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Chapter 32 - Aaron

~SEMIFINAL ROUND – FLYING BRAINS VS. PRAETORIANS~

That lying, double–crossing, scum–sucking, sadistic, degenerate asshole. Who does he think he’s fooling? “I told you we’d be gone?” Sure you did, Paul. I know your game. I bet you were out there with your perfect little family having a good laugh at my expense while I was sitting alone, polishing my trophies and waiting for my parents to come home. Well, who needs you? I don’t need friends, they always let you down and hurt you. I’ve got my own skills, and that’s all I need in life. Just me.

And then he has the nerve to accuse me of cheating. Does it look like I have to cheat? Would someone like me need to cheat to beat these chumps? Look at them, sitting there like everything’s okay. You guys are doomed. I’m done holding back. This time, I’m going to destroy all of you. This is the preview to judgment day when I finally rectify the nightmare that I’ve lived with all these years.

I can see Paul and his Ken out there in the audience. They’re up close, dead center. Yeah, I can see you turds. I can see you plain as day.

Why is it always so cold in this building? It’s August. No one needs the damn air conditioning up that high. This is some kind of stunt, I know it.

We have just enough time now for a quick strategy session. Not that I need it. Oh, I bet you think I need it, Paul, but I don’t. I’m smarter than all of them. No, this is a show of strength, of mental muscle. It has to be a crusher. I’m going to preview Paul’s fate for everyone in attendance.

I turn to Brian first. “What are our odds?”

“I don’t have my figures in front of me,” he says.

“Ballpark it.”

“Based on their last performance, we’re looking at an easy eighty point win,” says Brian. “Probably higher, maybe a hundred and ten.”

“Not good enough.” I lean over the desk, covering my mouth from the microphones and the audience. “We’re going for a blowout on this one. Take chances, jump in if you know anything. I want the biggest win possible.”

“Why do you want to do that?” It’s Sid, piping in with his half–assed opinion.

I glance over at him. “Why do you care?”

“Hey, Leon’s cool,” says Sid. “I just don’t want to embarrass him if we don’t have to.”

I keep both eyes forward. “Sid, you dumb son of a bitch, if you even think about halfassing this, I will turn you inside out.”

“Well, I’m just saying –”

“No, Sid. If you go easy, I will rip your life apart. Every time you cheated on a test. Every time you cheated on your girlfriend. Every time you went five miles over the speed limit – I’ll get it all. And if I can’t find enough? I’ll make shit up. Are we clear?”

“Yeah, okay.” I don’t need to see Sid to know that I’ve made my point.

I glance over at Andrew. “Any problems, Bae?”

“Not at all,” he says.

“Good.”

I can’t believe I still have to deal with this shit. Well, I guess it goes to show why you should never rely on anyone but yourself. I’m going to have to do this by myself, just like I always do. I’m the only one who really knows this game. You never scream onstage. You never cry onstage. You never frown or grimace onstage, and you sure as shit never sweat. It’s all about willpower.

“Welcome to round two of the Trivia Master semi–finals between the Flying Brains and the Olympians. Whoever wins today will go on to face the Raging Nerds in tomorrow’s final match.”

It’s starting now. I’ll show them all who’s the real king of this game.

“Question one: The first Roman Emp–”

Deedle–dee.

Shit! Someone already buzzed?

“Leon, Olympians.”

“Augustus Octavian.”

“Correct, for ten points.”

Oh, you smug little prick. You think you can get away with that? I’m just getting warmed up.

“Question two: Referring to the earliest form of electrical flow –”

Deedle–dee.

“Leon, Olympians.”

“Direct current.”

“Correct.”

Damn it! Again? Now you’re just pissing me off, kid.

“Question three: In what year did the signing of the Treaty of Paris –”

Deedle–dee.

“Leon, Olympians.”

“1783.”

“Correct.”

What’s going on here? This isn’t right. I should be burning this kid. I can hear the chatter in the audience, no one knows what’s going on.

Pull yourself together, Aaron. Lose your cool here, and you’re cooked.

“Question three: This Greek deity, know as ‘Earthshaker’ –”

Deedle–dee.

“Leon, Olympians.”

“Poseidon.”

This isn’t right. Damn it, this isn’t right. This isn’t right.

“Correct, for ten points.”

What did he do to me? I can’t keep it all straight.

Deedle–dee.

“Correct.”

Deedle–dee.

“Correct, for ten points.”

It’s all slipping past me. What did he do? What did you do, you son of a bitch?

“And the final question of the first round: If A is related to B, and B is related to C –”

Doot–de–doot.

“Aaron, Brains.”

“Transitive property.”

“Correct. And that’s the end of the first round, with 90 points to the Praetorians and 10 points to the Flying Brains.”

I can hear them muttering in the crowd. They’re loving this. How many of them are in on it? How many pawns does this guy have? Damn it, when did they turn the heat back on in here?

“It’s time for the first team question, write down your bids now.”

Fifty. I don’t have to check with Brian on this one, I know he agrees with me.

Come on, show me the answer. It’s time to come back.

“Pride and Prejudice is correct. Your wager?...50 points to the Flying Brains. Praetorians, your answer?...Pride and Prejudice, correct as well. Your wager?...10 points to the Praetorians. The score stands at Praetorians 100, Flying Brains 60. Let’s begin round two.”

You think you can beat me? You don’t know who you’re messing with, kid. That was just a jump start, a warm–up. The second round is where I turn it around. Your friends can’t save you now.

“Question one: At over four thousand miles, this mountain range –”

Deedle–dee.

“Leon, Praetorians.”

“The Andes.”

“Correct, for twenty points.”

Shit shit shit shit shit...

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