“I feel like you’ve skipped something incredibly important,” Loren said frowning, “If the mechanism to make the chemicals is inside your—cube, then how does that heal me if I’m injured?”
Alicia glanced up from her place by the wall, the bright light that the Cube was emitting forcing her to squint her eyes.
“I will shoot the load directly into your body,” Cube said, “A projectile would be the most efficient method of delivery.”
Alicia made a noise of surprise, and Loren coughed into his hand for a moment.
“Slow your role there, buddy.” Loren interjected quickly, “I appreciate you getting me out of the cell, but not that much.”
“I do not understand,” Cube said.
“What type of projectile are we talking about?” Loren said, scratching his cheek. “I really don’t like the idea of getting shot every time you want to top up my health points.”
“As far as I am aware, you do not possess these, ‘Health Points,’” Cube said, “Given my current capabilities, the projectile would resemble a thin casing of kinetic energy, one millimeter in diameter, hollow..”
“Is that a big enough dosage?” Alicia said quietly, “A bigger load might be preferable.”
Loren shot her a wary glance.
“Dosage will be calculated at the moment of injury,” Cube said. “Biometric scanning will ensure that it is accurate.”
“Okay, fine.” Loren sighed, not exactly happy with the idea. “We’re still underwater; what’s the plan to get back to the surface?”
“Given that this facility is pressurized at theoretical sea level, you do not have to concern yourself with bubbles forming inside your body during our ascent,” Cube said, “The environmental shield is strong enough to withstand the conditions, the temperature and provide a personal air supply unaffected by the pressure.”
“What the hell do you mean bubbles forming inside my body?” Loren said, horrified.
He attempted to picture what that might look like and reached a hard wall—what the hell?
“You’ve never heard of decompression sickness?” Alicia said hesitantly. “You said you’d escaped once before; how did you avoid it last time?”
All valid points that he had no idea how to answer—this place was pressurized? Loren didn’t even know what that meant.
“There are no existing records in my database indicating that my host has escaped this facility,” Cube said, “It is possible that he has managed to escaped before I first came online at 7:02 AM, but without my assistance, it is extremely unlikely.”
He gave the cube the stink eye for a moment.
“Yeah?” Loren said, vaguely offended, “What if I had access to other expressions at the time?”
“The chances of escape would increase depending on the expression,” Cube said plainly.
“Did you?” Alicia said hesitantly.
“If I escaped before, why would I come back here?” Loren said vaguely, “Let’s move on; Cube, can you expand this environmental shield to cover Alicia as well?”
“Provided you are both in close physical proximity,” Cube said. “I will be able to shield you both.”
That was one thing dealt with; they’d just have to—Loren frowned.
“I don’t suppose you can conjure me up some clothes first?” Loren asked.
“I do not currently possess an expression that would allow for such a thing,” Cube said.
“It’s fine,” Alicia mumbled, “I don’t mind if it means we can leave this place.”
The real problems would start once they were free.
Someone would notice they were gone, and then Untold and Reset would come to send him back to his room—how was it that they had managed to locate him so quickly? Alice was on him almost the minute he made it to the beach, something that most likely would have required them to know where he was in advance.
Give that he was moving at the time—a large ass distance as well, given how long they had been traveling for, she would have needed to know where he was most likely to make landfall. That was something he didn’t even know at the time, so how had they figured it out?
“You were talking about scanning earlier,” Loren wondered. “Do either of us have anything on us that would allow someone to track us down?”
Alicia looked down in concern.
“You have a small computation device located underneath the skin of your right forearm; Alicia does not possess one,” Cub said immediately, “It is currently offline but will most likely activate upon leaving this facility.”
Loren stared at his forearm for a moment before looking back at the Cube.
“You didn’t think that was important to mention before?” Loren said, stumped.
“The device predates me. It was already embedded inside you when I first activated,” Cube said, “I expected you were already aware of it.”
“Is there anything else I should be worried about?” Loren said, watching it warily.
“There are no other devices located in or on your person.” Cube said, “Would you like me to remove the device?”
“Yes—without destroying it,” Loren said, “We can leave it in here.”
“Understood,” Cube said.
The light that was emitting from the Cube vanished, leaving them in the pitch dark once more. A buzzing noise sounded out in the dark, and then he felt pain lance up his forearm. Loren gritted his teeth, unable to stop himself from pulling his arm back—the pain followed, the movement failing to muddy the aim of the Cube in the slightest.
“Fucking—Goddammit,” Loren grunted as the pain spiked for a moment. “Maybe you should turn on a damn light so you can see what you’re—”
“Loren?” Alicia said, sounding distressed.
Loren gritted his teeth—here he was complaining about something like this when she was getting cut to pieces on the regular.
“I’m fine,” Loren managed.
He could feel something dripping down his arm, and then something small and sharp stabbed his wrist.
“I require no additional light to function,” Cube said, as the pain started to fade. “I have removed the device.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t see shit in the dark.” Loren managed, “Think you can do something about that?”
“Activating HUD,” Cube said.
Loren blinked as white lines rapidly wrote themselves into the air detailing the room and its occupants. It was still pitch black, but he could now see the shapes that made up the room easily.
“Okay, that’s way better,” Loren said quietly.
He swiped his hand in front of his face in an attempt to disrupt the illusion, but the lines were somehow behind his hand. Either they were actively being updated within his vision, or they were actually being projected into the air at the appropriate locations—he couldn’t tell.
“Alright,” Loren said, getting his bearings. “Let’s get out of here before they do a manual check and find us up and moving around.”
Loren watched the white lines that made up Alicia’s figure turned struggling up to her feet in the dark. The Cube itself showed up as a simple three-dimension shape, perfectly steady in midair and looking much the same as it had in the light—smooth black faces and white edging.
Alicia took a hesitant step closer to him, and he reached down to take her hand—ignoring the way her grip tensed at the touch. Loren guided her towards the door until they were standing in front of it, the small red led above them.
A white line lanced out from the Cube before a translucent barrier washed upwards, over them, sealing itself tightly against his skin, and then over their joined hands, up Alicia’s arm, and then they were both covered.
It felt different from both the multifaced mess he’d created with the energized wind layers and the crackling barrier that had destroyed everything he touched. Loren clenched his hand, but his fingers simply passed through the field and then touched against his palm without issue, the field remaining sealed around him.
“I can’t feel it,” Alicia said worriedly, squeezing his hand. “Is it working?”
“It’s working,” Loren mumbled, trying to once more psych himself up for the ocean to come bursting through. “Cube, let’s go.”
Alicia’s hand clenched tighter around his own at the words, and then four bursts of white light smashed into the door—a white wedge of energy appeared directly in front of them, illuminating the dark. A torrent of water rushed through the opening, parting around the wedge, and within seconds the room was submerged in water.
The wedge of kinetic energy vanished, leaving them floating in darkness once more except for the white lines that made up the framing of the building.
They were off the floor now, floating in the middle of the room, and Alicia’s hand was doing its best to break his fingers. She might have been saying something, but if she was, he couldn’t make it out. He used his left hand to start swimming closer to the door, kicking off the roof and further down to grab onto the door frame.
The Cube followed silently, and then they were outside—white lines washed outwards over the immediate environment, sketching out the shapes of everything nearby.
Loren spun, getting a wireframe view of the exterior of the facility. It was a large seamless octagon, with hundreds of poles branching off into the trench sides, staking into the rocky surface. It matched the impression he’d gotten from the water generation power completely.
Loren kicked in the water, using his left hand to swim upwards, and he could feel Alicia doing the same with her own freehand.
“At your current speed, the ascent to the surface will take 4 hours and 42 minutes,” Cube said, destroying his motivation right at the start. “Suggestion; Modified Rapid-Fire Kinetic Cannon deployment for upwards acceleration.”
A marker appeared above him, with the estimated time placed beneath it—there was no way he could keep swimming for that long, especially not with only one useable hand.
“Do it,” Loren muttered, pulling Alicia closer to him.
The Environmental Sheild grew thicker at his feet, and then two circles of white light appeared bright in the darkness they were floating in. Then he felt the shield shudder, and the white outline of the facility started to shrink below them before vanishing completely.
Loren could feel the repeated bursts of kinetic energy impacting against the shield with each iteration, but other than that, there was no feedback on their position or how fast they were moving. He watched the timer that Cube was projecting into his sight shrink—the only method he had with to judge their progress.
He couldn’t stop his mind from pulling him back to what Alice had said on the beach; that everyone was dead. How was it that nobody had ever discovered that Alice was working against them?
Loren couldn’t remember when exactly she’d joined the Peacekeepers, but it had been sometimes around when the group had first formed. Was she still Alice then? Or had she already been emptied out and replaced by whoever was now inside her?
Paragon being a clone made far more sense now—Loren could remember one of the meetings where the Peacekeepers were present.
Artisan had mentioned that Paragon had gone missing several times, the most recent of which had been on the 6th of January until the 9th of January. Someone had mentioned they’d had a meeting the day before, and the timing was suspicious—three whole days where he couldn’t be accounted for.
Alice had known right then and there that Paragon was already gone—she’d sat at the table with them, playing the part of the grieving teammate when she’d be the one to orchestrate it.
“We are now approaching the surface,” Cube said. “I will begin slowing our ascent.”
They breached the water seconds later, and Loren kicked his legs to remain afloat. Alicia did the same, her free arm pushing the water down.
“We made it,” Alicia said, stunned. “Thank you, cube.”
“You are welcome,” Cube said.
“That wedge you made—was that the Kinetic Barrier you figured out earlier?” Loren guessed, “Think you could make us a platform to sit on?”
“Yes,” Cube said, the second string of white light lancing down into the water. “One moment.”
Something touched his feet and lifted—he managed to get his foot flat against it, and Alicia scrambled onto it as the white pane of energy lifted them up out of the water. The liquid caught on top of it washed off the sides in a rush, and then Loren sat down, crossing his legs.
“Which direction are the nearest land masses?” Loren asked.
“Scanning for Landmasses,” Cube said, “Southwest, 3,000km. West, 5,100km. East, 7,000km. Northeast, 7,100km. North—”
“Uh, hold on,” Loren said, frowning. “Can I get the names of these?”
His first thought was to go to the closest one, but the immediate problem was that it was probably the most expected place for him to go. They’d most likely found him so quickly the last time from the tracker; without it, they might start searching the closest places to Antaeus.
“My database does not contain this information,” Cube said, “I suggest we investigate these locations and attempt to locate geographical data.”
“Alicia?” Loren sighed. “Any ideas?”
“Go Southwest,” Alicia said hesitantly, “Find a computer with access to the internet?”
“How long would it take us to get to the Southwest landmass?” Loren asked.
They’d likely only get one chance at picking here, and if they spent another twelve hours of travel to end up on an uninhabited island he was going to—
“44 minutes with current power constraints,” Cube said, “Expressions required; Environmental Shield, Kinetic Barrier, Rapid-Fire Kinetic Cannon.”
“Forty-four minutes?” Loren managed.
Judging by the numbers it had listed off, somewhere above 7,100km had been what they had traveled during the last loop—how fast did this thing think it could go exactly?
“That’s…” Alicia said, closing her eyes. “4,000 kilometers an hour? A bit less?”
“4222 kilometers per hour,” Cube corrected.
“That’s like Mach 3?” Alicia said hesitantly, “Cube, I don’t think we can survive going that fast.”
“Incorrect, Alicia,” Cube said, “Survivability is calculated at 99.99%, provided outside forces do not act against us.”
“Oh,” Alicia said lamely. “Sorry.”
“Whatever,” Loren sighed, “Let’s get moving.”
“Understood,” Cube said, “Please remained seated.”
Alicia dropped down beside him as the pane of kinetic energy sealed itself around them. The Cube slipped inside the barrier before it closed, and then water exploded behind them as the construct began to move.
“Approaching landmass,” Cube said. “Reducing speed.”
Loren opened his eyes and searched around for a moment. The place they’d reached was very, very green—trees, mountains, and sprawling fields of grass. The coast was all beach, but he could just see a road with a few buildings lining it.
They touched down on the deserted beach, and the layers of energy shielding vanished—fuck, it was cold.
“If you feel anyone flying towards us, warn me.” Loren said seriously, “There are people that want to kill us—the same people that locked us up.”
“Scanning Area.” Cube said. “There are 40,000-plus signatures nearby. There are also non-trivial databases in this area—Permission requested to interface.”
“Sure,” Loren said, frowning, “Just don’t break anything.”
“Understood.” Cube said before falling silent.
“Loren?” Alicia said, holding herself. “It’s cold—can we find some clothes?”
Loren just nodded, tracking his way up the beach onto the road, thankfully empty of people or cars.
There were houses all along the road, and it seemed like a pretty nice place to be. Setalite City didn’t exactly have much room for backyards, with most of them having a token strip of grass at best. This place had backyards, front yards, side yards—who had the time to mow all of this?
Loren shook his head.
“Cube, anyone in that building?” Loren asked.
“The building is unoccupied.” Cube said without pause.
“Can you open the door?” Loren said, skedaddling across the road and vaulting the fence.
“Affirmative,” Cube said.
Alicia followed, having a more difficult time, but managing to catch up when he reached the door. Cube generated white light inside the keyhole, and the door clicked open. Loren clapped his hands together in apology before sneaking inside, and Alicia followed.
He headed straight down the hallway, checking each of the rooms as he went until he found a bedroom. The closet was full of clothes, and he quickly nabbed a full set to wear before moving out of the way so that Alicia could pick out her own.
“Interfacing complete,” Cube said. “I have obtained access to a vast collection of networks.”
“It took you that long to figure out the wifi password?” Loren said. “I could have done that by flipping the router over and reading it off the bottom.”
The Cube spun to watch him—did he actually manage to get under its shell?
“Are there any computers in the house?” Loren asked.
“There is a portable computation device to the left of the entryway,” Cube said.
Loren stood up and moved to the door.
“Wait for me,” Alicia said, struggling to pull the hoody over her head.
Loren did so before moving to the room cube had indicated, there was a laptop folded up on a small table, and he flipped it open. It took about six consecutive lifetimes to boot up, and by the time he’d finally managed to make it to the login screen, Alicia had died of old age.
“Finally,” Loren muttered. “Uh, I don’t know the password.”
“Perhaps it is written on the bottom, Loren.” Cube said plainly.
Loren raised an eyebrow at the Cube.
“Oof,” Loren noised, “Point taken—help?”
The screen flickered, and then he was on the desktop; he pulled up the browser, typed in Setalite City, and switched to the news tab.
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 78 – Live.
Ameliorate(NSFW) – Chapter 10