“This is a nice place,” Roland said approvingly, looking out the glass side of the elevator climbing the tower. “And you own the whole thing?”
“Well…” Solomon wiggled his hand. “The city owns the tower, and rents most of it out to local businesses, actually. The Veterans only actually occupy the top two floors.” He looked out over Brooklyn, and smiled. “It's a shame you don't have a helicopter, you could have just landed on the roof.”
“Maybe next time,” Catherine said, as the elevator reached the twentieth floor and silently stopped. A moment later, the team was stepping out into the lush headquarters of the Veterans. Most of the floor was visible from the elevator, with few walls and glass on every side, giving a view of the entire city. Display cases alternated between small portraits and sculptures, and memorabilia from the team's adventures. Roland let out a low whistle, looking around.
“And here I thought superheroes mostly lived modestly,” he said.
Solomon's smile was slightly embarassed. “We do well with merchandising,” he allowed. “There are certain perks to being New York's superhero team.”
“One of them being that people mostly know we can handle things around here.” A pale, blonde woman in a brown-and-gold jumpsuit walked over to the Magisters, looking them up and down unabashedly. “So. You're the Feds, huh?”
Solomon winced. “Marcy, please,” he said. “The Magisters are here to help.”
“Did I say they weren't?” Marcy looked over the group again. “I'm…”
“Amplifier!” Blossom said, her mask stretching into a broad smile. “You can enhance the power of any energy, turning light into lasers or superheating fire! I heard that you could turn a candle flame into a blowtorch that could cut through metal, or…”
Amplifier turned to look at Blossom, whose mask slowly lost its smile as she broke off. After a moment, Amplifier said, “I don't need you to explain my own powers to me, leafy.”
“Marcy, honestly!” A younger Indian woman came down the stairs, in a long black dress that matched her hair. She gave Amplifier a stern look, and then turned to the others. “I'm Prita Verma. You probably know me as Vedana. Don't mind her, everyone, she's just been really grumpy lately. I blame these thefts.”
“I blame people talking about me like I'm not in the room,” Marcy responded. She stalked past the newcomer. “You two bring the Feds up to date, okay? I'm going to go try to do something productive with my time.”
The other two watched her go, wincing, and then Solomon turned back to Blossom. “I really am sorry about that. I'll go and talk to her. Prita, can you take over here?”
“No problem, Sam.” Prita nodded as Solomon hurried off, and turned to the team. “Here, let me show you to our conference room. Can I get you anything? Drinks, snacks? Solomon keeps the kitchen well-stocked.”
“What crawled up her butt?” Roland asked, jerking a thumb back towards the stairs.
Catherine slapped her forehead. “Honestly, I can't take you people anywhere. Come on.” She pushed Roland towards the conference room, nodding to Prita. “I'm sorry about him, he's like a child sometimes.”
“Hey!” Roland said over his shoulder. “She started it!”
“Not helping your case, Roland,” Jack said with a smile. “And Prita, if you have coffee, that would be lovely.”
“Not a problem.” Prita nodded. “Have a seat, I'll go grab some cups.”
A few minutes later, the team was studying local incident reports, sipping on coffee, and talking with Prita. “We've been looking into this, and getting absolutely nowhere,” Prita explained. “Marcy's been taking it badly, I suppose. I hadn't realized she was quite that hostile, though. I hope Sam can talk her into being a bit friendlier.”
“Solomon – er, Sam – mentioned that he suspected Chronovore of being responsible,” Catherine said, looking over a file noting possible historical locations of the deaths of the heroes whose articles had been recovered. “Do you agree?”
“Not really, no,” Prita shook her head. “It's possible, I suppose, but it's off the chart of what she should be capable of. No, I think we're dealing with some sort of talented forgery.” She sat back, with a sigh. “It's been pretty frustrating for me too, actually. I'm sure you know that I'm a psychometer – give me something to touch, and I can tell you its history. But these items, they were wiped clean. As near as I can tell, they have no history.”
“In that case, is it possible that they were created from wholecloth?” Jack asked. Prita shook her head again.
“No, you don't understand. If someone created an object, I should be able to sense it from the moment of its creation. But these ones are empty. Whomever is selling them has a way of hiding them from my senses, which is theoretically impossible.”
“Or your senses aren't as total as you think they are,” Roland said.
“I swear to God, Roland,” Catherine muttered. Prita raised a hand to cut her off.
“It's alright. I have begun to think the same thing myself.” She stood, pushing back her chair. “I'll leave you to familiarize yourself with our research. If you have any questions, I'll just be over there.”
Catherine waited until the glass door clicked shut to turn towards Roland. “What the hell is wrong with you today?”
“Sorry,” Roland said. “That first girl just got my back up.”
“Don't apologize to me, apologize to her,” Catherine said, pointing after Prita.
“Yeah, uh…” Roland bit his lip. “I should probably give her some time. Let's work on this stuff some first.”
“That seems reasonable enough,” Jack said, sifting through the papers. “If we can put together a suspect list, we can finish this matter up and have some time off.”
“I don't think vacationing is on our to-do list,” Catherine said, taking a file for herself. “Don't get too excited about it.”
Jack sighed, and nodded. “You may be right, but a man can dream.”
“Dream on your own time,” Catherine said. “We have work to do.”