Door Number 7
"Where did you hear that?!" I forced Amari to his feet. I gripped his collar, all of my emotions finding a way out through the lightning.
Watt beeped and whirred, trying to get my attention. I couldn't hear it over the sound of the storm roaring all around me, my heart racing faster and faster.
"I told you. My employer. The important question is: you're Branded?"
FUCK! I shoved him back and paced in a tight circle.
I struggled to contain my lightning. My eyes widened in horror as both of my arms crackled with electricity, its light glinting within Amari's curious eyes.
He wasn't scared of me... yet.
How does he know!?
I was lucky it was just us, but... I needed to calm down. I kept telling myself that over and over but I could only focus on what Amari had said.
This must have been how John felt.
"That explains the bandage on your back, I guess. It hadn't crossed my mind before. I'll keep an eye out for that in the future. Must be hard to find love, hiding who you are from any and everyone."
"SHUT. UP." Spittle flew and my lightning flared up even more.
Calm down, calm down, calm–
YOU SHOULD HAVE CONSUMED HIM WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE.
ARE YOU GOING TO KILL HIM, "DETECTIVE?"
HE WOULDN'T BE THE FIRST.
AND SOON, THEY ALL WILL.
GET STRONGER FIRST.
CONSUME ME, YOUR ONE TRUE LOVE.
I'LL NEVER LEAVE YOU.
Shut up. SHUT UP. "SHUT UP!"
"Detective..." The smirk on his face disappeared. He desperately tried to move farther away from me, an impossible task while cuffed to a metal pipe and already backed into a corner. "You're officially scaring me now. I'm just trying to lighten the mood. I don't care if you–"
I closed the gap, much quicker than before.
Lightning coursed through my veins. I was pissed.
"What is your employer's name?"
"I don't know." Quick and concise. "Locke... Listen to me. I did not say that to threaten you. I did not say that to spark" – he tried to laugh – "any negative feelings. I would appreciate you not killing me, though I know that's a bit much for the serial killer to ask."
"What. Is. Your. Employer's. NAME!"
"I'm serious, Locke. I don't know! I never ask. They get in contact with me through nefarious means, I get wired money, I do a job, and I get wired more money. I don't care who employs me."
He kissed me.
+1 (Heart) => 2 vs 4,8. Burn Momentum! 6 vs 4,8. Weak Hit.
-1 momentum 
+2 Spirit 
I could feel the electricity slow its course through my veins, and the voice in my head quieted just a bit. I was so taken aback that, for just a brief moment, I forgot why I was even upset to begin with. And when I did remember, I knew I was kissing the man responsible for killing two people on board, but... I needed this. I savored the moment, maybe a second too long.
I eventually backed away, and mumbled, "Thank you."
// Make a Connection
+1 (heart) => 7 vs 3,8. Weak Hit.
We're going to put Amari Wade down as "Hitman." Should prove useful.
"No problem. I know a thing or two about being on edge if someone discovers your big secret."
I sat down in front of him, the hairs on my arms laying flat once more as the electricity quieted to a soft hum – I still felt on edge, could still feel the tug and pull of the ship, begging me to recharge, but I could deal with this.
"Now that that's out of the way..." Amari sighed heavily, sitting down in front of me. His typical humorous and flirty expression returned. "I need a favor. If you want me to help you figure out why someone knew some code word to make you spazz like that, I need for you to set me free wherever we stop."
"What? No go. Everyone on this ship knows you did it already. Christa and Annora will probably march you to an SPD agent themselves the moment we land."
"Not to risk my life again, but you don't have many options. If you let me go, I can adequately help you figure out who's behind all of this. If you turn me in, well... Who knows how long I can keep a secret?"
Lightning lanced up my arm again. I did my best to quell it, but he wasn't making it easy.
"Or, you can kill me here and now. You'll be everything they say the Branded are: monsters, savages, evil. Blah blah blah. But you're a good guy, I know that. Of the three, this last option isn't really an option. So, you have to choose: door number 1 or 2?"
He wasn't wrong. If I turned him in, I would spend the rest of my life wondering when he would divulge my little secret. I would be looking over my shoulders forever. I knew Diogenes was already in the business of selling identities; maybe they'd have another one for sale? John didn't make it seem as if this life on the run was truly worth it, though, and if I struggled this much to hide my Branding right now over this stress, I wasn't sure I could handle hiding my entire identity.
And I couldn't kill him. I already had enough blood on my hands. I didn't need this one, too. Besides, I wanted him alive.
For other reasons.
I sighed heavily. "Fine. We'll figure something out."
My lightning calmed. My heart rate returned to something close to normal as I took this moment to look over Amari. I could do worse, I thought to myself. Lovers to enemies to lovers again. Classic romance arc. I'd seen a movie just like this a few years back. Coincidentally, the bad guy also sported a head full of red hair.
"Glad to see you smiling again. It's too bad we met under these circumstances," he said. I hadn't noticed I was smiling.
"Yeah. Now, tell me everything you know."
// Gather Information via Sleuth
+2 (Wits) + 1 (Connection) => +3 => . . .
76: Quinn Braddock
85: Annora Gray.
I like the names Quincy Gray and Anne Braddock.
Need to flesh out Anne Braddock a bit.
Action+Theme: 57, 49. Inspect Knowledge.
"Straight to business, I see." He returned my smile. That warm, fuzzy feeling spread out from my chest. It was nice to be liked, even if the circumstances weren't exactly great.
"I'm not sure what all is important considering our unique situation, so I'll try to touch on everything. I ran into Hal first, a few years back. Great man but I'm simply better. He got close though. Booker was one of the Peacekeepers assigned to my pursuit after I killed Quincy Gray but he never even got close – don't let him tell you otherwise."
He brought his head to his cuffed hands and wiped his nose, the cuffs clacking against the metal pole as he did so. "Let's see, who was next? Caught wind of Talia's secret. She is apparently an anonymous funder of Anne Braddock, the millionaire who was secretly funneling Salvi secrets to whatever enemies wanted to know. Scandalous." He wiped his nose again.
"Roland was next. Should I bore you with all the details of his sins?" Amari smiled.
"Is your nose bleeding?" I grabbed a few paper towels from the bar and patted down the dripping blood.
"Aww. You really do care." He took them from me and held them against his nose. He blew me a kiss.
"Whatever." I really did care. If Amari hadn't killed two people, I would have let him go a long time ago, made a few more mistakes, and–
"My head's on fire." Amari winced. More blood gushed from his nose.
And his ears.
I grabbed more paper towels and tried to sop up the blood. Amari kept wincing, writhing in pain.
"Amari, what's going on?" He began mumbling incoherently. His wrist drew blood, the cuffs digging into his skin as he tried to cradle his head within his hands.
"I– I– SH– SHER–"
I felt his forehead. He felt hotter than when Akim torched the derelict. I looked around at the vents. Were we being poisoned? Was there another murderer, here to dispose of Amari should he try to comply?
"Huh?" I said, more in confusion than anything. His words were cold, robotic, forced, with very little space between them.
It sounded like my name. Very, very close to it.
"JO-JOHN WATSON WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT"
How does he know about John? And Roger?
"Amari, you're not making any sense."
Watson and Rabbit, though? What's that about?
"MISSES HUDSON BAKER STREET"
Hudson Baker? Names?
It seemed as if Amari was trying to stop talking, but the words forced themselves out regardless. "A-A STUDY... IN... SCARLET IRENE ADLER"
I shot to my feet.
Why does he know the name Adler?
Amari continued to bleed from all over: nose, ears, eyes. He coughed and spat blood. His eyes were wide in terror and... glory.
He reminded me of Akim Salvi when I saw him last.
I never told him about my ship and I never told him about–
"AGATHA CHRISTIE INSPECTOR LESTRADE THE SIGN OF FOUR REICHENBACH FALLS!"
Reichenbach Falls? A place? Inspector Lestrade? But her name is Agatha... Who is Christie? Christa, perhaps? The Sign of Four? The four Benevolent?
"Amari! You're not making any sense!"
I looked around, unsure if I wanted someone else to be present or not. We were still alone. What was I supposed to do with Amari spouting nonsense?
"RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT THE RAVEN THE DIOGENES CLUB NEVER– NEVER– NEVERMORE! JOHN WATSON AGAIN!"
I had kept most of the details scarce from Amari, so it was impossible for him to know of Diogenes. It was a club, in a sense. A club full of Branded who needed money to start a better life. But I never mentioned Ripley or NEVERMORE. How did he know those things?
"MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS"
A greeting sign – "Thank you for choosing the Bohemian Express! Enjoy your expedition amongst the stars!" – caught my eye.
Bohemian Express. Very close to Orient Express. Just like my name was close to Sherlock. It seemed as if he was recounting the last few weeks of my life second- or third-hand. The story was right but the details were wrong or twisted.
"THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE"
I rushed to Amari and gripped his face. Redhead? Like... Like Amari. "I need you to pull it together, Amari! Did you take something? I wasn't going to turn you in! You didn't have to kill yourself! AMARI!"
I didn't smell almonds. If it wasn't cyanide, what could cause something this?
"TWO TWO ONE BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE–"
He stopped, eyes stuck on me. Drool dripped from his hanging lower lip. He'd bitten his tongue at some point, blood swirled within the spit. His eyes were devoid of all but a tiny spark of life.
Now... does he die? Unlikely, 25-: 09.
WELP. It was nice knowing him.
Amari's eyes filled with tears, but his expression didn't change. His eyes, though... I couldn't tell if they were begging for me to help him...
Or end it.
"A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA IRENE ADLER AGAIN!"
Amari spasmed once more and opened his mouth wide, blood still oozing from crevices that shouldn't bleed the way that they were.
"NOW DOES HE DIE?"
"UNLIKELY TWENTY-FIVE OR LESS"
I stepped back. My lightning crackled.
"ZERO NINE WELP IT WAS NICE KNOWING HIM"
Amari let out a gut-wrenching scream. The others had to have heard him, no matter where they were. Blood continued to pool from the corners of his mouth.
He stopped, head snapping to look at me, neck at a painful-looking angle. His face dripped with spit and sweat and blood and tears. That smoldering hair that had originally caught my eye days ago was dim, drenched in all of his fluids. I somehow had missed him snapping his wrist, the hand cocked to the side with a bloody bone protruding, still cuffed. With a look of reverence in his eyes, he looked to the ceiling of the Bohemian Express and smiled wide, mouth agape.
"FOUR VERSUS SEVEN SEVEN SEVEN"
777? I... I know that number.
"MISS AND A MATCH."
Amari collapsed onto the ground.
// Gather Information Result
4 vs 7, 7, 7.
Miss and a match.
// Author's Note
I'm honestly going to have to stop rolling Gather Information via Sleuth. My DANGEROUS Vow to solve Roland's death was bumped up to Formidable, Missed when trying to solve it and it bumped up to Extreme, only for a single roll to max it out at EPIC.
So, I had to make the stakes higher in the process. I didn't want him to die (hence the Oracle roll), but... -shrug- There are clearly other forces at play here.
Oh, we are going to mark progress though, before we raise the rank. So, 2 ticks.
On the bright side, we can't bump it up any higher. And Locke learned a lot from the babble.
Oh, I was looking for things to throw into the conversation and ran across The Red-Headed League, another Sherlock story. Thought it was very funny how we encountered a redhead of importance, so I slid that one in there, too. That one was not a planned reference, but I'll take it!