The room was on fire when he returned; his power was stuck in an active state. He lifted his hand—there was a vague outline of twisting fire that may have been an arm, but it was lost in the sea of fire. He tried to pull back on it, to attempt to revert to some kind of human state. The fire twisted, merging down into a roughly human shape, but there was nothing human left about him, only fire.
Loren could somehow still see, and the barrier was hot beneath him, a gradient of bright white beneath him to a duller, faded white against the walls. He wouldn’t be escaping from the room with this power; he couldn’t generate enough energy to dismantle the barrier, let alone deal with the water beyond.
Loren opened his eyes to a room without fire, and clenched his hand—there was something pressed against his skin, the feeling wrapping around his entire body. He lifted his hand to study it, a tiny film of white, translucent energy—not that different in appearance from the barrier that was trapping him.
Only, he was failing to make it do anything; he couldn’t move it, pressing it outwards did nothing. He couldn’t make it brighter, and he couldn’t dismiss it; it was just there. Loren moved across the room and rapped a barrier-covered knuckle against the barrier covering the room.
It winked out of existence, leaving the smooth white metal behind, cold to the touch. He reared back and punched the wall—the wall broke beneath his punch, leaving a fist-sized hole in the metal. He blinked, not at all expecting it to work.
He pulled his hand out of the wall, and then the barrier regenerated, covering the walls in white. It had done that the other time as well; whatever was powering, it took a few moments to kick back in.
“Alright, time for an adventure,” Loren said firmly.
He tapped the barrier and then slammed his shoulder against the wall the second it winked out of existence. The wall broke before him—but it was also far thicker than he had first assumed, and he stumbled forwards. The barrier came back up while he was halfway through but winked out of existence again—and Loren was thankful it hadn’t sheered him in half.
Loren punched forward again, cutting through the wall like it was made of sand and shouldering his way the rest of the way through as it broke around him. The faint resistance vanished, and he stepped through the wall into a more open space.
The crack in the wall that he’d made during his escape let light flood through in a narrow beam that illuminated some of the metal floorings. It was basically the only source of light outside of the barrier room, and he could just see faint shapes in the dark.
There was a small green dot, up in the dark, about as high as a door might reach, and he moved towards it. His foot kicked something in the dark but didn’t break through it. Loren wondered if there was some kind of intent needed for his power to start breaking things—he hadn’t fallen straight through the floor after all.
He knelt down, running his hands over whatever it was; round, ridged, and seemed to be running towards the containment cell. It was a pipe of some kind, and he stood up using his foot as a guide to follow it along the floor in the dark.
Loren almost tripped again as a second pipe intersected the first, and after finding some footholds, he stepped over them—more pipes, coming from different angles, but he was pretty sure they all reached back to the containment room.
He fumbled around in the dark until he found something, a large rectangular block where the piper ran to. Patting the thing down led him to what felt like a larger pipe that seemed to be made of smaller ones bound tightly together in a large cylinder—It ran in the direction of the green dot he’d spotted.
“Ever heard of a ceiling light, idiots?” Loren complained to no one as he followed the pipe. “Or did you forget to pay the power bill?”
His outstretched hand hit the wall, and he searched it in the dark, finding a seam—a handle, lower and beneath the green dot indicated it was a door. He opened it—or attempted to, it was clearly locked. Loren punched through the locking mechanism and pulled the door open—light flooded into the room, blinding him for a moment.
“Fuck,” Loren complained, shielding his eyes and stepping inside.
The pipe passed through the wall by the door before branching out in a bunch of different directions.
Each one seemed to lead to a column that hummed with white energy, a small black shape vaguely noticeable right in the middle—a quick count left him with twelve of them. Each of them had large pipes that fed into the largest object in the room.
A large clear container on the opposite side of the room, filled with murky, rust-colored water. The inside of the glass was far too filthy to see what was inside—something in the tank moved, sending the dark water swirling.
Loren hovered by the door, suddenly hesitant to investigate further.
This was obviously the power source—the white energy of the barrier came from these pillars and whatever was inside them. Whatever was in the larger tank… he had no idea what its purpose was.
“Hey,” Loren said quietly. “Can you hear me?”
Something dark pressed against the tank glass, smearing the rusty grime and sending more of the water spinning.
Loren swallowed, forcing himself to take a step further into the room. His eyes fell to the console that was connected to the larger tank—a series of switches ran along its length, no monitor in sight. He glanced over to the columns, but none of them had switches of their own. Each one had a little divider that covered it from view unless you were standing right in front of it.
A thump came from the tank, and he flinched.
“Fuck!” Loren yelped, flushing. “Fuck this horror shit!”
He stomped across the room to the tank, ignoring the noises that came from inside it and studying the panel again. The labels were useless to him; each had a series of capital letters and a number, none of which revealed themselves as an actual word. The top left row was labeled ‘SLA1’ to ‘SLA5’, and then there was a gap between the switches. The next one started with ‘SRA1’ and once more ended at ‘SRA5.’
He had no idea what they were supposed to represent, and he did a quick search of the other sequences. The right side of the console broke the pattern; ‘FT,’ ‘ET,’ ‘CMS.’
“Why can’t you label these things properly?” Loren sighed.
Loren took a deep breath and then let it out—he flipped the one labeled ‘SLA1’ down. A barely audible high-pitched noise came from inside the tank, and he quickly flipped it back up, horrified.
He hesitated for a long moment before flipping the next sequence below it. ‘SLL1’ elicited the same response of pain, so he turned it off and moved away from the left side of the console. The similar naming conventions most likely meant that they were more of the same type.
“FT, ET, CMS,” Loren said uneasily. “What does that mean?”
Another thump from inside the tank, and he glanced up—the palm of a slim hand was pressed against the glass, the rusty grime coloring it orange. Loren stared at the hand for a long while—it was a person, they’d put a person in this tank and left them here to power the cell.
Loren recalled thinking that this prison hadn’t been created for him, that a week was nowhere near long enough to design this.
How long had this person been in the tank?
Loren pressed flipped the switch labeled ‘FT,’ and its purpose became clear, as the water in the tank did the same. The rusty orange grime started to fade, pulled downwards, in a swirling, smoke-like motion as it was filtered out of the tank. The hand that had remained pressed to the tank flinched back as the light flickered over the glass, and then the grime lining it began to flake off, pulled into the tornado of grime.
Loren stared at the person in the tank—a woman, skin so pale that blue veins showed through all over her body. There was a black helmet over her head and cables running from it to sections on the back of the tank.
Her left hand and left foot were lying on the bottom of the tank, bright blood flooding from the stumps like red ink in the now clear water. The smoky red cloud was sucked down into the spinning water at the bottom of the tank vanishing from view. Loren realized what the labels meant now; each one must have indicated a section of the corresponding limb being cut off.
He’d just cut this imprisoned woman’s limbs off.
Loren bent over at the waist, coughing; he dry heaved several times. There was nothing in his stomach to bring up except a white foamy substance and a feeling of accompanying revulsion. His eyes watered as he attempted to regather his bearings, and he prepared himself to reset—he caught sight of her leg.
It was growing back.
The blood had already stopped leaking into the water, and the same was the case for her hand. Within seconds she was once more undamaged, and she reached out with her returned hand, pressing it against the glass next to the first.
Loren spent a horrifying moment wondering just how many times she had experienced what had just occurred. All of these different switches—someone had actively designed this… system. They built it to keep her in the water, to sever her limbs at different sections.
“Why would somebody do this?” Loren mumbled, searching the console again.
‘FT’ must have meant ‘Filter’ or something of the sort, which meant ‘ET’ might have been emptying the tank? Removing the limbs on the bottom, perhaps? He prepared to reset in case it did something really bad, took a deep breath, and then flicked the switch labeled ‘CMS.’
The console crackled, and the sound of shaky breathing flooded the room.
“Morgan?” A woman’s voice mumbled.
Loren couldn’t bring himself to speak—trying to come to terms with the idea that there was still enough of her mind left to speak.
“Please, Morgan,” The woman murmured, “I just want to see Levi—I won’t try to run again, please.”
Loren opened his mouth and then closed it—he slapped himself across the face, and it landed with a crack. He felt nothing, the impact absorbed by the barrier that covered his skin.
“Can you hear me?” Loren said, staring straight at her helmet.
“Who are you?” The woman said. “Where is Morgan?”
“My name is Loren Parker.” Loren said, “I have no idea who Morgan is; what is your name?”
“Alicia,” Alicia said, confused. “How did you get here? Where is Morgan?”
“I don’t know who Morgan is,” Loren repeated, “I was locked in a room with a white barrier, I broke out. This room was the first place I found—”
“A room with white barriers?” Alicia said quietly, “Levi must be here. Have you seen him—”
Her hands scrabbled at the glass in her rush, and he quickly spoke up.
“I haven’t seen anybody since I woke up,” Loren said gently, “There’s no one here but us two—I think. Alicia, I’m pretty sure I can break the glass and free you—that helmet isn’t going to explode or cut off your head, is it?”
“You’re going to….” Alicia said shakily. “Morgan really isn’t here?”
Her hands lanced up in the water to the helmet, and she turned in the water enough to give him a better view of the cables. They were spread out in a pattern across the back of the helmet, and she tapped one in particular.
“You’ll need to be careful pulling these out,” Alicia said quietly, “They’re in my skull, but if you can break the glass….”
Loren moved to the side without the console and reached out with his hand. The glass shattered into a million pieces when his hand passed through it. Water began to rush out, flooding over the edge, and he dragged his hand downwards, carving out a larger gap.
Alicia cried out as she was left to hang from the wires, and he stepped up into the knee-deep water, then paused before touching her. He didn’t know if his power would break her like it had everything else, and he wasn’t willing to test it yet.
He carefully reached up and dragged his hand through each of the wires—Alicia fell to her hands and knees on the bottom of the tank, the water now barely a puddle. The communication system that allowed her to talk cut out the second the wires were severed, so they were left without the ability to speak once more.
Loren reached out to the helmet and very carefully wrapped his fingers around one of the extended sections—it remained stuck; he needed to remove the helmet casing first. He pressed a finger into the casing, scooping it outwards in a shallow grove to avoid cutting her scalp.
Alicia stayed still on her hands and knees, unable to move or unwilling.
When he had a groove that almost completely bisected the helmet and ran down the back to where her neck was, he started pushing through the metal to her head. The barrier cut through it like scissors on paper, and she pulled her head away when he accidentally scraped her head.
One of her hands started to tap on her throat, and he realized she couldn’t breathe now that the helmet was disconnected from the air supply. He gritted his teeth, remaining steady, and once he hit the last edge, the entire thing cracked apart into two sections.
Alicia gasped, sucking in air as quickly as she could and sitting up. She was right about the protrusions being stuck in her skull, looking like massive needles—He caught sight of her face.
“Thank you…” Alicia said, gasping.
Brown hair, matted to her head in a mess, blue eyes, and a face full of freckles—Alicia sat there, dripping wet, completely naked, and panting for breath.
“I know you,” Loren said slowly.
Where had he seen her face before? He’d never known anyone with the name Alicia; why did she look so familiar?
“You do?” Alicia mumbled, carefully reaching up and touching the back of her head. “Oh god… Can you take this out?”
He’d absolutely seen her before.
“You sure you want me to mess with them?” Loren murmured, “I’d suggest a hospital, but given we’re in the middle of the ocean—it’s probably going to hurt.”
He moved to stand behind her, and she tracked him with her head—she swallowed and looked down when he touched the first one.
“We’re in the middle of the ocean?” Alicia said, confused.
“Why were you in the tank?” Loren pressed, holding the first one tightly and bracing his other hand against her head as gently as he could.
“Morgan wanted to use my power for something; I don’t know what it was.” Alicia swallowed, “I’m ready.”
Loren pressed slightly with his left hand, and when her head didn’t cave under his fingers, he pulled harder with his right—the thick needle slipped out far easier than he had imagined, and her matted hair quickly grew red with blood.
“That wasn’t—so bad,” Alicia said shakily, clearing crying.
“What’s your power?” Loren said quietly.
He readied himself to do the next one, watching as the hole in her head sealed itself shut.
“I’m a healer,” Alicia said, sniffling, “My entire body creates these chemicals that rejuvenate things, keep them from aging. It will regenerate missing limbs and other things as well.”
He waited for her to finish speaking and then pulled the second one out. He’d seen how quickly she’d regenerated her hand and foot already, and he had a front-row seat to see the next hole in her head seal itself shut.
“Who is this Morgan person?” Loren frowned, moving on to the next one. “If he’s responsible for you being in here, then he’s probably the motherfucker who locked me in here, and I plan on destroying his fucking life.”
“Morgan is a she,” Alicia said hesitantly, flinching as he pulled the next needle out.
“Whatever,” Loren mumbled, “Women can be motherfuckers too, you know? Answer the question.”
“She was the leader of our group,” Alicia mumbled.
Loren paused at the word group; it triggered a memory of a picture he’d seen a long time ago. His hand stilled around the next needle before he leaned forward to see her face again. Alicia glanced up at him from her position, upside down.
“You were one of the members of Meteor,” Loren said slowly.
He’d seen her face on one of the many group shots of the self-proclaimed ‘Villain-Activist’ group, right at the front; she was one of the more prominent members—His hand clenched almost unconsciously jarring the needle, and she gasped.
“I was Gaea,” Alicia managed, sobbing from the pain. “Please don’t hate me.”
He spent a small moment thinking about putting all of the needles back in her skull, fixing the tank up, and then peacing the fuck out—card declined for mass murder.
“Your team killed an entire city filled with people,” Loren said flatly. “There were millions of people in Ragdim City—I don’t think there are many people in the world right now that don’t hate you.”
Considering what she had apparently been subjected to, she’d likely been paying off the karmic debt ever since.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Alicia whispered, hunching in on herself. “Most of us didn’t.”
The fact that she was still alive when everyone else from Ragdim was dead, he had a bit of trouble believing her entirely.
“Who did know?” Loren said, “And who else besides Morgan is still around?”
What you know about rollin’ down in the deep? Enjoy.
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Keep on keeping on!
Reroll – Season 3, Chapter 73 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)