Jack placed down a stack of papers, and looked around the table at his companions. “Maybe we're going about this from the wrong start,” he said slowly.
“Jack, don't say things like that,” Roland said grimly. “We've been at this for four hours. Four hours comparing artifacts and capabilities and people's powers. Four hours sitting at this table in these… well, admittedly these quite nice chairs.”
“Thank you,” Solomon said with a wry smile. He looked over to Jack. “Go ahead.”
“We've ruled out several combinations on the grounds that they would require the user to be incredibly lucky,” Jack pointed out. “For example, even if Chronovore had access to the Gemstone of Hadren, it wouldn't matter, because she has no way of finding the things that have been appearing. Manhatten was huge, and there were only a hundred superhumans against a backdrop of a million souls.”
“Alright…” Catherine said slowly. She looked around the table. To her relief, the others looked as blank as she felt. Roland was staring openly, and while Prita and Sam were waiting patiently, they also looked dubious. Blossom was simply watching passively, and Amplifier – Marcy, she corrected herself – was simply leaning against the wall of the room, looking bitter.
Jack looked around at the impassive, curious, and hostile faces, and smiled. “What if the solution is narrative?”
“Oh, God, man. Don't do that,” Roland groaned. “Don't just haul out narrative law like it's some kind of magic bullet, I hate it when people do that.”
Jack frowned at him. “Did you study narrative law, Roland?”
“When the hell would I have done that?”
“Well, I did,” Jack said smoothly. “Very thoroughly, in fact. I felt it was important to my career. And whether you like it or not, the simple fact is that narrative is as powerful and pervasive a force as gravity. You can fight it, or use it, but you can't just ignore it.”
“Watch me,” Roland said.
Catherine decided to intervene. “How does that help us here, Jack?”
“Narratively speaking, the New York Disaster was the end of an era. The death and destruction paved the way for the Accords, which in turn paved the way for a generation caught in a careful balance between opposing and allowing supervillain activity – a balance which was shattered last year, when Rex Mundi singlehandedly destroyed most of the world's power players. What better time for the lost powers of New York to rise up again?”
Sam steepled his fingers. “Are you suggesting that the universe… wants these artifacts to be found?” He frowned. “It's possible, I suppose, but…”
“I know how it sounds,” Jack admitted. “But it would make a scavenger's life much easier. All that he or she would need to do is develop a method, and let the concentrated sources of power make their way to him. In essence, you could create some metaphysical gravity, and everything else would start lining up behind you. The more gravity you generate, the more legacies will be appearing around you.”
“It's an interesting idea,” Catherine said, ignoring the matching dubious looks on Roland and Marcy's faces. “But does it actually help us?”
“Absolutely,” Jack said with a faint smile, leaning back in his chair. “Tomorrow, I'm going to go rent a scuba suit, and sniff around the Reefs. The sort of narrative that calls the past to the present tends to attract magic. If the local flows are off, I should be able to get a sense for them.” He looked over to Prita. “Ms. Verma, maybe you could come with me? If I can find something odd, you might be able to get a good reading off it.”
“I think I could probably manage that.”
“And while you're wasting time trying to match up thefts to local fairy tales, what should the rest of us be doing?” Marcy asked.
Roland looked over at her with a glare. “Just because you didn't think of it doesn't make it a bad plan, missy,” he snapped.
“No, being stupid is what makes it a bad plan. Which is why I didn't think of it,” Marcy shot back. Catherine and Sam shared a look.
“I think it's been a long evening, and we all need to take a break from work,” he said. “Why doesn't everyone go freshen up, and I'll see about how dinner is doing. Magisters, we freed up some guest rooms upstairs, so that you won't have to go to a hotel if you'd rather stay onsite.”
“Sounds good to me,” Roland said, pushing his chair back and standing up.
“I'll eat out,” Marcy said, turning and walking from the room. Roland rolled his eyes, then shrugged.
“More for the rest of us,” he said with a smirk, heading for the stairs.
Jack rubbed his forehead. “I'm going to finish plotting out some avenues of approach, first. I'll join you all soon.”
“Let me help,” Prita said with a smile. When Jack looked up, she shrugged. “I'm not that hungry, yet.”
Blossom looked between them. “I'd offer to help, but I'm not really good with that stuff. I'll see you all after dinner,” she said after a moment. “I'm going to get some excercise.”
As Catherine followed Sam from the room, she glanced over her shoulder to Jack. “Those two are hitting it off, at least.” She looked back to Sam. “I'm sorry about Roland. He means well, but…”
“Oh, I understand.” Sam headed for the kitchen, pulling out a set of ornate bowls as he glanced at the oven. “Marcy gets the same way. Headstrong, too sure of her own correctness, and just a little bit sensitive.” He smiled wryly. “I've learned to accept it.”
“I admire your restraint,” Catherine grumbled. “Legendary wisdom of Solomon, I suppose.”
“Well…” Sam shrugged. “I only actually possess the Key of Solomon – his alchemical secrets. The rest, I have to make do on my own.” He smiled. “And besides, I could say the same about you. If I had something like that,” he pointed to the small wooden case sitting on the counter, “I'm not sure I could have avoided the temptation to use it, just to get some quiet.”
“If only,” Catherine said. “Roland's totally immune.” She looked up to find Sam's eyebrows raised. “I don't abuse the flute – it's come up in training. ” she clarified quickly. “I wanted to make sure I could play music in his direction without getting him caught in it. It takes a lot of concentration to keep people out of the effect, and it's nice not to have to worry about it with him.”
“A silver lining, then,” Sam grinned. “I mostly just use my ancient alchemy to make a mean couscous. It's a total abuse of my powers, of course, which I suppose means I don't have as much restraint as you after all.”
“I think I can live with that, if it means great food.” Catherine grinned back.
“Excellent. Then do me a favour and glance at the salmon, and I'll go tell Jack and Prita that work can wait. It's supper time.”