Loren’s Apartment, 2:22 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.
Loren touched his throat gently, listening as Emma and Mark did their best to shower him in ceiling dust and glass. He’d forgotten about Naomi in the chaos—the fact that he had chosen the same building she had been hiding in was just—
He turned to look in the direction of the hallway, feeling the pull of something familiar from the other side of his apartment. The longer he focused on it, the more clear the feeling became, and then suddenly, a second perspective snapped into existence.
Loren stared at the hallway, and he stared at the shower stall in his bathroom. The origin of the point of view suggested that he was seeing from the perspective of his mirror.
“Can’t I just get one of the classics?” Loren mumbled, slipping out of bed.
He moved towards the bathroom and stuck his head around the doorway—he couldn’t stop himself from jumping as he saw himself step into the room from the mirror’s perspective. There was a bizarre moment where he was staring at his reflection in the mirror while he was staring at his real self from the mirror.
The strange feeling he’d been getting was much stronger with proximity—despite what almost every single horror movie and video game had taught him, he reached out, touching the surface of the mirror. It rippled outwards, gripping onto him, and then he was pulled bodily into the mirror. Everything went black for a single frame before he was deposited in front of it once more.
Loren stood in his bathroom blinking—nothing had changed.
“As if I’d say that,” Loren grumbled.
He was obviously in the mirror; the question was, what was the point? He stuck his head out into the hallway to check if there were mirror demons about to wreck his shit but found nothing. He picked a marker up off the kitchen bench and flipped it into the air before catching it—he could still touch everything, and belatedly he realized that if he couldn’t, he would have fallen through the floor.
That brought back a nasty memory—He could hear the argument upstairs move towards the door, and he followed, moving to his own doorway. He’d messed around too long—He would need to tell Mark about everything to slow him down and then ring Alana afterward.
“Time to improvise,” Loren said quietly, opening his door and stepping out onto the stairs.
The door upstairs opened, and the two emerged, screaming at each other. Loren moved up the stairs, opening his mouth to interrupt them when he actually caught sight of them for the first time.
Two black silhouettes stood on the stairs, holes in space roughly analogous to their general shapes.
“You’re lucky I even came here at all!” Mark snarled, “Don’t worry, though—it’s the last time! Find your own shit next time!”
Loren reached out and poked the man on the shoulder with his marker, seeing as they were clearly too busy to notice him.
“Hey Mark—” Loren said, annoyed.
The empty hole in space spun around and lashed out—faster than Loren could track. Something passed through his head and out the other side.
“Did you just kick me?” Loren said, offended.
They didn’t even blink—apparently unable to hear him or see him.
“Mark?” Emma said hesitantly.
“There’s something there—whatever it is, it’s invisible,” Mark said forcefully. “Look, there’s a floating pen!”
Loren waggled the marker around in greeting—they clearly couldn’t hear him. He popped the lid off the marker and stepped over to the wall.
“It’s trying to communicate!” Emma said, shocked. “Is anyone there? Hello?”
“What the hell is this?” Loren snorted. “Ghost catchers?”
He wrote out a message on the old peeling wallpaper—Peter was going to be pissed.
“Call Wraith; she’s crying?” Emma said hesitantly.
He continued, grinning.
“Cinematic assassinations are coming to kill you, don’t tell anyone but Wraith, or they will know and attack early,” Mark said, frowning, pulling out his phone. “Take me to a mirror so I can talk properly—Emma, let’s go back inside; we can’t do this out here.”
“Oh, a ghost appears, and now you want to stay?” Emma snapped, “Fucking asshole!”
Mark stepped past her towards the door, letting himself back in and blatantly ignoring her fury. Loren followed the two holes in space inside the apartment, listening as Emma verbally railed the man. He followed the strange feeling that he knew to be her mirror back to its source and lifted his marker up as the two of them stopped in the bathroom.
“It’s another message!” Emma said quickly. “I cannot enter the physical realm without the proper ritual.”
Loren did his best not to laugh as Emma read it out loud. He was probably having a little bit too much fun with this power. Mark seemed to be taking his advice and calling Alana.
“Wraith? Are you alright? You aren’t crying, are you?” Mark mumbled into the phone at his ear. “No—it’s just, look, I’ve gotten a tip that Cinematic is active, and I’m one of their targets. It’s kind of a weird situation.”
“If you wish to bring me forth… you must call my name three times,” Emma read out loud, looking worried. “I don’t know your name… Mark, I’m starting to feel like we are summoning a demon—maybe this isn’t a good idea?”
Mark held his hand over the phone receiver for a moment.
“It’s trying to warn us okay? Just work with it.” Mark insisted, brushing her off. “We need to figure out what’s going on here.”
“Fine!” Emma snapped before turning back to the mirror. “I… ghost? Spirit? What’s your name?”
Loren wrote it in the mirror.
“I am not saying that,” Emma said immediately, looking flustered. “This is a joke isn’t it? Who the fuck is this?”
He moved on to drawing a stick figure sticking a fork into a wall socket, and Emma tried to rub it out with her hand, smudging the ink across the mirror.
“How do you even know about that—Stop it!” Emma said, embarrassed. “Fine, I’ll say the stupid name! Bootyslayer911, Bootyslayer911, Bootyslayer911.”
Loren pushed through the mirror and found himself deposited in front of them, still laughing.
“I can’t believe you actually said it,” Loren laughed. “Why are you so gullible, Emma?”
“Loren!” Emma said, outraged.
Hero HQ, Setalite City, 7:12 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.
“I don’t know, man.” Loren sighed, “I didn’t make the power okay; it came like this.”
“But how can you pick something up? You’re obviously interacting with the physical world.” Secluded said strangely, “If you can touch things, why can’t anybody touch you? It doesn’t even make sense. Those two things are completely contradictory.”
Loren didn’t have a clue how it worked. It was like a one-way interaction, he could touch things, but he wasn’t really there? Maybe the power was converting his movements into some kind of supernatural force in the real world that nobody could interact with?
Loren shook his head.
“No idea, honestly,” Loren admitted.
“This is truly terrible.” Secluded said bemused, “It’s an affront to powers everywhere—you should be ashamed of yourself for not immediately knowing the answers to my questions.”
“Thanks,” Loren said dryly, rolling his eyes. “Super charitable of you.”
“Can you feel the things you’re touching—can other people feel it? Like is there tactile feedback involved?” Secluded rattled off a bunch of questions. “Does everything have the same level of resistance as normal?”
This had been going for a while now—he could remember the feeling of the marker between his fingers easily enough, and Mark had definitely felt him tap the guy on the shoulder, although that had been with the marker.
“Yes to all of those questions,” Loren said honestly.
Secluded sat back on the chair in disgust.
“I hate it,” Secluded decided, nodding firmly.
“You drag people into an alternate dimension inside you.” Loren said dryly, “Where do you go when you enter it, huh? Explain that.”
“I go inside it,” Secluded said smugly. “Easy.”
Loren blinked at the answer.
“That’s not—where does your body go,” Loren said annoyed, “What’s your anchor to the real world?”
Secluded grinned at his annoyance.
“The space I left behind is the anchor,” Secluded said easily, “It’s a fixed point, I can move around inside my personal dimension as much as I want, but when I leave, I’ll always end up at the same spot I entered.”
That explained why Secluded and Tag had reappeared on the Heroes Podium after the bombs had detonated—at the time, he had wondered why they hadn’t moved to reposition, but apparently, it hadn’t even been possible, really.
It was also a big weakness.
“You can’t cancel your power whenever you want?” Secluded wondered.
Loren shook his head.
“I have to enter or exit through a mirror—but the mirror realm is a replica of the normal world,” Loren said, nodding, “So there’s not exactly a lack of mirrors, but it would be awkward to pop up in someone’s bathroom whenever I wanted to leave.”
“You could carry a hand mirror with you when you enter,” Secluded pointed out, “You said your clothing came with you?”
“Yeah, and it was all invisible just like I was,” Loren nodded. “I wonder if I could exit with a mirror that was under the effect of my power or not, that would be like a second layer deep—actually, I’m pulled physically into it, and I really don’t like the idea of being dragged into a space the size of my hand.”
“Okay yeah,” Secluded winced, “Maybe don’t try the hand mirror one.”
“What does your inner dimension look like?” Loren pressed, honestly curious. “Is it the same as the real world?”
“Not even remotely,” Secluded said smiling, “It’s an endless flat expanse made of perfectly smooth, white stone. There’s some ambient light, but you can’t see where it’s coming from. The stone is malleable—that’s where I get my reputation from; I can make it do basically anything. It forms into whatever I think of, gains colors, textures, and everything else.”
Loren tried to imagine it.
“I kind of want to see it.” Loren admitted. “Can you make living things?”
Secluded glanced away for a moment, looking hesitant.
“I do sometimes,” Secluded admitted, “It works but… while they look real—I can tell they aren’t.”
“Could you make a mirror inside?” Loren wondered. “You could bring me in and I could see if it creates a replica of your dimension—”
“That sounds like a really, really bad idea.” Secluded said honestly, “We should totally try it.”
Secluded stuck her hand out insistently, and Loren snorted before slowly reaching across the table. Secluded snagged his wrist, and the world fell away, twisting in on itself. Loren knelt down to touch the ground, and as Secluded had said, it was smooth.
It was a bit darker than he expected, given the description, and the light source was just as unknowable.
“Well, what do you think?” Secluded said smiling, leaning against a white pillar that had grown out of the ground. “Mines definitely cooler than yours—probably bigger too.”
All in all, it was an endless field of white stone—there was a feeling about the space that he couldn’t help but notice. He’d become so hyperaware of these kinds of odd feelings that he couldn’t help but notice them.
It wasn’t easy to describe it either—it felt like the feeling Loren got when he looked at the hero called Secluded, only much more… real, and pulled into every part of this place.
“I haven’t even shown you mine yet,” Loren pointed out, wincing at the phrasing.
“Oh?” Secluded smirked. “All you boys are the same, huh? A little bit of attention from a beautiful hero, and you are more than ready to shove it in my face.”
Loren rolled his eyes at the jab.
“If I am remembering correctly,” Loren sniped back absentmindedly. “You dragged me into a room and insisted I come inside you.”
There was a rumble through the stone beneath him before Secluded started laughing.
“Holy shit,” Secluded snorted. “Okay, fine, that was a good one—point to you, you’re quick, I’ll give you that.”
Loren pushed himself back to his feet.
“The only ones I have are good ones,” Loren bragged, pretending to miss the obvious ‘quick’ jab.
A mirror began to emerge from the stone, completely white before color began to bleed into it. A moment later, the mirror was standing in front of him. He could feel the moment it developed that same all too familiar feeling all of the real mirrors had, and it flickered to life in his senses.
It felt like everything else in this place.
“Anything?” Secluded said curiously, walking around it to stand beside him.
“I can feel it at least,” Loren admitted. “Don’t get rid of it until I come back out—I don’t really want to get stuck inside.”
He reached out and pressed a finger against the glass—the sensations became clearer; it felt like Loren Parker. His own sense of self spread out within it, bright, real, and endless.
The mirror surged out and gripped him, dragging him inside it, and everything went black.
Loren opened his eyes slowly and sat up—He looked upwards, half expecting to see a shattered lightbulb and his dusty ceiling.
Instead, he saw an endless field of stars dotting an inky black canvas, bright and sparkling. He looked down and found himself standing on an invisible platform, and beneath it was was nothing but a continuation of blinking lights.
“Where am I?” Loren said, awed by sight. “What is this place?”
That feeling of himself was everywhere, stretching forever away from him in all directions, and everything felt simultaneously within his reach and yet outside his grasp. The countless sparks held countless flavors—and some were more… understandable than others.
“Secluded? Can you hear me?” Loren said quietly, but there was no answer.
He held an arm up in the direction of a particularly bright feeling, studying the skin of his hand and feeling out a distant speck. It felt familiar in a way, and not just because it felt like he did—it felt like a burning fury in his chest, rising and growing hot, uncontainable. Loren closed his eyes as the memories of Hope’s Bridge rose in his mind—the power to birth a sun felt right at home in this place filled with stars.
Was this where his powers came from?
How had he even reached this place—he’d gone into Secluded’s inner dimension and stepped into the mirror within it. He’d expected some weird byplay between their conflicting powers—like that she would be able to mess with him even while he was only half present. That one of their abilities would trump the other—but this was something else.
This was just…
It was a world—or a place, inside himself, like Secluded’s own. The mirror realm reflected the real world, and his power had touched a mirror that was reflecting Secluded’s inner world. Stepping into that mirror had stolen ownership of the reflection somehow.
He closed his eyes and moved his hand across the emptiness in front of him, a million feelings corresponding with a million powers flickering across his mind. Cold and hot and buzzing, a feeling of motion, experience and continuation, a sense of sharpness and a flicker of something too fast for him to understand—all sitting and waiting for him to reach and touch them with his mind.
Loren knew he could pick one, pluck it from the universe to use as he saw fit—but along with it came the understanding that he would begin anew. He would return to the start of the loop, wielding the power he selected here, in this place.
This was the mechanism that allowed him to reset on will, the one that brought him back upon death and the one that selected powers for him—he’d intruded on the automated process that went on deep within himself.
Loren slowly came to the realization that he had died inside Secluded’s dimension, inside the stolen mirror and the realm that Loren had created inside of it—in a place so deep that to return, he would need to pass through this gate manually.
Could he… reach this place again one day?
The ridiculous mixture of conflicting powers that had brought him here was already gone, and the chances of him randomly rolling it again was basically zero. Even if he found it now amongst the stars and chose it—he would be in the exact same position he was in now—forced to select it again. The reality was, he had the chance to select his power for the first time—but if he used it, it would also be the last time he had it.
Loren sat down on the invisible platform and searched the stars.
Without a way to keep track of the time, Loren had long since realized that he could neither map them all nor accurately gauge what they actually did. He knew that the ability to create a sun that he’d had long ago corresponded with a feeling of heat, growth, and power—but already, he’d found three more powers that possessed all of those qualities, some with more.
Heat, growth, and power, and bestowal—its purpose unknown. Heat, growth, power, and scales, a wildly different impression than the first and none of his original power’s familiarity. Direction, momentum, speed, and force, in countless combinations, and each bent in a hyper-specific application.
Heat, and cold and exotic energy of a million flavors, and more.
Whatever he chose, the choice would be blind—and he knew thanks to his repeats that he would most likely have it for less than a week before it was gone. No solution fits every problem, and his familiarity with the events of the Evergold Festival was where his true strength lay.
“Spoiled for choice has never been so relevant.” Loren sighed.
Loren wondered if he could just stay forever in this place, where time didn’t pass, and his rebirth forever waited. The view was incredible, and everything was suffused with a warm, inviting feeling despite his presence in space.
Then he started to laugh—he could never stay here regardless of how nice it felt, not like this anyway.
It was far too lonely.
Loren moved his hand back to where the original sun power had been sitting and then slightly off to one side—there it was. The feeling of motion, experience, and continuation—he had no idea what it would translate into once he woke up, but that was an almost universal concept here.
Any choice he made right now had an equal chance of ending in greatness or despair. There were simply too many choices, and no matter which he picked, there would have always been a better choice or a worse one.
Loren had grown pretty accustomed to dealing with regrets—what was one more?
Lots of power discussion in this chapter, long overdue.
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