⚡️ THUNDERFANG #5

As Locke struggles with keeping his delve into the derelict quiet, he also battles with suppressing the noises within.

⚡️ THUNDERFANG #5
Chapter 5: Not Quiet Enough
⚡️ THUNDERFANG #4: The Two Birds Scenario
Denied an audience with Akim Salvi, Locke decides to get his hands dirty once more.
The previous chapter
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Trigger warning: thoughts and actions pertaining to substance abuse

Not Quiet Enough

Chapter 5

// Undertake an Expedition, +2

+2 (wits) => 4 vs 3,7. Weak hit.

Progress +3 [3/10]

Let's get a derelict description.

Condition, 26: limited power. This coincides with the oracle answer we got last session related to the lights.

Inner first look, 87: thick haze or smoke. Something probably burning...

Starship derelict, 38: Living.
Area, 79: Sleeping pods.
Feature, 37: Half-eaten food.

I think the peril here is the power. Even with the smoky haze, it'll be hard to sneak around without dealing with that first. Otherwise, we'll have to move around quickly (one of Locke's worst stats).

I stepped through the airlock. Various sensors told me the derelict was pressurized and had oxygen pumping through it, as well as standard gravity levels.

I decided to keep my suit on for several reasons.

I wouldn't have to mask my identity any more than I already was. My visor was tinted and my face wouldn't be visible unless I wanted it to be. For my safety, discretion was a must. And, lucky for me, Watt's model was a popular one so it would not be odd for individuals to have it. I considered benching him after this case, just for a few days, though.

Also, the air and gravity, while decent, weren't something I wanted to depend on. The lights flickered sporadically. It seemed to be running low on power as if it were minutes away from depletion.

I didn't trust it.

The smoky haze didn't help. I couldn't help but think Akim Salvi was lighting something – someone – on fire. I chose not to dive into the details of the smell as I checked to make sure my staves were attached to my belt. Once they were secured, I continued on.

I still needed to decide how I was going to handle Akim. He was royalty. Killing him would be suicide.

Yet leaving him alive after questioning him about Karot DeWolf's death would yield the same outcome, with a free cremation thrown in.

At least no one would have to bury me.

Ahead, an electrical hum tugged at my soul. It was loud, a cacophony of repressed inhibitions screaming to be heard. I had been adept at quieting the urges before, but now...

Don't you feel it? It's overwhelming. Embrace it.

I became ravenous.

I forced electricity to jump between my suit-covered fingers. My internal battery was running low – the source of my sudden hunger – and I felt as if the ship was practically begging for me to consume its energy. Why else would it be floating about space aimlessly? It wanted someone to notice it, to delve its depths, to feed on what it contained.

Oh, and the ship being well lit did nothing for my plans of being stealthy. If I wanted to remain unseen, I'd have to deal with the lights. Right?

... Two birds.

Sleeping pods lined the walls. I tried to focus on the ripped-open ration pack off to my left. The overall branding was familiar, but the logo was not. I assumed it was a pre-Exodus company that did not survive the trip to the Forge. That made this derelict really old. At least as old as—

I could feel the hum in my bones. It was rising to a crescendo and I could no longer hold myself back.

I double-checked my surroundings and stepped to the center of the room, the sleeping pods surrounding me. I wasn't sure how much I could take – there would be backup generators here, for sure – but I needed to satiate my hunger before shutting everything down.

I stretched out my arms. My breath slowed, and I consumed the power around me.

// Lightningbranded, +5

+5 (spirit) => 11(10) vs 4,5. Strong hit!

+3 lightning [5]

The lights on the ship spasmed. The hum within the ship sputtered as if caught off guard by my assault.

Electricity coursed through my veins and crackled along the suit. Its sensors alerted me to the high voltage, but this suit was made for me. It knew I could handle it.

I. Felt. Amazing.

I closed my eyes and bit my bottom lip, almost drawing blood. My heart was racing and I had to will my body to relax. I wanted to savor the moment.

Damn my purpose and the dangers ahead to hell.

I felt as if I had just taken a shot of something banned in every sector. Just had a taste of something I had gone years without when in actuality it had been only a few weeks. I had used up so much lightning in this case. I was allowed to indulge a little.

Right?

When I opened my eyes, I realized the ship still had plenty of power, and (part of) my high was ruined.

I needed to focus.

I found a mess of wires off to the corner and knew I would need to cause a power surge. It worked in Portent, so I hoped another would yield similar results.

I gripped the wires and thrust out a surge of electrical energy from my hands.

// Secure an Advantage, +5

+3 (Iron) + 2 (Lightning) = +5 => 10 vs 2,4. Strong hit!

-1 Lightning [4]

+2 Momentum [9]

+1 Forward

Thwum.

Darkness. And then deep red emergency lighting.

My only hope was that Akim and the other agents rationalized the blackout as the ship's generators having run their course.

I tapped a button on the side of my helmet and activated its night-vision mode. I crouched low to the ground and stayed to the shadows.

// Undertake an Expedition, +3

+2 (Shadow) + 1 Forward = +3 => 5 vs 4,7. Weak hit.

Progress +3 [6/10]

Starship derelict, 100: Research.
Area, 7: Clean room.

Going to forego the peril. He's taking his time, but something is stressing him out.

-1 momentum [8]

-1 Spirit [4]. And I forgot to Endure Stress, so when I remembered like 2-3 moves later, I just said never mind. -shrug-

Against my better judgment, I followed the smoke. It did not matter whether it was caused by Akim directly or his crew was battling a blaze onboard. I was already here, and I needed to see this through.

I took my time. I knew more SPD agents awaited me within. They were not the pushovers that the Peacekeepers were and they would be a formidable challenge if more than one engaged me at once.

I passed by a seemingly uninteresting room, intending to continue on, but a particular smell made me double back.

Paint thinner.

The room was completely clean from what I could see, almost unnaturally so. As if in its generations of aimlessly floating – and before – not a single person stepped foot in the room. It made me feel uneasy, amplified by the smell of paint thinner, the indecision of how I would handle speaking with Akim Salvi, and the fact that I was completely alone.

I hoped that Watt was safe.

The high from my recharge was fading. I swallowed the unease, no matter how difficult it was to stomach.

I craved more electricity; it typically settled my nerves, if I didn't let it overtake me.

I had a second reason for coming aboard the derelict – my second bird I'd hope to hit with this expedition-shaped stone.

If this room had never been explored, then there was a chance for me to find some black iron. I had a massive debt to pay off, and black iron would take a sizeable chunk off of it.  

A cursory scan told me it wouldn't take too long to search the space.


// Explore a Waypoint, +2

+2 (wits) => 3 vs 8,9. Miss.

Just my luck, smh. And I can't even burn momentum for this.

Twenty minutes later, I realized I had wasted my time. I had searched the space twice just to be sure. Nothing.

Maybe every other guest of this derelict knew something I hadn't.

I huffed and cursed quietly to myself.

Not quiet enough.

"Slater, that you?"

I turned to face the entryway into the now unkempt room and froze. Standing there was an agent wearing an SPD environment suit, her helmet retracted to reveal her face. She had short hair and a few scars, and her rifle provided her with ample illumination of the space.

I needed to make this quick.

// Battle, +3

+3 (iron) => 7 vs 2,10. Weak hit.

Kinda proud of this move, actually. It's my first Battle ever.

For PtP, I'm going to say that this "exchange" wasn't exactly quiet. Akim is probably going to be on alert.

I closed the gap between us, grasped her rifle, and tossed it aside. Not before she fired off a few shots into the ground in the process, to my dismay.

I decided at that moment I didn't want to use my lightning. It crossed my mind – hell, I had just recharged. But I didn't want to tip too many of them off that a Branded was in their midst. Sure, I had the suit designed to make it appear as if I was a Mimic, but I didn't even want that floating around.

That was the lie I told myself, anyway. I knew recharging felt too good. I could get lost in that feeling if I let it. I didn't want to let it consume me, at least not here.

The SPD agent gasped. The next moment, she was on the floor, swept off her feet by my leg. I delivered a final blow to knock her out and stood, listening to the silence following our exchange.

There was no longer silence.

I could hear murmurs. Instead of cursing to myself and attracting more attention, I rolled my eyes. We'd been too loud.

I had to believe that Akim was readying himself for an unexpected arrival. I kept to the shadows.


// Undertake an Expedition, +2

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

Progress +3 [9/10]

New area, 58: Lab. I like this.
Feature, 22: bones or fossils. 

Weird but okay.

// Finish an Expedition, 9

9 progress => 9 vs 4,10. Weak hit.

So, I get nothing from this expedition. No black iron, no experience, NOTHING. This is truly a thankless job.

I continued to follow the smoke and scent of something burning until both were overwhelming.

And then I heard him.

"Yes, ma'am. The Benevolent are happy to have you."

The Salvi genes were strong; it had to be him.

His helmet was retracted like the other agents in the room – I counted two, meaning there were one or two agents unaccounted for in the derelict. I needed to be careful.

In the center of the room, a fire burned. It lit the space, highlighting the positions of Akim and the agents, casting shadows wherever its light did not touch.

The fire moved.

There was a—

... Was someone on fire?


⚡️ THUNDERFANG #6: The Sign of Four
Locke comes face to face with Akim Salvi. Tensions flare as he tries to get the proof he needs to clear Roger Usagi’s name. But as one case comes to a close, a bigger mystery is revealed...
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!
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