Loren’s Apartment, 2:22 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.
A series of loud, rapid thumps rattled the ceiling, followed immediately by a woman’s long, loud moan. Loren cracked his eyes open to stare up at his roof, just in time for his lightbulb to explode.
He reached over and pulled the blanket back down before freezing; his body felt strange, and the reason for the strangeness was immediately apparent as he moved his three left arms forward, followed by his right three.
“What the fuck is this?” Loren said in disbelief.
Each of the arms seemed to be fully functional and could be moved independently of each other, and it was really, really weird. He slipped out of bed and over to the mirror hanging from his wall and flinched back from his own reflection.
Seeing these additional limbs hanging off him where there shouldn’t be any was a horrible feeling; It was almost like this wasn’t even his body anymore, he’d used his own for twenty-one years, and suddenly there were extra parts…
He could feel his anxiety building at the thought of leaving the apartment. There was no way he could go outside looking like this; he looked like a monster or something. Loren rubbed his face and flinched when he accidentally brought two extra arms up.
Mark would probably take one look at him and try to kick his ass. Then again, that might be a way he could keep the guy inside the building where the truck couldn’t get to him. Loren forced him to head for the door; he would reset again if things got bad.
The argument upstairs was reaching its peak once more as he stepped out of the apartment and headed up the stairs. He stopped in front of the door and knocked loudly with all six arms; the yelling quieted. A few moments later, the door opened to reveal Emma wearing her oversized shirt and shorts.
“Loren!” Emma said apologetically before her eyes went wide. “W-what?”
“So, you shattered my lightbulb a couple of minutes ago, and now I have six arms,” Loren said wryly, crossing all of his arms. “I think you owe me an apology or something Emma.”
“I-I did this?” Emma said horrified.
“You’re joking,” Mark’s said, alarmed, his voice carried through from behind the door.
“You gave birth to a lovely mutant six-armed superpower,” Loren said evenly, “Congratulations, It’s a boy.”
“I’m-I didn’t…” Emma stumbled over her words.
“Why do you think we had anything to do with it?” Mark said firmly, stepping up beside Emma in the doorway.
“Because you’re Gradient, and she’s Sparklite,” Loren said easily.
Mark flinched as his secret identity was suddenly exposed, but Emma just gaped at him.
“How do you know that?!” Mark demanded.
“I got six arms and the ability to see the future,” Loren responded. “There’s some big shit happening in the next couple of days; I’d better give you the tea.”
“You can see the future as well?” Emma asked incredulously.
“Prove it,” Mark said darkly.
“Emma got her powers by sticking a fork into a socket, she told me in one of the branches,” Loren said easily.
“You could have overheard that,” Mark said immediately. “We’ve talked about that before.”
“How about I tell you something that Emma has never told anyone before in her life?” Loren said seriously. “She started a bushfire behind her house when she was a kid.”
“Oh my god.” Emma said, embarrassed, “I told you that?”
“It’s true, then?” Mark said frowning.
“Yeah,” Emma said sheepishly, “I never told anyone it was me.”
“Wonderful, now let’s go inside so I can tell you about the bombs that are going to destroy eight blocks of Arrot City today, or the ones that are going to kill Paragon and a crowd of people on Thursday,” Loren said cheerfully.
They let him in pretty quickly after that.
“First things first,” Loren said easily, “Mark does not go outside the building, you get hit by a Wrightway truck in your car in every single iteration I’ve seen, and you die every time; despite my best efforts to change that outcome.”
Mark held his hands in front of his mouth, frowning.
“So somebody is trying to kill me then?” Mark murmured, “Is it the truck driver?”
“Unknown, he dies in every iteration if I don’t drag him out of the truck,” Loren admitted.
“Fine,” Mark muttered, “How does Paragon die? There’s no way a bomb could kill him; he’s more or less invulnerable.”
“I don’t know that either,” Loren said evenly, “He explodes suddenly on the stage, blood and viscera everywhere. Then three-possibly more-explosions go off under the road amongst the crowd.”
“You don’t know how many go off?” Emma asked curiously.
“I die almost immediately,” Loren explained.
“Oh…” Emma said awkwardly, “Sorry.”
“That’s on Thursday?” Mark confirmed, writing it down on a notepad. “During Paragon’s speech?”
“What about the Arrot City bomb?” Mark asked next.
“It goes off right in the middle of central,” Loren frowned, “Eight block radius, everything is just gone.”
Emma looked vaguely ill at the idea; Loren narrowed his eyes at her in warning god dammed spewbeast.
“What time does it go off- do you know?” Mark probed.
“Ten-forty-five in the AM is when the news starts getting out,” Loren said evenly, “So at least thirty seconds before that, I would guess.”
Mark wrote it all down, asking for additional information on random things.
“Alright, I’m going to make some calls, don’t go anywhere,” Mark said firmly, moving to the other side of the apartment.
“Hey, Loren?” Emma asked quietly.
“Hmm?” Loren said, glancing over at her.
“Sorry about-you know.” Emma made a vague gesture at him.
Loren tilted his head at her.
“The lightbulb?” Loren guessed. “The noise? What are you apologizing for exactly?”
“No!” Emma flushed, “I meant the arms.”
Loren reached out with three of them and simultaneously patted her on the head, the shoulder, and the upper arm. Emma blinked at him for a moment.
“Don’t worry about it, champ.” Loren said, amused, “I’m not planning on going outside anytime soon; maybe they will fall off after a while?”
Emma scrunched her face up at the word.
“Don’t call me champ,” Emma huffed, “I don’t think they are going to fall off, either.”
“Sorry about that, sport,” Loren said immediately.
“Don’t call me that either!” Emma pouted.
“Sorry, pal,” Loren smirked.
“Ugh,” Emma huffed, “Bastard.”
“It’s interesting seeing you when you aren’t crying and running around burning down buildings,” Loren said honestly.
Emma hesitated for a moment.
“Is that what I do?” Emma murmured, “I was wondering what my reaction would be. Why did I tell you about the fire?”
“I stopped you from burning down a building, and we got drunk on the roof instead; I asked for something you’ve never told anyone else before,” Loren smirked. “I had to tell you something I’d never told anyone before first, something really juicy.”
Emma’s jaw dropped open.
“That’s bullshit!” Emma demanded, “I don’t remember any of that! What did you tell me?”
“Nice weather we’re having, huh?” Loren said smugly.
Emma stewed in her outrage for several minutes before finally cracking.
“Loren!” Emma’s whined, “I want to know.”
“I’ll never tell for as long as I live; it’s far too secret for such virgin ears,” Loren said imperiously.
Emma’s response never manifested because Mark returned, looking grim.
“They are sending people to check the locations now,” Mark said, frowning, “I had to tell command where I was, so they are sending a team to pick us up in an hour.”
An hour? That was a pretty long time; Emma apparently thought so too, because she spoke up.
“Why are they going to take that long? Response time is what, five minutes? Ten on a bad day?” Emma frowned.
“There’s something going on on the other side of the city,” Mark mentioned offhandedly but didn’t detail any specifics.
“Who’s going?” Loren asked curiously.
He couldn’t imagine that Emma would be going with them, a ‘civilian’ would have no reason to be included in this, and she couldn’t exactly reveal she was a villain, not that it would help her chances either.
“You and me,” Mark said shortly, “There’s-”
The wall exploded, and something came through it at speed he couldn’t even react to, he just felt the debris knock him down onto the floor, and the sound of a scream followed shortly after. Loren got his three right arms up to shield his face. The room was filled with dust now, and he squinted to try and see what had happened, something wet touched his leg, and he glanced down; blood, a growing pool of it.
He forced himself to his feet as lighting flashed around the room, scouring lines through the walls, and a stream of it smashed into his arms; somehow, he couldn’t feel any pain from it. He didn’t even have any scrapes or cuts on him from all of the debris.
“Emma?!” Loren called, still unable to see anything except dust and lightning. “Mark!”
The electricity cut off abruptly, followed by a wet thump on the other side of the room, and he backed up until he was pressed against the wall of the apartment.
“I’ve been told you can see the future.” The voice said quietly, “I’m sure you know what comes next.”
“I do, which is why I’m going to give you a single warning,” Loren said evenly. “In every single iteration I’ve seen, you die in the next minute, except the one where you leave.”
There was a beat of silence before the voice continued from the left side of the room.
“Smart,” The voice murmured.
“What does it say about me?” A second voice spoke from the right side of the room.
“Fuck-” Loren managed before he came to a stop two floors down.
The ceilings and floors of the lower rooms rained down on him, and he did his best to force himself back to his feet, his six arms working double-time on digging himself out. He was still somehow unharmed; this power must have come with a certain level of durability.
The door to whoever’s apartment he was in opened, and a man in a grey hoody with a black face mask stepped inside carefully. He raised his hand, and Loren couldn’t get out of the way before he was suddenly smashed through another floor.
Some kind of telekinetic, the second person-wearing an expensive-looking black vest over a white dress shirt was somehow waiting for him. The guy moved so quickly he could only see a blur as he appeared feet first on the ceiling before pushing off to drop down behind him.
Loren spun as fast as he could, but before he was even halfway around, a searing pain tore up the left side of his body, and all three of his left arms dropped to the ground; his apparent invulnerability utterly useless in the face of this guys weapon.
Barely a moment later, another burst of pain left him lying on the floor in two pieces. He couldn’t draw in any breath, and he used everything he had when he started screaming in pain, but even though the pain, he could see the killer sheathing his sword horizontally behind his back.
“Has it been a minute yet?” A voice called from outside the apartment, “I’d rather avoid dieing if he wasn’t bluffing about that part.”
Everything was fading to black.
“Better give it another thirty seconds-just in case.” His killer said casually. “Yeah, he’s just about done.”
“That was a quick two million.” The guy outside said, amused, before angling his voice behind him. “Orient, he’s down; give us sixty seconds before you bring us back.”
He could just see the faint outline of the ceiling before Emma’s long, loud moan cut through the air. Loren pulled the covers up to cover his face as the lightbulb exploded, rolled over, and screamed into his pillow.
It was an hour later before Loren could pull himself together enough to stop crying.
How did all of that go so wrong?! Mark had called the heroes! Why had two villains been paid two million dollars to kill him? How had anyone even found out? The heroes had to have a leak somewhere, to someone with enough money to be ready to front two million in less than fifteen minutes and the will to do so. Why would they target him at all? Because he revealed the explosions? Was it the same person? Or was it because he was telling everyone he could see the future.
The argument upstairs had already petered out a while ago, and Mark had no doubt already died in the collision. Emma probably wouldn’t find out until she saw it on the news, so he’d failed that again.
What was he supposed to do here? He couldn’t stop the truck without keeping Mark inside the building, but he had no way of keeping him inside unless he full-on committed to the ‘Future Prediction’ gambit.
Mark would make that same phone call every single time as soon as he believed the bombs were real, he wouldn’t just not report them. Whoever sent the assassins would immediately hear about it again, before teleporting in- or however the fuck they had done it- was there even a course of action that could result in a win here?
Whoever sent them was able to contact, mobilize, and deploy two super-powered killers within minutes; it was absurd. He didn’t even recognize either of them, and he’d spent a lot of time looking up heroes and villains.
Loren stared up at his ceiling sullenly; he wished this would all just go away-the ceiling vanished, and a bed immediately started falling towards him. He felt a spike of adrenaline at the impending pain, and then the bed vanished as well.
The pain still came, with something heavy landing on his torso with an accompanying panicked squeal.
“What the fuck-Ow!” Loren gasped, trying to suck in a breath. “Stop hitting me-get out of my room, you menace!”
“L-Loren?” Emma said, shocked. “Is that you?”
“Of course, it’s me!” Loren crawled free of the woman’s weight and tipped off the bed-straight onto the glass on the floor. “For fucks sake!”
“What is going on?” Emma said, bewildered.
“I don’t know goddammit, you just destroyed my ceiling or something!” Loren quickly put all the blame on her, “I thought your power was electricity?”
“How do you know that!?” Emma squeaked.
“I’ve spent more than long enough on the internet to recognize Sparklite when she’s sitting naked on my bed,” Loren said waspishly, pushing himself back to his feet.
“Ugh,”Emma groaned, not even bothering to cover herself. “I hate the internet.”
“As nice as it was for you to drop by unclothed and unannounced, Ms. Villain,” Loren said sarcastically, not bothering to look away. “Can you, like, get the hell out of my apartment now?”
“We need to figure out how this happened!” Emma insisted, “That’s not one of my powers! It has to be you.”
Damn, looks like he was busted after all.
“What the hell does that mean?” Loren tried, “I’ve never had powers before; why would I suddenly develop them now?”
Emma just stared at him in concentration.
“What were you doing when the ceiling disappeared?” Emma continued, studying his face.
Loren blinked; what was he doing?
“I was thinking about how I just wanted everything to go away-” Loren admitted, and his bed suddenly vanished.
Emma squealed again as she fell to the carpet, landing on her ass.
“Huh,” Loren said curiously.
“It was you!” Emma said triumphantly, scrambling up and coming to stand beside him. “You can vanish things.”
“That’s a pretty useless power; how do I get my bed back?” Loren complained.
“Do the same thing you did to vanish it, but in reverse?” Emma suggested.
Loren frowned in concentration, thinking really hard about his bed reappearing. It was suddenly back without transition as if it had never left.
“Awesome.” Emma said smugly, “Told you.”
“Yeah, Yeah.” Loren rolled his eyes before staring up at the ceiling and narrowing his eyes.
The ceiling returned, and he was left standing alone in the dark with a naked villain.
“How do you really know who I am?” Emma said seriously; he couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were glowing electric blue.
Well, shit, he was still in trouble then.
“I saw you climb up the side of the building late one night in costume,” Loren said, bluffing. “Ages ago.”
“Damn.” Emma groaned, apparently buying his story. “Why didn’t you report me?”
Loren almost sighed at the same question she always seemed to ask him.
“You haven’t killed anyone as far as I know, so I don’t really care,” Loren shrugged. “Although you keep breaking all of my electronics, which is really starting to piss me off.”
Emma’s eyes faded, and she looked away from him.
“Um, sorry-what did I break?” Emma said sheepishly.
“Headset was the most expensive thing,” Loren sighed, “You broke my lightbulb about an hour ago as well.”
“Oh my god,” Emma said embarrassedly, “I’m sorry I really didn’t mean to; I’ll replace them both.”
Loren was really starting to hate apologies; it was becoming more apparent than ever that they didn’t solve a damn thing when the person forgot about it as soon as he reset.
“Sparklite is going to personally steal me a lightbulb?” Loren said with faux excitement, “Why my buddies are going to be absolutely chuffed! I hope you sign it!”
“Loren,” Emma whined, covering her face with her hands. “That’s not funny.”
Those piercing really were nice.