be, like, you know… helpful. It’s just… Stacy, I’m not really into promoting stuff, you know?”
Stacy winced. “I’m soooo sorry. I wasn’t even really thinking about that. I just… I just wanted to, like, make up for whatever mistakes were made so that he wasn’t getting the promotion he needed and… and, like, I’m so sorry! I don’t know what came over me! I didn’t even think about you and Vivian.”
Robynne shrugged. She knew exactly what came over Stacy and had a hard time blaming her for it. “It’s fine. Like I said, you were just trying to be helpful.” Robynne paused and thought for a moment. She needed to distract Stacy some so she wouldn’t feel bad the rest of the party. “What I’m more concerned by was him saying they had been stonewalled for a full year. What do you think that is about?”
Stacy bit her bottom lip. “I… I’m not sure. I mean, someone should have okayed their requests at some point.”
Good. She was thinking. “Yeah, and the Promotion Squad is busy, but not so busy that they could go a year without saying yes to at least one request.”
“M… maybe they just filled out the requests wrong? I mean, like, that happens all the time.”
Robynne pointed her thumb in the direction Fretribution had walked away. “I don’t know. I feel like Fre… Eddie is pretty squared away. Besides, if it was constantly bad form submissions you’d think someone would tell them what they’re doing wrong.”
Stacy sighed and gave a nod. “Yeah. You would. Well, I know there are, like, an insane number of clubs though. We can’t possibly promote them all. I know that’s one of the reasons why sometimes we have to prioritize the larger clubs.”
Robynne was glad to see the confused look in Stacy’s eyes. Not even she believed what she had just said. “Stacy, look around. This is one of the bigger clubs.”
Stacy didn’t need to, but she quickly surveyed the auditorium. Her shoulders slumped and she sighed again. “Yeah.”
Robynne examined Stacy’s face and measured her words. “Maybe we should consider the possibility that… that someone in Cheer might not want us to promote SFEERS. I mean, everything else it seems that they have you Promo Squad girls do are frats and sororities and sports teams and the like. Things that cheerleaders would have some interest in. But how many cheerleaders are interested in things like this? Maybe someone is abusing their power a bit to make sure only clubs who activities they want to go to get promoted.”
“But… but that’s not supposed to be what we do.”
Robynne shrugged. “Power does things to people. And, I think, this makes, like, a lot more sense than a club this well organized botching their applications.”
“Yeah.” Stacy had a troubled look in her eye. Robynne nodded to herself; she ripped a hole in Stacy’s view of the Cheer Team. If she kept working at that hole, she could cause a full on tear.
But now wasn’t the time for that. “But it’s as you said, Stacy. We’ll fix it. SFEERS now has a team on the inside.”
Stacy gave a nervous giggle. “You make it sound like we’re secret agents, like, trying to infiltrate some secret society or something.”
Robynne smirked. “Seems like it, doesn’t it?” This conversation had gotten too heavy. Robynne got a good feel of the President’s aura and had even struck a slight blow to Stacy’s view of the Cheer Team leadership. Robynne had gotten everything she came for. Now she could just enjoy herself the rest of the night. “So why are you back here? Weren’t you playing Hop Dance Mania with Eii and Kara?”
Stacy nodded. “And it was fun… though after a bit I could tell they wanted a bit of one-on-one time. They dating?”
“I don’t think it’s anything as official as that yet. But there is definitely some mutual interest.”
Stacy grinned. “Well they’re totes adorbs together.”
Robynne winced. “Please never say ‘totes adorbs’ again. Ever. Forever.”
Stacy threw her head back and laughed. “Vivian told me I should say that around you and see what your reaction would be.”
“Speaking of that imp,” Robynne grumbled, “Where is she?”
“She was off with that Cory guy watching him play with some cards I don’t recognize. They certainly weren’t playing Poker, I can tell you that.”
“Invokers. Come on. Let’s go find her. She’ll need someone to complain to that she has no idea what’s going on.”
“Cool!” Stacy said, leading Robynne in the direction of the tables they had seen the boys playing at earlier. “Maybe you can then explain to us what’s happening.”
“Me?” Robynne scoffed. “You kidding? I only have slightly better idea what’s going on than you have.”
Stacy stopped walking. “But I thought you were into all this stuff.”
“I’m into some of this stuff. There are too many different things going on here to be into all of them. Besides, Invokers is way to complicated and expensive for me to get into.”
“Too complicated? For you?”
“Yeah.” Robynne chuckled. “Seriously, they play like fourteen different rulesets that limit what cards you can use and how. And one person’s turn involves somewhere between nine and one-hundred seventy-two phases. Seriously, there are multinational trade agreements that are simpler to understand with less conflict than a round of Invokers.”
“I see.” Stacy started walking again, now with a skip to her step. “Well then we cheerleaders can just, like, bitch about how we have no idea what’s going on and shame Cory into doing something else to entertain us.”
While Robynne didn’t like being one of ‘we cheerleaders’ she could get behind most any plan that shamed Cory. “That sounds like fun.”
What can I really say here other than, “I love writing Robynne and Stacy scenes?” This really is the great surprise of the reboot MGP series. Stacy has gone from one-off character to full on “I’ve accidently given her more screentime than everyone but Vivian, Cory, and Eli. And even those are a bit muddy.”
I actually was sorry I didn’t write the scene of Robynne singing. Sorry if you really wanted to see that. I just couldn’t think of doing it in a way that made sense or was fun to read. I feel the aftermath was what I could do though. Kudos to those who correctly predicted Robynne’s first attempt at singing wasn’t NOT going to be a positive one. I think it’s another one of those things we take for granted how difficult it is because we’ve never (unless we took voice lessons or something that forces you to examine it) thought about the mechanics of singing. It was just something you started to do at a younger age and learned like walking and talking. I was especially proud of my automatic-to-manual transmission comparison. It’s not going to be a smooth ride.
Those of you who have read the alpha will know that this really is a departure from the original source as I originally had Robynne’s voice come out perfectly. Upon rereading the alpha around the time I decided to jump back into this, I saw that and really questioned what I was thinking. Then again any writer who reads their old stuff basically wants to crawl into a corner and cry that they ever thought that THAT was good. We live tortured lives. Wo is us.
Also, “totes adorbs” is something a friend of mine said in jest once and as soon as I heard it I KNEW I’d have Stacy say it at some point. I just knew.