Loren dreamed of an endless field of stars. Countless bright sparks contrasted against an inky void. There was a distant sense of awe and a building feeling of hope that, somehow, he had found his way back to this place.
A pair of eyes opened in front of him, and he realized he was staring at Mara Melancholia, whole and without the damage that Threadbreaker had wrought on her. She stood on the platform of nothing that was holding them both up and watched him quietly.
He tried to speak and found his voice simply gone—something red slipped dripped down from her hairline, trailing over her nose and down off her chin. He reached up, holding his hand out—and then stopped.
Loren didn’t have a hand; there just was nothing—he looked downwards, and his body was equally as gone. The realization rushed through him, and his sense of stability left him.
Loren fell down into the nothingness below; Mara’s pale face watched him go, now running red with blood—Loren opened his eyes, staring up at the bright ceiling with his heart beating in his chest.
Something was obviously wrong here because this was not his bedroom, and he was entirely without clothes.
His throat hurt, but with everything going on, it was the least important thing he could think of. It wasn’t freezing in this strange room, but it was uncomfortably cool, like the thermostat had been turned just a few degrees out of normal.
The potent embarrassment of being naked in an unknown place washed over him, but he didn’t let it rise to show on his face. The fact that someone had moved him here and seen him without clothing just made it that much difficult.
He sat up slowly, studying the room—four walls, about three meters by three meters. A pedestal sat against one of the walls, carved from smooth white stone, and he could see the handle of some kind of knife lying on top of it.
The walls were glowing with pale translucent energy that moved slowly across its surface in an unending crawl. He could see no gaps—when he checked, all of them were covered in it, along with the floor and ceiling. There was too much grey in the stone for this to be inside Secluded’s dimension, but the smooth walls did remind him of it a little.
He’d been laying on the floor before he’d woken up, and it hadn’t seemed to harm him any, so he reached down and touched it with his fingers. It glowed slightly brighter, spreading outwards and then fading away into the rest once more.
“Hello?” Loren said slowly.
There was no reply, and he pushed himself up to his feet, watching the energy glow beneath his feet brighten once more. He was right—it was a knife sitting on the pedestal, thin, sharp, and with a leather handle.
It wasn’t the first time he’d woken up somewhere strange—Wraith had done it to him on several occasions. This wasn’t one of the cells from the HQ, though, and it wasn’t the room she locked him in to sit out the end of Setalite City.
If it had been, there would have been monitors for him to actually watch it—Loren moved to the closest wall and pressed his hand against it. Once more, it lit up, and when he pressed harder, the glow brightened once more.
The brightness faded quickly, spreading out and most likely feeding into the rest of the energy field. It reminded him distinctly of one of the many powers he’d had—the one that absorbed any force he created or was hit with. This was obviously a room designed to keep someone from damaging the walls, which meant it was more than likely a prison—for him.
It was also a prison that couldn’t hold him.
“Let’s not waste any time—I’m not stuck here,” Loren said, frowning, folding his arms. “I can leave whenever I want to—you might as well do whatever you brought me here for.”
There was no response to his statement, but he waited patiently, knowing he could simply reset to escape. It was certainly possible that whoever was imprisoning him wasn’t actively watching him—he could wait a while to see if anyone showed up.
The situation was honestly a bit baffling—if they were going to all this trouble to imprison him, they must have known about his ability to go back in time.
So why on earth would they put him here?
They’d built a room that he couldn’t escape, so the obvious outcome—for literally anybody modeling his actions—would be that he would use his ability to escape the room. They had even left him a knife to use—they clearly wanted him to reset everything.
They obviously didn’t know he could reset on command, or they wouldn’t have bothered with the knife. Loren was something of a contrarian at times, and if somebody was going to all of this effort to force him to do something, he had no problem doing the exact opposite, for now at least.
His first thought to who was responsible for thispointed firmly at Mareke—what with him being the most recent obstacle. But the longer he thought about it, the less it fit—Mareke wouldn’t want him to reset because he’d immediately lose control over the situation, so he could probably eliminate him as the culprit.
Alana had a history of doing things like this, but there were zero reasons for her to attempt to make him reset in this roundabout way—she would be well aware of what Threadbreaker had done—he closed his eyes, doing his best to push away the image of a red covered hand.
It was easier than he liked to push everything down and away, and Loren wondered if he was getting better with dealing with these terrible things or if he was just one step closer to become a hollow man, numb and without feeling.
Loren pushed past the thought—Alana had no reason to force him to reset, and given what had happened at the café, she would have known that he had intended to regardless.
It was possible that she was playing a layer deeper on this, and locking him in this room was an attempt to trick him into not resetting by placing him in a situation where it was the only answer he had. If he ended up thinking himself into believing this was a trap and that resetting was a bad idea—he’d end up locking in the new timeline when Tuesday rolled around.
“Wraith, if this is some kind of complicated mind game,” Loren said, frowning. “We are going to have a serious problem.”
While he couldn’t put it past her entirely, it still didn’t feel like it fit—the knife specifically didn’t feel like something she would do. Its presence spoke of sadism or mercy, perhaps—Neither applied to Alana; if she wanted him dead, he would have woken up in his bed, unaware of what had happened.
The other option was Epilogue; Taker and Deceitful were already captured, and they would obviously be unhappy with Mara being killed. Loren had left long before any news of the fights against Lecture and Reset come back to him, so he wasn’t sure how that had played out.
It was possible the heroes had caught the two of them by now—but it was speculation. How much time had passed exactly? Loren remembered Alana guiding Haunt through the process of estimating times based on her hunger and thirst.
Whoever had abducted him had attacked him while he was asleep—Loren was kind of hungry, and he felt as dehydrated as he always did after he first woke up. He felt like he could go a few hours before needing to actually eat or drink—so it was most likely Friday morning.
Something like eight-to-twelve hours, then?
Wraith would have attempted to contact him to update him on what had happened by now, either before midnight or around seven in the morning. She would have immediately noticed he was missing, given her lack of boundaries.
What was the best play here? It was possible Alana, or the other heroes would find him in the next few hours. If they didn’t, he could wait, see if he could find out who was responsible for this, then reset.
It would be annoying not to know who was responsible, but he’d know not to return to his house after Thursday in future loops or to set up a trap to catch whoever it was.
Loren knew the next loop was going to be different—he wasn’t going to have a mental breakdown, and in turn, Alana wouldn’t end up self-reporting to Mareke. He wasn’t going to tell Mongoose about Gradient, and he was going to make sure Emma had a place to say.
Loren would suggest to Alana to get Mareke involved right from the start to avoid any bad first impressions. If he ended up still being a complete asshole, Loren would make sure it was the last time he bothered.
He still needed to come up with a solution to Dovetail, though, and the more he saw how that affected the heroes, the more he was leaning towards blackmailing the man in private.
“Look, this is a nice place to dream up exactly how much of my foot I’m going to shove up your ass when I find you,” Loren said bored, “But if you’re waiting for me to kill myself, it’s not going to happen—can I get some music or something?”
Once more, there was no response, and he sighed—maybe they knew his actual weakness and wanted to bore him to death.
Loren moved to approach the pedestal, snagging the knife by the handle and picking it up. The leather of the handle was actually far more worn than he’d noticed from afar, and the blade was covered in a hundred imperfections.
He wasn’t some kind of knife appraisal expert by any means, but it certainly looked old—like it had come from a time long since passed. It was also sharp; he could tell without touching the blade, and it was shiny enough that someone must have taken relatively good care of it.
Loren reared back and stabbed the wall with the knife as hard as he could—and the tip snapped off, spinning past his face and barely missing him. The momentum of the strike dragged it off to one side, drawing a searing bright white line across the field.
The line remained visible for a lot longer than his other investigations before finally fading away.
“Whoops,” Loren said, hoping it was expensive.
There was no response, and he couldn’t help but be disappointed—whoever had put him here wasn’t going to be baited out, and he’d exhausted pretty much everything he could think of at this point. Continuing to taunt some unseen person who might not even be looking wasn’t going to get him anywhere.
Loren considered trying to offer his warden information in exchange for revealing themselves—but he knew it was unlikely to accomplish anything. Whoever it was already had some idea at how his power worked, and they knew that giving him their identity would be a bad idea.
He wouldn’t learn anything else.
Loren couldn’t help but find himself annoyed to be forced into this position—he didn’t like resetting early; it was a waste. He could potentially have learned so much more if he’d made it to at least Monday.
He’d made some mistakes along the way; he’d completely lost track of Emma this loop, hurt both Alana and Mongoose unnecessarily. He accidentally ruined the Rapid Response Team as well—but they’d accomplished so much good as well.
The Peacekeeper had stopped the bombs in both cities; Paragon had been contained, Mathew had been ousted as a villain, Taker and Deceitful had been captured. Cinematic had failed to kill Gradient, Outplayed, and Isometric. Alleviate had even managed to resolve both his and Iza’s pheromone situation—that was big.
They would have had time for Haunt to interrogate Lecture, Reset and Deceitful properly, and potentially find out the location of Epilogue’s hideout. They might have discovered what Tiamat and The Researcher were doing in Setalite City while the other members made a mess of the city.
It was almost a perfect run—right up until Threadbreaker had put his fist through Mara’s face and ruined it all.
They could have learned so much with the remaining time—Loren closed his eyes again and pushed the anger away as best he could. He reached inside himself, spending a moment looking over the green energy field that had allowed him to get beaten up by Mongoose.
There was nothing to indicate they had attempted to impair his current power, but then again, it wouldn’t have allowed him to get out of this place anyway—he couldn’t exactly suplex the room into letting him out.
“What a waste,” Loren sighed as the world bled away.
Loren opened his eyes, and the small knot of confusion started to grow—He was still in the room, naked and hungry.
He’d felt his ability start to work; the world had faded, everything had gone dark—Had he fainted?
The confusion started to grow into something far closer to worry as he turned and looked across the room. The ancient knife that he had broken and tossed on the floor was back on the pedestal. He pushed himself to his feet, took a step forward, and stopped.
The knife was completely unbroken, the tip back in place. He stared at it, his mind trying to accomplish the same feat the knife had but kept failing to put the pieces together.
Loren reached inside of himself, searching for the pervasive green net of energy, and found it missing; just a tiny black orb sitting in the middle of his chest remained—he’d definitely rerolled his power, but for some reason, he hadn’t left the room.
He frowned, staring at the unbroken knife, and then it dawned on him—Loren had taken his current state of hunger and thirst as proof that only half a day had passed. But that wasn’t the case at all—it wasn’t Friday like he had assumed.
If he was right about how his power chose it’s save points, then that meant today was Tuesday, the 29th of February—He really didn’t want to consider the fact that they might have kept him sedated for far longer than that.
It had to have been at least four days—which meant that they would have needed to feed him somehow or keep him from dying of dehydration. A feeding tube would have accomplished just that—most likely that was the reason his throat hurt.
Loren slid down the wall next to the pedestal, a bright white blob followed his path down, feeding the barrier.
“My reset point has changed,” Loren said slowly, forcing himself to say the words out loud.
Loren stared down at his hands for a long moment, just considering the situation he was in. He was imprisoned in a room that seemed to absorb damage, and they’d kept him unconscious long enough that it had become his new spawn point.
All of the mistakes he’d made the last week were now permanent.
Alana would always know about their argument, and Mongoose would always have received news of her fiance’s infidelity in a carelessly cruel way. The Rapid Response Team would always remember the day they’d been torn apart. Mareke would always know that Alana had gone behind his back. Mathew Kline would always be allowed to escape uncaught.
Mara Melancholia will always have died, sitting in his favorite café, drinking a Miel latte with a smile on her face.
Loren couldn’t remember ever being as angry as he was in the moment of Mara’s death, but as the translucent barrier covering the room flashed bright white and then shattered like glass, he thought what he was feeling right now must have been close.
The stone walls dissolved like paper under the unrelenting omnidirectional force that rippled outwards in the air. The unseen lights illuminating the room flickered out, and Loren felt the floor vanish beneath him.
Loren fell into the darkness below as the force continued to grow outwards; a hole opened in the dark, light burst into existence, revealing the sky, far above. The light illuminated everything, the water towering over him on every side, seemingly pressed outwards in the shape of a perfect orb.
The field of erasure vanished as it hit some outer limit, and the water crashed back inwards, sealing the light away someplace he couldn’t reach and leaving him to the dark.
First chapter of Season 3 my dudes and dudettes, Chapter 69(Nice), lets get it.
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Keep on keeping on!
Reroll – Season 3, Chapter 69 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)