I Put A Spell On You, Part Five: Cracks In The Wall

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Jack looked out over the Manhatten Reefs, sitting on the edge of the small dock at the Justicars Memorial Marina. He sighed, rubbing a towel through his hair. “So much for the southern reefs,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead.

“We're making progress, though,” Prita said. She peeled off her wetsuit, revealing the black jumpsuit that she wore as Vedana, a simple piece with grey embroidery running in mandala patterns across its back and limbs. “Now we know that whoever is doing this is using anchors.”

“That only broadens the field,” Jack pointed out. The two had been diving across the area for most of the day, marking off areas one at a time. Jack sighed, looking out at the few boats – mostly tourists – glittering on the reef under the patchy sunlit sky. In the last two hours, they had managed to narrow in on the location where Helix Prime had died, and presumably where his runestaff had been recovered from. There, Jack had found leftover traces of a deep, obsidian-sharp scent, which tapered off quickly as it drifted away. “It takes a certain amount of magical force to create an anchor like that, but I couldn't get an origin off it.” He pressed one hand against his head, frowning. “It must be something in the harbour water – too much magical residue from the disaster. I don't usually have this sort of problem.”

Vedana sat down next to him, turning to smile over at him. “Neither do I, but I was just as lost down there as you were.” she said. “Are you alright?”

“It's just a headache. Too much strain on my power, I expect.” Jack paused, and snorted. “And you don't have to try and make me feel better,” he said. “We came charging in here, behaving as though this problem was something we could just wrap up in an afternoon, and we've thoroughly failed to live up to expectations.”

“Now, that sounds a bit harsh,” Prita said. “We've already found evidence that your theory is right. We've gotten more done in a day than we did in the three before it, and that's good progress.”

“I'm sorry, I'm not usually this maudlin,” Jack said with a faint smile.

“Not used to failure?” Prita asked.

“All too used to it,” Jack replied. “It always puts me in a bad mood.”

Prita took his hand. “Well, I definitely find that hard to believe.” A moment later, she frowned and raised a finger, then tapped her ear. “Vedana here. Go ahead.” As she listened, her eyes widened. “You did what? How? I see. I… no. We'll be right there.” She paused a moment longer, and then added with some heat, “Yes, both of us. Goodbye.”

Jack smiled faintly. “Amplifier, I assume?”

“Yes,” Prita sighed. “Apparently, she just caught Chronovore passing off Glimmervale's power ring to someone. They're both in jail, and we're supposed to go down and interrogate them.”

“I… see.” Jack stood smoothly, offering a hand to Prita, who let him help her up. “Shall we, then?”


Jack and Prita arrived at the New York's SEA facility to find Amplifier, leaning against a wall looking smug, Roland and Catherine having arrived just ahead of them, and a nervous-looking man in a suit at the door. “Dennis Mallory, SEA. Thank you all for coming,” he said with a smile, shaking hands.

“Our pleasure,” Catherine replied. “So, Amplifier brought the suspect in? Good work.”

“Well, I did train for this job. It may not be as glamorous as the life of a fitness instructor, but I get by,” Amplifier said back, looking over at Roland, who bristled.

“How the hell did you…” He broke off, and grinned. “You read the East Coast Times? I did not think that even you were that badly-off.”

Amplifier shrugged. “I looked you up,” she said with a smirk. “I was actually a little impressed. Not many people have to go to six high schools because they keep getting thrown out.”

“Yes, we get it, you two don't like one another,” Jack muttered, pushing past them. “Can we please go inside now, or would you like to make the front page again?”

“Point,” Roland said, following Jack in. “I'll be good.”

“That'll be the day,” Catherine muttered under her breath, rubbing her forehead. Roland stepped up, raising an eyebrow.

“Everything alright, Pipes?” he asked.

“Fine. I had too much wine last night,” she answered.

“With Solomon?” Roland grinned. “Man, everyone's hitting it off with folks. Jack and Prita, you and Sammy – maybe I should give Amplifier another shot.”

Catherine glared over at him. “Crossing a line, Roland.”

“Oh, calm down,” Roland grinned. “I know you're not actually jumping Solomon's bones. You're waaay too straight-arrow for that, with your boy back home.” His smile faded as Catherine didn't respond, and he added, “Uh… you know, maybe I did go a bit far. Sorry, Catherine.”

Catherine stalked off without another word, reaching the front of the line. Ahead, Agent Mallory was leading the group down the hall. “Solomon and Blossom are already present. We have Chronovore under heavy surveillance – she could conceivably slip out of containment as long as a possibility exists that we might let our guard down, so we're being particularly careful. Director Lee said that since the Magisters were on-hand, she doesn't expect to need any more powered agents. I hope she's right.”

Catherine smiled. “Seven against one? I wouldn't want to test those odds if I was her.”

“She's pressing her luck as it is,” Mallory replied. “She's still insisting that her business was entirely legal, and claiming that SEA agents slipped the ring onto her while they were arresting her.” He shook his head.

“Ridiculous,” Catherine agreed, gritting her teeth. “Do we know how she did it, yet?”

“Not a clue. We're working on that.”

Near the back of the group, Roland tapped Jack on the shoulder, holding him back as the others continued. He bit his lip, speaking very softly. “Hey, Jack, uh… could you keep an eye on Pipes?”

Jack chuckled, stopping and turning to look at Roland. “Because she finally told you off?”

“Because she's holding her flute like she's trying to crack it,” Roland said slowly. “And I never saw her take it out of her case.”

Jack stared at Roland, and then looked down the corridor at Piper. “Oh,” he said. “Oh, dear.”

“Yeah,” Roland said. “I sort of think anything I say's just going to make things worse.”

“She won't do anything, Roland.” Jack said. “If there's one thing Catherine has impressed me with, it's her control. But I'll keep an eye on her.”

“Thanks, man.” Roland nodded, looking after Piper. “I appreciate it.”

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