Season 2, Chapter 24
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Our hotel was built directly into Deepland. I counted about a dozen or so rooms that more-than-likely served an entirely different purpose back when it was a proper generation ship. Now, from the looks of those coming and going, the rooms housed those who were getting ready to set off on a journey or those who had just come back and didn't want to make the trip deeper into the Ironlands.
The rooms' sparse furnishings were just comfortable enough for the typical clientele to get some sleep. A moderately comfortable bed, nightstand, useable bathroom, and not much else. It would do for us, as well.
The people who ran the establishment were surprised to see so many non-Ironlanders stay. I never got the impression from Ira that many foreigners traveled here, so seeing seven of us had to be startling.
The room assignments went as followed: Blackstone and Yelena, Kaisa and Jane, Fletcher and John, and Ira and I. They were hesitant to rent out most of their rooms. We wouldn't be staying long, I assured them.
I told the others that we'd meet up in a few hours. Ira had had a long journey—just like we had—and he'd need some time to rest.
+2 (heart+Ira) => 5 vs... 7, 8. Nope. Gonna burn that 10 momentum.
10 vs 7, 8. Strong hit.
+2 Spirit 
We didn't do much resting.
It took Jane phasing through our room door for us to meet up with the crew later that night. She wasn't as embarrassed as John was—which was probably why he had her do it.
"Told you," John said triumphantly as Jane passed him by.
"I see that instead of teaching him to knock, you taught him to get other people to barge in instead." Ira winked.
If only there was a way to stop her phasing...
The eight of us—eight?!—eventually gathered, and Ira took us on a small tour of Deepland.
The entrance betrayed what this place actually looked like. The walls stretched so high, they eventually disappeared. If I wasn't so aware of where I was, I would have thought we were outside, or perhaps in an underground cavern. It truly felt like a planet-side settlement.
The area we were staying in was about as large as Baker's Shipyard and extended out even further than Portent did. There were restaurants, shops, and so much more.
Revealed character aspect time!
Yelena: 81—Stern. Wouldn't have said that about her before but okay, sure.
Kaisa: 86, 60—Successful, Lonely.
Fletcher: 37, 64—Experienced, Oblivious. These two...I'm going to write this the way that I was accidentally going because of laziness but now I can write it that way on purpose.
Yelena insisted that we make a stop so she could acquire parts for the Scarlet Adler and Watt. Kaisa pulled Fletcher over to look at the weapons Deepland had to offer. If I didn't know any better, Kaisa was...flirting? Yet Fletcher was oblivious, trying to convince her that one particular firearm was better than the other.
Had that been going on the entire time?
Blackstone interrupted their exchange and pointed them to another firearm entirely, while John rejoined Ira and me with street vendor food in his mouth—some kind of meat drenched in sauce on a stick. Ira tapped me Slyly to let me know to not try it, despite how good it smelled.
A metallic walkway eventually led us to a park. A crop of trees spread out around us. The sun beamed down and we sought shelter in the shade.
"We should have grabbed a blanket from the hotel room," Kaisa said as we sat on the ground. I didn't mind too much, though. I dug my hands into the dirt, taking a moment to inhale and just enjoy the—
Sun? Dirt? I couldn't believe I had forgotten where we were: flying within the Ironlands. I looked to the source of light above but found myself still shading my eyes. The air in the park smelled fresh, and there was a breeze. How were they managing this?
Ira nudged me and chuckled. "Deepland has the worst air, too. Wait until we get to Ragland or Floodland. Havenland smells like fruit."
"Ira, this place is...amazing." Blackstone inhaled deeply and a few of the others followed suit.
"Thanks, I guess. I didn't realize I'd miss it as much as I did." He was silent for a moment. "I thought you were missing?" he asked, a fake smile plastered on his face. This must have been tough for him.
"I guess I was for a bit." She explained what she'd been up to again ever since going radio silent with her sister. "I was heading here to track down someone for a mutual friend of ours, Talia Vega."
"Oh yeah. You never mentioned who you were hunting," I said.
"Just be glad it's not us," Jane said under her breath.
"Well," Blackstone said, leaning back onto a tree to get comfortable. Something told me this was going to be a long story. "Talia told me a while back that she was being blackmailed—again. Happened right after we got off the Bohemian Express. Poor thing. She said they kept trying to get her to use new energy companies for her businesses. She refused, so they attacked—her businesses, that is. Slander, scandals, the works. Her company stocks fell and investors backed out, taking their resources with them. She remembered me and reached out.
"I tried looking into the companies they recommended her—obviously it's all shrouded in paperwork and legal shit. Did, however, find out that they all look alike on paper: super small companies, doing water, electrical, or some other form of energy, maybe some plans for planet- or sector-specific use cases. Each with only a handful of clients.
"So, being the hunter I am, I sniffed around. Found out they're all subsidiaries of the Mihara Energy Corporation."
The air shifted.
A tree root broke through the metallic walkway nearby.
Sparks leaped from my arms. I gulped loudly. No, no, no! "Mihara? Are you sure that was the parent company?"
"Yeah...Why do the four of you look like you just saw a Risen?"
"Funny you say that," John said, forcing a weak laugh. Jane avoided all our gazes, probably reliving her experiences with Jack Moriarty.
"Of course, it's Mihara." I slowly slid a hand down my face. What did this mean? Why Mihara? I scratched my beard. "And this brought you here, why?"
"One of the leaders is supposedly shopping around their businesses in the Ironlands."
"But," Ira said. "The Ironlands produce their own energy. Solar, water, solids. They pride themselves on being as self-sufficient as possible despite being massive ships floating through space."
Blackstone thought about it for a moment. "Maybe they're going to end up blackmailing the leaders here, too? Force them to use their companies?"
"They'll never go for it. They are stubborn as hell. Refuse to let go of 'traditions'—looks like it might save them from falling into one of our infamous conspiracies."
The "c" word. Of course. I couldn't say I was really surprised. Something was always amiss. I shouldn't have expected finding Blackstone to come without actually putting in some work. "Regardless, I'll do whatever I can to help you solve this, Blackstone." I pulled out the black iron coin.
"Really?" Ira groaned.
"When in the Ironlands..." I smirked. I shifted my gaze to Blackstone. Her eyes widened in awe. "I swear. I'll help you figure this out and put a stop to this."
// Swear an Iron Vow
+2 (heart+Blackstone) => 5 vs 6, 8. Miss. Boooooo!
Dangerous Vow/Mystery. Significant Obstacle? Easy.
Also, Develop a Relationship with Blackstone [2/10]
"Wait, Detective. You're Ironsworn?" Blackstone cocked her head to the side. "I thought that was Ira?"
"He's an amazing teacher," I said, wrapping an arm around Ira's shoulder. He wasn't exactly thrilled, but he let me kiss his forehead anyway.
"I told him to stop Swearing so much, though. Increases your chance for a Miss. Whenever you Miss on a Swear, you usually have to overcome some significant obstacle before you can even get started on it. Haven't you noticed that, sometimes, right after Swearing, something bad happens?"
Right on cue, a throat cleared and drew our attention. A robed figure—Oracle Wilhelm—stood with his hands behind his back, accompanied by a few other security-looking personnel.
"Ira Adler," he said loud enough for the entire park to hear. "Your trial—the followup to your exile from the Ironlands—will begin tomorrow at noon. It's been so long since you've been here. I trust you remember how to get to Barrierland?" Before any of us could respond, Oracle Wilhelm gestured sharply and they left, leaving kicked-up dirt and dust in their wake.
Ira sighed loudly. "See? A Miss."
The four Branded met in our room: Ira, John, Jane, and myself. Kaisa, Fletcher, and Blackstone decided to go drinking at a local bar, while Yelena returned to the Scarlet Adler to work on Wyatt.
A projection of Diogenes flickered on before us. We'd finally been able to get in contact with her.
"Jane, it is a pleasure to see that you are well, my dear."
Jane stood arms crossed, her gaze avoiding Diogenes.
"Diogenes, Jane hasn't exactly been the happiest passenger," I said, doing my best to lighten the mood. "Can you make sure that her family is safe until we can get her back to you?"
Diogenes scoffed. "Who do you think I am, Mr. Holmes? Do you think I am new at this?"
How was I supposed to respond to that?
"They've been safe from the moment I asked you to retrieve her, Mr. Holmes."
Jane's eyes snapped onto Diogenes and I saw the hint of a smile creep onto her face. "Really?"
Marking progress on the Jane vow! 4/10
"Yes, my dear. I didn't take any chances. I'll bring you to them once I arrive in the Ironlands. Speaking of, what made you all choose there of all places?"
"It's out of Salvi jurisdiction," Ira said. "We were running out of options so I figured here was the best one we had."
He was hiding something.
Diogenes rolled her eyes.
Spirits lifted and happier than I'd ever seen her, Jane left us for the night. John remained with Ira and me and we went over the seeds Ira had collected.
"Four-hundred seeds, right? What else was the criteria?" John said as he made piles of similar-looking seeds in sets of ten.
"Across all four hundred, I need them unique to at least twenty planets, with no more than twenty belonging to a single planet."
"Basically, do something super hard while jumping through flaming spiked hoops," I said.
We separated the seeds as best we could and checked how much of this effort we could use in Ira's trial.
// Secure an Advantage
+2 (wits) + 1 Ira = +3
This will represent the initial progress we have from Ira collecting his own seeds, and will show just how much work we need to do so he can win his trial.
+3 => 4 vs... 4, 5. A Miss. Of course.
To our dismay, while he had close to four-hundred, not all of the seeds met the criteria. About a hundred came from one planet alone, and a few of them turned out to be small rocks.
"Fuck." Ira leaned back against a wall in our room and grunted. "Figures. I was only passively collecting these on the off-chance I could—would—return here. Never expected it to be enough, but never expected all my efforts to be for nothing either."
"It's fine, it's fine," I insisted. I grabbed a tablet and pulled up local laws. "Maybe there's a loophole somewhere." I projected them before us so we could all read over the legal jargon together.
// Gather Information
+2 (wits) => 7 vs... 3, 3! Strong Hit and a MATCH!
+2 momentum 
I think...Hmm. I think with this match, I will say that what I was originally going to have as a Scene Challenge will boil down to just the vow's progress.
An hour later, John came up with our best plan of action.
"The seeds are your primary defense," John said in a familiar tone. I was shocked and pleased to find that the Ripley persona had made his return. "If we had all of those, this would be smoother, but we don't. However," he said, highlighting some subsection of a subsection of a subsection. "It's not your only line of defense. If we can get enough personal witnesses who can vouch for your character, we stand a chance."
Progress on Ira's trial! [2/10]
Ira scoffed. "No one here is going to vouch for me. Not only has it been too long and no one probably remembers me, those that do probably believe all the horrible things people have said about me."
"What about your sister?" John asked.
Ira responded with, "Maybe." Quick and to the point.
I had purposefully not brought up the subject of Ira's sister because Ira had never brought her up. I examined his body language but didn't spot anything that raised an alarm—which ended up raising an alarm anyway. He'd always had very few words, and I always quickly changed the subject out of awkwardness.
I had forgotten about all the conspiracies back then. Now that they were back at the forefront, I was concerned.
What wasn't he telling me?
I changed the subject like I normally did. "Why don't we all go ask around for some character witnesses? We'll see what people here in Deepland can vouch for him. And if we have time in the morning, we can run to one of the other regions and get more."
The three of us agreed and John left the room.
Ever observant, Ira quickly said, "Please, don't." Ira sat at the edge of the bed. I joined him and placed a hand on his knee. We sat in silence for some time.
I was going to ask about Irén. Why hadn't we gone to see her today? How come I knew so little about her?
Well, he doesn't know much about Michael, either, so this is fair. I bit my tongue and kept my thoughts to myself. For now.
But something else was amiss.
Before we go any further, I have 4 XP right now. Let's spend 3XP to finally buy the Fugitive asset!
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