What better way to take down the Moriartys than to expose their dirty little family secret?

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #18: So You Want To Talk About Mothers?
⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #17: Recharged
An odd dream and hallucinations of his missing brother force Locke to recharge his internal battery.

The previous chapter

So You Want To Talk About Mothers?

Season 3, Chapter 18

Honestly, I should have expected this reaction from them. I don’t know why I was surprised. 

We’d stumbled on crazier, right?

The crew wasn’t fazed in the slightest when I told them the next morning that my missing brother was actually Hivebranded, and that he was having psychic conversations with me ever since we were in Jack’s underground facility. He’d been potentially watching over me ever since I’d trekked through the desert on New Bohemia—perhaps even before then.

They didn’t flinch when I described what Michael had shown me: of Arthur and Conan, of Old Earth and the Cataclysm. I spared them a few details—the sound of bones breaking still haunted me—but they took it all in like it was part of a mission briefing.

Just a typical day for us.

We were going to need serious therapy after all of this was over.

 “There’s no telling what Jack or his sister will do if we expose them. It’s too risky.” Lestrade ran a hand through her hair, face scrunched in disappointment. Since we’d awoken, we’d been working on the logistics of our next move but we were still unsure what was our best course of action. All eyes were glued to the information projected on the walls before us or on the makeshift crime board we’d made.

Yelena’s hologram swooped into view. “What about the older brother, James the Forty-Fourth? Or maybe anything from the vision, or Michael?” She was still aboard the Scarlet Adler, working on something within the workshop just out of view.

I turned to Michael, who’d been watching us from a corner of the ship we were still hiding out in, but he disappeared the moment my sights landed on him. I’d quickly grown accustomed to him appearing and disappearing, but still couldn’t deduce why wouldn’t he just tell us what to do or what we needed to know? Why go through all of these hoops? If he was as powerful as he seemed to be so far, he could easily spy on Jack, Jillian, or James and let us know exactly how to stop them. Why was he so cryptic? Despite his disappearing act, though, I felt even more determined than I had been before. I’d gotten my brother back, at least in part. At least I knew he was alive out there, somewhere. And, technically, he was part of my ever-growing crew now.

I shook my head in response to Yelena and sighed heavily.

“Those documents are our best shot then, right?” Fletcher asked. “I mean, what else can we do?”

// Oracle

Question. Does that evidence of war contain mostly Jack and Benevolent things (yes), or does it also contain things about ALL the Moriartys as well? (no)

Likely, 75-: 1. Yes.

And the Mystery is about the Moriartys, not just Jack. We may need to make at least one more point of progress first.

“Not even sure it’s our best shot anymore.” John stood, hands keeping the notebook we’d found open. “I’ve been through this backwards and forwards twice now. There’s not a lot in here about Jillian or the rest of their family. We have enough to strike at Jack and a few of the Benevolent, but that’s about it.”

“Seems at most we’ll only be able to delay the war,” Lestrade added.

“Honestly still good enough,” Kaisa said. “Delaying hinders the Moriartys directly and, if what Michael told Locke is true, hurts Malice, too. Buys us some time to figure out our next step.”

“Was really hoping to be able to hit the entire family in one blow,” Blackstone said.

Janes rolled her eyes and huffed. “Who thought it was a good idea to give them all names that started with J, anyway? Annoying motherfuckers.”

I loved when random words came together in just the right way. 

I sat up in my seat. “What about their mother? Jillian already knows her father is the one who actually killed her mother, but perhaps the rest of the Forge doesn’t. If we had some evidence to expose the father, we might be able to take them all down.”

Blackstone frowned. ”That happened years ago, when they were children. It’s gotta be a cold case by now, if they didn’t pin it on something or someone else. How are we supposed to prove that?"

On the off chance my companion or even the ship had constant recordings, I asked, “Watt, do you happen to have what Jillian said recorded?”

// Oracle

Interesting...Does Watt or the Scarlet Adler constantly record things?

I'm doing this in two rolls. One, with the Oracle, to see if it's even a possibility.

50/50: 88, extreme no. Well, that takes care of that.

But extreme

Perhaps this means that simply nothing is ever recorded like that from those two without explicit orders from Locke. Nothing too extreme.

Watt shook his head and displayed a somber expression.  “No biggie. We’ll have to get a confession from them directly.”

“Jillian already gave one once,” Fletcher said. “Maybe she’ll do it again. Or even Jack.”

"We can't just ask them to confess, though," said Kaisa.

"Maybe I can bait them, force them to implicate themselves. They've known all along and kept that hidden. Lestrade, do you know how I can contact Jack?"

// Check Your Gear

I think this falls under Check your Gear. "Resource" is Lestrade's contacts.

And her role is still SPD officer, so...

+3 (supply+Lestrade) => 5 vs 4, 5. Weak hit. Very close.

Causes a delay, perhaps.

-2 momentum [8]

but then +1 momentum from Lestrade [9]

"I can pull some strings, maybe. Give me an hour.”

Watching Lestrade work long into the night getting in touch with contact after contact brought a smile to my face. She’d pretty much lost everything by being associated with me, and yet here she was risking whatever she had left so we could end the corrupt Moriartys and prevent a universal apocalypse. I felt a strange sense of accomplishment that I was right in having placed my trust in her, even before all of this. She truly cared for her people here on Saffron, and she was using that passion to help protect the rest of the Salvi Pass—and beyond. She truly had an amazing Heart.

“I told them that I wanted my job back in any capacity, and said I would tell Moriarty anything and everything I had on you. They’ll get back to me tomorrow.” Lestrade sat down beside me in the common area and exhaled heavily. Everyone else had turned in for the night.

“Jack’s gonna know it was you who put me in contact with him. Are you sure you want to risk it?”

“Don’t care.” She took a sip of something strong. “If he wins, we have a war on our hands with all the other sectors. Won’t matter what happens to me because I’ll probably end up dead. But, on the off chance we can stop him, he won’t be in power anymore. It’s worth the risk.” 

"I really appreciate everything you've done for us, Lestrade. Really. You tried to help us when Jack made you contact us originally, and who knows what else you’ve done for all of us. You have always been a great person, and I'm glad to know you."

// Develop Your Relationship


Let's Forge a Bond.

10 vs... 2, 9. Whew. Almost thought this was going to be a 10, 10.

“You know, I was so upset with you for hiding all of this from me at first, even though we weren’t exactly colleagues or friends before. I felt betrayed and deceived.” She sighed and took a long swig of her drink before continuing. “But, being on this side of the chaos you’ve had to endure, I understand. I really do. Visions, Hivebranded brother, precursor vaults—this is all too much, and that’s only part of it. And, yet, here you are, fighting to save the entire Forge, despite it all. Despite what everyone might think of you, you’re protecting everyone.

“I wasn’t exactly ‘fond’ of Branded before. I believed what I’d been told, like a fool, when the entire time we should have been worried about the family with a million men named James or the scientist turning the beacon of hope into a Risen-infested wasteland.

“You are a good man, Locke Holmes. An amazing man. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are the best of all of us—Branded or not. I am honored to fight by your side.”

Saffron’s orange sky cradled the sun as it make its ascent. We couldn’t afford to let Jack know that we were being helped by Hudson—and that we were still on Portent—so we made the journey to the edges of the settlement’s protective bubble by foot, where the residential areas faded away into factories for building space crafts and plenty of warehouses to store everything for the job—many of which were abandoned. We commandeered one thanks to Lestrade’s intel.

Watt scouted the building while the twins began preparing the backdrop I’d be using during my meeting with Jack. I’d been hesitant—“This is not going to fool him.“—but they managed to convince me otherwise. Every advantage we could find, even the most minor, would be worth it. If a simple backdrop could delay Jack from pinpointing our location for an additional five minutes, it’d be worth it.

“Still don’t understand why I couldn’t come to. You need backup.” John huffed into the comms, broadcasting his frustration to us all.

“If something goes wrong, I need us somewhat split up. I can’t afford to get caught and drag all of us down with me.” I could practically hear John’s eyes rolling. It made me smile.

“Your communications with Jack should be triple encrypted, and should appear to be coming from every location on Saffron at once,” Yelena said over comms. “If you think he’s on to you, though, just drop the call.”

“Outside looks good.” Blackstone peeked her head inside of the warehouse to give us a thumbs up. “We’re all clear out here. Doesn’t look like anyone’s going to be coming this way, but I’ll get rid of them if they get too close.”

“We’re all done here,” Ira said. The backdrop was mostly props from within the warehouse itself, with a bit of digital effects provided by Watt and a few remotely from Yelena. They made it seem as if we were traversing the stars, and Yelena had carefully designed it to look as if we were headed towards another sector. Irēn gestured for me to take a seat behind a battered metallic desk off to a side.

I closed my eyes as they made the final adjustments around me. I fidgeted with my hands in front of me, failing at distracting myself from my growing fear. This is going to work. This is going to work. Despite my best attempts to believe what I was telling myself, I struggled to let optimism take hold.

Watt adjusted the background noise, enveloping us in a soft ambiance of ship traveling idly. Ira made small tweaks to the scene before giving his sister a thumbs up.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this, Holmes?” Lestrade’s voice in my ear gave me a small comfort. But I had to be honest with myself. I was never going to be ready. Jack was a monster—unknowingly working for an even bigger monster. I didn’t have the privilege of being ready to face him. It was either do it, or else.

“No,” I said with my Heart. Hiding behind my Shadow would do us no good. “But let’s do this.”

// Scene Challenge

I think this'll be a Dangerous Scene Challenge.

+2 Boxes per progress. 

0/10. Clock: 0/4

Irēn initiated contact. My stomach lurched as we waited. Part of me wished he would ignore the call, force us to try something else. And then Jack sprang into view and it took everything in me to not vomit. The projection showed him in an office—possibly the same one from when we last spoke to him, when he outed John and I. He rounded a desk to come fully into frame before stopping, eyes glued me to. I set my shoulders and did my best to play my part. 

“I should have known she was working with you.” He took a seat and clasped his hands together before him on the desk. He didn’t even roll his eyes—it all made me irrationally upset. Still, even now, no emotion? Was he annoyed? Pissed? Confused? The slightest bit amused, knowing that he’d been tricked into having a conversation with me? How did seeing me make him feel? I did my best to contain my frustration.

“We need to talk.”

“Oh. About what?”

I recalled my talking points—Lestrade and John had drilled them into me at length earlier. "This war you have planned. Not just between me and the rest of the Branded, but the entire Forge."

// Face Danger

I think this might be classified as something risky. We're letting him know that we know.

Face Danger...Unsure of what stat, though. There's either heart, iron, or wits, each with different meanings. I think Iron might suit best here, as he's not pleading with him just yet, nor is he doing anything witty.

+3 (iron) => 6 vs 8, 10. Miss. Hmmmm...

Let's risk it. Using Fugitive.

So, Strong hit.

fugitive -1 [3]

2/10. Clock: 0/4

“We don’t give you enough credit, Detective. You’re rather astute.” He adjusted a tablet in front of him and tapped the screen a few times. In the corner of our call, a clip of the security footage, showcasing John, Jane, and myself running through the halls, sprang into view. “I wonder if you found that information out by sneaking into my facility." Crap. More “proof” to justify our fugitive status.

"You have to stop this,” I said, Slyly acting unbothered. “Look, I’m not threatening you, I’m pleading here, Jack. There is much more at stake here than just a war." Speaking from the Heart had always worked before. No matter how deep his emotions were buried or how obscured they were, perhaps I could get through to him.

// Face Danger

This time Heart.

+1 => 7 vs 1,3. Sh!

4/10. Clock: 0/4

"Even if I wanted to—which I don’t—this is bigger than simply you and I.”

“Why are you doing this? Is this your father's plan?"

“It is my father’s, and his father’s, and his father’s, and so on, passed down for generations. All focused on one singular task: eliminating you and controlling others like you. I may not be the Forty-Fourth, but I believe in the cause as well."

How could I get him to change his mind? I knew he was unknowingly adhering to Malice’s plans, but I couldn’t exactly tell him that.

Perhaps he had the same fears I did.

"Why do you follow someone else’s plan? Besides, it seems like your older brother is the one who's going to take charge when it's all said and done, right?" I debated putting my Heart into it—beg him to stand down. But I knew that wouldn’t work. So, instead, I played into my Shadow—perhaps even my Wits. If I couldn’t sway him with emotion, then perhaps I could trick him. A gamble, no doubt.

// Face Danger

Perhaps this is Wits. Could be Shadow, too, technically. Luckily, they’re both the same.

+2 => 3 vs 5, 10. Miss.

I think, narratively, is time for a good price.

4/10. Clock: 1/4

Hmm...I'm gonna go with 

-1 spirit [1]

And I wont try to endure, because it'll make it worse.

"And why do you follow someone else's plan, Detective? Surely, you didn't plan on becoming a hero—or a plague. No. You're a pawn in someone else's game. My apologies, I won't insult you to that degree: you've been promoted. Perhaps you're a Knight, now. Regardless, someone else's hand is moving you. I'm sure you're going to be a good willing sacrifice—if you’re of any significance at all.”

That...stung, much more than it should have.

"Struck a nerve, I see.” He couldn’t even gloat right—which somehow made it all worse.

I did my best to hide my emotions in the depths of my Shadow. "Not at all. Just thinking about what your mother, with her dark brown eyes and hair, would think if she saw you like this today. She was beautiful. Too bad your father strangled her."

// Face Danger

THAT is an attack.

Face Danger + iron

+3 => 8 vs 3, 4. SH!

6/10. Clock: 1/4

Jack was stoic and stolid. Even bringing up his mother, he didn’t—

Flinch. I only noticed because I was looking for it so intently. The smallest hint that I’d finally gotten through that emotionless exterior of his.

"So, you want to talk about mothers?”

// Oracle

Didn't plan this, but I walked right into this.

What's Locke's mother's name? Sherlock's parents are never mentioned, but Doyle's is.

I walked into that, didn’t I?

As if he’d been waiting for this moment, he said without checking his tablet, “Mary Foley. Unwed mother of two boys: Michael Crofton and Locke Holmes. My, what a whore. Neither father wanted to stay, so she struggled raising you both herself. Tsk tsk. Her negligence must be the reason that the eldest of her kids disappeared—or did he leave, too, because he couldn’t stand either of you? And then she was stuck with you, Detective. What would she think? Does she wish it was you instead of Michael that vanished all those years ago?"


// Face Danger

I think this is a Face Danger Shadow, for not letting the emotions show.

+2 -> 3 vs 1, 6. WH

8/10. Clock: 2/4

"Oh my, struck another nerve. How many do you have left?”

“How does it feel to know she was Hivebranded, and helping me? Is that why your father killed her?" I snapped back, then reeled in my emotions again.

// Finish the Scene

I think...I roll here. He either takes the bait, or he doesn't.

8 vs...

“Father loved Mother. But you infected her. You are the reason she is not here with us today. I do not blame my Father for doing what needed to be done. He ensured that his children were not subject to the same fate. And, that very night, Father explained to us what had happened—that you infected her. He was simply doing what others before him have also had to endure. It was the same night I cast aside frivolous emotions. The same night Jillian chose her new, more powerful name. And the same night the Forty-Fourth began to really focus on his destiny.

“Did you think I did not know the ugly truth, Detective? Did you think I would gasp and let slip some somber emotion at the shocking revelation that Father killed Mother? Perhaps I was too quick to label you astute. You clearly do not have a grasp on the situation at hand.

“Do not think for one second you could ever best me. I am a Moriarty.”

The call blipped out of existence, leaving me alone again with my crew.

I sat, stunned, mouth slightly agape. A waveform on Watt’s body compressed down to a single line before it was replaced with, “Recording saved.”

"I think we got him."

// Finish the Scene Result

8 vs 1, 7.

A strong hit.

Mark Progress

Progress on how to stop the moriarty's vow


Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

Locke and the crew reach out for help to stop the inevitable war with the Moriartys. What they find is help from a rather odd ally...

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #19: Tick, Tick, Boom
Locke and the crew reach out for help to stop the inevitable war. What they find is help from a rather odd ally…

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.

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