Chapter 7

Loren’s Apartment, 9:30 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

The knocking on his door woke him up, and he managed to drag himself out of bed, despite the overwhelming urge to just ignore it. He made his way to the front door and peeked through the peephole.

He yanked the door open, scaring the crap out of Emma.

“What do you want, huh?” Loren said wryly, “Falling into my apartment last night wasn’t enough for you?”

“That was your fault,” Emma said immediately. “You brought back my ceiling, but you didn’t bring the bed back; I had to sleep on my couch.”

Loren blinked.

“Why didn’t you just come to get me?” Loren rolled his eyes and pushed out past her. “Come on, then.”

Emma led him up the stairs and into her apartment, which looked much the same as it had the last time he was here, only there wasn’t a massive hole in the wall or two people in the process of killing everyone. He stepped into the room behind her and brought the bed back with a moment’s effort before scratching the back of his head.

“Was that the only other thing I managed to vanish?” Loren asked curiously. “Did I get your clothes as well?”

“Hmm?” Emma said idly, straightening the covers on her bed. “Oh no: I wasn’t wearing any.”

“On that note, I’m going to leave,” Loren said, amused, “See you later, Sparky.”

“Hey, do you want to stay for coffee?” Emma asked quickly, “We can talk more about what happened?”

Loren ummed and ahhed for a moment, thinking about everything he needed to go start redrawing the plan for before sighing.

“Sure, white, two sugars,” Loren said eventually, “Hold the poison.”

“I’m not going to poison you!” Emma said, offended.

“Can’t put anything past the evil lady who broke into my apartment last night,” Loren needled.

“That was your fault!” Emma whined. “I’m a complete innocent.”

“Call the media, Sparklite; the villainess is announcing her innocence!” Loren said, shocked.

“Loren,” Emma whined.

Emma,” Loren said childishly.

Emma’s Apartment, 10:17 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

“We should totally team up!” Sparklite said enthusiastically, “Just think, I can disable all the cameras, alarms, and everything else, and you can just take the walls straight off.”

Because, of course, she was trying to convince him to become a criminal.

“Just because I don’t care if you’re a villain doesn’t mean that I want to become one,” Loren said, amused.

“It’s not like they could hold you anywhere if they did catch you, though,” Emma said, grinning. “You could just remove the cell wall or the bars and wander off.”

“They would probably just start shooting if they couldn’t contain me.” Loren pointed out dryly.

“You could just vanish the guns!” Emma snickered.

“That’s your solution for everything!” Loren said incredulously before narrowing his eyes at her coffee.

“Hey!” Emma whined, “That’s mine, bring it back.”

“Stop trying to make me into a criminal,” Loren demanded, “And say, uncle!”

“Fine,” Emma huffed, “But I’m not saying, uncle.”

“Say it!” Loren laughed. “Or no coffee for you.”

“Loren,” Emma whined before immediately giving up. “Uncle.”

He brought it back, and she immediately took it in hand, possibly to hide it from him.

“What happens to the things you vanish?” Emma asked curiously.

Loren hummed for a moment; he’d done some experimenting before he’d gone to bed last night. He could vanish anything in his line of sight, as long as it wasn’t a person. He could make them reappear whenever he wanted, and conserving the momentum seemed to be a choice.

“I’m not sure,” Loren admitted, “Got any ice cubes? I could vanish one and see if it’s melted or not when it returns.”

“That’s a good idea!” Emma said with wide eyes and ducked into the kitchen.

She returned a few moments later with a glass of ice cubes and placed it on the table in front of him. He vanished the glass with a thought, taking the ice along with it. Loren had been watching the clock on her wall for a while now, as the time of the Arrot City bombing slowly approached. He wouldn’t be able to stop it this reset, but he’d find a way eventually.

He forced himself to push the attack out of his mind, there was nothing he could do this time, but he would fix it.

“Hey Emma,” Loren asked distractedly, as his thoughts turned once more onto the problem. “What do you know about Paragon?”

Emma tilted her head to the side and studied him curiously.

“Almost nothing really, he’s completely out of my league though,” Emma admitted, “I tend to stay on the down-low when any of the big seven are in town, so I’ve never had a run-in with him.”

“He’s invulnerable, right?” Loren said idly.

“He has a bunch of powers; Flying, invulnerability, super strength, super speed, and this weird aura going on.” Emma listed off from memory, “Calms you down around him.”

All things Loren already knew.

“What about you, Sparky?” Loren switched gears, “You can throw electricity around? You also said you can disable things, like cameras or my headset.”

Emma flushed slightly.

“It was an accident.” Emma mumbled, “I can generate electricity from my body, or absorb it from anywhere nearby, and use it to enhance myself. Sometimes it will draw on things nearby when I let my guard down.”

“That’s pretty cool, you know?” Loren admitted, and it was.

Being able to shoot blasts of lighting around and make yourself stronger, faster, or more durable was awesome. There was a thread of jealously that he hadn’t managed to get something like that yet; the closest he’d come was back when he was the god damned Milkman.

“Thanks,” Emma smiled.

Emma’s Apartment, 12:50 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

One coffee had turned into four, and Emma had managed to keep him in conversation long enough for him to actually forget about the explosion, but the deluge of alerts on his phone earlier had certainly dragged him back to reality.

It had also given them something else to talk about, and the conversation had been revitalized.

“It’s just insane,” Emma shook her head, “So many people, gone just like that.”

“There’s no way it was an accident like they are claiming,” Loren said quietly, head resting on his folded arms, which in turn resting on the kitchen table.

“Mm,” Emma said in agreement, “Who’d do something like that?”

“You’re the villain here?” Loren said idly.

Emma almost looked hurt at the comment.

“Just a joke,” Loren added after a moment, giving her a smile to soften it. “You don’t seem the type to do anything like that.”

“Dick,” Emma huffed. “Maybe Meteor has reappeared?”

Loren blinked before shaking his head.

“I’m not convinced they ever existed in the first place,” Loren said honestly, “The stated goals of the group were to protect the environment; then they just kill ten million people and themselves? I’m not buying it.”

“There’s footage-” Emma said, frowning.

“You can shoot lightning out of your butt; you’re telling me there’s no one out there with the power to edit the footage?” Loren said immediately, “Illustrious can make hard light illusions? They dub the footage and bam. Instant terrorist group to cover up what was really happening.”

“What was really happening?” Emma said, shocked and interested.

“They wanted to change the course of history, so they were secretly building a time-travel spacecraft, codenamed; The SS-Gullible,” Loren said seriously.

“Fuck you!” Emma laughed, reaching over the table to try and grab him.

Loren let out his own startled laugh at the sudden attack and scooted back out of reach, the chair legs screeching. The feet hit a lip on the wooden floor and tilted back, sending the chair up into a precarious lean.

“All aboard the SS-Gull-Ah!” Loren yelped, and the chair tipped over, depositing him on the floor.

Emma stopped next to his head, smirking down at him with her hands on her hips. He didn’t even try to not look up her skirt; instead, he cleared his throat.

“I’ve never wanted to vanish anything so badly in my life,” Loren said distractedly.

Emma’s smirk widened, and when she opened her mouth to respond-Someone started hammering on the door, one floor below them-Loren’s door.

He blinked.

“Looks like Peter’s looking for me, huh?” Loren sighed.

“Looks like it,” Emma mumbled, almost sounding disappointed, “Does he try the rent scam on you too?”

“Rent’s due!” Peter hollered, still hammering on his door.

Loren sighed again.

“Nope, looks like this is the first time.” Loren sighed before sitting up.

“It will be over pretty quick then,” Emma said, smirking.

He snorted.

“At least I know that there will be less screaming than there was at two this morning,” Loren shot back before deadpanning. “Oh, right there.”

Loren!” Emma said, mortified, realizing he had heard her.

He paused at the door and returned the glass of ice-water now; looks like things didn’t stay frozen inside it; he left it on the stool by the door.

“Does that look like the sink to you?” Emma huffed.

Loren’s Apartment, 4:50 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

He’d attempted to save Emma some trouble by preemptively telling Peter what would happen if he caught him doing this to any other resident, and it seemed to have scared the man off, for now, at least.

How differently might the day have gone if he had immediately gone out to tell Mark again, with the power to vanish things, he would have been able to vanish that dickheads ninja’s weeaboo stick.

He’d chastised himself for a good five minutes before he remembered that he’d been punted through two floors barely seconds later by the telekinetic. Without the invulnerability, he would have died then, or before even from the debris. Wait, no, Emma had gotten him with a stream of lightning as well; that would have done him in.

Loren shook his head and refocused.

They had a versatile team going there; A telekinetic strong enough to break through the walls of a building with ease, he’d likely been holding back a great deal as well, along with a speedster with a sword that could seemingly cut through anything. A teleporter of some sort as well, given what they had been saying and how quickly they had arrived.

The Vanish power would be able to remove the sword, the clothing, and any equipment they had been carrying, but he probably would have still died.

The Six-Armed Invulnerable power had kept him alive from anything short of that guy’s sword. Had he not encountered the guy, he probably would have survived a really long time in that loop, even given the explosions at the parade.

The Milk power would have done nothing to help.

The Teleport power he’d had right at the start would have been useful; he might have been able to get the other two out of there if he’d been quick enough, but it had been a surprise attack; without prior knowledge, he would have gone down to friendly fire-or lightning in this case.

Can lightning even be friendly? He shook his head again.

He barely had a couple of minutes before Mark left the building immediately after a reset, which meant that he had to figure out his power in that time and then go tell him to call the heroes in. That gave him all of ten minutes to prepare to fight Swordguy and Floorsmasher with an unfamiliar power.

If he got something like the Milk thing a second time, he would just be walking to his death; hell, even if he got something good, he would probably still be walking to his death. Those guys were professionals. It was like a game really, he had unlimited tries to stop them; only, dying fucking hurt, and he wasn’t going to throw himself at it repeatedly like some god damned anime protagonist.

So what did he do?

This team of killers seemed like the end bosses of an arc. He was a level 1 noob at this point, and he needed to become a level 1 badass, so the next time he died, he could use whatever power he got that much better.

Maybe he should take Emma up on her offer.

Spend a few resets being a thief, get his feet wet in this cape business before diving into the shark-infested puddle. If they got attacked by a hero, he might even gain some valuable experience without the threat of death. Alternatively, he could just go out and attempt to find some crime to fight on his own.

That brought with it the risk of being shot or stabbed or something.

The other option was to just gain proficiency in learning how to learn the powers. If he got good enough at figuring out how to use them in a minimal amount of time, he might be able to make some really early moves; destabilize whatever element was sending the assassins to target him in the first place.

A long-range teleport power might see him move straight to the bombs if he could find a way to access them, maybe teleport them into the ocean or something.

Loren paused, or he could just vanish them.

He was an idiot, he had the perfect bomb disposal power, and he knew roughly where the bombs were downtown. He just needed to figure out how to get into whatever underground area they had been placed in, another thing his power should be perfect for. It was too late to save anyone in Arrot City in this reset, but he could at least save Paragon and the crowd. He couldn’t go out in broad daylight; people might see him, he’d have to wait until it was dark.

He had some preparation to do.

Rooftop, Apartment Building, 11:17 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

He wondered if he was going to be in this loop forever. What happened when one day when he was an old man, if he managed to avoid dying for that long, he finally checked out from natural reasons-only to find himself listening to his old upstairs neighbor doing the nasty above him. Was this how he was going to spend eternity? Waking up on a Tuesday?

If he did, was it a bad thing? Loren didn’t know.

It was too early for him to make any sort of judgment; the initial panic of needing to do something had worn off over the course of the day. He was essentially immortal, provided the resets didn’t run out, but he had no evidence to say they would and no evidence to say they wouldn’t. He doubted he ever would in that regard; if he woke up dead one day, he wouldn’t know it would he? Because he’d be dead.

Did that help to inform him on how to spend potential eternity? A little.

If he spent any extended time thinking about not waking up, only to one day, not wake up-well, it seemed like it would be a gargantuan waste of everybody’s time. So he’d do his best to put that aside, although it was never as easy to follow through with that type of discipline in reality.

He’d read enough horror stories to know that ‘eternity’ was a pretty long time. He’d also seen enough shit in the last week to scar him for life if he hadn’t already been. A single traumatic experience was enough to turn some people into monsters and ruin others.

What would he be like after ten more deaths? What about a hundred?

There was an element of inevitability there, but it branched in two directions. He was either going to figure out a way to deal with the trauma he accumulated over potentially thousands of repeats, or he was going to go insane. If there was one thing he could take some solace in, was that it would be such a slow process he doubted he would even notice himself changing.

He could almost picture it, and it brought with it memories of things he’d dealt with a long time ago.

A thousand resets from now, he would be sitting here on the rooftop of his apartment building, staring out at the sea of lights and roads stretching before him, a hollowed-out husk of himself. He wondered if it would still be him in the driver’s seat or if he’d just shut down entirely, his body moving through the motions.

There had been a day, back when he was younger.

He’d lost his best friend to a… car accident, not too far removed from the one Mark constantly found himself getting into. That day had spiraled into many sleepless nights, months of nightmares, and years of therapy to put it behind him. That day was when his motivation to do anything had disappeared; his energy levels had dropped to roughly nothing. After everything that had happened, he’d sat in the room, unable to bring himself to want anything, to feel anything; it almost felt like he’d been watching himself from the outside as his body went through the motions of breathing; he’d been a completely hollow boy.

That day had been a Tuesday too.

“Loren?” Emma’s voice called quietly, sounding worried. “I’m here, can you tell me what this is about? Did you change your mind about me? I won’t come after you, I promise. I’m wearing the we can if you want too, but the rooftop isn’t really the place-”

Loren listened to her rambling before scoffing and glancing over his shoulder at her; she was in costume just like he asked, perfect.

“When I’m in costume, do not call me by my human name, minion.” Loren said dramatically, “Address me as Bootyslayer911.”

“What?” Emma said hesitantly. “I’m not calling you that-what is that wrapped around your face?”

“A shirt,” Loren said imperiously.

“It’s pink,” Emma said, bemused.

“It’s salmon, you heathen.” Loren scoffed, “Come on, then, we are going to save the city.”

“Save the city? From what?” Emma said, sounding lost. “I thought you wanted me to wear the costume because- well, I know guys like it.”

Was she insinuating that he asked her to dress up in spandex in the dead of the night, demanded she come up to the rooftop just to-Loren was offended; the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.

Why hadn’t the thought crossed his mind!?

Authors Notes:
Hey, duderino’s, another one finished. There’s a second character portrait up now on the Gallery page! Thanks for all the support!

Lame ass calls to action:
Check out my Patreon, other stories or drop by and leave a comment, or review-whatever you feel like on any of the sites I post stuff on! Every bit helps. Peace!

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