Chapter 84 – Interlude: Wraith

Hero HQ, Setalite City, 9:05 AM.
Thursday, February 24th​, 2022.

Fracture’s presence registered to her suits sensors long before he stepped into the conference room, but almost all of her attention was levied at Seeker. The intuitive flow of information slowed to a crawl as she switched focus onto locating Loren Parker.

“Where did you leave him?” Alana said.

Losing four hours of deliberate focus and all of the enhancements that came with it was irritating in a way very few things were, but she was forced to drop it in favor of the sudden problem that had arisen.

The first thing Alana did was check the tracker she had injected Loren with while he’d been asleep, bringing the associated HUD up onto her helmet’s interior monitor. The initial feeling of sluggishness that always came with a focus change pulled at her mind, but she could already feel it beginning to build up once more.

The tracker was unable to make a connection with her system, either out of range or in a place shielded from electronic signals. The tracker would default to its coding—attempting to remake the connection every four hours before powering down to conserve power.

“At his residence, he said he needed to be alone,” Seeker said, “He was extremely upset by what happened to Monstrous.”

Alana knew that he was no longer in his apartment without even having to check, but she would need to begin investigating there to determine his new location. Alana brought up the video feed provided by the six cameras she had placed inside Loren’s building and played them simultaneously.

Then she called one of the inactive micro-drones to action, sending it through the crack beneath his front door. It flittered between the rooms, looking for movement, heat, or sound, and found nothing at all.

The fact that Seeker had actually left Loren on his own immediately put him at the top of her list of suspects—the fact that he could teleport long distances only increased her suspicion. The fact that he had come back here afterward could be his attempt to deflect suspicion off himself.

The drone returned with what she already knew—the apartment was empty, and Loren was missing. A window opened on her monitor showing the drone’s feed, and she watched the footage back at two times speed in case of machine error.

The video footage from the cameras clearly showed Seeker and Loren appearing outside of his building, almost directly on the front steps—revealing that Seeker knew where Loren lived well enough to be so accurate without a line of sight. The peacekeepers most likely did their own investigation into Loren when he first revealed themselves.

Loren was crying as he ascended his building, head down and hair shadowing his face. Seeker’s claim that he was extremely upset was easy to see.

He climbed the staircase up to his own apartment and let himself in. He locked the door and then moved straight to his bedroom, lying face down on his bed. He stayed there for almost fifteen minutes of unbroken footage, and then each of the six feeds skipped one after another, and suddenly Loren was missing.

Alana paused each of them, found the frame before the skip, noted the time, and then proceeded frame by frame until it skipped. A very obvious pattern appeared as she lined each of the feeds up next to one another.

Exactly two minutes of footage was missing from each of the feed’s, but they were staggered along the timeline at about the same speed you would expect from someone climbing the stairway and then entering his apartment at a walking speed.

Alana muted her suit’s outward speaker, connecting to another line.

“Isometric,” Alana said, voice changer distorting her voice.

“Wraith?” Isometric said, surprised. “Do you need me again?”

“Yes,” Alana said, “I’m marking the location on the map in front of you—it’s Loren Parker’s apartment, he’s missing. Check every inch of the building and report anything that’s out of place; I will be moving there soon.”

“I’m searching now,” Isometric said quickly, and she cut the line.

Threadbreaker was starting to look quite harried, as he’d been attempting to defend his decision to eliminate Mara Melancholia for several minutes now. The rest of the group seemed split on whether or not it was a good outcome, but out of the three objectives, it had been the only one to succeed without any casualties.

“It’s not my fault!” Threadbreaker said defensively. “We took her down—who cares if he’s gone off on his own? Why does it even matter?”

There was no pattern in the footage to suggest that the person had left the building in the same manner. They were either still in the bedroom but hidden from a conventional search, or they’d used a more esoteric method to leave.

Secluded could have managed the first; retreating into her inner world with both Loren and herself would satisfy both the tracker being unable to make a connection and their lack of a visible exit from the room—she did not, however, possess the technical acumen to bypass her security and mess with the cameras.

Alana traced the camera skips in reverse and then began accessing each of the cameras with a line of sight on the front of the building. The security camera across the street was missing the same two minutes, and she was quick to find the next in the pattern.

“It matters because Loren is the one who gave us all of this information, Breaker.” Haunt said, speaking quietly. “You heard what they said about his power—he’s going to return to the past now, and you’ve made an enemy out of yourself.”

Alana skipped several blocks, her intuition telling her where the pattern was leading—all the way back into the center of Setalite City East. There were no further camera skips amongst any of the ones in the area; the person had activated the device and began their slow walk to the apartment from the middle of thousands of people celebrating the Evergold Festival.

“I don’t see a problem,” Vapid shrugged, “Two out of three is way better than we expected anyway, right? Threadbreaker took out our target; I’m happy with that.”

The fact that someone had managed to bypass her own security and then edit out the footage in real-time meant that the one responsible had access to technology far above most others. That gave her several more candidates—Artisan could have accomplished it, Complexity could have as well, given enough time while Storyboard would have been able to organize it.

“Our guy didn’t even turn up,” Ogre said, leaning against the wall. “He must have seen through the phone call or saw us before we saw him and fled.”

None of the suspects fit perfectly—Seeker’s culpability was cleared after she’d tracked down his reappearance on top of the HQ and then matched the timecodes—he’d come straight back here afterward and gone nowhere else. Complexity was still locked in a cell downstairs with the rest of Ascent so he could be safely excluded.

“I doubt he wants to see any of us after what Threadbreaker apparently did in the café,” Untold sighed, “He was friends with her, right? Despite the fact that she was a villain?”

Storyboard shouldn’t even be aware that Loren existed, but if he did somehow discover him, Orient could have provided the teleportation needed to leave the room. The problem with Cinematic being the team responsible was they wouldn’t have needed to mess with the cameras to accomplish it; they could have simply appeared in the room with Loren and taken him.

“He seems to make a lot of friends like that,” Ogre said, “If you’ve got any plans to hit me next, we’re going to have a problem, kid.”

Suppose the remnants of Epilogue—Tiamat, The Researcher, and Mathew Kline—had abducted Loren. In that case, Mathew could very well have hidden them while leaving the apartment—perhaps in an attempt to make it look like a teleporter had been involved and deflect further aggressive action onto the other groups within Setalite City while they recovered from the recent losses.

“Why would I hit you?” Threadbreaker said, continuing to act out on his frustrations about their reaction. “Who the heck are you, anyway?”

Alana attempted to call Loren’s phone on a whim, but the drone immediately located the sound emission; it was sitting just out of sight under his pillow.

“Forget it,” Ogre snorted.

As she suspected, a physical investigation of the room would be needed.

“He’s not answering his phone,” Alana voiced for the benefit of the others.

“Is he sleeping?” Untold wondered. “He might have just wanted to get away from all of this—his friend just died after all.”

“Unfortunately, that is not the case.” Alana said, “As of seventeen minutes ago, Loren Parker was taken from his apartment.”

Wraith’s Workshop, Hideout, 3:09 PM.
Friday, February 25th, 2022.

An unknown and quickly fading gas had still been clinging to the interior of Loren’s Apartment when she’d checked; further testing of the substance had discovered it possessed many shared properties with most general anesthetics.

Small areas of disturbed dust revealed a series of woman’s size eight footprints approaching the bed, where an energy signature was also present. In the space where the person had stood, there was a thin layer of material—barely a fraction of a millimeter in width—that had been sheered off the top of the carpet in the same shape as the shoeprint.

The same missing material layer was also present on the bed and pillow where Loren had been lying in the video footage. The dust, lint, hairs, and even the fading gas were entirely missing from those outlines, simply gone.

The events that had taken place while the cameras were out were obvious; Loren had returned to his room, someone had approached the building, entered his apartment, and released an unknown sleeping gas inside. The unknown party had then removed themselves and Loren from the area via a form of matter displacement.

Which left Alana with engineering a method to reforge the connection to the tracker remotely, and that was what she was now focused on. Every four hours, the tracker would attempt to reconnect, and she had already begun working on bolstering the signal from her end.

She’d already attempted to bridge the connection across half of Setalite City since she had begun, but the power requirements increased the further remote she searched. The fact that she could only try for about ten minutes at a time before the tracker would follow its coding and shut down only frustrated her efforts.

Artisan had offered several pieces of technology that had made the search easier, but the man had his own concerns to deal with, his primary one being completing a more permanent form of stasis to keep the Paragon clone from breaking down until they could figure out an actual solution.

They were hemorrhaging team members with the incarceration of Dovetail and the resignation of both Gradient and Mongoose. Furthermore, another rift had begun to grow within the team; Secluded and Tag on one side, and Raindaner on the other. Fracture was the most levelheaded amongst those that remained, and Alana had left most of the day-to-day running of the team to him while she focused her efforts on locating Loren.

Alana shook her head as she realized she’d been staring at the inside of her helmet for the last minute. The lack of sleep was starting to take its toll on her, but if she slept, she’d have lost all of her enhancements, and it would take hours to build back up to this level.

A global HQ alert opened up on her monitor, and she opened the connection with a tired blink.

“Requesting assistance, all parties to respond,” Fracture managed, followed by the sound of something tearing through the wall of a building. “Crescent is attempting to free Ascent—”

Suburbs, Setalite City West, 6:57 AM.
Saturday, February 26th, 2022.

Loren wasn’t in Setalite City, Arrot City, Saltwall City, or any of the areas surrounding the cities—she’d checked each of them twice, with varying degrees of signal boosting, but nothing indicated he was here. Her search branched out further but without a clue as to where she was left searching each city, one after another.

Crescent’s attack had been completely unexpected, and the only person who was actually at the HQ at the time who even had a chance against her had been in a cell. By the time Alana had arrived, the battle had already concluded, and the entirety of Ascent was free.

Almost everyone who had been present was injured somehow.

Tag had it the worst, with multiple holes in her legs, and Fractures wrist had been broken while attempting to contain Sluggish and Piston. Raindancer had fought her brother to a standstill, but he’d still manage to escape.

The ten-minute window came and passed, with nothing to show of it, and Alana wrenched her helmet off and threw it across the room, angry, tired, and more frustrated than she had been since college.

Suburbs, Setalite City West, 11:09 AM.
Saturday, February 26th, 2022.

“Mongoose is down,” Gradient said, panting. “Cutaway took her leg—how long, Wraith?”

“We’ve arrived; Fracture, secure Mongoose and Gradient—I’ll deal with Cutaway. Ogre attempt to keep Screener from causing any more collateral damage.” Alana spoke, sprinting across the rooftops. “Vapid, you’re on Archetype—you know his abilities?”

“I’ll handle him,” Vapid said.

“Screener does what exactly?” Ogre said, voice calm.

“Telekinetic, at least as strong as Seeker, but without the ability to teleport.” Alana said, “He has a tendency to use wide-area attacks and covers himself in a forcefield.”

“Copy that,” Ogre sighed, “This is going to be a pain in the ass; I can just tell.”

“Threadbreaker, you will be dealing with Beat, don’t let him hit you while he’s covered in energy,” Alana advised.

“Got it!” Threadbreaker said.

“Raindancer, do your best to remove Aperture from the area,” Alana spoke, “Her ability to blind us all at once is one of the biggest threats here.”

Raindancer broke off from them, water trailing her path, and she rocketed across the road.

“Where do you want me, Wraith?” Dovetail said, voice calm.

Alana spared him a glance—the translucent energy that dripped upwards from his body surrounded him. He’d been let out of his cell by Mareke during the Crescent attack and returned to their team without any word on the matter.

“Animate has littered the area with constructs, find him and cut them off at the source,” Alana said, frowning. “Once you’ve dealt with him, deal with Arret.”

“Understood,” Dovetail said. “Incoming—”

They split further as a column of fire raged between them, crashing into the top of a house and exploding upwards in a wave of fire.

Alana’s suit caught the energy signature of building electricity before it had even begun to crackle.

Her foot touched down, and she burst forward at twice the speed as the lance of lightning cut through her previous position tearing through multiple rooftops before it dissipated. A flicker of high-speed movement and a long white shape registered on her monitor—her next step angled her on an interception course for her own target.

A wall of water three times at tall as the surrounding buildings crashed surged upwards before crashing down onto the neighborhood. Alana frowned at the collateral damage, this area hadn’t been evacuated yet, and there were people still in their houses.

“Gradient is dead, and Cutaway escaped.” Fracture managed, voice hoarse. “I’m evacuating Mongoose now.”

Alana felt an awful feeling growing at the words, and her speed increased again—the angle would be enough for Cutaway to see and avoid the initial attack; Alana activated the nano-assembler in her right shoulder, sending blackspine’s lancing out.

Cutaway sidestepped as she had predicted but managed to bring his sword up in an arc that split the blackspines as she passed him by. He’d taken three steps towards her before Alana had managed to spin, already sending more blackspines out in every direction.

Alana kicked off, twisting in the air, and Cutaway dashed to the side, unable to remain in close combat as the blackspines grew longer than his sword. She skidded across the roof, digging grooves into it with both feet before turning her slide into a sprint.

Each of her next steps shattered the rooftop, leaving blackspines buried in the mess as she circled him. Cutaway turned with her, the motion calm and unhurried—she used another blackspine to stop her forward momentum and burst forward towards him.

Cutaway took hold of his katana in both hands and leaned forward in preparation.

Alana buried her foot into the rooftop, halting herself as each of the blackspine’s surged upwards in a cage around him, interlocking until a dome surrounded him. Cutaway vanished, a flicker of white light tracing arcs around him as he kept an area around himself free of the reaching spines.

He began making significant progress to one of the sides of the dome, his flickering sword almost invisible now. The frustration of the last week, her building sense of failure, and the pain she was feeling at what he’d done crystalized into a fury she’d rarely felt in her life,

Alana made her decision.

The blackspine that was extended from the foot that she had buried in the roof surged upwards, branching outwards directly underneath him—there was a cry of pain as his footing was compromised, and then the forest of blackspines grew inwards, interlocking through the man as they sought to fill the space inside.

Cutaway died screaming.

Medical Wing, Hero HQ, 7:17 PM.
Sunday, February 27th, 2022.

“You’re not wearing the armor,” Leena mumbled, the painkillers rendering her vague.

Alana swallowed, feeling more lost than she had been since that first decision to become a hero.

“I… I’m sorry it’s taking so long.” Alana managed voice barely a whisper. “Alleviate won’t be here until tomorrow.”

Leena didn’t respond to the assurance that she would be regaining her leg; instead, she turned her gaze back to the ceiling, the movement sluggish.

“Mark came to see me, you know?” Leena murmured, “He came clean about everything, told me that he was quitting the team, and leaving Setalite City.”

Alana closed her eyes and clenched her fingers in the chair as the stinging behind her eyes.

“I didn’t even say anything for the first twenty minutes, just listened as he told me everything they’d done behind my back—he didn’t even try to shift the blame,” Leena said, confused. “As Loren said—the other girl hadn’t even known I existed.”

Alana wondered if anyone had actually told her that Loren was missing—she’d been gone since before it had happened.

“So I sat there, listening to it all, and when he was done, he stood up,” Leena mumbled. “Said that if he’d had the chance to go back and fix things he would have, that ruining what we had was going to be the worst mistake he’d ever make in his life.”

The wet tracks on her cheeks pulled at her attention, and Alana hunched forward, gripping her shirt in an attempt to bite back on the sob that was building up in her.

“After he’d said all of that—it was the strangest thing,” Leena said in wonder, “After everything Mark did, I still wanted him to stay.”

Alana broke, unable to hold it inside any longer.

“I’m so sorry, Leena.” Alana choked out.

“Mm,” Leena mumbled. “So am I.”

Setalite City Hero HQ, 12:53 AM.
Tuesday, February 29th, 2022.

“This meeting is to organize a recovery mission then,” Seeker murmured.

“I was able to reforge a connection to the tracker momentarily before it shorted out,” Alana said, reading the biometrics of everyone in the room. “Loren is currently located in the middle of the southern ocean.”

“The southern ocean?” Secluded said, frowning.

“Is there even anything out there?” Empress wondered.

“Let’s go find out,” Lanette said, leaning forward. “We need to find out if he’s dead or not—if you give me directions, I can start heading there now.”

“Striking out on your own is inefficient even given the potency of your power; we can have Seeker deliver you,” Artisan suggested, watching them. “How much reconnaissance have you performed on the area, Wraith?”

“I’m currently scanning the area, but this information is only half an hour old.” Alana said quietly, “Remote scanning has allowed me to ascertain that there are no structures or vessels present at sea level.”

“An underwater facility?” Alleviate guessed. “Seems like it would be inconvenient given how far away it is.”

“No—we have already established they possess a form of teleportation,” Artisan said calmly, “Wraith, if we were to delay our recovery efforts for perhaps an hour, I could perform a far more detailed scan of the area?”

“Untold will likely be finished with her personal business by then as well,” Seeker said, “We still do not know who is responsible for this; having her on hand to help combat the threat—”

Alana used her remaining arm to drag herself forward, the suit’s enhanced strength managing the task even in its damaged state. Her helmet was intact, but all the monitor could register was a thousand errors.

There was a dropoff that might have once been a window, and she tilted off the edge, spun once, and then smacked into the rubble below on her still armored side. It left her curling up in agony, her ruined side bright with pain.

Something moved in response to her landing, and she managed to turn her head just enough to see.

There was a heavily injured man, kneeling in the mess of the building, with his back to her. He was in the process of painfully turning to look in her direction, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw who it was.

“Loren?” Alana murmured.

The man blurred, and a second later, he stood with an unblemished blue bodysuit, looking as if he’d never been injured. A white oval mask had taken its place on his face, covering it entirely from view. There was something black and angular peeking over both of his shoulders, but she couldn’t see what it was.

Alana’s world was consumed by fire.

The final chapter for Reroll is up on Patreon!

I went ahead and combined the last two chapters of Reroll, so the final chapter is now Chapter 86; it’s been released on Patreon for the S-Rank and EX-Rank tiers. A-Ranks will get it on Friday, 3rd of September. The public readers will see it on the 6th of September. Most of my efforts have gone into story structure work for Contention, so the fanfiction drop is getting pushed back a week or so. 

What else?

Ameliorate chapter 11 is live, Chapter 8/12 of Systematic Soul Sorting has been narrated for the audio book. I’m going to do a proper edit pass on Reroll before formatting it into three books, roughly 90k words a book, and drop them on amazon for anyone that wants to own a copy.

Whew, now stop reading this note and go read the chapter!

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 86 – Finale
Ameliorate(NSFW) – Chapter 11

Chapter 83 – Interlude: Alice.

Upper Bridge Technical College, Setalite City East.
3:03 PM, Thursday, October 1st, 2015.

Alice Wroth returned to her seat feeling equally proud and embarrassed; Mrs. Rile clapped her hands together several times before calling the next student up.

“Nice one,” Emily Liddell said, voice slightly hoarse. “I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat.”

“You’ve finally fallen for me then?” Alice smiled, batting her eyelids. “It was bound to happen eventually.”

Emily snorted, reaching out and knocking her book off the table—Alice caught it before it could fall, smirk firmly in place. They quietened down while the boy that had taken her place at the front started singing and clapped when he’d finished.

“How’s your throat?” Alice asked.

Emily groaned, slumping back into her chair.

“Still hurts,” Emily sighed, “I’m supposed to be going in on Monday—I’ve already resigned myself to coming out of surgery sounding like a frog.”

Alice reached out and touched her wrist, and Emily snorted again.

“I’m sure it will work out,” Alice said, squeezing her arm. “But if it doesn’t, at least your voice will match your appearance—”

“Bitch,” Emily laughed, twisting her arm enough to pinch the skin of her wrist in retaliation.

Alice squeaked and retrieved her arm before she could pinch it again, eyeing her warily. Emily looked pleased with the caution and turned back to the front, clapping as the boy scuttled off stage, grinning.

Another girl was called up, and Alice turned back to Emily.

“Hey—the thought just occurred to me,” Alice nudged her shoulder, “If you do turn into a frog, I know a foolproof method to change you into a prince.”

“Uh-huh,” Emily smirked.

“I’m serious,” Alice doubled down, trying not to smile. “I read it in a book—that means it has to be true.”

“I don’t think that applies to fairy tales, Alice,” Emily said wryly.

They fell silent again, listening to the girl sing, and once she’d finished, they gave the customary round of applause.

“Did you get the new strings for your guitar?” Emily asked, fiddling with her pencil.

“I’m going tomorrow,” Alice said in answer, “There’s a new music shop that just opened up that I wanted to check out.”

“A new one?” Emily murmured, faintly interested, “Which side of the channel?”

“West-side,” Alice said, “Want to come with me?”

“Well, I’ll need to find something to play,” Emily sighed, “Which is a better look for a frog—Drums or violin?”

Alice pretended to give it some serious thought.

“For someone with your reputation?” Alice said, straight-faced. “A flute.”

“Idiot,” Emily laughed.

Wroth Residence, Setalite City West.
5:06 PM, Thursday, October 1st, 2015.

“I’m home,” Alice said, pushing the door open hard enough to make it bang against the wall. “What’s for dinner?”

The look on Karla Wroth’s face could have set her on fire—and Alice started laughing almost immediately.

“If that’s how you’re going to greet me from now on, daughter,” Karla said scathingly, completely unimpressed. “You’ll be eating the back of my hand.”

“Sorry, you know I’m just kidding,” Alice smiled. “How was your day, mum?”

Karla shook her head in exasperation and returned to unpacking the groceries she’d clearly picked up on her way back.

“Today was a mess,” Karla sighed, “I’ll never understand how people manage to hurt themselves in such strange ways.”

“Yeah?” Alice said, sitting down at the kitchen bench. “What happened this time?”

“This morning, a boy came in with the handlebars of his bike impaled through his stomach,” Karla said, turning to put the milk in the fridge. “He’d gotten in an accident while crossing the street.”

“Ew,” Alice said, wrinkling up her nose. “Was he alright—wait; how did he end up in triage? Shouldn’t he have been picked up wherever it happened and brought around the back?”

“It happened one street over from the hospital, and his friends carried both him and the bike in the front doors,” Karla said, sounding genuinely stumped. “They weren’t careful about it either; I’m almost certain they did more damage moving him than the bike did.”

“That’s… I don’t know if I should be impressed or shocked,” Alice admitted. “Was there blood everywhere?”

“Yes, Alice,” Karla said, exasperated, “Of course there was blood.”

“Gross,” Alice said before pausing. “Well, my day was even worse than that.”

Karla raised an eyebrow, turning back to look at her daughter.

“What happened?” Karla said, concerned.

“I was driving back from UBTC, right?” Alice said, frowning. “I crossed the bridge and then started heading home; I got halfway before I decided I might come in and see you first.”

“Oh, that would have been lovely,” Karla said, smiling.

Alice just nodded, continuing her story.

“Yeah, well, I never made it all the way,” Alice said, hesitating.

“Why?” Karla said gently, leaning forward. “Did something happen?”

“Yeah,” Alice murmured, before raising her voice, “I did this insane burnout around the corner of—”

Karla’s look of concern vanished.

You did not,”  Karla snapped, looking cross. “Alice—you better not have.”

“No, no—I really did,” Alice promised, miming the steering wheel being yanked to one side, sound effects and all. “I hit this dumb kid on a bike—BLAM!—sent him right to the hospital; it was awesome.”

“Of for the love of—” Karla said, snorting. “I raised an idiot.”

Alice just grinned.

Wroth Residence, Setalite City West.
8:17 AM, Friday, October 2nd, 2015.

Alice kicked the blankets down to the bottom of the bed in a flurry; she stretched out on the bed before slumping back down, content. Friday’s were easily the best day of the week—no class to go to, her mum was already at work, and there was nothing that required her to rush to get ready.

Alice could just relax and take the day at her own pace or sleep in, as she was occasionally prone to do. She caught sight of her guitar, the broken and missing string rendering it incomplete and unable to be played—at least not without a great deal of irritation.

That was one thing she actually had to do today—along with calling Emily to make sure she still wanted to come.

She could imagine Emily sitting alone in her room and wondering if her voice would be ruined in four days’ time… it must have been torture. Alice regretted that the place she had invited her to was so directly related to the thing she was dreading, but she hoped it would distract her a little bit.

Maybe she could drag Emily to the movies afterward? Or they could even go people watch at the mall; there would be ample distractions to be found there.

Alice eventually found herself getting up and out of bed, unable to sleep for any longer despite her best efforts. She whittled away the time, spending the day on her phone and enjoying the freedom to do nothing at all to its fullest.

Midday approached, and once she started to grow restless, she decided it was time to leave.

Alice sent off a message to Emily, demanding that she made herself available for their trip into the city, and waited impatiently for the reply.

In Transit, Setalite City West.
1:07 PM, Friday, October 2nd, 2015.

“Which one is that again?” Alice wondered, spinning the steering wheel. “There are so many these day’s—it’s getting hard to keep track of them.”

“That’s so lame,” Emily said sadly, shaking her head. “Why are you so lame?”

“Oh shut up,” Alice huffed, “I’ve heard about a few of the ones at the HQ—uh, Dovetail is one, right? Blue costume, twin scarf-tails?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen him around,” Emily nodded, “There’s this one guy whose legs look like they belong to an elephant—have you seen him at least?”

“No,” Alice said bemused, “That must be awful—I suppose everyone knows his normal identity now?”

“Most likely, it’s not like you can really hide something like that,” Emily agreed. “Anyway, I was talking about Paragon; he’s super popular now.”

“Jog my memory?” Alice frowned.

“Uh, he’s super swole and has really long dreadlocks,”  Emily said, scratching her cheek. “Wears a dark grey bodysuit?”

The dreadlocks had been what triggered her memory—she’d seen him a few times on the news, the thing that stood out to get the most had been the incident with the moon.

“I’ve seen him,” Alice nodded, “He was the one who redirected the meteor away from the moon?”

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Emily said, smiling. “Are you impressed now? I even got a hug.”

“Yay,”  Alice said, deliberately underplaying her response. “So cool.”

“Ugh,” Emily huffed. “You could at least pretend to be impressed.”

“Impossible,” Alice said immediately, “I’m far too busy pretending that I’m not.”

Emily snorted.

“What’s he doing in Setalite City?” Alice wondered. “Is he even from here?”

“Uh, I don’t actually know where he’s from,” Emily admitted. “He was with Empress—don’t even tell me you don’t know about her, I swear to—”

“Of course I know about Empress,” Alice lied as she began to slow down. “Idiot.”

“Thank god for that,” Emily said as they came to a stop. “It was here, huh? Not exactly the shining palace you had me envisioning.”

“It’s a music shop, Emily,” Alice rolled her eyes, “What did you expect?”

“A shining palace,” Emily repeated, deadpanned. “Are you even listening to me?”

Alice climbed out of the car and closed the door behind her—they were parked pretty close to the corner, which made her a bit nervous.

“Think I should move up?”  Alice wondered. “Someone’s going to rear-end me.”

“That sounds like you problem to me!” Emily said, smiling.

Without waiting, Emily headed towards the store’s front door, and Alice was left to catch up—she sent a single glance back at her car, hoping it would remain undamaged while she was gone.

“Well, it’s a music store, alright,” Alice said, as the bell above the door rang out.

There was a man sitting behind the counter, who judging by his name tag, was the owner of the store. He looked like he’d been reading a book before they’d entered.

“Hi,” The owner said, looking a bit sheepish. “If you need any help, just call out.”

Emily capitalized on the offer almost immediately.

“Help, this strange woman is following me,” Emily said sadly. “I can’t seem to get rid of her, and she’s super lame—”

Alice pushed her down the first aisle and wrinkled her nose.

“Ignore her,” Alice said, “We’ll be fine, thanks.”

The amused man just nodded before returning to his book.

Aleck’s Missed Beats, Setalite City West.
1:17 PM, Friday, October 2nd, 2015.

The siren that began to ring out across the city reached them in a wave of noise, and Alice turned to look up at the front of the store, startled.

“What on earth is that?” Alice said, suddenly worried.

“It’s one of the three sirens that everyone was talking about at the beginning of the year,” Emily said, hesitant. “I don’t know which one.”

As the sirens got closer as more and more of them began to repeat the alarm; a strange feeling started to come over Alice, and she looked down at her hands, confused. Emily strode past her towards the front of the store, and Alice hesitantly began to follow.

The owner, Aleck, was still behind the counter, standing up and looking out of the window, but he glanced over at them for a moment.  Alice stopped at the end of the aisle; every step she took was like something was building up inside her.

What was this?

“What are we supposed to do?” Emily frowned, talking to them both. “One of them means to evacuate the city, right?”

Alice felt the words wash over her, and the feeling of being filled with something continued to grow.

“I think this was the one that we were supposed to stay indoors for,” Aleck said, frowning. “They all sound too similar—they should have made them more distinct; I’ll look it up.”

He turned to move towards the computer at the front counter, and Alice turned to look up as a wave of something passed through the wall, followed by a bang that rocked the entire store. The noise hit her, and she found her body energized in a way she’d never felt before.

Alice turned away from the wall as it began to fold inwards towards her, but everything was moving so slowly—she recognized the back end of her car as it was shunted through the front of the store. It hit her dead on, awful pressure pressed against her as her body bent around it, and then all she felt was pain as the ceiling collapsed down onto them.

Her stomach and chest burned like she’d been scraped across something rough, and she couldn’t move at all. Something impossibly heavy was pushing her down into the boot of her car; she could barely breathe, chest compressed from both sides.

A muffled noise reached her, and she felt a tiny spark of energy within her that faded within seconds. It came again a few moments later, and she could almost decipher it—

“Alice…” Emily cried, somewhere to her right. “I can’t breathe….”

Alice sobbed at the noise, unable to move her chest enough to respond. Her own choked noises failed to build any of that strange feeling that continued to spark and vanished with every desperate plea that Emily made.

The world shook, and something metal screeched loud enough to be heard even under all of the debris. Alice felt her chest expand, the pressure lessening for just long enough to gain a desperate breath, and then sobbed again as the energy began to fade away, used up to withstand the awful pressure crushing her.

Alice remained there, slowly suffocating, except for brief moments when whatever was happening outside reached her, and then it began anew as the energy faded.

Emily’s cries stopped completely, and Alice pleaded with her to keep speaking—her vision was growing black again as she struggled to breathe…

Alice woke up again as an ear-splitting crack rent the air, and she sucked in a choked breathe. A series of rumbles grew louder until everything shook like a giant had wrapped its fist around the building.

She tried to move again, and this time had some success, bringing her arm closer in an attempt to leverage her chest off the boot of her car. This time when the energy faded, she wished she hadn’t moved at all, as her arm was crushed painfully beneath her.

Something bright and silver passed through the rubble, stopping directly in front of her face. A tiny orb, translucent and glowing, like energy only vaguely present.

“You are going to die soon,” The light whispered. “Tell me your name.”

Alice couldn’t help but notice the lack of energy the sound brought with it, like it wasn’t really sound at all. The light mixing about inside the orb wavered for a moment before solidifying once more.

“Alice…” Alice managed.

It began to slowly move towards her face, creeping closer as if it found the motion difficult.

“Do you want me to save you, Alice?” The orb whispered.

“Emily…” Alice choked out. “Save her… please….”

“I lack the power to save Emily,” The orb whispered, “Give me yours.”

She did.

The results of these polls are pretty funny. Do you guys even remember Hoister? I did that guy dirty. Here’s the first interlude; enjoy.

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 85
Ameliorate(NSFW) – Chapter 10

Chapter 68 – Interlude: Tiamat.

“It’s certainly an interesting power, and I do see the similarities as skin deep as they are,” The figure said. “If I’m honest, I am far more interested in the other one they brought in to assist them—both Julian’s durability and Mara’s impervious nature have succumbed to it in the past.”

Morgan hummed, Haunt and Threadbreaker were both unexpected choices to bring in.

“Yes, I recall it caused quite a stir when he broke Julian’s arm,” Morgan nodded, “Mara being injured, on the other hand, was completely unexpected—I’m sure the mechanism by which it works would be fascinating to dissect.”

“No doubt,” The figure agreed, apparently amused, “Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to possess any natural physical augmentations to assist with his combat abilities besides that strange probability field—he’d most likely end up becoming a serious threat.”

Morgan sighed.

Threadbreaker would have made a good member of Epilogue, he was young enough that it wouldn’t take much to grind him down, and his power was useful. It would have been far too much work to build him back up again—Taker had been far too time-consuming as it was.

It was hypothetical, however, as, in the end, he boiled down to a baseline human with an unblockable punch, and almost anyone capable of high-speed movement would destroy him. There were more effective and more interesting ones running around—that man with the sword in Cinematic, for instance.

“It’s unfortunate that Julian’s reputation remains unmarred, but I suppose I should be happy with winning in the end.” The hooded figure said, smiling. “What was that saying you told me back when we first met? A body for a body?”

“An eye for an eye, I believe, but the meaning is rather universal,” Morgan said smiling, “It must be satisfying to finally put a pin in this page of your life.”

“It is—this planet was not the one I expected to give me so much trouble,” The figure stretched languidly, “I must admit, though, things seem to be quickly going awry as of late—this Loren Parker is infuriatingly persistent.”

“He does possess an incredibly troubling ability, and I can finally see what Mara meant when she said he was immortal,” Morgan frowned, “Looking at it from an objective standpoint, I think we may be playing a losing game.”

“Yes, but that is the reality of this situation,” The figure sighed. “Acting to destroy his body will simply remove the knowledge we’ve gained about him—how frustrating.”

Morgan considered the problem that Loren Parker’s ability brought on them.

They couldn’t just kill him because he would return to the past, even more prepared than before, and unless they managed to assassinate him unseen, he would know who killed him, outing each piece they had on the board one after another.

Essentially, they were increasing the difficulty of the scenario every single time he died.

He’d already ferreted out the explosives in both cities, and worse than that, he’d discovered Illustrious. Then he had somehow managed to organize the capture of both Taker and Deceitful.

Morgan couldn’t fault him on that last point, as he’d unknowingly saved everyone from the threat of a Naomi with Julian’s abilities—that had been entirely unexpected. They had made sure to keep her away from the original for exactly that reason.

She shook her head—Loren had even spent some of that time unknowingly interfering with the main part of the plan, actively slowing the rate at which the awakened died. Cinematic, for instance, who’d put their names down on a significant amount of assassinations in Setalite, had failed to take down a single target.

The worst part was that he’d somehow manage to do all of this over the course of three days—it was perhaps the most frustrating thing she’d ever experienced—and Morgan had experienced a lot.

That perspective disparity made it look worse until you realized that Loren Parker had been working at this for a significant period of time. It hadn’t been three days to him; he’d apparently spent—at a minimum—weeks trying to stop them, and by all sense of reasoning, he was getting more effective every time.

It was only a matter of time before this Loren followed the threads all the way back to the source, and then, once they were discovered, he would begin to strike at them directly—That wasn’t really a problem to them now because he’d absolutely fail with his current level of power.

From what they’d managed to gather, he was at most a C-rank combat threat, with baseline physicals and no potent attack methods. The problem was that while they could easily kill him now, he would be coming back with an unknown level of power.

Even besides the power he gained, the world would reset, and they would forget all about him once more. How many reset’s would it take before he gained a power that allowed him to cut them down? How many times until the Epilogue fell before him?

“At first glance, it is an unwinnable scenario,” Morgan frowned, breaking herself out of her thoughts. “However, if we were to approach this from a more meta standpoint, we may be able to change the rules enough to make it winnable.”

“Oh?” The figure said curiously, “Do tell.”

“We know that we cannot kill him outright, so we must aim to impair him in some manner, trap him so that his movements are restricted.” Morgan said thoughtfully, “If we were to place him in a situation where he cannot easily escape, or where escape would result in consequences that he would find difficult to live with.”

“He is far too versatile for a static trap to work for long,” The figure said thoughtfully. “He’s shown himself able to overcome a multitude of situations already, a situation that never changed would eventually become trivial to him—foreknowledge is a powerful tool.”

Cinematic’s failed attempts to kill the capes of Setalite City was an example of this; they were competent assassins, and yet they had failed to kill any of their selected targets in the time frames they usually worked within.

They hadn’t failed because they were incompetent; they had failed because Loren Parker had moved the pieces on the board around enough to mess up all of their attempts, forcing them to fail by discovering each of their targets in advance and then feeding that information to the heroes.

“From his own perspective, he likely considers his own situation as something of a trap—but it is one that is naturally occurring and isn’t targeted at him specifically,” Morgan said easily, “He exists within our scenario, but he was never the intended target—there are a million gaps where he can slip through, cracks where a well-placed strike destabilizes everything.”

“Hmm.” The figure said, considering, “You’re suggesting a more targeted type of trap, one that is tailored to him in particular—If we were to restrict his ability to interact with others, force him to rely solely on his own ability to act.”

Morgan smiled.

“Placing him a location designed to be hard to escape would reduce his versatility significantly,” Morgan nodded, “For instance, a room invulnerable to physical damage would force him to disregard every loop that gave him a physical ability because it would be useless. If we were to trap him underwater, he would be forced to only keep abilities that had mobility or spatial displacement aspects.”

The figure sat up, far more interested than they had been at first.

“You’re suggesting we lock him inside Antaeus?” The figure said, intrigued.

Morgan couldn’t help but smile.

“It certainly kept Julian trapped for a long while—more than long enough for even the strongest hero to exhaust himself,” Morgan said, savoring the memory, “It should be far more effective on Loren.”

“Artificially restricting his choice of abilities, and thus reducing his effectiveness in other ways,” The figure said, smiling. “Such an interesting mind you possess.”

Morgan smiled brilliantly at the praise.

“We must still contend with the other problems that exist,” Morgan admitted, “From Loren’s perspective, Antaeus would force him to reset until he discovered an appropriate ability, and while it might take him two attempts, five attempts, or even a thousand—he would eventually land a power that enables him to escape.”

“From our perspective, however, he would escape immediately,” The figure said in understanding, “I see.”

Morgan nodded.

“We can reduce his effectiveness in other areas, as well,” Morgan said lightly, “Consider what his experience would be, should we leave him in Antaeus for a week, long enough for him to die of thirst perhaps, or a month of starvation if we were so inclined.”

The figure raised an eyebrow, clearly interested in where she was going.

“If Loren were to experience death by starvation several hundred times, while stuck all alone in a room—well, I can’t imagine he would be in the right frame of mind.” Morgan continued, smiling. “Isolation has been known to have severe effects on the human mind, and such a scenario would invariably lead to a loss of sanity, erratic behavior or even render him catatonic.”

“He could resort to killing himself to avoid a longer period of isolation and more frequently change abilities. Although I doubt that would do much for his mental state either.” The figure said, for the sake of argument. “It also doesn’t solve the issue of the world reverting to its previous state every time he perishes—we would be trapping ourselves in a neverending loop.”

“From our perspective, we would simply place him in Antaeus and then check back in on him daily. He would die eventually, and then the world will revert once more.” Morgan smiled brightly, “From his perspective, he will have spent an unknown amount of time in an empty room, waiting to die. This will repeat until he no longer responds to any form of outside stimulus; we will know that his mind has been ground down to nothing. We may then remove him from Antaeus and place him on long-term life support to avoid any further world revisions.”

The figure started laughing, unable to help themselves, curling forward in mirth and sending the hood swaying.

“Ah—I sometimes forget just how absolutely ruthless you can be,” The figure managed through laughter, “We are so very alike, you and I.”

Morgan flashed her perfect teeth in another brilliant smile, content to wait for them to fully gather themself.

“You know, Morgan, the very first time I first saw you, I was genuinely shocked—I simply couldn’t understand how such a pleasant young creature could have such a high number.” The figure said, shaking its head. “It’s why I approached you—I’m curious by nature, you see? I just can’t leave a mystery unsolved—and certainly not one so interesting.”

Morgan pressed a hand to her flushed cheeks, feeling a bit bashful.

“I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to so many places and, I’ve experienced a million different worlds, each with their own distinct culture.” The figure smiled, “Each with their own structure—I’ve seen warlords with numbers in the thousands, and King’s with a hundred times that—the influence doesn’t need to be as direct as killing them by hand, you see?”

Morgan nodded, already well aware.

“I remember killing a being once—not that unlike myself—with a number barely half as large as your own,” The figure shook its head again, “To think I would find someone like you on this little blue planet—I glad I got the chance to meet you.”

“I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, and I’d like to think of myself as something of a hard worker,” Morgan said, feeling her cheeks redden further, “I can’t imagine my number compares much to your own, though.”

“I can’t imagine many that would,” The figure smiled before returning to the focus of their discussion. “Have you considered how to go about entrapping him in the first place?”

“From the conversations he’s overheard, Illustrious seems to believe that Loren’s power works on something of a weekly timeline,” Morgan said, “The most likely starting point for that would be Tuesday morning, as that is when he first noticed something strange occur at the Hero HQ.”

“So we need to ensure he’s inside Antaeus by Monday at least,” The figure hummed, “It’s a shame that Taker was captured; she would have been perfect for this—it can’t be helped, I suppose.”

“I may have to undertake this part myself,” Morgan admitted, “Depending on how the situation tomorrow plays out.”

“Yes,” The figure sighed, “I’m afraid Hannah will most likely be captured as well, give the current plan they’ve come up with—and interfering now would only tip our hand, ensuring that Loren doesn’t learn anything new is our current priority.”

“It’s unfortunate, but Reset and Monstrous should be able to free Taker and Hannah once we’ve dealt with Loren.” Morgan said easily, before sighing, “Deceitful, however, is becoming more of a liability every day—it may be time to terminate her. How on earth she managed to seduce the clone, I have no idea.”

“She is marvelously resourceful at times, isn’t she?” The figure said, amused, “Was Joseph working with her, or did she indeed steal the bomb from him?”

“He continues to insist it was stolen, but I cannot be sure without Hannah’s presence,” Morgan sighed, “I’m inclined to believe him, however—to think we were so close to having another Paragon on our hands, however temporary it may have been.”

That was the only saving grace—Deceitful would have had an hour in her stolen body at most before she started to rapidly deteriorate, given the modifications they’d made to the clone’s body.

“Have you discovered the mechanism that prevented me from taking Julian’s body?” The figure wondered.

“I’m almost completely certain it is a result of his calming aura,” Morgan said, narrowing her eyes together in concentration. “It must be an outwards projection of his soul given what you’ve told me about your own ability.”

“I already assumed as much,” The figure admitted, “Can you interfere with it somehow? Shut the projection down?”

“Not in his original body—we could grow another variant, attempt to remove the parts in question,” Morgan said, humming. “I do, however, have a suspicion that his physical abilities come from the same place, and by stopping the aura, we’d most likely end up with a body without any tangible power.”

“It may be time to give up on taking Julian’s power for myself entirely then.” The figure sighed, “This world has been a most frustrating experience, truly. I honestly didn’t expect to encounter so many expressions of power in one place.”

“Is it unusual?” Morgan wondered. “For this many to be in one place?”

“It’s uncommon, power usually leads to conflict, and conflicts that involve large amounts of power have a tendency to wipe out civilizations,” The figure said wryly, “When I first arrived here, I expected a handful at most, not an army with Julian at its forefront—It’s my own fault for attempting a frontal assault, I suppose I’ve become overconfident after so much time uncontested.”

Morgan didn’t comment further on what was obviously a touchy subject—that would just be rude.

“If you’ve given up on Julian, perhaps you could take Loren’s power instead?” Morgan suggested. “That would be one way to remove him from the situation.”

“I was considering it, given how rare his ability is.” The figure confessed. “Expressions of power are far more likely to be direct, an exchange of energy for augmentation, for physical force, or elemental—it could be a hundred different things, but they commonly work in that kind of direct manner.”

Morgan nodded, easily following along—she had something of a knack in this area, in large part because of the being sprawled in the throne in front of her.

“Expressions like my own, ones that are able to grow, change or absorb others, are much rarer but still relatively common—Deceitful is an example of that type, albeit far more limited compared to my own, or even others I’ve seen.” The figure said lightly; the tone was empty of pride. “Loren’s power, however, is the first I’ve seen of its kind—well, the second given the variant you helped create, but Reset’spower is far less useful—thirty seconds is nowhere near long enough to master a power.”

Morgan sighed—when Mara had first joined them, it had been entirely surprising, and the arm of a self-proclaimed immortal man that she’d brought with her had been doubly so. She’d done her best to regrow the sample, making sure that he’d be easily terminated once he awakened—but the end result had been far from a success.

The variant’s randomly changing powers had him fluctuating between uselessness and being an unstoppable force—he’d been angry, confused, and completely without socialization. No memories of his past existence and kept in line only by the threat of his power failing him as he dissolved into a puddle of useless meat should he turn against them.

“The power needed for Loren’s expression to function is almost unfathomable, and from what Illustrious has overheard, he actually claims to possess a link to countless other expressions as well, an endless field of stars where each is its own distinct power.” The figure hummed again, “The variant’s expression is far more lackluster—the power required to revert his body is orders of magnitudeless than his counterpart reverting everything else.

Morgan nodded; it was a pale shadow of its origin, but it certainly could be powerful at times.

“The correct combination of expressions could allow you to reach the source of that link,” Morgan said thoughtfully. “You may even be able to accomplish it with the ones you’ve taken already.”

The figure hummed thoughtfully.

“I must admit the allure of his power is incredibly strong.” The figure confessed, “But to once more subject myself to the climb back to power…. I had not intended to die on earth to begin with, but to do so a second time on the same planet? The population here does make it far faster to recover than some places I’ve been to….”

The figure frowned in consideration, but Morgan smiled.

“My world has spent thousands of years under siege of the parasites that roam its surface, raping its bounty without reverence, care, or concern, but… if I have to wait another decade to see it healed, so be it,” Morgan said lightly, “I certainly wouldn’t mind spending that time by your side; to see you leave so soon would be far too sad, I think.”

“Truly?” The figure said, seemingly surprised.

Morgan just smiled.

“I must also admit that Epilogue has been a fun distraction, albeit I was far more fond of Meteor,” Morgan admitted, allowing herself a moment of nostalgia. “This little saga was almost like reliving my youth.”

The figure watched her for a long moment, considering.

“Thank you for the discussion, Morgan—it has been enlightening.” The figure said pleased, “I will think on what we’ve discussed—for now, I must ask you to rouse the Researcher and have him start preparing Antaeus. Use your own discretion on when to act in regards to Loren; I do believe that Illustrious is on hand to assist you if you find yourself in need of aid.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Morgan smiled, “I shouldn’t need any help—good luck for tomorrow, although I have my doubts that you will need it, Starsealer.”

Starsealer’s amused eyes, set in a face she knew very well, followed Morgan as she left, closing the door quietly behind her. The walk back to the research wing was peaceful, and she wondered if Joseph Holis had come around yet.

The discovery of Decietful’s plan had required a rapid response—thankfully, their enemy had taken care of it for them before it could really become a problem. Morgan’s first act had been to question Joseph and establish whether he had actively aided the attempt—but he wasn’t exactly a strong-willed man by any means, and she was pretty certain he hadn’t participated in anything like that.

He hadn’t needed that kind of will to be useful besides; his intelligence was where he’d shown his worth—Insoluble had been an incredibly fruitful tool over the last decade.

Double Interlude power. This is the last chapter of Season 2, but worry not, we’re barrelling head first into Season 3, the final season of Reroll.

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 70 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)

Community Links

Chapter 67 – Interlude: Fracture.

Setalite City, 7:02 PM.
Thursday, February 24th​, 2022.

“Nothing yet,” Erin said, unable to stop himself from scratching at the seam of his new helmet. “He’s still inside.”

Wraith had assisted him in constructing the helmets, and they were pretty ungainly given the time constraints they’d been working under. He wished he had time enough for a rubber seal or some kind of cloth lining.

The metal rubbing directly against his skin was starting to edge into his focus.

There was always the chance that Lecture’s power had some sort of visual component, that reading her lips, or comprehending what she was saying in any way, even without the auditory stimulus, would still enthrall them. The best bet was to avoid doing anything that might lead them into that situation in the first place.

“I can see him; he’s with a short woman in a coat—I can’t see her face,” Skye said nervously, “It’s scary to think that she can just blend in with everyday people like this—she could have just walked up to the HQ, and we wouldn’t have even realized it was her.”

Erin used his visor to zoom in on Loren’s hands; the helmet distorted the view slightly, the second layer adding another obstacle for it to parse. It was enough that he could make out the fingers on both hands. The left one was resting on the small of the woman’s back, steering her onto the path and heading further into town.

His right hand curled up at his hip, extending two fingers downwards.

“He made the signal,” Erin said, relieved.

“This helmet is annoying, Erin—couldn’t you have put some lining in it? Hold on a second; Loren has his hand on her back!” Skye said, incredulously, “Why the hell is he trying to pick up Mara fucking Melancholia?”

“It’s not a romantic gesture; it’s a reassuring one,” Erin said, returning his gaze to the entrance to the subway. “They most likely are on pretty good terms; he said he’d known her for a while—which is kind of alarming, honestly.”

“That isn’t reassuring at all, and alarming is a time traveler appearing out of nowhere,” Skye said in disagreement, “Trying to bang a member of Epilogue is insanity.”

An alert on his hud popped up, and he opened the channel again.

“There is no sign of Lecture,” Erin said clearly, “Loren has removed Monstrous from the subway; he’s currently headed west.”

“Recognized,” Alana said calmly.

“Let’s go!” Threadbreaker’s voice came over the public channel, “I want to get a better look—”

Erin closed the channel, switching back to local.

“Contact,” Lanette said, breathing heavily; there was a grunt of effort that might have been her landing on a rooftop and the sound of rushing water. “Heading east, towards the subway—average height, black hair, cut short in a pixie cut, swept to one side; exactly how he described her.”

“No costume?” Skye asked, tone going flat.

Erin was thankful that they were able to put aside their anger enough to work together, but he’d expected nothing less. They were professionals, and he knew they could keep it together—at least until they’d dealt with Lecture.

“No, she’s wearing civilian clothes,” Lanette said, finally catching her breath. “She keeps on stopping to talk to people.”

Erin frowned, turning his gaze to the west, hoping to spot the woman in question.

“She’s looking for her teammate,” Skye said evenly, “Not exactly unusual for her to be asking around—has she tried to use her phone yet?”

“Not that I’ve seen,” Lanette said, moving again. “Eye’s up; she’s approaching your position.”

Erin peeked over the edge, studying the crowd and spotting her almost immediately. Hands stuffed into the pocket of a tight hoody, she meandered along the path, refusing to move out of the way for anyone.

She stopped, reaching out and snagging a middle-aged man by his tie—the man stumbled at the suddenness. He shook his head, then nodded, and she patted his tye flat before continuing on her way.

The man fished out his own phone and then held it up to his ear—before moving it back and trying again. Erin watched as she stopped half a dozen more people, leaving them behind in her wake, and each of them attempting to use their phones and failing.

“She’s trying to contact someone—most likely Reset, or Monstrous,” Erin explained, “The fact that she keeps trying means she’s aware the phone network is down.”

“Target is inside the subway,” Lanette said, appearing from an alleyway below him.

“Move in,” Erin said firmly, tossing his cable over the ledge.

Already hooked to it, he leaped off the side, sliding downwards, using his foot against the face of the building to help control his descent. He touched down, leaving the cable behind and meeting the other two at the entrance.

“Keep your helmets on no matter what,” Erin insisted, sliding the compacted kinetic rifle off his back. “Don’t take any chances with her, and don’t try to read her lips; avoid staring at her face at all if possible.”

They reached the bottom of the stairs, and Skye went flat against the wall, peeking around the side before pulling her head back. She made a gesture to the pillars, then held up her hand, peeking around again. Erin burst forward when her hand dropped, silently covering the gap and posting up behind the pillar, getting eyes on the target.

Lecture was standing in a group of three, looking annoyed—he frowned when she struck the woman across the face, sending her to the floor. The man on her left started to interfere but then froze where he stood.

Erin cocked his weapon and took aim, unwilling to shoot while there were civilians next to her. Lanette moved next, swinging around the corner and to the right, moving quietly behind a pillar out of sight.

“Skye, knock the men down, Lanette, block her from running.” Erin said plainly, “Three, two, one.”

Two arrows crashed into the legs of each man, sending them down beside the woman, and a wall of water rushed outwards, forcing her to move closer to them. Lecture dove on top of one of the civilians—the man beneath her spun them over, shielding her from sight.

The woman that had been struck scrambled to her feet, sprinting past the three heroes and heading up the stairs. The second man stood up slowly, moving to place another body in between them and her.

“This is why we should be going lethal,” Lanette muttered, but the helmet transmitted it regardless.

Erin moved left to the next pillar, attempting to get the angle on Lecture, but the man stepped with him.

“Lanette, disrupt them, nonlethal,” Erin said, frowning. “Skye, see if you can pull the taller man out of there.”

The wall of water changed directions, slamming down on the three of them and sending them tumbling across the concrete. Erin took the shot at Lecture, and red energy burst forward, crashing into her right hip and sending her back to the ground as she tried to break the line of sight.

Skye loosed another arrow, and it impaled the man’s leg at the shin, splattering blood on the concrete—he didn’t even look at it, eyes locked on them. His leg was violently yanked out from under him, dragging him away from the others and slamming into one of the pillars in the process.

The shorter man moved closer to Lecture, standing directly in front of her with his arms out wide.

“Why is she smiling?” Skye said, concerned. “She’s planning something.”

Don’t look at her face,” Erin reminded, leaning to get the angle—something moved in the corner of his eye—

A fist crashed into his helmet, sending him stumbling—people were flooding down the stairs, dozens of them. Skye was already on the ground dogpiled by the people clearly under Lectures control, and then water erupted outwards, surging up over him and everyone else in the subway.

It smashed into the walls, rising higher, and then he was entirely underwater; he could see perfectly with his helmet because it was equipped for this exact scenario.

There were people everywhere, diving down and trying to find the three of them. Erin dove down, recovering his rifle and swimming closer to the tracks—Lecture was swimming towards the tunnel, hoping to escape while they were distracted with her army.

“Lanette, she’s at the tunnel; bring her back in,” Erin ordered, lining up and sending a red bolt of energy crashing into one of the people trying to rip Skye’s helmet off.

“On it,” Lanette said.

Skye’s power finally kicked in, having targeted the clothing of those who’d dogpiled her, and they were sent rocketing backward through the water away from her, slamming into walls and pillars.

Lanette surged past him in the water, currents swirling around her, and he saw the water twist into a funnel—Lecture was drawn backward, violently spinning in the water despite her best efforts. Erin switched his focus back to the civilians; they had to be running out of air now, but for some reason, they weren’t attempting to flee the water.

Instead, they just kept on mindlessly attacking, and they were getting slower every moment.

“Civilians are out of oxygen—Lecture doesn’t care if they drown; you should start pulling the water back.”  Erin pressed, easily holding back one of the last men who’d managed to get close enough to grab his rifle. “You’ll need to start drawing the water out of their lungs.”

Lanette didn’t reply, and he got a visual on her—there was an orb of violently swirling water right in the middle of the room. She right next to it, feet on the underwater platform with her arms outstretched.

“Lanette,” Erin said flatly, “Get rid of the water now.”

“I’m working on it,” Lanette said snapped.

The water levels lessened rapidly, and his feet slapped onto the wet concrete; the man who’d been struggling with him landed on his hands and knees, coughing up water but otherwise out of the fight.

“Lanette,” Skye said, approaching the orb of now slowly spinning water. “Is she unconscious yet—”

The orb broke down, and Lecture’s remains smacked into the concrete, twisted, broken, and lacerated beyond recognition; the only thing left untouched was her face.

“Mission complete,” Lanette said easily, “Better phone it in, let the others know.”

Skye stared down at the body in horror, and Erin wondered when everything had become so complicated. Skye grabbed her by the arm and yanked Lanete around to face her.

“Why did you kill her? She would have gone unconscious like the rest!” Skye snarled, “We could have resuscitated her and then taken her back to interrogate—”

“Lecture had two dozen hostages!” Lanette said scathingly, ripping her arm away and stabbing a finger in her face. “You should have shot her in the head right at the start, you fucking coward—”

He’d been far too optimistic about them remaining professional while in the field, but at least they’d waited until after they’d dealt with Lecture.

“Enough,” Erin snapped, and they jumped from the volume. “Lanette, give me the phone and then go save the civilians. Skye get up top; we need eyes on the crowd outside.”

Lanette ripped the phone she’d stolen out of her pouch and handed it over to him before stalking away—it was perfectly dry, the water having been drained out of it by her power. Skye didn’t move to follow his directive.

Instead, she stepped closer to him, unclipping the helmet.

“Lanette killed her!” Skye whispered furiously, “This is just like Louis—no, it’s fucking worse because she actually went through with it.”

“This isn’t the time for this discussion, Skye,” Erin said quietly after he’d removed his own helmet. “We need to finish this job; then we can discuss this back at the base. We need eyes up top and someone to stop any more people getting down here—go.”

Skye spun on her heel and stomped away, leaving the helmet to fall to the floor next to Lectures mutilated body. Erin hit the power button and then held the phone over Lectures face to unlock it. He searched quickly through the contacts and found the one he was looking for.

He switched to public channel once more.

“Wraith. Lecture is dead; we have two dozen civilians down, we need emergency services on site.” Erin said concisely. “I have the target’s phone. Is your team ready?”

“Yes,” Wraith said immediately, “The network is back online, and emergency services are already inbound—Make the call.”

He dropped off the public channel again.

“Skye, we’re making the call; keep everyone upstairs,” Erin said over the local line, “Lanette, I hope you’re a better actor than I am.”

He dialed the number and then placed the phone on the concrete. A man’s voice spoke, and he shot the ground next to the phone and then once more further away from it.

“She’s getting away!” Erin shouted, firing again. “There’s too many—deal with the civilians first; she won’t get far on foot!”

“Get these assholes off of me!” Lanette cried out, “Fracture—help me!”

“Dammit! We need some backup—Lecture’s made it into the park!” Erin shouted again, firing three shots into a pillar. “She’s heading south through the trees!”

He shot the phone, sending shards of plastic and glass shattering everywhere and ending the call.

“That was terrible,” Lanette snorted.

Erin flushed but ignored her, instead moving to the nearest civilian and checking her pulse. He opened the public channel once more.

“Team two is green; all objectives are complete.” Erin said clearly, “Reset should be on his way to central park; he knows she’s heading south.”

“Perfect,” Untold said seriously. “I’ve been looking forward to this.”

“I haven’t,” Ogre said, bored. “I come in for a checkup, and now I’m a hero.”

“You got scammed,” Haunt said, amused. “You want to join a better team? I’ll put in a good word for you with the rest of the Patheon.”

“I’ll consider it,” Ogre said curiously.

“Good work, Fracture,” Wraith said, interrupting the chatter, “Team three is in position; checkup in three minutes.”

The three of them dropped off, and he stayed on the call with Haunt.

“How’s team one doing?” Erin said, making sure another man’s airway was clear, and he was breathing steadily.

“They haven’t been in contact for a while,” Haunt said, yawning, “Last we heard, they were flirting over coffee—this Loren guy is something of a lady killer, huh? Or maybe he’s just into killer ladies?”

If the latter was true, he’d be in Lanette’s pants by sundown—Erin winced at the thought, mentally chastising himself. Everything had become such a mess—and it had happened so quickly that the consecutive shocks had rendered him mostly numb.

Louis actively planning the murder of The Crew had been completely out of the left field, and despite what Lanette professed, it wasn’t something any of them could have picked up on in advance. They’d all injured someone more than they’d intended during their careers; it was something that came with the job.

Erin had believed him about Sunder, and he’d acted apologetic afterward; it had been hard to take the word of the villain over his long-time teammate. Louis had an easy confidence about him, and when Erin had first joined the team, he’d reached out immediately.

They’d built a friendship, along with Gradient, with the trimmings of mentorship about it; he’d taught them both so much about how to be a hero, about how to approach things with the right mindset, to consider all aspects of something before taking action. Now he knew that Louis had never believed in being a hero at all—or maybe he had, at some point, and he’d lost that piece of himself to the job it along the way.

Lanette was falling into his orbit now as well, being drawn downwards into Louis’s fall from grace. Mareke had given them the green light on using lethal force if they couldn’t capture her, but the expectation had been that they would at least try and capture her first.

There wouldn’t be any consequences for what she’d done here today, Erin already knew—she’d be praised for taking down a member of Epilogue and did so while working within the orders she’d been given. Lanette herself would feel encouraged by it, and he couldn’t help but wonder if in a year he’d be thinking his way through the same situation, only with Lanette in a cell instead of Louis.

The sirens outside grew closer by the moment, and Erin hoped that nobody else would need to die today.

The conference room was in complete chaos when he arrived, and Erin hovered at the threshold, hair still wet from his shower, trying to piece together several discussions at once. Erin stared around—Lanette and Skye were already here as well. Along with most of the others, but Loren was nowhere to be seen.

“—Where did you leave him?” Wraith said shortly.

“At his residence, he said he needed to be alone,” Seeker said quietly, “He was extremely upset by what happened to Monstrous.”

“It’s not my fault!” Threadbreaker said, looking harried. “We took her down—who cares if he’s gone off on his own? Why does it even matter?”

“It matters because—” Haunt said, seriously, her quiet voice overrun by the other conversations.

“I don’t see a problem,” Vapid shrugged, “Two out of three is way better than we expected anyway, right? Threadbreaker took out our target, I’m happy with that.”

“Our guy didn’t even turn up,” Iza said, leaning against the wall. “He must have seen through the phone call or saw us before we saw him and fled.”

Erin winced, hoping his acting wasn’t the cause.

“I doubt he wants to see any of us after what Threadbreaker apparently did in the café,” Untold sighed, “He was friends with her, right? Despite the fact that she was a villain?”

“He seems to make a lot of friends like that,” Iza said, plainly, “If you’ve got any plans to hit me next, we’re going to have a problem, kid.”

“Why would I hit you?” Threadbreaker said, confused. “Who the heck are you anyway?”

“Forget it,” Iza snorted, looking away.

“He’s not answering his phone,” Wraith said, frowning.

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 69 – Live.
Ameliorate – Chapter 9(NSFW)