The seething fury that had almost whited out his sight was gone, and when he opened his eyes, Loren was once more lying on his back in the unbroken room. The feeling of anger was quick to start building back up again, the chemicals in his brain starting to catch up once more.
He grabbed at the cool, sharp feeling in his right hand, and metal lanced outwards, striking the opposite wall with a million needle-thin spines. The wall flared bright white but resisted the attack without a hint of stress and no visible damage.
The metal dissolved in the air into sparkling silver dust that covered almost the entirety of the floor. He tried again, focusing on a single spine this time rather than a mass of them. It lanced forward, growing at speeds he couldn’t even track with his eyes, and it struck the wall.
Unexpectedly it skated off to one side, up to the top left of the room, and then stopped cold in the corner. He held onto the power for a moment too long, and with nowhere for the metal to grow further, his hand was pushed backward and to the side with an audible crack.
“Fuck.” Loren hissed.
He quickly dropped the power, the metal spine dissolving into crystalline dust once more. He gritted his teeth against the pain and then forced himself to reset.
Loren woke up on the floor, and once more, the fury was gone completely, the chemicals responsible vanishing with the reset; he stared at his now unbroken wrist sullenly. The pain that had flooded the area was now replaced with another sensation, both hands filled with some kind of grimy energy.
He forced himself to sit up and then think for a moment rather than lash out again—he needed a plan.
Loren was definitely trapped in the room, but it wasn’t foolproof—he’d already managed to destroy it once. The problem was, even if he managed to get past the barrier that absorbed physical damage, he would need to contend with the fact that he was now sitting at the bottom of a large body of water.
There was a very uncomfortable feeling associated with water and the idea that he was surrounded on all sides…. He could distinctly remember a time when Emma had attempted to break him out of the Hero HQ.
Groping in the dark and desperately trying to find which direction was up, hands coming into contact with a body—Loren swallowed and shook his head, doing his best to focus on figuring out a solution.
He didn’t get a good idea of the scale of the building he was in because everything had been pitch black after the lights had been destroyed. It could have been the size of a warehouse, or it could have been just the room he was in—he didn’t know.
The energy in his hands most likely wouldn’t allow him to defeat the barrier, and even if I did, it probably wouldn’t allow him to survive the pressure of the water outside of this place. There was a chance it did something extremely exotic that solved all of his problems—he would need to check just in case.
Teleportation was most likely the best method to escape, provided it wasn’t limited by line of sight or had a range that was shorter than the distance between the room and the top of the water. Actually, he could probably survive as long as it got him at least two-thirds of the way up.
Loren pressed his hand flat against the barrier and pulled at the power—his hand glowed orange, and when he removed his hand from the barrier, an orange handprint remained on the barrier, glowing gently.
“What did that do?” Loren muttered.
He pressed his hand against the barrier again and left a second-hand print next to the first. He frowned, lifting his left hand and trying the same thing to see if there was any difference—the two handprints started glowing brightly when he twitched the power in his left hand.
The world exploded; fire, smoke, and noise washed over him, tearing at his face. He slammed into the opposite wall, the barrier holding easily against the explosion. The force was strong enough to keep him flat against it as it tore his body asunder.
Loren died before he’d even had the thought to attempt another reset.
He opened his eyes, staring up at the glowing barrier above him, stunned for a moment—the pain was already gone, but the memory of it was still present in his mind. Loren sat up slowly, checking the barrier and finding the handprints missing.
It had been a long time since he’d gotten such destructive powers; he was starting to wonder if there wasn’t some kind of intentional selection at work. The first power had broken the containment entirely, but he’d still died.
The second one failed to break the barrier, but he hadn’t died—while the third was far more potent but ended with him dying again. He didn’t need more force because the barrier hadn’t even twitched against the level of that explosion, and he couldn’t survive against anything that had a backlash inside this small room. Even if he’d managed to break down the barrier, he would have died trying to swim to the surface.
He turned his attention to the feeling of water surrounding him in a large rectangular shape. With all of the water touching everything, he could almost see the outside of the containment area. He could feel the bottom of the water pressed against the ground and the two flat expanses of what had to be the craggy ocean floor penning his prison in. The sense of water didn’t extend far enough to get an idea of where he was exactly, but he was starting to think he was in the ocean.
He pulled at the water surrounding the structure, trying to figure it out. There were thick struts that he could only imagine was some kind of metal coming off it in every direction, punching deep and securing the structure between the stone walls of the trench.
Loren hadn’t seen any of that when he’d seen a glimpse of the outside world, his power erasing his container and the trench from existence. There were no gaps for the water to slip into; even the struts in the trench wall had been sealed in with something.
He pressed the water down hard, directing as much of it as he could in an unending rush against the top. He felt the vibration through the container as he amped up the pressure; the vibration continued harder, but he couldn’t generate enough force to break anything.
In his focus on breaking the container, he’d failed to realize that his skin had turned transparent, rippling like water. He pushed outwards, and the water that now made up his body surged outwards, filling the room in an instant.
Loren generated more and more water, straining against the barrier, but it just glowed brighter, and he found it increasingly harder. The force of his water pressing outwards just outright lesser than that the barrier could withstand.
His power reached a hard limit, unable to fit more water in the space, the pressure too great to move—Loren abandoned the power in favor of something else.
Loren was starting to realize just what this trap was meant to do—it was forcing him to dismiss powers that would otherwise be incredibly useful. If he’d had the water power a week ago—he’d seen what someone like Raindancer could do, and Liquid was supposed to be just as good.
Now, if he got a physical augmentation power, he’d have to abandon it because he wouldn’t ever be able to get out of here with that kind of power. Loren gritted his teeth—he’d been too blasé about the details of his power, and this was the result.
He didn’t want to imagine how much worse this could have been if he hadn’t been able to reroll on command. He would have been forced to wait until he died or to use the knife—neither option was something anybody should be subjected to.
A small part of him wondered if Alana would have done something like this to push him towards being more willing to reroll instead of playing out every single loop—an attempt to train him into being more effective.
Loren shook his head, pushing the thought away.
There was something in the air around him, or at least it felt like it. It was also in the barrier and behind it. He pulled on it and frowned as nothing changed—except a tiny spark of sensation at his fingertip.
He pulled harder, then again—he blinked; his breath was coming out as mist. Loren turned around—a thin film of ice was rapidly crawling up the stone pedestal. He checked where the pedestal met the barrier; the ice was slowly encroaching over it. Loren knelt down, touching his fingers against the ice—it wasn’t at all cold to the touch; either it was some bizarre form of ice, or he was immune to cold.
“Am I stealing the ambient heat?” Loren wondered.
He continued to draw on it, pulling more and more of it into that tiny spark at his finger. It was growing, bright to his senses, but when he checked, it was completely invisible. The entire barrier sealed itself over with ice, but he could still see the play of white energy beneath the surface.
The spark at his fingertip lit up visibly, tiny white and crackling; it continued its erratic growth the more energy he fed into it until the room seemed to be growing darker and darker; somehow, the spark had begun to leech the light into itself.
Loren stood in the dark, surrounded by ice, steel, and water, before slowly lifting his hand, finger extended—The spark lanced outwards, vanishing the barrier, the wall behind it, and everything else for miles.
The water surrounding the pillar of destructive light froze solid; a tunnel of ice remained, stretching far out of his sight—the barrier flickered back into existence seconds later, covering over the entrance to the tunnel.
“Holy shit,” Loren said quietly, holding his hand well away from himself.
He stared through the barrier and through the tunnel beyond it—If the water hadn’t frozen, he would have died again. Loren was starting to think that most of the powers that would allow him to escape through brute force were going to leave him dead immediately afterward.
The tunnel was useless as it was, it would melt eventually, and it was almost completely horizontal. He wouldn’t be able to walk up to steep of an incline, but if he got it roughly angled correctly, he could potentially walk to the surface through the tunnel—Or run rather, because the idea that it might melt while he was moving was a very real possibility.
Loren tried to picture that brief moment he’d seen when he had erased everything around him to guess at the angle required. He started pulling on the ambient heat again; he crouched down, rested his elbow on the barrier, and then angled it up slightly. The barrier sealed itself shut behind the ice once more, and the light bled out of the room, drawn into his spark.
Loren made one final adjustment and then fired—the world went white.
The instant it left his finger, he surged upwards, sprinting through the entrance to the newly made tunnel before the barrier could regenerate. He almost slipped on the ice but managed to keep his footing.
He started pulling slightly on the heat energy again, hoping to counteract the column of ice melting around him. The incline was good enough that he could almost jog, but while he was thankfully immune to the cold, it was still a fight to remain upright on the surface.
The barrier flickered back into existence behind him, and he sped up his pace.
Loren wasn’t exactly an expert on ice melting times, but he didn’t want to be stuck in the tunnel when it broke. Now that he was thinking about it, if the base of the tunnel broke off from the containment area, the entire thing would just fall into the ocean—or would it float?
Loren didn’t know, but he intended on being on the surface when it happened.
More than an hour later, Loren found himself wondering just how badly he had misjudged the distance or the angle of the tunnel.
Water was beginning to appear, and each drip that fell on him reminded him that he was running out of time. Something cracked far behind him, and the tunnel moved—he started pulling harder on the ambient heat, and the spark in his finger grew.
Loren turned back, aiming straight back down the tunnel, unsure. Would it fix the tunnel if he fired again? Or would he destroy too much of the containment facility? Would the entire thing collapse if he hit it again?
“Fuck it,” Loren said quietly.
Loren fired, the spark lighting up the world once more—the tunnel shuddered before stilling. He waited a long minute, but nothing moved again. He turned and started up the tunnel, charging a second spark, ready to flash freeze the upper half.
Once the light vanished, he continued his journey.
Loren wondered if when he made it to the top, what would he see? He was almost certain this was the ocean now, given how salty the water that had dripped down on him at been. Would there even be land in sight?
Loren stepped out onto the lip of the tunnel, surprised by the sheer thickness of the pillar. The remaining ring that made up the bulk of the tunnel had to have been at least five meters thick, with a meter and a half hollow core.
There was nothing in sight, in any direction he looked—where ever he was, it was in the middle of an ocean. The chances of anyone finding him out here were basically zero; maybe Alana could come up with a brilliant solution to do so if she’d know where to look in the first place.
The tunnel began to move beneath him again, and rather than fix it, he pulled hard on the ambient energy, and the water surrounding the tunnel started to freeze over rapidly—he stepped out onto the icy platform gingerly, hoping it wasn’t about to collapse. It held but broke away from the tunnel as the massive column of ice sunk several inches.
Within a minute, the pillar vanished beneath the water, leaving him standing on a small platform of ice, completely alone and in the middle of the ocean. Despite his apparent immunity to cold, he didn’t share an immunity to heat because the full force of the sun, up high in the sky, was already becoming uncomfortable.
Despite his miraculous escape, Loren knew without a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t going to be making it anywhere on foot. He could start shooting more sparks around, creating walkways of ice, but with nothing in sight, where was he supposed to go?
It had taken him hours just to make it to the surface, and he was already tired from the effort. He could very well be thousands of kilometers away from land—and he wouldn’t be crossing that on foot in any survivable amount of time. He’d die of thirst long or grow so weak from hunger that he’d collapse long before he reached land if that were the case.
That wasn’t even considering how long he would last directly exposed to the sunlight for any significant time. It took something like thirty minutes before you started to experience a sunburn, and then past that, it would only grow worse.
He had escaped the cage, only to find himself in a larger one.
Loren sat down on the platform of ice, watching the water—being able to break the walls down would only get him so far. What he needed was a form of teleportation; anything short of that left him dealing with an entire host of other things that would kill him.
“When did you have time to set this up?” Loren murmured.
There wouldn’t have been enough time for someone to build this kind of containment in a week—he refused to believe it. Then again, maybe it was already here, and it was being recycled as a tool to get him out of the picture.
He wondered if he was under surveillance—did they know he’d already escaped?
Loren frowned; from their perspective, he must have woken up and then immediately broken out—he hoped that caused some alarm. If they were watching, then sticking around for too long, outside of the containment was just asking for them to attempt to apprehend him again.
Unable to be removed from the board entirely, his effectiveness and ability to take easy action were crippled instead—He couldn’t make the kinds of mistakes that led him to a place like this again.
Loren had spent years locked away in a facility, with his ability to act taken away from him. He’d already lived this hell once—there was absolutely no way he was going to sit back and accept it this time.
He took one last look at the ocean and then closed his eyes—the world fell away.
The train to hell has no brakes. Enjoy.
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Keep on keeping on!
Reroll – Season 3, Chapter 72 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)