Three days have passed since the assault on Solaria, and the postmortem investigation into exactly what had happened has been proceeding. At the moment, Cerin is seated in one of the minor offices within the Cascade, speaking with Misea Kiq, a district commandant in the Solaria police.
Spring stands in the corner, idly looking at some office art.
Misea "Before accounting for the detonation of the weapon in the Aurora district, we show the total civilian casualties in this incident at 26," she is saying, "primarily located in the hospital and temple."
Imrama sits in the corner opposite Spring's, toiling at the small workbench that on this, the third day, is familiar to his compatriots. A pile of lovingly shaped red bricks sits on his left, while on his right rest two distinct piles: one for completed tiles, and one for the discarded ones whose calligraphy proved anything less than perfect.
Misea takes out a map of the city with a variety of hotspots marked on it in red, with figures for civilian deaths, Broken Suns killed and captured, and engaging forces. "Besides the locations which yourself and the other Solars dealt with," she says, "the army and police engaged with eight additional cells, based on the intel provided to us, and were able to prevent them from successfully enacting their plans."
Cerin nodded as he studied the map. The Aurora district hadn't actually been marked accurated, else it would have been an ugly red stain. The little number next to a lone red dot told the story. "Casualties amongst your forces?" he asked, as he considered those captured.
Misea "Minimal, no more than 14 killed across the entire city," she says. "In most cases we were able to act before the Broken Suns were in a position to resist effectively. The primary exception was here," she says, "in the Waterskein neighborhood, where they operated out of buildings currently under construction; we had eight of our casualties there."
Spring "Too many," Spring mutters, idly tapping the wall.
Cerin "And of the Broken Suns?"
Imrama pauses before dipping his horse-hair brush into his well of acidic ink again. "Far too many. Officer Misea, I would appreciate a listing of the full names of Solarian police officers killed in the attack, when it is convenient for you to supply such."
Misea nods sadly. "We should have done better," she says, and pauses a moment before answering Cerin's question. "In our engagements, 33 Broken Suns killed, 38 captured, between zero and two escaped, depending on the accuracy of the counts provided by our soldiers."
Misea nods in turn to Imrama, and hands him a small sheaf of paper with the list he has requested.
Imrama inclines his head in deep gratitude, and begins writing out the first name on the list across a fresh brick, the acid searing in the name of Officer Bevel Ilik Mandoroo.
Spring "Far too many," Spring growls this time. "What happened to my instructions?" He glances over his shoulder as he taps. "You had a responsibility to the citizens of Solaria -- even those who need correction."
Misea "We did not prepare effectively for suicide," she says. "The first two cells we engaged with were able to utilize prepared mechanisms to die entirely before we could react, and even with following cells our ability to prevent this was imperfect."
zahara leans back, contemplating the numbers and locations with a slight frown. She shrugs a little. "Good riddance."
Spring stares at her, then back at the rather large hole he has put in the wall. "Excuse my interruption," he replies through gritted teeth.
zahara turns considerably more perturbed eyes on the hole in the wall.
Lucent was watching from the doorway. "Poor souls. Lives ruined and ended for this creature that has twisted their will. This is not suicide, Misea. It is murder, as sure as if they had been killed by their leader."
Spring "Murder we ought to have prevented."
Spring "We gave them too much time."
zahara snorts. "Some people are better off dead. Though I would have liked to have more alive for interrogation."
Spring "Let us not argue."
Misea continues her attempt to maintain a stoic, strong front, though this is clearly far greater than any other challenge she's faced working in Solaria.
Imrama grunts in frustration, and drops an imperfect brick onto the discard pile. "Long-Awaited Spring, I cannot help but agree with you that prevention would have been preferable. But living now, as we are, in its absence, all that is left to us is mourning. And vengeance."
Lucent was starting to speak against Zahara, then silences and nods to Thirteen.
zahara "Shall we move on?"
Cerin "Yes, we should. We know a little of the location of the source of this. It is possible that interrogation will tell us more, although I doubt that."
Imrama "Lets. Officer Misea, of the various deadly devices employed by the conspirators, how much have you been able to recover, and what have you been able to make of them?"
Spring glances at Imrama, but waits for the report to continue.
Misea "The devices used by most of the attackers fell into similar categories: small devices, wieldable by individuals without Essence-channelling capability, with an ability to create large amounts of destruction: thaumaturgic detonators, crystalline soul weaponry, stored energy devices, summoning sticks, and so on."
Misea "We've gathered together as many functional and damaged devices as we can for further examination, although it's clear from what we've seen so far that the group had significant external funding and that the devices primarily seemed to originate from a weapons black market, rather than a specific Essence-wielding patron -- they range between First Age, pre-First Age, and modern manufacture."
Misea "The device used in the Aurora stands out, for two reasons," she says. "First, it's something we're unfamiliar with, whereas everything else -- even the soul reactor device used at the temple -- is well-documented, something I would expect one could purchase given a sufficient supply of jade."
Misea "And second..." She pauses. "It requires a significant input of Essence at the time of use."
Cerin "Would sacrifice fulfil that goal?"
zahara rises from her chair and begins to pace, hands clasped behind her back.
Cerin Cerin is musing out loud here, rather than expecting an answer from the commandant.
Misea "Mortal sacrifice? Unlikely," she says. "Our Exalts have just recently started to examine it, but it would appear that the device required attunement to function."
Lucent "So you believe it was activated by an Exalt. Or an Spirit."
Spring "Yes. I had assumed a powerful Exalt must have been directly involved, for that plan to so completely defy my countermeasures."
Cerin "And to avoid my searches," Cerin observes. "And, of course, a sufficiently powerful Exalt need not have died in the event."
Imrama "There is also the matter of the Soulsteel weapon used to disable Lucien."
Lucent "As soon as Varanim stops being a pain and comes here, we need to go where the weapon was fired, then. Pehaps our twin detectives can see who it was." He looks at Imrama, "Imrama, we all know the Mask did it, using Lookshy's secret armories. We just need PROOF."
Misea nods. "That's our operating assumption," she says, and shivers, despite her best efforts to avoid doing so. "This..." She seems a little too upset to finish her conclusion.
Misea ** the spear is starmetal actually
Spring "Are you all right, Misea?" Spring asks softly.
Misea closes her eyes and tries to catch her breath for a moment. "Y...yes, I think so," she says. "The... whole Broken Suns operation was just a diversion," she says.
zahara contemplates possible Exalted enemies, ticking them off on her fingers. The Deathlords of course, the Hundredfold, Akuna... if it were Akuna, she would have an excellent excuse to eradicate him. She breaks from that enticing thought to look at Misea. "From?"
Lucent "WHAT?" Waves of presence go through everyone on the room to strike the room like his palm.
Imrama "I would welcome that, Lucent, if only because it is an easy answer. But I would like proof not only to show the world, but also for myself. Cerin and Varanim should certainly examine all of the recovered ordinance. I would also like to do so - and we should also consult the Chumyo."
zahara grits her teeth, feeling the slap of Lucent's presence. "Do not do that again, Lucent," she says icily.
Cerin "I do not think we can look to the Mask, as tempting as it might be. He is bound by the Diplomat's Bane as we are."
Spring "Time. Too much time. We know the Broken Suns have been receiving external funding. Why can we not follow the money? Surely this falls within your -- " he indicates the Eclipses with a nod -- "area of expertise."
Spring "This will give us all leads to pursue."
Misea "From the bomb," she says. "The more I think about it, the more it makes sense," she says. "On a normal day, an Exalt sneaking into Solaria to blow something up might encounter any number of you, simply in the course of attempting to execute their plan. But on a day where multiple attacks drew your attention and otherwise mobilized the army and police?"
Spring glances at the table, but then looks back at the hole in the wall, and simply sits down on the corner of the desk.
Imrama shrugs and for a moment regrets never making any study of finance.
Lucent sighs in relief at that "Then there is nothing we are unaware of, at least."
Cerin "That does make sense, yes." He says. It is not how he would have done it. But then, he's never planned such an operation.
Spring "Certainly. If I had no care for the lives of my people, it would be a very effective approach."
zahara "It was rather effective, you must admit."
zahara resumes pacing, and considers refacing the entire manse with steel
Cerin "Spring, they were not our foe's 'people'. They were ours, too."
Spring glances up at Cerin. "I thought that was my point."
Lucent "Twice as effective."
Cerin "So, discounting the Mask as being exceedingly unlikely, who else could pull off such an attack?"
zahara rubs her forehead. "The Lion, the other Deathlords. The Hundredfold. Akuna."
Spring "The Five Who Were Fallen. The Lacuna. The Fae. Those of us in this room, assuming a lamentable lapse of judgement."
Spring "There are too many suspects for the process of elimination to be quick enough."
Spring "Not you, Misea."
Misea nods uncertainly.
Imrama "The almost any large nation that was willing to destroy itself in order to fund and execute the attack."
zahara "I suspect it is nearing tea time."
Cerin "That is the point I wished to make. We cannot look for evidence pointing to any one suspect. We must see where it leads us instead."
zahara runs her fingers along the edges of the hole in the wall, leaving behind not mended wall, but sharpened edges.
Spring notes Zahara's motion, takes a piece of paper from Misea's desk and begin calmly writing on it in broad, legible strokes.
Spring "Tea would be nice. Have you ever noticed that we always seem to eat when we have important business to discuss?"
zahara "Indeed, it gives one time to think between grand speeches."
zahara "And besides, I have promised tea to one of our new guests."
Spring "If you and Lucent wish to speak to the Chumyo, Imrama, and Cerin and Varanim intend to investigate the scene of the...incident, I will aid Zahara in finding the source of the Broken Sun's money."
Spring "Does this seem reasonable as a plan of action?"
Lucent nods! "Indeed."
Spring glances at Zahara questioningly as he puts up the fruits of his labor on the wall -- a sign reading "Warning: Sharp Hole Edges, Do Not Touch".
zahara blinks at the sign, then quirks her lips into a smile, and shakes her head.
Varanim sticks her head in, looking tired. "Anything interesting happening in here?"
Lucent "FINALLY deigned to show up, hmmm?"
zahara "Debriefing over the recent attacks, and forming a plan of action. If you are amenable, your part in it is to investigate the scene of the incident to try to trace the source of the funding.
zahara "Debriefing over the recent attacks, and forming a plan of action. If you are amenable, your part in it is to investigate the scene of the Aurora incident to try to discover which Exalt powered the device.
Spring "And, perhaps, where they went, and why they did this."
Spring offers Varanim a slight smile.
Varanim "Can't rush genius," she smirks at Lucent. To Spring and Zahara, she shrugs agreeably. "I suspect you're drastically overestimating the information content of these little entrail readings, but of course I'll take a look."
Spring "That is as much as we can expect."
Cerin "Should we go?" Cerin asked of Varanim.
Varanim breaks off a sideways glare at Lucent to nod to Cerin. "Lead on, I'm sure it'll be uplifting."
Varanim She pauses to look over at Spring, adding, "We need to talk about enlightenment later," then heads out.