⚡️ THUNDERFANG #20
The Hivebranded decide that now -- as Locke is rushing to free the other Branded -- is a perfect time for exposition and dire warnings.
A New Name To Wear, Pt. 2
Beneath the sewers in the Salvi Sigil, alarms blared. Everyone had to know there was an intruder by now. Darkness competed with the red emergency lighting as workers did their best to leave no trace of their wrongdoings. They packed up almost everything and destroyed the rest.
There was no time to waste.
Despite every urge that told me to jump in and save them all – every single helpless Branded being loaded onto that ship – I knew I needed to wait. There was no other option, really. I had to sabotage the transport and get out alive. It would be dumb to attack now. Suicide, even. There was no way I could face all of them alone. I wished Ira was here – randomly, I thought of John, too. Any help would be amazing.
I forced myself to believe that all of the motionless Branded were still alive. How many of them were locked away down here? How many had already been packed aboard that ship to hell?
I took a deep breath. I had to remain cool and calm; I was determined to make it back to Ira. Head down, letting the darkness mask my features, I trained my eyes forward as I searched for the perfect place to strike.
// Undertake an Expedition
+2 (wits; staying vigilante, looking for the perfect place to sabotage) => 6 vs 1, 7. Weak hit.
+1 Progress [2/10]
Array, 4: Fortified Feature, 47: Enemy forces on guard.
... Are they guarding a door, by any chance? Likely, 75-: 64, yes.
Like ... a guarded door. That had to hide something important, no?
It was a rather ordinary-looking door. It wasn't even labeled. That made me all the more suspicious. Head held high, I walked towards the door as if I belonged, chest puffed. Maybe Curtis was an important person and they would simply let–
"Off-limits right now."
I sighed loudly. "I told them you guys wouldn't let me in. Look," – I rubbed my temple with my right hand – "I have to get in there. My ass is on the line – and yours will be too if we don't make this quick. You really want me to have to get them here in the midst of all this?" I aggressively gestured with a thumb behind me. To who, I had no idea, but hopefully their minds would fill in the blank.
// Face Danger
+2 (shadow) =>
3 vs ... 5, 5. NOPE. That's what he gets for being so cocky, lol. Burning momentum! 8 vs 5, 5. Strong hit + match!
+1 momentum 
Gonna bank this match for the Explore.
The guards looked at each other unsure. "Well?" I said forcefully. "None of us have all night. We're leaving!"
They opened the door for me and stepped aside, and I pushed past them.
// Explore a Waypoint
+2 (wits) => 4 vs 6, 10. Miss. Yikes.
What's in this room, first of all? Descriptor + Focus, 7 76: Archaic Ship.
My first thought is... Karim's ship? Another thought is a derelict, or a generation ship – or maybe a chunk of one?
I think I want to use that Match previously to cancel out the PtP here. Sound good? Great.
My breath caught in my chest as I took in the sight: a large chunk of what appeared to be an old generation ship attached to reinforced steel ropes anchoring the ship in mid-air. Rust decorated it, though I could see signs that a small team of individuals had been working to make the ship appear newer than it actually was. They worked to extract what I could only imagine was black iron from its parts while restoring the specific piece to like-new quality. For what reason, I had no idea. I left without further investigation.
// Undertake an Expedition
+2 (wits) => 7 vs 3, 9. Weak hit.
+1 Progress [3/10]
Array, 2: Fortified Feature:.... 43. lol Enemy forces on guard, AGAIN!
I think I’m gonna roll a Peril, 86: Your plan is undone by an unexpected complication.
I'm going to say that the power has turned back on.
I rudely brushed past the guards as I exited empty-handed. Their confusion was none of my concern. I kept my head down as I passed by guard after guard after guard. There were so many rooms. I couldn't check them all.
The lights burst back on, and I heard sighs of relief from a few of the people rushing by. I held back my fear. I was bound to find someone who knew Curtis Winter now, and I was clearly not him.
I picked a room that had distracted guards out front and brushed past them, shutting the door behind me.
// Undertake an Expedition
+2 (shadow) => 3 vs 1, 9. Weak hit.
+1 Progress [4/10]. Super tired of all these weak hits, by the way.
Array, 3: Fortified Feature, 71: Enemy leader makes an inspection.
Okay, where are we? Descriptor + Focus, 80 11: Rare Blockage. I have no idea what that could mean, so I'm adjusting the 11 to 10, turning this into Rare Being.
THAT we can work with.
I took a moment to catch my breath. I doubted they all knew who I was supposed to be masquerading as, but things were already going so wrong that I didn't want to risk it. I couldn't risk it at this point. I looked around the room. It seemed to be–
An observation deck?
I hadn't seen it from this angle, but it was familiar. I was confident this was the room I had seen in my vision from the sewers.
I guess I wasn't making that up.
I stepped to the observation window. Someone was strapped to a bed below, though I was confident that it was not the woman I'd seen in my vision. I reached a hand out to touch the glass when the door to the room burst open. I spun around immediately, breath caught in my chest. A tall, imposing fellow, clearly frustrated and annoyed, had entered. Completely bald, mustache, light-brown skin. His uniform was decorated with various isignia. I was unsure what it all meant but I was sure he was extremely important.
"The hell are you doing in here" – the superior looked to my nametag – "Winter? Aint you supposed to be making the rounds in the sewer?"
"Af-after the lights went off, sir, I felt it was my duty to patrol the interior. I'm almost done with this section and will return to my post quickly. Vance is staying vigilant." I wasn't sure whether to salute or not, so I didn't. I did however completely straighten my posture and keep my hands to my side.
I just hoped he had no idea who Curtis Winter actually was. Taking this disguise was a horrible idea.
// Face Danger
+2 (shadow) => 5 vs ...
The superior stepped forward, closing the gap between us. He looked down at me – an easily accomplished task despite my own height – and exhaled through his nose.
"Fine. Make it snappy. Meet us out front. We leave for Avam in ten!"
// Face Danger Result
5 vs 2, 10. Weak hit. We'll deal with this!
-1 Stress 
+2 => 6 vs 1, 4. Strong hit!
+1 momentum 
Ten minutes? Shit. That wasn't enough time.
But it would have to be.
The superior marched out of the room and slammed the door shut behind him. I finally released the breath I was holding. I moved to exit the room, then stopped. I didn't know for sure, but that was a Hivebranded on the table below me, right? What if I was supposed to save them? I turned back to them. Their eyes were closed, and the room was empty. They were still breathing – a good sign – but I didn't know what was going on in their head.
// Explore a Waypoint
+2 (wits) => 5 vs...
Oh fuck me.
5 vs 10, 10.
This move hates me. However, I do love the experience and chance to worldbuild, sooo... THREE ASPECTS IT IS!
95, 89, 49:
- Vault of dread technology or power
- Technology warped for dark purposes
- Messenger or signal with a dire warning
Oh, I can completely work with all of these. And, as you may have guessed, the "tech" parts of these are not going to be actual tech.
I placed my hand on the glass.
Their eyes snapped open.
I stumbled back.
Darkness consumed me, just like before.
Churning and soaring.
And then ... light.
I found myself standing in an odd-looking circular room. Unlike before, this one seemed old. It was made with actual stone and wood, the walls and floor the color of clay. A vertical slit window near the ceiling let in some natural light, making the room feel warm. I spun around to get a better look.
People, chained to the walls. I counted nine of them. I stepped towards one of them, then remembered that – if this was yet another Hivebranded vision – I wouldn't be able to interact with them at all.
"What are you trying to show me now?" I muttered to myself.
The door to the room swung open. A person was dragged in and chained to the tenth spot on the wall, the newest prisoner not fighting back at all. One of the caretakers spat on the newest occupant, and they exited the room swiftly.
They looked up.
Directly at me.
"Oh, it's the Detective," he said.
The other nine stirred, and one of them burst into a chaotic fit of laughter. It sent chills up my spine.
"Welcome, Detective," a woman said. She raised her head, meeting my eyes – which were now wide with something akin to terror. Could they all see me? She stood, her ankles and wrists chained to the wall behind her. She shook her hair out of her face. She wasn't at all familiar. I wasn't sure if that was comforting or not.
The one laughing, a young boy, no older than twelve or thirteen, screamed – still laughing – and said, "MISS AND A MATCH. FIVE VERSUS TEN, TEN."
There it was again: miss and a match. "What the hell does that mean?"
"IT MEANS YOU FAILED, MISERABLY."
My eyes widened and I stepped back. "Can... can you hear me? Can you all hear me?"
"Yes, we can, Detective," the standing woman said. Her voice was calm and soothing, yet it did nothing to quell the worry and doubt I was feeling. "And despite what the child says, you may have failed but it has given us an opportunity. You're... friend will have more information on this, if you remember to ask him. While you are currently enthralled in confronting the chaos of your time, we need to prepare you for what is to come." She smiled.
"Detective, time is running out. We are either too late or too early. Sending you these messages comes with some uncertainty. However, the fact remains: we must reclaim Reichenbach."
"You know where Reichenbach is?" I started, amazed that I'd finally get that question answered after all this time.
She gestured to their surroundings. "This is Reichenbach, Detective," she said, doubt creeping into her voice. It was obvious to her, but a complete mystery to me.
"I don't think he knows where this is," the newcomer said, annoyance mixed with condescension. "I can feel his confusion."
2d10 total for hundreds of years: 6+6 = 12.
1200 years. Whoa.
The standing woman looked to the newcomer, then to myself, confused. She tilted her head to the side, as if listening to something. When she returned her gaze to me, she sighed, tears filling her eyes. "I see now. They changed the name. In 1200 years, the name Reichenbach will have been completely forgotten – I time this around your birth, Detective. This planet will be scorched and burned to the ground, the life wiped clean. It will become a gravesite for those like you and I. We are among the first of its prisoners..."
She lowered her head, and tried to turn around as much as possible. She tossed her hair aside.
"1B?" I looked at them all. "That's... impossible."
The others shifted, revealing a number no higher than 2 on them all. In fact, most of the ten were in the first intake.
"If you do not know what Reichenbach is, that means we must make sure our name does not die. We will pass the name along with others like us, and we will reclaim this land as ours. Detective..."
Above, I heard hissing. I looked up to see the room beginning to slowly fill with a thick, white mist.
The standing woman sat and seemed to brace herself. "Detective, the answers you seek are near... You are much closer than you could possibly imagine. I must warn you: do not come to Reichenbach immediately. We will find you again when it is time, but please prepare yourself. We are all depending on you. The names you wear – they are not simply by chance."
The mist consumed them. They coughed and spat, and their struggles slowly died down.
As the room grew dark – my stomach churning and lurching again – the woman's voice cut through: "We're all rooting for you."
The room was swallowed by the white mist, and then everything faded to black.
// Confront Chaos Result
- Vault of dread technology or power -> This group of 10 is something of a vault.
- Technology warped for dark purposes -> The Hivebranded has definitely been warped. I do need to flesh out the threat they pose, because it's a thread I've dangled before but never dived in to.
- Messenger or signal with a dire warning -> Can't get any more dire of a warning than what the woman said.
// Progress on Amari vow
So... the Hivebranded are like... really rooting for him. lol This also establishes a lot of lore, and some oddities that, instead of ignoring, I'm embracing. Everything here has a purpose.
I blinked, and the woman strapped to the bed's eyes slowly closed, the observation deck suddenly in view.
My breathing was heavy as I tried to wrap my head around everything they said. What did they mean by "they changed the name?" And the names I was wearing? And the one that was shouting – it reminded me so much of how Amari sounded as he died. In fact, it reminded me of Akim as well.
Fuck! I had to go. I was running out of time and the Hivebranded decided now was the time for exposition!
// Undertake an Expedition
+1 (edge; we gotta rush) => 7 vs 3,5. Strong hit!
+1 Progress [5/10]
Array, 1: Chaotic Feature...
I rushed out of the room and ran down the hall, focusing on the task at hand. I could not think about the Hivebranded invading my mind. I already had a mission ahead of me that I–
I was no longer in the hallway.
"Not. AGAIN!" I shouted.
I found myself back on the derelict – the place that started all of this. Akim stood and pushed his guards away. "Go, find him! I'm fine," he spat.
It looked just as I had left it. Akim was badly beaten by yours truly, and his suit was still leaking fluid. Once Akim was alone, he straightened his posture as best he could, the crazed look still on his face, and he gestured violently, summoning three video screens before him.
I need three names.
05: Althea Lontoc
10: Ash Hendrix
Oh. OH. I had debated on this being a thing, but decided to roll anyway. Note that some things before this were fleshed out to include this little detail...
Like the title of these last two chapters.
Two women appeared – one in flashy clothing, the other very angry, clearly annoyed by this call. "Just because you're a Salvi doesn't mean you can call me at all hours," the angry one said.
"Ms. Hendrix, please," Akim said in his stereotypical villainous "happy" voice.
"I told you not to call me Ashley, Althea."
"Ms. Lontoc, Ms. Hendrix. We need to move up the meeting. I just recently had a disturbing encounter. It seems as if we will be facing some opposition in our quest to rid this universe of the offspring of Malice."
"That works for me," Althea said sweetly. "Not sure about the other two."
Hendrix glared through the feed, and said, "Speaking of, where is he? Always missing."
As if on cue, the third video feed filled with the form of a man getting himself into focus properly.
"It's about time," Akim said. "So glad you could join us, Mr. Winter."
My jaw dropped. I gripped the shirt I was wearing and pulled the name tag into view.
"My bad," said Curtis – the man I had KNOCKED OUT IN THE SEWERS! – gruffly. "Had to sneak away from my post for a second."
The world slipped again and I found myself back in the hallway of the underground facility.
Wearing the uniform of one of the Benevolent.
Fuck fuck FUCK.
// Undertake an Expedition Result
Chaotic Feature, 92: Visions of your past or future.
I guess, technically, both?
And, of course, the last name I rolled was 64: Curtis Winter.
I fucking SCREAMED when that happened, by the way.
// Progress on the Benevolent Vow
I decided to go ahead and open this up for him, especially since that Chaotic feature felt so on brand. lol
// Fulfill Your Vow
We've maxed out progress on the Benevolent vow! Time to roll.
10 vs 10, 3, 9. STRONG HIT! We've got all the info we need to make our next move against the Benevolent on our own terms.
I shook my head, more annoyed now than anything. "If you're going to keep showing me things, claiming you're helping, how about actually helping me stop them from getting to Avam?!" I was lucky the hallway was practically empty now.
+1 (heart) => 6 vs... 2, 4. Strong hit!
+1 momentum 
I will say, I didn't exactly expect that to work.
A door creaked open.
// Undertake an Expedition
+2 (wits) => 5 vs... 9, 10. Miss.
Pay the Price, 51: A friend, companion, or ally is in harm's way (or you, if alone).
I know exactly what to do.
I rushed to the door. I shoved it open further and–
A razor-sharp icicle breezed past, embedding itself in the doorframe.
Please... don't let this be who I think it is.
I turned around and sighed the heaviest sigh, filled with all of the annoyance and frustration I could muster.
Fully clothed, in what I could only assume to be his Mimic gear, stood an extremely pissed Curtis Winter. His left hand was open, another icicle shard forming in his palm.
"You don't have what it takes to wear my name."
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