Locke says goodbye to NEVERMORE and embarks on a journey to New Bohemia in hopes of finding out more about the Benevolent. Leave it to Locke to stumble upon a murder along the way.

Chapter 10: Murder on the Bohemian Express, Pt. 1
⚡️ THUNDERFANG #9: Thing of Evil
As Locke learns more about NEVERMORE, the history of their names makes him question his motives and convictions. Should he keep pursuing the Benevolent?
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Murder on the Bohemian Express, Pt. 1

Chapter 10

// Oracle rolls

I have an idea in mind for this trip, and for it, I need it to be more than a simple Set a Course roll. I won't spoil that idea, but I need a reason for it.

Action + Theme => 97, 58: Uncover Opportunity.

At first glance, that means nothing. But if I think about it as an opportunity to uncover who he is, that could mean something.

I already had a name for a settlement on New Bohemia, but for the way the fiction is turning out, I need another one. I'm still going to use the original name somewhere, just not entirely as originally intended.

Settlement name, 82: Sigil.

The focal point of New Bohemia was the Salvi Sigil, an oasis on the desert planet that I had called my home. In that kingdom, buildings stretched into the sky and opulence adorned every nook and cranny. The most wealthy and influential of all people in the Salvi Pass typically resided there, and it's where the Salvis had the most power.

Which meant that, naturally, I grew up in one of the surrounding areas known as Port Wreck.

It looked just like it sounded.

"Let me guess: the slums?" Johnathan was stretching. His wounds had healed nicely and he was the most mobile he'd been since arriving. He was jogging slowly around the empty vehicle bay – one day, I was going to have to get some planetside wheels.

"Pretty much. It's one of the reasons Baker's Shipyard felt so much like home. I was used to living around places like this. I stayed in an apartment with my family most of my life. Wasn't too bad. I turned out just fine."

"Brothers? Sisters? You look like you had a family dog."

I took a few things from the various cabinets and drawers and put them into a bag as Johnathan continued to exercise. It was best for everyone if I didn't get into further detail about my upbringing, so I redirected us back to the purpose of the conversation.

"Are you sure you don't want to come with me? Could use a friend." Watt whirped loudly, a frustrated emoji flashing on its screen. "Sorry, another friend."

"Watt? Jealous?" He feigned disbelief, clutching his heart in dismay. "I told you. Watt's secretly human and loves you." Watt showed a shocked emoji with a sweatdrop. John blew a kiss to Watt and slowed to a stop.

"I still don't understand this plan of yours, Locke. You're going to leave this beauty here, parked in Portent, and take a passenger ship all the way to New Bohemia? I'm gonna need this explanation one more time."

I went through the lengthy process of explaining to him my fears of taking the Scarlet Adler to New Bohemia.

For one, I was Branded and had spent time on Avam. While I was fairly sure they did not have thorough logs and data chronicling each and every Branded to step foot on the planet, I wasn't 100%. It had always seemed as if the Salvis were cocky when it came to Avam. I assumed their philosophy was that once one of us got sent there, that was it. No need for further records. Records led to paper trails which led to them appearing bad in the history books eventually. I couldn't risk being thrown back onto that prison world by announcing myself as I arrived.

Second, if shit went south on New Bohemia like it did with the derelict, I didn't want the Scarlet Adler clearly identified. It was a small blessing that Sirius believed my story and no one questioned a thing; I couldn't expect that type of lightning to strike twice. And while I would much rather fly into danger with a vessel I trusted, I couldn't risk the chance that I'd have to leave it behind, or worse.

"It's still stupid, but I get it." Johnathan looked around the interior. "I'd hate to lose this, too." He stretched out his right arm and beckoned towards the workout equipment in the corner. A gust of wind blew past me, lifting a five-pound medicine ball and it floated into his hands. I had forgotten how freeing it was to use my Branding so freely around someone else.

"And I haven't finished paying it off yet. One of the things I got with the money from Diogenes."

"I'm starting to think I should have done that, too." Johnathan shrugged.

"Okay, okay, okay!" Johnathan protested. I released my hug, taking a step back. "You two are acting like the parents on TV as they send their kid off to college." Watt had an animated sobbing emoji on display.

"I don't want to, but you're free." I gestured towards the government district. "Are you going to be okay? You sure you don't wanna come with me?"

"Yeah. I can't have this debt looming over me. I'll let them know you took care of me, though. Maybe it'll bring in some business. And I won't tell anyone you're the one who leaked the Akim Salvi audio."

I gave him a thumbs up. "Thank you. Stop by anytime."

Photo by Dương Nhân from Pexels

I watched as John left Baker's Shipyard. The planet called out to me, whispering, "I WON'T LEAVE YOU. I'LL ALWAYS BE HERE TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER." I ignored it. Something about merely knowing that kid made life seem better. Like there was hope.

I hoped he'd come around more.

"He's a good kid," I told Watt. "Come on. Let's get ready for our trip."

// Make a Connection, +1

+1 (Heart; finding someone who can help us get to New Bohemia) => 2 vs 2,6. Miss.

This game knows my plans. lol Let's burn momentum!

7 vs 2,6. Strong hit!

I lost the numbers for the rolls, but I rolled twice and got the name Christa Duval. When I rolled for her role, I got Roll Twice, which elicited Engineer and Healer. I went with the former, though used the latter for additional flavor. She's taking care of Roland Ruiz.

I found a passenger ship heading to New Bohemia. It wasn't technically stopping there, but I could leave once we arrived. I packed light, just two small bags; anything I truly needed I could acquire along the way. Leaving the ship for good wouldn't raise too many alarms, especially if I kept to myself.

There wasn't a single unoccupied autocab in my vicinity. No matter how long I waited, they were all taken. One eventually pulled over with a woman and an older gentleman seated inside.

"I'm headed to one of the passenger cruises to New Bohemia," I said.

"Oh! So are we! Why don't you join us?" The gentleman's face lit up and he ushered me inside. I decided to take my chances and go with them.

The woman, Christa Duval, was an engineer and had worked with various organizations throughout Portent, and even long-distance with a few businesses within other settlements. Over the years, getting work became more difficult for one reason or another, and to help pay her bills, she began caregiving and spent the majority of her time now taking care of the older gentleman, Roland Ruiz. It seemed as if Roland had a hard life. His neck had a scabbed-over stabbed wound that I wasn't sure healed properly, and lesions covered much of the rest of the skin I could see. But he was smiling when we introduced ourselves and his grip was strong.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels // Photo by Thgusstavo Santana from Pexels

Christa became distracted by something on her phone which left Roland's curiosity unchecked. "And what do you do, Mr. Holmes?"

"I'm a private investigator, actually."

Their eyes locked on me.

"I for one will be pleased that you are joining us, Mr. Holmes." For someone missing a few teeth, Roland was always smiling. Much more now than before.

// "Reach New Bohemia" Clock, 10 segments

So, I'm trying something very different.

I wanted to make this an Expedition, but I couldn't justify it because Locke has zero input in how this trip is going. So, I decided to make a Clock. It'll be similar to a Campaign Clock in that it will tick forward regardless, but I'm going to use it more like a Tension clock.

As I fail going forward, I will tick the clock. This will signify that time is passing and potentially we'll arrive before things conclude. If he wastes too much time...

I tried to get them to consider a cheaper vessel, but Roland insisted we choose the Bohemian Express for its limited occupancy. There had been some caution behind his words, but I couldn't tell why. I had originally been skeptical – the price had to be extravagant, much more than I was willing to pay  – but upon seeing the ship for myself, I couldn't say no. Not easily, anyway.

The Bohemian Express was a luxurious passenger ship. It was about three times the size of the Scarlet Adler in every dimension. Despite its massive size, it was still smaller than most other passenger ships I'd seen before. Roland said there would be a small handful of guests with a small staff that would cater to our every desire. "If I have to go, I want to be comfortable!" he joked.

"Don't mind him. He jokes about death quite often," Christa added.

I went to pay for my fare but Roland stopped me. "I insist," he'd said. "I may need your services throughout the trip. Consider this an advance." He winked.

I wasn't exactly going to say no to a free trip to New Bohemia.

"This is your captain, Annora Kei, speaking. On behalf of the crew, I want to welcome you to the Bohemian Express. Thank you for choosing us to ferry you safely across the stars. Please, get accommodated in your rooms as we prepare for take-off. A crewmate will be with you shortly with itineraries and a list of all amenities. Expected travel time to New Bohemia: ten days and six hours."

If I'd flown the Scarlet Adler, I could've made it in a few days. But, despite being a straight shot, we'd be en route for almost two weeks. Ten full days of traveling with a handful of other individuals, longer if we encountered any difficulties refueling or unforeseen obstacles. Luckily I already made acquaintances with two interesting people and wouldn't be completely bored.

I settled into my room and took a nap. I dreamt of a family and an actual home. A husband, children – hell, even a glowcat. When I awoke, we were already off Portent, traveling amongst the stars. I had to suppress the sense of longing deep within as the ship's hum began to call out to me. Food typically worked to banish the dark thoughts, at least temporarily. I checked the ship-time. If I was quick, I could make it in time for dinner.

Our suites comprised an entire level of the ship, providing us ample privacy from the waitstaff and crew members. Stepping outside of our rooms, an enclosed garden sat in the center. Bright lights illuminated the vibrant flora contained within and the soft scent of whatever was inside wafted through the vents. The tempered glass felt cool to the touch and the air smelled fresh and clean.

I could understand why Roland wanted this ship in particular.

Photo by Katarzyna Modrzejewska from Pexels

My new acquaintances occupied two of the ten rooms, though I was unsure of their assignments yet. I checked that I had my keycard and shut the door. It hissed and locked behind me. The steps leading up to the next floor were few, with lots of handholds along the walls. Lights and signs illuminated the way to the next set of stairs which led to the dining hall on the next floor up.

Christa and Roland flagged me down the moment I entered and I joined them at their table. They were already mid-way through their meal. As I sat, I grabbed a menu and a member of the wait staff approached.

"Oh, heavens," Christa mumbled.

I cocked a brow as the young gentleman spoke. "Good evening! Welcome to the Bohemian Express! I am Edris and I'll be serving you at this table. Have you had a chance to look over the menu?" I didn't really but Christa's chicken looked fine so I ordered that. Edris nodded and took no more than ten steps away from the table before returning. "I'm so sorry. I completely forgot to ask you what you wanted to drink."

We played that back and forth four times – by then, he'd also forgotten the entree I ordered – before it was all settled. Christa let out an exasperated sigh followed by a soft chuckle and a smile. "It took us six times. He's improving."

As I waited, I finally got a good look at most of the other guests. A young woman at a table by herself, dressed lavishly in pinks and purples, sipped something sparkly in a long-stemmed glass. At the bar sat another woman with tattoos that covered most of her exposed skin, her glass filled with a dark brown liquid. A gentleman in a Peacekeeper uniform struggled to stay awake in the corner of the room. It looked like he was supposed to be watching over us – and failing. A young child and, presumably, her father sang and danced softly at their table as the child played with her spaceship-shaped nuggets.

And an absolutely gorgeous red-headed man sat alone. His hair looked like smoldering fire cascading from the top of his head all the way down to his full beard. He was dressed comfortably, but the way he held himself made it seem as if he would get along with Ms. Purple-and-Pink just fine. It also looked like he could handle himself if things got physical.

A fight. Physical as in a fight, not... Um...

The man glanced in my direction and smirked, then sipped something dark from his glass.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Edris interrupted me with my food. My reverie broken, I joined Christa and Roland in small talk, stealing glances at the man across the room as I ate.

It seemed as if I would have another friend for this journey...

The dining area began to clear out twenty or so minutes later as others made their way back to their rooms or various other portions of the ship. I overheard the father and child say they would check out the theater room if there was enough time before the first jump. Christa excused herself, leaving Roland, myself, the handsome man, and the woman at the bar.

"Mr. Holmes, I have a favor I would like to ask of you." He coughed into a handkerchief and sighed heavily. "I am quite sure I will not survive this trip. I sense that my past has caught up with me and will choose to deal with me here. Whatever deity decided to cross our paths deserves all of my praise, and I hope I can find the right one before my time is up. I told you earlier that I would need your services. I fear I may be right."

I chuckled and sipped my drink.

His mood did not shift.

The humor drained from me at the realization that he was being completely serious. "Mr. Ruiz, what makes you believe you're being targeted?" All the signs I'd ignored earlier compounded and flashed before my eyes.

Some detective I was.

"I've made a lot of enemies during my rise to power," he said, casually brushing a hand over the knife wound on his neck. "And while I've changed my ways, I have not been forgiven for every sin. I chose this ship because it would limit the number of my enemies that could hurt me, but I fear I may not have avoided them entirely. I fear that your presence is an ill-fated coincidence." Roland took a long sip of bourbon and set the now-empty glass down. He waved over Edris and ordered another. I waited until his glass was filled and we were alone again to continue.

"Have you talked to Christa about it? This is serious. Perhaps you should have stayed–"

He chuckled and gestured for me to stop. Roland downed his drink and stood. Christa returned before I could say anything else. She smiled and said, "Ready to go? Mr. Holmes, thank you for keeping us company tonight for dinner. If you need anything, we'll be in Rooms 2 and 3."

He was smiling again, as if nothing was wrong. But his eyes begged me to take him seriously.

Once they were gone, only the handsome gentleman and I remained. If Roland hadn't just confessed his fears of being murdered, I would have approached him, gotten his name, and "bonded" over one thing or another for the duration of the trip. But how could I be sure I wouldn't be trying to fraternize with a murderer?

I made a compromise with myself. If we could make it three days without a body, I'd reconsider.

A scream pierced through the ship-night. My eyes snapped open. I dashed out of my suite barely dressed, save for black sweatpants and a black t-shirt. No one else stepped out. All doors remained closed.

Except for Room 3.

Roland's room.

It was already ajar.

Photo by Kei Scampa from Pexels

⚡️ THUNDERFANG #11: Murder on the Bohemian Express, Pt. 2
Locke swears to find the murderer on board the Bohemian Express as internal – and external – whispers try to lead him astray at every turn.
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