It always surprised Falk, even when accounting for his immense intellect, how those fools could grab hold of his mood and utterly crash it, irrespective of how high it was beforehand.
Less than an hour ago, he had looked upon the city feeling invincible and victorious, and yet, Falk now stared across a room of his lessers utterly irritated.
“The point is that all our work has bared fruit,” Falk said impatiently. “It works. We must simply make the same preparations on a larger scale and eradicate them when they arrive.”
“I am telling you, you underestimate their strength,” the Shadow argued. She turned her head towards the Head of Mists, “tell him. You saw it too, the real strength of their army.”
“I did not see the real strength of the Magni defense,” said the personified vacuum of human emotion that was the Head of Mists, in deflection.
“Ugh,” the Shadow grunted, turning towards Eliza, “it is futile. They have vehicles, huge sprawling vehicles–”
“Made of the material that makes up their armors, no doubt,” Falk cut in, as harshly as ever, “we will crumble them.”
“Their sheer numbers will overwhelm us,” the Shadow pressed, “We have always avoided direct confrontation, it has been the path of success.”
“We’ll have to confront them sometime, girl,” Falk said, rolling his eyes with the tone of his voice.
“Oh, I dunno about that,” the Street Rat chimed in, “’ve accomplished much not meetin’ things head-on.”
“This is a war. They are an army,” Falk talked. He looked around as if looking at a bunch of children who were failing to understand the rule of three. “They need to die. There is no other way around it.”
“Bah, they oughta have a leader. If we could find him…and kidnap him.”
That was the Scavenger woman, Emery, suggesting some roundabout method that made little sense.
“I already killed their leader, someone else just stepped up,” Falk said.
“You killed some kind of military leader,” the Hunter proposed from the side, “like a general. I think she means we find their king.”
It was so irritating, trying to convince people to do the obvious thing. The common sense decision.
“They might not even have one. They are very–” Falk interrupted himself to breathe in and calm himself. He breathed in, and out, relaxed his tone of voice and sought to find the ability to be patient with a group of people that had become too numerous, despite Lazaros dying. “They are evidently, as a species, decided on eradicating all of us. Neyrk is all we have left. This is very simple math.”
“What about Griff’s info?” Jamie said, with a timing that illustrated Falk’s words hadn’t been considered. “Could we do something with that?”
The Street Rat was trying to get a rise out of him, it had to be the reason. Falk glanced down at him in anger but he pretended not to notice.
“You’re gonna trust that maniac?” Falk said, his temper flaring. “He probably just wants us to waste our time, make sure we all die with him.”
“No,” Eliza finally spoke, “that is not him.”
“I ‘gree,” Emery said, interrupting him. “He’s not the type”
The interruption flustered him.
“Oh, like you people’re such great judges of character when it comes to him, right?”
Falk knew he made a mistake the moment he finished talking. He observed the mood decline around Eliza, who would have the last word since most of the others supported her unflinchingly. He glanced down again at Jamie, fully annoyed at his interference which had caused him to lose his temper.
“I…am no scientist,” Eliza started, calmly, “but Falk, and tell the truth…both transportation devices contained within them a counterpart to the Jakarayah’s amulet, which was doing the opposite. Is it possible that such mechanisms exist in their home?”
Falk twitched his nose in thought.
“Yes,” the Bronze Alchemist answered, “I’d say that makes sense.”
“What of it?” Falk asked, doubtful. “The stones are supernatural in some way but the technology surrounding them is not. I can’t just—”
“I have the original stone,” Eliza suddenly said, quieting everyone.
“Excuse me,” Emery edged in, “what do you mean?”
“Me, Katsuo and Griff delayed their invasion by stealing the stone from them. The ship sunk, so does that mean it’s a source of energy? Of fuel?”
Falk found a hard time to be petty when his brain was actually curious.
“Hm, yes, and due to how long they took to return…it can’t just be like the thing they use to terraform, it has to be something much more…”
“Powerful,” Eliza finished, “I have it.”
“Why haven’t we been able to study it?!” Falk questioned, annoyed.
“I have been, actually,” the Bronze Alchemist said, “me and Michella. It’s still functional, we have a theory about how to use it but we need Jakariah’s Amulet.”
“What’s the theory?” Falk pressed, his voice a bit too loud.
“We can talk about the specifics later…but the goal is to also reverse the effect,” Shu continued, “and if this fuel isn’t just for terraforming…”
Falk rolled his eyes, which translated into his monocles whirring. To make certain that they knew what he was doing, he also shook his head patronizingly.
“Ifs and maybes. What I know is we have a day, two max, before the beasts get here,” Falk explained, “we do not. Have. The time.”
“If we can find where they came from,” Eliza persisted, “and somehow…corrupt whatever kind of central system it is that they use. Maybe it is how they power all of their machines that will guarantee our victory.”
“But we do not know,” Falk said. “That is the issue.”
“You know what we could do?!”
The tone of voice that came out of the Shadow, who was holding her arms crossed, was enough for Falk to know what she was about to say.
He couldn’t believe it.
“We could ask our prisioner,” the Shadow said.
The Hunter opened her eyes in realization but the rest of them were confused.
“He came from there, wherever it is,” the Shadow added. “He will know how his technology works. He will know how we can hurt them.”
That was that. No fighting it now, not reasonably, Falk would be forced to waste resources on a fool’s errand.
“Yes,” Eliza nodded, “I already set the Illusionist on that job.”
The only way to half-salvage the situation was the usual way: claim control over it.
“Fine, fair enough,” Falk said, shaking his head again, “I suppose we can’t ignore such a thing. Let us waste no time and instead promptly discuss how we would even get there in the first place, to do whatever it is we’ll try to do. Is it not underground? How would we get there?”
“If only that friend of yours was on our side,” Jamie commented, making it sound like a poke.
“The Mole is dead, his inventions destroyed, and while I could certainly replicate his burrowing machinery — improve it even — not even I can accomplish something like that in a day.”
“I’ve sent scouts,” Eliza pointed out, “to make sure. It is far enough away, and from what little we gathered, the entrance is in the Obelisk Canyon. You’ll remember it was ruptured by an earthquake a century ago.”
“Was it them?” Emery asked.
“Unknown,” Eliza said. “Doesn’t matter. There is a way to get inside, through the chasm in the floor. It leads into cracks in the ground which lead into a tunnel system. However, no one has ever been there and we don’t know the placement of the cracks or the tunnels so if we try to teleport, we can easily appear inside the wall.”
“How’d Griff even manage to find it?!” Falk asked, and it was surprising it had taken him so long to ask. He had really been focused on not exploring that particular action, to not have explored that curiosity.
“I do not know,” Eliza said. “It probably involves the stone. It was stolen from the Magni soon after the official creation of the Shadow Conclave. It turns out it was him all along.”
“This’s the guy we’re trusting,” Falk said, quite exasperated.
“Most my scouts were killed by gun emplacements,” Eliza mentioned, growing a bit angry, “their defenses are factually considerable around the referenced point of entry. So yes, we are trusting his verified reports.”
So they had sent scouts already.
It seemed as everything had already been decided and acted upon, which greatly put into question the very nature of that meeting, but more than that, Falk’s presence there. The Shadow Conclave was now a joke, a gathering of agents Eliza wanted to still feel important.
Which he understood, but to do the same with him? After everything that had happened, not two days later, they were doing everything without his personal consultation or input?
Mongrels, Falk thought, viciously, Mongrels, the lot of them.