The familiar voice of his sister fills Ira with so much joy, while the familiar voice of another fills Locke with anxiety...

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #10: A Familiar Voice
They’ve finally found her: Irēn Adler.

The previous chapter

A Familiar Voice

Season 3, Chapter 10

// Set a Course

Back to Stella

Ooh. First.

Let's spend 2 XP to upgrade Bonded and get #2.

Now, set a course

+4(supply+Bonded #2 heart) => 5 vs 6, 9. Miss.

Let's use up a Fugitive tick.

so, SH!

+1 momentum [4]

fugitive 1/4

Ira stood outside of the Scarlet Adler, frozen in place.

He’d been like this since our return to Stella. The others who’d stayed behind were already back inside, presumably talking to the newest member of our crew.

“She wants to see you,” I said, trying to coax him inside, but even I knew that wouldn’t be enough to shake off these nerves. If the roles were reversed, I have no idea what anyone would need to say to me to get me to walk into the same room as Michael. It’d been so long…To hear that familiar voice of his, despite wanting to for decades, I don’t know if I could handle it.

“I want to see her, too, but…It almost doesn’t feel real, you know?”

It took another few moments, and me taking his hand in mine, for him to take slow steps towards the entrance.

Irēn was busy laughing and exchanging stories with the rest of the crew. Once Ira stepped into the common area, however, everyone hushed and parted.

The twins stared at each other for a long silent moment. I couldn’t even hear them breathing.

Ira took a step forward. Then Irēn.

Then, in an instant, they were in each other’s arms.

I knew Ira’s hugs quite well. It looked like an amazing one.

// Develop Your Relationship

+3 => 7 vs 3, 8. WH

+2 momentum [6]

Also, this whole trip? Progress on train Jane vow. 30%

Oh, also, let's Make a Connection with Irēn.

+1 => 6 vs 1, 8. WH (I'll put her down as Vigilante.)

What does she reveal/demand? AT: 82, 82.


Risk Stranger.

I'm still lost. Revealed character aspect of Irēn:

39: Generous.

What kind of info does she share?

DF: 32, 41: Desolate Hazard. Sounds like the precursor vault.

AT: 44, 6: Falter Barrier. Hmm…

Everyone else cleared out and returned to exploring Stella. I made my way to do the same, to give them some privacy, when Ira asked, “Can you grab some snacks for us?”

His Shadow was never quite as high around me and I heard the intent hidden behind his words. I nodded and began preparing something for them. We didn’t have much, but luckily we’d been able to do a little restocking since being here. We had fruits, some cheeses, and crackers, and I did my best to make the plate look presentable.

As I made my final adjustments to the food, I stopped and stared blankly, focusing in on one of the crackers for no real reason other than being lost in my own thoughts.

I hope Michael is okay…

I placed the tray of finger food on the nightstand in the room Ira and I shared. They’d move the conversation here, not wanting to keep everyone else out for too long. I insisted that they’d be fine but Irēn didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. Ira insisted I come with. 

Our room wasn’t that large; in fact, it was one of the smaller rooms on the ship. The pros—and cons—was that it could only comfortably hold two people, so we never had to worry about sharing with the others. Outside of the plants lining the walls and a few photos of us, we didn’t have much aside from the nightstand and foldout bed, which Ira and Irēn sat on. I stood by the door, watching them with the biggest smile on my face.

“I couldn’t stand being there without you,” Irēn said, placing a strawberry half in her mouth.  “Once I found out the truth about why Mom and Dad left, and about the Order, I left. I had to find all of you. I was the only one who could.”

She sighed heavily and laid flat on our bed. “You weren’t anywhere though.”

Ira gave me a smirk. “I was on Avam, with him, for a long time.”

“Avam…That’s that place where they keep the Branded, right?…Wait, you’re Branded, too?”

He gestured and the various vines, flowers, and leaves around the room waved at Irēn, almost like a soft breeze had wafted through at just the right angles. “I guess what happened was technically my fault, even if I didn’t know I was doing it. I can manipulate plants.”

“Plants? So, not an element?”

I caught Ira’s gaze. So it was getting obvious to others as well?

“Anyway,” she continued. “I did get a Hit on Mom and Dad. When I first got to Stella, I ran into a member of the Order of the Iron Rose who recognized the insignia. According to them, Mom and Dad were looking for some kind of weapon. They said it could end wars…or start ones. Been living here ever since trying to find that weapon—or them. Eventually I came across that precursor vault.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to get to it. There was so much wreckage outside of it.” She turned her black iron coin over in her hands, rubbing her thumb against the rose.

“Did you see…something as you got closer?” I asked. All of us had, though I wasn’t sure what I wanted her to say. If she’d seen something, then maybe the vision meant nothing. If she hadn’t, then…who knew?

“You mean like a vision? That was terrifying. It showed me a moment shortly after Ira was exiled. In it, I was pleading to each and every one of the Oracles to bring you back.”

“So,” I said, with a hint of hesitation, “nothing about something going ‘according to plan’?”

“I think so? Something about you being exiled was according to plan, and that they had to get rid of the rest of the ‘pesky Order of the Iron Rose.’ Then she tried to play it off like she misspoke.”

I couldn’t tell whether this was a good or bad thing. Probably the latter.

“But now I’ve hit a dead end. Ira, they are still out there somewhere. I doubt they even know we’re looking for them. Would love your—all of your—help.”

I held up my hand with my black iron ring. Her eyes narrowed as she realized what it was. “Is that black iron?” She turned to face her brother. “Did you really teach him about being Ironsworn?”

“Unfortunately,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Now he won’t stop Swearing and saving the universe.” Ira winked and blew me a kiss.

I returned the gesture. “I swear, we’ll find your parents.” I looked between the two of them as I said this, making sure that Ira knew that I was doing this for him as well.

Our future kids needed at least one set of grandparents.

// Swear an Iron Vow

Swear an Iron Vow

+2 (heart+connection) => 4 vs 2, 3. SH

+2 momentum [8]

What's the rank of this, though? Troublesome.

Also, progress with Irēn


// Heal


+4 (iron+Ira) => 5 vs 6, 9. Miss.

Yikes. Fugitive, so SH

Fugitive 2/4

+3 health [5]

+1 momentum [9]

(Sidenote: This is when I remembered I can reroll Test and Develop with Ira because we're Bonded, lol.)

Ira patched me up after Irēn went to lay down. I showed her one of the larger rooms that held multiple people. She’d be sleeping with Kaisa, Yelena, and Blackstone for now, since Fletcher, John, and Jane had the other large sleeping quarters. They could work through rearranging themselves later.

Upon the crew’s return, however, they were more focused on something they’d seen while they were out, and it was Jane’s duty to bring it to my attention.

// Oracle


What kind of activity will they get into?

AT: 65, 27: Mourn Disease.

I think this will be an oddly appropriate movie.

“Let’s go to the movies!” She gestured to Watt grandly, who was apparently part of the presentation. He projected a movie poster and trailer. 

The plot of “Blood Cough” primarily focused on a Doctor Malory, who was called in by the government of a fictional planet called Fabrica to examine a subject who’d come down with a strange illness. They soon uncover that some twisted mastermind has plans on releasing the very same disease all over the Forge, spreading sickness and death.

Honestly, with Ira being preoccupied with his sister, it didn’t really matter what the movie was about. I needed to give him time alone with his sister. It would’ve been unfair of me to try to spend time with him right now when he’d just gotten her back. So, I went out with the rest of the crew.

// Bolster Your Crew

+1 => 2 vs 3, 4. Miss.

I feel like i'm gonna regret this, but let's use Fugitive again.

Fugitive 3/4

Command +4 [4]

The movie turned out quite well, actually. The doctor’s task throughout the movie was to figure out a cure and potentially give the boots on the ground something to work with. They travelled all over Fabrica trying to pinpoint the source of the subject’s illness and who could have done it.

The twist, about two-thirds of the way through, took everyone by surprise—except me. It was still a good movie, don’t get me wrong, but the foreshadowing and clues had gotten a bit heavy handed and practically televised the ending.

Then again, it wasn’t easy to turn off my Sleuth brain, so maybe it was more of a me problem.

“How did you know?!” Blackstone said as we exited the theater. “Don’t give me the ‘I’m a detective!’ line either.”

“He’s lying. Has to be.” Kaisa said. Was it really that hard to believe?

John and Yelena laughed in the back, watching as the others convinced themselves that there was no way I could have predicted the movie.

“Maybe he’s seen it already!” Fletcher said.

Yelena quickly replied with, “When?”, which made everyone snicker.

We stopped at a street corner as we made our way back to the Scarlet Adler. Nearby, a vendor sold something fried and a few of us grabbed a bite as they all stared intently as I recounted my thought process.

“Alright, so in the first half of the movie, the sick woman, Sheryll, is coughing blood and has all those skin blotches. They did a good job of hiding all the hints, but it’s pretty predictable that in the third act, shit’s gonna get really bad, so I’m already expecting things to feel like it’s too late. All that stuff with Risen was mostly a distraction, but the writers carefully placed a few hints in there, like how the sickness was causing the Risen.

“Then, right before the big reveal, we learn that the mastermind seems to have insider knowledge, something only someone on their team could know. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it could’ve been any of them, but when Malory said it was too late to save Sheryll, even before they’d tried everything, I just knew it.”

“I’m still calling bullshit,” Jane said.

“Only part I didn’t think of was how they defeated her. If only all of life’s problems could be solved by making people doubt the truth.” It was quite clever, really. A huge gamble, though. 

In a last ditch effort, Sheryll, on death’s door but still finding the will to fight, even against the misery of her situation, managed to convince Malory that she’d forgotten to infect the right people. Malory—the evil mastermind—was tricked. It was only for a split second, but enough for Sheryll to take decisive action and subdue Malory in time.

Overall, I was happy we saw it. It probably wasn’t going to win any awards, at least in my book. There were also odd plot holes, but those could easily be addressed in a sequel. The others seemed to enjoy it, and that was what really mattered. And it was great seeing everyone smiling and joking, laughing and carefree. Getting out with them was fun, especially without the overwhelming fear and dread.

We needed more nights like this—more days, weeks, months like this. Watching movies, forgetting all of life’s troubles.

Forgetting that we, too, had to save the entire Forge.

I kept my musings to myself, dare I spoil the mood. Instead, I munched on the fried meat—“This is delicious! Can I get two—no, three more of these please?”—and just enjoyed the moment for what it was.

All good respites must come to an end.

The next day, the crew—increased in size once more—and I gathered in the common area and talked through our priorities. With Irēn found, we could move on to finding her and Ira’s parents, though we had no solid lead on them. We stumbled upon Irēn by chance—or by fate, considering the old man—and I doubted we’d be pushed in their direction just as easily. I made it clear that I would love to devote time to finding a solid lead on them, but we still had one other priority on Stella. 

Althea Lontoc.

We’d heard her talking to Curtis Winter and she was not done with this settlement just yet. That meant neither were we. While Althea could have been anywhere on Stella, it was much less ground to cover than an entire sector of space. 

If we could somehow undermine what she was doing here, we could stop whatever she was planning before it could fully take root.

// Oracle

Which district is the central government? 

D6: 4

On the suggestion of Irēn, we headed to District Four, where Stella’s central government was located. We filled her in on everything along the way. The hunt for Althea didn’t mean much to her, but she was more than happy to help.

Stepping foot into the district reminded me of the similar district in Portent, the one I travelled to to find Lestrade to get access to speak with Akim Salvi. It was all business and not much else. None of the amazing food and sights we’d seen the day before. It was a stark reminder that play time was over. 

// Scene Challenge Setup

I kept thinking, is this an Expedition or a Scene Challenge. But... I think it's neither. I think it's just a roll.

Ah, no. I need to get to a location where I can actually do some hacking—I wanted to use Watt for this.

So, we need a Scene Challenge, to get in and out.

And let's use the Inhabited location theme to give this place some flavor.


2 boxes per progress.

As rehearsed, we split off to perform a survey of the area. Each of us had a part to play in ensuring that everything went according to plan. The only new variable in this equation was Irēn. She stayed close to Ira, John, and I as we headed into one of the government buildings in District Four. Blackstone preceded us, “on official business” and told us the coast was clear. It was a rather large building, filled with officials and civilians alike. Our presence wouldn’t be looked at as odd on the first floor.

Blackstone took point near the entrance while Fletcher and Kaisa stayed nearby to feed information to John and I. Ira, Irēn, and Jane took point outside, ready to provide tactical support as necessary. We didn’t know much about Stella’s manpower and we would need them to slow anyone entering as much as possible. 

John and I, acting as we belonged, began to make our way up the stairs. Watt hovered low to the ground and farther up ahead. His model wasn’t exactly a common one, but bots like him weren’t entirely uncommon overall so I wasn’t worried.

// Face Danger

+3 (shadow+infiltrator #1) => 5 vs 6, 7. Miss.

Let's burn momentum and make this a SH.

9 vs 6, 7.

+1 momentum from infiltrator [3]

Progress: 2/10. Clock: 0/4

Feature, 60: notable figure stands out from the crowd.


Do either Locke or John recognize this face? Unlikely, 25-: 56.

Okay, so we'll note the description.

88, 68: weathered, scruffy

Female, 75-: 66. Should we say extremely feminine?


Wait. Fuck.

I think that description is enough, and it's why it's 66 for female.

Locke doesn't know who this is.

But I do.

John had donned his Ripley persona, blending in effortlessly even without a change of clothing. He even greeted some of the few passing security personal by name—which he must have heard in the moments before—or by title—dipping into his S.P.D. training and recognizing ranks.

Together, we slipped around a corner, ending up in a long well-lit hallway. A woman in a crisp goldenrod colored pantsuit stood talking with men in not-as-crisp generic black suits, a few of their own bots hovering or standing off to the side. The hair in her large afro was a bit frazzled, as if she’d been rushed or interrupted, but it didn’t detract from a feeling of superiority she emitted. I could barely make out her face, but I could tell she had dark skin and a matted red lip.

Something felt off about her, something I couldn’t explain. 

I felt like I should know her, but she wasn’t Althea, and she hadn’t been in any of my visions. It was probably just her “Don’t fuck with me” demeanor. Regardless, I knew to stay away from her. My gut was telling me to give her a width berth and I was more than happy to oblige.

We didn’t bother obscuring or messing with any of the security cameras, so John and Watt briefly separated from me so we could avoid looking as if we were traveling in the same direction.

// Secure an Advantage

Secure an Advantage

+3 (shadow+infiltrator) => 5 vs 6, 7. Again???

-1 command [3]

bump this up to a WH

+1 momentum infiltrator [4]

+2 momentum [6]

“Maintenance is moving on your floor,” Yelena said through the comms. I stopped and idled by a display case. Right on cue, maintenance passed by without issue.

I proceeded and regrouped with John and Watt.

// Face Danger

+3 (shadow+infiltrator) => 6 vs 2, 10. WH

Progress: 4/10. Clock: 1/4

Feature, 50: fight breaks out.

The hallways snaked endlessly, eventually leading us closer to the mysterious woman than I was comfortable with. 

“You think I’m paying you for your thoughts?” a feminine voice shouted just as we planned to go up the stairs to the next level. John and Watt were already ahead of me, but I couldn’t help myself. I snuck a peek. The woman had knocked papers to the ground directly out of a startled man’s hands. She was shorter than them, and much more petite, yet her entire presence was much, much larger. The man stood there, practically trembling.

And then I trembled. I knew her voice from somewhere. Why couldn’t I place it?

I didn’t like this feeling. It didn’t help that I couldn’t remember the last time something being familiar turned out to be a good thing.

I quickly followed my companions up the stairs. “Let’s go. I think our luck is trying to catch up with us.”

// Face Danger

+2 (edge+infiltrator) => 3 vs 6, 10. Fuuuucccccckkkkkk.

I dont have much of a choice, do I?

-1 command [2]

bump this to WH

+1 momentum from infiltrator [7]

Progress: 6/10. Clock: 2/4

Feature, 8: conspicuous patrols or surveilance


No matter how hard we tried, though, we couldn’t escape the woman. It was as if we were always moving in the same direction she was going. On the next floor, shortly after John, Watt, and I had stepped foot on it, she stepped off an elevator with the same group of men. And to make matters worse, we were on a level with actual security in place.

I sent Watt off to the next point in our journey, and John and I did our best imitations of people who belonged there. John nodded to the woman and men as he passed them. He was bold. But he was good at what he did. They barely even looked at him, and none of them seemed to recognize him as a wanted Branded.

I tried to follow suit, walking past them as if it was nothing.

// Secure an Advantage

Secure an Advantage

+3 (shadow+infiltrator) => 3 vs 7, 9. Miss. Are you fucking kidding me?

Okay, okay. I have an idea.

Let's take this miss.

Progress: 6/10. Clock: 3/4

Also, -1 spirit [3]

Endure stress +3

4 vs 3, 4. WH. Press on.

They were talking about nothing important, to me at least. Something about diverting funds and an election coming up within the Salvi Pass. There was also—

The air caught in my lungs. I spun round, eyes fixated on the woman commanding the men as they walked farther away from me.

I knew that voice.

I moved quickly to meet up with John and Watt, doing my best to remain calm.

“What’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I shook my head. “It’s nothing. Just thought I was made, but let’s keep going.”

I didn’t want to tell him. I didn’t want everyone on the comms to get worried.

Why is the madwoman here?!

I was glad none of them could hear my heart as it did its best to beat out of my chest. And I was glad that John didn’t push the issue, even though I knew that wasn’t my best lie.

We continued on. We had to be getting closer to our destination: a datacenter within the building. It would give us access to most, if not all, of the information that passed through Stella, much more than we had access to before when we were looking for Irēn. With it, we could hopefully pinpoint where Althea was and maybe what her next steps were.

I scanned the area and motioned to John which way we should go.

// Secure an Advantage

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

+2 momentum [9]

+1 forward

Yelena relayed that our destination would be another floor up, almost directly above us now. We waited for another pair of maintenance workers to walk past before heading up the steps.

// Face Danger

+4 (shadow+infiltrator+1 forward) => 10 vs 7, 9. SH

+1 momentum [10]

I think I wanted this Scene Challenge to be in, Gather Info, then get out.

Progress: 8/10. Clock: 3/4.

John took post outside of the room we’d been seeking, standing guard, and Watt and I slipped in. With the door shut behind us and the coast clear, I exhaled. Apparently, I had been holding my breath for some time.

“Alright, Watt,” I said. I stepped up to a row of towers that held an unfathomable amount of data. Every transaction, every photo taken, ever video seen, every like and follow. All collected here. With every settlement being so far away, sometimes data was stockpiled before being sent off. I hadn’t questioned it before—Portent had a place like this, too—but now that I was seeing it up close, with the hopes that I could find something out about Althea from the mass of data, I began to second-guess it’s morality.

Another time.

Watt extended a cable and found a port to connect to. “See if you can find out anything about Althea Lontoc and what she has planned, maybe where she’s staying.”

I thought I heard the madwoman’s voice. Maybe she was in the hallway, or perhaps I was simply expecting the worse. Regardless, it gave me an idea.

“And the woman we saw, in the suit? Anything on her, too.”

Watt flashed a question mark before showing a picture of exactly who was I talking about, taken during the heist. I nodded in agreement, and a progress bar appeared in place of his eyes.

// Gather Information (Mystery + Watt)

+5 (watt+infiltrator) => 8 vs 4, 5, 5. => 8 vs 5, 5. SH+match!

I’m maxed out of momentum, but just wanted to note how much momentum I'm supposed to gain from this move

+2 from the SH

+1 from Watt

+1 from watt on a SH+match

+1 from infiltrator

+1 from infiltrator on a SH

.. +6 momentum in total, from this move alone. lmfao And I can’t use ANY of it.

(I think I miscounted some Momentum before this move, so this actually helps even everything out, too. lol)

So, info on Althea and Jillian.

We'll deal with the specifics after we regroup, but at the very least, he learns that...


That was…fast. 

Watt wasn’t an average utility bot, but even the speed of this success was surprising. We had been through a lot together. We even had our own way of communicating to each other secretly, not that we needed to use it lately—everyone was in on the secrets we knew now.

But this…he knew to hide.

He made a beeping sound that was masked with that familiar buzz that made it only perceptible to my ears—perks of being Lightningbranded.

I thought to question it until he projected something before me.

A photo of the woman in the suit.

With a name.


Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

Locke confronts Althea Lontoc but it doesn't go according to expectations.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #11: Too Easy
When things come too easily, Locke questions if they’re still simply doing things according to plan…

The next chapter

This work is based on Ironsworn: Starforged (found at www.ironswornrpg.com), created by Shawn Tomkin,
and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Want to own Starforged for yourself? Grab it on DriveThruRPG!
(Affilate link)