They left quickly, leaving Prudence sprawled on the floor and covered in articles of too-expensive clothing. The smoke from the store’s back corner was still emerging from its unknown source, and it was now pouring out of the front of the store.
In a city this small, it was going to draw in the local heroes within minutes.
“What caused all that smoke?” Loren said quietly as they strode away from the store.
“One of the many devices Prudence had hidden on her person,” Cube said, “She dropped it when the sweater began to consume her.”
“Yikes,” Loren said.
“How is the new upgrade, Cube?” Alicia wondered.
“It is remarkable,” Cube said, “A moment has become a minute, and a minute an hour.”
“That much?” Loren wondered. “Sounds costly.”
“Very much so,” Cube said, “Our next target will help in that regard.”
“Can you tell us about them?” Alicia asked.
“Nigritude is a new hero, having revealed himself only four months ago.” Cube said, “He has openly refused to join the Hero HQ when asked and has been quite antagonistic towards the local members.”
“What can he do?” Loren prompted.
“He has a high level of control over an esoteric black energy source,” Cube said, “It appears to enhance his durability, strength and allows him the ability to fly.”
“You can already do that with Antaeus—Uh, the Kinetic Shield Power,” Loren said, wincing. “Sorry.”
Alicia turned her head away from them both, and Loren wondered if someone had performed a manual check of the cell…
“How does that help with your energy problems?” Alicia mumbled, “Does it absorb kinetic energy like Gyrate does?”
“Not quite, Alicia,” Cube said, “He has revealed that his expression is powered by the sun—albeit the language he used to describe it was far more colorful.”
“Diversifying your ability to gain energy is probably a good idea,” Alicia said quietly.
“Indeed.” Cube agreed.
If either Alice or Morgan had checked and found him missing, then it would mean that Alice might already be on her way—in which case they were quickly running out of time.
“Cube, do you know if anyone checked the cell?” Loren said, frowning.
“Unknown,” Cube said, “Its physical location makes it impossible to scan from our current position, and without knowing the location of the device that connects to it remotely, I would need to check every computational module on your planet’s network for a connection.”
“Shit,” Loren mumbled. “What’s the time?”
“Current Time: 8:52 AM.” Cube said, “The pattern created by the logs suggests an average period of four hours between manual checks.”
“We’ve already spent two of those hours,” Alicia mumbled.
“Which means we have two hours left before Alice comes looking for us,” Loren said, “If she isn’t coming already—is there anything we can do right now to make it harder to find us?”
“I have been scrubbing our presence from every recording device in the area and replacing it with doctored footage since we have arrived in Hanta City,” Cube said. “Facial recognition attempts will fail to discover you.”
“Is there anybody on this island with the ability to hide from someone who’s trying to find them with an expression?” Loren wondered.
“How would I find such a person if there was?” Cube said.
Alicia was quick to hide her smile when he glanced her way. Loren just shook his head—they were conspiring against him again.
Loren followed the Cubes faultless sense of direction, eventually coming upon a park right in the middle of central. There was a large body of water, ringed with benches, picnic tables, and even a small pier that lay flat against the surface of the water.
It was a beautiful place.
When he came to a stop next to one of the benches and got his first good look at Nigritude, he was surprised. An old man had to be approaching his eighties and was completely wrinkled from head to toe. The man turned at their presence, and Loren could see that his eyes were heavily sunken.
Alicia lifted her hand in greeting and smiled kindly at the man.
“What the fuck are you two runny shits looking at?” The old man grumbled, tossing a handful of bread into the water for the ducks. “If I wanted company, I’d have asked for it.”
Alicia quickly dropped her hand, looking flustered.
“We’re looking at the pond, asshole,” Loren said, annoyed at the rudeness. “If I wanted company, it wouldn’t be a surly old fucker like you.”
The old man snorted.
“Show some fucking respect,” The old man snapped, tossing another handful into the water, “I was building this town when you were still running down your mother’s leg.”
Alicia covered her mouth at the language.
“After meeting your bitter old ass,” Loren said, squinting at the man and folding his arms. “I think I’d rather have ended up on your mom’s face.”
Alicia grabbed him by the sleeve in warning, a clear chastisement for matching the man’s energy.
“Shut the fuck up,” The old man grumbled, “What’s that fucking floating thing doing, huh? You come here for a fight?”
Loren winced, and Cube bumped into his arm, signaling that it had finished its task.
“It’s my day off,” Loren hedged. “How’d you know it was there?”
The man eyed him like someone who was checking the bottom of their shoe for shit.
“You think I wouldn’t feel that?” The old man responded. “Fucking dumbass.”
“We really were just watching the pond,” Alicia tried.
“There are a million ponds in the world, and you drippy shitbags chose this one,” The man grunted, “If you aren’t here for me, then fuck off to the other side where I don’t have to look at you.”
“Honestly, I think you’ve ruined ponds for me entirely,” Loren admitted, shaking his head. “Enjoy your retirement, Satan.”
“Cunt,” The man grumbled.
Loren restrained himself from calling something back to the man—mostly because Alicia was giving him the stink eye.
“What?” Loren said, defensive. “He set the tone for that discussion.”
“Exo Energy Replicated.” Cube said once they were far enough away that the man couldn’t hear them. “Solar Absorption Replicated.”
“How did he see you?” Loren asked in the hopes of distracting Alicia from glaring at him.
“The Solar Absorption Expression has a five-meter area of effect, centered on his person,” Cube said, “It is clear when someone is within its range, my own invisible form would have registered inside it as your own did.”
“We’re lucky he didn’t go in on us then,” Loren frowned. “Who’s our next target?”
“Magnitude,” Cube said, “She is currently two blocks away, inside the Hanta City Hero HQ.”
“How the hell are we supposed to do this one?” Loren said, hesitating. “Going into a Hero HQ through the front doors has rarely worked for me in the past.”
“What do you mean?” Alicia said, not understanding.
Loren scratched his cheek for a moment, thinking back to those first few loops. He wished more than anything that he could go back to those; it had seemed too difficult at the time, but now…
“I tried a bunch of times to give information to the Hero HQ in Setalite City,” Loren admitted, “I messed it up so many times—it’s given me a healthy aversion to just walking in through the front doors without having someone on the inside looking out for me.”
Loren closed his eyes, thinking of Alana; he hadn’t asked because then he’d know, and knowing would just ruin him further, but…
All of your allies are dead.
“Hey, Cube?” Loren said.
The Cube spun slowly to face him.
“When this is all over, remind me to tell you about a friend of mine,” Loren said quietly, changing his mind. “I think you would have liked her.”
“I will remind you, Loren.” Cube agreed.
“Thanks, man,” Loren mumbled.
Loren took a deep breath and then let it out through his nose in a burst of air.
“We need to get Magnitude out of the Hero HQ,” Loren said, nodding. “Suggestions?”
Alicia spoke up.
“Cube, could you find her phone number?” Alicia said hesitantly, “I could call it and ask her to come to talk to me about something? I could use the abduction for authenticity?”
“Searching,” Cube said, “One moment, please.”
“If I got a call like that,” Loren said, frowning, “I probably wouldn’t come alone.”
“Neither would I,” Alicia admitted, looking down at her feet.
“I have located the number that redirects to her work line within the building.” Cube said, “I can mimic the telecommunications system that is used to connect to it.”
It wasn’t like they had time to mess around—they’d just have to wing it.
“Alright, then let’s move away from the park,” Loren said, looking back to the pond. “I’d rather not get the old bastard involved if it goes badly.”
“Don’t call him that,” Alicia chastised.
“What can Magnitude do?” Loren asked, ignoring her.
“Magnitude’s expression allows her to increase or reduce the effect of something,” Cube said, “It appears to work within a two-meter radius or through touch.”
“Increase or reduce the effect,” Loren said, wondering how he would use a power like that if he’d gotten it. “Got any examples of things she uses it for?”
“Engaging in melee combat with Magnitude is highly ill-advised.” Cube said. “She will reduce the effectiveness of your defense, reflexes, and strength while increasing the effectiveness of her own.”
“Does it work on other things?” Loren clarified, “Wind pressure? Gravity? Other powers?”
“Yes,” Cube said.
“Okay—that’s a really good power; I take back what I said about you being an over-engineered Square,” Loren decided. “My faith in you has been completely restored.”
“I wish I could say the same for you, Loren.” Cube responded.
The three of them moved away from the Hero HQ itself. Once they were far enough away to avoid any instant consequences, Cube got to work.
“Connecting, now.” Cube said.
A woman’s voice suddenly emitted from the Cube.
“This is Magnitude,” Magnitude said, “I thought I was off the streets for the week?”
“Um,” Alicia said, fumbling now that the pressure was on.
“Who is this?” Magnitude said, confused, “How did you get this number?”
“Um, my name is Alicia,” Alicia said, flustered. “I’m—I was abducted a long time ago, and I’ve just escaped—there’s a man with me, he’s the one who saved me, he knew your number.”
“Alicia, “ Magnitude said, voice changing to be far more comforting. “Are you currently in any danger? Where are you?”
Loren shook his head no—indicating where they actually were would just have the other woman send heroes down on their heads.
“I don’t want to tell you—I don’t know who I can trust now,” Alicia said quietly. “And everything is so confusing and different.”
Loren turned away; the pain in her voice was genuine and not something she had to fake. The people who she had invested so much of her trust in had done things to her that he could still barely comprehend.
They had a lot in common, he and Alicia—two ruined souls who were struggling along in the aftermath and trying to find their way back to the path.
“I can meet you wherever you’d like,” Magnitude said soothingly, “Are you in Hanta City?”
“I am,” Alicia admitted.
“How about we meet in public?” Magnitude said gently.
“Magnitude did not come alone, as we expected.” Cube said from inside the handbag they had purchased for Alicia. “There are two other heroes present; Realm, in civilian clothing, is pretending to browse the clothing at ‘Trends and Sets,’ while Interstice is currently following us in full hero attire.”
“What do you mean following us?” Loren said, “How did they know it’s us?”
“They do not,” Cube said, “But they are likely keeping track of men and women pairs who have entered the mall within the last five minutes.”
“So they are just investigating?” Alicia said quietly.
“Correct.” Cube said.
Loren felt a hand settle in his own, and he did his best not to react to Alicia holding his hand; she bumped against his arm, and he bumped her back.
“The one who’s following us,” Loren said, frowning, “What’s his power?”
“Unknown,” Cube said, “No records or footage exists of his power—there is a single forum post suggesting he was seen walking through gunfire unharmed, so the possibility of a durability enhancing power is high.”
“How does he capture villains?” Loren said, frowning.
“Much like Magnitude, he is primarily a melee combatant,” Cube said, “I’d advise against fighting him in hand to hand if a confrontation occurs.”
“Hey, I’m something of a kung-fu expert myself,” Loren said idly.
Loren let Alicia lead him around to the shops, acting the part of the boyfriend-slash-pack mule. He soon found himself loaded down with a bag full of clothing that neither of them wanted.
“Interstice has moved onto another couple,” Cube said, “Suggestion; follow him.”
Loren wasn’t sure that was a great idea, but Alicia tugged him along beside her. The man was short, with a streak of grey on the left side of his short brown hair—he pegged him at the mid-forties. His face was covered in a solid mask that shrouded everything from the hairline down, leaving no room to see out of.
Alicia tapped her finger on his palm twice, the agreed-upon signal for ‘Cube is replicating.’
They’d been following him for less than a quarter of a minute before he stopped moving.
“Why are you following me?” Interstice wondered, turning around.
“That’s my line,” Loren said immediately. “You were following us for almost fifteen minutes.”
Interstice seemed a bit nonplussed to have it turned back on him and casually reached up and touched a finger to his ear once before leaving the arm to drop back to his side.
“Sorry, I should have been more clear.” Interstice said, eyeing them. “Why does the voice in her handbag want you to follow me?”
How the fuck did he know that? Why was every god damned person they run into hyper-aware of everything around them? Couldn’t they just get a single person who didn’t realize what was going on?
“I have been detected, Loren.” Cube decided before pausing. “Localised Portal Generation Replicated.”
“Cube,” Loren groaned.
“Possible power copier.” Interstice said seriously, not talking to them. “Assume he’s got my abilities.”
“Be advised: Magnitude and Realm are now moving towards us.” Cube said.
Someone pulled the fire alarm, and a siren rang out. People began moving towards the exits, brushing past them. Loren and Alicia remained there, staring at the hero opposite as the mall was quickly abandoned.
“I’m not here to fight,” Loren said eventually.
Those types of lines never seemed to work, but he was holding out hope that one day that might change.
“Realm is aiming at us,” Cube said, “Suggestion; Attack.”
Loren didn’t have a chance to respond, as a white energy shield, the size of his palm appeared in mid-air with a buzz. A large white orb crashed into it an instant later, expanded outwards, and began rapidly coating everything in the mall in a white chalk-like substance.
The Environmental shield came up in time to protect them, but it might not have mattered because the substance didn’t stick to Interstice either.
Shapes began to form in the chalk, lifting into roughly humanoid figures that held way more mass than should be possible for such a thin layer of powder. Wires started appearing in the empty air above them, stabbing downwards into each of the figures.
The army of white figures stopped dead in their tracks before turning on their creator.
“He’s got Marionette’s power!” Realm called out, “I’ve lost control!”
“Don’t make anymore!” Magnitude called back.
Magnitude reached them, fist outstretched—a white circle of energy appeared in front of her strike. It stopped it cold, but the shield shattered as her power stripped it of its potency seconds after the impact.
Loren turned as Interstice attacked from the opposite side and attempted to check the man’s kick with his own. Instead, a white projectile lanced out of thin air and impacted Interstice’s armored leg, turning it aside.
Loren retreated back to Alicia as more of the projectiles began raining down on the hero. They never reached him, as they started disappearing in mid-air as Interstice used his own abilities to create a wall of portals to intercept the Rapid-Fire Kinetic Cannon.
“S2! Incoming—” Realm managed to call out before being dragged down under the chalk-figure army.
A silver ball hit the ground, bounced once—and then disappeared as Cube shunted it into a portal and out of sight. Magnitude spun, attempting to fight both the chalk figures that had turned on her from behind while still avoiding the projectiles that were peppering her position—within seconds, Magnitude went down, overwhelmed by the assault. Magnitude and Realm were dragged across the powder-covered floor and deposited on the ground beside them, the costumes they wore now animate and actively restraining them.
Interstice, the last of them still capable of fighting, had surrounded himself with portals, watching them from behind his blank mask.
“Interstice—we really aren’t here to fight,” Loren said, sighing. “We need help if anything.”
The fact that neither Interstice nor the Cube made any further move to attack made Loren think he might be able to salvage the situation after all.
“I’m listening,” Interstice said, voice flat.
“Look,” Loren said, “That abduction thing Alicia called in? It was completely real; we both managed to escape, but the thing that did it is a body snatcher, it’s currently hijacking the body of a very famous hero, and it’s out looking for us.”
“Magnitude Manipulation Replicated,” Cube said, “Construct Generation; Chalk Replicated.”
Loren took a deep breath and then very slowly let it out.
“Do you have any proof?” Interstice said, “Without evidence, it’s a story, and I’ve got evidence that you’re running around stealing powers right in front of me.”
“That’s because I am running around and stealing powers—I don’t care if anyone finds out,” Loren admitted, “The bodysnatcher has hundreds of powers, and I’ve only got a limited amount of time before I have to fight it—Cube, what’s the time?”
“Current Time; 9:03 AM,” Cube said. “Be Advised; Magnitude has begun reducing the effect of my control over her clothing.”
“Move them over to Interstice and let them go,” Loren said before continuing. “I’ve got less than an hour until the bodysnatcher realizes we’re missing from the cell they had us in.”
Cube did so, sliding them across the floor by their still animate clothes and then retracting the wires. Magnitude slowly got to her feet, hand still hooked into her collar in case her clothing suddenly turned on her again, while Realm seemed to be slowly lifting up off the floor as a chalk throne grew beneath him.
“It’s going to find us and kill us if I don’t kill it first,” Loren finished, “That’s our current situation.”
Another one down.
Ladies and gentlemen, the last chapter of Reroll is rapidly approaching us; the Updated estimate puts the end at either Chapter 88 or Chapter 87.
If you’re enjoying my work, and you’re tearing out your hair, wondering what you could possibly read with no bi-weekly Reroll to look forward to; Contention, the next free web serial will be making an appearance, most likely the week after Reroll finishes. They are unrelated to each other, but you might find something you like in it. Contention will feature base-building, summoning, survival, magic, monsters, taming, crafting, and a mystery of a world overrun with horrible creatures.
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 82 – Live.
Ameliorate(NSFW) – Chapter 10