⚡️ THUNDERFANG #19

What Locke assumes to be a shortcut to the underground facility leads him to even more questions.

⚡️ THUNDERFANG #19
Chapter 19: A New Name To Wear, Part 1
⚡️ THUNDERFANG #18: However Improbable
Locke has had enough of the delusions and lashes out at the latest: the mirage of the love of his life, Ira Adler. But what happens if the impossible is actually the truth?
The previous chapter

A New Name To Wear, Pt. 1

Chapter 19

// Oracle

Okay, we have a big task ahead of us. 

All of our values are high except Supply. So, is there a place nearby where Locke can have Watt help him gather some scrap and supplies? 50/50: 21, yes.

I made my escape beneath the moonlight. The trees rustled and parted the way, Ira's Branding guiding me to safety. My heart pounded with each footfall. Watt floated down from the treetops ahead of me as the sounds of pursuit faded. I spun around to make sure the coast was clear and finally took a second to catch my breath. I could only hope that Ira was still safe.

I cursed softly. The more I seemed to plan, the more it seemed to fall to pieces. The ambush ruined everything. The night air nipped at my hands as I mulled over my options. Whatever tools or supplies I could find would have to work. Wreck's Wreck – officially known as the Wreck Junkyard, just outside of the city – wasn't too far away. I could get what I needed from there with a little help from Watt. Before I could finish my thoughts, I was moving. I was running out of time.

// Resupply

+4 (Watt!) => 7 vs 3,5. Strong hit!

+2 Supply [3]
+1 Momentum from Watt [5]

Much quicker than I had anticipated, Watt and I scoured the junkyard and found some suitable tools, as well as crafted a few ad-hoc ones ourselves: two small staves I could clip to the suit, a small bag of ball bearings, and a few other odds and ends that I could find some use for later. It wasn't much but it would do. I also found an apple core. Ever hopeful, I extracted the seeds and placed them in a pouch. If I ran into Ira later, we'd have a bit more ammo.

As I headed for the entrance to the sewers, I thought about my really bad idea from a few nights ago, the one in which I lost my Mimic suit. The city had changed so much in the years since I'd been gone. And much like during my trek to the solar farm, I didn't want to bank on an old memory. I wasn't sure if I could expect the path to the underground facility to stay the same, if I even knew where it was to begin with.

// Secure an Advantage

Okay, okay. So... on a Strong Hit or Weak Hit, I'll Set a Course directly to the underground facility. On a miss, we'll have to Undertake an Expedition.

+2 (wits; trying to recall the way to the underground facility) => 6 vs 7,10. Miss.

The Price will be this expedition. -sigh- Those always go so well.

I tried to recall when I was apprehended and where. It had happened such a long time ago, I was unsure if any of the memories still existed. I had been a pro at shoving things into mental boxes, and the time after getting captured had been particularly unpleasant. Would I let myself recall them?

In the end, none of the streets looked exactly the same, and I had been knocked out before being taken to the facility anyway. That meant one thing.

I would have to wing it.


When I was a child, if I couldn't escape to the solar farm, I'd hide out in the sewers. Few dared follow me, and I could lose those that did in the maze of tunnels. While the rest of the Salvi Sigil seemed to have undergone a metamorphosis, not much seemed to change about the sewers. I followed my instincts, keeping to the shadows as best as possible.

// Undertake an Expedition

This is a Dangerous Expedition, so 2 Progress per Hit.

+2 (Shadow; sneaky sneaky) => 7 vs 5,6. Strong hit!

+2 Progress [2/10]

Okay, what's this Waypoint? Descriptor + Focus, 95, 77: Undiscovered Shortcut.

I slid open a sewer grate and jumped down into the darkness below. The drop was quick. Watt floated down and turned on dim lighting, softly illuminating the dank sewers beneath the Salvi Sigil. The tunnels stretched on, the distance unknown in the darkness. I picked a direction that felt right and began my journey.

As Watt and I made progress, I looked for signs that this expedition would be fruitful. What if there was no way to access the facility from here? What if I needed to climb down multiple plateaus until I reached the base of the spire that the Salvi Sigil sat upon? I didn't want to waste my time, especially if the captured Branded were in trouble. Ira had said they wouldn't make it through the night – they would be leaving for Avam, and rescuing them from there would be so much more difficult. I may have chosen to wear the title of Ironsworn, but there was only so much I could do.

I sighed, taking a moment to stop and rethink things. Watt stopped as well, turning to face me.

As it turned, something caught my eye. "Watt, spin around, slowly." It did so, and the shadows in a particular corner of the sewers didn't move properly. I looked behind and ahead of me, then went to investigate. It looked like... a passageway?

// Explore a Waypoint

+2 (Wits) => 5 vs... 8, 8.

🙃

Confront Chaos

Honestly... I want the experience. lmao I need 3 to fill my next discovery box, but I’m banking on this expedition giving me at least 1, SO... I’m going for TWO.

60: Powerful distortions of time or space
37: Machines made enemy

Okay, I have an idea. And I already know what "machines" these are.

The light did not illuminate it. Instead, it remained pitch black.

I reached a hand out to touch the darkness and fell through it. Darkness consumed me. My stomach lurched as if I was falling... and soaring, despite my feet being firmly planted on the ground. I spun around, hoping to find Watt. It was gone as well. I was completely alone.

And then... light.

I found myself in a well-lit room. Some kind of... operation room? I looked behind me. The path I had just taken was no longer there.

As if it had never existed.

I spun around again, trying to get my bearings. A young woman with dark skin lay strapped to a bed. She looked ragged and barely conscious. Had I been mysteriously transported to the facility? I rushed to the woman's side just as the door to the room burst open, two men and a woman in lab coats waltzing in. I froze. The breath in my chest caught. Lightning crackled around my fist. I was ready to fight should it come to it.

"Put that away, Detective. They cannot harm you." The dark-skinned woman said, a small smile creeping onto her face. She seemed pleased by my presence. Her eyes remained trained on the – what I assumed to be – doctors.

Huh? I looked from her to them, the lab coats jotting down notes. "What's she mumbling about now?" one of the men said. He was a tall, fair-skinned man with messy brown hair. His voice was high-pitched and he seemed nervous.

"This Hivebranded seems to be able to see the future," the woman responded. She was a little shorter than the tall man, a head full of strawberry blonde hair. "She's mentioned some 'detective' before, though we are unsure of which she speaks."

The dark-skinned woman on the bed craned her neck upwards, looking at me first – with a smile – then at the ones in the lab coats. "We will win."

"As you've mentioned before." The remaining doctor, a short, muscular man who looked tired and annoyed, jotted something else down on a notepad. His voice was deep and it seemed to command the attention of the others. "Are we sure she's not hallucinating? It wouldn't be the first time one of them went crazy."

"You don't believe me?" the captive said. As she smiled, I realized she felt familiar, though in a way that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Since I was clearly not part of this scene, I stepped forward, looking her over. Did I know her?

"The Detective fell through a hole that... we made. He's close to us now. That's how he's here. He's watching... Oh," she said, looking off to the side, as if listening to a whisper. "Darn. My timing's off." She looked up and I followed her gaze. For the first time, I noticed the room was massive. Above was an observation deck, a few other lab coats watching everything that went on below. "Detective, I'm late... or am I early? I can't tell. Brrrrrrr..." She shivered violently.

What? My eyes widened.

"Is she communicating with someone? Shit. Put her under," the short man commanded, and the taller man began stumbling about.

"Detective," the woman said as they scrambled to prepare the syringe. "This is where they turn us – the connected ones, the ones who know everything – into monsters, into machines that do their bidding. They make our minds fall far, far away... They have taken over our home and given it a new name to wear – it doesn't even fit! There is knowledge, power in a name."

"HURRY UP!"

The woman looked directly at me. "The place you are searching for, Detective – the one mentioned from the youngest son of the Salvis..." She looked off to the side again, as if... hearing something? Who else was she speaking to? "You will find out more next time. You are the key to helping us, Detective. We're all rooting for you."

They jammed the syringe into her arm. She screamed, the echo of which caused a pane of glass to crack up above.

It was then I realized I should have looked at their names! Just as I saw one – Dr. Mor-something – the room went pitch black. My stomach churned and lurched as if I was both falling and soaring once again.

// Confront Chaos Results

The powerful distortions? Very clear. The machines made enemy? Hehe. Well, I didn't use machines. I did however show you how a Hivebranded is altered.

This helped me do a lot of worldbuilding behind the scenes. I can't wait to tell you all!

2 ticks on my Discovery Legacy track!

The sewers returned as if I'd never left. That space of black that had caught my eye before was now a regular wall, damp and cold. I looked behind me to Watt, no sign of distress or worry on its monitor.

What the hell just happened? I blinked a few times, making sure my vision was clear. It had felt so real, yet... here I was. The experience reminded me of the trip through the desert – the Valley of Fear, as Ira and the locals had called it. "We're all rooting for you." That was what my brother had said, too.

Who the hell was 'we'?

I shook my head, trying to loosen the thoughts that clouded my mind. There was entirely too much to unpack there, but very little time. Also, I was beginning to get used to hallucinating, as sad as that sounded. The thought worried me. Eventually, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between what was real and what was fake.

I moved forward, staying vigilant. I didn't have time to run into any more pitch-black delusion-inducing spaces.

// Progress on Amari Wade vow

Locke doesn't know this, but we've advanced on this vow. I already know the answer, but Locke has to work to get it.

We're at 4 ticks with this now (2 from talking to Amari at Extreme, 1 for Watt overhearing that the babbling death had happened before, and now this), meaning we're at 1 full box!


// Undertake an Expedition

+2 (wits; no more distortions, please?) => 5 vs 4,9. Weak hit.

+2 Progress [4/10]

Descriptor + Focus, 92 28: Subsurface Enclosure. This actually seems like the place we're looking for, but it's a bit soon.

The dim light from Watt did not illuminate any more strange pockets of delusions, much to my delight. However, I began to feel the tug of something massive, something electrical. There were no lights lining the walls and I felt I was too deep underground at this point to feel the pulse of anything above.

It had to be from below.

I quickened my pace, excited at the chance of getting through the tunnels much quicker than anticipated.

I heard voices ahead – maybe guards patrolling the area? Even more of a confirmation that this was the right direction. I slipped into the shadows, hoping they'd pass without incident.

// Face Danger

+2 (shadow) => 7 vs 7, 8. Miss.

Oh fuck.

CLANG!

I froze, my gaze dropping to the ground.

I watched as one of those stupid staves Watt and I made roll over the ground. I cursed silently, my gaze now meeting the two guards who were approaching. Fine, I thought. I had a bit of pent-up frustration that needed a release. I had encountered delusions that felt like the worst form of therapy, ran into the love of my life and had to leave him again, and now I was seeing visions from a Hivebranded?

I dashed at them, fist raised.

// Battle

I refuse to sit through this entire fight.

+3 (iron) => 8 vs...

Nah, I was gonna build up some suspense. lol 

8 vs 1, 6. Strong hit!

+2 momentum [7]

// Progress on Ira Vow

Conflict counts as progress!

+2 Progress [2/10]

The two men didn't stand a chance. Well, one of them tried, but he fell like his partner. I dragged them to a wall and propped them up, hoping they'd stay knocked out long enough for me to make it to the facility. After that, they could do whatever they wanted.

A thought occurred to me as I watched over their unconscious bodies. The one who fought back the most, he looked about my size...

// Secure an Advantage

+2 (shadow, acquiring a disguise) => 5 vs 2,8. Weak hit.

+2 momentum [9]

I stripped most of their clothes off and put on the outfit of the one who put up the fight. They fit me well enough. I grabbed a few of the belongings from both men and continued on.

// Undertake an Expedition

+2 (wits) => 4 vs 2,9. Weak hit.

+2 progress [6/10]

77, 70: Prominent Resource.

Like energy? Is this what powers the underground facility? 50/50: 13, yes!

The pull of whatever electrical source was nearby was strong, but – thankfully – I was pretty charged up already, and I was no longer (as) mentally shaken. I could let the tug of the electricity guide my way without hearing the taunting, sobbing, laughing.

I gestured for Watt to stop and masked my voice with our subtle hum. "Hang back." Movement ahead caught my eye. As Watt turned off the light and floated out of sight, I pulled out one of the flashlights from my new disguise and shined it ahead. A lone guard wearing a similar uniform as me squinted in my direction. I made sure to keep the light at an angle that they could only vaguely see me. I hoped the shadows would mask my features.

// Oracle

What is the name of the guard whose uniform he's wearing?
64: Curtis Winter.

And the other guard? 91: Vance Bond.

"Ey, Curt. Where's Vance?" the man said. I took a quick peek down at the nametag on the uniform – Curtis Winter.

"Takin a piss." It was out of my mouth before I could think. I had no idea what else to say. I hadn't heard the man speak amidst the grunting of getting his ass beat, so I had no idea what accent or dialect to apply to his voice. "Told him not to drink so damn much." I could only hope that they were not close friends.

// Face Danger

+2 (shadow): 3 vs 1, 10. Weak Hit.

-1 momentum [8]

This could have gone so much worse.

The guard simply shook his head. "Can't blame him. Been holding this in since breakfast." He gave a hearty laugh.

"I could stay here while you go, if you want. Just between us." I gave him a friendly nudge.

// Secure an Advantage

+1 (heart, trying to actually convince him) => 6 vs 2, 8. Weak hit.

+2 momentum [10]

"Oh fuck yes! I owe ya!" The guard rushed off into the distance.

I was going to need to be quick, then.

I followed the pull of electricity, the hum perceptible now as well. A large generator sat in an alcove. I could hear it working hard to power everything below – maybe even the city above, too. Perhaps there was a second one somewhere. With my Branding, however, I could feel the swirl of the power coursing through it. I could practically see through the walls, where each current of electricity was, their comings and goings.

I employed my favorite trick. It was a shame to ruin such a beautiful thing, but I had a job to do. I reached out a hand, placing it on the warm metallic surface. Electricity danced across my fingers for a moment, followed by a pulse of electricity strong enough to – hopefully – knock out the generator for some time.

// Secure an Advantage

+3 (iron) + 2 (Lightning) = +5 => 6 vs 3,5. Strong hit!

-1 Lightning [3]

+2 momentum [10, already at max]
+1 Forward

A snap and a loud thwum. I smirked. Tried and true method. I fixed up my disguise as best I could and killed the light, then beckoned for Watt to stay close behind.


// Undertake an Expedition

+2 (shadow) => 4 vs 2,9. Weak hit.

+2 Progress [8/10]

-2 momentum [8]

90, 50: Stolen Machine. Let’s adjust the values by 1 up and down, respectively. 91, 49: Strange Liquid.

In hindsight, both sets of words could describe this same thing.

The syringe on the floor caught my eye before the door did.

Watt dropped a singular latex glove in my hand and I used it to pick up the small piece of plastic and metal, looking it over in the dim lighting. The liquid inside made my blood run cold: it looked like the same stuff they injected the woman in my vision with. I stood, shoving the needle into a pocket of the disguise – hopefully I wouldn't accidentally poke myself with it later.

Before me, a large metallic door was set into a wall. It stretched at least a foot taller than me, a panel on the right-hand side still lit despite the outage. If they were smart, they'd have a backup generator giving low power to the critical systems inside and any off-limits areas.

I felt around Curtis Winter's uniform until I found a badge hidden within its chest pocket. I was worried that he didn't have the proper access to enter the building, but I was running out of time. The sooner this plan failed, the sooner I could come up with another one.

I swiped the badge over the panel.

// Finish an Expedition

8 progress vs ... 1, 2. Strong hit!

2 ticks, and I have more XP! I have a dramatic thing in mind, if the dice roll that way.

It clicked and something within the door shifted – I had picked the right name to wear. "Watt, stay back and keep watch for me, please." It whirrped and floated off to the side. I gripped the handle and threw the door open.

// Progress on Ira Vow

We made it inside the underground facility!

+2 Progress [4/10]

// Undertake an Expedition

This is a whole new Expedition now. This will be Formidable. Also, a Fortified (2-6) location with the occasional bit of Chaos (1).

+2 (shadow) => 7 vs 4, 9. Weak hit.

+1 Progress [1/10]

Array, 3: Fortified, 02: ... oh. Oh fuck. "Captives or prisoners." Well, that was quick!

-1 Stress [3]

Endure Stress

+3 => 5 vs 2, 8. Weak hit. Press on.

I held my head high, as if I belonged, and entered the facility. The place was blanketed in darkness, though red emergency lighting helped with some visibility. People moved all about, their forms barely black blobs in the darkness. Commanders shouted orders as papers were shredded and computers destroyed. The blackout had given me the cover I needed, but I seemed to have alerted them of an intrusion. The men and women dressed more like soldiers were carrying large–

Bodies. Motionless bodies.

I froze.

They were loading the Branded into a large ship.

They were getting ready to leave for Avam.


// Author's Note

As I've mentioned more than once before, I have played through the end of this season of ⚡️ THUNDERFANG, and as a result, I can pepper in hints and foreshadowing properly. While I've kept true to the spirit of what happened during my playthrough, I can flesh out certain things a bit more as a result.

That's all.

Value At End of Chapter Last Updated
Health 3/5 Chapter 18
Spirit 3/5 Chapter 19
Momentum 8/10 Chapter 19
Watt 4/4 Chapter 18
Supply 3/5 Chapter 19
Lightning 3/5 Chapter 19
Integrity 5/5 Chapter 7
⚡️ THUNDERFANG #20: A New Name To Wear, Pt. 2
The Hivebranded decide that now -- as Locke is rushing to free the other Branded -- is a perfect time for exposition and dire warnings.
The next chapter
⚡️ THUNDERFANG Dossier
Want to figure out what assets Locke has, the progress he’s made on his vows, and more game-/lore-related knowledge THUNDERFANG has? Check out this page!