Sixth Floor, Heroes HQ, Setalite City, 2:25 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.
In the end, he decided on the locker; nothing bad had ever happened in one of those, right?
It was a tight squeeze, but he managed to get inside and shut the door. He could even see part of the room through the grate on the front of the door.
He didn’t move until a shadow passed over the patch of the floor he could see from the grate and his heart immediately starting surging in his chest; The door clicked open.
There was no fucking way he could possibly be this unlucky; Loren refused to believe it.
He very carefully ducked down and was rewarded with catching the sight of a woman’s spandex covered behind, bent forward over the desk. It was most likely the brunette woman who had been sitting in Gradients office only a couple of minutes ago, judging by the white costume.
Why was she here now?
He’d only been out of the freeze for two minutes maximum, and somebody was already investigating? Did she have some kind of sensory power that revealed him after he’d canceled his power? Did she know he was still in the room?
Without moving his body, he glanced down at his phone, tilting it just enough to see the timer; 7 minutes left-6 now.
“For fuck sake,” The woman complained.
She had been attempting to rifle through the drawers from the opposite side before huffing and rounding the desk. The woman sat down on the chair with a soft thump and tried the bottom drawers, her top half completely out of view.
Maybe she wasn’t here for him?
There was a creak as she sat back in the chair and kicked her legs up on the desk.
“I know you can hear me.” The woman said, annoyed. “Where is it?”
Busted, Loren thought in horror.
How could she have possibly found him so quickly? How did villains get away with anything in the fucking city with people like this around? Why hadn’t they found the bombs already if they were this god damned competent?
He drew in a calming breath before reaching out to touch the door; maybe he could talk his way out of this.
“It’s not on the desk!” The woman muttered, “Why don’t you come up and look for it? That sounds like a you problem to me.”
Loren blinked as he realized that the woman was talking to somebody else. Was she on the phone? He stared at where his hand was still resting against the door and slowly drew it back in relief.
“They aren’t going to suddenly escape-as if they are going to tell you shit, man.” The woman huffed, “How many times have we caught one of them already? Just-Fine! I’ll check the fucking locker; you want me to look under your stupid pot plant next?”
Loren suddenly wished he had hidden behind the pot plant; it seemed to be the only place this damn hero didn’t intend on checking. He held his breath as the hero stopped in front of the lockers and rattled the lock on the front of the left one. He stared through the grate at her, standing barely two feet away from him, completely unaware with mask pulled up and resting on the side of her face.
The woman was Chinese, in her mid-twenties at his best guess, and there were tattoos crawling up her neck to end just below her chin. He was pretty sure she would be entirely covered in them, at least that was the impression he got.
“It’s locked,” The woman said in possibly the most obnoxious tone Loren had ever heard. “Wow. That’s incredible. What’s the-3, 7, 7, 7, 7, 9? How many sevens again? Want me to add a few more just in case-fuck you.”
The woman started laughing at whatever the response was, and Loren couldn’t help but grin at the woman. The locker unlocked, and she messed about in it for a minute before finding what she was apparently looking for.
“Yeah, yeah-I found your stupid folder.” The woman said, annoyed, “I’ll be down in a couple of minutes.”
She let out a sigh as she hung up, and most of the energy washed out of her as she made her way towards the door.
Loren’s phone started vibrating.
He gazed down at it in horror as the woman paused at the threshold; ‘50% off large, premium, or vegetarian pizza’s.’ The hero slowly closed the door behind her and turned back to face the lockers; he heard a small thump as the folder she had retrieved from the locker landed on the desk. He watched silently as she crossed the room to stand in front of his locker, and he stared through the grate down at the only part of her he could see from the angle.
She must have had a much better angle because she realized he was inside the second she was close enough.
“Who the fuck are you?” The woman said darkly.
Loren cleared the alert on his phone with his thumb; he spotted the timer in the process, and his heart sunk.
“I am Lockerman,” Loren said bravely, saying the first thing that came to his mind. “I protect the world from disorganization and clutter.”
Oh god, what was he saying?
“That’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard,” The woman snapped, “Get out of there now.”
“I can’t,” Loren said quickly, trying to bide time. “I’m completely naked; I don’t want to accidentally show you the goods-”
It completely failed to stop the woman from ripping the door open and grabbing him by the front of his shirt. Loren stumbled as she dragged him out and tossed him onto the floor with basically zero effort.
“Don’t look very naked to me,” She demanded, giving him a look over. “Start talking.”
“I meant I was naked under my clothes,” Loren said in response and flinched as she dragged him up off the floor and into the air by his shirt. “Uh—I think I was just getting to the part where I explained exactly what was happening here today?”
She watched him silently, still holding him off the ground, and he swallowed again; she was strangely intimidating.
“Miss Hero, let me preface this explanation by telling you exactly how sorry I am-” Loren started, before freezing everything the very second his power came off cooldown.
Loren was left hanging in the air by his shirt, but he managed to work his way out of it with some effort leaving him standing shirtless in the office. He darted around her and slid under the desk and then canceled his power.
“What the fuck?” The woman squawked, spinning around and surveying the room. “Sorry, my ass! Where the hell are you?”
He couldn’t get out of the room without the door being open, and she was standing close enough that if he unfroze next to it, she would be able to grab him before he could even get it halfway open. He needed to get her away from the door. He took a deep breath, and she must have heard because the desk vibrated as she landed on top of it in an instant.
The world froze again, and he scrambled out from under the desk, sprinted over to the door, and dropped his power again. He barely got the door cracked open before she noticed him, and he panicked, freezing the world again. The woman was stopped mid-leap with her hand, practically touching his face.
He moved over to the locker again, dropped the power, and slammed the metal door shut as fast as he could, but his intended ruse to trick her into thinking he was in the locker again failed before it even began; as the door bounced open just as he froze the world again. He was left standing in front of the suddenly reopened locker and turned to find the woman just behind him, arm outstretched once more.
“Fuck!” Loren gritted out, crossing back to the desk.
The door was still far too closed to squeeze through, and she knew that was his most likely next location—that would be why she’d move to black his pathway to it.
He ducked down and grabbed the chair, starting time again and launching it across the room at the window with a grunt of effort. He froze everything again as the hero moved to stand between him and the door, but she was already paused in a half-turn, ready to move when he unfroze everything.
Instead of intercepting the chair to stop it from breaking the window like he thought she would, she came straight at him again.
He slapped his hands on the desk in a moment of inspiration and froze the world again.
“This is a god damned hostage situation!” Loren said incredulously, “Get me the fuck out of here.”
He wrenched the unfrozen desk drawers open and searched through them; the second from the top, he found what he didn’t even know he was looking for.
Loren stepped around her outstretched arm and wrapped the duct tape around the top half of her face, covering her eyes with multiple layers, glad that she hadn’t moved to put her mask back on. He ducked down and tied her legs together as best he could, but they were pretty far apart.
He studied the room carefully.
This would be his last attempt at escape, he spent far too long in the time-stop this time, and she would catch him the next time if he didn’t get out now.
The door was still mostly closed; the chair had miraculously clipped the roof and was in the process of falling to the ground, having completely failed to break the window. The locker door was on its backswing with just enough room to slip inside with some work, and the pot plant stood untouched in the corner of the room.
Loren moved towards the door and wrapped a massive amount of the tape around the doorknob before unfurling more of it and wrapping it tightly around her outstretched hand; he used the entire roll in an attempt to firm the cord of tap up enough to withstand the force.
The woman used the same hand every time to try and grab him, so he was counting on her using it to remove the tape from her face. He walked over to the locker and slid back inside, turning so the door mostly covered him from view.
“Fuck you, door!” Loren cried and waited for his voice to fade before he restarted time.
Immediately the sounds of the scuffle returned.
“You fucker!” The woman cried, ripping the door open as she tore the tape off her face.
The door somehow came completely off its hinges before it bounced towards her from behind, and then the corner hit the ground, sending it completely off course, missing her entirely as it flopped onto the floor.
Loren caught the locker door quietly after it finished it’s rebound and held it closed. The woman grabbed the thick cord of tape and tore it in two before she sprinted out of the room, using the door frame as a handhold to spin herself out into the hallway and disappeared from sight.
Loren stared at the patch of the floor outside of the locker.
“I can not believe that actually worked,” Loren mumbled, completely amazed.
He waited three minutes for his power to recover and then stepped out into the office and froze the world again. He made his way out of the office and followed his pathway back to the front of the building. There were people everywhere, paused in mid-motion as they searched the building for him.
Fortunately enough, when he reached the ground floor, there was someone in the process of stepping into the building, so he was able to slide around them and out onto the sidewalk. He turned right and kept on going, not even considering turning his power off until he was several blocks away.
He could deal with the cooldown later.
Loren’s Apartment, Setalite City, 6:20 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.
There had been no sudden explosions in retaliation to his message, and nothing had been brought to the public yet.
Loren couldn’t help but think that was a good thing.
The time-stop cooldown had long since recharged in the hours that had followed his successful message delivery, and he had returned to testing things.
The obvious conclusion he had come to after the fight in Wraith’s office was that he needed to start carrying some things around with him if he did anything with this power in the future. Tape, rope, restraints of some kind—zip ties probably—and other things he could use to hinder people while they were frozen. Also, something he could use to break windows, a hammer perhaps, or a baton of some kind.
He’d run over the office scenario about a hundred times already and had figured out three ways he could have gotten out of the office—if he’d had the time to think, but despite being able to freeze time, the cooldown forced him to act too quick to think up good solutions on the fly.
The glaring one that he hated himself for not thinking about was that he could have tried to bring the door with him into the time freeze like he had the desk drawers. He wouldn’t have been able to use it to get inside initially because of the cooldown, but he could have used it to get out.
The other thing that he kept on returning to was the series of bizarre things that had been occurring while they had been playing hide and seek.
The door had very, very strangely gone off course, almost as if to avoid the hero. The locker door had bounced open at the exact moment to fuck his deception up, and the chair had failed to even make contact with the massive window despite him throwing it from only two meters away, and she hadn’t even moved to intercept it, as if she knew it wouldn’t have worked.
It was possible that the glass was shatter-proof, though, so maybe he was just reading too far into things.
He looked the woman up online the second he had gotten home and discovered her to be one of the Heroes based solely in Setalite City, who went by the name, Mongoose. Her powers were listed as a hyperkinetic with a superhuman physique—strength, speed, durability—the entire package. There were also unconfirmed rumors that she had been in a number of weird incidents that had injured other heroes, but she had avoided being hurt somehow.
Loren tossed the tennis ball up into the air and froze time again, crossing his arms beneath his head and staring up at it.
In retrospect, he probably should have just stuffed the letter under the door; then again, Mongoose would have found it when she came to get whatever folder Wraith needed. He didn’t know anything about Mongoose other then she was quite a scary woman. He sat up on his bed, tilting his head out of the way to ensure he didn’t headbutt the tennis ball, and stretched.
He would try and sit out the danger now; the building had been outside of the blast zone last time, so he should be fine if it still happened. There should also be nobody looking for him; his face had been covered during the infiltration, he had snagged his shirt back on the way out.
The other threats that he might need to watch out for were entirely dependant on whether or not the bombs still went off. If they didn’t, he had no idea what would happen after Thursday; if they did go off, he would need to evacuate the area to avoid Crescent’s rampage.
It was a completely unconfirmed guess, but Loren had a feeling that the people that Mongoose had spoken about catching were most likely the rest of Ascent—or at least some of the members—which would have explained why Crescent had lost her mind.
He would need to confirm that at some point—but Loren was definitely going to wait a few days before he tried any more ninja missions. He’d had the benefit of being the ‘invading force,’ he was completely unknown, with a completely unknown power that let him bypass almost all of their security, and he still almost got caught.
“I need to get good,” Loren mumbled before reaching up and wrapping his fingers around the tennis ball.
He unfroze the world and got ready to toss it back up into the air again when something stung him on his neck.
“Ow!” Loren yelped, slapping his hand onto whatever it was and digging the solid mass deeper into his neck. “What the fuck is this?”
He snatched it out of his neck with a gasp and tossed it across the room; the tiny transparent container topped with a silver needle bounced off the wall before landing on the floor. His eyes went blurry for a second, and he stumbled away from the bed.
There was a distant whizzing sound before a cable flashed through his window and into the wall; Loren belatedly reached for his power but found it still on cooldown, several minutes left before it had recovered.
A familiar black-armored form zipped through his window feet first planted his foot on the wall and leaped towards him. Loren tripped backward onto the floor as the world spun, and he waved his hand in an attempt to ward the man off.
Wraith reached down towards his face, and everything went black.