An odd dream and hallucinations of his missing brother force Locke to recharge his internal battery.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #17: Recharged
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #16: Jackpot
While exploring the evil underground facility, Locke and his crew stumble upon a jackpot. Lucky for them, right?

The previous chapter


Season 3, Chapter 17

I awoke with a start.

My senses were dulled. I was drowning in a sea of unfamiliarity. I could hear alarms in the distance, loud and annoying. Despite not being able to see or hear or feel properly, I knew I had to move. Had to get away. I stumbled, falling out of bed and crashing into—

Wait. Bed?

Pain blossomed up my arm as my senses sprang back to life. I found myself on the cold metallic floor of a med bay. Scarlet’s? I was tangled up in a web of wires and tubes, various sensors placed all over my body. On the walls of the med bay, monitors displayed vitals. My vitals.

What the hell happened?

Ira stirred in a seat in the corner of the room. His eyes widened at the sight of me and he threw off the blanket enveloping him and rushed to my side, helping me back to my feat. “You-you’re awake! I thought we’d lost you.” He adjusted a blanket to cover me up, then placed his hands on mine. His touch was warm, a welcome sensation.

Footsteps from the hallway announced John’s arrival. He looked half asleep but the sight of me seemed to shock him awake. “Locke!” He rushed to my side, slipping into a persona I wasn’t quite familiar with. It reminded me of Dr. Watson. He methodically checked my stats and made adjustments as needed. Then he moved to look me over and checked my leg. I winced in pain at his touch. Why did my leg hurt? And was that a handprint—

Risen. In Mimic suits.

I gripped Ira’s hands. We had been trying to escape! How had I forgotten? “What happened? Where’s Jane?” I was flooded memories of those final moments before it all went dark. The last thing I remembered was the second wave of Jack’s undead army beginning to advance. Jane had looked like she was ready for more but we all realized we needed to leave. Why couldn’t I remember us leaving? Right. A Risen we thought we’d defeated had grabbed my leg and—


That wasn’t the last thing I remembered.

I swallowed hard, trying to recall what I had seen and heard. I remembered Michael’s voice. A dream…It felt more like a memory, but it wasn’t mine. We were—he was watching two men. The…loving husbands…at the end of the world. It was so vivid, so clear. I could still hear the bones snapping.

Loving Husbands at the End of the World (Inevitable Event #1)
A long, long time ago, the same inevitable events demanded their place in an infected world at its end.

I did my best to push it from my mind.

“Locke? Are you with us?” John asked.

“Um…yeah. Sorry.”

John tried to explain what happened again but I found myself drowning him out as he talked. My attention was drawn to the corner of the room. Michael, still no older than the day he’d disappeared, was standing there, watching me.

“Did you see it?” Michael asked, as if pleading.

I tapped my inner charge—empty. Possibly the most empty it’d ever been. That Risen must have drained me dry. I was going to have to be more careful the next time we faced Jack and—

“Locke.” John snapped his fingers, drawing my attention back to him. “You’re spacing out on me. How are you feeling? Your heart rate is elevated and…you don’t look so good.”

“I see Michael…in the corner over there. I saw him in the facility, too…It’s why I went further down the hall, right into Jack and his army. This is worse than the voices. I need to recharge before it gets worse.” I gripped Ira’s hands tighter. I couldn’t afford for my hallucinations to hurt us, not again. 

Ira’s face was pained. He knew all to well the effects of my battery getting this low. I was dangerous when I was well rested and fully charged—I was an unpredictable mess when I was stressed and needed electricity.

“It’s not real,” John said softly. To his credit, John knew the effects of my current state pretty well, too. But I’d done my best to keep the worst of it from him. “It’s just Ira and I in here with you right now. Jane is safe, unharmed. Everyone is safe, Locke.”

“He’s…he’s asking me if I saw…it. I think he means the dream—or nightmare—I had after I blacked out.” I shook my head, trying to purge Michael—and the monkeys’ screams—from my mind. “Ira, John, I—I love you both, but you need to leave, right now. I don’t want to hurt either of you.”

“Oh, we thought of that already, actually,” John said with a smirk. “There’s seeds underneath the bed, ready to pin you down. Watt’s ready to sound the alarm for the others, and I think I can make the air escape this room in a few seconds should I need to knock you out.”

I laughed. Fuck, that felt good. “Well, shit.” Ira kissed my forehead and, finally, I began to feel my heart slow down. Despite my concerns, I knew I could hold back enough for them to take me down if needed. I loosened my grip on Ira, brushing a thumb over his matching black iron ring. I was safe with them. They were safe with me.

Against my better judgement, I peeked back into the corner. Michael was gone. I couldn’t help but feel saddened. Not that I wanted to hallucinate and endanger everyone I cared about…I just missed my brother, hallucination or not. Was that crazy?

I’d been out for four days. I suppressed the anxiety bubbling up—four days had been the length of time in my dream. Had Michael actually showed me something from Old Earth? Had I gotten an actual glimpse at the “infamous” Cataclysm that brought us here to the Forge to begin with?

No, I forced myself to say—to believe. I was hallucinating. Of course during this stressful time I would conjure up a nightmare about the end of the world. Arthur and Conan were probably manifestations of Ira and I, and what we’d do for each other until the very end. I mean, weren’t we “infected”? If I was Arthur, wouldn’t I break bones to protect the man I loved?

// Oracle

Okay, talking this out.

They've been discovered on Saffron, so it's not exactly safe.

I think some of them wanted to stay, though. Perhaps Lestrade, John, and Blackstone—the ones who are vocal, and have power.

I think Jane, Kaiser, Fletcher, and Yelena would have wanted to flee.

You know what? I want to leave this up to the dice.

If I repeat, it switches sides.

Starting with those who want to stay.

3: Blackstone.

8: Kaisa + Fletcher

1: Lestrade

Rolled 1 again, those who want to leave.

Rolled 8. Those who want to stay.

4: Ira

Rolled 3, those who want to leave

Rolled 1, those who want to stay

Rolled 8, leave

Rolled 4, stay

2: John

6: Jane

5: Iren

Holy shit. They all want to stay?

So where the fuck on Saffron are they?

Descriptor+Focus: 62, 15: Lush Commodity.

I think they're hiding in fucking plain sight, in a shipyard.

Meaning, rolling to...is this FD? Yeah, let's do FD

Face Danger

+4 (John #3+Fugitive #2) => 10 vs 4, 8. Strong hit!

+1 momentum from Fugitive [5]

+1 momentum from John [6]

+1 momentum from FD Strong Hit [7]

I wonder, is it Baker's Shipyard?

Likely, 75-: 67, yes.

After a quick nap, Ira in my arms, they escorted me out of the med bay. I worried that, perhaps, the hallucinations were becoming more severe. I didn’t recognize the interior of the Scarlet Adler at all. Characteristics that I’d come to recognize as home were absent. 

Well, I soon discovered that I was not, in fact, on the Scarlet Adler as I had originally thought. We were hiding in a different ship. And, to my surprise, we were not floating off in space somewhere, planning our next move.

Nope. We were still on Saffron. Still in Portent.

Still at Baker’s Shipyard.

// Develop your Relationship

Because this definitely qualifies as "leveraging their help in desperate circumstances."


Hudson had apparently been more than willing to let us hide away here, even knowing John and I were on board. That man was amazing. The Scarlet Adler was in an underground hangar, away from prying eyes. Hudson assured John and Lestrade that Jack would never be able to find her there.

Everyone greeted me with warm welcomes, though Yelena did hers virtually as she was still on board the Scarlet Adler, keeping watch. I took a seat near the ship’s lounging area, exhausted but happy to see my chosen family all safe and sound.

“So, someone please explain to me why we didn’t leave?”

“Trust me, we thought about it,” John said.

“We’d probably have to fight like hell just to get out of orbit,” Lestrade added.

“Only for us to eventually have to come back here anyway for some reason,” Blackstone said.

“Overall, might be best to lay low here for a while,” Irēn said. “Some of us aren’t wanted, or publicly hated, so we can gather any supplies that we need. Gives us time to plan our next move.”

I just nodded. It made sense. Out the corner of my eye, I saw Michael. I cursed to myself. I was only seeing the hallucination because my electricity was depleted, and my nerves were shot. It was like being in the desert on New Bohemia all over again.

I was going to have to recharge ASAP.

// Oracle

Interesting. Where would Locke have previously recharged? I made up the solar farms for him on New Bohemia, but it doesn't seem like Saffron would have the same.

Descriptor+Focus: 85, ... 85. Don't start this shit again, Oracle.

Safe System. I keep coming back to 'battery': a system that safely stores electricity.

I think what he used to do was take these batteries, send them into the electrical storms, charge them, retrieve them, and recharge that way.

It's giving very Roshar, Way of Kings, Stormlight. lol

“Can someone bring me something from the Scarlet Adler?”

After finally finding freedom on Saffron and making it my new home, I struggled with recharging in the beginning. I found myself leeching power from the occasional building or ship, and I’d frequently caused more problems for myself. I didn’t have the solar farms from New Bohemia to rely on anymore. I couldn’t keep putting myself at risk of getting caught again.

The electrical storms that consumed Saffron’s skies were what drew me to the planet originally. It practically called out to me. Eventually I found my answer in the storms.

Ira retrieved what I had asked for: a battery, for lack of a better term. I could send this into the sky during a storm and have it absorb the power of the lightning. And then I could top off whenever I needed to. I hadn’t stored them the best, and between crashing into Saffron twice and constantly escaping Jillian’s grasp, four of the five batteries were unusable. Luckily I only needed one.

After sunset, with a perfectly timed electrical storm raging above, Ira and John helped me outside. 

“The launcher is broken, so I’ll need some help from you John.” I used what little strength I had to launch the battery into the air and John gestured sharply, a furious upwind launching the battery even higher.

// Secure an Advantage

+2 (wits) => 3 vs 3, 6. Miss.

BUT, as has happened in the past, because I rolled a 1, I simply need anything that's NOT a 1.

So, John helps out.

... a fucking 1 again.

Okay, using some Crew 

command -1 [1]

bumping this up to a WH

I have 7 momentum already, but only 2 spirit. Let's grab +1 forward

I watched as it soared…but not high enough. Without a word, Ira threw a few seeds into the wind tunnel. They launched into the air, becoming mere specks before disappearing from sight all together. And with a snap of his fingers, a few of them burst open, launching the battery even higher at just the right height.

Just outside the dome of breathable air around Portent, lightning struck the battery repeatedly. It glowed softly for a moment, having consumed the energy the raging storm provided, then began to plummet back down to the planet’s surface. 

Another snap and vines erupted from the air, encasing the battery in a shell of bark and leaves. Something about the scene triggered a flood of memories, of watching a shooting star fall, surrounded by fire. I looked over to Ira, his eyes focused on the battery above. I couldn’t help but smile.

Another upward gust of wind helped slow its descent until it landed a few feet away from us. John retrieved the battery and handed it to me as Ira withdrew the shell. 

“Thank you,” I said weakly. I was drained but merely holding the battery in my hand gave me a boost of energy. Ira escorted me back to our bedroom and I sat on the bed, holding the fully charged battery.

“Do you need anything from me?” Ira asked. He looked unsure of what to do next. 

I patted the space next to me, and he took a seat. “Stay with me?”

“Of course.”

I gripped the battery and closed my eyes tight, then let myself consume the energy contained within.

// Lightningbranded Recharge

+3 (spirit + 1 forward) => 9 vs 2, 3. Strong hit. 

+3 lightning [3]

All while letting the bliss of consumption consume me.

Saffron's moon seemed frozen in place high within the sky. The storm still raged above. It brought a sense of calm to my nerves as I took a seat on the ground, eyes trained to the sky. Portent was otherwise quiet, but not too quiet, everyone fast asleep by now. The night air chilled my exposed arms despite the warm weather. I felt an odd sense of déjà vu, but I put it aside.

Not that I had much of a choice: Michael appeared before me, again. This was getting old. I checked my inner lightning. I wasn’t at full but I was well within safe ranges—and I wasn’t that depressed and addled. After recharging, I had a chance to hold Ira in my arms and just be. All was right, at least for the moment. 

Why was I still hallucinating?

“I do not have time for this.” Foolish of me to think the fresh night air would do me some good. My mind seemed to have other plans.

“I need you to focus. You need to stop Jack,” the figment of my imagination masquerading as my older brother said.

“No shit.” I groaned. “This isn’t real. You aren’t real.” I stood and dusted myself off. Peace was not going to come easy tonight, it seemed.

“You have everything you need to stop him.” Despite my best attempts to look away, Michael was always visible, appearing just before I could land my sights elsewhere. “You’ve already hit the jackpot.”

I took a moment to control my breathing. There was no point in lashing out. He wasn’t real. “Leave me alone,” I said, eyes closed, doing my best to remain calm.


“No! You’re in my head. Maybe I’m dying or something, I don’t know. You couldn’t even help me get out Jack’s lair.”

“Malice is…stronger. Smarter. I didn’t know—”

Fuck it. I let myself get angry. “Following your advice to go down that tunnel almost got me killed—got us killed! How do I know you aren’t Malice?” I needed an outlet. Who else better to lash out at than myself? Maybe Michael was a personification of my troubles. I always blamed myself for not saving him, somehow. Maybe I was just torturing myself. Or perhaps the Risen had infected me with something. I was going to need John to run a full scan on me ASAP. 

Michael’s face filled with concern. He looked off the side at nothing—a gesture that irked me for some reason—then returned to look me in my eyes.

// Gather Information

+3 (wits and ... Haunted) => 7 vs... 3, 3, 4 => 7 vs 3, 3.

Strong hit and a match.

+2 momentum [9]

Story clue!

14: Contradicts a previously understood fact or clue.

So, this has to be in the vein of "how do i stop the moriartys?"

“The war the Moriartys are planning. They aren’t going to win.”

“Well, duh. We’re going to put a stop to them and make—”

“No. That’s not what I mean.” I was doing a hell of a job making a hallucination look sad and worried. “They want to win the war, of course. But…neither side wins. You nor them.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I’ll bite. How come?” I said with mock concern.

“It’s a trap. By Malice. He’s using it to come back and take over the Forge. Haven’t you been paying attention?” I could practically feel his preteen frustration. His facial expressions and gestures said it all. “He’s having the Moriartys build the army and start the war, all to get to you. You have to stop him!”

“What the hell do you think I’ve been doing all this time?!” I shouted, my voice echoing throughout the shipyard. “I’ve tried EVERYTHING I can think of to stop any of the hundred conspiracies threatening us! Every time we turn around, there’s SOMETHING else happening that needs our attention. But no matter what we solve or fix, we’re always one step behind! It always gets worse!” My pacing kicked up dust and dirt. “I just want a simple life, Michael. Why do I have to save the entire fucking Forge? Why me?!”

“Because Conan saw you, Locke! He predicted you. You met them, I showed you—Arthur and Conan—even though I wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t show you that moment, the moment he saw you, because Malice was there. Malice would know. I can only show you the days leading up to that moment. At the end…They’re caught, Locke. And…Arthur dies.” His voice cracked, and I hate to admit that I got a little choked up as well. I remembered Arthur and how much he fought and suffered.

“Conan and Malice were…fighting. Conan lost but he told Malice something he saw during the Miseries. Someone who will undo all that Malice has put into place.”

I slumped against the ship exterior and put my head between my legs. This was too much, all at once: pain, anger, sadness, defeat, fear. Was my hallucination trying to guilt me into doing more? What more could I do? “Get someone else to do it…please.”

Michael recoiled, as if I’d shot him. “After everything Malice has done—to you, to everyone you care about? You just want…someone else to do it?” If I didn’t know any better, my hallucination was disgusted with me.

“YES!” I threw my hands in the air in defeat. “Michael, I can’t take this. At this point, maybe the Forge just needs to implode and start over. I’m so, so tired. I’ve been running around nonstop for almost two years at this point. I just want to settle down…start a family…be happy.”

“What about the family you already have? Who’s going to protect them?” His eyes trailed to the ship. I knew he was referring to Ira and everyone else on board. My crew. My family. But I was beat up enough already. I didn’t need a hallucination to continue to pile on.

“Leave me alone.” 

Silence descended upon us. It was somehow louder than a cacophony, filled with so many unspoken words.

“Is that why you didn’t come look for me?”

My heart dropped. “What?”

“Is that why you didn’t come look for me? You were just waiting on someone else to do it?”

“You are a figment of my imagination!” I stood to my feet, spittle flying. I approached the hallucination and towered above him. So much for being the little brother. “It’s not my fault Conan saw me! It’s not my fault you all think I’m some chosen one! It’s not my fault you disappeared! It’s not—”

“I didn’t disappear! They kidnapped me!”

My eyes narrowed on the little boy before me. I’d entertained the idea of Michael being kidnapped growing up, probably taken by some deranged individual. But there’d never been any proof of that. Everything pointed to Michael running away, perhaps getting hurt and dying alone after.

“The Salvis kidnapped me,” Michael continued, tears beginning to stream down his face. “That’s why you couldn’t find me. I was taken—no doubt under the orders of Malice. You have no idea what I’ve been through or what I’ve seen.” His voice may not have echoed but I could feel it all over my body somehow. His emotions were rippling across my skin, like frozen goosebumps. “You haven’t seen what happens to Arthur and Conan at the end. You haven’t done the things that…they made me do. You haven’t done the things they didn’t make me do. But I did them for you, Locke. Just like Arthur, I did what I had to do for you. And now you just want someone else to do it?” The emotion began to subside and he lowered his cracking voice. “You are the only one who can stop Malice.”

I swallowed hard, eyes never leaving Michael. This was a lot for a hallucination to make up…

As if reading my thoughts, he began, “‘Once you eliminate the impossible…’”

“I’m not finishing that quote. You are a fig—”

“Once you eliminate the impossible,” he said forcefully. I felt his anger and sadness wash over me, then a flood of determination. A demand.

I stepped towards him and knelt down…I was missing something. I was sure of it now. “‘Whatever remains, however improbable…must be the truth.’” I tried to touch him, but could tell that his form wasn’t actually there. There was a slight sensation on my fingers, though, as my hand got closer. It felt like when his emotions crashed into me. I felt…resolve.

Michael wasn’t a hallucination. At least, not something I crafted. “What are you?”

“You’re the detective. You tell me.”

I took a moment to let everything I’d just learned and everything I ever knew come together. I had been so hellbent on believing Michael to be a hallucination I never stopped to think of any other possibilities. And in my fucked up life, there were a few.

“You say you were kidnapped,” I said, beginning to pace back and forth in front of him. What was I missing? “But why would someone kidnap you? To get to me? Why not just take me instead? No. They kidnapped you for you. But why?” I thought about our talks and expanded my mind. There was a common thread there. “I’ve heard some of the things you’ve said to me before, about Conan. ‘The earliest of the Hive.’ The old man on Stella called him that…And you did that knowing look off to the side…”

Michael stood there, a cheesy grin slowly creeping onto his face as he waited me to finally arrive at the correct conclusion.

How had I ever thought otherwise? Michael wasn’t a hallucination. 

He was part of a pattern.

“You’re Hivebranded.”

“Jackpot!” He smiled, as if he was proud of himself. “I started seeing things, knowing things, and then…acted on them. I think I got noticed, but they were probably going to come for me eventually. The Hive is important. It was inevitable.”

“Are you…still alive?” It dawned on me that I’d only ever encountered deceased Hivebranded, communicating with me across time. If Michael was a pattern, then…

Quelling my fears, he nodded. “Yes.” I let out the biggest sigh of relief ever.

“Why do you still look the same? And where are—”

“Focus, Locke.” He held up a quieting hand. “Focus. You need to get moving.”

I held up my ringed hand, Heart full and determined. “I swear, I will save y—”

“FOCUS.” His voice echoed all over my body again. Conviction. Iron resolve. Clarity. “Don’t worry about me. You have to stop Malice, which means you have to stop the Moriartys.”

“But why can’t I save you, too? You can just tell me where you are and I’ll come get you.”

“You can save me by being the man Conan said you would be. Stop Malice, and prevent what you saw from happening again.”

A sudden realization hit me: what I had seen, everything Arthur and Conan had been through, had been real—not some fucked up dream. I’d seen Old Earth. I’d witnessed part of the Cataclysm. I’d seen the end. Their end. 

Our end.

I nodded, making a fist with my ringed hand. “I swear: I am going to stop Malice.”

// Swear an Iron Vow

+1 heart => 3 vs 2, 10. Weak hit.

+1 momentum [10]

This is an Extreme vow.

Michael smiled. “I always knew he was the right one for you.” 

And with a blink, he was gone.

Recharged and refocused, I turned to reenter the ship.

We had a lot to do.

Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

With his target locked, Locke sets out to get the information he needs to take down Jack Moriarty and the rest of his family. Perhaps exposing a heinous family secret will do the trick.

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #18: So You Want To Talk About Mothers?
What better way to take down the Moriartys than to expose their dirty little family secret?

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!
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