Loren couldn’t even begin to imagine what his jailer had been thinking, but everybody did things for a reason, even if it wasn’t outright apparent to him. Mathew had clearly overheard several conversations at the HQ because, in order for them to plan this out, they needed to know several distinct details about how his power worked. They needed to know he was in a time loop, something which they only knew now because he’d broadcasted it around like an idiot.
They also need to know when he’d begun his interference in their plans, which was probably obvious given his first contact with the hero HQ started at two in the morning, and he’d spoken to Alana about his powers like he’d done basically every time he’d reset. He had even mentioned that as long as he reset before the week had been up that he could avoid locking anything in as permanent.
Loren closed his eyes in disgust.
That explained the knife, the room, the nakedness, and the obvious set up for him to either kill himself or die of dehydration. The next piece of the puzzle was why they’d decided to act when they did, but it was also far more obvious.
Discovering Mathew’s identity as the mole was damning for Morgan in a way few things could be—her identity would have been exposed the second they’d gotten him into a cell with Haunt. Morgan had been forced to act, to lock in a timeline where several of her pieces were caught, captured, or dead.
That’s why she acted to attempt to contain him when they did, and he’d unknowingly forced her hand.
Even if she had been wrong about the details of his power, it wouldn’t have cost her anything that she hadn’t already lost. Loren hadn’t seen who’d taken him; he didn’t even remember falling asleep in the first place—if he’d managed to reset, he would have returned without knowledge of the identity of the attacker.
Now it was different because he’d discovered her identity anyway. Forced to cage him in a cell that was powered by Alicia, someone with the same knowledge that Mathew had possessed. He hoped it galled her that he’d still managed to find out her name.
Time was his ally now, and Morgan better be counting the minutes.
“Anything you can tell me about Morgan that would let me defeat her instantly?” Loren said, glancing back at the door that led to the darker room.
Alicia just shook her head, and he noted that she was now covering her chest with her hands—Loren flushed as he recalled his own state of dress and the fact that his cock was dangling out in plain view for the whole world to see.
Loren turned to face the door.
“I’ve never seen her fight anyone,” Alicia mumbled, “I don’t think she does that kind of thing; she was always surrounded by others who could do it for her.”
A coward who sat back while everyone else did all the dirty work for her. Morgan was making herself more hateable by the second—he appreciated the help with dehumanizing the monster.
“You said we were in the ocean?” Alicia said hesitantly, “Can we—is there a way back?”
Loren closed his eyes again, thinking about the distance between here and the surface.
“I don’t think so,” Loren admitted, opening his eyes and moving towards the darker room. “Help me map the rest of this place, go right, follow the walls—call out if you find anything of note.”
“O-okay,” Alicia mumbled, watching him go.
It was even darker than before; the light that had been present inside the cell was no longer bleeding through the crack he’d made in the wall. The barrier was likewise gone, his removal of Alicia and his systematic destruction of the pillars leaving it without a power source.
Loren used his hand on the wall as a guide and followed it. The room was surprisingly wide—the angle of the wall changed, cutting inwards at an angle, and he frowned following it further. Almost a minute later, the angle changed again, and he realized he was going in a circle. The interior of the structure room wasn’t circular, though; it was either an octagon or something similar.
The cell sat at the center of it, and the room he’d found Alicia in had been the only protrusion he’d seen. Eventually, he spotted a small glowing dot in the dark, like the other one he’d seen—only this one was red.
He could hear stumbling footsteps in the dark as Alicia came closer to his position, following the wall in the opposite direction.
“Loren?” Alicia called back. “There’s another light—”
“I’m here,” Loren answered from in front of her, already moving towards it.
He checked and found the seam of the door once more, but it was locked tight as the other one had been. If he had to guess based on his walk through the darkened room, this door was most likely opposite the first one he’d broken into.
Loren flexed the energy field on his skin and pushed his fingers through the latch in the door—water burst through around his finger and over the both of them.
“Fuck.” Loren said quietly, feeling a sinking feeling along with a healthy dose of fear. “It’s the exit, and the ocean is on the other side.”
He’d killed them both—there was nowhere to escape the water down here. Eventually, it would fill up the room, and they would both drown deep down where nobody would ever find them.
“Oh god…” Alicia said quietly. “We’re going to die.”
Loren considered resetting immediately, but he wanted to see if he could get eyes on the outside of the structure. It would most likely be pitch black, given what he knew of the depth, but he may as well try—there might be some kind of exterior lighting.
His fingers weren’t being crushed, and they didn’t feel cold, despite the water most likely being freezing cold, and he thought the energy barrier might let him survive as long as he could hold his breath.
That wouldn’t be the case for Alicia—her lungs would collapse in seconds. Loren wondered if she would heal from drowning, and for a moment, considered the possibility of attempting to drag her to the surface above. Here was a chance she might float to the top somehow and wake up. Loren shook his head in the dark, the distance far too great for him to swim before he ran out of air.
“You should go hide in the tank room,” Loren said quietly, “I’m going to see if I can see what this place looks like from the outside.”
The door to the tank room was already compromised as well, but it might buy her a few minutes, at least until he could reset.
“Wait—don’t leave me here,” Alicia said, terrified, already backing up from the door. “Please.”
“Sorry, I need to check,” Loren said quietly, “I’ll come back and save you—go.”
The words were true, but the truth probably didn’t line up with her expectation of what ‘coming back’ meant.
Alicia ran, and he waited until the sound of her footsteps vanished. He took a few deep breathes, preparing himself as best he could, and then held the last one. Loren crashed through the metal door, and water washed over him, the force it carried deflecting off the barrier.
Loren managed to push his way outside into the pitch darkness, noting how bizarre it felt; he knew he was floating in the water, but it wasn’t touching his skin. He swam upwards, searching the dark and seeing nothing at all.
He kept on swimming upwards, but after a minute passed, his chest had begun to burn, and another minute later, he was once more incapable of telling which way was up—Loren gave up, and the world vanished.
Loren opened his eyes and sat up in the room, feeling an internal well of energy that connected to the air surrounding him. He lifted his hand up to his face, and his hair lifted up as wind started cycling around the room at high speed. The barrier started flashing white in arcs as the wind-scoured it but did no damage.
Loren knew a secret now.
He closed his eyes and focused on the octagon-shaped room beyond the walls of his cell; he started drawing the wind in and sent it rushing across the floor; at first, it hit the pipe feeding the energy to his room and washed over it. But he just moved it faster, cycling it around the room outside his cell, pushing more power into it, and then finally, the energy barrier winked out of existence as the pipe carrying the energy from Levi’s tanks was torn from the floor.
The light left with it, and he sat in the dark pushing a spiral of wind against the opposite wall; the thick wall was much harder to damage than the pipe had been. He searched for gaps in the wall but found few; it was a singular block of unknown white material with some minor airways built-in.
He pushed hard on both sides of the wall, spinning the wind inside the cell into a furious pace that would have thrown a person around with ease. He struggled to raise a barrier around himself, and once he’d managed to do both, he pushed harder.
He tightened the spinning air down to a point the size of a pen, and the swirling mass of wind and energy brightened, illuminating the cell. He pushed it to go faster, hardening the tip in the process—a tiny piece of the wall chipped off.
It certainly wasn’t normal wind, if the arcing white light that trailed after and through it was anything to go by. The energy inside him was fueling it, strengthening it into something that was sharper, stronger, and far more destructive.
Loren continued to savage the wall, slowly learning how to better use the wind, and eventually, he grew comfortable enough with it that he didn’t have to pay much attention to protecting himself, the barrier came down, but the wind no longer reached him—instead, it flowed around him then circled back to the drill.
No longer as worried about the backlash to himself, he pressed harder on the wall, the wind rippling in the air, a hundred tiny slivers of light flickering about in the dark.
Ten minutes later, Loren stepped through the hole he’d drilled out of the wall and into the darkness beyond. He used the air to map out the room around him, using it to avoid the broken pipes on the floor.
Loren started to drill the locked door down, the much thinner material taking a fraction of the time to breach, and with the lock entirely missing, he shunted the door open and stepped inside. He drilled through the rust-colored tank, and the disgusting water spilled out onto the floor. He pushed air into the tank and drilled through the wires Alicia was hanging from, dropping her to the floor.
He started working at the helmet; it broke easily—Alicia stumbled out of the hole in the tank, pulling the last of it off her head, gasping.
“Who are you?” Alicia managed, falling to her knees.
“Loren Parker,” Loren said quietly. “Stay still; I’m pulling the needles out.”
He worked through the gruesome task mechanically, his mind elsewhere. He groped around in the water outside and found it extremely difficult to generate any of his power outside of the containment area, the pressure of the water strong enough that he’d need to concentrate fully on the task to counteract it.
He answered her questions distractedly, focusing on a pinprick of energy growing stronger outside. It was the size of a marble at present, but when he forced more energy into it, it expanded an inch, a hollow bubble of air surviving at this depth.
“Twenty-five years….” Alicia whispered. “I can’t….”
Loren found a foothold in the water and slowly inched it outwards, enlarging the orb, slowly but surely. He beckoned for Alicia to follow him, and he led her around the larger room to the exit before sitting down in front of the door.
“Loren?” Alicia mumbled. “What are you doing?”
“I’m making an air bubble on the other side of the door,” Loren said quietly, “I’m going to break the door down once it’s big enough and use it to pull us up to the surface.”
He needed to figure out how they were going to stay in the orb as well because they’d just fall straight through it into the water below. He focused on making the outside of the bubble harder, like a platform of hardened energized air surrounding the empty space inside.
Loren split his attention again, one half on growing the bubble outside as he continued to feed the seemingly endless energy into it and the other half on Alicia, now sitting beside him in the dark.
“Tell me about Meteor,” Loren mumbled.
Alicia was quiet for a long while before she finally spoke up.
“Meteor? I… when I was younger, nineteen I think; I saw Eros—Alex Bell, for the first time,” Alicia said quietly. “He was doing interviews on the street, stopping people, talking to them. He stopped me, and we spoke for a while.”
Loren listened with half an ear as the bubble grew.
“What did you speak about?” Loren wondered.
“Pollution, mostly,” Alicia mumbled, “There was a company that had just been caught illegally dumping its waste in the ocean. I’d heard my dad talking about it, so I knew a little bit; I went home afterward and really looked into it.”
Loren wondered if that was a coincidence or if Eros had set her on that path with his ability.
“It was messed up, the company—Wrightway, denied all involvement,” Alicia shook her head, “They actually managed to get out of paying any of the fines, and there were protests about it. I met Levi at one….”
The bubble was strong now, about half the size of a person, and while he couldn’t see it from inside, he somehow knew it was glowing in the darkness of the ocean. It was pressed right up against the other side of the door, leaving no gap for water to slip past.
“Wrightway is still around,” Loren said distractedly, “It’s run by a guy called Alexander Wright.”
Alicia muttered something he didn’t catch.
“One of the two sons; Malcolm Wright used to be one in charge,” Alicia mumbled. “I kind of fell down the rabbit hole after that, and Levi was dragged along for the ride. I met Alex again when I was twenty-two, and after I’d told him about everything I’d been up to, he invited me to join what was at that time an infamous activist group—Meteor.”
Loren hummed as the bubble grew to almost completely cover the outside of the door.
“It felt like I’d found a home, with people who cared as much as I did,” Alicia said shakily, “and then a few weeks later, he introduced me to Morgan for the first time.”
“Did you have your powers already?” Loren wondered.
“I did,” Alicia mumbled, “I got my wrist broken during one of the protests, and it fixed itself within seconds—I hadn’t told anybody about having them, not even Levi knew about it… but somehow Morgan knew.”
Loren lifted one of his hands and pressed it against the door in front of him, and it felt hard to the touch—he could feel the pressure from both his hand on this side and the bubble pressing towards him on the other.
“She took a bunch of blood samples and other stuff—Morgan was the one who told me how it really worked, about the chemicals and everything I make,” Alicia mumbled, “When Levi got his own powers, I brought him to her, and she helped him as well.”
Loren swallowed, the amount of guilt she must have felt at having introduced her lover to the woman who would eventually do what she had done to him.
“Caelus—Jake Plum, was… off, in a way I didn’t understand at the time.” Alicia said hesitantly, “I thought he was just shy at first, but sometimes I’d catch him watching me from across the room. It always felt like he was waiting for something to happen, expecting it even, but I never knew what.”
“He was the one who destroyed the city,” Loren said, more of a statement than a question.
He recalled that much; Caelus had been a man who could create zones that erased everything inside.
“He was,” Alicia mumbled, “His power changed—he’d never been able to make it bigger than about the size of a car.”
“Morgan?” Loren guessed.
“I think so,” Alicia whispered. “There were these black boxes, placed on the outskirts of the city, in three cardinal directions. Levi told me about them when we were meeting up with the group, and Jake was the fourth cardinal point.”
Loren could easily envision it, four squares at the north, south, east, and west sides of the city, and massive barrier growing up into the sky above glowing in the dark of the early morning—that was one of the pictures that had been taken from people on the highway outside of the city.
“Jake was able to lift the zone all the way up, far outside of his normal range, and then the other boxes linked the zone together.” Alicia mumbled, “Then the city was gone, along with everyone inside it—just like that.”
Loren remained silent, hand pressed flat against the door.
“Jake looked the same as he always did,” Alicia managed, shaking in the dark. “Just looking expectant, like he was waiting for something to happen.”
Loren pressed the bubble into the door hard, but it didn’t budge; he started on a tiny drill, setting it to work on the door.
“Morgan was smiling,” Alicia mumbled, the light from the wind drill revealing her haunted face. “She told us we’d taken a step forward, towards a better world. I didn’t know what to do, I was… I couldn’t even speak. Levi was angry, and I remember he hit Jake—It all kinds of blurs together after that.”
“What was Daisy Kline doing?” Loren wondered, watching the shadows flicker across her skin. “Or the other two?”
“Daisy was just standing next to Morgan.” Alicia said quietly, “Alex was holding his wife.”
“Mathew wasn’t there?” Loren asked, already knowing he wasn’t.
“He wasn’t,” Alicia recalled, “I remember asking at some point, but I don’t remember what she said.”
The door broke, and Loren carefully reached up, taking the handle. The door slid open, and the bright white shine of the bubble remained, covering the open doorway in a rectangle.
Now he just had to figure out how to get inside.
Fanfiction + Ameliorate drop on the 26th, i’m a little bit behind.
Reroll character stickers! We got Wildcard, Sparklite, Outplayed and Gradient for now, I’ll add more when I find the time.
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 75 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)