The screen that showed the characters inexplicably appear on my screen before I was kicked for cheating wasn’t only on my display. The judges were able to see such a screen, and the display monitors all over the place showed a variety of people, including myself. These screens were out of the player’s sight for obvious reasons, but given the sudden rise in murmuring, I was pretty sure my screen was now being shown on several of them.
“He was cheating?”
“I knew it! How else would a guy when a video game competition without cheating?”
“What a cunt!”
The crowds started out confused, but the noises and rumbling grew and soon open hostility appeared. The buzzing grew to the point where the people who were playing, including the rest of my team, were starting to notice something was up.
“Noah, where did you go?”
“I can’t find you either.”
“What is everyone going on about? So noisy…”
I was speechless as I stared at the cheating screen. Just what was going on? That’s when a thought hit me, and I looked up at the celebrity. She was glowering at me, but the smallest glint of a smile formed on her lips. It was her? It had to be. Just before the match, she must have loaded my terminal with some kind of cheating software. She intended it to go off in the middle of the match so that I was striped of my win and punished for not putting out for her.
I started to grow just as angry as the people shouting in the crowds. As I went to stand up, I realized there were already three security women standing around me. One of the judges had stepped down and pushed through the crowd, getting up onto the platform. As the unrest continued, the game was forced to pause. Immediately, all of the gamers who had been deep in concentration let out cries of anger at their focus being interrupted.
“I apologize, but we have a bit of a delimma.” The judge who was walking up the stage declared as he approached my table. “The Quarter in the Coinslots has been disqualified from this competition.”
“What?” Avery cried out. “What did we do?”
“One of your players is cheating during gameplay.”
“Huh? Who’s cheating?” Bethany demanded, looking at each of us.
When her eyes met mine, I opened my mouth, but all I could do was shake my head.
The judge walked strait up to my desk and then looked under it. After a few moment, she rose back up, and in her hand was a fluffy pink USB drive with some kind of cute animal on it. She raised an eyebrow and looked down at me.
“That’s not mine.”
“Noah cheated?” Dina spoke in disbelief.
“No!” I cried out, shaking my head. “I did not cheat. That hack came up the same time as I was banned. I didn’t use it at all.”
“You only tried to use it.” The judge declared. “I’m sorry, but this is a serious offense. We can not allow your team to compete in the competition. Furthermore, we will need to take away your previous win.”
“Did you cheat, Noah?” Bethany looked at me, her eyes looking confused and hurt.
“I did not cheat!” I raised my voice. “Someone else put that in there.”
My words were heard by everyone, and the crowds burst out into accusations and boos. It was one thing cheating, and another refusing to admit it.
“Someone else put a pink USB drive in the computer?” This came from the celebrity judge, who had a knowing smirk on her face.
I wanted to shout that she knew damn well that it was herself who had done it, but if I dared utter those words, I’d bring the ire of her fanbase who were still hovered around her. They were already shooting me hateful glares. Rather than supporting their fellow man, they seemed content throwing me under the bus. They must have been angry and jealous I got to meet with their beloved backstage. If I attacked her, I’d be only asking for death.
“Come on, I don’t have a pink USB.” I declared incredulously, looking around at everyone else.
Most of them gave me dubious looks. Who else would have such a boy-like USB other than a boy? Bethany was the first to give a nod.
“He’s right. That’s not Noah’s type of thing at all!” Bethany declared. “He didn’t cheat.”
“I’ve lost to him plenty of times,” Katie added. “He’s good enough he doesn’t need to cheat.”
Avery looked at the other two girls, and then over at me. She gave a nod and crossed her arms.
“She didn’t cheat.”
“As if anyone would believe you girls. Aren’t you the ones using a token boy? Your team would only benefit from them cheating!” Someone from the crowd shouted, which only set off a barrage of shouts and screams.
Some of the security was moving to the edge of the stage, scared the crowds of watching gamers might suddenly climb up and storm it. Whether they were boys or girls, no one could handle the might of a group of gamers who felt wronged. The judge who was on the stage raised their hand, causing the rest of the crowd to quiet a bit.
“We have the evidence here. No matter what you say, we’d need proof of innocence.”
“What happened to innocent before proven guilty!” Avery cried out.
“Such a thing doesn’t exist in a tournament.” She responded coldly.
“How could he have even brought such a thing?” Dina asked, adjusting her glasses. “We didn’t even know what game was being played until an hour ago, and we have been in the back rooms this entire time. He couldn’t have plugged the USB drive in earlier, as we didn’t know what table we’d be placed at. It seems highly suspicious that any of us would have been able to sneak a USB drive that was able to automatically load the appropriate program without knowing which game and how and where it was installed on the computer, let alone manage to plug it into the back of the computer and under the table without being seen by anyone here, including your security.”
I let out a breath of relief. Dina’s analytical thinking could be applied to other things. In the heat of the moment, no one was thinking about it, but it didn’t make any sense. Her words caused the angry muttering in the crowds to become more introspective. It was suspicious.
I felt a warm feeling as my teammates stood up and protected me. These were people who trusted me and I trusted back. I realized that these were the kind of relationships I should be cherishing. In the past, I’d always form my friendships based on what seemed a low risk. I was friends with people because it was easy and I didn’t feel much if things turned south. It had started after my friendship with Samantha fell apart. I became so scared of having good friends, that most of my interactions had been shallow and skin deep.
Nora, Sophie, and Luna had been exactly that kind of friendship. I hung out with them because I knew they were losers, and thus I felt no stress. No risk; no loss. That was also why the relationship fell apart so spectacularly, and I didn’t even care that much. True friendship, people who truly cared for me, were like these girls right here. These were people that stood up for me even when the world was against me.
“Excuse me.” Someone on the stage stood up, and it was none other than the guy leader from Pocket Rockets. “I have something to say.”
His presence was surprisingly enough that the crowds quieted down a bit. I cringed on the inside. We were enemies, so was he going to use this moment to attack me as well? The judge hesitated for a second and then nodded.
“You’ve been able to see his monitor and the progress of the game this whole time. There would have been no way that he could cheat and not be seen. It sounds to me like that cheat only appeared for a moment before he was banned from the game. Since this was the case, whether the USB was plugged in by him or planted shouldn’t matter. No cheating had occurred to affect the match, and now that the program has been removed. I believe we should just continue the match as if nothing happened. They can play the rest of the game fairly, and if everyone else on stage agrees, then the match can continue as normal.”
I was completely shocked. I had thought that this guy of all people would turn on me like the other guys, but he had defended me. I saw him glance at me, and give a nod. He did have my back just like my team.
His words seemed to resonant with the judge. However, as he went to speak, a voice shouted out.
“It was me!” A voice caused everyone to turn to the judge’s table.
The one who had cried out was none other than the celebrity judge from earlier. The boys in the room couldn’t help but gasp.
“You plugged in the cheat USB?” The other judge asked in surprise.
The celebrity judge let out a sigh. “Not at all. However, after I handed out the first award, this contestant stayed behind. I had my laptop there with wifi access, and he asked me to use it. I thought he was a fan, so I let him use my laptop, and even left to get him a shirt that I signed. Alas, when I returned, I saw him pulling something out of my laptop. I believe it was that USB stick!”
“To use her hospitality like that.”
“That’s a lie!” I cried out before I could stop myself.
Instantly, the fanbase screamed anger, vitriol, and death threats my way, much louder than the previous group. It was all lies though. I was speechless. This person would go to such an effort to screw with me, just because I wouldn’t flick her bean?
“How does that explain him plugging the USB in secretly?” Dina demanded.
“I don’t know… maybe he’s a guy who’s good with his hands.” The judge responded, an insolent grin on her face.
The crowd exploded. That was pretty much saying I was a slut.
Bethany tried to stand up, but a larger security woman stood in her way. “Say that again, fucker!”
“You asshole!” Avery seemed just as angry.
Their insults only fueled the fire of the fans, who grew furious that anyone would threaten or insult their princess. They looked ready to flood the stage. The security guards were looking to the judge desperately.
“Enough!” The judge shouted. “I’ve heard enough! To maintain the sanctity of the tournament, they will not be able to participate. Without any evidence to the contrary, Quarter in the Coinslot will be hear by-”
“So, as I understand it, you’re looking for evidence?” A voice cut into the judge’s words.
She shot an annoyed look as a woman stepped up to the front, but was blocked by the security guards. She lifted a pass that gave her permission to go on stage, but they still looked back at the judge before she gave a reluctant nod.
“Sister!” Bethany cried out.
“Dawn…” My heart swelled a moment with hope.
“This better be worth my time.” The judge declared.
“Oh, it should be.” Dawn smiled as she walked up to my computer.
At this point, my game had completely kicked me out of the match and I was in the lobby. She went to the computer and closed out the game with a few button clicks. There was some muttering.
“Who is this?” The celebrity judge demanded.
“I’m Noah’s sister,” Dawn responded.
“A sister?” She sneered. “Trying to protect your little brother, huh?”
“Always,” Dawn responded. “And I’m also the photographer of this event. Nothing passes my eye.”
She stiffened. “What does that mean?”
“We’ll see…” Dawn responded mysteriously as she plugged in her camera.
“Thanks…” I whispered to Dawn.
Dawn smiled. “If you hadn’t sent me a text warning me, I wouldn’t have had my eyes open. I’ll do anything to protect my cute little brother, always.”
She brought up a short video a moment later. That video didn’t just display on my screen, but also the screen the fans could see. The judge moved close, watching the video with interest. At first, the video was just a look at the tables as people set them up. However, while this was happening, a boy walked up to the tables. It was clear he was looking for a specific table. He could be seen selecting the one I was sitting at, bending over, and then pulling the pink USB out. He presumably plugged it in, although it couldn’t be seen from the angle of the image. This caused the crowds to go wild with shouts of surprise and shock.
“Who is that?”
“Isn’t that the assistance coordinator?”
“He plugged that in?”
“So, she’s the one who did it, why?”
I was a bit surprised too. I had thought the celebrity girl was the culprit, but it was this guy instead.
“To answer your questions… this might be the reason.”
Dawn suddenly brought up another video. This one showed the assistant coordinator. He was partially hidden behind a curtain, but it was clear he was up to something shameful. Hands were groping his butt and by the movements, it was clear that he was thrusting into someone. Anyone could see they were having sex in the corner. A moment later, he seemed to finish and quickly put his thing away. A few seconds later, the celebrity stepped out, straitening out her skirt, looking around, and then walking away.
My sister Dawn, up short extraordinaire, had caught a juicy piece. The popular celebrity had just been filmed in a sex scandal.