“I don’t know how many others are still here, but it wouldn’t be many,” Alicia mumbled, “Levi must still be alive—you said the walls were covered in a white energy?”
Loren lifted his gaze to the white-filled pillars but realized he could see them from this side of the room, the partitions that stuck out on either side covering them completely from view of the tank.
“Seems like they’re siphoning off the energy from something,” Loren frowned, “Pipes were stretching from your tank to these pillars—behind the partition there, filled with the same energy. Then it’s fed into the room I was in through more pipes.”
He recalled the murky black shapes in the center of the pillars, too much of the thick white energy to see through to identify what exactly it was—but now he was starting to wonder if he wanted to know in the first place.
He wasn’t a mad scientist or a prison designer by any means, but there was a tank that farmed preserving chemicals from one person and fed it into a series of smaller pillars filled with something that was generating the energy.
“Levi!” Alicia called out, projecting her voice across the room. “Can you hear me?”
Loren didn’t think Levi was in much of a state to respond.
“Wait until I get these out,” Loren mumbled, feeling his anger at her state to dissipate.
The last three needles came out quickly, and then Alicia struggled to her feet—too much time floating in a tank of water had left her completely unused to having to support her weight. Loren didn’t move to assist, still not willing to make too much contact if his power acted on a stray thought.
Loren stepped down off the tank, wincing as he stepped on the glass, but felt nothing as the energy barrier surrounding him protected him. Alicia had no such protection and cried out when she landed on the mess. It didn’t stop her from scrambling through it, leaving a bloody trail behind, and by the time she’d made it to the partition, the bleeding had already stopped.
“What?” Alicia mumbled, knocking on the glass of the closest pillar. “What the hell is this?”
Loren turned the corner to find her leaning close with her hands cupped around her face, squinting inside the container. The dark shape inside was impossible to see from the outside, even as close as she was to it.
“Can you break this one?” Alicia pleaded.
Loren closed his eyes for a moment, absolutely sure that whatever they found was going to be terrible. He stepped forward, moving in between her and the tank, and then placed his hand against the glass. Loren opened his mouth to say something to warn her, but he couldn’t figure out what he should say.
The glass shattered, the energy rushed out, scouring everything around them, and he felt Alicia duck further behind him with a cry of pain. The white energy lessened, vanishing on contact with his skin and then faded away. Loren stared at the white, bloodless hand lying on a thin pedestal in the middle of the broken pillar.
Loren broke the final pillar, already expecting another hand, as all of the others had contained the same thing—Another left hand, identical to the rest, severed at the wrist, and definitely male. Twelve of them in total, and most likely the part of the body that was responsible for generating the white energy.
Alicia hadn’t moved from her place by the first pillar, mumbling Levi’s name and cradling the hand.
Loren wasn’t sure what to think—he found it hard to comprehend that someone had deliberately engineered this place. It felt so clinical, so detached from reality that someone could see something like this through.
How could anybody be this cold?
“Who was Levi?” Loren said quietly.
“Antaeus,” Alicia sobbed once, fighting to stay in control.
He’d heard the name before in association with the group, but he didn’t know much about the person himself. Alicia was breathing shakily now, no longer bawling, and since she’d responded this time, he continued his questions.
“Who is Morgan?” Loren pressed. “What was her name when you were all in Meteor?”
“She didn’t have one,” Alicia mumbled, “We just knew her as Morgan, with no last name.”
“You said she was the leader,” Loren frowned. “Why did anybody follow her lead?”
Alicia’s voice shook when she spoke.
“I was one of the last people to join, so I don’t know how they met her or why she was the leader.” Alicia managed, “But… Morgan was brilliant—she always knew exactly what to do, and she always had a plan. Morgan knew how most ability’s functioned, and she’d give amazing advice; nearly everyone went to her for help.”
Someone that could come up with something like his place had to be insane, but there was probably an element of brilliance in that. He needed to know as much about the person who’d placed him here as possible.
“What was she like personally?” Loren pressed, moving to crouch down in front of her.
“Um,” Alicia mumbled, ducking her head down to avoid his gaze. “She-she always had time for me, we’d talk for hours, and she was so kind—I don’t understand how any of this happened. I don’t know why they killed so many—oh god… Levi… why would she do this?”
Because she’d obviously never cared for any of them, she played on the feelings and emotions of those she recruited before discarding them when they outlived their usefulness, or worse, converted the living breathing people into more useful things—like a prison.
“Who was in the inner circle that helped her wipe out Ragdim?” Loren muttered.
It was possible the ones that had followed through with erasing the entire city were still working with her. It was twenty-something years ago, which wasn’t exactly a death sentence when you were only in your twenties.
They’d still be alive if they weren’t in the city at the time.
“Jake Plum, Alex Bell, Daisy Kline, and… Levi Elk,” Alicia said quietly.
Two of those names sent a spike of something through him, and he gritted his teeth.
“I don’t know the civilian names,” Loren managed. “What were the names they used?”
“Sorry…” Alicia mumbled, “Caelus, Eros, Theia, and Antaeus.”
“I’m sensing a theme here,” Loren muttered. “You said two names I recognize. Alex Bell, is that a relative of Hannah Bell?”
Alicia looked hesitant.
“I don’t know that name,” Alicia admitted.
“Lecture,” Loren clarified and was stumped for a moment when she didn’t recognize it. “Epilogue? Nothing? Paragon?”
“I don’t know any of those names,” Alicia said, cradling the dead man’s hand. “I’m sorry—”
“How long have you been here?” Loren said, horrified.
“I don’t know,” Alicia admitted quietly.
“Do you recognize the name, Mathew Kline?” Loren managed.
“That was Daisy’s son,” Alicia mumbled.
Loren felt some things slot into place, and he stared down at her mind, racing.
“What happened before you ended up in the tank?” Loren said slowly.
Alicia stared down at the hand in her lap, and Loren followed her gaze.
“Levi woke me up at one in the morning,” Alicia said slowly, “He wouldn’t tell me why, but he made me get in the car with him. We drove out of the city and met the others on the outskirts. I don’t know how Jake made the zone so big; he’s never been able to do something like that… After the zone went up… I tried to leave, and then I woke up in the tank.”
Loren stared at her for a long moment, stunned.
“How are you still—” Loren managed, cutting himself off.
“My power,” Alicia mumbled, “It heals everything, and because all of the chemicals are inside my body, it heals me too. I’ve only had my powers for about a year, but Morgan was pretty sure I’ll stop aging soon.”
Loren clenched his fist by his side, feeling the energy barrier on his fingers crackle against the one on his palm. Alicia wasn’t even aware of how much time had passed since that day; she was speaking as it had only just happened.
It had been over two decades since Ragdim City was erased; He would need to be more patient with her, she had no idea… Loren’s thought pattern trailed off for a moment, and he actually considered it properly.
He was in the worst position he’d even been in his life, and he was still thinking about others… He couldn’t allow himself to keep falling into this… He had to stop getting pulled around by every single tragedy he encountered. He couldn’t afford to shackle himself like this anymore—Alicia had made her choices, and this was the result.
The fact of the matter was, Loren was no longer in a place to play by the rules he’d built around himself. He no longer had the element of surprise or the advantage of foreknowledge; he no longer had all the time in the world to work out an answer that everyone could live with.
His enemies knew who he was, and they knew what his power did; they’d trapped him, forced his own power to work against him. They’d killed his friends over and over again, without regard for the morality of their actions or their effect on him.
Loren couldn’t keep walking the path he’d stubbornly set himself on because he’d already lost once already, and Mara had been torn from the world because of his failure.
This unknown woman—Morgan, had caused him untold suffering over the last few months, so he’d follow her example; it was no longer time to stumble on through the minefield attempting to be the good guy.
He’d spent months trying to solve this impossibly delicate puzzle with its constricting rules, and he’d failed to find a solution. So he’d take a step back and reframe it all. This was no longer a tiny, fragile eyelet that he needed to thread himself through. He no longer had to work within the system he’d built to retain his morality.
All of this was now a game in which the winning condition was Morgan’s death, and Loren hated losing.
“Who were the others that were with you?” Loren said flatly.
“The same people I said earlier,” Alicia mumbled, “Morgan, Jake, Alex, Sarah, Daisy, and Levi.”
“Mathew wasn’t there?” Loren pressed. “Who was the other person—Sarah?”
“Sarah Bell, Alex’s wife,” Alicia said quietly. “Mathew wasn’t with them.”
He was starting to have a creeping suspicion here.
“Did Sarah have any powers?” Loren said slowly, “What could Alex do?”
This had all happened years before he was born, and Loren wished he’d spent some time looking into it. He knew that their names hadn’t been known, only the alias they’d gone by. Some of the members hadn’t worn masks, but most of them had never been identified.
“I don’t know if Sarah had any,” Alicia admitted, “Eros was our spokesperson; he had a kind of supernatural charisma; he could convince people to do things just by talking to them for a little while. It’s how we kept getting our information on all the companies we exposed.”
Loren fell silent at that—there was no chance in hell that was a coincidence.
Meteor erased a city full of people and most of the members of their own organization. A small handful of their members survived; Antaeus would be cut up into parts, and Gaea would be forced to preserve the dead flesh of her lover to power a super-powered prison. Daisy had a son, Mathew Kline.
Eros, a man called Alex Bell, who had the power of supernatural charisma and could talk people into doing things—a man with a wife called Sarah who’d survived. Almost two decades later, a girl named Hannah Bell becomes Lecture, someone who can control anyone who hears her voice and is known as a prominent member of Epilogue.
The two organizations were linked.
“What was Morgan’s power?” Loren frowned, “You said she was brilliant?”
“She could understand powers, but mostly she was a healer like me. My power needs me to either bleed or spit on someone for it to work—all of my bodily fluids work really,” Alicia admitted, “I’ve seen Morgan using her power, but she needs to be touching them to do it, and it’s a lot slower than mine.”
“Why would Morgan abduct me?” Loren asked, not really expecting an answer.
Alicia had been away from the world for a long time, long enough that Paragon hadn’t even started his career yet, and she had no idea who Loren was.
“I don’t know,” Alicia mumbled.
“There is a group of villains knows as Epilogue; they’ve taken a whole host of hostile actions.” Loren said concisely, “One of their members is a twenty-something woman by the name of Hannah Bell, whose power allows her to take control of anyone who hears her voice. We discovered that there was a leak in the heroes, a janitor with powers whose name was Mathew Kline.”
Alicia glanced up at him, looking confused.
“Alex and Sarah didn’t have a daughter—” Alicia said hesitantly. “Mathew is only little, five or six maybe?”
“Meteor destroyed Ragdim City in 1997,” Loren said flatly, “It’s 2022; you’ve been in this tank for twenty-five years.”
Alicia looked stunned.
“There are two people in Epilogue whose identity isn’t known; from looking through the memories of one of the other members, we found out one was a woman, middle-aged, in her forties, with auburn hair, roughly five and a half feet.” Loren listed off what he remembered of Haunt’s description. “She goes by the name Tiamat and is rumored to be a biokinetic of some kind.”
“Twenty-five years…” Alicia mumbled, barely listening.
“Alicia,” Loren said, catching her attention. “What does Morgan look like?”
“What you said—auburn hair, five foot five, early forties,” Alicia mumbled. “That’s Morgan.”
Loren felt a spike of something rush through him at the confirmation—The leader of Epilogue was the former leader of Meteor. Tiamat had abducted him, sealed him away in this place, and locked in Mara’s death as a permanent point in history.
“Is that so?” Loren said quietly. “I can’t wait to meet her.”
Loren pushed himself up from his crouch and glanced around the room.
He’d seen nothing to indicate how they’d gotten into the prison, and given they were so deep in the ocean; there had to be either a vehicle that could survive at this depth or some kind of teleportation at work.
A prison’s function was to keep someone inside, but given his power, they knew he would eventually escape. The question here was would they leave a way for him to leave the facility safely if he did manage to escape the room? Obviously not; if he was going to escape this place, it would be through rolling the correct power.
“I’ve been messing with her plans for a while now,” Loren said frowning, “She had me at her mercy; why am I awake and walking around right now?”
Alicia placed the hand on the floor beside her and managed to get to her feet; the effort needed was difficult for her.
“Maybe she wanted to use you for something—like she did with me and….” Alicia clenched her eyes shut and trailed off.
“No,” Loren frowned. “She wouldn’t have let me wake up given what she knows about my power.”
“I don’t understand,” Alicia admitted. “Morgan had a reputation for knowing how powers worked; maybe there was something about yours that she needed you awake for.”
Loren frowned; she would have had days to investigate him, days to mess with his body—not a nice thought. Why hadn’t she cut off his arms or legs before the save point updated? Rendered him even more ineffective? Why hadn’t they gotten Hannah to take control of him as they’d done with Evelynn Miller?
Maybe Fracture’s team had succeeded in capturing her.
“Like what?” Loren muttered, more because she was still staring at him worriedly.
“Um.” Alicia said quietly, “Marcus—one of the other members of Meteor—his power kept triggering in his sleep. Maybe yours does the same?”
Loren shook his head.
“My power isn’t like that,” Loren muttered. “I can’t do anything while I’m asleep; they’d have won completely if they kept me asleep. If Morgan is as good as you think, she would have figured that out.”
“Maybe your power does something strange if you’re asleep for too long?” Alicia mumbled. “Like it explodes after a month or something—what is your power? The glass didn’t cut you… and you broke the helmet….”
Loren didn’t answer—He’d learned that the hard way already, and while they already knew the details of his power and apparently had long enough to investigate his body for more information, he wasn’t going to be handing it out to someone he’d just met.
He had no way to check if his power activated after a certain amount of time asleep—It was possible, but there wasn’t any precedent. The longest time period he’d slept for since he’d gotten his powers was that one time Alana had tranq’d him—actually, that wasn’t true, seeing as he’d slept for at least four days before he’d woken up in here.
His power somehow knew when he died and activated immediately. Was it also possible that if he was asleep for too long that his power would consider him non-functional or something and initiate a reroll?
Loren knew there was an automatic function built into it that chose his powers, so it wasn’t that far of a stretch to assume there was a second one that dealt in incapacitation.
“Would Morgan be able to know something like that? Is this part of her power?” Loren said slowly. “How detailed is the information she gets about them?”
“I think it must be,” Alicia said quietly, staring at the tank. “She’s figured out some very precise things before; I don’t know how detailed the information she gets is.”
Then she would have had to of known that he could reset on will as well, surely? Yet they’d still placed him in the room, and with a knife as well as if they expected him to kill himself with it, instead of just resetting.
Loren pinched the bridge of his nose, attempting to figure it out.
If the mechanism that called for a reset when he died was obvious to Morgan, then surely the mechanism that called a reset on will was also obvious? Or was it part of a larger package, and she could only see the top level?
Could she even see it in that much detail, or was it more like the feeling he got when he chose his own powers in the field of stars? Maybe she saw ‘Revive,’ ‘Return,’ or something similar?
What he did know was that Morgan wouldn’t have let him wake up, and she wouldn’t have bothered to place the knife in the room if she’d known he could reset on will. Because it broke the purpose of the cell; for him to either die of dehydration or choose to kill himself with the knife. The fact that she had let him wake up meant Morgan didn’t know he could reset on will, even after her investigation of his body.
That also meant that there had to be a separate reason that she didn’t keep him asleep—he just didn’t know what it was.
Reroll character stickers! We got Wildcard, Sparklite, Outplayed and Gradient for now, I’ll add more when I find the time.
I started writing the first chapter of Contention last night, it won’t be up anywhere for a while but I think it’s going to be just as fun a journey as Reroll has been so far. I’m getting started on the fanfiction drop this week as well, should be up on the 23rd, or the 26th if I fall behind. Enjoy.
Thank you to all the supporters, on Patreon, on here, and everywhere else, you guys are what is making it possible to keep improving on my passion, and I really appreciate all of you. If you’d like to help support my mission to snap as many elbows as I can get my greasy little mitts on, but aren’t in a place to chip in–you can support me for free as well! Leaving a comment, or a review on any of the other fiction websites I post my content on helps out more than you know.
Keep on keeping on!
Reroll – Season 3, Chapter 74 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)