I Put A Spell On You, Part Nine: The Reveal

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Solomon laughed disbelievingly, looking across the hall at Invictus and Piper. “You're arresting… me,” he said slowly.

Invictus nodded grimly. “I am arresting you.”

“What makes you think I had anything to do with this… this disaster?”

“I'm glad you asked.” Invictus smiled, looking around. “On the way here, I was trying to figure out what set Piper off back at the base. She'd just calmed down, and then she flipped out again. I'd already figured someone was messing with our minds, given Jack and Blossom's behaviour – no offense, guys.”

“We're listening,” Nimble said.

“So,” Invictus continued, “I was running it over in my mind. I come in, you offer us canapes, we have an argument, she flips out. And that's when it hit me. The food.” As everyone stared at him in confusion, he grinned triumphantly. “Everyone was normal until after dinner the first night. That's when Jack and Piper started acting oddly. Blossom didn't, not until the next day – and she didn't have dinner, because Blossom doesn't like cooked food. But you hooked her up with some delicious lettuce, Sam, and then she started getting weird, too. And the next day, after she'd had a bit more of your food, Piper flipped out.”

“That's your entire argument?” Solomon asked, eyebrows raised. “That I cooked for you, therefore I am some kind of criminal?”

“No, that was just the start of it.” Invictus paced back and forth, ticking off points on his hands. “From there, I started thinking about Chronovore. She clearly thought she was being framed, and we couldn't figure out how she might have committed those crimes. We couldn' even figure out how she could find the magical remnants of the artifacts. You'd need someone who could scan back through time for that.” He paused, looking pointedly at Vedana.

“I can't look back thar far!” she protested. “And anyway, I couldn't bring things out even if I could!”

“No, you can't. Not without someone boosting the psychic residue. Someone, conveniently enough, like your own teammate, Amplifier!” Amplifier made a strangled sound, and Invictus pressed on. “And you'd have to create new versions of the objects, perfect copies that could hold the energy. Which brings us back around to your team's alchemist, who can do exactly that. The three of you had the perfect method for reconstructing those objects, and I bet that if we compare one of Solomon's alchemical containers to the energies that Jack found, it would be a perfect match. That's why Vedana couldn't look further back – there was nowhere to look back to.”

“You did a lot of thinking,” Piper said.

“It's, like, a twenty minute car ride to get here. And traffic was bad,” Invictus answered.

“Why would we do something like that?” Solomon said. “And why would Vedana scan objects she'd helped create? This is completely absurd.”

“Not all of you,” Invictus answered. “Just you. See, you've been controlling your teammates for weeks. Maybe longer. And as for why – the Veterans' brand hasn't been doing so well lately, has it? That big building you own is half-empty. I called Oliver and checked, and sales of your merch is down. Or at least it was – until a few weeks ago, when a new startup rented out two floors, and you got new investors in your toy line. It's been upticking steadily, ever since those artifacts went on sale.” He crossed his arms, grinning smugly. “Once I had the pieces, it was pretty obvious. You've gotten used to the good life, Sam, and the good life has been escaping you. So why not steal some artifacts and sell them? The world owes you, right? And there's no sense dragging your teammates through the mud, not when you can trick them into doing your work for you. Best of all, you can frame a local villain, let her take the fall once you've gotten enough money together to stop.

“But it all went south when we showed up. You had to move up your schedule. You told us you were using alchemy to make your food, so Jack wouldn't have any suspicions about smelling the magic in it – and I bet the food itself was made so that its smell would cover up the details. Once you'd dosed him, you could confuse his senses, and get the rest of us. We'd be distracted, not focus well. Amplifier conveniently finds and arrests Chronovore the next day, we go home, and your operation is safe. It would have worked, too, except that you didn't realize that your own magic would interact with Catherine's. When she started acting really weird, I noticed that the others weren't treating it seriously enough, and got suspicious. And that, as they say, was that.”

Solomon looked around at the people surrounding him. Nimble and Blossom were nodding speculatively, Vedana was staring at him in shock, and Amplifier's face was slowly turning thunderous. “It's ridiculous!” he protested. “It's just a wild guess he's thrown together to cover the fact that his teammate went psychotic on us. For all we know, she's the one who made everyone act strangely, through that flute of hers!”

“Sam…” Prita said slowly. “You never told us that the Veterans weren't doing well. You said everything was fine.”

“It was fine!” Sam snapped. “We just needed a little more capital to keep things that way, and we got it! It's just a coincidence that it happened at the same time as all of this!”

“You have motive, means, opportunity, and evidence, Sam,” Prita replied. “I hate to say this, but I think I have to agree with the others. Just until we can prove your innocence.”

“I will not! You won't drag my name through the mud to clear yourselves!” Sam rounded on Invictus, fists clenched. “What do you know, anyway? I've been a hero in this city for ten years, and you think you can just walk in here and tear down everything that I've worked for?! I won't allow it!”

“What are you going to do to stop it?” Invictus said calmly. “You can't control me. Are you going to kill me? Kill Piper? You think no one will notice?”

Solomon's eyes narrowed, and he snapped his fingers. Nimble, Blossom, Vedana and Amplifier abruptly stiffened, eyes going dull. “I think you've already provided me with an excuse. I won't have killed you. Piper will have.” He nodded to himself. “Yes. She made these people overwhelm you, and then she killed Chronovore. We had no choice but to take her down.”

Piper stared at him in shock. “You've lost it,” she said.

“I worked too hard for this!” Solomon screamed. “Everything would have been fine, but you people are determined to destroy the Veterans! They need me! This city needs me!”

Piper sighed. “Last chance, Solomon. Stand down.”

“Never,” Solomon sneered. He raised his hand, and the others began to move forwards.

“Fine,” The flute touched her lips, and slow notes began to spill out. Almost instantly, the four heroes around Solomon shuddered to a stop. They began to blink, fighting free of his control. Solomon, grinding his teeth, threw his hands forwards. Sweat began to bead on his brow as the controlled heroes took a staggering step forwards, and then another.

And then Invictus slammed his fist into Solomon's jaw. Solomon collapsed to the ground, and the others did too.

“So much for the Wisdom of Solomon," Invictus said. He turned to find Piper looking at him with a raised eyebrow. "What?"

"Really?" Piper said.

"Screw you, it was a good quip."

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