⚡️ THUNDERFANG #7
Locke crash lands back on Saffron, and nothing goes the way he expects them to. For once, that's a good thing.
// Withstand Damage, -3
-3 Integrity 
+2 => 8 vs 2,8. Weak hit.
I'll trade -1 momentum  for +1 Integrity .
// Endure Harm, -2
+3 (iron, it's higher than my Health of 2) => 7 vs 1,8. Weak hit.
Just going to press on.
I rolled on the Starship history table and got 87: "Taken while fleeing an attack or disaster."
I can totally work with this.
The Scarlet Adler rattled and shook. Alarms screeched.
Watt was still attached to the control panel. Its display flashed a bright yellow warning sign: "⚠️." When it saw me looking, it flashed a thumbs-up emoji followed by a smiling emoji with a sweatdrop. As it intended, I smirked amidst the chaos. It was comforting to know my partner was still in this with me.
The Scarlet Adler had seen its fair share of warfare. It was there that day on Avam when we escaped. One of Karim's allies had flown it in for the mission. I never met them – they died during the escape – and Karim entrusted me to ferry the captives away. I had no idea why he chose me.
The planet was surrounded by balefire. The Salvi Clan had planned for this exact scenario when they chose Avam to be our prison. It was the only thing standing between us and freedom. One of the ships didn't make it. But the Scarlet Adler managed to get safely through the space storms and onto a large ship waiting for us in orbit. It was practically a small settlement that housed at least five transport ships. We were all in awe. Karim had pulled out every resource he could.
"She's yours," he'd said. "Not sure what he called her, so maybe it's time for her to get a new life, too."
I named her after the only two things in life that had ever brought me any semblance of joy. Scarlet for Karim and the burning glow of his fire. For me, it meant freedom. It meant hope and perseverance and defiance, and I knew that not every royal was a piece of shit. Some put their lives on the line for us.
I thought of these two men as the Scarlet Adler nosedived towards the surface of Saffron. It was heating up, much more than I was comfortable with, and things were looking very, very bad.
If these were my last moments, I wanted to be happy. I wanted to think of him...
. . .
Watt screeched, the alarm so loud it pulled me from my place of contempt. It refused to let me die in peace – or pieces. I would not be allowed to accept this as my fate. I put that emotion in a mental box and set it aside. I could deal with it later. If we survived.
For now, I needed to focus.
Portent was way off. There was no way I could land there safely and without causing a ton of damage to myself and everything else around me. And Saffron was a desert planet. If I landed somewhere too far off, I could die of starvation and dehydration on my way back to civilization.
Did I mention Saffron had a corrosive atmosphere? I would be literally eaten alive by the planet itself if I didn't land close enough to a settlement.
This meant my only other option was Sirius, the only other settlement on the planet. It was a small SPD training facility. With a little maneuvering, I could at least make my way there. It wasn't where I wanted to go, but I didn't have much of a choice.
"Watt! To Sirius!" It beeped in confirmation and I grabbed the controls.
// Face Danger, +2
+2 (wits) => 7 vs 2,6. Strong hit.
+1 momentum 
In all honestly, I could've probably used Watt for this, too. But we succeeded regardless, so whatever.
I awoke with a start.
The praying hands emoji displayed on Watt's screen was a welcome sight. It retracted its cables from my arms. I was unsure of how long it had been trying to shake me awake. A quick look around showed that we hadn't suffered much more damage than we already had from the explosion.
We had survived.
I felt for my essentials – black iron coin, staves, and a few other personal objects – and moved from my seat. The repairs to the Scarlet Adler would be extensive, but – once again – she'd made sure I survived. I would happily return the favor.
I put up my suit's visor and checked my vitals. It still functioned – another win. I was feeling a bit bruised, but nothing I couldn't deal with. My adrenaline was probably keeping me moving. My suit told me the cabin was still pressurized, meaning that none of Saffron's air was seeping in. I'd heard horror stories of people getting caught outside of Portent's protective bubble and... they were not pretty.
I made my way to the airlock, determined to make it to Sirius before Saffron ate my suit. I cursed to myself: I realized I was still wearing my Mimic suit. I immediately changed, hiding it in its designated hiding spot and switching to something a bit more standard. If I was expecting any help from an SPD base, I wanted as few questions as possible.
Once I stepped foot on Saffron, I looked up to the sky. The remnants of the explosion were still visible. I would need to come up with a believable lie by the time I got to Sirius, or all of this would have been for nothing. I motioned for Watt to follow along.
Let's do some Sirius rolls!
Initial contact, 19: Welcoming
First look, 68: Rustic architecture
Projects, 34, 95: exploration, warfare. It was at this point that I asked myself, "Is this like... a military base?" Then I actually asked the oracle. It's Likely, so 75-: 47, yes.
Settlement trouble, 22: Deprived of a resource. That's actually right on brand. We're going to interpret "resource" a bit differently, though.
The trek was relatively short. I had picked an amazing spot to crash land apparently. As Sirius grew closer, I took in its "rustic" architecture – and lack of creativity. For the amount of funding they got, the place didn't look spectacular. Slabs of gray and brown stones tossed into vague shapes resembling a structure. The occasional metal tubing or railing added a hint of this era but it was otherwise unimpressive. It was withstanding Saffron's air, so I couldn't particularly argue with the results. And I supposed if these stations were dotted around the various planets in the Salvi Pass, the more basic the better.
A watchtower before me contained two armed SPD agents. They looked rather bored. How often did Sirius get contact with others? Was it common for them to need guards stationed out front? No matter. As I approached, I switched my visor's transparency to show my face and raised my hands in surrender, hoping and praying they would not fire – I was wearing a white environment suit now, that had to count for something, right? Watt waved a white flag emoji back and forth.
The men, clad in official SPD environment suits, dashed out of the tower, rifles in hand. I slowed to a stop and code switched to a more friendly octave. "Excuse me, I was hoping—"
They dropped the rifles, letting them hang to their side. They rushed to me and – to my complete and utter surprise – helped me stand.
"We saw your ship crash. Are you alone? Do we need to send rescue?"
Definitely not Peacekeepers.
// Sojourn, +1
+1 (Heart) => 7 vs 4,4. Strong hit + match!
+3 Health 
5 Repair Points, which turns into +5 Integrity 
This... actually took me by shock COMPLETELY. I had an entire plotline planned out for a weak hit and especially the miss. But I get a strong hit and a match?!
Just know, I never divert from my plan. I just shift how we get there. That match means that something will still happen, its just a favorable experience to get there.
I had told them I was heading off-planet to go home to New Bohemia for a spell and was caught up in the "totally random derelict explosion. O.M.G.!"
I stripped down to nothing in one of the medical rooms. The occasional purple bruise discolored portions of my dark skin. I ran a hand across my chest and down my abs; very little pain. Nothing that painkillers couldn't handle. I was lucky that the damages weren't more extensive.
I smiled into a mirror – my gap was still there. I blew myself a kiss.
Except for the brand.
A permanent reminder of my past, sitting smack dab in the middle of my upper back. Those fuckers on Avam sure had a sense of humor – branding the Branded. I would have "accepted" if that got damaged in the crash, if I'd been run into the ground and skidded over that stretch of skin. At least then I'd have an excuse to tell people why I never took my shirt off around them. It was hard to receive care... or be intimate with anyone. I shoved the increasingly overwhelming, consuming loneliness in another box and suppressed it deep in the recesses of my mind.
No time for that now.
All in all, I survived a fight with a royal Infernomimic aboard a derelict that suddenly exploded and forced me to crash land back to the surface with very little injury. I was quite lucky. I decided I could get by with a few pain meds and I could skip their offer of a full-body scan. I told them Watt had already checked my internals and all was fine. It was a lie.
They gave me the resources and assistance I needed to get the Scarlet Adler patched up, too. All within 24 hours. Say what you want about the Salvis, but there was definitely some good within the SPD.
That made the guilt that much more poignant.
As they helped me, I kept hearing them talk about their co-workers, colleagues, friends and family who had been sent to the derelict with Akim Salvi. "The entire crew... And the last Salvi. His father must be sick." None of them would be alive right now. Maybe the kid, but I had no clue how he would have survived that. I tried to block out the conversations, but it was impossible. It didn't help that they showed the pictures of the five agents and Akim for a moment of silence.
The kid's name was Ripley Slater, age 21.
He'd looked like me in so many ways. Same dark skin, same curly hair, same ears, same nose, same mouth. He could have been my little brother.
And now he was dead.
The walk back to the Scarlet Adler was slow. A storm had begun brewing. I don't think I directly caused the explosion, but... Maybe if I didn't fight Akim they'd all still be alive.
Once I was back inside, I found a dark corner and let myself feel.
As we traversed through the designated eye, I did my best to not look at whatever remained of the derelict. I shoved the feelings in the same box and back in the same corner.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The sensors said the storm would be upon us soon. I needed to hurry. I let my life back at Baker's consume my thoughts as I switched the Scarlet Adler to autopilot. Hudson's request seemed more enticing to me now. I always planned to do it, but I was sincerely looking forward to it now. For my own benefit. I needed something cut and dry, something that didn't involve a conspiracy spanning the entire sector and beyond. Something that didn't involve me being responsible for all of the Branded. I needed a new life, too, just like the Scarlet Adler did when the reigns were handed over to me. The weight of it all dawned on me; I instantly blamed the storm. I needed to escape it all.
I checked my sensors and my heart skipped a few beats.
An SPD escape pod.
Before I could properly assess my thoughts, I had landed within proximity of it. By the time I realized I had connected our airlocks, I had already stepped inside, eyes trained on whoever needed help, suppressing the box to stay closed in the corner of my mind but hoping and praying that one of them had lived. Time didn't return to normal until I hooked the body I found up to life support back on the Scarlet Adler.
I couldn't believe it.
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