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

⚡️THUNDERFANG S3 #19: Tick, Tick, Boom
⚡️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 previous chapter

Tick, Tick, Boom

Season 3, Chapter 19

// Fulfill Your Vow

7 vs...


I shot out of bed, tossing the covers aside. What time was it? What was happening? Had we been discovered again? My eyes were barely open and I stumbled to make it to Lestrade, awakening Ira in my haste.

We’d spent the entire day on edge. Shortly after getting what we needed, and confident that we had enough to ruin them, we released everything we had on Jack Moriarty, his family, and the Benevolent. All the information we’d gathered from our expedition through the underground facility here in Portent, as well as the recording of Jack admitting that his father killed his mother. I didn’t like that my mother or brother was mentioned, but I didn’t want to run the risk of the recording sounding altered in any way. We needed this to work. There was no chance in hell that it would hold up in court, but at the very least we could inform the public and ruin whatever they had planned.

Results did not come swiftly, however, and we anxiously waited all day to see what would happen next. We even returned to the Scarlet Adler, hidden beneath Baker’s Shipyard, unsure if our cover had been blown. It’d gotten so late that we all turned in for the night, hopeful that tomorrow would bring us something.

Apparently we just needed to wait until almost dawn.

Various news channels were projected all over the common area. John and Lestrade were watching them intently; one screen in particular had its volume raised above the others. As I got closer, still rubbing sleep from my eyes, Lestrade pointed me to it. But nothing made sense right now. In my haze, it looked like Jack Moriarty was holding a press conference in the middle of night.

“Is he holding a press conference?” Blackstone moved to stand next to me, eyes glued to the screen.

“At this hour?” Ira joined her.

Shit. I wasn’t dreaming.

“So, no one shot him? Not even a tomato? Damn.” Jane yawned loudly and slumped into one of the seats still neatly positioned in rows and columns. “I’d settle for him and his family at least being egged.”

“Why do I get the feeling that Jack’s not in trouble at all?” Kaisa made a sound of disgust as she began to make coffee.

“Impossible. I’m sure there are government officials not under their thumbs, and they’re hard at work compiling a case right now,” Fletcher said confidently.

Jack held a quieting hand to whatever press was before him as he stepped up to a podium. Still no smile, not even to the public. How were we supposed to know if our plan worked if he didn’t show any emotion? Had we gotten him? Or had we failed and made things worse? 

Everyone else on board the Scarlet Adler took seats as Jack began to speak.

“Let me start off by saying that, yes. Yes, it is all true. Everything. My father, ever vigilant to protect his family, did kill my mother. And yes, I have been preparing to bring change amongst the other sectors of the Forge.

“First, let me address the situation with my family. It is no secret that the vile things known as Branded are growing like a plague. They have infected our worlds, our homes, and bring such calamity. Let us not forget the terrible events they have ushered in, the countless deaths. Who knows what else they are capable of? Somehow my mother—my sweet, sweet mother—was infected. Otherwise, she would have never been involved in this mess. Father did what needed to be done and, if I must be candid, I applaud him. This is why we keep them locked away on an entirely separate planet, away from our loved ones. How else are we supposed to defend ourselves against these creatures that can move things with their minds, predict the future, or worse? Wouldn’t you do the same if your family was threatened? Wouldn’t you do whatever it takes?”

My stomach dropped. The air in the Scarlet Adler thickened; I put a hand on John’s shoulder, hoping it would help.

This was not going as planned.

“The Branded are an issue not just in the Salvi Pass, but in the entirety of the Forge. Avam has its fair share of foreigners, but we cannot expect the other sectors to eliminate the disease effectively—not like we can. No. This is why we must take it upon ourselves to show the rest of the Forge how to eliminate this pest from our stars. They may not want our help, but they are naive. They do not know that they need our guidance, our firm hand. They do not know what is coming. We are the experts, curing this disease that addles the Forge, and therefore we must do what is best for us all. It is our responsibility. Like my father, we must do whatever it takes. Rest assured, no harm will come to you or your families under my watch.”

“Um…did we just accelerate the fucking war!?

// Fulfill Your Vow Result

7 vs... 2, 8. WH

All according to plan. (My plan. lol)

Progress on train jane vow. this time, training without violence! 40%

I will say, this result is almost written like a Miss. But I think a Miss would have been worse. They forced Jack’s hand, which may make him sloppy.

After silencing some of the crowd, Jack continued. “Because our documents were leaked, we must act fast—strike now. Luckily, we still have the upper hand, things not divulged by the fugitive known as Locke Holmes and those who help him. If all goes according to plan“—a shiver went down my spine—”you all will never see the effects of what must be done. We have a planet full of soldiers, ready to fight for our cause, as well as other means, ensuring no civilian—not even the S.P.D. or our army—will have to leave their home. All we ask is for your unwavering support.”

A war that no one here would see? A planet full of soldiers?

“How is that possible?” Lestrade asked, turning the volume down as Jack began to answer questions from the crowd. “Wars need bodies.”


My eyes widened. 

How had I forgotten? 

I smashed into chairs as I ran down hallways, looking for it. It’d been so long since I’d seen it. Where did I put it? Had I accidentally left it in the Ironlands? Perhaps it got mixed in with the things we traded while on Obon. Was it destroyed in our multiple escapes from Jack’s twisted sister?

“Locke! What’s wrong?” Ira shouted, catching up to me, Lestrade, John, and Blackstone in tow.

“He’s talking about Risen!” I tossed everything out of my way, frantically looking. It had to be here, somewhere. “And….and I think the Branded on Avam.”

I could barely hear the sounds of shock from the crew. I was too focused. It had to be—

I held it up: a memory drive, the one I’d gotten from Mihara Energy Corp., back when I first met Jane and the others. I dashed back to the common area, ignoring the cries and questions of my friends, and loaded it into Watt for him to display for the others.

“When I went looking for Jane,” I said frantically, livid with myself and out of breath, “I found this, but so much happened after that I had forgotten about it entirely. Watt was nearly destroyed, I had a breakdown after leaving Jane behind, and all the chaos that came after she was finally rescued. I’m such an idiot! How could I have forgotten all about this!”

The documents it contained clearly spelled out methods of controlling the Branded, enhancing them, turning them into soldiers and weapons—ones that the Moriartys didn’t care if they lived or died.

“And if they die,” Lestrade pointed out, her voice growing somber, “they can turn them into Risen to keep fighting.”


I silenced the voice. Or just ignored it. Regardless, it worked for the moment. “This is bad. Very, very bad.” How had I fucked this up so catastrophically?

“What are we going to do now?” Ira asked softly, the tension thick.

“I swear.” I raised a hand—my ringed hand—and Ira gripped it, trying to force it down. But I was Swearing for myself this time more than anyone else. I rubbed my thumb over my ring, gripping Ira’s hand with my other hand. I needed his touch. “I swear, we will stop this war.”

Michael stood not too far from us. He nodded to me. Then, one by one, as if compelled by some outside force, everyone silently placed a hand on mine—like they were Swearing, too.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said as Ira held me, my back against his chest, arms wrapped around me tight. I couldn’t get back to sleep, my mind racing knowing that Jack was out there getting ready to invade the rest of the Forge. Ira did his best to comfort me in our small bed.

“What I don’t get is why no one opposed him, shut him down,” Ira said. “I mean, Legacy is already working on what to do, and some people are definitely against what he has planned, but…Not a single government official told him it wasn’t a good idea? It’s like they want the bigoted man who talks like a drone to rule. It’s like they’re happy they don’t have to hide their malicious intent anymore.”

“I don’t know how we can win, Ira. It was bad enough when I thought it was just the Benevolent. Then it turned out to be the Benevolent and the Moriartys. Now it’s the Benevolent, the Moriartys, and damn near the entire Salvi Pass? Not to mention Malice is mixed into this somehow.”

“Every Hivebranded we come across seems to have your back, though. They know you have what it takes. They’ve been rooting for you since the beginning. Me, too.”

“All I did was make everything worse,” I groaned. “Not just for us, but for the entire Forge—including Wolfe Hollow and the Ironlands.”

“What do you want to do?”

A simple question, but with no simple answer. What exactly did I want to do? Did I want to pack it up and flee? Perhaps there was something else like the Forge out there somewhere. We could leave all of this behind. We’d tried—I’d tried. My best wasn’t enough.

But would Ira still look at me the same if I abandoned it all?

No, wait. For once, I needed to reframe that. I couldn’t continue to live my life the way others saw me. That was how I broke down after leaving Jane. 

For once, I needed to do things for me.

Would I look at myself the same? Would I be able to live with myself if I didn’t try again—and again and again? Would I still be able to, or want to, consider myself a hero, or a Bleeding Heart?

No, I wouldn’t. 

Ira gave me those titles and I finally felt like I deserved them. I thought of myself as a Bleeding Heart and a hero. I wanted to be those things—no longer just because of him, but because of me.

“I want to save the Forge and as many people as I can. I want to run away, too, but I’d never forgive myself if I abandoned all of this now.”

He kissed my back and pulled me in closer. As long as I could come home to this, I could do anything.

// Hearten

+1 (heart) => 2 vs 2, 10. Miss.

BUT, because it's with Ira, I can use Bonded #2 so reroll any dice.

I'm going to keep the 2 challenge die, and reroll the action and the 10.

6 vs 2, 7. Weak Hit.

Hmmm... Fuck it. Let's burn momentum.

10 vs 2,7. Strong hit.

+1 momentum from Bonded SH [3]

Even if it meant stopping a war.

The sun rose once more and we did not waste a single moment. It felt like we were out of options, but I couldn’t let that deter me. We needed to figure out our next move, and fast. 

Jack was going to use Branded and Risen for this war. We were sure of it. We discussed me making a Heart-felt public statement, but with the way that Jack went unopposed while displaying undeniable bigotry, we were afraid of what would happen if I did.

“We need some kind of support, though,” Irēn said as we huddled together in the common area. The smell of coffee and toast filled the interior and our bellies.

“Legacy is working on something,” Ira said, “but I don’t know how much good that’ll do us. I still think Locke convincing the Forge is our best plan. If he could awaken the Order of the Iron Rose on accident, think of what he could do on purpose.”

“Public opinion seems to be on Jack’s side,” Kaisa said. “And, even if Locke does sway a large amount of people to join us, we have no money or supplies.”

John and I exchanged glances at the same time. In unison, we said, “Diogenes.”

“Is that the person that called you on Shiningstar?” Lestrade asked.

“Yes. She’s wealthy as hell,” I said, typing up an encrypted message to let her know it was urgent that we speak with her. “A lot of the Branded that escape Avam contact her for a loan to get back on their feet, start new lives.”

“It’s how I became Ripley Slater. Just wish I knew back then the loan wasn’t a huge debt; more indebted, in a way.”

Shortly after, her form projected before us. She was sitting in an expensive looking chair at a desk, physical books lining the walls around her, a tablet in her hand. Steam rose from a mug off to the side. “Mr. Holmes. I had a feeling you would be contacting me. The entire Forge has seen what you posted—and Jack’s response.”

“We need your help.”

“I hope you aren’t going to ask me to pay Jack Moriarty to stop. That’d be insane. Money doesn’t make people like him go away.”

For a fleeting moment, I felt bad that I hadn’t kept her in the loop. But I was going to have to worry about keeping up my Connections another day. Right now, we needed her up to speed, so we told Diogenes practically everything. We didn’t have time to keep things secret and beat around the bush. We needed her help, fast.

“I know, it’s a lot,” Lestrade said. “I’m just learning it all, too.”

“I knew of some of these details, though I wish Mr. Holmes and Mr. Morstan would have told me all of this sooner.” She looked concerned, much more than she normally did. In fact, it reminded me of when I told her about Ira.

She knew something.

“In any case, how do you expect me to help? There’s only so many weapons one can buy hoping to out match an army of mind controlled Branded and Risen.” 

Another sentence leading the conversation in the way she wanted it to go. She was definitely hiding something.

My eyes narrowed. “What aren’t you telling us, Diogenes?”

“You’re very astute, Mr. Holmes,” she said with a smirk. “I have been dreading this conversation, but…it seems I, too, am bound by fate.” She took a small sip of her drink, letting our confusion of what she could possibly tell us simmer a bit. “I’m quite sure you have deduced by now that I, too, am Branded, Mr. Holmes. I don’t think I chose my words carefully the last time we spoke on the Interpreter, and I let that secret slip. To move this conversation along further, I am technically Hivebranded.”

“What?!” John and Jane said simultaneously. I simply stared, mentally adding these new pieces to our ever-growing puzzle and trying figuring out where they fit. Right now, it seemed like they belonged in an entirely different pile.

“I am of a specific class of Hivebranded. Less powerful than the ones who can predict the future, mind you, but we have a purpose. We are known as the Animus.”

Ira dropped a mug, and I reached out a hand to comfort him. “Did you say Animus?”

She nodded. “It means hostility or ill-feeling, but also a motivation to do something. We were named as such because of our relation to Malice—and the part we play as tools.”

“‘The Animus are never wrong.’ That’s what they said when they were taking me to Avam.”

“My apologies, Mr. Adler. It seems a rogue Animus identified you and turned you in.”

“Can someone please explain what the hell an Animus can actually do?” Jane blurted out.

“Mrs. Sheppard, please. Have some patience. I am getting to it.” Diogenes sighed, finally placing the tablet down on the desk. “An Animus can identity when someone is Branded, and their potential. We are the reason so many of our kind end up on Avam, sadly. We are forced to be tools. Some of us, though, fight back in any way we can. I managed to avoid capture all these years, and have built up my arsenal of money and connections.”

“Not to be rude,” Lestrade interjected, “but how, exactly, does any of this help us? At this point I can assume everyone is Branded and life continues without changing a thing.”

// Author’s Note

No, really, I had to stop and ask myself why this was at all important. I had already rolled that Diogenes didn’t know about the Portent, so she can’t provide any information there. And this moment is more or less used to give you, the Reader, more lore.

It took a moment, but I realized how she can help in this moment…

Ready for a random ass callback?

“My point is, I know that there are even more Branded out there who can help, who can be of true benefit to you. There are abilities out there that you all have never dreamed of, such as Jane’s Branding. I think I can put you into contact with—”


Silence filled the Scarlet Adler and all eyes shot to the entrance. Had we been discovered? How? I banished thoughts of Hudson betraying us but I would be lying if I didn’t think it was a possibility.

“Are you expecting company, now, of all times?” Diogenes asked quietly.

“No one should know we’re here.” I flexed my fingers, letting lightning crackle from them. John and Lestrade grabbed guns.

“No, let me,” Irēn said. “I’m the least known person here. I can throw them off.” We nodded and let her approach the entrance, but we weren’t far behind. The air stilled and a flower in a pot by the door turned to watch her. I held my breath, sending a single nod to go ahead.

She opened the door, my heart beginning to pound in my chest, and she was immediately—

…pulled into a hug?

 Into the Scarlet Adler stumbled a man barely older than John, skin the same complexion as Lestrade, but the two didn’t seem related. He laughed as if nothing in the entire universe troubled him, a large smile planted on his face. From the looks of it, none of us recognized him. 

“Irēn! So great to see you again, again! GUYS, IT’S ME! Don’t shoot! Oh, it’s great to be back. I missed it here,” the man said, waving to each of us. “Oh, Kaisa made coffee! Don’t mind if I do,” he singsonged.

“Who the hell are you?” Lestrade rushed forward, gun aimed at his chest.

“Lestrade!” He reached a hand out to hover near her hair, as if inspecting it. “Oh my stars, did you cut your hair? No, wait, wait, wrong ti—”

“Tick?” Diogenes squinted to get a better look at the man, the projection changing positions to better take in the view of the strange intruder. He looked at her and his smile widened—somehow.

“Diogenes! Hi!” He waved furiously. “Am I on time, time?” He took a look around at us and seemed to be struck with a realization. “Oooh. I’m early early. My bad.”

“Tick, you cannot simply show up unannounced. You’ll get shot that way.”

“I thought I timed it right! Besides, they only shot me the second time. Last time they weren’t here! But sorry, sorry, I should’ve waited. Hold on. Let me do it again.” He pulled out an old-fashioned pocket watch. So old, it reminded me of some of the junk I’d seen in the vision of Arthur and Conan. Its black coating glistened in the light oddly, almost like it was black iron. It was beautiful, a well kept-antique. Where had he gotten that from?

Diogenes sighed. “He’s the one I was actually about to send your way. Looks as if I already did.”

“Why would you tell someone where we are?” Lestrade asked exasperated.

“Wait.” John raised a brow. “How do you even know where we are? We haven’t mentioned that yet.”

“I didn’t tell him, and I don’t know,” she said flatly. Another line in her personal script.

“Yet!” Tick said, fiddling with the pocket watch. “Ah, never mind, this is fine. No need. Don’t want to make it worse again, again. Sorry about—never mind.” He spoke so fast, it was almost hard to keep up with him.

“Then how did you know exactly where to find us? Only one other person here on Saffron knows where we are.” Lestrade stared daggers at Tick, who seemed completely unfazed by her ferocity—I didn’t realize anyone was immune to Lestrade’s stare.

“Wait,” I said, deja vu coming over me. He was familiar, just barely. Like I’d seen him in passing once or twice. “Have we met before?”

“Kinda, sort of, sort of, not really. It’s all a mess—wibbly wobbly, if you ask me.” With accuracy that scared and confused me, he reached into the correct cupboard and retrieved a cup, then poured himself coffee. “If I remember correctly, in this timeline, I bumped into you right before you left for Shiningstar.” As we watched stunned, he reached into the correct drawer yet again and pulled out sweetener and dumped a mound of it inside, then sat down in one of the neatly arranged chairs.

Diogenes sighed heavily once more. “Tick, you have to introduce yourself properly. I do not care how many times you’ve done it before. They have never met you.”

As if shocked by the realization, he gulped down the sugar-coffee in his mouth and stood again, placing the mug down without glancing—as if he was more than familiar with the interior of the Scarlet Adler. We hadn’t moved, still stunned by whatever the hell was transpiring before our eyes.

“Sorry, sorry. I forget how things work for everyone else sometimes. It’s hard to keep track. My name is Tennant Kole, but you can call me T.K., or just Tick—funny how I got a nickname that matches what I can do.”

“For fuck’s sake, be blunt already,” Jane groaned. “How did you know we were here?!”

“Oh. I’m Loopbranded. I can loop back in time to a save point. I’ve been here before.” He smiled—not like he ever stopped—and took another sip of his drink. “It’s nice to meet you all again, again.”

// Advance

Do you all remember that really random person that bumped into Locke before they went to Shiningstar?

This is him. Yes, he’s been a thing since then. He never came up in Season 2—at least, not on camera—but Locke is gonna need all the help he can get.

I'm going to represent Tick by upgrading Crew Commander

We now have 6 max, and it's up to 3.

I actually think this counts as progress towards Stop Malice. (5%)

We have a crew of ELEVEN people.

And I think this directly helps us stop the war/defeat jack, so progress here too


Next week on ⚡️THUNDERFANG:

The crew gets to know their newest ally, and learn what could have been.

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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