Chapter 61

Cellblock, Hero HQ, Setalite City, 11:47 AM.
Wednesday, February 23rd​, 2022.

“She won’t speak to anyone,” Alana said simply. “It’s highly unlikely that she would speak to you either, but you do have a habit of surprising us.”

“I didn’t think she could talk at all; her mouth was stitched shut the last time I saw her.” Loren said quietly, “I thought we were bringing in Haunt for this?”

“She broke the embedded metal holding her mouth shut when she bit Untold,” Alana nodded, gesturing to the door. “Threadbreaker and Haunt are due here in two hours, but anything we gain now will make it easier in the long run.”

“I don’t even have access to the pheromones anymore,” Loren pointed out awkwardly. “I don’t think I’ll be surprising anyone.”

“I am aware,” Alana said dryly—well, she had set it up after all. “I think you are far more persuasive than you give yourself credit for—keep in mind I haven’t been exposed to those pheromones, so I would consider myself an accurate gauge in this instance.”

“So you want me to get her to talk about what exactly?” Loren mumbled.

“Anything,” Alana said simply, “Once somebody breaks their silence, they are far more likely to open up in summary conversations. Establishing a connection with her now can only benefit us in future interrogations.”

Loren gripped the back of his neck for a moment, uncomfortable. Just getting her to speak to him, it wasn’t like that was wrong, surely? If it was just to get her to open up…

The room looks like the cell he’d been kept in when he’d had the time stop power, and Taker was practically mummified in restraints, mostly designed to keep her claws and teeth away from any of the others.

Loren picked his way up to the cage and stood in front of it; Taker looked up, then went back to looking at the floor. The patterned scales could almost be mistaken for a tattoo, and the yellow skin seemed almost pink without direct sunlight.

Her eyes were glowing, a far more vivid yellow that drew his gaze than anything else about her.

“Hey, Evelynn,” Loren said quietly. “It’s good to see you again.”

Evelynn looked up again, studying him without expression—Loren knew from her perspective she’d never seen him before, so it had probably caused some confusion. They’d place a blanket around her in an attempt at modesty, but it was starting to slip down her gaunt shoulders and exposing her neckline.

Even sitting down, she was intimidatingly tall, and he used his hand to brace himself against the ground as he sat down on the floor. Evelyn Miller was far too thin for someone so physically powerful—stretched to the degree that would have perhaps been cartoonish if it wasn’t so horrifying.

The shape of her face remained remarkably unchanged, and she still looked like the photos he’d seen of her before they’d done this to her. The two sharp and pronounced canines drew his eye for a moment—the metal stitching that had once held her mouth shut was snapped at the corners of her mouth.

“You wouldn’t remember me, but we’ve spoken before.” Loren admitted, “Well, I spoke to you anyway—My name is Loren.”

Evelynn continued to watch him, no longer looking away. Loren studied the black fur that seemed to emerge from her wrists, surrounding them not unlike a lion’s mane. Her legs were hidden beneath the blanket, but he knew there was matching fur around her ankles.

Loren decided to act while he still had her attention.

“I’d just killed Naomi at the time when you caught up to me,” Loren said, squashing the sick feeling building inside him at the memory. “I like to think you and I bonded over that.”

Evelynn twisted slightly, sending the chains and restraints rattling against each other, but her gaze remained locked on his face. He needed to break the silence, to get her to respond to his words in some way.

“That probably doesn’t make much sense to you,” Loren commented, leaning back on his hands.

One of her claws scraped lightly against the ground, drawing his gaze, the ground remained undamaged.

“I can explain it for you if you would like.” Loren wondered. “You’ll have to nod if you’re up for it.”

Loren fell silent, and the two of them stared at each other through the cage. Almost ten seconds passed before Evelynn slowly nodded her head. Loren forced a smile onto his face, feeling awful that he was manipulating her.

“Okay,” Loren nodded back, “I’ll tell you something really interesting, but I’ll need you to do something in return—you’ll need to call me by my name. Sound like a deal, Evelynn?”

There was another long pause before Evelynn ducked her head slightly in agreement. Loren swallowed at her compliance; maybe Alana was right about him after all. He leaned all the way forward until his forehead rested against the bars—lucky for him, there was no current.

“I’m a time traveler,” Loren whispered. “I’ve seen a lot of things that I shouldn’t have, and I can always go back again, you know? That’s how I knew you were in the sewers and where Naomi was hiding.”

Evelynn stared at him, so he kept speaking.

“One of the times I went back, I tracked Naomi down and killed her,” Loren continued, fudging the actual events in the purpose of persuasion, “That’s where I met you—I’m sorry to say that you got hurt pretty badly during the fighting.”

They fell into silence again, and Loren sat back, letting her think about that for a moment.

He tilted his head back enough that he could stare up at the lightbulb on the ceiling above him. For a moment, he wondered if simply observing it might cause it to shatter—Loren had recognized something about himself these last few loops, something that he wasn’t sure how he should feel about it.

He was changing.

If someone had told him at the beginning of this mess, he would have been horrified at some of the things he would go on to do. Treating people, even enemies, without mercy was something he’d never thought himself capable of—breaking Arret’s shoulder was a recent example that immediately came to mind—putting Vapid in the hospital because he hadn’t wanted to let her walk all over him.

Killing Naomi in the middle of a fight. Fighting Reset with the intent to kill because he knew the villain would survive it. Killing Beat while he was helpless in a fit of anger—he’d lost pieces of himself, and it hadn’t been an even process.

His tight grip on his morals had begun to slip, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot. It wasn’t always fighting and killing either—he’d begun to lie to people for the sake of speeding things along like he just had with Evelynn. He’d stopped completely explaining things to these living, breathing people because it had grown exhausting, having to catch them all up, again and again.

He’d begun to misrepresent things because he knew it would evoke certain reactions, fast track them towards more useful conversational places. White lies, manipulations, broken promises, to himself and others, all the things he’d hated growing up. Somewhere along the line, he’d begun to use those same methods.

It was even worse because he was able to justify it—To think that for all of his stubbornness, all of his promises, and all of his spiteful adherence to his morals… All of that meant nothing in the face of a reason that had reached the threshold of ‘good enough.’

He’d braced himself to avoid falling, only to dive straight off the cliff anyway.

“To be fair, Naomi’s managed to kill me a few times as well,” Loren allowed because he knew it would draw her interest. “I’m not sure on the exact score, but it’s a few on either side, you know? I’ve got a bunch of stories if you want to hear some, but it’s your turn first.”

Surprisingly enough, Evelynn spoke.

“I am not supposed to speak, Loren,” Evelynn murmured, barely audible.

Evelynn’s voice didn’t rasp or sound at all strange, despite the fact that it had remained unused for so long—it was the voice of a woman and not the amalgamation they’d made her into. It didn’t at all match her appearance.

“I figured it was something like that,” Loren said eventually, “I wouldn’t worry about following those orders right now—I plan on going back again pretty soon, so all of this will be erased. So feel free to ask me anything you want to know—everyone’s going to forget it anyway.”

Another twisted truth, spoken with confidence and aimed to show her that he wasn’t at all worried about consequences.

“If she killed you several times,” Evelynn murmured, “How are you still alive?”

Loren answered, keeping her speaking was the main goal here.

“I’m kind of like that teammate of yours, Reset,” Loren responded. “If I die, I just come back to life again. I’ve also met most of Epilogue, if you were wondering how I knew about him, more than once in the majority of cases. I know how I feel about them, but I’m more curious about how you feel—do you like any of them?”

Evelynn stared at him for a long while.

“Reset,” Evelynn mumbled.

A one-word answer wasn’t the best sign to give her previous sentences.

“Really? I thought you were going to say Mara,” Loren said, genuinely surprised. “Reset seemed a bit angry—maybe he’s not always like that, though.”

Something about his appearance had set the villain off; he’d been almost at ease before Loren had turned around.

“No. He is always angry,” Evelynn murmured. “I understand him.”

Loren wondered what exactly it was about Reset’s anger that made him so relatable to her. Naomi was an incredibly anger person, but it wasn’t like he could expect Evelynn to like her.

“What about Tiamat?” Loren wondered. “Do you like her?”

“No,” Evelynn said flatly.

Another step backward, but the reaction was more potent.

“The Researcher?” Loren pressed.

Evelynn didn’t respond, and her mouth formed into a thin line, lips pressed together tightly. Reset was relatable to her, and there hadn’t been any response he could gauge when he’d mentioned Mara. Tiamat and The Researcher seemed to be off the table entirely; either she was too angry to talk about them or too scared.

“I don’t know enough about either of those last two to have formed an opinion honestly,” Loren admitted, “I’ll run into them eventually though, it’s bound to happen at some point. I guess I’ll have a chat with them then, see if we hit it off.”

“You should avoid them,” Evelynn murmured. “Unless you wish to become like I am.”

That was a piece of information that held some hidden facets—they’d done this to her, something that had already been speculated about to some extent. This was confirmation, though, and it also outlined to some extent what they could expect from them.

“Those two were the ones who did this to you? I’d come to the conclusion that they were the ones who switched Paragon out with the fake, so it makes sense.” Loren said, taking a stab in the dark.

Evelynn just stared at him, eyes glowing—and it took him a moment to understand that she was confused and then what it actually meant.

“You didn’t know about that?” Loren said, surprised. “Naomi didn’t either?”

“No,” Evelynn responded, still staring. “Paragon is gone?”

If she truly didn’t know, what did that mean exactly? Was Epilogue actually not involved in the whole Paragon situation? Or were they the type to compartmentalize their plans? Why would they keep something like that from Evelynn—why would they keep it from Naomi? Her stated goal was to kill the man and take his powers before moving onto the other Peacekeepers—if it had been Tiamat and The Researcher that had switched them out, why wouldn’t they have told her?

“I’ll admit that doesn’t make much sense to me,” Loren said slowly, “Do your teammates not share information or plans with each other?”

There was a small pause before Evelynn started to laugh quietly, and it was filled with so many horrible things Loren probably shouldn’t have called It such.

“You know so much,” Evelynn murmured, “But you don’t know this? Epilogue isn’t a team, Loren.”

Seeing how Lecture and Reset had interacted in the subway had shown him that there was some tension there, obviously, but he’d spent enough time around other teams to know that was pretty much universal—Everyone had bad days, even serial killers.

“You all work together towards shared goals,” Loren said lightly, “That says team to me; dysfunctional doesn’t equate to non-existent.”

Evelynn shook her head, and the heavy blanket slipped off her shoulders entirely, exposing the entirety of her gaunt and still naked form.

“I am pointed in the same direction as the other weapons,” Evelynn said, watching him. “I had a team once, and this is not that.”

Loren nodded in understanding, trying to unpack what that meant exactly. ‘Weapons’ was a loaded term if he’d ever heard one, and it didn’t sound like she was speaking poetically about it. It came across more like a title that had been assigned to her—and possibly the other members.

“I suppose that means Tiamat is the one aiming you?” Loren wondered, paying careful attention to her expression.

“Yes,” Evelynn said tightly.

Then that made her the one that Loren needed to be aimed at; cut off the head, and the body will die held a certain amount of irony given what the woman had named herself—but it should be effective either way.

There was a noise from the door, something heavy and metal striking against concrete, and he took that to indicate it was Alana’s method of informing him that his time was over. Evelynn had clearly heard the noise as well, and it served as a reminder to them both that they didn’t exist in a vacuum; her glowing eyes trailed away from the door and landed back on him, considering.

“Well, she spoke to me,” Loren admitted, shaking his head. “I guess that means my real superpower was making friends with villains all along.”

Alana cupped her armored fingers together on the desktop, knuckles down and thumbs interlocked.

“Yes, It seemed to go well. I apologize for interrupting you; it wasn’t my choice.” Alana apologized, “I had a difficult time getting permission for a complete unknown to speak with her, and that permission was quickly revoked once the information reached those in higher positions—I imagine this was something my other selves must have dealt with to some extent.”

“Yeah, we never spoke about that in the previous loop.” Loren admitted, “I ended up getting assassinated by Naomi before we had a chance to talk about that.”

Alana bowed her head fractionally before removing her hands from the desk, but Loren’s thoughts were pulling away from the current discussion despite himself. He couldn’t help his thoughts looping back around to the fact that in the past, he would have handled that conversation with far more empathy.

Loren hesitated before it all came pouring out of him.

“I’m changing,” Loren said, voicing his concerns. “I knew I would, right from the start. It’s happening in ways that I don’t notice right away, but it’s also getting harder to ignore.”

Alana took the complete topic change in stride and seemed completely unbothered by his expectation that she keep up.

“It is not unusual or even unexpected for situations as difficult as this to have an effect on you,” Alana responded. “Our frame of reference is vastly different, Loren. You are as I have always known you to be, and we only met yesterday. If you were to elaborate, I would be able to give you more constructive feedback.”

He wasn’t at all the same person, and the words were like an unexpected spike to the chest. Once again, he was made aware that all of their previous interactions were entirely one-sided. Alana had forgotten all of the previous struggles they’d gone through, the discussions, the battles, and everything else they’d shared.

He regretted speaking up because now he was confused, hurt, and angry.

“I keep noticing myself doing things that I wouldn’t ever have done before,” Loren murmured, “Taking the quick route when I know I shouldn’t, putting things off to deal with later because I know the other person will forget… It’s just…. Did you know that we used to argue about everything, Alana? Tactics, morality, how to deal with all of this? Now it barely happens anymore…. I just follow your lead—even when I think it’s wrong.”

Alana’s helmet stared back at him, revealing nothing—was she surprised? Had she already come to that conclusion somewhere in the back of her mind? She took a moment too long to respond, and it fed into his growing anger.

“There was a time where you locked me in a room and forced me to watch the death of Setalite City,” Loren said challengingly. “Because I refused to let a single person die, and I kept getting involved, trying to save everyone. Running around like an idiot and dying before the end of the city—it wasn’t the optimal course to take; it was a lesson and a punishment.”

Alana didn’t speak, and they stared at each other, the featureless helmet weathering the mixture of hurt and fury on his face. The silence grew strained, but instead of snapping, it just kept on growing, along with the rest of his bottled-up anger.

“You killed me once, you know?” Loren said, aiming to get some kind of response. 

Wraith vs Wildcard(Homunculus) – Artwork by Jocamecht.

“Put your hand right through my face and out the other side.” Loren continued, “Murdered me out of a mistaken revenge because the pain of losing all of your friends got the better of you—then a few loops later, you turned around and forced me to watch all of mine die in turn.”

“Loren…” Alana said softly, but he was too far in it to stop.

“I have to give you a pass, though, because it’s not the present you that did it, is it?—You’ve hurt me, jailed me, saved me, taught me, killed me—fucked me,” Loren spat, taking an awful pleasure in seeing her flinch, visible even within her armor. “We’ve been through so much, Alana—and you don’t remember any of it. What constructive criticism do you have for me? How am I supposed to feel about this?”

Alana didn’t have a response for him, and the chair clattered backward as he surged to his feet. Loren spun away from her, heading for the door—angry, hurt, and entirely disgusted with himself for taking it out on her.

Another one down my dudes.

We’re getting close to the end of season 2, which probably lands about chapter 70ish, give or take a few chapters. Were also at 180k words, which always blows my mind every time I see it. After this, we’re onto the final season. If you’re enjoying reading Reroll so far, leave a review, comment, or check out some of my other stories and do the same!

Reroll – Chapter 63 – Updated
Ameliorate – Chapter 8.

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Chapter 7

Loren’s Apartment, 9:30 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

The knocking on his door woke him up, and he managed to drag himself out of bed, despite the overwhelming urge to just ignore it. He made his way to the front door and peeked through the peephole.

He yanked the door open, scaring the crap out of Emma.

“What do you want, huh?” Loren said wryly, “Falling into my apartment last night wasn’t enough for you?”

“That was your fault,” Emma said immediately. “You brought back my ceiling, but you didn’t bring the bed back; I had to sleep on my couch.”

Loren blinked.

“Why didn’t you just come to get me?” Loren rolled his eyes and pushed out past her. “Come on, then.”

Emma led him up the stairs and into her apartment, which looked much the same as it had the last time he was here, only there wasn’t a massive hole in the wall or two people in the process of killing everyone. He stepped into the room behind her and brought the bed back with a moment’s effort before scratching the back of his head.

“Was that the only other thing I managed to vanish?” Loren asked curiously. “Did I get your clothes as well?”

“Hmm?” Emma said idly, straightening the covers on her bed. “Oh no: I wasn’t wearing any.”

“On that note, I’m going to leave,” Loren said, amused, “See you later, Sparky.”

“Hey, do you want to stay for coffee?” Emma asked quickly, “We can talk more about what happened?”

Loren ummed and ahhed for a moment, thinking about everything he needed to go start redrawing the plan for before sighing.

“Sure, white, two sugars,” Loren said eventually, “Hold the poison.”

“I’m not going to poison you!” Emma said, offended.

“Can’t put anything past the evil lady who broke into my apartment last night,” Loren needled.

“That was your fault!” Emma whined. “I’m a complete innocent.”

“Call the media, Sparklite; the villainess is announcing her innocence!” Loren said, shocked.

“Loren,” Emma whined.

Emma,” Loren said childishly.

Emma’s Apartment, 10:17 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

“We should totally team up!” Sparklite said enthusiastically, “Just think, I can disable all the cameras, alarms, and everything else, and you can just take the walls straight off.”

Because, of course, she was trying to convince him to become a criminal.

“Just because I don’t care if you’re a villain doesn’t mean that I want to become one,” Loren said, amused.

“It’s not like they could hold you anywhere if they did catch you, though,” Emma said, grinning. “You could just remove the cell wall or the bars and wander off.”

“They would probably just start shooting if they couldn’t contain me.” Loren pointed out dryly.

“You could just vanish the guns!” Emma snickered.

“That’s your solution for everything!” Loren said incredulously before narrowing his eyes at her coffee.

“Hey!” Emma whined, “That’s mine, bring it back.”

“Stop trying to make me into a criminal,” Loren demanded, “And say, uncle!”

“Fine,” Emma huffed, “But I’m not saying, uncle.”

“Say it!” Loren laughed. “Or no coffee for you.”

“Loren,” Emma whined before immediately giving up. “Uncle.”

He brought it back, and she immediately took it in hand, possibly to hide it from him.

“What happens to the things you vanish?” Emma asked curiously.

Loren hummed for a moment; he’d done some experimenting before he’d gone to bed last night. He could vanish anything in his line of sight, as long as it wasn’t a person. He could make them reappear whenever he wanted, and conserving the momentum seemed to be a choice.

“I’m not sure,” Loren admitted, “Got any ice cubes? I could vanish one and see if it’s melted or not when it returns.”

“That’s a good idea!” Emma said with wide eyes and ducked into the kitchen.

She returned a few moments later with a glass of ice cubes and placed it on the table in front of him. He vanished the glass with a thought, taking the ice along with it. Loren had been watching the clock on her wall for a while now, as the time of the Arrot City bombing slowly approached. He wouldn’t be able to stop it this reset, but he’d find a way eventually.

He forced himself to push the attack out of his mind, there was nothing he could do this time, but he would fix it.

“Hey Emma,” Loren asked distractedly, as his thoughts turned once more onto the problem. “What do you know about Paragon?”

Emma tilted her head to the side and studied him curiously.

“Almost nothing really, he’s completely out of my league though,” Emma admitted, “I tend to stay on the down-low when any of the big seven are in town, so I’ve never had a run-in with him.”

“He’s invulnerable, right?” Loren said idly.

“He has a bunch of powers; Flying, invulnerability, super strength, super speed, and this weird aura going on.” Emma listed off from memory, “Calms you down around him.”

All things Loren already knew.

“What about you, Sparky?” Loren switched gears, “You can throw electricity around? You also said you can disable things, like cameras or my headset.”

Emma flushed slightly.

“It was an accident.” Emma mumbled, “I can generate electricity from my body, or absorb it from anywhere nearby, and use it to enhance myself. Sometimes it will draw on things nearby when I let my guard down.”

“That’s pretty cool, you know?” Loren admitted, and it was.

Being able to shoot blasts of lighting around and make yourself stronger, faster, or more durable was awesome. There was a thread of jealously that he hadn’t managed to get something like that yet; the closest he’d come was back when he was the god damned Milkman.

“Thanks,” Emma smiled.

Emma’s Apartment, 12:50 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

One coffee had turned into four, and Emma had managed to keep him in conversation long enough for him to actually forget about the explosion, but the deluge of alerts on his phone earlier had certainly dragged him back to reality.

It had also given them something else to talk about, and the conversation had been revitalized.

“It’s just insane,” Emma shook her head, “So many people, gone just like that.”

“There’s no way it was an accident like they are claiming,” Loren said quietly, head resting on his folded arms, which in turn resting on the kitchen table.

“Mm,” Emma said in agreement, “Who’d do something like that?”

“You’re the villain here?” Loren said idly.

Emma almost looked hurt at the comment.

“Just a joke,” Loren added after a moment, giving her a smile to soften it. “You don’t seem the type to do anything like that.”

“Dick,” Emma huffed. “Maybe Meteor has reappeared?”

Loren blinked before shaking his head.

“I’m not convinced they ever existed in the first place,” Loren said honestly, “The stated goals of the group were to protect the environment; then they just kill ten million people and themselves? I’m not buying it.”

“There’s footage-” Emma said, frowning.

“You can shoot lightning out of your butt; you’re telling me there’s no one out there with the power to edit the footage?” Loren said immediately, “Illustrious can make hard light illusions? They dub the footage and bam. Instant terrorist group to cover up what was really happening.”

“What was really happening?” Emma said, shocked and interested.

“They wanted to change the course of history, so they were secretly building a time-travel spacecraft, codenamed; The SS-Gullible,” Loren said seriously.

“Fuck you!” Emma laughed, reaching over the table to try and grab him.

Loren let out his own startled laugh at the sudden attack and scooted back out of reach, the chair legs screeching. The feet hit a lip on the wooden floor and tilted back, sending the chair up into a precarious lean.

“All aboard the SS-Gull-Ah!” Loren yelped, and the chair tipped over, depositing him on the floor.

Emma stopped next to his head, smirking down at him with her hands on her hips. He didn’t even try to not look up her skirt; instead, he cleared his throat.

“I’ve never wanted to vanish anything so badly in my life,” Loren said distractedly.

Emma’s smirk widened, and when she opened her mouth to respond-Someone started hammering on the door, one floor below them-Loren’s door.

He blinked.

“Looks like Peter’s looking for me, huh?” Loren sighed.

“Looks like it,” Emma mumbled, almost sounding disappointed, “Does he try the rent scam on you too?”

“Rent’s due!” Peter hollered, still hammering on his door.

Loren sighed again.

“Nope, looks like this is the first time.” Loren sighed before sitting up.

“It will be over pretty quick then,” Emma said, smirking.

He snorted.

“At least I know that there will be less screaming than there was at two this morning,” Loren shot back before deadpanning. “Oh, right there.”

Loren!” Emma said, mortified, realizing he had heard her.

He paused at the door and returned the glass of ice-water now; looks like things didn’t stay frozen inside it; he left it on the stool by the door.

“Does that look like the sink to you?” Emma huffed.

Loren’s Apartment, 4:50 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

He’d attempted to save Emma some trouble by preemptively telling Peter what would happen if he caught him doing this to any other resident, and it seemed to have scared the man off, for now, at least.

How differently might the day have gone if he had immediately gone out to tell Mark again, with the power to vanish things, he would have been able to vanish that dickheads ninja’s weeaboo stick.

He’d chastised himself for a good five minutes before he remembered that he’d been punted through two floors barely seconds later by the telekinetic. Without the invulnerability, he would have died then, or before even from the debris. Wait, no, Emma had gotten him with a stream of lightning as well; that would have done him in.

Loren shook his head and refocused.

They had a versatile team going there; A telekinetic strong enough to break through the walls of a building with ease, he’d likely been holding back a great deal as well, along with a speedster with a sword that could seemingly cut through anything. A teleporter of some sort as well, given what they had been saying and how quickly they had arrived.

The Vanish power would be able to remove the sword, the clothing, and any equipment they had been carrying, but he probably would have still died.

The Six-Armed Invulnerable power had kept him alive from anything short of that guy’s sword. Had he not encountered the guy, he probably would have survived a really long time in that loop, even given the explosions at the parade.

The Milk power would have done nothing to help.

The Teleport power he’d had right at the start would have been useful; he might have been able to get the other two out of there if he’d been quick enough, but it had been a surprise attack; without prior knowledge, he would have gone down to friendly fire-or lightning in this case.

Can lightning even be friendly? He shook his head again.

He barely had a couple of minutes before Mark left the building immediately after a reset, which meant that he had to figure out his power in that time and then go tell him to call the heroes in. That gave him all of ten minutes to prepare to fight Swordguy and Floorsmasher with an unfamiliar power.

If he got something like the Milk thing a second time, he would just be walking to his death; hell, even if he got something good, he would probably still be walking to his death. Those guys were professionals. It was like a game really, he had unlimited tries to stop them; only, dying fucking hurt, and he wasn’t going to throw himself at it repeatedly like some god damned anime protagonist.

So what did he do?

This team of killers seemed like the end bosses of an arc. He was a level 1 noob at this point, and he needed to become a level 1 badass, so the next time he died, he could use whatever power he got that much better.

Maybe he should take Emma up on her offer.

Spend a few resets being a thief, get his feet wet in this cape business before diving into the shark-infested puddle. If they got attacked by a hero, he might even gain some valuable experience without the threat of death. Alternatively, he could just go out and attempt to find some crime to fight on his own.

That brought with it the risk of being shot or stabbed or something.

The other option was to just gain proficiency in learning how to learn the powers. If he got good enough at figuring out how to use them in a minimal amount of time, he might be able to make some really early moves; destabilize whatever element was sending the assassins to target him in the first place.

A long-range teleport power might see him move straight to the bombs if he could find a way to access them, maybe teleport them into the ocean or something.

Loren paused, or he could just vanish them.

He was an idiot, he had the perfect bomb disposal power, and he knew roughly where the bombs were downtown. He just needed to figure out how to get into whatever underground area they had been placed in, another thing his power should be perfect for. It was too late to save anyone in Arrot City in this reset, but he could at least save Paragon and the crowd. He couldn’t go out in broad daylight; people might see him, he’d have to wait until it was dark.

He had some preparation to do.

Rooftop, Apartment Building, 11:17 PM.
Tuesday, February 22nd​, 2022.

He wondered if he was going to be in this loop forever. What happened when one day when he was an old man, if he managed to avoid dying for that long, he finally checked out from natural reasons-only to find himself listening to his old upstairs neighbor doing the nasty above him. Was this how he was going to spend eternity? Waking up on a Tuesday?

If he did, was it a bad thing? Loren didn’t know.

It was too early for him to make any sort of judgment; the initial panic of needing to do something had worn off over the course of the day. He was essentially immortal, provided the resets didn’t run out, but he had no evidence to say they would and no evidence to say they wouldn’t. He doubted he ever would in that regard; if he woke up dead one day, he wouldn’t know it would he? Because he’d be dead.

Did that help to inform him on how to spend potential eternity? A little.

If he spent any extended time thinking about not waking up, only to one day, not wake up-well, it seemed like it would be a gargantuan waste of everybody’s time. So he’d do his best to put that aside, although it was never as easy to follow through with that type of discipline in reality.

He’d read enough horror stories to know that ‘eternity’ was a pretty long time. He’d also seen enough shit in the last week to scar him for life if he hadn’t already been. A single traumatic experience was enough to turn some people into monsters and ruin others.

What would he be like after ten more deaths? What about a hundred?

There was an element of inevitability there, but it branched in two directions. He was either going to figure out a way to deal with the trauma he accumulated over potentially thousands of repeats, or he was going to go insane. If there was one thing he could take some solace in, was that it would be such a slow process he doubted he would even notice himself changing.

He could almost picture it, and it brought with it memories of things he’d dealt with a long time ago.

A thousand resets from now, he would be sitting here on the rooftop of his apartment building, staring out at the sea of lights and roads stretching before him, a hollowed-out husk of himself. He wondered if it would still be him in the driver’s seat or if he’d just shut down entirely, his body moving through the motions.

There had been a day, back when he was younger.

He’d lost his best friend to a… car accident, not too far removed from the one Mark constantly found himself getting into. That day had spiraled into many sleepless nights, months of nightmares, and years of therapy to put it behind him. That day was when his motivation to do anything had disappeared; his energy levels had dropped to roughly nothing. After everything that had happened, he’d sat in the room, unable to bring himself to want anything, to feel anything; it almost felt like he’d been watching himself from the outside as his body went through the motions of breathing; he’d been a completely hollow boy.

That day had been a Tuesday too.

“Loren?” Emma’s voice called quietly, sounding worried. “I’m here, can you tell me what this is about? Did you change your mind about me? I won’t come after you, I promise. I’m wearing the we can if you want too, but the rooftop isn’t really the place-”

Loren listened to her rambling before scoffing and glancing over his shoulder at her; she was in costume just like he asked, perfect.

“When I’m in costume, do not call me by my human name, minion.” Loren said dramatically, “Address me as Bootyslayer911.”

“What?” Emma said hesitantly. “I’m not calling you that-what is that wrapped around your face?”

“A shirt,” Loren said imperiously.

“It’s pink,” Emma said, bemused.

“It’s salmon, you heathen.” Loren scoffed, “Come on, then, we are going to save the city.”

“Save the city? From what?” Emma said, sounding lost. “I thought you wanted me to wear the costume because- well, I know guys like it.”

Was she insinuating that he asked her to dress up in spandex in the dead of the night, demanded she come up to the rooftop just to-Loren was offended; the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.

Why hadn’t the thought crossed his mind!?

Authors Notes:
Hey, duderino’s, another one finished. There’s a second character portrait up now on the Gallery page! Thanks for all the support!

Lame ass calls to action:
Check out my Patreon, other stories or drop by and leave a comment, or review-whatever you feel like on any of the sites I post stuff on! Every bit helps. Peace!

Chapter 6

Loren’s Apartment, 2:22 AM.
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022.

A series of loud, rapid thumps rattled the ceiling, followed immediately by a woman’s long, loud moan. Loren cracked his eyes open to stare up at his roof, just in time for his lightbulb to explode.

He reached over and pulled the blanket back down before freezing; his body felt strange, and the reason for the strangeness was immediately apparent as he moved his three left arms forward, followed by his right three.

“What the fuck is this?” Loren said in disbelief.

Each of the arms seemed to be fully functional and could be moved independently of each other, and it was really, really weird. He slipped out of bed and over to the mirror hanging from his wall and flinched back from his own reflection.

Seeing these additional limbs hanging off him where there shouldn’t be any was a horrible feeling; It was almost like this wasn’t even his body anymore, he’d used his own for twenty-one years, and suddenly there were extra parts…

He could feel his anxiety building at the thought of leaving the apartment. There was no way he could go outside looking like this; he looked like a monster or something. Loren rubbed his face and flinched when he accidentally brought two extra arms up.

Mark would probably take one look at him and try to kick his ass. Then again, that might be a way he could keep the guy inside the building where the truck couldn’t get to him. Loren forced him to head for the door; he would reset again if things got bad.

The argument upstairs was reaching its peak once more as he stepped out of the apartment and headed up the stairs. He stopped in front of the door and knocked loudly with all six arms; the yelling quieted. A few moments later, the door opened to reveal Emma wearing her oversized shirt and shorts.

“Loren!” Emma said apologetically before her eyes went wide. “W-what?”

“So, you shattered my lightbulb a couple of minutes ago, and now I have six arms,” Loren said wryly, crossing all of his arms. “I think you owe me an apology or something Emma.”

“I-I did this?” Emma said horrified.

“You’re joking,” Mark’s said, alarmed, his voice carried through from behind the door.

“You gave birth to a lovely mutant six-armed superpower,” Loren said evenly, “Congratulations, It’s a boy.”

“I’m-I didn’t…” Emma stumbled over her words.

“Why do you think we had anything to do with it?” Mark said firmly, stepping up beside Emma in the doorway.

“Because you’re Gradient, and she’s Sparklite,” Loren said easily.

Mark flinched as his secret identity was suddenly exposed, but Emma just gaped at him.

“How do you know that?!” Mark demanded.

“I got six arms and the ability to see the future,” Loren responded. “There’s some big shit happening in the next couple of days; I’d better give you the tea.”

“You can see the future as well?” Emma asked incredulously.

“Prove it,” Mark said darkly.

“Emma got her powers by sticking a fork into a socket, she told me in one of the branches,” Loren said easily.

“You could have overheard that,” Mark said immediately. “We’ve talked about that before.”

“How about I tell you something that Emma has never told anyone before in her life?” Loren said seriously. “She started a bushfire behind her house when she was a kid.”

“Oh my god.” Emma said, embarrassed, “I told you that?”

“It’s true, then?” Mark said frowning.

“Yeah,” Emma said sheepishly, “I never told anyone it was me.”

“Wonderful, now let’s go inside so I can tell you about the bombs that are going to destroy eight blocks of Arrot City today, or the ones that are going to kill Paragon and a crowd of people on Thursday,” Loren said cheerfully.

They let him in pretty quickly after that.

“First things first,” Loren said easily, “Mark does not go outside the building, you get hit by a Wrightway truck in your car in every single iteration I’ve seen, and you die every time; despite my best efforts to change that outcome.”

Mark held his hands in front of his mouth, frowning.

“So somebody is trying to kill me then?” Mark murmured, “Is it the truck driver?”

“Unknown, he dies in every iteration if I don’t drag him out of the truck,” Loren admitted.

“Fine,” Mark muttered, “How does Paragon die? There’s no way a bomb could kill him; he’s more or less invulnerable.”

“I don’t know that either,” Loren said evenly, “He explodes suddenly on the stage, blood and viscera everywhere. Then three-possibly more-explosions go off under the road amongst the crowd.”

“You don’t know how many go off?” Emma asked curiously.

“I die almost immediately,” Loren explained.

“Oh…” Emma said awkwardly, “Sorry.”

“That’s on Thursday?” Mark confirmed, writing it down on a notepad. “During Paragon’s speech?”

Loren nodded.

“What about the Arrot City bomb?” Mark asked next.

“It goes off right in the middle of central,” Loren frowned, “Eight block radius, everything is just gone.”

Emma looked vaguely ill at the idea; Loren narrowed his eyes at her in warning god dammed spewbeast.

“What time does it go off- do you know?” Mark probed.

“Ten-forty-five in the AM is when the news starts getting out,” Loren said evenly, “So at least thirty seconds before that, I would guess.”

Mark wrote it all down, asking for additional information on random things.

“Alright, I’m going to make some calls, don’t go anywhere,” Mark said firmly, moving to the other side of the apartment.

“Hey, Loren?” Emma asked quietly.

“Hmm?” Loren said, glancing over at her.

“Sorry about-you know.” Emma made a vague gesture at him.

Loren tilted his head at her.

“The lightbulb?” Loren guessed. “The noise? What are you apologizing for exactly?”

“No!” Emma flushed, “I meant the arms.”

Loren reached out with three of them and simultaneously patted her on the head, the shoulder, and the upper arm. Emma blinked at him for a moment.

“Don’t worry about it, champ.” Loren said, amused, “I’m not planning on going outside anytime soon; maybe they will fall off after a while?”

Emma scrunched her face up at the word.

“Don’t call me champ,” Emma huffed, “I don’t think they are going to fall off, either.”

“Sorry about that, sport,” Loren said immediately.

“Don’t call me that either!” Emma pouted.

“Sorry, pal,” Loren smirked.

“Ugh,” Emma huffed, “Bastard.”

“It’s interesting seeing you when you aren’t crying and running around burning down buildings,” Loren said honestly.

Emma hesitated for a moment.

“Is that what I do?” Emma murmured, “I was wondering what my reaction would be. Why did I tell you about the fire?”

“I stopped you from burning down a building, and we got drunk on the roof instead; I asked for something you’ve never told anyone else before,” Loren smirked. “I had to tell you something I’d never told anyone before first, something really juicy.”

Emma’s jaw dropped open.

“That’s bullshit!” Emma demanded, “I don’t remember any of that! What did you tell me?”

“Nice weather we’re having, huh?” Loren said smugly.

Emma stewed in her outrage for several minutes before finally cracking.

Loren!” Emma’s whined, “I want to know.”

“I’ll never tell for as long as I live; it’s far too secret for such virgin ears,” Loren said imperiously.

Emma’s response never manifested because Mark returned, looking grim.

“They are sending people to check the locations now,” Mark said, frowning, “I had to tell command where I was, so they are sending a team to pick us up in an hour.”

An hour? That was a pretty long time; Emma apparently thought so too, because she spoke up.

“Why are they going to take that long? Response time is what, five minutes? Ten on a bad day?” Emma frowned.

“There’s something going on on the other side of the city,” Mark mentioned offhandedly but didn’t detail any specifics.

“Who’s going?” Loren asked curiously.

He couldn’t imagine that Emma would be going with them, a ‘civilian’ would have no reason to be included in this, and she couldn’t exactly reveal she was a villain, not that it would help her chances either.

“You and me,” Mark said shortly, “There’s-”

The wall exploded, and something came through it at speed he couldn’t even react to, he just felt the debris knock him down onto the floor, and the sound of a scream followed shortly after. Loren got his three right arms up to shield his face. The room was filled with dust now, and he squinted to try and see what had happened, something wet touched his leg, and he glanced down; blood, a growing pool of it.

He forced himself to his feet as lighting flashed around the room, scouring lines through the walls, and a stream of it smashed into his arms; somehow, he couldn’t feel any pain from it. He didn’t even have any scrapes or cuts on him from all of the debris.

“Emma?!” Loren called, still unable to see anything except dust and lightning. “Mark!”

The electricity cut off abruptly, followed by a wet thump on the other side of the room, and he backed up until he was pressed against the wall of the apartment.

“I’ve been told you can see the future.” The voice said quietly, “I’m sure you know what comes next.”

“I do, which is why I’m going to give you a single warning,” Loren said evenly. “In every single iteration I’ve seen, you die in the next minute, except the one where you leave.”

There was a beat of silence before the voice continued from the left side of the room.

“Smart,” The voice murmured.

“What does it say about me?” A second voice spoke from the right side of the room.

“Fuck-” Loren managed before he came to a stop two floors down.

The ceilings and floors of the lower rooms rained down on him, and he did his best to force himself back to his feet, his six arms working double-time on digging himself out. He was still somehow unharmed; this power must have come with a certain level of durability.

The door to whoever’s apartment he was in opened, and a man in a grey hoody with a black face mask stepped inside carefully. He raised his hand, and Loren couldn’t get out of the way before he was suddenly smashed through another floor.

Some kind of telekinetic, the second person-wearing an expensive-looking black vest over a white dress shirt was somehow waiting for him. The guy moved so quickly he could only see a blur as he appeared feet first on the ceiling before pushing off to drop down behind him.

Loren spun as fast as he could, but before he was even halfway around, a searing pain tore up the left side of his body, and all three of his left arms dropped to the ground; his apparent invulnerability utterly useless in the face of this guys weapon.

Barely a moment later, another burst of pain left him lying on the floor in two pieces. He couldn’t draw in any breath, and he used everything he had when he started screaming in pain, but even though the pain, he could see the killer sheathing his sword horizontally behind his back.

“Has it been a minute yet?” A voice called from outside the apartment, “I’d rather avoid dieing if he wasn’t bluffing about that part.”

Everything was fading to black.

“Better give it another thirty seconds-just in case.” His killer said casually. “Yeah, he’s just about done.”

“That was a quick two million.” The guy outside said, amused, before angling his voice behind him. “Orient, he’s down; give us sixty seconds before you bring us back.”

He could just see the faint outline of the ceiling before Emma’s long, loud moan cut through the air. Loren pulled the covers up to cover his face as the lightbulb exploded, rolled over, and screamed into his pillow.

It was an hour later before Loren could pull himself together enough to stop crying.

How did all of that go so wrong?! Mark had called the heroes! Why had two villains been paid two million dollars to kill him? How had anyone even found out? The heroes had to have a leak somewhere, to someone with enough money to be ready to front two million in less than fifteen minutes and the will to do so. Why would they target him at all? Because he revealed the explosions? Was it the same person? Or was it because he was telling everyone he could see the future.

The argument upstairs had already petered out a while ago, and Mark had no doubt already died in the collision. Emma probably wouldn’t find out until she saw it on the news, so he’d failed that again.

What was he supposed to do here? He couldn’t stop the truck without keeping Mark inside the building, but he had no way of keeping him inside unless he full-on committed to the ‘Future Prediction’ gambit.

Mark would make that same phone call every single time as soon as he believed the bombs were real, he wouldn’t just not report them. Whoever sent the assassins would immediately hear about it again, before teleporting in- or however the fuck they had done it- was there even a course of action that could result in a win here?

Whoever sent them was able to contact, mobilize, and deploy two super-powered killers within minutes; it was absurd. He didn’t even recognize either of them, and he’d spent a lot of time looking up heroes and villains.

Loren stared up at his ceiling sullenly; he wished this would all just go away-the ceiling vanished, and a bed immediately started falling towards him. He felt a spike of adrenaline at the impending pain, and then the bed vanished as well.

The pain still came, with something heavy landing on his torso with an accompanying panicked squeal.

“What the fuck-Ow!” Loren gasped, trying to suck in a breath. “Stop hitting me-get out of my room, you menace!”

“L-Loren?” Emma said, shocked. “Is that you?”

“Of course, it’s me!” Loren crawled free of the woman’s weight and tipped off the bed-straight onto the glass on the floor. “For fucks sake!”

“What is going on?” Emma said, bewildered.

“I don’t know goddammit, you just destroyed my ceiling or something!” Loren quickly put all the blame on her, “I thought your power was electricity?”

“How do you know that!?” Emma squeaked.

“I’ve spent more than long enough on the internet to recognize Sparklite when she’s sitting naked on my bed,” Loren said waspishly, pushing himself back to his feet.

“Ugh,”Emma groaned, not even bothering to cover herself. “I hate the internet.”

“As nice as it was for you to drop by unclothed and unannounced, Ms. Villain,” Loren said sarcastically, not bothering to look away. “Can you, like, get the hell out of my apartment now?”

“We need to figure out how this happened!” Emma insisted, “That’s not one of my powers! It has to be you.”

Damn, looks like he was busted after all.

“What the hell does that mean?” Loren tried, “I’ve never had powers before; why would I suddenly develop them now?”

Emma just stared at him in concentration.

“What were you doing when the ceiling disappeared?” Emma continued, studying his face.

Loren blinked; what was he doing?

“I was thinking about how I just wanted everything to go away-” Loren admitted, and his bed suddenly vanished.

Emma squealed again as she fell to the carpet, landing on her ass.

“Huh,” Loren said curiously.

“It was you!” Emma said triumphantly, scrambling up and coming to stand beside him. “You can vanish things.”

“That’s a pretty useless power; how do I get my bed back?” Loren complained.

“Do the same thing you did to vanish it, but in reverse?” Emma suggested.

Loren frowned in concentration, thinking really hard about his bed reappearing. It was suddenly back without transition as if it had never left.

“Awesome.” Emma said smugly, “Told you.”

“Yeah, Yeah.” Loren rolled his eyes before staring up at the ceiling and narrowing his eyes.

The ceiling returned, and he was left standing alone in the dark with a naked villain.

“How do you really know who I am?” Emma said seriously; he couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were glowing electric blue.

Well, shit, he was still in trouble then.

“I saw you climb up the side of the building late one night in costume,” Loren said, bluffing. “Ages ago.”

“Damn.” Emma groaned, apparently buying his story. “Why didn’t you report me?”

Loren almost sighed at the same question she always seemed to ask him.

“You haven’t killed anyone as far as I know, so I don’t really care,” Loren shrugged. “Although you keep breaking all of my electronics, which is really starting to piss me off.”

Emma’s eyes faded, and she looked away from him.

“Um, sorry-what did I break?” Emma said sheepishly.

“Headset was the most expensive thing,” Loren sighed, “You broke my lightbulb about an hour ago as well.”

“Oh my god,” Emma said embarrassedly, “I’m sorry I really didn’t mean to; I’ll replace them both.”

Loren was really starting to hate apologies; it was becoming more apparent than ever that they didn’t solve a damn thing when the person forgot about it as soon as he reset.

“Sparklite is going to personally steal me a lightbulb?” Loren said with faux excitement, “Why my buddies are going to be absolutely chuffed! I hope you sign it!”

“Loren,” Emma whined, covering her face with her hands. “That’s not funny.”

Those piercing really were nice.