Chapter 21: The Season Finale
Fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck.
Time stood still.
I couldn't believe my "luck" – was I still trying to call this series of events that? There was always something unbelievable around every corner. A simple case of being framed for murder had turned into a conspiracy spanning stars-knows-where involving a group of Branded-hated individuals known simply as the Benevolent. Then, when I decided to travel here, I get wrapped up in a murder mystery and the suspect I was flirting with turned out to be the murderer AND he starts bleeding all over and dies moments after agreeing to help me while babbling.
I knew the names and faces of the remaining three Benevolent, though the one standing directly in front of me was the only one on my mind right now. My only hope was that Curtis Winter – the man I had assaulted in the sewers right outside the underground facility; the man whose uniform and nametag I'd been masquerading in; the man currently throwing razor-sharp ice shards – would not be able to recall my face in the future. I wouldn't be surprised if he did, though. That's how things had been lining up for me lately.
I couldn't possibly let him live, right? The thought made me cringe. I wasn't the monster the Benevolent and those like them claimed I was. I just wanted to help and be free. I just wanted to make up for all the bad things I felt responsible for. I just wanted to love!
And now Curtis Winter knew my face.
I couldn't just kill him. Not purposefully, anyway. I wasn't wishing death on him, but if my luck decided to continue to run its course the way it had been previously, I wouldn't complain too much.
Ultimately, I wasn't going to kill him, meaning I only had one real option.
// Face Danger
+1 (edge; gtFo) => 5 vs 3,4. Strong hit!
+1 momentum 
Zero shame. Besides, I still needed to free the Branded somehow, or at least delay the trip long enough for Legacy to help out. Fighting Curtis would only delay me. Only if I absolutely had to would I engage him, and only if my life depended on it would I let him know that I was Branded.
I didn't consider myself a nimble guy, but the way I flew down the hallway and sharply turned a corner made me question that. Curtis shouted obscenities in my wake. I could hear his feet pound the ground as he gave chase soon after. I turned at another intersection and flung myself into a nearby utility closet. I shut the door as quietly as possible and held my breath.
// Secure an Advantage
+2 (shadow; hiding... in a closet lol) => 4 vs 2, 10. Weak hit.
+2 momentum 
Nothing. I didn't hear Curtis pass – though I couldn't hear much over the alarms, anyway. I had to assume he wasn't just standing in the hallway waiting for me, either. Regardless, I couldn't wait. I opened the door and checked my surroundings. I exhaled slowly. The coast was clear.
I knew I had to get back to the room that had "magically" presented itself to me – well, the room one of the Hivebranded showed me. I wasn't going to question or deny it anymore. The room had popped open right after I asked for help. I didn't want to put so much faith in such a happenstance occurrence, but my time was already short.
// Undertake an Expedition
+1 (edge; QUICKLY!) => 7 vs 4, 5. Strong hit!
+1 Progress [6/10]
I ran back the way I came. The walls were glossy white interspersed with metal. Non-descript doors and plaques and windows – a maze to an intruder. Each detail looked the same as the last, making it difficult to find my way.
Somehow, I managed – in good time, too.
I checked down the hall: a dozen or so people moving about, unaware that I was the reason the alarms were blaring. And there was no sign of Curtis Winter anywhere. I stood in front of the room, the door still slightly ajar. The shard of ice remained embedded in the door, a puddle of water forming on the floor below.
The door had opened for a reason, right? I wasn't making that up. I hadn't just ruined my entire mission coming back here on false hope...
I took a deep breath and threw the door open.
// Finish an Expedition
6 progress vs... 3, 8. Weak hit!
This was Formidable, so a Weak Hit gives me 2 ticks.
I think the complication comes from trying to figure out what the fuck he has to do in this room.
// Progress on Ira Vow
We've found the place we need to strike. Now, we just gotta actually go through with the plan.
What's in this room? Descriptor+Focus: Immersed Transport.
A... submarine? Similar to the hanger with the chunk of derelict, a large submarine floated before me, held aloft by almost a dozen cables and supported by a few platforms on wheels. It looked like it could hold at least five times the number of people that the Scarlet Adler could, with room for a few vehicles as well.
Why... why the hell would they show me this? New Bohemia was a desert planet. I'd never seen a river or lake big enough to fit something this massive. I stepped into the room and closed the door behind me, shattering the ice shard in the process; hopefully, Curtis wouldn't loop back around.
The hanger was empty of workers. From the look of things, it was all set to go. It could be wheeled out and loaded onto another vessel for transport at any moment. I wanted to marvel at it, ponder the implications of its existence, but I had to focus. The hatch was open. I climbed up the side and dropped inside.
The question continued to nag at me: why did they need a submarine? Were there even any bodies of water large enough within the sector? I tried to recall whether I'd seen any bodies of water on Avam and drew a blank. There had to be one somewhere.
"T-MINUS ONE MINUTE UNTIL TAKEOFF," the muffled voice of an A.I. said awkwardly cutting through the alarm over the facility's speaker system. I cursed loudly. No time to think about it. Any secrets hiding within the submarine would have to wait, much to my dismay.
The Hivebranded had been showing me countless things in the hopes that I would act in their favor. They were "rooting for me." But what exactly was the end goal here? Showing me a submarine of all things? It was as big as a passenger ship. Maybe they'd use it for plucking black iron from an ocean floor. It wasn't as if I could ram it into the wall or short circuit it or –
Tried and true.
I rushed towards the cockpit. An idea sparked – pun intended – and I had no time to think of the pitfalls. I couldn't think of how it could all go wrong. If I planned it out any further – if history was any indicator – the mishaps would occur.
So, I didn't think. I acted.
I thrust both hands onto the controls of the ship and summoned forth every bit of electrical current within me that I could muster. I'd never done something like this before: intentionally turning something on with the hopes that I could manipulate it in some way. I'd always tried to shut something down. Was it possible–
No. No questions. No thinking.
// Face Danger
+3 (iron) + 2 (Lightning) = +5 => . . .
Lightning poured from every cell within my body. I pushed it all into the submarine. I howled loudly. The hairs on my body stood. The lights flickered on, and the submarine began to hum. A gauge cracked, and the ship suddenly warned me of something irrelevant.
I pressed every button on the control panel, flipped every switch, pulled every lever. I just needed something to happen. I wasn't going to be picky. Anything that would distract them–
// Face Danger Result
+5 => 10 vs 1, 6. Strong hit!
-1 Lightning 
+1 momentum 
// Progress on Ira vow
YAY! I debated on not using the submarine oracle but liked the oddness of it. Like... what? lol
I think that also raises a question I might need an answer for: what exactly did they have a submarine for?
No time to answer that!
I pulled my hands back, my breathing suddenly ragged. I was getting low on electricity again, but the "not-plan" working out so perfectly had me on a bit of a success high. I couldn't believe that–
"MISSILES FIRING IN FIVE, FOUR–"
No time to admire my handiwork. I clambered back up through the hatch as fast as I could.
// Face Danger
+1 (edge; TIME TO GO!) => 7 vs 2, 3. Strong hit!
+1 momentum 
I did not stop. I flew out of the hanger as I heard the submarine shift. A BOOM rocked the facility as the missiles fired.
// Fulfill Ira Vow
8 progress vs...
I took cover in the hallway as the alarms cut out in that area and screams took their place. The blast rocked the building, dust and other particles falling to the floor all around me. I stopped for only a moment, then continued down the hall. I found myself back where the Branded were being boarded, near the entrance. The explosion had torn through the walls, a chunk of debris hitting the ship causing it to tilt sideways. Smoke poured out of it. People rushed to help anyone injured.
I smiled. It wouldn't be flying anywhere anytime soon.
Good job, Locke. And thank you, Hivebranded.
Chaos ensued, but I didn't stick around. As long as the Branded stayed on New Bohemia, we could save them later.
The sewers went by in a blur. I climbed back up to the surface, Watt floating behind me.
Houses secretly aligned with Legacy had left clothes "discarded" outside according to Ira. I snatched up a few and tossed them over the Shadow gear, then did my best to blend in with anyone still out. I made my way back to Port Wreck and headed for the rendezvous point. I hadn't realized how late it had gotten. The moon was still high, though it had begun to make its descent back to the horizon. I took this opportunity to breathe and take in the night air.
I'd done it. I'd actually helped for once, and there was no major conspiracy waiting at the other–
On second thought, I was just happy that we had delayed them from shipping the Branded off to Avam. I would have to worry about what the Hivebranded kept showing me later. And the random submarine. Also, there was the fact that I knew who the remaining three members of the Benevolent were now – and I was still wearing one of their outfits beneath my new disguise! He'd been nothing like Akim: different status quos, demeanors, tech. How had they ever gotten aligned together? The two women I'd seen also seemed vastly different. One reminded me so much of Talia Vega.
At least with names, I could begin to figure out how to tackle that problem. For now, though, I just wanted to hug Ira and make sure he was okay.
I sat at the rendevous point for perhaps ten minutes before seeing him. He smiled instantly – I did, too. I ran and embraced him and kissed him deeply.
"Are you okay?" we both said in sync, only causing giggles of excitement to bubble up and out.
I nodded and said, "Yeah. Just, you know, caused a massive explosion in the underground facility to stop them from going to Avam, then got attacked by a Cryomimic who shot ice daggers at me. No big deal."
Ira raised a brow. "Whoa. Sorry I wasn't there with you. But, good work. Legacy already sent backup, too. They should be here any moment now. I think they can handle the rest." He paused, eyes locked on mine. "Thank you. I really appreciate everything you did for me."
I attempted to play it cool. "It wasn't for you. It was for the greater good!" I said dramatically. Ira playfully punched me in the arm.
As we neared Wreck Solar Farm, we spotted a ship in the distance. It was parked just outside Ira's home. "That must be them," he said.
"They sure did get here fast," I said. Something about the ship pulled me in. It looked familiar, though it was barely a spec at the distance we were at.
"One of their members was already on the way, apparently."
I looked from the ship to Ira, then back. "Do you know them?" Something seemed off. We were getting closer and closer and I couldn't shake the odd feeling that had overcome me.
"Don't think so. Why?"
"Lately, every time I think I'm done with a case, there's always a conspiracy behind it. Something unexpected always happens. Usually the death of a foe, or a–"
I suddenly knew why the ship looked so familiar.
Ira kept glancing in my direction as we approached. We stopped about fifty feet from the ship. There was a man out front, talking to someone over a com.
I knew that voice.
"What's wrong?" Ira said to me. He flagged the man down after we stepped out of the vehicle and began approaching.
The man looked at us and smirked. "How did I know it was you?"
I could barely think straight. All of my thoughts and emotions were incoherent.
Was this luck? Was it my reward for a job well done?
"Locke, do you know him?" Ira asked.
"Yeah. That's the one I told you about..." I said, still in awe. Watt beeped and whirred and floated over to the man.
John Morstan. Ripley Slater. NEVERMORE.
"Watt! I missed you buddy!" John hugged Watt, then threw smiles in our direction. "I pulled in a favor for you, too," he said, pointing a thumb behind him to the ship.
My jaw dropped. He had somehow managed to get it here. It felt like I hadn't seen it in years. "Did you regret leaving behind the Scarlet Adler like I said you would?" John said with a smirk.
Ira's eyes went wide, then shifted to a squinting and questioning gaze. "... Did you name your ship after me?"
John's eyes grew wide now. "Wait, you're the one he's madly in love with?!"
My face flushed despite my dark skin.
// Fulfill Ira Vow Result
8 vs 1, 6. Strong hit!
This was Dangerous, so a Strong Hit gives me 2 more ticks!
// Develop Relationship With Ira
End of Season 1
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Season 2 has begun...
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