The answer to the riddle of the bubble was a simple one, slowly extending the bubble inside the doorway and then opening up a seam for them to step through. Loren stood at the threshold, where the metal floor dropped off into the darkness beyond the bubble. He lifted one foot and placed it down on the platform of hardened air, slowly increasing the pressure when it didn’t break.
“Oh god,” Alicia mumbled, looking through the bubble.
Loren put most of his weight on one foot, feeling the pressure against the mechanism that let him manipulate the air—it was a fraction of the pressure bearing down on the bubble from every side.
The bubble held under his full weight, and Loren stood inside it, holding out a hand towards Alicia.
“Time to go,” Loren said quietly, concentrating.
Alicia wore the expression of someone who wasn’t sure she wanted to climb into a giant energy bubble that sat at the bottom of the ocean with a naked man.
“It’s not going to break?” Alicia said, worried. “What about—”
“I have no idea how long I can keep using this before I start to get tired,” Loren admitted, he hadn’t felt anything yet, but that didn’t mean he had an endless supply. “So I suggest hurrying the fuck up.”
Alicia took his hand and stumbled into the bubble with him—Loren focused on the seam he’d opened, and I started to close up.
Once they were sealed inside of the bubble, he pushed the bubble away from the facility and into the darkness—the seal between the energy and the open room was broken. Loren grunted at the strain of holding the air pocket steady as the rush of water surged past the bubble and into the open doorway, trying to drag them back inside.
“Are you okay?” Alicia said nervously, wringing her hands together.
“Never better,” Loren managed as the force began to wane.
He focused, lifting the entire energy field upwards, finding it simultaneously harder and easier than he expected. The higher it went, the lesser the pressure became, but the top of the bubble was being subjected to more force as it pushed the water out of its way during the ascent.
“Are we moving?” Alicia said quietly, “I can’t tell.”
“Yes, we’re going upwards,” Loren said, less strained now. “We are pretty far down, and we aren’t exactly moving very fast—It’s getting easier, though.”
It was getting easier, but there was nothing around them to use as a gauge of distance traveled, and he had no idea how much time had passed before Alicia finally spoke up.
“I think it’s getting brighter,” Alicia said hesitantly. “It’s hard to tell through this.”
Loren felt her hand brush against the inside of the bubble and cracked his eye open again. The energy was far too bright for him to see anything beyond it like that, but maybe she was better at noticing changes in light.
The water rushed past the bubble as their ascent hastened, his proficiency with juggling all of the components increasing as the pressure decreased. They burst out of the ocean and into the air.
Alicia gasped, and Loren almost sighed in relief.
The light from above brought clarity to the bubble, and the ocean below them was revealed, stretching away in every direction. Water rained down the sides of the bubble in tracks before falling back to their source below.
“Wow.” Alicia said, “It’s beautiful.”
Loren didn’t think any of this could be beautiful—it was a prison, and getting a temporary glimpse through bars at the open expanse beyond was nothing but an exercise in envy.
“If you say so,” Loren mumbled.
“How far away from land are we?” Alicia asked.
He started manipulating the circular shape into something more aerodynamic, with a wedge shape at the front.
“I don’t know,” Loren admitted, “We are going to have to go as far as I can manage; if we’re right out in the middle of the ocean, it’s going to take us hours to find land.”
He started from the top, working downwards, and until they stood on a longer arrow-like structure of energized wind. It was shorter than the orb had been, and they’d both been forced to sit down to fit.
“Where are we going? North?” Alicia asked, sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest. “Most of the world’s landmass is that way… we could go west or east, it might be more likely to run into one of the larger places….”
Loren located the sun—It wasn’t particularly high in the air yet, and he thought he could safely assume it was coming from the east and that the opposite side was west. He’d better be able to tell once it had moved, but that would take time.
“I don’t even know which direction is which right now,” Loren sighed, pointing towards where he thought north was. “I think that’s north—thoughts?”
“Yes,” Alicia mumbled, checking the sun. “You can’t really tell without waiting for it to move.”
She had a better head for this stuff, apparently.
“Good enough for me,” Loren sighed, angling the wind construct towards the direction they thought was north.
Loren started slow, making sure the shape held, slowly increasing the speed they were moving. Soon they were skimming just above the water, fast enough to send water rippling away from their path.
The wedge shape at the front seemed much better able to deflect everything in front of them than the orb had been at pushing the water aside.
“What’s the worst-case scenario here?” Loren spoke, gesturing to the water. “My geography was always terrible.”
“The Southern Ocean, but I don’t think it’s cold enough for that,” Alicia said quietly, “The South Pacific after that.”
Loren nodded to indicate he was listening.
“We’re headed north, so if it was the first, it would be over 15 thousand kilometers until we hit land,” Alicia said slowly, “10 thousand if it’s the second.”
Loren frowned; that was far worse than the estimate he’d come up with—provided he didn’t get tired, he could probably keep this up for a day and a half, but he’d be exhausted mentally. He pushed the construct harder, at least doubling the speed he’d been going, and the water below them began to spray out on each side as they cut through the air above it.
“What about the north pacific?” Loren wondered. “Isn’t Hawaii around there somewhere?”
“The chance that we would hit Hawaii is incredibly low,” Alicia admitted, “Right in the middle of the north pacific, it would be 5 thousand kilometers? I think it’s almost a thousand kilometers an hour for a plane—I don’t think we’re going anywhere near that fast.”
“Feel free to get out and push,” Loren offered.
The concentration required increased the more resistance he was faced with, having to both harden the tip of the construct, hold the structure together, and push it forward.
“Sorry,” Alicia mumbled, “Can you keep doing this for that long?”
“We’re going to find that out,” Loren said distractedly, focusing on the tip once more.
Loren felt the construct wobble violently as his mind drifted once more, and he forced himself to direct his mind back onto the task again. There was a kind of mental resistance there, slowly building up the more often he had to force himself to continue the task.
The sun was now high in the air, and he’d reangled the direction to better face where he thought north was now that he had a better idea of what east and west were.
He could also feel his back and shoulders stinging painfully in the light, even through the top of the construct. There was no way to avoid it, he couldn’t make it any less transparent, and the light bore down on him without mercy.
Loren swallowed for the hundredth time, the dry feeling in his throat and mouth was getting worse, and his stomach was openly complaining about the lack of food.
Alicia was somehow sleeping, having spent the last twenty-five years training herself to sleep in the confines of the tank had apparently lent her the remarkable ability to be able to sleep anywhere. She was currently curled up into a naked ball and looking as pale and unburnt as she had before she’d left the tank; Her power acting to remove the sunburn as it occurred.
Loren had found his power becoming less taxing mentally the more familiar he became with it, and as a result, he could focus more on pushing it faster. He’d long since lifted them up and away from the water, hoping to see some kind of landmass from higher up.
He was sure they were moving far faster than a car, the waves of the ocean far below passing under them at a rapid pace.
“Levi…” Alicia mumbled in her sleep, curling tighter.
Loren was surprised there hadn’t been any response to his escape, the first time he’d made it to the surface, he’d reset within minutes, but this time it had been hours, and nobody had appeared. Then again, if the other teams had succeeded, Reset, and Lecture would be in custody alongside Taker and Deceitful, which left them with only Mathew, Morgan, and The Researcher to take action. He felt the cold fury burning in his chest when he thought of Mara once more—the construct shudder violently, and he pushed his anger away with gritted teeth, focusing on flying for a moment.
“Loren?” Alicia said, sitting up suddenly.
“Sorry, lost concentration for a second.” Loren managed, “There’s no land yet; go back to sleep.”
“Your face is burnt,” Alicia said quietly, leaning back to see behind him. “Everywhere else is too.”
“How did that happen?” Loren said dryly. “So weird.”
“Shut up,” Alicia muttered, spitting on her hand.
“Gross,” Loren said in disgust, watching her warily. “What are you—don’t you dare wipe that shit on me.”
“It will help the sunburn,” Alicia said quickly. “My bodily fluids—”
“I think I’d rather die,” Loren said seriously. “Wait—Hey!”
Loren stared at her in horror as she pressed her spit-covered hand onto his back—the contact brightened the pain, his nerves flaring in protest before a massive patch in the middle of his back just stopped hurting.
“That is disgusting,” Loren said sullenly.
“Deal with it, you baby,” Alicia mumbled, spitting on her hand again. “If you pass out from heatstroke, I’m going to be stuck out here in the ocean until sharks eat me.”
He shuddered at the noise, doing his best to force his attention entirely on the construct as she wiped more of her saliva on his shoulders.
“Good,” Loren mumbled. “I hope they start at the feet.”
Fuck, he was hungry.
“How did you eat with that helmet on?” Loren wondered, mind straying once more. “Or drink, for that matter?”
“I didn’t,” Alicia admitted quietly.
Loren opened his mouth, then closed it.
“You were in that tank for a long, long time,” Loren said hesitantly. “Your power… do you still get hungry or thirsty?”
“Yes,” Alicia said, nodding. “But it comes and goes.”
Loren felt like his own hunger and thirst were completely incomparable to twenty-five years of starving—Alicia spat on her hand before suddenly wiping it across his forehead like he would one day become king of the lions, and all of his sympathies vanished in an instant.
Loren started to get worried when the sun began to dip under the horizon, and everything began to grow darker. The endless well of energy inside him remained untouched, but his mind was getting sluggish.
He reached out into the air surrounding, feeling how the currents moved but completely unable to derive any meaning from it. The construct’s speed had tripled since the start of their journey, as both the shape and size of it had been streamlined, now a thin spike that neither of them could stand up in.
After what had to be at least twelve hours, he’d gotten so used to the application that the construct had almost fallen into the background of his mind. The loss of complexity had helped with the strain of concentration, but in turn, it had allowed his mind to stray further, growing tired and unware.
Loren was tired, more than anything, between the lack of food, water, and the constant sun exposure sapping his energy.
“I can see lights,” Alicia said, amazed.
Loren opened his eyes again, tiredly seeking it out—a blob of sparkles to the northeast, distant on the horizon and growing wider as they approached. He turned the construct to face it more fully, feeling a small glimmer of energy surge in him.
“We actually made it, huh?” Loren murmured, wiping at his eyes.
“It’s a city—no idea which one,” Alicia said softly. “I doubt I’d be able to recognize it after so long even if I did.”
It was a coastal city of some kind, but he couldn’t identify it either; he’d spent most of his life in Setalite City. When he was little, five or six, he remembered his parents had taken him to a beach at the harbor, and he’d seen pictures of Setalite city from the ocean.
Needless to say, it didn’t look like this; he had no idea where they’d arrived, but he didn’t care either.
The city continued to expand before them, and he could feel the wind currents changing, the landmass doing strange things to them—or perhaps being out in the ocean had done strange things to it, and this was normal?
It was completely dark by the time they reached the coast, the sun vanishing beneath the waves behind them—there was a bright pink dot in the air above the beach illuminated by the lights. Loren slowed their approach down to a crawl and brought them down the sand, the flying figure falling with them, matching their speed.
The man in the pink bodysuit was someone he recognized easily and another of the more popular people he’d been tasked to draw on commission.
“You had me worried for a while there,” Salubre said smiling, “I thought we had a missile inbound until I spotted you sitting inside. What brings you here—and where on earth are your clothes?”
Loren patted the sand once as if to reassure himself that he had indeed made it to land before standing up.
“We need help—we were both abducted,” Alicia said, still kneeling on the sand.
“Abducted?” Salubre frowned.
“There’s a prison, out in the ocean, underwater.” Loren said tiredly, “She’s been held captive for twenty-five years; I’ve been in there for—what’s the date?”
“Twenty-five years! You’re joking?” Salubre spluttered, reaching for the black rectangle on his belt. “Command—Salubre here, beachfront, it was two awakened, claiming long-term illegal abduction and imprisonment.”
Loren waited for the man to finish calling for emergency services and backup before speaking again.
“What’s the date?” Loren tried again.
“It’s the 1st of March, 2022,” Salubre said quickly, the device still pressed against his ear. “Sorry, please repeat—”
It hadn’t been long then; he’d been captured on the 24th, so he’d only been gone for five days—it could have been much worse than that.
“How many more of you are there?” Salubre said, speaking to them once more.
“It’s just us two,” Loren said, glancing at Alicia. “There was someone else, but only his hand was left—his name was Levi Elk.”
Alicia didn’t look up, hair hanging to cover her face.
“Flying? Whoever it is, they aren’t a part of this group—where are they coming from?” Salubre said, looking around.
Loren noticed there was a pink glow around his eyes, the same energy the man had been using to fly earlier. Loren started raising a barrier of hardened air around himself, pulling it close to his skin, his constant practice throughout the day aiding him.
Salubre snapped his head back around to look at him at the first sign of light, and Loren spoke.
“I’m not taking any chances that it’s an enemy,” Loren said flatly. “Call me paranoid—whose ‘they?’”
“Loren?” Alicia said quickly, standing up. “What should I do?”
Loren had no idea, but given her relative ability to heal from a grievous injury, he thought she’d be fine.
“Try and stay out of the way,” Loren said simply.
He tried to investigate the air around him but couldn’t feel anything that might indicate someone was coming. Salubre turned and looked up the coastline—apparently seeing something at a distance with his augmented vision that Loren had no chance of seeing with his poor base-human sight.
Salubre relaxed before turning to smile at them.
“No need to worry,” Salubre said easily, speaking to the two of them and ‘command’ both. “It’s a Peacekeeper.”
Loren almost sighed in relief—that meant that all of his allies likely knew something was up by now.
The man in pink had said ‘they’ though, and he spent a moment trying to figure out who it was. He struggled for a moment, trying to figure out who could fly beside Paragon. It had to be Seeker because the man was telekinetic—but it felt a bit off because the man could teleport, which would be far faster.
“She’s carrying someone,” Salubre said, still speaking to ‘command.’ “I don’t recognize the person though—blue bodysuit, white oval mask.”
Loren frowned because there was something very wrong with what he’d just said.
Firstly as far as he was aware, none of the women in the Peacekeepers could fly, and secondly, the only person he knew of that had a blue bodysuit, and a white oval mask was—Loren felt the wind change, and he pushed all of the energy he could into hardening the shield of energized wind pressed against his skin.
Loren glowed like a star in the night sky as Untold crashed into him.
Reroll 76 & Ameliorate 10 are up on Patreon. Seeking Direction(done) and Just Deserts(not done) is getting pushed back(again, ugh.) to the 30th.
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 76 – Live.
Ameliorate(NSFW) – Chapter 10