Back in the New Imperium, Jarvian, Jaiden, and the Mirage had completed the combat-program upgrade. Now the Mirage had some protocols for close-quarters combat, instead of assuming a minimum range of several miles – and the consequent freedom to use massive amounts of explosives. Getting back to Baelaria required booking passage on a seedy freighter of course. That was one of the general world laws of the Old Empire which had made it to the New Imperium intact. The rest of the passengers were equally dubious, but Jarvian kept to himself and Jaiden somehow passed without comment. At the gate itself hordes of people were trying to flee into the New Imperium while some storm troopers tried to maintain order – which made it easy enough for Jarvian to catch up on what had been going on while he was away before he headed on through. He got back in touch through Jaiden, and had headed for Londinium – for the Mirage a few hours away.
Meanwhile, in Londinium, the local crime family had dropped everyone off at the docks under cover of night. The air was filled with the sounds of numerous small fires, brawls, and conflicts, tainted with smoke, fish, and overloaded sewers, and heavy with mist. The “family” had some information on local safe-houses, the pass-phrases for entering them, and a bit about what happened to those who tried to force entry into the Ministry previously. The Ministry was in the “crystal palace” – an enormous glass-and-steel affair. The outer edges were a greenhouse and garden, but most attacks failed upon reaching the wall. Energy tended to be reflected, physical attacks tended to bounce, and those few groups that had made it in generally hadn’t make it out. Those who did talked about monsters in the gardens, including one or two things that were fast, strong, highly resistant to magic, and stealthy. Mages who walked up and demand audiences were usually either let in or ignored. The place probably had a wide variety of wards up. The Ministry was pretty paranoid – and pretty vicious as well. They usually hung out at either the Ministry or the Guild. Some visited shops and merchants occasionally, others sometimes headed out to the docks or train stations to pick up odd shipments. When they were out in public they usually had several apprentices/bodyguards with them and – since the fighting had started – they’d shown themselves able to summon forth small groups of silver fluidic creatures as reinforcements. There were even a few rumors about them making regular visits to an abandoned house that had belonged to a very prominent mage – at one point he’d been up for the position of Minister of Magic – but something came up and he’d been forced to flee the city. The Mages then put out a warrant for his arrest and had been hunting him ever since. That’d probably be Spellweavers / Adrian Mercati’s house.
Marty voted for hitting the Ministry first: that way they wouldn’t have a chance to get ready. “Always hit’em where they least expect it” was his motto. That was why he preferred to try the drains. They were never all that well protected.
The drains came out near the river, so they headed on down; there were storm sewers, sewage drains, and pipes dumping various nasty chemicals into the river. Well, Londonium was built on an astounding number of rivers and streams, all piped down to the Thames through medieval brickwork drains – so a storm drain it was. They opted to simply follow the wards. There were some nasty ones, but the basic procedure was straightforward enough. They tried a drain that would come out near the edge of the complex: it was probably better to be indirect – even if their targets were almost guaranteed to be at the most defensible locations. They had six major employees, the minister, and two major bodyguards to try to take out.
Meanwhile, Jarvian had arrived at the edge of Londinium, had observed the mass evacuation – and had decided to divert attention by taking out the city defenses before the military arrived. Between growth spells and illusion-enhancement the Mirage was pretty obvious – and drew a lot of fire as it started taking out vehicles, fixed gun emplacements, and anti-infantry weapons. The defenders weren’t very good as individuals, but there were a lot of them. Jaiden could do minor repairs on the fly, but there were limits.
Still, it would keep the attention off of the rest of the group – who headed on into the drains, checking for wards and traps, running a wide selection of detections and analytic spells and tunneling around the worst sections. The drains were dark, slimy and wet, with a fine layer of slime growing over the surface of the brickwork. The sound of running and dripping water was everywhere and the only light shone through from the storm vents above.
They eventually got into some sort of laboratory complex with complex sigils engraved into the masonry floors and filled with glowing red liquid which flowed through them and into a drain. The fluid seemed to be the power source, and the engraving was the focus. Smoke could tell that it was a power filtering circuit. It took the incoming power flow from the fluid, filtered it, and then focused the power before sending it on deeper into the complex. This particular diagram seemed to have ties with the astrological sign of Mars. There were six other rooms with similar setups attuned to other astronomical bodies with a variety of working fluids, so the group left some really big boiler-explosions waiting to happen on about an hours delay. Considering that the mages guild seemed to be rendering down children to power things, they were rapidly working down from zero sympathy towards outright antipathy.